WHOEVER WALKS WITH GOD MUST BE FIRST ACQUAINTED WITH THE WAY OF PEACE.
IT is the constant usage of Scripture to represent spiritual things by material, and to speak of the faculties and actions of the soul by terms borrowed from those of the body. Walking is a bodily action, and consists in moving and going from one place to another; hence it is applied to the spiritual walk. The soul, reconciled to God and at peace with him, has an appointed way in which it is to walk, in order to enjoy the grace promised to them who are in Christ Jesus. This is enjoyed by faith; and therefore the Scripture calls the believer's going on in his walk with God from strength to strength, the walk of faith. "We walk by faith," says the apostle, "not by sight."
When man fell from God, he lost his way, and had
neither will nor power to return. The
The apostle Peter reminds believers of this,–" Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned to the shepherd and bishop of your souls." (1 Peter ii. 25.) To which agree the words of his brother Paul: "There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God: they are ALL gone out of the way." (Rom. iii. 10, 11, 12.) The whole human race, say the oracles of truth, is gone astray, ALL of them are gone out of the way; they have left the way of God, and turned every one to his own way; they are unable, like a poor lost sheep, the most unable of all creatures, to return; yea, they are unwilling also; for they walk not after the spirit, but after the flesh,–carnally minded, and in their carnal mind, enmity itself against God and his ways.
It pleased God, in the exceeding riches of his grace, to reveal to those wanderers the way of salvation, He made it known to them upon the fall; and believers, from that time forward, saw it plainly, and went on in it comfortably. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, &c. are said to have walked with God, in the very same way afterwards marked out by the written word; which was a directory to the Jews, showing them how they should walk in the steps of the faith of their father Abraham. Age after age, God raised up the prophets to bring his people into the king's highway, and to put them upon praying, that they might be kept in it. By the mouth of his servant David, he gave them this promise,–" Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he teach sinners in the way: the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way."
Encouraged by this warrant from the word of God, sinners, feeling their wants, were led to pray,–"Show me thy ways, O Lord! teach me thy paths; lead me in thy truth, and teach me." (Psalm xxv. 4, 5.) It is written in the Prophets," They shall be all taught of God–they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord." If rely of his children lack wisdom, and ask it of God, he giveth to all his liberally, and upbraideth not. He brings them by his word and by his Holy Spirit to the knowledge of themselves and to the knowledge of the true God.
Divine teaching is necessary to make men acquainted with themselves. They know not their state, nor fear their danger, until the Holy Spirit, according to his office, proceed from the Father and the Son; then he convinces them of sin, of the exceeding sinfulness of it, of the guilt thereby incurred, and of the wrath deserved. He enlightens the understanding with a clear sight of those truths, and be fastens the conviction of them upon the conscience. Then they find that they had been blind and ignorant, rebels in their wills, and apostates in their hearts from God. He makes them feel the corruption of their nature and the error of their ways, in which, if they had gone on, they must inevitably have perished; for they were without will and without power to return to God. When they were made to see it right, that they ought to return and to repent, yet it was not their choice to come to him in the way of believing. They found they could not believe, unless it was given them from above. Faith is the gift of God, and cannot be received but by the mighty operation of God. He must put forth his divine power, or else the convinced sinner will remain utterly helpless and hopeless, shut up in unbelief.
Thus the Lord teaches all his children; he makes them acquainted with their fallen state, and sensible of their guilt and of their misery. He brings them to the right knowledge of the corruption of every faculty of soul and body, which are always inclined to evil, and incapable of doing anything truly good. A corrupt tree can bring forth nothing but evil fruit. The judgment is enlightened to see this, the conscience is awakened to feel this, and. thereby the convinced sinner is made willing to be taught the way of salvation. The Holy Spirit fulfils his office, by teaching him the knowledge of God.
Our blessed Saviour declares, no man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him; and this he does by the Holy Spirit of wisdom and revelation, who is therefore given to the children of God. that they may know him and believe in him as their reconciled Father in Christ Jesus. This saving knowledge is hid from the worldly wise and prudent, but is revealed unto the unlearned, whom the Holy Spirit has made simple and teachable people. To them he reveals the things of God; he makes them acquainted with the Nature of the Godhead, which is one. There is one Jehovah, and there is none other. And also with the. Personality in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit. These three exist in the one Jehovah. They took those names, not to describe their manner of existing, but their manner of acting; not what they are in themselves, but how they stand related to us in the economy of redemption; for the Eternal Three entered into covenant before all worlds, and agreed to sustain certain covenant offices, and assume names, or characters, descriptive of their offices. Father is the title of that divine person, who, out of his infinite grace, gave an innumerable company of sinners to his Son, upon condition that he would be manifested in the flesh, and would become their surety, to work out for them a righteousness in his life, and to make an atonement for them by his death, and then he would be his Father and their Father. .
