THE SPICED WINE OF MY POMEGRANATE OR, THE COMMUNION OF COMMUNICATION.
THE immovable basis of communion having been laid of old in the eternal union which subsisted between Christ and His elect, it only needed a fitting occasion to manifest itself in active development. The Lord Jesus had for ever delighted Himself with the sons of men, and he ever stood prepared to reveal and communicate that delight to His people; but they were incapable of returning His affection or enjoying His fellowship, having fallen into a state so base and degraded, that they were dead to Him, and careless concerning Him. It was therefore needful that something should be done for them, and in them, before they could hold converse with Jesus, or feel concord with Him. This preparation being a work of grace and a result of previous union, Jesus determined that, even in the preparation for communion, there should be communion. If they must be washed before they could fully converse with Him, He would commune with them in the washing; and if they must be enriched by gifts before they could have full access to Him, He would commune with them in the giving. He has therefore established a fellowship in imparting His grace, and in partaking of it.
This order of fellowship we have called “The Communion of Communication,” and we think that a few remarks will prove that we are not running beyond the warranty of Scripture.
The word koinwnia , or communion, is frequently employed by inspired writers in the sense of communication or contribution. When, in our English version, we read, “For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26), it is interesting to know that the word koinwnia used, as if to show that the generous gifts of the Church in Achaia to its sister Church at Jerusalem was a communion. Calvin would have us notice this, because, saith he, “The word here employed well expresses the feeling by which it behoves us to succor the wants of our brethren, even because there is to be a common and mutual regard on account of the union of the body.” He would not have strained the text if he had said that there was in the contribution the very essence of communion. Gill, in his commentary upon the above verse, most pertinently remarks, “Contribution, or communion, as the word signifies, it being one part of the communion of churches and of saints to relieve their poor by communicating to them.” The same word is employed in Hebrews 13:16, and is there translated by the word “communicate.” “But to do good, and to communicate, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
It occurs again in 2 Corinthians 9:13, “And for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;” and in numerous other passages the careful student will observe the word in various forms, representing the ministering of the saints to one another as an act of fellowship. Indeed, at the Lord’s supper, which is the embodiment of communion, we have ever been wont to make a special contribution for the poor of the flock, and we believe that in the collection there is as true and real an element of communion as in the partaking of the bread and wine. The giver holds fellowship with the receiver when he bestows his benefaction for the Lord’s sake, and because of the brotherhood existing between him and his needy friends. The teacher holds communion with the young disciple when he labors to instruct him in the faith, being moved thereto by a spirit of Christian love. He who intercedes for a saint because he desires his well-being as a member of the one family, enters into fellowship with his brother in the offering of prayer. The loving and mutual service of church-members is fellowship of a high degree. And let us remember that the recipient communes with the benefactor: the communion is not confined to the giver, but the heart overflowing with liberality is met by the heart brimming with gratitude, and the love manifested in the bestowal is reciprocated in the acceptance. When the hand feeds the mouth or supports the head, the divers members feel their union, and sympathize with one another; and so is it with the various portions of the body of Christ, for they commune in mutual acts of love.
Now, this meaning of the word communion furnishes us with much instruction, since it indicates the manner in which recognized fellowship with Jesus is commenced and maintained, namely, by giving and receiving, by communication and reception. The Lord’s supper is the divinelyordained exhibition of communion, and therefore in it there is the breaking of bread and the pouring forth of wine, to picture the free gift of the Savior’s body and blood to us; and there is also the eating of the one and the drinking of the other, to represent the reception of these priceless gifts by us. As without bread and wine there could be no Lord’s supper, so without the gracious bequests of Jesus to us there would have been no communion between Him and our souls: and as participation is necessary before the elements truly represent the meaning of the Lord’s ordinance, so is it needful that we should receive His bounties, and feed upon His person, before we can commune with Him.
It is one branch of this mutual communication which we have selected as the subject of this address. “Looking unto Jesus,” who hath delivered us from our state of enmity, and brought us into fellowship with Himself, we pray for the rich assistance of the Holy Spirit, that we may be refreshed in spirit, and encouraged to draw more largely from the covenant storehouse of Christ Jesus the Lord.
We shall take a text, and proceed at once to our delightful task. “And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” (John 1:16.)
As the life of grace is first begotten in us by the Lord Jesus, so is it constantly sustained by Him. We are always drawing from this sacred fountain, always deriving sap from this divine root; and as Jesus communes with us in the bestowing of mercies, it is our privilege to hold fellowship with Him in the receiving of them.
There is this difference between Christ and ourselves, He never gives without manifesting fellowship, but we often receive in so ill a manner that communion is not reciprocated, and we therefore miss the heavenly opportunity of its enjoyment. We frequently receive grace insensibly, that is to say, the sacred oil runs through the pipe, and maintains our lamp, while we are unmindful of the secret influence. We may also be the partakers of many mercies which, through our dullness, we do not perceive to be mercies at all; and at other times well-known blessings are recognized as such, but we are backward in tracing them to their source in the covenant made with Christ Jesus.
Following out the suggestion of our explanatory preface, we can well believe that when the poor saints received the contribution of their brethren, many of them did in earnest acknowledge the fellowship which was illustrated in the generous offering, but it is probable that some of them merely looked upon the material of the gift, and failed to see the spirit moving in it. Sensual thoughts in some of the receivers might possibly, at the season when the contribution was distributed, have mischievously injured the exercise of spirituality; for it is possible that, after a period of poverty, they would be apt to give greater prominence to the fact that their need was removed than to the sentiment of fellowship with their sympathizing brethren. They would rather rejoice over famine averted than concerning fellowship manifested. We doubt not that, in many instances, the mutual benefactions of the Church fail to reveal our fellowship to our poor brethren, and produce in them no feelings of communion with the givers.
