Experiences on The Will of The Ever-Blessed God
A Scrap or Two of Experience, and a Hint or Two on the Will of the Ever-Adorable and Ever-Blessed God.
We are commanded, whatever our hands find to do, to do it with all our might, for time is hastening away. Scripture tells us our life is but a vapor, or night-time.
The vapor is far spent, and the night-time is nearly over with some; for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed, and the astonishing morning of eternity is at hand.
Therefore, if we recollect things that are good, we had better mention them before our tongues are silent in the grave.
I remember once, when I was a church clergyman, a farmer driving me in a gig; and as we passed by a village, he said to me, “Do you want any money? For if you do, I will give you or lend you a ten-pound note, whichever you like.”
If a stone had fallen out of the skies into the conveyance, it would not, partly, have surprised me, or hardly or exceedingly very much more, for it was so entirely unexpected; and pride and disinclination would have made me unwilling to think of it. But it struck me now, after about thirty years back, that it was the hand of God.
I know the closeness with which I was cleaving to the Lord by prayer at that time. How many times have I asked this of the Lord, that I might not get a wink of sleep when I have gone to bed (believing it would not do my health any hurt), but that I might pray to God all the night long!
And what have you got by your prayers?
I have got the providential bounties of God and the assurance of the salvation of my soul. And if you can do the same, you will do pretty well. You will have got the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
I never got much from God by saying, “Give me this, or give me that;” but rather, by waiting upon God, and saying, first, “Am I thy child?” and secondly, “What is to be done, Lord?”
Hours and hours, and afternoons, and days, and weeks, in secret prayer have I waited in a waiting posture of soul before God, asking the Holy Spirit to enable me to look unto Jesus, and, like Jonah, to draw virtue from Jesus to heal all my sorrows. I never found a good deal of what is called prayer to do me much good. A good many prayers amount to this, secretly to get God to excuse them bearing the cross.
I have heard many prayers, the secret drift of which was this, that it would be a good thing if they could give trouble the slip, that is, if they could escape it.
How little value they put on the cutting operations of the Spirit of God; how little value they put on the bitter herbs of tribulation the elect are predestinated to eat Christ with. Bitter herbs, the bitter dispensations of providence and grace, are as needful as the sweets of grace. I look at those who are dictating to God for the sweets, and are as shy of the bitters as a dog is of the whip, and I ask, What do these get from God? Not much.
They have no hearty union with God in his will; they have a secret clash with God as regards the bitters. Repentance is not so sweet to them as faith; they cannot say, “I delight to do thy will, O my God.”
You will find these men, most men, more or less, secretly at war with God; their language is this: “Give me this and give me that, and excuse me in that;” whereas, I believe that sound godliness and wisdom would wish for their repentance to be as sound as their faith, and their gospel obedience as sound as either.
I know what it is to get answers to my prayers through the bitterest and most roaring tempests of sorrow as well as through the most conspicuous fountains of joy felt; and generally through life, often to my dismay and anguish, have found that I have had to be led in paths that I have not known.
“Deep in unfathomable mines,” &c., often has repentance never to be repented of to be worked out.
A person that I used to hear many years ago, at prayer-meetings, praying for all the sweet blessings of the covenant of grace, and whose repentance and longing for the bitters of godliness as well as the sweets I never could well see, said formerly to me, “No wonder you do not get anything from God; you do not ask for anything.”
No; I used to be at that time afraid to ask for sorrows, and so asked comparativeiy for nothing direct, but communed with God about what was to be done; but am not afraid now to ask the blessed God for sorrow, but say, “Accomplish in me all thy will, and let that will be mine.”
“Epaphras, who is one of you, saluteth you, always laboring, or striving, fervently for you in prayer, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Here I make two remarks.
1. I pray that I may not suffer as an evil-doer, nor be buffeted for my faults; and that I maybe kept from evil, that it may not grieve me.
2. That if any one through grace is enabled to have a perfect union with God’s will, whatever that will may be, he is more likely to be gently dealt with than those who are half suffocated with self-will.
Great men do not like people that are always saying “Give me this, and give me that.” Kings would not. So we know not how to order our speech before the blessed Lord. And the safest prayer is indited prayer,—indited by the Spirit of God.
The Scriptures and our feelings are our guides in prayer under the Spirit of God felt. Godly people, who have the Spirit of God, and are elected, are not thus weary of prayer. After elect souls are brought into a personal felt union with the Son of God spiritually, they are rapt in wonder, astonishment, and praise.
The quickening influences of the Spirit of God are their wonderful topic all the day long. If God smites them, they fall under it; if he checks them, they halt; if he smiles on them, they run the way of his commandments. No miser loves gold half so much as a godly person is rapt in the influences felt of the Spirit of God.
“Can it be possible,” says he, “that God who made the earth, the sea, and the skies, and all that in them is, can and does commune with me in Jesus Christ as a man communes with a friend, as a father with his son or daughter, or in the nearer ties still of virtuous husbands and wives?”
O, astonishing! And yet the Scriptures lead us to expect that such shall be the case between God and the elect. And when souls experimentally find it so in themselves, they are like the chariots of Amminadib; they are all on fire, as it were, with the golden gloss of the Sun of righteousness shining on their souls.
What makes godly people know it comes from God is, because their repentance is as firm as their faith, and their gospel obedience as sound as either. While replenished with quickening grace felt, softened by the dews of heavenly influence, soothed by the becalming influences of the Spirit of God, godly people go on confessing their sins, watching and praying against their besetments, having continual and unspeakable indignation against themselves on account of their shortcomings; they live a sort of heavenly life upon earth. Instantly serving God night and day, they hope to come to the ravishing fulfilment of all the promises where sorrow and sighing shall be no more for ever and ever. Having been enabled through grace to hunger and thirst to be delivered from the love and practice of sin, they will be delivered from its guilt and punishment; having had godly sorrow given, never to be repented of, and vital faith, and, as the fruits and effects, a genuine love to holiness universally, they are sure enough to be saved; and that has been my case, notwithstanding every mournedover shortcoming.