The Poor Man's Morning and Evening Portions
Robert Hawker (1753-1827)
"And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."—Heb. xi. 13.
My soul, hast thou also witnessed this confession before many witnesses? See whether thou hast the same evidences they had. In the first place, they were led to see that here they had no continuing city. Sin, sorrow, sickness, death, inhabited this region. Every thing said to them in that sweet voice of God, "Arise ye, and depart, for this is not your rest, because it is polluted." What sayest thou, my soul, to this first view of the subject? Look at it under another. Hast thou learnt, and so learnt as to prize it, the blessedness of that promise, "there is a rest that remaineth for the people of God?" What sayest thou to this also, my soul? Dost thou see that Jesus is that rest, and is he the object of thy desire in rest? For the prophet saith, "He is the rest wherewith he will cause the weary to rest, and he is their refreshing." Isa. xxviii. 12. Hast thou heard and welcomed his invitation?—"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" Go one step further in the enquiry. Under these convictions of soul art thou travelling the heavenly road, asking the way to Zion with thy face thitherward, as a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth? Go further yet. Art thou guided, as Israel was in the way, by the pillar of cloud by day, and guarded by the pillar of fire by night? Art thou coming up out of the wilderness of this world, leaning upon Jesus? Advance yet further in the enquiry. While the Holy Ghost as the pillar of cloud is going before thee, and thou art resting upon Jesus as thy staff and stay, knowest thou God for thy Father, his word thy guide, his promises thy treasure, his ordinances thine inns, not to dwell in, but like the wayfaring man to tarry but for the night? And dost thou draw water with joy out of those wells of salvation? Pause, my soul, as thou seekest answers to these questions. Knowest thou the difficulties of a wilderness dispensation; and the sweets of those streams from that river which make glad the city of God? Art thou like other travellers, sometimes enjoying fine weather when Jesus's face, his love, his mercy, are all in view; and sometimes walking in darkness, when storms of sin and Satan throw clouds over the gracious prospect? More especially, art thou the scorn and derision of the carnal? Do they make thee their subject of laughter, and art thou the drunkard's song? And, lastly, to mention no more, knowest thou, my soul, what it is sometimes to be discouraged by reason of the way, while Satan would prompt thee to go back; but sweetly constrained by Jesus's love, thou art still the patient follower of them "who through faith and patience inherit the promises?" Hast thou, my soul, these precious marks of the stranger and pilgrim upon earth? Oh then, remember what is said of them to whom the Holy Ghost bears testimony, and by thy covenant interest in Jesus behold thy vast privilege in the same blessed promise; God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city.
"The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty. He will save. He will rejoice over thee with joy. He will rest in his love. He will joy over thee with singing."—Zeph. iii. 17.
My soul! look at this old testament promise, through the medium of the new testament dispensation, and behold what a cluster of rich blessings it contains; and which, like all the other promises of the bible, is "yea and amen in Christ Jesus!" And observe how it opens. The Lord thy God, that is, Jehovah in his threefold character of person, in rich covenant engagements, is "in the midst of thee;" hath set up his throne in Zion, and lives, and reigns, and governs in the hearts of his redeemed. So said Jesus, and so that dear Lord explained it in after ages: "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him;" John xiv. 23. "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth;" John xiv. 16, 17. Mark these blessed, precious truths, my soul, in the most lively characters, on thine heart; and hence learn, that the Lord thy God, in covenant engagements, dwelleth in the midst of his people, and in the hearts of his people; that, like the sun at midday, in the centre of the heavens, he may enlighten, warm, refresh, and give forth all his blessings to bless thee. Next mark what the prophet saith of this covenant Lord God, who is in the midst of his church and people: "He is mighty!" Shout aloud at this, my soul; for if he be mighty, then he will support thy weakness, and subdue thy foes. What can bear down, or destroy the soul, whom this mighty God upholds? What shall arise to distress a child of God, as long as God is almighty? And if he hath engaged to be for thee, who can dare to be against thee? Sweet consideration! What signifies my weakness, while Christ is strong? Yea, his strength will be made perfect in my weakness. Go on farther, my soul, in looking over the many blessed things spoken of in this verse. "He will save." Yea: he hath saved, and doth save, and will save. And this is the very cause, the angel said, for which his name should be called Jesus: for "he shall save his people from their sins." Matt. i. 21. Think of this, when at any time, sin or sorrow, trial or temptation, would cast thee down. Jesus is still Jesus, still on his throne: yea, thy Saviour. Amidst all thy changeableness, there is no change in him. And observe yet farther, how the prophet chimes on those sweet words: "He will rejoice over thee with joy: he will rest in his love: he will joy over thee with singing." Pause, my soul, over this most gracious account. Jesus not only saves, not only pardons, but he doth it as God, as Jesus. It is his joy, his delight, his pleasure, to do so. As he saith in another scripture, "Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart, and with my whole soul;" Jer. xxxii. 41. And as the poor timid believer, from feeling such coldness and deadness, as at times he doth in himself feel, is but too easily prevailed upon by the enemy, and by his own unbelieving heart, to suppose the same of Jesus: that he might not give way to this temptation, the Lord adds, "he will rest in his love:" will abide in it unmoved, and without change; for, as he saith in another scripture," the Lord God of Israel hateth putting away:" Mal. ii. 16. Oh! what a multitude of sweet things are folded up in this verse! Jesus rejoiceth over his people; yea, Jesus joys over them with singing. How often have I seen, in some lovely evening, like the present, that sweet bird of the air, called the skylark, mount aloft from her nest, still looking at her young as she ascends; and when advanced to her height, warbling in the most delightful notes over her brood; until at length, with all the rapidity of love, she darts down to cover, to feed, and to protect them Thus, but in an infinitely higher degree, doth Jesus joy over his children with singing, resting in his love; and is ever near, ever mighty to defend, to bless, to keep, and to make happy, those who rest in his strength; while he rests in his love, being their God, and they his people.