Now this sad fact is an illustration of the yet more lamentable statement which we have made. We again assert that, as many of the partakers of the alms of the Church are not alive to the communion contained therein, so the Lord’s people are never sufficiently attentive to fellowship with Jesus in receiving His gifts, but many of them are entirely forgetful of their privilege, and all of them are too little aware of it. Nay, worse than this, how often doth the believer pervert the gifts of Jesus into food for his own sin and wantonness! We are not free from the fickleness of ancient Israel, and well might our Lord address us in the same language: “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread My skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I swear unto thee, and entered into a covenant with Thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine.
Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers — skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown.” (Ezekiel 16:8-16.)
Ought not the mass of professors to confess the truth of this accusation?
Have not the bulk of us most sadly departed from the purity of our love?
We rejoice, however, to observe a remnant of choice spirits, who live near the Lord, and know the sweetness of fellowship. These receive the promise and the blessing, and so digest them that they become good blood in their veins, and so do they feed on their Lord that they grow up into Him. Let us imitate those elevated minds, and obtain their high delights. There is no reason why the meanest of us should not be as David, and David as the servant of the Lord. We may now be dwarfs, but growth is possible; let us therefore aim at a higher stature. Let the succeeding advice be followed, and, the Holy Spirit helping us, we shall have attained thereto.
Make every time of need a time of embracing thy Lord. Do not leave the mercy-seat until thou hast clasped Him in thine arms. In every time of need He has promised to give thee grace to help, and what withholdeth thee from obtaining sweet fellowship as a precious addition to the promised assistance? Be not as the beggar who is content with the alms, however grudgingly it may be cast to him; but, since thou art a near kinsman, seek a smile and a kiss with every benison He gives thee. Is He not better than His mercies? What are they without Him? Cry aloud unto Him, and let thy petition reach His ears, “O my Lord, it is not enough to be a partaker of Thy bounties, I must have Thyself also; if Thou dost not give me Thyself with Thy favors, they are but of little use to me! O smile on me, when Thou blessest me, for else I am still unblest! Thou puttest perfume into all the flowers of Thy garden, and fragrance into Thy spices; if Thou withdrawest Thyself, they are no more pleasant to me. Come, then, my Lord, and give me Thy love with Thy grace.” Take good heed, Christian, that thine own heart is in right tune, that when the fingers of mercy touch the strings, they may resound with full notes of communion. How sad is it to partake of favor without rejoicing in it! Yet such is often the believer’s case. The Lord casts His lavish bounties at our doors, and we, like churls, scarcely look out to thank Him. Our ungrateful hearts and unthankful tongues mar our fellowship, by causing us to miss a thousand opportunities for exercising it.
If thou wouldst enjoy communion with the Lord Jesus in the reception of His grace, endeavor to be always sensibly drawing supplies from Him.
Make thy needs public in the streets of thine heart, and when the supply is granted, let all the powers of thy soul be present at the reception of it. Let no mercy come into thine house unsung. Note in thy memory the list of thy Master’s benefits. Wherefore should the Lord’s bounties be hurried away in the dark, or buried in forgetfulness? Keep the gates of thy soul ever open, and sit thou by the wayside to watch the treasures of grace which God the Spirit hourly conveys into thy heart from Jehovah — Jesus, thy Lord.
Never let an hour pass without drawing upon the bank of heaven. If all thy wants seem satisfied, look steadfastly until the next moment brings another need, and then delay not, but with this warrant of necessity, hasten to thy treasury again. Thy necessities are so numerous that thou wilt never lack a reason for applying to the fullness of Jesus; but if ever such an occasion should arise, enlarge thine heart, and then there will be need of more love to fill the wider space. But do not allow any supposititious riches of thine own to suspend thy daily receivings from the Lord Jesus. You have constant need of Him. You need His intercession, His upholding, His sanctification; you need that He should work all your works in you, and that He should preserve you unto the day of His appearing. There is not one moment of your life in which you can do without Christ. Therefore be always at His door, and the wants which you bemoan shall be remembrances to turn your heart unto your Savior. Thirst makes the heart pant for the waterbrooks, and pain reminds man of the physician. Let your wants conduct you to Jesus, and may the blessed Spirit reveal Him unto you while He lovingly affords you the rich supplies of His love! Go, poor saint, let thy poverty be the cord to draw thee to thy rich Brother. Rejoice in the infirmity which makes room for grace to rest upon thee, and be glad that thou hast constant needs which compel thee perpetually to hold fellowship with thine adorable Redeemer.
Study thyself, seek out thy necessities, as the housewife searches for chambers where she may bestow her summer fruits. Regard thy wants as rooms to be filled with more of the grace of Jesus, and suffer no corner to be unoccupied. Pant after more of Jesus. Be covetous after Him. Let all the past incite thee to seek greater things. Sing the song of the enlarged heart, — “All this is not enough: methinks I grow More greedy by fruition; what I get Serves but to set An edge upon my appetite; And all Thy gifts invite My pray’rs for more.” Cry out to the Lord Jesus to fill the dry beds of thy rivers until they overflow, and then empty thou the channels which have hitherto been filled with thine own self-sufficiency, and beseech Him to fill these also with His superabundant grace. If thy heavy trials sink thee deeper in the flood of His consolations, be glad of them; and if thy vessel shall be sunken up to its very bulwarks, be not afraid. I would be glad to feel the mast-head of my soul twenty fathoms beneath the surface of such an ocean; for, as Rutherford said, “Oh, to be over the ears in this well! I would not have Christ’s love entering into me, but I would enter into it, and be swallowed up of that love.” Cultivate an insatiable hunger and a quenchless thirst for this communion with Jesus through His communications. Let thine heart cry for ever, “Give, give,” until it is filled in Paradise. “O’ercome with Jesu’s condescending love, Brought into fellowship with Him and His, And feasting with Him in His house of wine, I’m sick of love, — and yet I pant for more Communications from my loving Lord.
