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should overwhelm me?" Have you not pleaded His promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee?” “Fear not, I am with thee; no man shall set on thee to do thee hurt?” Have you not again and again wrestled with Him with fervour, holy agony of soul, and close intimate dealing, as if the hand of faith had grasped the very pillar of His throne, while you exclaimed, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me?” And have you not come away loaded with blessings, and overwhelmed with holy joy and gratitude to the God of grace for constituting you a princely, prevailing Israelite.
Let, then, the worldling scoff; let the proud pharisee, starched in his cold formalities, count us enthusiasts—we can well afford to bear their reproach and pity their miserable drudgery in fleshly gratifications or in fleshly mortifications, while we enter into the garden of gospel fruits, regale ourselves with the old stores of covenant love, and bask in the sunshine of fellowship with God, as the blessed antepast of that glorious home to which we are destined, and for which we are waiting in the confidence of faith.
Nor should we think it strange concerning any fiery trials which are to try us, as though some strange thing happened to us," for the souls thus favoured with heavenly joys must needs have some thorns in the flesh, lest they should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations and the honour of such intimacy with God. Satan and his agents cannot look upon such distinguishing marks of Divine favour and tokens of sovereign love without rage and malice burning and rankling in their breasts. Hence the bitterest persecutions, the foulest slanders, and the deepest laid plots and conspiracies are often employed by the arch-enemy to harass the highly favoured souls who live near to God, and especially those whom He makes use of in His vineyard.
If all this fails to accomplish the design of his Satanic majesty (and fail it must) then he calls up the aid of his faithful allies in old Adam's bosom, and a host of “fleshly lusts are employed to war against the soul,” if possible, to tarnish its purity and to mar its enjoyments. If Balak cannot conquer Israel in open war while Moses is dealing with God for them face to face, Balaam shall try to bewitch them with the daughters of Moab, and draw them into idolatry. If neither the lion, the bear, nor Goliath, nor Saul, can kill David, the devil will employ Bathsheba to ensnare him into sin and consequent sorrow; for this “ adversary walketh about continually seeking whom he may devour," and the more exalted the position of a servant God is, the more prominent a target He is for Satan to hurl his fiery darts at. But even these evils, distressing as they are, shall be subservient to the believer's interest by driving him again and again to his stronghold, and furnishing him with new errands to the throne of grace, renewing his intercourse with God face to face, and thereby communicating to him the rich supplies of grace which embolden him for further warfare, and strengthen him for the rest of his journey.
II.—Let me now lead you to the second point in our discourse, the miraculous preservation which Jacob experienced in the circumstances which threatened to overwhelm him. My life is preserved."
This was impossible in the order of nature; and it made the patriarch wonder, for Jehovah has declared, “There shall no man see me and live." And how is this? said Jacob, how marvellous is it that
I am not struck dead! that my powers and faculties are not literally destroyed with this overpowering view, this exercise of wrestling with God, and seeing Him face to face! That my life is preserved—what a marvel ! The Lord Jesus Christ authorized the same thing to be said in His day, “No man hath seen God at any time.” Of course Jacob was included, and as mere man he could not; as a natural carnal man he could not. I have given you one quotation from the Old Testament and one from the New, to show that it is impossible for human nature, in its fallen state, to have any believing view, any spiritual intimacy with the Most High God. Jehovah, the Father, said to Moses, "There shall no man see me and live." In order that Moses' request to be shown His glory might be granted him, He puts him in the “ cleft of a rock," and “covers him with His hand while He passed by” to display somewhat of His glory. Now, was not that a beautiful type of the manner in which God gives the awakened sinner a view of Himself. He puts him in the cleft of the rock-the wounded side of Christ-the precious mediatorial office of the Lord Jesus, and there he is covered with the paternal hand; he cannot tumble out, or run away, or be lost; none of the forked lightnings of Mount Sinai can strike him, or the thunderbolts of Divine vengeance touch him; he is in the “cleft of the rock,” covered with the paternal hand of Deity, and there he obtains a glimpse of the Divine glory—a view of God the Father-a discovery of the matter of fact that all the perfections and attributes of Deity are united and glorified in the grand plan of salvation which is revealed in the precious Christ of God. So John the Baptist, in adverting to the same merciful dispensation, the same miracle of grace, saith, “ No man hath seen God at any time," and immediately adds, “ The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father He hath declared Him." And then, as the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father hath declared Him, Christ Himself says,
“ He who hath seen the Son hath seen the Father also.” Nature, in a fallen, ruined, depraved, degenerate state, is incompetent to anything like this communication with the Most High,
We must first have a new capacity created. Of the wicked it is said, that God is not in all their thoughts. “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand and seek God;” but every one was doing evil, and pursuing his own free will by nature; "they are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth goodno, not one.” So that I come to the point of vast importance in this marvellous preservation, that it is nothing less than a miracle when Jehovah puts forth His power, displays His glory, and reveals Himself to the ruined sinner, that poor human nature not at once overwhelmed. I know a little of this by blessed experience. There have been seasons of sweet and blessed memory in which every power and faculty of this frame of mine has trembled almost to dissolution with the joy, the extacy, and the bliss that my heavenly Father has revealed to my soul, both in public and in private. “My life is preserved.".
