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LIGHT SHINING IN DARKNESS.
THE ENVIED MAN'S RETINUE, AND THE HONOUR
ABLE MAN'S BEGGARY.
PROV. xii. 9. " He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that
honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.”
It is not a form of godliness without the power, nor an empty profession void of possession; nor is it a dry barren ministry, whether heterodox or orthodox; that will incur the displeasure of these despisers.
A profession made under the influence of the spirit of this world, and a system of gospel truths preached by the children of the flesh, will make but little stir among these enemies. Hypocrites and impostors are the best friends the devil has; for by these he counterfeits the kingdom of God to support his own empire. Men may preach about creation and providence, about election and redemption, about justification and sanctification: Satan cares nought about that; for all these may be in the head while the strong man reigns in the palace. Satan knows that the kingdom of God stands not in word, but in power; and nothing but divine power can dethrone and dispossess him. The above things have been and still are enforced by many who are enemies to God, in alliance with Satan, and in union with those whose guests are in the depths of hell. By such instruments he communicates hardness of heart, impenitency, daring boldness, arrogance, blind zeal, false faith, and perilous presumption; all which are profitable to the devil. And this
be called spiritual wickedness; for it is the influence of Satan counterfeiting the full assurance of faith in the unsanctified souls of hypocrites. That which makes a man despised, and which, by Satan's help, fills the despiser with all his rage, is the faith of God's elect; which faith is both God's gift and God's work: it flows from God's eternal love, through Christ the mediator, and is wrought in the soul by the powerful arm of God revealed. This faith deals with the Lord's atonement, and purifies the heart by it; it puts on an imputed righteousness, gives the sinner an existence in the heart of Christ, and Christ a dwelling place in the sinner's heart. This faith overcomes the world, and explodes the spirit of it, and purifies the heart from the root of all evil, and lays hold of the love of God, and works by it, which is the root of all real godliness: it applies the promises, it attends our petitions, mixes itself with the word preached, assures us of our sonship, and is always attended with the witness of the Holy Spirit. Take faith in a twofold point of light: first as a grace from Christ acting, and take Christ as the object of faith acted upon, and faith is the substance of things hoped for; for what can a sensible sinner hope for but the enjoyment of Christ? Faith is the evidence of things not seen, which things are the glories of heaven; and the firstfruits of the Spirit are the earnest of that glorious harvest; and faith is one of those firstfruits, and is our assurance of it, and is wrought in our souls to persuade us that the promised inheritance is sure to all the seed. Now all this being God's own work in us, it must be despised. “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
And this may be seen in Paul at Jerusalem. While Paul declared his extraction, his education, manner of life, and his persecution of the Christians, they heard him with all attention; but, when he delivered his conversion, and call to preach to the Gentiles, then they lifted up their voices and said, “ Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live.” “Make haste," said the Lord, “and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.” That which these men despise is not us, but God's work, God's dear Son, and God himself for revealing him in us; and so says the Lord himself: " He that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.” But each of thesc despised ones hath got a servant; therefore he is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.
I must now describe the servant. Our Jacob, the everlasting father of Israel, served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep. Nor is he ashamed to be called our husband; for he made himself of no reputation, but took on him the form of a servant, and in that form he served for his wife, and obtained her as the reward of his work. Hence she is called the travail of his soul. To purchase her, discharge her debts, and to rescue her from the hands of thieves, robbers, and usurpers, was all his labour and travail. “ The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” He washes her from all her sins in his own blood; and, if he wash us not, we have no part in him: yea, he disdained not to wash his disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded, John xiii. 5. And this is repeated again and again, for he makes us feel the need of it often; and we are as sensible of it when it is done. And, after his resurrection, his disciples found a fire on the sea coast, and fish laid thereon, and bread; himself made the fire, and dressed the dinner, and he called his disciples to it, saying unto them, “Come and dine,” John xxi. 12. “Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? þut I am among you as he that serveth.” This is the angel that redeemed Jacob, and the God that fed him all his life long. And surely washing us, washing our feet, making a fire, dressing our meat, and calling us to the entertainment, is the menial work of a servant. But what is that which divine and invariable love will not do? Nor does he stop here, but he puts on our clothes, and all our trinkets; for we have neither eyes to see them, nor hands to apply them, ourselves. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegrooni decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” The crown upon her head, the chain upon her neck, the bobs in her ears, the bracelets on her hands, and the shoes on her feet, are of his preparing and putting on, Ezek. xvi. 9-12. All her inward glory and outward ornaments, the provision of Zion's table, and the furniture of her toilette, the powder of her hair, and the perfumes of her robe, are all prepared and provided for her. Wisdom prepares her bread, kills her beasts, mingles her wine, furnishes her table, and bids her guests, saying, “ Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mingled.” This is the provision of her table. And, as for her apparel, he says, Thou art comely through my comeliness that I have