Stay me with flagons full of choicest wine, Press’d from His heart upon Mount Calvary, To cheer and comfort my love-conquer’d soul. * * * Thyself I crave!
Thy presence is my life, my joy, my heav’n, And all, without Thyself, is dead to me.
Stay me with flagons, Savior, hear my cry, Let promises, like apples, comfort me; Apply atoning blood, and cov’nant love, Until I see Thy face among the guests Who in Thy Father’s kingdom feast.” (Nymphas, by JOSEPH IRONS.)
This is the only covetousness which is allowable: but this is not merely beyond rebuke, it is worthy of commendation. O saints, be not straitened in your own bowels, but enlarge your desires, and so receive more of your Savior’s measureless fullness! I charge thee, my soul, thus to hold continual fellowship with thy Lord, since He invites and commands thee thus to partake of His riches.
Rejoice thyself in benefits received. Let the satisfaction of thy spirit overflow in streams of joy. When the believer reposes all his confidence in Christ, and delights himself in Him, there is an exercise of communion. If he forgetteth his psalmbook, and instead of singing is found lamenting, the mercies of the day will bring no communion. Awake, O music! stir up thyself, O my soul, be glad in the Lord, and exceedingly rejoice! Behold His favors, rich, free, and continual; shall they be buried in unthankfulness?
Shall they be covered with a winding-sheet of ingratitude? No! I will praise Him. I must extol Him. Sweet Lord Jesus, let me kiss the dust of Thy feet, let me lose myself in thankfulness, for Thy thoughts unto me are precious, how great is the sum of them! Lo, I embrace Thee in the arms of joy and gratitude, and herein I find my soul drawn unto Thee!
This is a blessed method of fellowship. It is kissing the divine lip of benediction with the sanctified lip of affection. Oh, for more rejoicing grace, more of the songs of the heart, more of the melody of the soul!
Seek to recognize the source of thy mercies as lying alone in Him who is our Head. Imitate the chicken, which, every time it drinketh of the brook, lifts up its head to heaven, as if it would return thanks for every drop. If we have anything that is commendable and gracious, it must come from the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is first bestowed on Jesus, and then through Him on us. The oil was first poured on the head of Aaron, and thence it ran down upon his garments. Look on the drops of grace, and remember that they distill from the Head, Christ Jesus. All thy rays are begotten by this Sun of Righteousness, all thy showers are poured from this heaven, all thy fountains spring from this great and immeasurable depth. Oh, for grace to see the hand of Jesus on every favor! So will communion be constantly and firmly in exercise. May the great Teacher perpetually direct us to Jesus by making the mercies of the covenant the handposts on the road which leadeth to Him. Happy is the believer who knows how to find the secret abode of his Beloved by tracking the footsteps of His loving providence: herein is wisdom which the casual observer of mere second causes can never reach. Labor, O Christian, to follow up every clue which thy Master’s grace affords thee!
Labor to maintain a sense of thine entire dependence upon His good will and pleasure for the continuance of thy richest enjoyments. Never try to live on the old manna, nor seek to find help in Egypt. All must come from Jesus, or thou art undone for ever. Old anointings will not suffice to impart unction to our spirit; thine head must have fresh oil poured upon it from the golden horn of the sanctuary, or it will cease from its glory. Today thou mayest be upon the summit of the mount of God; but He who has put thee there must keep thee there, or thou wilt sink far more speedily than thou dreamest. Thy mountain only stands firm when He settles it in its place; if He hide His face, thou wilt soon be troubled. If the Savior should see fit, there is not a window through which thou seest the light of heaven which he could not darken in an instant. Joshua bade the sun stand still, but Jesus can shroud it in total darkness. He can withdraw the joy of thine heart, the light of thine eyes, and the strength of thy life; in His hand thy comforts lie, and at His will they can depart from thee. Oh! how rich the grace which supplies us so continually, and doth not refrain itself because of our ingratitude! O Lord Jesus, we would bow at Thy feet, conscious of our utter inability to do aught without Thee, and in every favor which we are privileged to receive, we would adore Thy blessed name, and acknowledge Thine unexhausted love!
When thou hast received much, admire the all-sufficiency which still remaineth undiminished, thus shall you commune with Christ, not only in what you obtain from Him, but also in the superabundance which remains treasured up in Him. Let us ever remember that giving does not impoverish our Lord. When the clouds, those wandering cisterns of the skies, have poured floods upon the dry ground, there remains an abundance in the storehouse of the rain: so in Christ there is ever an unbounded supply, though the most liberal showers of grace have fallen ever since the foundation of the earth. The sun is as bright as ever after all his shining, and the sea is quite as full after all the clouds have been drawn from it: so is our Lord Jesus ever the same overflowing fountain of fullness. All this is ours, and we may make it the subject of rejoicing fellowship. Come, believer, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for as far as the eye can reach, the land is thine, and far beyond the utmost range of thine observation it is thine also, the gracious gift of thy gracious Redeemer and Friend. Is there not ample space for fellowship here?