But a word more. Surely the nature of the Mediator's prevalent intercession and negotiation on high is here opened to our view.
He hath said, “Because I live, ye shall live also;" and in consequence of His intercession and advocacy on high, all His elect, first in their unregeneracy, and then in the after stages of their experience, when born of God, have sustaining power, supporting strength, an upholding arm, and mighty and blessed supplies from the fulness of Christ to preserve them alive. They are preserved alive in their natural existence until mighty sovereign grace finds them out and gives them a new life. They are preserved alive afterwards in all the manifestations of Divine love, in all dark seasons, in sorest temptations and in the sharpest conflicts which they have to pass through ; so that a beavenly life is given and increased, imparted, and sustained. Beloved, I beg you ever to bear in mind that though we have a heavenly birth, and consequently a heavenly life; that it is not in your power to sustain it; that it will not sustain itself, for though it is a deathless principle it must have supplies to keep up and maintain its existence, and especially to perpetuate its growth. So that He who first gave the grain of wheat, waters and makes it germinate and grow, and constantly imparts fresh nourishment to it, until it presents in succession "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear”-all by His divine preservation and by the power of His hand. Oh, what a debt of gratitude and love do we owe to Him who hath preserved our lives in nature until He met us by His grace! And since He met us by His grace, and gave us His own life and nature, what a debt of gratitude is owing to Him, that during some twenty, thirty, or forty years, as is the case with some of us, He has preserved our lives, that they have not been destroyed! Not all the temptations of the devil, nor all his arts, nor the foul corruptions of old Adam nature can, with combined efforts, destroy the life which God bestows. It shall endure in the midst of the corruption and all the rubbish of the fall, the hostility of ten thousand foes, and in the midst of all the doubts, fears, and forebodings of professors; it shall live through death; it shall outlive death itself, and continue throughout eternity. Oh, the miracle of grace here manifested! Every real child of God must feel as Jacob expresses himself, because after having become acquainted with Christ, he is often so inundated with the cares of the world, its trifles, its rising corruptions, and its carnalities, that he sometimes wakes up and asks himself, "Where is my religion? what has become of my Christianity?” And when the grace of the Spirit is moved into exercise by the power of its Divine Author, he exclaims, “ And my life is preserved!” I thought it was gone. My feet had well nigh slipped; they had almost failed me, and my foes had nearly triumphed over me; but faith is reinforced, the graces of the Spirit all strengthened, quickened, and called into exercise, and the soul cries out in joy and wonder, “My life is preserved!". I have been through fire and water ; I have been down with Jonah into the belly of hell; I have passed through deep afflictions ; but “my life is preserved.” And how is this? “I have seen God face to face," and it proved that I have a life that cannot possibly be destroyed.
But pass on a little further. While this miracle of grace is recorded, and the holy patriarch records it as a wonder of wonders that his life is preserved, how interested must all the perfections of Deity be in what interested Jacob. Look at this point for one moment. Jacob was loved. Jacob was chosen. Jacob was distinguished from Esau. Jacob was the heir in the covenant. Jacob was made the possessor of the promised inheritance. And yet Jacob's life was threatened, and Esau comforted himself with the thought that by-and-bye he would murder him, just as the devil's agents do respecting the people of God; but his life is preserved. Jacob is in banishment, cruelly oppressed, shamefully treated by his uncle Laban, his wages changed, and himself exposed to hardships which he describes at length; yet his life is preserved. He is favoured with an overwhelming manifestation of the Deity—a Divine intimacy--a seeing God face to face, which appears to have been too much for his frame; and to keep it in remembrance he goes halting on the thigh, as some suppose, to the end of his days. We shall never have to regret any infirmity or weakness which may be produced by the overwhelming manifestations of God's love towards us, if we may but walk with God. And how was this accounted for? Why, the covenant God of Israel was interested in the matter-His promise, His covenant, His plan of redemption, His purpose of grace, His determination to multiply the seed of Abraham, and give them the promised land, were at stake. If Jacob had been killed, or had died under the overpowering manifestation of the Most High, what would have become of the promise ? What would have become of the determination of Jehovah, that in Him all nations should be blessed? Is it not this view which Jacob himself takes when he so affectionately and fervently prays, “O, God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac !" thus approaching him under the sweet consciousness of his covenant relationship to Jehovah. “0, God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac !” And modestly he adds, "The Lord which saidst unto me," as if he had said, “And therefore my God.”