« السابقةمتابعة »
the Isaac that he has ? Is there nothing in that which, unless subdued by the grace of God, stirs up indwelling corruption. And am I making excuses for it? I think that man's religion lies much on the surface, who imagines that. I am only saying what a tendency there is in that cross ; and what a lesson it affords to watch over it, to take to the Lord, and lay at the foot of the cross of his dear Son, that which is dear to us through our depravity, through our corruption, through our flesh, wherein there dwelleth nothing that is good.
There being, then, a grievousness in the cross, there is no sin in our grieving under it, unless our grief be excessive. If indeed we overlook our mercies, if we look off from God's promises, if we think more of our trials than of God's mercies, if we think more of our correction than of our sin, if we are more engaged with our present pressure than with the present promise of our God, then have they wrought sin in us. But, beloved, be assured of this : many a precious flower groweth up in the shade; many a precious fruit groweth up in the quietness of retirement and secret meditation with God. So many a soul, retiring from the eyes of our fellow-men, and quietly submitting itself to God, shall find some of the most precious fruits of his Holy Spirit growing up there, to the praise and glory of God.
Now we have just looked at the outline of our first head, that “ no chascening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous.” It was not intended to be joyous; it was intended to be grievous. It was not intended to be joyous; and it is needful that he who makes that mistake should be adunonished, “ Take heed that ye despise not the chastening of the Lord.”
My dear friends, if our souls were more alive to God, if our hearts were more endued with his love, if we were led to walk more in nearness of communion with him, we should be more sensible of his rebukes: and when he speaks to us, either through the unkindness of the world, or through the mistakes of God's children, or through the suggestions of Satan, remember that even Satan has only power to go so far, and no farther : and if you disbelieve this, you live in the region of second causes, which is but the next to that of secret atheism. If you only take away from the living God, the ordering of all the concerns of his people—if you do but suffer one wheel in your machinery to run in its own power, and by its own mechanism, then you bring confusion into the machine altogether. 0 for that wisdom from above that can trace the living God in every cross, submit to him under every chastisement, and see his truth written on it all !
Observe, secondly, there is a peculiar blessing connected with this chastening of the Lord.
In the first place, observe, “it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness." The dealings of God with us have in view the making us fruitful, that we may “ bring forth more fruit.” Observe what our Lord says in the fifteenth chapter of John's Gospel : “ Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it"-he pruneth it. And how does he prune it? He cutteth off the dead branches; he cutteth out the uckers; he makes deep incisions into the rind and bark of the tree : (aud it is sometimes with no light hand that that is accomplished, beloved.) But what is the object of this pruning? It is “ that ye may bring forth more fruit.”
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh
branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it," he pruneth it, “ that it may bring forth more fruit." This is the end of all his fatherly discipline. “ It yieldeth the fruit of righteousness.” What is that “ fruit of righteousness ?" Is it our justification before God? O let the saints of God shout aloud for joy; let them bless the living God for all the marvellous display of his most marvellous grace, that that work in which they stand accepted in the Beloved, is a work out of themselves, from beginning to end; that that righteousness, (blessed be God!) from the beginning of it to the end of it, in life and in death, amidst all our ebbs and flows, amidst all our trials, temptations, sinkings, strugglings, and inward warfare—that that work in which we stand accepted before God, is a righteousness out of ourselves entirely. Nothing can be added to it; nothing can be taken from it; all the chastisements of God do not add a single thread to this rope. There is a sentiment of an old divine which I have often admired- desire to live in it, and to die in it: “ If from this moment I had all the purity of angels, all the sanctity of seraphs, all the immaculate love of the pure spirits made perfect, I would part with all to stand before God in the righteousness of Christ.” Rather than make the perfections of those holy beings my ground of acceptance, I would desire to lay aside every thing, to be found in the righteousness of Christ, in which his people are made the righteousness of God before God.
This is a truth that we need to be built up in continually. I desire to see this people panting after the fruits of the Spirit, just as a starving man pants after food. I desire to see their hearts aspire after conformity to the divine image, just as the spark flieth upward. I desire to see them estimate the value of the Gospel, by the ultimate effect it produces upon their hearts. I desire that they would look more to what is God's great end, and that is, their restoration to himself, and their walking with him in this vale of tears as children with a father. I pray that the living God would lay these things more deeply on your hearts than ever you have yet felt them, that they may be the object of your daily prayer-yea, your earnest, fervent, inward prayer; that it may be the resolute bent of your souls to aim after an unreserved conformity to the will of God in all things. But with regard to our grand standing in the court of God's justice, this is our glory, and this is the perfection of the saints of God, that they are made the righteousness of God in the Son of God; a higher righteousness, a brighter righteousness, a more glorious righteousness, than all angels and archangels can have; the righteousness of Him who is God in our nature; and who has infused, as it were, the whole glory of his person in the perfection of his work.
