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if left of God to itself, and what but for grace we could say or do the very next moment; were we continually sighing and mourning over our ignorance, unbelief, ingratitude, shortcomings, and miserable unfruitfulness; did we bear in constant remembrance our slips, falls, and grievous backslidings; and had we, with all this, a believing sight of the holiness and purity of God, of the sufferings and sorrows of his dear Son in the days of his flesh, and what it cost him to redeem us from the lowest hell, we should be, we must be clothed with humility, and should, under feelings of the deepest self abasement, take the lowest place among the family of God, as the chief af sinners, and less than the least of all saints. This should be the feeling of every child of God. But if, in his infinite condescension, the Lord has made any of us his servants, and has qualified and commissioned any of us to preach the gospel to his people, what peculiar, what additional self abasement does this call for! If we did not know the human heart, and how it takes advantage of God's own gifts, and even of his very grace to lift itself up against hini, we should at once say, “A proud minister of Jesus Christ, a self conceited servant of God! A man to preach humbling grace, and yet be proud of his way of preaching it! The thing is impossible; it is a self contradiction. Such a man is a monster, not a Christian, still less a Christian minister.” Truly he is a monster; and such the Lord makes some of his dear servants feel themselves to be when this accursed pride lifts itself up in their hearts, and they see in the light of his countenance what a hideous guest is lodged there. But till this pride be in some measure crucified, till we hate it, and hate ourselves for it, the glory of God will not be our main object, and we shall lie under the weight of that cutting reproof, “How can ye believe which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?”
Readers, friends, brother ministers, may we all with one mind and heart seek the glory of God with a single eye, and be ever willing to be nothing that Christ may be all in all. Let the world, profane and professing, seek their own honor, their own pleasure, and their own profit. Let us who profess ourselves to be “a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” seek the honor of that dear Lord, who, as we trust, has called us by his grace, brought us near to himself, and is employing us in some measure in his service.
2. The spiritual profit of our own soul, the blessing of the Lord, as a personal, experimental reality in our own.conscience, the dew of his favor resting on our branch, and our own growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ—how weighty, how essential should these blessings be felt to be by us. Surely our own soul's salvation and consolation should be our main concern. What are our farms, our shops, our business, our property, our families, our friends, our very bodies and lives themselves, compared with the worth and value of our immortal souls? If it be well with them, all is well; if ill with them, all is ill. And if any of our readers are called to minister to the souls of others, with what power or earnestness, we may well say with what face can we press eternal realities
on the conscience of others, when they have so little weight with our selves, or bid them keep their vineyards clean, when we are so neg-lecting our own? If our soul be like the garden of the sluggard, overrun with thorns and briars, never weeded or watered, the fences broken down, and the wild boar of the wood wasting it, and we are idly looking on, careless what the crop is, or whether there be any crop at all, we shall prove sorry gardeners of the church of Christ—that “garden enclosed,” into which she invites her beloved to come that he may eat his pleasant fruits. Now, without a spirit of prayer, reading, meditation, seclusion from the world, self searching and communing with one's own heart; without visitations of the Lord's presence, and the operations and influences of the blessed Spirit, we can never be fruitful in every good word and work. “Abide in me and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in me.” Associating with worldly people, gossiping and visiting from house to house, lounging their precious time away in empty talk, not giving themselves to reading, meditation, or study, but spending hour after hour in utter idleness of mind, neither tried, nor exercised, nor crying to the Lord, nor even thinking about eternal things at all, much less enjoying the Lord's presence—if such be their state week after week, can we wonder if the occupiers of the pulpit are rather a burden than a benefit to the occupiers of the pew; and if, instead of being honored and resorted to, they gradually become despised and forsaken? "By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” When we look around and see decaying buildings and dropping houses, well may we say, “Slothfulness and idleness have done this.”
3. An earnest desire for the good of the brethren will flourish or fade much in proportion to the weight and power with which eternal realities press on our own soul. In this desire for the welfare of Zion, this love to the people of God for Christ's sake, this pure, disinterested, affectionate solicitude that the blessing of God might rest upon them, does the grace of the gospel shine forth so conspicuously, and forms such a noble contrast with the spirit of the world. That says, “All for me, none for you; all I get I keep; all you get I grudge." But the noble, unselfish principle of grace says, “Dear brother, I want you to be blessed as well and as much as myself; for the more the Lord gives me, the more I want him to give you. We are partners, not rivals; friends and brethren, not antagonists and foes!" In nothing does divine grace more display its heavenly origin than in seeking the good of the brethren. Ministers seeking the spiritual welfare of their flock; members of churches desiring the blessing of God upon those connected with them in church fellowship; believers generally laboring in prayer and supplication for the power of Gòd to rest upon his servants, his churches, his people,how becoming the gospel is this, how consistent with our profession, how following the example of the blessed Redeemer,
“Who spared no pains, declined no load,
Resolved to buy us with his blood.”
We wish to say little of ourselves, lest we fall into the same spirit of self exaltation that we have been condemning; but this much, we trust, we may say, that in editing this periodical, we desire to seek the good of the brethren among whom it comes. In what falls from our pen, as well as in selecting what is sent by our correspondents for insertion, our main aim and object are to profit the Lord's people, to avoid all questions that may minister to contention and strife; and whilst we contend for the truth in the power and experience of it in the heart, to do so in a spirit of tenderness, affection, and love.
In this spirit have we desired to write what we now lay before our readers, and if any of them think we have, in some expressions, borne rather hard on existing evils, let them forgive us this wrong, and attribute it to our desire to be faithful, as well as affectionate, and not, under a show of seeming gentleness, smooth over manifest inconsistencies.