Regard every spiritual mercy as an assurance of the Lord’s communion with thee. When the young man gives jewels to the virgin to whom he is affianced, she regards them as tokens of his delight in her. Believer, do the same with the precious presents of thy Lord. The common bounties of providence are shared in by all men, for the good Householder provides water for His swine as well as for His children: such things, therefore, are no proof of divine complacency. But thou hast richer food to eat; “the children’s bread” is in thy wallet, and the heritage of the righteous is reserved for thee. Look, then, on every motion of grace in thine heart as a pledge and sign of the moving of thy Savior’s heart towards thee. There is His whole heart in the bowels of every mercy which He sends thee. He has impressed a kiss of love upon each gift, and He would have thee believe that every jewel of mercy is a token of His boundless love. Look on thine adoption, justification, and preservation, as sweet enticements to fellowship. Let every note of the promise sound in thine ears like the ringing of the bells of the house of thy Lord, inviting thee to come to the banquets of His love. Joseph sent to his father asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and good old Jacob doubtless regarded them as pledges of the love of his son’s heart: be sure not to think less of the kindnesses of Jesus.
Study to know the value of His favors. They are no ordinary things, no paste jewels, no mosaic gold: they are every one of them so costly, that, had all heaven been drained of treasure, apart from the precious offering of the Redeemer, it could not have purchased so much as the least of His benefits. When thou seest thy pardon, consider how great a boon is contained in it! Bethink thee that hell had been thine eternal portion unless Christ had plucked thee from the burning! When thou art enabled to see thyself as clothed in the imputed righteousness of Jesus, admire the profusion of precious things of which thy robe is made. Think how many times the Man of sorrows wearied Himself at that loom of obedience in which He wove that matchless garment; and reckon, if thou canst, how many worlds of merit were cast into the fabric at every throw of the shuttle! Remember that all the angels in heaven could not have afforded Him a single thread which would have been rich enough to weave into the texture of His perfect righteousness. Consider the cost of thy maintenance for an hour; remember that thy wants are so large, that all the granaries of grace that all the saints could fill, could not feed thee for a moment.
What an expensive dependent thou art! King Solomon made marvelous provision for his household (1 Kings 4:22), but all his beeves and fine flour would be as the drop of the bucket compared with thy daily wants. Rivers of oil, and ten thousand rams or fed beasts, would not provide enough to supply the necessities of thy hungering soul. Thy least spiritual want demands infinity to satisfy it, and what must be the amazing aggregate of thy perpetually repeated draughts upon thy Lord! Arise, then, and bless thy loving Immanuel for the invaluable riches with which He has endowed thee. See what a dowry thy Bridegroom has brought to His poor, penniless spouse. He knows the value of the blessings which He brings thee, for He has paid for them out of His heart’s richest blood; be not thou so ungenerous as to pass them over as if they were but of little worth. Poor men know more of the value of money than those who have always reveled in abundance of wealth. Ought not thy former poverty to teach thee the preciousness of the grace which Jesus gives thee? For remember, there was a time when thou wouldst have given a thousand worlds, if they had been thine, in order to procure the very least of His abundant mercies.
Remember how impossible it would have been for thee to receive a single spiritual blessing unless thou hadst been in Jesus. On none of Adam’s race can the love of God be fixed, unless they are seen to be in union with His Son. No exception has ever been made to the universal curse on those of the first Adam’s seed who have no interest in the second Adam. Christ is the only Zoar in which God’s Lots can find a shelter from the destruction of Sodom. Out of Him, the withering blast of the fiery furnace of God’s wrath consumes every green herb, and it is only in Him that the soul can live. As when the prairie is on fire, men see the heavens wrapped in sheets of flame, and in hot haste they fly before the devouring element. They have but one hope. There is in the distance a lake of water. They reach it, they plunge into it, and are safe. Although the skies are molten with the heat, the sun darkened with the smoke, and the earth utterly consumed in the fire, they know that they are secure while the cooling flood embraces them.
Christ Jesus is the only escape for a sinner pursued by the fiery wrath of God, and we would have the believer remember this. Our own works could never shelter us, for they have proved but refuges of lies. Had they been a thousand times more and better, they would have been but as the spider’s web, too flail to hang eternal interests upon. There was but one name, one sacrifice, one blood, by which we could escape. All other attempts at salvation were a grievous failure. For, “though a man could scourge out of his body rivers of blood, and in neglect of himself could outlast Moses or Elias; though he could wear out his knees with prayer, and had his eyes nailed on heaven; though he could build hospitals for all the poor on earth, and exhaust the mines of India in alms; though he could walk like an angel of light, and with the glittering of an outward holiness dazzle the eyes of all beholders; nay (if it were possible to be conceived) though he should live for a thousand years in a perfect and perpetual observation of the whole law of God, if the only exception to his perfection were the very least deviation from the law, yet such a man as this could no more appear before the tribunal of God’s justice, than stubble before a consuming fire.” How, then, with thine innumerable sins, couldst thou escape the damnation of hell, much less become the recipient of bounties so rich and large? Blessed window of heaven, sweet Lord Jesus, let Thy Church for ever adore Thee, as the only channel by which mercies can flow to her. My soul, give Him continual praise, for without Him thou hadst been poorer than a beggar. Be thou mindful, O heir of heaven, that thou couldst not have had one ray of hope, or one word of comfort, if thou hadst not been in union with Christ Jesus! The crumbs which fall from thy table are more than grace itself would have given thee, hadst thou not been in Jesus beloved and approved.