Now, what are these fruits of righteousness? The Apostle speaks of them in 2 Corinthians, ix. 10, where he prays, “ Now he that ministereth seed to the sower, doth minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.” Observe what he prays for in Philippians, i. 9. (O that the Apostle's prayers were at all times a pattern for our prayers! O that we always looked at his prayers, saying,
- This is a pattern for my prayers !") “ And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of
Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, unto the glory and praise of God." Here we see what is the tendency of his fatherly chastisement: “ It yieldeth,” says the Apostle, “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” “It yieldeth :" there is something peculiarly sweet and powerful in its being in the present tense.
It has a direct tendency, it has a present tendency, it has a continual tendency to yield fruit in its season: not merely one fruit, but fruits, varied fruits; all the varied, all the blessed fruits of the Spirit, in your lives and in your conversation ; that ye may prove yourselves an accepted people, to manifest the reality of that work of grace upon your souls, in a conformity to the will and image of God.
There are two ways, I conceive, in which the fatherly chastisement of our God yieldeth the fruit of righteousness. In the first place, it has a tendency to take away sin. We read in Isaiah, xxvii. 9, “ By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit, to take away his sin." To take out the indwelling of it? That is not in the covenant : but there is in the power of God's chastening hand, alighting upon his children's bosom, in the hands of the Eternal Spirit, an efficacy to detect a man's sins, to show them to him, to bring to light his iniquities, to inake him see and feel what there is in his heart. It is a truth never to be lost sight of: Undetected sin is unmortified sin. As there is in all chastisement this special direction, that it not only stirs up in God's hand the graces of his own Spirit, but it is the means of stirring up what there is of evil in us, and of bringing us to see it; so is it the means of laying the axe at the root of it, and leading us to see and feel what an evil thing it has been that has led us to depart from the living God. I believe that many a child of God has, through his fatherly teaching, learned more of the secret of his own deprarity in one hour of trial, than he has in the circuit of a hundred sermons. He did right in attending to hear them, and he could not have neglected them without bringing sin on his conscience. But in the midst of some heavy trial, some heavy cross, the Holy Spirit taught him more of the evil of sin than perhaps he had learned in all the previous stages of his journey. Now as there is in nature's ploughing, that which breaks up the ground, that which goes through the thistles and briers, and tears up the thorns, so is it also in God's appointed means for cherishing the work of righteousness, to lead a man to pant after God; to lead him from a weariedness from the world ; to detect the emptiness of the creature; to make a man see the brokenness of his own cistern; and to put his seal upon the breaking hand of his God, so that he can asscnt and consent to the hand that has broken that cistern.
These are precious fruits. You may say, Do they not lead to outward fruit? My brethren, if God has thy heart, he has thy life. Many a man can bring him the outward conduct, and keep the heart for himself and the world. But if God has the sinews of thine heart, he will have the outbreaking of thy life. And here in this school see how the Holy Ghost breaketh off from self, detacheth from sin, and leadeth to God: in the midst of the perishing creature does he exalt the throne of the imperishable God. I believe we get more acquainted with God in the midst of some heavy trial, than perhaps in all the day of our sunshine together. We are led to say, “ I could not have suspected for a moment there had been that kindness in God: I could not have believed
it possible that he would have stooped to my infirmities : I could not have believed it was in his heart to attend to that little thing in my life: I could not believe it conceivable that the great and eternal God, that dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto, would attend to my weaknesses, my constitutional weaknesses, my very infirmities, and depravities, and corruptions ; and yet, while he sees them all, say, No one shall see them but myself.” It is in this school the Holy Ghost leadeth us to the production of those fruits of righteousness that are here spoken of; not merely outward in the life, but inward in the heart, and then outward in the life.
They are spoken of as “ peaceable fruits of righteousness.” The chastenings of God are so blessed to the soul, that they come with a sweet and peaceable accent to the child of God. They say to him, “ I have no wrath against thee; I have no long score for thee to pay; no, nor any unpaid penalty for thee to discharge; I have no unsettled grudge for thee to do away with.” There is nothing in the chastening of God that has this aspect to his child : and when we receive it as his children, his hand comes to us bringing forth peaceable fruits. God, though he chastens, is at peace with us through Jesus Christ. The chastisement of our peace was laid upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed;" so that there is not one drop of wrath in the cup which he giveth us to drink. There may be much religion in that soul, of which the saint of God that is nearest to it knows nothing at all: in the meek, quiet taking of the yoke ; in a willingness to endure; in a submissive will; in a resigned affection; in the placing the neck under the hand of God: no one taking notice of it but God himself. These are the “ peaceable fruits of righteousness". which are here spoken of, to the praise and the glory of his grace.
