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Ye are the epistle of Christ, &c. 2 Cor. iii. 3. THE image is beautiful and instructing :-" The epistle of CHRIST written (not in tables of stone)" not on a stony heart, but on a heart of flesh: a heart softened by grace, and made capable of good impressions; the heart, the seat of vital religion. So runs the gracious promise. Jer. xxxi. 33. The word read and preached is not effectual without the operation of the Spirit of God. By the Spirit, Christians are cast into the Gospel mould; thereby get evangelical, spiritual and heavenly dispositions; their resemblance to CHRIST is gradually increased; they have the witness in themselves: have the comfortable experience that they are CHRIST's, when they can read his image on their hearts. They are manifestly declared to others, that they are the epistle of CHRIST, by their good conversation and conduct in the world, confessing him before men, and speaking forth his praise. "Holiness "Holiness to the Lord" is written with lovely characters on this epistle. Am I the epistle of CHRIST? Do I read the epistles of CHRIST in my Bible: and find them written on my heart? Do I read the mind of God there, and heartily approve of his mind? O blessed discovery! What condescending grace! The great God, by his Spirit, to dictate epistles so loving and kind! the great God, whom I have offended, to send me a pardon, not only in his word but by his Son also. I would read this epistle from heaven over and over again. O how much do I find in it, while the Spirit opens my understanding to understand the Scriptures.
Lord, write thy law upon my heart,
ALLELUIA. Rev. xix. 1.
THOU began the year, O my soul, with an Hosannah, imploring the Lord's blessing, canst thou now conclude it with an Alleluia? Surely thou canst celebrate the praise of a gracious and loving God? Take a review of the past year; hast thou not had many mercies? Have not the eyes of the Lord been upon thee for good? Hath he not conducted thee through many dangers? Canst thou not, with truth as well as gratitude, set up thine Ebenezer, saying, "Hitherto the Lord hath helped me?" 1 Sam. vii. 12. If thou hast not been fruitful in good works, is thy Lord to blame or thyself. Whatever good has been done in thee or by thee, surely belongs to the favour of God; and whatever has caused shame or humiliation, is nowhere chargeable but upon thyself. "Praise the Lord, then, O my soul, and all that is within me, praise his holy name; forget not all his benefits." Ps. ciii. 2-4. Thou wilt soon, O my soul, enter upon another year; let dear-bought experience teach thee to avoid all occasions of evil, and keep thee close to thy God. If thou livest to see another day, set out afresh, and remember to offer thy daily sacrifice of obedience as well as of praise to thy gracious God. Let every revolving day remind thee of thy approaching last day, and daily be thou preparing to meet thy God, that so when thy days are ended, thou mayest sing Alleluias before the throne of God and the Lamb for ever and ever.
'Tis Jesus, the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
And trust him for all that's to come.
"PRAY always," "pray without ceasing," "be instant in prayer," are the injunctions of the word of God. And what can be more in accordance with your condition, as a fallen and dependent creature, than the spirit of these requirements? Wanting every grace, filled with the corruptions of an evil heart, you daily grovel in the dust and for the things of the dust. But this is not your natural element; it is the mournful effect of your apostacy from God, and your willingness to remain in that state. Yet it is not God's will that you do so. He hath provided grace, yea even for the chief of sinners, and he desires you to come unto him and receive of the riches of his mercy. He has it in store ready to distribute in answer to your prayers. That mercy and that grace you need, and hence this repeated admonition, "Pray always," "pray without ceasing," "be instant in prayer." But let your prayer be that of sincerity and faith: sincerity; because God knoweth the thoughts and trieth the reins of the children of men; because he looketh on the heart faith; because the infinite holiness of an infinitely just God can only see and hear you in and through the righteousness of CHRIST; and because you shall not receive unless you believe that God is willing and ready to give. Think not, that to utter often a few words, however elegantly arranged, in the form and posture of prayer, is to obey the command, "Pray always." The heart must contain the wishes and feelings that the tongue expresses. He that said, "Pray always," said likewise, "Pour out your hearts."
There must also be a patient waiting for an answer. God has his own set times, and on these you must wait. Does he delay? Your heart
may not be ready to receive the graces you ask. You may have asked amiss; you may doubt; you may not be sufficiently anxious; there may not be truth in the inward man; you may come short of the full assurance of faith. But even though he delay long, doubt not God is truebe instant in prayer.
But pray not of yourselves; for ye know not. what ye should pray for as ye ought. It is the Holy Spirit that helpeth the infirmities of those who are true suppliants. Seek then the Spirit; nor will you seek in vain; God giveth the Spirit, to them that ask him. "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things." Come, then, prayerless soul, come to God for his Spirit; he shall teach you all things; he shall teach you how to pray. Come to God for his CHRIST; he hath offered him to you, and CHRIST has already paid your debt. Come to him and get your receipt. Come without money and without price. Come with only a knowledge that you need. Come in prayer. But where shall you come? Come to the Bible: God is there.
-Draw thy forces all up to thy heart,
London: Printed by Woolley & Cook, St. Bene't Place, Gracechurch Street.