All thou hast, thou hast in Him: in Him chosen, in Him redeemed, in Him justified, in Him accepted. Thou art risen in Him, but without Him thou hadst died the second death. Thou art in Him raised up to the heavenly places, but out of Him thou wouldst have been damned eternally. Bless Him, then. Ask the angels to bless Him. Rouse all ages to a harmony of praise for His condescending love in taking poor guilty nothings into oneness with His all-adorable person. This is a blessed means of promoting communion, if the sacred Comforter is pleased to take of the things of Christ, and reveal them to us as ours, but only ours as we are in Him.
Thrice-blessed Jesus, let us never forget that we are members of Thy mystical body, and that it is for this reason that we are blessed and preserved.
Meditate upon thee gracious acts which procured thy blessings. Consider the ponderous labors which thy Lord endured for thee, and the stupendous sufferings by which He purchased the mercies which He bestows. What human tongue can speak forth the unutterable misery of His heart, or describe so much as one of the agonies which crowded upon His soul?
How much less shall any finite comprehension arrive at an idea of the vast total of His woe! But all His sorrows were necessary for thy benefit, and without them not one of thine unnumbered mercies could have been bestowed. Be not unmindful that — “There’s ne’er a gift His hand bestows, But cost His heart a groan.”
Look upon the frozen ground of Gethsemane, and behold the bloody sweat which stained the soil! Turn to the hall of Gabbatha, and see the victim of justice pursued by His clamorous foes! Enter the guard-room of the Praetorians, and view the spitting, and the plucking of the hair! and then conclude your review upon Golgotha, the mount of doom, where death consummated His tortures; and if, by divine assistance thou art enabled to enter, in some humble measure, into the depths of thy Lord’s sufferings, thou wilt be the better prepared to hold fellowship with Him when next thou receivest His priceless gifts. In proportion to thy sense of their costliness will be thy capacity for enjoying the love which is centered in them.
Above all, and chief of all, never forget that Christ is thine. Amid the profusion of His gifts, never forget that the chief gift is Himself, and do not forget that, after all, His gifts are but Himself. He clothes thee, but it is with Himself, with His own spotless righteousness and character. He washes thee, but His innermost self, His own heart’s blood, is the stream with which the fountain overflows. He feeds thee with the bread of heaven, but be not unmindful that the bread is Himself, His own body which He gives to be the food of souls. Never be satisfied with a less communication than a whole Christ. A wife will not be put off with maintenance, jewels, and attire, all these will be nothing to her unless she can call her husband’s heart and person her own. It was the Paschal lamb upon which the ancient Israelite did feast on that night that was never to be forgotten. So do thou feast on Jesus, and on nothing less than Jesus, for less than this will be food too light for thy soul’s satisfaction. Oh, be careful to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and so receive Him into thyself in a real and spiritual manner, for nothing short of this will be an evidence of eternal life in thy soul!
What more shall we add to the rules which we have here delivered? There remains but one great exhortation, which must not be omitted. Seek the abundant assistance of the Holy Spirit to enable you to put into practice the things which we have said, for without His aid, all that we have spoken will but be tantalizing the lame with rules to walk, or the dying with regulations for the preservation of health. O thou Divine Spirit, while we enjoy the grace of Jesus, lead us into the secret abode of our Lord, that we may sup with Him, and He with us, and grant unto us hourly grace that we may continue in the company of our Lord from the rising to the setting of the sun! Amen.
THE Thames at its first tunnel is a tiny rill for a lamb to drink at; no one would dream of its swelling into a mighty river. The grace of God in its first commencement in the soul of man is usually a faint and feeble thing.
Jesus is trusted, but the faith is feeble. Love to heavenly things is in the heart, but it is rather a spark than a flame. All the graces are in the newborn soul, but they are like seeds, rather than well-grown plants. No one rails at the river’s humble parentage, and none of us must blame the littleness of early spiritual life. Thanks be unto God if we are saved at all; better, far better, to be a rill of grace than a river of sin. The very least streamlet, or even drop of faith, is more precious than a world of gold.
Young beginner, be encouraged by this thought.
How quiet, calm, and beautiful, is the rustic nook, where the lamb is nipping a sweet, succulent shoot from the shrub which covers the little brook! so fair, so calm, is the first season of spiritual existence. The love of our espousals we shall ever look back upon with grateful recollection.
Though the rill cannot as yet float a navy, or make glad a million-peopled city, yet it has a peculiar charm and beauty of its own; and even so has youthful piety. Remember this; newly-converted friend, and be glad.
Yet the stream grows and swells in volume as it advances. The lamb will not always be its fit playmate; it will ere long consort with giant oaks, towering castles, huge galleons, and crowded cities, and will not rest till it communes with the far-sounding ocean. Even so grace grows, strengthens, increases. From the day of small things it sweeps on to weeks of service, years of patience, and ages of perfection. Seek this progress, O young believer, and be not content without it. Looking unto Jesus, speed along the channel of his will. His merit has saved you if you have believed; let his example animate you, and his love encourage you. May your peace be as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.
IN the frequent quarrels between the priests and monks of the Church of Rome, the two parties of rogues were silly enough to expose each other’s villainies. On the edifices belonging to monasteries, priests were caricatured in the stonework; and on the churches built by priests, the monks and friars were held up to ridicule. A great deal of real truth was thus brought out by their mutual recriminations. The ancient carving above is a specimen of a common caricature representing the clergy as foxes with geese in their hoods; a very admirable picture whether monks or priests were intended. Popery, with its secret confessional and priestly interference at dying beds, is essentially a fox. Puseyism, pretending to be Protestant, and gradually bringing in all the foolery of Rome, is a deep fox indeed. Yet there are geese silly enough to be deceived by priests in this nineteenth century; and so long as the supply of such geese is kept up, the foxes will never cease to prowl.
