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What an affecting instance of this alternative of joy and gloom was Cowper; sometimes hymning the praises of God with every feeling and every perception in unison ; at others, sunk down in hopeless, dumb despondency. The following touching lines of his describe this alternation.
“ When all within is peace,
“ It is content of heart
SANCTIFIED AFFLICTIONS. Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to king David, but he would not come unto him ; and when he sent again the second time, he would not come. Therefore he said to his servants, See, Joab's field is near mine, and he hath barley there; go, and set it on fire. And Absalom's servants set the field on fire. Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom, unto his house, and said unto him, Wherefore have thy servants set my field on fire ? ” God deals frequently, so to speak, in the same manner with those whom he designs to bring nearer to himself in the gracious submission of filial faith and love. He speaks once, and again, in the mild and tender accents of goodness, by the invitations of his word ; but the message is overlooked. He then addresses the heart with a louder voice in some providential affliction. His Spirit attends the invitation, and the soul, long estranged from him, and from the mercies of his salvation, flees again to its only rest, and cries, “Tell me wherefore thou contendest with me?' Then comes the teaching of the Holy Ghost, whereby the truant heart is made wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus. And what follows in the train of this wise and gracious discipline? Surely a full acknowledgment of its necessity, and of Divine goodness in sending it. “Before I was afflicted I went astray ; but now have I kept thy word,” Psa. cxix. 67. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted ; that I might learn thy statutes,” Psa. cxix. 71.
TREES IN THE FOREST. The trees that are in the wood or forest grow in wildernesses, and have none to look after them; there is none to prune them, none to hedge them; they lie open to all dangers, to the horns and to the teeth of the wild beasts, that will easily knock off all their buds and sprigs, break and eat off their bark, and keep them from growing and the like. And truly this is the condition of every natural man; he is as a tree in the forest, as a tree in the wilderness; there is none to look after him, there is none to prune him, and to take away unfruitful branches, that he may bring forth fruit to God. God doth not look after the trees in the forest.
It is true Christ is the Father's husbandman, and he doth cut off unfruitful branches; he cuts off unfruitful trees that bring forth untimely fruit; but he doth this to such as are in his garden, to such as are in his Christ. Thus the Father takes a special care of his. The Lord makes a hedge round about his people ; he will keep all hurtful things from them. See what is said to Job. The devil confesses the goodness of God unto his people in this respect. " Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?” Job i. 10. It is a most certain truth that God hath made a hedge about the believer; a hedge about his person, a hedge about his house; that is, a hedge about his family, a hedge about his friends and relations; a hedge about his people. There is a three-fold hedge God makes about his, who are of his planting.
But now it is not so of the trees in the forest, of the trees in the wilderness; there is no hedge made about them; they lie open to a thousand dangers; they lie open to the furious assaults of Satan, and to the prevalency of all temptations ; lie open to dangers from all the people; there is no hedge about them. God hath not made a league with the beasts in the field for them. Here is the misery of a man out of Christ; it is set forth by a tree in the wilderness; a tree that grows in the wood, and therefore a word of application to this particular.
Beloved, this lets us see the necessity of being planted ; planted into Christ by faith. We are all of the wild olive and the wild vine, and therefore there is a necessity that every man should seek after his transplanting into Christ. Oh that the Lord would make you willing to be plucked up by the roots ! You that are out of Christ, to be willing to be plucked up by the roots, that you may be planted into Christ! There is some rooting that every natural man hath which he is loth to be plucked from. One man is rooted into the world ; another is rooted in his lusts; and another is rooted in himself, in his own righteousness, in his own works, in his own strength, in his own performances. Oh that the Lord would make you willing to be plucked up from all that root, that in which you have anything besides Christ! Here is the great difficulty, to bring off the wills of men. Men
cry out many times, Oh, it is a hard matter! Oh, it is an impossible thing that ever they should be plucked up from such rooting! They have such lusts : trees which are of twenty, thirty, or forty years' growth; and all that time rooting deeper and deeper. Is it possible that such should be plucked up by the roots, and planted into Christ?
You know what Christ said to his disciples, that if they had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, they should say to this cedar, be removed into the sea, and it should be so. Armytage.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE TONGUE.