A co-equal and co-eternal person accepted the condition, and covenanted to be made man, and to live and die for the many sons whom he was to bring to glory; therefore he took the name of Son, Son of God, Son of Man, &c. Another co-equal and co-eternal person covenanted to breathe life into them, to be to them the Spirit or breath of life, that they might be regenerate from a death in trespasses and sins, and be made the children of God, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; therefore he is called throughout the Scriptures, the Spirit, or the breath of life. He makes them acquainted with the covenant, as he has promised:–"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant." (Psalm xxv. 14.) He will open to them the nature and certainty of all covenant engagements for the establishment and growth of their faith. "The covenant was ordered in all things and sure." It was ORDERED by the counsel and purpose of the Eternal Three, concerning the heirs of promise, whose salvation was settled by two, immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie,–his counsel, his oath. His counsel, the result of his infinite wisdom, confirmed by that sacred oath which cannot possibly be broken.
All his perfections stand engaged to see the sovereign decree, thus solemnly ratified, carried into execution; for what was ordered is sure–sure as the throne of Jehovah, unchangeable as his nature, durable as his being. Though it be but a man's covenant, yet, when it has been signed and sealed according to law, none disannulleth or addeth thereto. None can disannul God's covenant, and he himself will not. "My covenant will I not break," says he, "nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips," (Psalm lxxxix. 34.) I will not add thereto, nor diminish from it; for I have ordered it in ALL things: I have not left one single thing out, not the least circumstance: I have settled the whole plan by mine unerring wisdom, and I will fulfil every tittle of it by mine almighty power. According to my will, the course of nature and grace is infallibly directed, even the most minute events. Every hair is numbered. Not a sparrow falls but by my divine decree. How safely then may the heirs of promise depend upon a covenant God? And whenever they flee to Jesus for refuge, what strong consolation may they draw from hence, that their salvation is fixed by the immutable counsel and inviolable oath of the blessed Trinity?
The same divine teacher who enabled them to believe those truths for the farther establishment of their faith, led them to discover the FREENESS of all covenant mercies. They are promised as free gifts; they are bestowed to the praise of the glory of free grace; they are not conferred upon the worthy, but upon enemies, upon the ungodly, upon sinners as sinners. No conditions are required, no pre-requisites are expected. The motives which determine God to show mercy to sinners, are not taken from any good in them, or foreseen to be in them. Not for works of righteousness which they have done, or can do; but according to his mercy he sayeth them. He does all to the magnifying of the honours of his own mercy. His covenant was so contrived, carried into execution by the life and death of Jesus, applied by the Holy Spirit, that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. No flesh shall glory in his presence. Boasting is for ever excluded; because all as of grace. Wisdom to teach the sinner saving knowledge, righteousness to justify him, strength to keep him, comforts to bless him, heaven to receive him,–these are the free gifts of covenant love; for by grace is he saved through faith, and that not of himself, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. Thus would the Lord hide pride from man, and would teach him practically such Scriptures as this,–"Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord, be it known unto you, but for mine holy name's sake." (Ezek. xxvi.)
Closely connected with this divine lesson is the FULNESS of covenant mercies. Everything needful for the salvation of the sinner is fully as well as freely provided by the exceeding riches of grace, and is treasured up by the Father's love in the fulness of the Son. To this the Spirit bears witness in the word of truth, and seals his witness upon the believer's heart. It pleased the Father that in the Word made flesh should ALL fulness dwell, and that out of his fulness his people should receive grace for grace. This is the infinite ocean. There is not a stream, not a drop of grace to be had, but from hence. Jesus Christ, as God-man, has it all in himself, and for the same end, as the head has the senses in itself, He has it to communicate to his members, a fulness of light and life, of sense and understanding, of love and joy, yea, of every spiritual blessing. On him, as the head of the body the church, every believing member is directed to live. On him must he depend at all times; and to him must he go for all things. If he seek pardon and peace, righteousness and holiness, a supply of his wants, strength for his warfare, comforts under his miseries, if he expect life in death, and life eternal, he must make continual use of the fulness of Jesus; for in him dwelleth ALL the fulness of the Godhead bodily. It dwelleth in him as in an overflowing fountain.