Reader, do you believe that men like yourself have priestly power? Do you think that they can regenerate infants by sprinkling them, and turn bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ? Do you think that a bishop can bestow the Holy Ghost, and that a parish clergyman can forgive sins? If so, your head can be seen in the picture peeping out from the cowl of the fox. You are the victim of crafty deceivers. Your soul will be their prey in life and in death. They cajole you with soft words, fine vestments, loud pretensions, and cunning smiles, but they will conduct you down to the chambers of death, and lead you to the gates of hell. Silly goose, may grace make thee wise!
Jesus Christ is the true Priest who can forgive all your sins; go to him at once, without the intervention of these pretenders. Make confession to him! Seek absolution from him! The Holy Ghost alone can cause you to be born again, and the grace of God alone can bring you to glory. Avoid Puseyite and Romish foxes, for they seek to make a gain of you, and lead you not to Jesus, but to their Church and all its mummeries. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and not in these deceivers.
A RUNABOUT PAPER BY C. H. SPURGEON.
IT was my ambition to make this month’s magazine the best of this year’s issue. Since our subscribers have sustained our circulation so constantly, I hoped to have shown them that we mean to sustain the quality of the periodical, and go on to something better still. Moreover, the many new monthlies which are announced, make an editor rub his forehead, and cry, “Woe is me if I do not bestir myself;” and I must confess to a degree of the same feeling, although my friends are so singularly endowed with faithfulness that they will not readily desert their unworthy but most willing and earnest editor. Now so it fell out, as God would have it, that instead of meditating in the study, I have had to smart and mourn upon the bed of pain. Instead of going forth with the hosts to battle, I have been in the infirmary, among the sick. I would have worked on, and like the warrior with both his legs shot away, I would have fought on my stumps, but the head was my wounded part, and thinking was out of the question; a man may fight without legs, but cannot very well write without his head, at least not in such style as to suit our pages. If anything should be wrong in the magazine this month, pray excuse it, because of the editor’s disability, The last day, up to which Mr. Printer can wait, is just arrived, and I am considerably better, so although I cannot leave my bedroom, I must sit up in the easy chair and ramble by short stages from topic to topic, penning a few sentences upon certain matters which I had selected as subjects for articles, which might have edified or might have wearied my ten thousand gentle readers.
The Nonconformist newspaper has done good service to all sections of the Christian Church, by the issue of a statistical statement as to the religious condition of London. It cannot be too much regretted that the Government did not collect at the last census religious statistics in the same fashion as ten years before; but as this was omitted, the Nonconformist does well to supply the deficiency. The destitution of the metropolis is appalling, but there are some cheering signs, and Baptists especially should take heart, and gird themselves afresh for the battle. The tabular statement of the general position of the various religious bodies, and the note upon it, we quote with pleasure, giving glory to God that our loving friends have enabled us to make some small discernible mark upon the mass of ignorance and sin around us.
There is however no time to pause for the slightest congratulation, for perishing souls are wading in our ears, and their blood will be upon us all, unless we arouse ourselves to send them the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone can save them from everlasting burnings. In the year 1851, the National Census acted as a mighty stimulus to zeal, by revealing the terrible truth that in London there was a deficiency of accommodation in places of worship for 669,514 souls; at the present moment, after all the church and chapel building, there is an increased deficiency of 161,873, bringing, up the awful total to 831,387 souls, for whom there would be no room in a place of worship, should they choose to attend. Let it be remembered that this is including every form of worship, from Jews to Mormonites, from Romanists to Southcottians, so that the need is beyond all measure unspeakably vast, if we only calculate the provision made for hearing the true gospel of the Blessed God. Meanwhile, having arrived at three millions, our population increases at such a rate that it will cost much zeal and’ self-sacrifice to keep pace with it. The Nonconformist report has this significant paragraph: “To meet the case, even as it was in 1851, there ought to be, nearly two hundred more places of worship in the metropolis than have been erected during the intervening, fourteen years; to keep pace with the annual increase of its population it would require some fifty new churches of very large capacity to be erected every year.”
President Lincoln, during the late war, said in his rough man, “We cannot do all we would, but we keep on pegging away ;” and this is just what we hope to be able to do by the means of our College and Chapel building schemes, which have proved their efficiency so thoroughly. Help from heaven we crave, and help from heaven’s friends we expect.
It is singular to observe the strength of Dissent around the Tabernacle, would to God that every other pare of London were as saturated with it.
Here is the table for our district of NEWINGTON; it may be as well to notice that the Free Church of England which we suppose to be Mr. Lincoln’s is virtually Baptist, though the brother who ministers there declines to be numbered as such.
It is changing the topic with a vengeance if we turn from considering the Christ-like work of feeding the millions of London, to notice the buying, selling, and bartering of the souls of men which goes on un-blushingly in that den of all abominations, the Church of England. What a longsuffering being is that God who bears with men, who profess to be his ambassadors, and traffic in the holy calling of the ministry. Some one has sent us “the Church and School Gazette,” a monthly newspaper, price Threepence, through which the clergy negotiate the sale or exchange of their livings. By the dozen these sons of Simon Magus advertise their wares. Take a sample LIVINGS FOR SALE 713. “A Rectory in the Midland Counties, offering a most important sphere of duty combined with position. Great educational and other advantages.
Net income £350. No house. Price moderate. Life in possession 71. Might resign. 714. An Incumbency on the South Coast. Charming little retreat for an invalid or gentleman wishing retirement. Duty nominal, most beautiful church. Good house. Net income £90. Price with possession £600. 716. Two Consolidated Rectories producing £350. net. Good house. One Church. Price £4,500. In consequence of the precarious state of the Incumbent’s health it is requisite to sell immediately, but arrangements can be made for the money to be paid when possession is given.”