. Now the covenant would have been violated had Jacob died an untimely death. I bring this down to personal experience, and ask you, beloved, hath Jehovah given you life divine? Hath He admitted you to a face to face interview ? Hath He taken you and imparted to you a capacity to enjoy Himself? Then bear with the boldness and strength of my expression when I say, that if you were to perish in His presence, and to die the second death, His covenant and oath would be violated, the promises of His word broken, hell would rejoice, the Prince of Darkness would triumph over more besides you, and continue to steal the sheep of Christ till heaven was left without an inhabitant. But, blessed be God, it cannot be so. There is an interest which Jehovah hath in the well-being and eternal glorification of His Church which secures the fact that my life is preserved. Had not Jacob an interest in the covenant ? I had thy gracious promise and direction, said he, where to go, and what to do. I appeal to thy own words, “Thou saidst.” I refer to what thou hast wrought in me and for me during my life thus far. Have I not an interest in thy Holy Spirit's teaching which hath taught me how to commune with thee? Have I not an interest in the mediatorial character of Christ, whose merits I beheld, and with whom I have been wrestling? and have I not an interest in the paternal love of the God of my father Abraham? Now, observe how interests unite and blend. That which interests God interests me. The perfect entire salvation of all the election of grace is so dear to his heart that it must be accomplished, or He is dishonoured. The perfect salvation of all the election of grace is so dear to my heart that I should bewail to all eternity in heaven the absence of my beloved brethren and sisters if they were not all brought home to glory.
One thought more, and I draw to a close. It is a capacious thought. God give you to cherish it. What a manifestation have we here of the exceeding riches of Divine grace! How overwhelming is this thought-the exceeding riches of His grace which He manifested in this grand transaction! What! the lad that had supplanted his brother, and had suffered the just chastisement of banishment from his father's house in consequence this a chosen vessel! Oh, the exceeding riches of His grace! What! this supplanter as he is called, and as every one of Jacob's spiritual seed is, and must be, of the righteousness of Christ and the sovereignty of God, until God takes possession of his heart—and yet such an one an object of Divine love ! such an one hath his life preserved! such an one in the special care and keeping of the Most High! such an one seated in the bosom of Deity, and entitled to all the provision of the covenant of grace, and all the fulness of that grace treasured up in Jesus Christ! such an one made capable of enjoying God and realizing that fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, which none but the heir of glory ever can realize! Now, mark here that the vilest, the weakest, the worst, the most depraved, the most helpless of all the race of Adam, who have only been brought to possess a capacity to enjoy God and wrestle with Hiin as Jacob did, has not only a hope, a sure ground of hope, but a solid satisfaction and scriptural assurance that he can by no possibility perish while the glorious Christ of God lives, who hath sworn concerning all such, " Because I live ye shall live also.” These are the precious words of Him “who spake as never man spake.” And shall we for one moment listen to the folly and falsehood of those who would insist that man has it in his power to put himself into covenant relationship with God, and then to put himself out of it again? I grant neither, but insist that He who brought His 'people into covenant relationship with Himself befcre they had an actual existence, that He is the immutable Jehovah, that having displayed the riches of His grace in singling out that poor profane sinner, that poor worldlyminded covetous sinner, that licentious wanderer, and that poor pharisaic sinner, too, and brought him to His feet, taught him to pray, and given him a capacity to enjoy God, has pledged His name, has pledged His honour, has pledged His truth, has pledged His existence, that such shall live eternally. Eternal life is ensured for all such: for this is life eternal to believe on the only-begotten Son of the Father; and this is the record made conce
ncerning it, that He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
Away, then, with your probabilities and peradventures. I abhor from my soul the contingencies that make up the Anti-Christian code. I look with holy delight and joy on the Divine certainties in the covenant of grace which everywhere appear on the page of inspiration, and are brought into the hearts of God's dear children by the mighty operations of the Holy Spirit. Just review these things. The spiritual life is supernatural. Have you enjoyed a personal intimacy with Deity? Our Christianity is real only so far as we understand this, and no further. There is a vast deal that passes for Christianity that is only shell, only an exterior, only a frame-work. The reality lies between God and the soul. The reality brings the poor sinner into sweet intimacy with God; and then the preserving grace, the power of the Divine arm put forth, the constant supplies and communications from above that are afforded to them who, as the Holy Ghost by the apostle Jude saith, “are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called; ” or, as Peter hath it, “who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be