From the Rev. John Newton. THERE is, perhaps, no one test or proof of the reality of a work of grace upon the heart, more simple, clear, and infallible, than the general tenor of our language and conversation ; for our Lord's aphorism is of certain and universal application, that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. To the same purpose, the apostle James proposes, to all who make profession of the gospel, a searching criterion of their sincerity, when he says, “If any man
among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.' This passage should not be thought a hard saying, for it stands in the Bible ; but, because it stands in the Bible, and forms a part of the rule by which the characters and states of all men will be finally determined, there is reason to fear that it will be found a hard saying at last by too many who name the name of Christ. A few thoughts upon this important subject can never be unseasonable.
It is not the restraint of the heart the apostle requires. He knew that, though it be our duty to watch against the first rising motions of evil within, and to be humbled for them, it is not in our power wholly to prevent them ; but he supposes that the grace of God in a true believer will check the evils of the heart, and prevent them from breaking out by the tongue. Nor is the restraint of the tongue to be taken so strictly, as if a believer was never liable to speak unadvisedly. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth, and Peter not only denied his Lord, but denied him with oaths and execrations. I allow it possible that the best of men, in an unguarded hour, and through the pressure of some sudden and violent temptation or provocation, may occasionally act or speak unsuitably to their habitual character, But I think the apostle must mean thus much at least, that, when grace is in the heart, it will so regulate and control the tongue, that it shall not customarily offend; and that without some evidence of such a regulation, we are not bound to acknowledge any man to be a Christian, however splendid his profession may be in other respects. Nay, I think we may farther say of this test, what the magicians of Egypt acknowledged upon another occasion, “This is the finger of God!" This is, perhaps, the only outward mark of a believer which the hypocrite cannot imitate. In many things he may seem to he religious ; in some, perhaps, he may appear to go beyond the real Christian; but, because his heart is nought, he cannot bridle his tongue.
The man who seems, and who desires to be thought religious, may have many qualifications to support his claim, which may be valuable and commendable in themselves, and yet are of no avail to the possessor, if he bridleth not his tongue. He may have much religious knowledge; I mean, of such knowledge as may be acquired in the use of ordinary
He may have a warm zeal, and may contend earnestly in his way) for the faith once delivered to the saints. He may be able to talk well on spiritual subjects, to pray with freedom and fervency; yea, he may be a preacher, and acquit himself to the satisfaction of sincere Christians; or he may be a fair trader, a good neighbour, a kind master, an affectionate husband or parent, be free from gross vices, and attend constantly upon the ordinances. Will not such a man seem to himself, and probably be esteemed by others, to be religious ? Yet if, with all these good properties, he does not bridle his tongue, he may be said to want the one thing needful. He deceiveth his own heart ; his religion is vain.
But what are we to understand by bridling the tongue ? The expression, I think, will be sufficiently explained by considering how the grace of God will necessarily influence and govern the tongues of those who partake of it, in what they say when they are led to speak of God, of themselves, and of or to their fellow-creatures. Having seen a glimpse of the holiness and majesty, the glory and the grace, of the great God with whom they have to do, their hearts are impressed with reverence, and therefore there is a sobriety and decorum in their language. They cannot speak lightly of him, or of his ways. One would suppose that no person, who even but seems to be religious, can directly and expressly profane his
But there is a careless manner of speaking of the great God, which is very disgusting and very suspicious. So, likewise, the hearts of believers teach their mouths to speak honourably of God under all their afflictions and crosses, acknowledging the wisdom and the mercy of his dispensations ; and, if an impatient word escapes them, it grieves and humbles them, as quite unbecoming their situation as his creatures, and especially as sinful creatures, who have always reason to acknowledge that it is of the Lord's mercy they are not wholly consumed.
When they speak of themselves, their tongues are bridled and restrained from boasting. They speak as becomes poor unworthy creatures, because they feel themselves to be such. In what they say, either of their comforts or of their sorrows, sincerity dictates a simplicity which cannot be easily counterfeited; while they whose tongues are not thus bridled often betray themselves by an affectation and want of savour, even when they are lamenting their sinfulness, and the vileness of their hearts.
In what they say of or to others, the tongues of believers are bridled by a heart-felt regard to truth, love, and purity. It is grievous to see how nearly and readily some professors