LIVINGS FOR EXCHANGE.
“The Clergy are kindly requested from time to time to send a few stamps for postage to save positive loss, as the correspondence under this head is very heavy. 302. The Rectory of two consolidated parishes in an Eastern County. Income from globe and tithe £500 with an excellent house, very beautifully situated, and in pretty neighborhood. Good society. Population 100. Almost a. sincere. Suitable for a clergyman wishing light duty. A large parish desired with an increase of income.
These fellows will all swear that they gave no filthy lucre to obtain their beneficies, but as this is only one of many falsehoods which they find themselves called upon to utter, we do not suppose that this profitable perjury will trouble them much. Every churchman is morally responsible for all this iniquity, for by his connection and support he countenances the system under which such things are tolerated. It is quite as solemn a reflection that since the Anglican Establishment is a National Church, we are all guilty of its iniquities unless to our utmost we express our dissent and discharge ourselves from the responsibility.
Dr. Livingstone has favored us-with an early copy of his new book of travels — a tempting joint for our editorial table—we must, as soon as possible, give a summary of the volume. We do not like to cavil at the utterances of so good and eminent a man, but we are not much pleased with the way in which he awards unmitigated honors to the Jesuit missionaries, whose establishments have happily crumbled into ruins all along the African coast. We would give a Jesuit his due, but that does not amount to speaking of him as, a good man engaged in perpetuating the faith. Nor do we admire the Doctor’s mode of treating the Lord’s day, upon page twenty-three: “This was the time, too, for the feeble minded to make a demand for their Sundays of rest and full meal-hours, which even our crew of twelve Kroomen, though tampered with, had more sense and good feeling than to endorse. It is a pity that some people cannot see that the true and honest discharge of the common duties of every, day life is divine service.” The last sentence we feel half inclined to call Jesuitical, for its apparent force is a mere play upon words, and the Doctor right well knows that the best performance of the duties of every-day life is not the divine service which the great Christian day of rest requires. So long away from the land of Sabbaths, we excuse such language from a traveler, but we regret it from a missionary. These are, we hope, minor blemishes in a valuable volume. Dr. Livingstone’s noble achievement in opening up the terra incognita of Africa, is prophetic of such blessings to the sons of Ham, that we never think of him without devout thankfulness for his past success, and prayer that nothing may tarnish the luster of his reward. Upon the question of the conversion of the Africans, we need no testimony from man, for the inspired Word suffices us; but yet it is pleasing to find one who is so well qualified to on so speak, delivering himself so confidently:
We have be often asked whether the Africans were capable of embracing the Christian religion, that we venture to make the following observations, although our doing so may appear to be a work of supererogation to all who have witnessed the effects already produced in West and South Africa by teaching supplied entirely by private benevolence, or who have watched the Missionary movements of various Christian Churches during the last quarter of a century. - The question seems to imply a belief on the part of those who put it, that the reception of the Gospel involves a high development and exercise of the reasoning powers. Some men, indeed, are constitutionally prone to reason out every subject as fox as their intellects can lead them, but those who are led through life by pure reason, constitute a very small minority of any race. To quote from one of Sir James Stephen’s excellent Historical Essay:—’The Apostles assume in all men the existence of a spiritual discernment, enabling the mind, when unclouded by, appetite or passion, to recognize and distinguish the divine voice, whether uttered from within by the intimations of conscience, or speaking from without in the language of the inspired oracles; they presuppose that vigor of reason may consist with feebleness of understanding; and that the power of discriminating between religious truth and error does not chiefly depend on the culture or on the exercise of the merely argumentative faculty. The Gospel, the especial patrimony of the poor and the illiterate, has been the stay of millions who never framed a syllogism. Of the great multitudes who, before and since the birth of Grotius, have lived in the peace and died in the consolations of our faith, how incomparably few are they whose convictions have been de. rived from argumentative works like his!’
We prefer to use the words of this able writer rather than our own, to express the belief that our divine religion suits the lowest as well as the highest of our race. But in dealing with the different, classes of the human family, the teaching must be adapted to the individual circumstances. The stately ceremonial, the ritual observances, the sedative sermon, and the austere look of those who think it right to indulge in a little spiritual pride, may suit some minds; but the degraded of our race in every land, must be treated in somewhat the same man. her as is adopted in dealing with the outcasts of London. Whether we approach the downtrodden victims of the slave-trade in sultry Africa, or our poor brethren in the streets, who have neither warmth, shelter, nor home, we must employ the same agency to secure their confidence— the magic power of kindness—a charm which may be said to be one of the discoveries of modern days. This charm may not act at once, nor may its effects always be permanent; the first feeling of the wretched, of whatever color, may be that of distrust; or a suspicion that kindness is a proof of weakness; but the feelings which the severity of their lot has withered, will in time spring up like the tender grass after rain.”
One trait in the character of the inquiring natives much gratifies us, viz, their longing for testimony rather than argument, as evidenced in the following : — “On the last occasion of our holding Divine service at Sesheke, the men were invited to converse on the subject on which they had been addressed, So many of them had died since we were here before, that not much probability existed of our all meeting again, and this had naturally led to the subject of a future state. They replied that they did not wish to offend the speaker, but they could not believe that all the dead would rise again: ‘Can those who have been killed in the field and devoured by the vultures; or those who have been eaten by the hyenas or lions; or those who have been tossed in the river, and eaten by more than one crocodile—can they all be raised again to life?’ They were told that men could take a leaden bullet, change it into a salt (acetate of lead), which could be dissolved as completely in water, as our bodies in the stomachs of animals, and then reconvert it into lead; or that the bullet could be transformed into the red and white paint of our wagons, and again be reconverted into the original lead; and that if men exactly like themselves could do so much, how much more could He do, who had made the eye to see and the ear to hear! We added, however, that we believed in a resurrection, not because we understood how it would be brought about, but because our Heavenly Father assured us of it in His Book. The reference to the truth of the Book and its Author seems always to have more influence on the native mind than the cleverness of the illustration.
