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can be done without any compromise of principle. As our
SOLDIER of the living God,
A WORD OF PROMISE.
(Concluded from p. 158.)
"And thy judgment as the noonday."-Ps. XXXVII. 6.
WHEN a poor convinced sinner meets with the word judgment, he shrinks away from it; it wears a terrible aspect unto him. Sensible of what the divine justice is in the law, and his own utter inability to stand in the judgment, if an infinitely just God were extreme to mark what he has done amiss, he cries out, "Judgment! How can I bear judgment? Must not noonday judgment be, to such an one as I am, even as a destruction from the Almighty?" Thus the poor distressed soul, through the influence of a legal spirit, and under a legal apprehension of things, stumbles at this word judgment, and says, with the men of Bethshemesh, "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?" But this proceeds from a misapprehension of God's words, and from not perceiving that there are two sorts of judgment spoken of in Scripture: a legal judgment, in which no man living can stand; for in it God makes a strict inquisition for sin, and requires the very last farthing, and renders unto the subject of it according to his own deeds; and a gospel one, in which God deals with the poor and needy sinner, the brokenhearted, and sensibly destitute of righteousness, in accordance with the perfections to be found in Christ Jesus. The former judgment, of course, is condemnation. The latter is nothing but justification; and it is this latter which is alone spoken of in the verse chosen for our text. The fact is that Scripture sets before us two kings, kingdoms, and laws. The one kingdom is that of the old covenant, and in it God reigns as the strict, inflexible law-giver; and the law that is enforced throughout that realm is the Mount Sinai law; the holy, just, and good law, which substantially is contained in the ten commandments, or, more briefly, in those two enunciated by Christ: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself." For though, during the old dispensation, precept was given upon precept, precept upon precept (Isa. xxviii.), here a little and there a little, to meet the multiform appearances of sin, which, like a flourishing tree, was ever putting forth fresh shoots, which had to be nipped off; still, the sum of the law is contained in the root-commandment of love, as the sum of sin may be included in the word enmity. Now, in this kingdom, with God as King in the old covenant, and promulgating and enforcing the law of works, judgment is entirely according to a man's own deeds. Here justice reigns in awful severity; and here no man living can be justified.
The other kingdom is that of the new covenant. Here God in Christ Jesus reigns, and the law that obtains in this realm is the law of grace, of kindness, and of liberty; in other words, the gospel. And here judgment is a very different thing; in
short, it is justification; for there is now no more any condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. These two things are most strikingly represented to us in Scripture, by Sinai and its accompaniments, and Zion and the things connected with it. At mount Sinai all is terror, and blackness, and darkness. The mount itself is a barren, briery rock, and the region around it the burning desert of Arabia; but at mount Zion all is blessedness. "The hill of Zion is a fair place; the joy of the whole earth." Around it lies the fruitful land of Judæa; and "there the Lord promised his blessing, and life for evermore." Sinai blights, as it were, everything in its neighbourhood. A fruitful land it turns with its withering judgments into barrenness, for the wickedness of those that dwell therein. But Zion spreads blessedness and fruitfulness all around. It makes a desert to blossom as the rose (Isa. xxxv.), and by its gospel judgments of justification through grace, it takes away the rebuke of God's people from off the face of all the earth. (Isa. xxv.)
These things, then, being borne in mind, we shall see that the bringing forth the poor and needy sinner's judgment as the noonday has nothing of wrath and terrors, but everything of hope and consolation, about it. It represents the Lord Jesus Christ setting up his kingdom of grace and kindness and liberty with power in the sinner's heart and conscience; and judging him in accordance with the law of kindness, and not the law of works, which killing letter, on the contrary, this law of liberty delivers him from.
Now, this bringing forth of judgment may be referred briefly to two things; but it always is in accordance with one law, and that the law of kindness, which alone is, in Christ's mouth, properly considered, for the poor and needy. In the first place, it may have respect to a person's standing generally, and acceptance in the Beloved. In the second, to the particular circumstances of a child of God at any period. We will endeavour, with the Lord's blessing, to speak about these two cases in order.
I. As it respects assurance of faith, or a persuasion of interest in Christ Jesus, we find the Lord's people in very different states. Some are all at uncertainty; greatly tossed to and fro upon the point, and unable to come to any satisfactory judgment; while others have attained to a far more stable condition of soul, answerable to Peter's words: "The Lord, after ye have suffered a while, stablish, strengthen, settle you." (1 Pet. v.) The former are little children or babes in grace; the latter, young men and fathers. The former, when they have a little sweet feeling under the preaching of the gospel, a little enlargement of heart at a throne of grace, a little glowing of spirit through the influence of some sweet word of Scripture in reading, are for a brief interval satisfied that all is well with them; but then anon the clouds return (Eccles. xii. 2), the vision is closed, and they return to their former comfortless place of endless misgivings and questions. Have they faith? What is true faith? Do they pos
sess it? Do they love the Lord? Can ever God dwell here ? Are they elect? Did Jesus die for them? Are their sins forgiven? and a thousand other questions eat up the comfort of their souls, and gnaw upon their hearts.