I need not say how much they lead to all peaceable conduct towards our fellow-men. I believe most assuredly that when a man feels peace with God through Jesus Christ, he can say, as was once said, “ I feel so much of God in my soul, that I cannot be angry with my fellow-men.” As the peace of God prevails it softens, it subdues, it takes possession of, it quieteth the mind. It leadeth the soul to that great mystery of self-denial-a willingness to turn the right cheek, when smitten upon the left.
It is spoken of as “afterwards." There is a great power in that word “afterwards.” Perhaps in the original it might have been as forcibly, if not more forcibly, translated, “ but afterwards :" not exactly at the time. There is time taken in nature's ploughing, and there is time taken in the Lord's ploughing: and though it is a blessed thing to experience holy submission to the will of God, at the very time he lays his hand upon the neck; yet it is usually after reflection, after meditation, in quietness, in contemplating God's goodness and his past dealings, that the soul comes to its right state, and to confess, “Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.”
Perhaps some of you can put your seal to this truth; you are constrained to acknowledge this to have been God's mercy to you, when he has taken you out of your trials, and brought you out of your temptations. Though in the midst of the storm, it was as much as you could do to look to that Jesus wnom you thought to be asleep, yet afterwards you could clearly trace his guidance of the helm, and could clearly ascertain the progress of the vessei towards the haven where it could be safe. Thus in the retrospect of past trials does the Lord work great and wonderful mercies to his people.
“ To those who are exercised thereby." These blessings are connected with spiritual exercises. There is in the original word this idea : first of all they were stripped, in order to run; and being stripped, then they had to run. That is just what God does with us. He strips us of our self-confidence, of our self-wisdom, of self-righteousness ; and then he leaveth us to run: and it is in the exercise of the soul, tried to the very uttermostthat the greatest blessings flow into the heart in the way of his fatherly chastisement How patience can be tried—how faith can be tried-how hope, how strength, how wisdom can be tried in one single chastisement! And how that very chastisement can be the means of bringing out the grace that is in us! Had it not been for the accusation of drunkenness—“ These men are drunken "—that grace, and courage, and self-denial, had not been exhibited by the Apostle Peter. He was accused of drunkenness, and then he stood up with his life in his hand. But what was the means of bringing out that holy courage? It was the wretched charge brought against him by the enemies of God, and by his enemies. What was it that at midnight induced Paul and Silas to sing praises to God? It was the persecution which they received from the jailer: and but for that correction, it had not been known that men could stay in a prison, though the doors were open, for conscience' sake, and could exhibit, with their feet in the stocks, what it is to bless, praise, and adore God for his mercies. Observe, it was by the circumstances ordained of God, that he brought out, in these exercised ones, the peaceable fruits of righteousness. It was in the very struggle of faith and of nope;
it was in the very emergency. It is in our emergencies that God giveth '18 his greatest blessings, and the most munificent proofs of his love. I could appeal to many of you, and ask, Has not your extremity been God's opportunity? And when your heads have hung down, and your knees have been feeble; when you have looked perhaps to some special earthly friend, and rested on him, but when he came he was nothing, or he came not at all; and when this favourite resource was taken from you, what had you to do? You found the everlasting arms your strength; you brought forth “ the peaceable fruits of righteousness."
The believer's path to heaven is not a summer's walk at evening. We know just as much of Christ as we experience of him; we know just as much of Christ as we have tried him. An untried Christ is to us an uncertain Christ. We are to learn amidst the vicissitudes of time, the infinite value of Immanuel. We are to learn, amidst the ruin of ourselves and the creatures, the infinite glories of our Jesus, who is of God made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption.
Now, in retracing my subject, I can only say, how great the mercy is thai chastisement is not vengeance! Did you ever experience a sense of his vengeance. in your heart? May I ask, What form does your Christianity present? Is it that of a summer's day Christianity, that looketh well, talketh well, and argueth well, and, in a sense, liveth well, as far as moral conduct goes? Or is it that sort of Christianity that has learned the value of a crucified Saviour in the region of your own destitution ? Is it that sort of Christianity that has inade