The knowledge of the people is scanty, but their reasoning is generally clear as far as their information goes.” Returning to home matters. Our day of meeting for the Baptist ministers of London, so overjoyed my heart, that the excitement materially assisted in sending me to a sick-bed; but at the retrospect, and in prospect of glory to God to be achieved by this Association, I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. The whole day, holy love and perfect concord reigned among us. The utmost liberty of discussion was by loving hearts made consistent with the tenderest unity of soul. Important questions were raised and settled, and differences were overcome by mutual concessions and agreements. I was sometimes reminded of the entry in the journal of a Quakers’ society, “Dorcas Fysche, a visitor, craved to know whether Friends, not being members, were permitted to speak on the subject, and was replied to in the affirmative, where. upon she held her prate.” Our friends were far more careful to have liberty, than to be for ever using it to the marring of practical union. I suppose that an account of the meeting, and a copy of the resolutions, will appear somewhere else in the Magazine, and therefore shall leave the subject, when I have very earnestly entreated the prayers of the Lord’s people, that this union may work the lasting good of immortal souls.
The old cry of treason has been raised against us in connection with a riot in Jamaica, provoked by the intolerable oppressions of the graceless legislature of the island. Much as we deplore the outbreak, we do not believe all that is said about the blacks; and we scorn the libellous insinuations of the Times against the sainted Win. Knibb, and the Baptists both of the past and of the present. It is the old tale against Jerusalem, “This city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and rebellion and sedition have been made therein.” Sanballat would have made a fine writer for the Times; we think we are reading a letter from an old planter as we glance at Nehemiah 6:6: “It is reported, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel.” There does not appear to be the remotest evidence of any organized conspiracy, much less of one planned and excited by Baptist missionaries, nor has any body of men been met in armed rebellion; but the governor has gone on shooting, hanging, and flogging, after the fashion of the Russians in Poland-making very little account of either law or justice, so long as he might but gratify the old planter thirst for cruelty and blood. Our missionaries, and Dr. Underhill, our secretary, deserve eternal honor for espousing the cause of the oppressed; and if this unhappy riot be the pretext for a cry against them, we must give them our warmest sympathy, and wait for the time when their integrity and excellence shall be confessed even by their enemies. Our brethren did, we doubt not, make very bad chaplains for slave-owners, forty years ago, and now they are not the men to hold their tongues when the poor negro needs an advocate; it is not among us that courage in denouncing tyranny is reckoned to be a crime. Episcopalian priests are much at home in teaching ignorant rustics to order themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters; our teaching is of another character, for while none more earnestly exhort men to honor the king, we forget not that the same word bids us honor all men, and that God hath made of one blood all nations of men. So far as the free spirit of the gospel renders it imperative upon us to seek the liberty of all, by diffusing independent and manly principles, so far are our missionaries guilty; but we hesitate not to assure all whom it may concern, that beyond this point none of them have gone.
Their accusers will have much to answer for at the bar of God.
Dr. Pusey’s new book, “An Eirenicon, in a letter to the Author of the Christian Year,” must be regarded as one of the signs of the times. The object of the Tractarians does not seem to be absorption into the Church of Rome, but the formation of an Anglican Church, which, with the Greek and Latin Churches, shall make up one all-dominant Catholic body. Dr. Pusey shows very clearly that the Anglican Church is, in almost all respects, one with the Romish; and among other things he says, “We use the selfsame prayers in Baptism, and thank God, in the same words, that he has been pleased to regenerate our children therein. We both confess ‘one Baptism for the remission of sins.’ After confession, the church directs the selfsame words to be used in absolving from sin, etc.” Thus far Pusey pilots men to Rome; but he does good service in the other part of his work, in which he exposes the -points of Popery from which he and other Tractarians at present shrink. He is very forcible in denouncing the infallibility of the Pope, and upbraiding the idolatrous worship paid to the Virgin Mary, upon which latter abomination he has collected a mass of most amazing blasphemy and absurdity, with which all Protestants should be acquainted; next month, if spared, an abstract shall be forthcoming.
I have almost completed a volume of Readings for every morning in the year, which will (D.V.) be ready by the New Year. By this means I hope to commune with thousands of families all over the world every morning at the family altar. Much labor have I spent upon it, and if the Lord shall bless it to his people, my toil will be well rewarded. I have written much of it out of my own experience of the Lord’s sustaining hand in trouble, sickness, and depression of spirit, and therefore hope it may meet the cases of the Lord’s tried people; yet my life has been a very cheerful one, and therefore the joyous will not find it sicklied o’er with melancholy.
To conclude, let our subscribers accept our hearty thanks for their cooperation in our works of faith and labors of love, and let us pray them to continue to help as aforetime. God is with us and we must go on, let none keep back from the help of the Lord against the mighty. We hope to make next year’s Sword and Trowel more attractive than ever, although we can honestly say we have already done our best; may we hope that present subscribers will enlist new ones, for there are hundreds of families that would take in our periodical if they knew of its issue, and had the loan of a copy to stimulate their curiosity. May 1866 be a year of stronger faith, more vehement prayer, and more extended success, and so should the Lord himself descend he Would find us ready for his appearing.