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into the world to save sinners; yet he adds, of whom I am chief." So that under those impressions he cries out; and the grace of God was exceeding abundant (uperpleonase) overflowing, above all measure, exceeding all abounding; "with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
This portion of God's word will be a sweet morsel for every child of God to feed upon, whose feelings of the sovereignty of grace in his own personal history, bears an unison of soul, and in the same key with the apostle. Let us attend to the blessedness of the expression; "exceeding abundant," and see if we have the same concord of the same sound.
And first. What is grace? No doubt, but that in the highest and fullest sense of the word, is meant one of the perfections of Jehovah. It is his distinguishing attribute as distinguished from his creatures. And hence we read of the riches of his grace, and the glory of his grace, and the like! And hence also all the manifestations of his grace, are called "the gift by grace." See Rom. v. 15.
But secondly. While we make a proper distinction between grace as God's distinction of character, and the manifestations of that grace; let it be observed, that the apostle, when speaking of the grace of the Lord as exceeding abundant" towards him, did not mean the effect of aboundings, as shewing themselves towards him, but as overflowing in the act itself in the mind of God. This is what forms the very great beauty of the apostle's expression, and in fact what the apostle principally meant to say. "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant," saith Paul. As if he had said, the heart of our God was full of grace, yea, overflowing with grace. And as such, the streams of this great fountain flowed towards me. And that this was Paul's meaning is further evident in what he saith, that faith and love in Christ Jesus became the consequence of
that overflowing grace in the heart of God. Faith and love, Paul speaks of as the effect; and the grace of God as the cause. If the reader be led by divine teaching to consider this passage in this point of view, he will find great sweetness in it. I know not whether it strikes the reader's mind as it doth mine. But I make a nice distinction in my creed between causes and effects. And I find the blessedness of this distinction. All the Lord's gifts are blessed gifts, and cannot be too highly prized; but the Lord himself is infinitely more blessed, and more highly to be prized. It may be that for wise and gracious purposes my Lord may be pleased to give me at times but small portions according to my view of things. But, while I keep in view that those portions, however small, are as much the Lord's gifts as the larger portions of his favour; and come as much from his love as when he gives them more plentifully; I consider that his love is not to be estimated by his gifts; but by the good will from whence they come; and therefore I value the blessing be it what it may, not so much for the blessing itself, as for the person and love of the Almighty giver.
Perhaps I may be singular. Be it so. Nevertheless I find the sweetness of it. Some there are of God's dear children, who seem to think it right to covet more grace, and conclude therefrom, that their attainments in the divine life would in consequence be more. I dare not do so. For, alas! I have more already than I use to the Lord's glory. And if I sum up the improvements from what I have day by day bestowed upon me, in the close of every day I find only a cypher at the bottom. I rather therefore desire to live upon the fulness of grace and love towards me in the Lord's heart, more than upon the gifts which flow in grace and love from the Lord's heart. The cause with me is the life of my soul, and not the effect. Oh! it is sweet, it is blessed, yea, very blessed, to live above all creature attainments, by living
upon Creator fulness. And a daily contemplation of that grace and love which passeth knowledge, and which fills the heart of God towards his people, is more than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices which our minds would fondly desire to offer. Lord, I would say, give me grace to say with Paul, "The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant by faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus."
The 'sweet morsels' of this number are wholly taken from the Songs of Solomon. Perhaps the reader may not be aware what very tender and affectionate love songs are contained in this book of God; in which Jesus is speaking to his church, and the church making her answers to Jesus. I have gathered out a few passages from it by way of illustration; and I hope the reader, from the sample here given, will be prompted. to gather many more for himself.
I cannot help expressing my apprehensions, that the Lord's people are not keeping up that close and intimate acquaintance with the Lord Jesus, which their faith warrants, and their daily necessities require. They do not seem to know in what the spirit and life of communion in prayer and praise consists. Most evident it is, that the person of our Lord Jesus Christ is the unceasing object of faith, and the everlasting source of joy. The love of Jesus is supposed to be unremittingly coming forth in manifestations to his people; and, as a fountain, streams issue from his heart, and pour into our's. And while Jesus is thus coming forth to bless, the church in every individual instance of her members, is supposed to be drawing nigh, under the influence of the Holy Ghost to receive. So that every day, and all the day, holy communion with Jesus is maintained
and kept alive in the soul from Jesus. Hence fresh discoveries of Jesus's love are continually making in the heart; and hence, also, a growing acquaintance with Jesus, and a growing desire after Jesus, and a growing conformity to Jesus, mark the Lord's people.
Reader, it will be a blessed use of these sweet morsels' from Solomon's Songs, if the Lord the Holy Ghost, the Almighty Author of them, should give you the relish of them in your heart. I would beg for grace to serve them up to you on the knee of prayer, that while, as the church saith, "My beloved stands behind the wall, looketh forth at the windows, and sheweth himself through the lattice"-like her, we may find so much in them of Jesus, as to cry out with her, "It is the voice of my beloved; behold! he cometh leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills." Song ii. 9, 10.
1. THE MUTUAL PROPERTY OF CHRIST IN HIS CHURCH, AND THE CHURCH IŃ CHRIST.
FIRST. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
My beloved is mine, and I am his," Song ii. 16. "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine," Song vi. 3.
"I am my beloved's, and his desire is towards me," vii. 10.
All these are so many sweet repetitions of one and the same thing. The church is Christ's property. This is the cause. And by virtue of this, Christ is the church's. This is the effect. And by the inversion of the order of the words made use of by the church, in expressing this blessed truth, the mutual property is more strongly defined and confirmed. The church is Christ's by the gift of the Father, by the betrothing and redemption of the Son, and by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. And Christ is the church's, both by the
gift of the Father, and of the Son, and by the quickening the church together with Christ by the Holy Ghost.
SECONDLY.-CHRIST OF THE CHURCH.
"There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.”
'My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother. She is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her," Song vi. 8, 9.
Let the reader observe, with what matchless love Jesus here speaks of his church, as distinguished from every other, and as the one, the only one of his choice, and undefiled. And as the church had before observed, that "his desires were towards her;" so every act of his expressed the blessed truth; for he so desired her, as to die for her; so desired her, as to shed his blood for her; so desired her, as to wash her from all her sins in his blood. Neither will he remit for a moment that desire towards her, until he hath brought her home to himself, to dwell with him, and to be holy and without blame before him for ever. Reader! while you and I sing those love songs between Christ and his church, can we make a personal application of them to our own hearts, and say with the church, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine?"
2. THE MUTUAL INVITATIONS OF CHRIST TO HIS CHURCH, AND THE CHURCH TO CHRIST.
FIRST. THE INVITATIONS OF CHRIST TO HIS CHURCH.
My beloved spake, and said unto me, rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away!"
"For lo, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone."
"The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the