GRACE AND TRUTH by Octavius Winslow

"Christ's Intercession for Tried Faith"

And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not." Luke 22:31-32

There is not, perhaps, a single truth which occurs more frequently or with greater clearness in the sacred writings, and which is more holy in its tendency and effect, than the doctrine of the present security and final glory of the saints of God. Standing as it does in the closest relation to the Divine glory- every perfection of God being involved in it- it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit of Truth should assign to it a position so prominent, and should ascribe to it an influence so mighty, in neutralizing the doubts, in soothing the fears, and in establishing and stimulating the soul in all practical godliness.

He who imagines that the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints acts as a moral opiate to the soul, lulling it in a false security, soothing it to a state of inglorious quietude, has, we fear, either rejected the doctrine without investigation, or has studied it with a mind entangled by error, or warped by prejudice. But the truth is revealed, and as such we are bound to receive it. It is declared- written as with a sunbeam. "The righteous shall hold on his way; and he that has clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger." "The Lord does not forsake not saints." "He keeps the feet of his saints." "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholds him with his hand." "You shall guide me with your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." "Being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." "They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."

It would be easy to multiply these proofs, so replete is the word of God with them, but surely these Divine declarations and assertions place the doctrine beyond the region of doubt. The holy influence of this truth is equally revealed. After assuring the believer of the promises of God- that He would dwell in His people, and walk in them, and that He would be their God, and that they should be His people- thus affirming the final salvation of the whole church- with what gracefulness of manner and earnestness of spirit does the apostle then proceed to educe and enforce the practical influence of the doctrine- "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

It may at first glance be thought that the case which we have selected for our present reflections- the fall of the apostle Peter- involves a contradiction of the doctrine which we have just laid down. A minute examination of each point, however, will decide the question, how far it contains any warrant for believing that He who has commenced a good work in the soul will be found, in any single instance, either incapable or unwilling to complete it, or to have resembled the man who began to build and was not able to finish. We trust, on the contrary, that its spiritual investigation will be full of encouragement to those who are weak in grace, establishing to those whose minds are unsettled and wavering, sanctifying to the heart thirsting after deeper holiness, and tending to endear to all, the person and work of God's beloved Son.

It suggests for our meditation two deeply important and interesting topics- first, that the faith of the believer may be severely assailed, and, at times, may greatly waver; and, second, that the great reason why tried faith cannot absolutely and entirely fail is, the especial and ceaseless intercession on its behalf, of Jesus the great High Priest. Descend, Holy Spirit, and anoint, and teach, and guide us while endeavoring to unravel the mysteries of the kingdom of God within the soul, and while attempting to penetrate the glories of the kingdom of God within the veil.

That FAITH SHOULD BE MORE FREQUENTLY AND SEVERELY ASSAILED than any other grace of the Holy Spirit, will cease to create surprise as we become acquainted with the rank and position it occupies in the renewed soul. Placed in the very front of the battle, itself the strongest, the most determined and successful foe of the assailing powers of darkness and of sin, in effecting its overthrow; all their force, and skill, and malignity are marshaled and directed. But who is its chief and most formidable assailant? It is Satan, the accuser of the brethren, the tempter, the sworn enemy of God and man. It is he, the master spirit of darkness and woe, who, without possessing a single attribute of Deity, yet approaches so near in resemblance to the Divine, that in every place and at each moment of time he is present, narrowly watching, and closely studying, and incessantly working to deceive, and to overthrow, were it possible, the faith of the very elect. By what power or agency he is enabled to prosecute the dark designs of his gloomy intellect, and to effect the malignant purposes of his depraved heart, we cannot now venture at any length to premise. Whether with the subtlety and velocity which belong to light, there is an incessant expansion of thought, imparting a kind of personal ubiquity or omnipresence to the ruling mind of the infernal empire; or whether without being personally present, we may account for the extent of his agency, operating alike in every place, and at the same moment, by supposing intelligence communicated to, and commands issued from, him through the medium of that innumerable host of myrmidons who compose those 'principalities and powers' over which Jesus triumphed, 'making a show of them openly,' must, however strong the presumption, still remain points involved in much doubt and obscurity.