But the latter are by no means so much and so grievously and so continually tossed about. They have a clearer, well grounded, divinely-wrought, and more ordinarily stable persuasion of their interest in Christ, and place in God's everlasting covenant. These latter probably, through many a deep, and dark, and troubled place, have been brought forth at length into a far more ordinarily stable confidence of their interest in Jesus; and this assurance is not dependent upon lively sensations of joy. It is a living, yea, a lively persuasion, for it carries a man forward in the way of the cross and path of obedience; but it does not fluctuate as once was the case, rising and falling in the exact proportion of joyful sensations, or the contrary.
Now, neither of these states is to be despised. It seems most foolish to speak against a more stable condition of soul, as though it were not the very thing to be aimed after, and as though the Scriptures did not most distinctly set forth such a state as desirable, and, through grace, attainable. Let not the weak judge the strong, or the babes take the seat of the scorner; but let them respect the young men in Christ, and rise up before the hoary hairs of the fathers. But, on the other hand, let not the tried, tossed-about, fluctuating souls be despised, for theirs, too, is the kingdom of heaven; and, waiting upon Jesus for it, an abundant entrance shall be administered unto them (2 Pet. i.) into the joy of the Lord.
Indeed, to these last, as the more needy, the words of our text do especially address themselves. "He shall bring forth thy judgment as the noonday." Wait, then, I say, on the Lord. He numbers your sighs, sympathizes with your tossings to and fro, is secretly making your bed in your sickness, puts your tears into his bottle, gathers the spices of your poor, feeble, and to yourselves defiled, prayers, and has promised to bring forth gospel judgment to gospel victory over doubts, and fears, and sins, and Satan in your hearts and consciences; and until judg. ment thus returns unto righteousness, all the upright in heart will seek for it.
But here we will notice some of those things which, perplexing the judgment, tend to keep the soul off from peace, and coming to a satisfactory conclusion concerning its interest in salvation.
1. And, firstly, some of God's people, really humble, God-fearing persons, are much exercised about the beginning of their religion. They have read the experiences of others, and find that those persons can give a clear, decisive account of how they were at such and such a time, perhaps, suddenly and surprisingly arrested in a course of sin or false profession; but they cannot themselves give so clear an account, and thus exactly decide
when the Spirit began in truth with their souls. Brought up in the midst of profession, and having early the truth brought be fore them, they sank more imperceptibly into a sense of their abject ruined condition. Now this difference of their experience from these models, as they suppose them to be, perplexes them. Especially as they have heard various masters in Israel lay down the law in such cases very peremptorily. Consequently, they fear things cannot be right with them. But I believe their troubles are groundless, provided they have arrived at the scriptural spot of having their mouths stopped, and their souls brought in guilty before God; so that, deeply feeling their entirely lost condition by nature, they are looking unto Jesus, and hungering and thirsting after his righteousness, and desiring above all other things to be found in him. If, connected with this feeling after Jesus, there is a tenderness of conscience, and a fear of God in the walk and conversation; if a person is here, I don't feel very anxious about how his religion began, for I am persuaded it be gan by the Holy Spirit. No man could arrive at this spot unless God were with him. I believe some who tell us they have been suddenly arrested and shaken over hell may go into hell after all; for they bear none of the marks of spiritually-taught persons. There is no tenderness of spirit, sensibility of conscience, and habitually influencing fear of God. I believe, therefore, that the I have been speaking about may adopt James's words, and say to some who are much clearer in their account of a supposed beginning, "Show me thy beginning without the fruits of it, and I will show you my beginning by the fruits." A good tree bringeth forth good fruits; so by the fruits we may pretty well guess what was the root of the matter.
2. But, secondly, as some are perplexed about their beginning, so some are about the continuation. They find that some of God's people appear to be so much more highly favoured than themselves. They know but little of catchings up into the third heaven; and while the Lord seems to satisfy some of his people as with marrow and fatness, and the choicest honey out of the Rock in great abundance, he keeps them, comparatively, very low. Now and then a taste, a drop of honey out of the comb, but they don't appear to dwell in the land flowing with milk and honey, like others do. In fact, they are not favoured as some appear to be; neither do they sink as low, nor rise as high, as they hear of others doing. Well, this again is no real cause of doubtfulness as to a man's state. In these things the Lord is a Sovereign, and the reasons which determine his actions are usually far beyond our limited vision. We cannot argue that God does not love us because he carries us onward to our rest in this or that way. Neither should we conclude that he especially regards those whom he favours more with sweet manifestations. If we are hungering and thirsting after Jesus, feeling ourselves poor and needy sinners, he assuredly loves us, keeps us, guides us, and will in the long run make us as rich and happy