“ Brethren, pray for us," is the best request and the most fitting close that can be offered to those of our readers who know and love the truth, by their affectionate friend and servant,
THE EDITOR. Whosoever then seeketh righteousness by the law, what can he imagine else but that God, being angry, must needs be pacified with works? Now when he hath once conceived this fantasy, he beginneth to work. But he can never find so many good works as are able to quiet his conscience, but still he desireth more; yea, he findeth sins in those works he hath done already. Therefore his conscience can never be certified, but must needs be always in doubt, and thus think with itself. Thou hast not sacrificed as thou shouldest do; thou hast not prayed aright; this thou hast left undone; this or that sin thou hast committed. . Here the heart trembleth and feeleth itself oppressed with innumerable sins, which still increase without end, so that he swerveth from righteousness nore and more, until at length he fall to desperation. Hereof it cometh, that many, being at the point of death, have uttered these desperate words: “O wretch that I am! I have not kept mine order. Whither shall I flee from the wrath of Christ, that angry judge? Would to God I had been made a swineherd, or the vilest wretch in the whole world.” Thus the monk, in the end of his life, is more weak, more beggarly, more faithless and fearful than he was at the beginning, when he first entered into his order. The reason is, because he would strengthen himself through weakness, and enrich himself through poverty. The law, or men's traditions, or the rule of his order, should have healed him when he was sick, and enriched him when he was poor; but he is become more feeble and more poor than the publicans and harlots. The publicans and harlots have not a heap of good works to trust unto, as the monks have; but although they feel their sins never so much, yet they can say with the publican, “O Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!" But contrariwise, the monk, which hath spent all his time in weak and beggarly elements, is confirmed in this opinion: “If thou keep thy rule, thou shalt be saved,” &c. With this false persuasion, he is so deluded and bewitched that he cannot apprehend grace, no nor once remember grace.—Luther.
MOURNERS IN ZION COMFORTED.
A SERMON BY MR. W. TIPTAFT, PREACHED AT ZOAR CHAPEL, GREAT
ALIE STREET, LONDON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 2, 1843.
« To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”—Isaiah lxi. 3.
TAE Lord's people, who are taught by his blessed Spirit, and know what poor, guilty, ruined, and condemned sinners they are in themselves, and have found the Lord Jesus Christ precious to their souls, are not satisfied with any religion, (however great the profession of it may be,) unless there is something of the bright side experienced as well as of the dark side, and something of comfort as well as of sorrow; and that such professors have been wounded and distressed on account of sin, and have also had fresh testimonies of the love of God to their souls. But I have much greater hope of those persons being in the right way who mourn over their darkness and are in trouble about their souls, than of those persons who are always boasting of their faith and talking of their enjoyments. How very many are so satisfied and comfortable with their religion; they say they are always in the light, and always happy; and if you question the genuineness of their faith, and say they are presumptuous characters, and that it is not right to call such as preach in this way the ministers of God, such persons would soon be offended with you, and accuse you of being very uncharitable. But only let such as those who have this kind of religion, and talk so largely, come to be tried, sifted, and exercised, and it will soon be evident that the greater part, or all of their religion arises from the pride of their hearts, and is one of the devices of Satan. So that there is a greater confidence to be placed in the standing of those who are tried and cast down, who are sorrowful and mourning on account of sin, and who are crying out, “What will ever become of us?” than of those who are full of pride and presumption. I have a greater opinion of those who are thus humbled and brought down, seeing themselves sinners in God's sight, and feeling their lost and ruined state, than of those who are always talking about the greatness of their faith. So that what we contend for is this—there must be sorrow as well as joy, there must be wounding as well as healing. God's children are lost as well as found; they are pulled down and they are built up; they are stripped and they are clothed; they are condemned in their own sight, and brought to mourn over their sin and sinfulness, and yet at times are enabled to rejoice on account of what Christ has done for them.
The words at the beginning of the chapter are expressly applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ. But they do not belong exclusively to him; they belong also to the ministers of Christ who are sent out, instructed, and qualified by his blessed Spirit. “For my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth nor out
of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.” Those that preach acceptably to God's quickened family must speak under the power and influence of the Holy Ghost; for the same Spirit who in. spired and caused the book of God to be written must open and unfold its sacred contents, and also open the hearts of God's people to receive and understand it; so that when that which is written in the word is in accordance with that of which they have a living experience in the heart, there is a blessed agreement and an evidence of the work of God on their souls; for it is the office of the Holy Ghost to lay the sinner low in the dust, and take of the things of Christ and show them unto him.
Now all through the book of God the Lord's people have been recorded as mourners in Zion; witness Job, David, Jeremiah, and others. But Paul says, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” And also it is said, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man,” the things of God. So that to come aright and understand the way of truth, it must be through its being made known and taught to the soul by the Holy Ghost. There must be a revelation of the truth brought home with power to the heart; when such is the case, they will become witnesses for God; and when any one thus taught is called upon to speak in the name of Christ he will be an able minister of the new testament, “not of the letter, that killeth, but of the Spirit, that giveth life.” So that all power, light, and unction is from the Holy Ghost.
The prophet Isaiah, speaking of the Spirit resting upon Christ, says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” The ministers of Christ are specially qualified and sent out for this work, to speak unto them that are mourners in Zion, who are sitting in ashes, and are bowed down with the spirit of heaviness.
But let us inquire who they are that are mourners in Zion? It is those who are called and quickened by the Holy Ghost, and brought out of nature's darkness into the kingdom of God's grace, and who are really concerned about their soul's salvation. You will find many in this great city that are mourning and full of sorrow, but it is not on account of their sins; it is only on account of the perishing things of this life. But all such persons as these are not the mourners intended here; it is to appoint unto them that “mourn in Zion," to give unto them “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for