But there is one fact respecting which we are not left to conjecture. I allude to the eager and restless machinations of Satan to weaken, dishonor, and destroy the faith of God's elect. "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." Observe here, the limitation of Satanic power in reference to the believer. "Satan has desired to have you." This is its utmost extent. He has no power nor control over the redeemed, but that which God permits. He can but 'desire,' and long, and plot; not a hand can he lay upon them, by not a single temptation can he assail them, not a hair of their head can he touch, until God bid him. "Satan has desired to have you."- there stood the arch-foe waiting permission, as in the case of Job, to destroy the apostle of Christ.

Dear reader, I need scarcely pause to remind you how consolatory is this truth to the believing mind. You have often trembled at the power of Satan, and perhaps well-near as often have been the involuntary object of his implacable hatred and deep devices. But press now this animating thought to your trembling heart- he has no control nor influence nor power over a redeemed soul but that which God permits, and which Christ allows. "Thus far shall you go, and no farther," are words which reveal his inferiority, prescribe his limits, and stay the progress of the proud fiend.

But let us inquire what is that which Satan desires to assault? It is the work of God in the soul. Against his own kingdom not a weapon is raised. It is his aim and his policy to keep all there undisturbed and peaceful. The chaff he never thinks of winnowing. But against the work of the Holy Spirit in the renewed mind, his battery is brought to bear; not a part of this work escapes him. Every grace comes in for its share of malignant attack; but especially the grace of faith. This he sifts and winnows to the utmost. As this is the queen grace, it is against this the treason plot is formed. When, for example, a repentant and believing soul approaches Christ with lowliness and hesitancy, and with the tremulous hand of faith, attempts to touch the border of His garment, or with a tearful eye looks up to His cross, then comes the assault upon faith in the form of a suggestive doubt of Christ's power and willingness to save- "Is Jesus able to save me? Has He power to rescue my soul from hell? Can He blot out my transgressions and redeem my life from destruction? Will He receive a sinner so vile, so unworthy, so poor as I? Has He compassion, has He love, has He mercy sufficient to meet my case?"

In this way Satan assails the earliest and the feeblest exercises of faith in the soul. Does this page address itself to any such? Believer, it is Satan's great effort to keep you from Jesus. By holding up to your view a false picture of His character, from which everything loving, winning, inviting, and attractive is excluded, by suggesting wrong views of His work, in which everything gloomy, contracted and repulsive is foisted upon the mind- by assailing the atonement, questioning the compassion, and limiting the grace of Christ, he would persuade you that in that heart which bled on Calvary there is no room for you, and that upon that work which received the Father's seal, there is not breadth sufficient for you to stand. All his endeavors are directed, and all his assaults are shaped, with a view to keep your soul back from Christ. It is thus he seeks to vent his wrath upon the Savior and his malignity upon you.

Nor does he less assail the more matured faith of the believer. The sturdy oak is swept by the storm equally with the feeble sapling. Not unfrequently the sharpest attacks and the fiercest onsets are made, and made successfully, upon the strongest believers. Seizing upon powerful corruptions, taking advantage of dark providences, and sometimes of bright ones, and never allowing any position of influence, or usefulness, or gift, or grace, that would give force, success, and brilliance to his exploit, to escape his notice, he is perpetually on the alert to sift and winnow God's precious wheat. His implacable hatred of God, the deep revenge he cherishes against Jesus, his malignant opposition to the Holy Spirit, fit him for any dark design and work implicating the holiness and happiness of the believer. Therefore we find that the histories of the most eminent saints of God, as written by the faithful pen of the Holy Spirit, are histories of the severest temptations of faith, in the most of which there was a temporary triumph of the enemy- the giant oak bending before the storm.

And even in instances where there was no defeat of faith, there yet was the sharp trial of faith. The case of Joseph, and that of his illustrious antitype, the Lord Jesus, present examples of this. Fearful was the assault upon the faith of both, sharp the conflict through which both passed, yet both left the battle-field victorious. But still faith was not the less really or severely sifted.