The Father's love to his adopted children, the experience of it by the grace of the Spirit, are entirely in and from the salvation of Jesus Christ. Out of his fulness comes every covenant mercy of the Godhead, and in a rich abundant stream, always flowing with some blessing or other into the believer's soul. The enjoyment of it on his part may not be always alike comfortable, but it is always alike sure on God's part. Nothing can stop it; nothing can turn its course. Unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. The river of the water of life proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, and it will be running on till it comes back into its own ocean. "The water that I will give him," says Jesus, speaking of the believer, "shall be in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life, and bringing with it the fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore."
No man will see any reason to set out in the way to heaven, until he be made acquainted with those truths. His judgment must be enlightened with the knowledge of them. He will never think of changing his course, until he be made sensible of his own sinful and helpless state; and when this is brought home to his conscience, and he has nothing in himself left to trust in, then he will be led to look abroad for help. The Spirit of God will teach him the doctrines of grace, the nature of the Godhead, the persons in the Godhead, the covenant of the divine persons, by which every grace and blessing was freely and fully provided, given by the Father to the Son, in whose fulness they were all laid up for the use of his body the church, and communicated to every member of it, through the influence of the Holy Spirit. Thus he is taught, that all is of grace from first to last. Whatever good a sinner receives on earth, or enjoys in heaven, is so given, as to exclude all boasting, and to lay every proud and self-righteous principle in the dust, that grace alone may wear the crown, and may have all the glory.
Here, then, O my soul, is matter of close examination Dost thou know thyself, thy state and condition, and hast thou fled from the wrath to come? Has the light of God's word shone into thy understanding, and made thee to see that thou art indeed set out in the way to heaven? How was this discovered to thee? Did the Holy Spirit ever convince time of sin, and that thou hadst lost the image and forfeited the favour of God? Didst thou ever see thyself fallen in Adam, in him a child of wrath, a ruined miserable sinner? Hast thou felt how utterly unable thou art to atone for thy sins or to make thyself holy? And wast thou brought to this after many legal trials and self-righteous efforts? At last forced to give up all hope in thyself, and to look to the Lord who made heaven and earth, from whom alone thy help could come?
And hast thou been taught the true knowledge of the unity of the Godhead, and of the persons in it, Father, Son, and Spirit, the covenant of the ever-blessed Three, and the absolute security of all covenant mercies, promised by the !rather, and engaged to be given to the Son, as the head of his body the church, who is now actually as God-man in possession of them, and by his Spirit ho freely and fully bestows them upon his members: for they will never cease to be receiving out of his fulness grace for grace, until they receive out of the same fulness glory for glory.
O my soul, examine closely, and prove thyself by the standard of the divine word. Search and try what the conviction of thy lost estate has been. Was it deep and practical.? Is it an abiding truth with thee, that there is no help, or hope in thyself? And hast thou fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before thee in the Lord Jesus? Is thy knowledge of the Godhead mere theory, or is it brought into practice? Dost thou enjoy the Father's love, through faith in the finished salvation of the Son, by the influence of the Holy Spirit? This is the saving knowledge of the Godhead. And is this thine? Dost thou honour the divine persons, by acknowledging their immutable counsel, and immutable oath, entered into for the security of the heirs of promise, that they might trust, and not be afraid? Dost thou see with any clearness the absolute safety of relying upon the promises of God, and dost thou expect to draw from hence comfort to thy conscience, and joy to thy heart?
If thou art indeed set out of the way to heaven,
art thou settled in the knowledge of thy fallen state? Hast thou found thyself
unable to do anything, but to hasten on thy ruin? And from the sight and sense
of this, hast thou been led to see all undertaken for thee, and secured to thee,
for time and eternity, in the covenant of' the ever-blessed Trinity? These
truths lie at the very foundation of' all comfortable walking with God. See
that thou be well grounded in them. The knowledge of thyself is to bring thee
to God; the knowledge of God is to lead thee to walk with him. The one is to
teach thee to renounce all trust in thyself; the other is to show thee that
thou mayest safely place the confidence of thy heart on thy reconciled Father,
thy Saviour, and thy guide. Look up to him then, O my soul, and be often
praying to him, and saying–O Lord God, that which I see not, teach thou me.
Keep me an humble disciple in the