But there are trials of faith other than that which the case of Peter illustrates; his may perhaps be more properly denominated the temptation of faith. Faith has its trials as well as its temptations. Affliction is a trial of faith; sorrow in any of its multitudinous forms is a trial of faith; the delay of mercy is a trial of faith; the promise unfulfilled is a trial of faith; the prayer unanswered is a trial of faith; painful providences, mysterious dispensations, straitened circumstances, difficulties and embarrassments, all are so many trials of faith, commissioned and designed by God to place the gold in the crucible, and the wheat in the sieve, that both may be purified and tried. Ah! is it no trial of the believer's faith when the foundation upon which it rests is assailed? Is it no trial of faith to have distorted representations of God presented to its eye, dishonoring thoughts of God suggested to the mind, unbelieving apprehensions of Jesus, and His love, and His grace, and His word, foisted upon the heart? To entertain for one moment the idea that God is unfaithful to His word, or that in His dealings He is arbitrary and unkind; that Jesus is not what He represents Himself to be, an all-sufficient Savior of the lost, the healer of the broken in heart, the tender, gentle Savior, not breaking the bruised reed, but mending it, nor quenching the smoking flax, but fanning it? Oh yes, these to a holy mind are painful trials of faith, from which the tender conscience shrinks, and the sensitive heart recoils.

But there is something deeply instructive, as well as most consolatory, in one expressive word of our blessed Lord to His servant Peter, "Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat." Here was that which marked the reality of his faith. It is only true grace that is really tried. No man puts mere dross into his furnace, or mere chaff into his sieve. All his toil and pains-taking would go for nothing, for it would come forth in its nature unaltered and unchanged- the dross would still be dross, and the chaff would still be chaff. Now the Lord tries, and Satan tempts, nothing but genuine grace. It is the wheat, and not the tares, that is made to pass through the fiery trial. Thus do afflictions and trying dispensations prove tests of a man's religion. When there is nothing but tinsel in a profession of Christianity, the fire will consume it; when there is nothing but chaff, the wind will scatter it. The furnace of temptation and the flail of affliction often prove a man's work of what sort it is, long before the discovery is made in a world where no errors can be corrected, and when it will be too late to rectify mistakes. Thus it is that so many professors, who have not the root of the matter in themselves, but endure for a while, are offended and fall away when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word.

But the wheat- the pure faith of the soul- is tried. "Other graces," remarks the holy Leighton, "are likewise tried in the same furnace; but faith is named as the root of all the rest. Sharp afflictions give the Christian a trial of his love to God, whether it be single and for Himself or not; for then it will be the same when He strikes as when He embraces, and in the fire of affliction will rather grow the hotter, and be more taken off from the world, and set upon Him. Again, the grace of patience is put particularly upon trial in distresses. And both of these spring from faith; for love rises from a right and strong belief of the goodness of God; and patience from a persuasion of the wisdom and love of God, and the truth of His promises. He has said, I will not fail you, and that we shall not be tempted above our strength, and He will give the issue. Now the belief of these things causes patience. The trial of faith works patience. For therefore does the Christian resign up himself, and all that concerns him, his trials, the measure and length of them all, unto God's disposal, because he knows that he is in the hands of a wise and loving Father. Thus the trial of these and other particular graces does still resolve into this, and is comprised under the trial of faith."

And why is the 'wheat' thus sifted? why is so Divine and precious a grace subjected to a process so humiliating and severe? Certainly not because of any intrinsic impurity in the grace itself. All the graces of the Spirit as they proceed from God, and are implanted in the heart, are pure and holy; as essentially free from sin as the nature from where they flow. But in consequence of the impurity of the heart, and the defilement of the nature in which they are deposited- the body of sin and death by which they are incased- they become mixed with particles of earthliness and carnality, the fine gold with dross, and the pure wheat with chaff. To purify and separate the graces of the Holy Spirit from these things, so foreign to their nature, the Lord permits these temptations, and sends these trials of faith.

We have remarked, that not only may the faith of a child of God be severely assailed, but that there are times when that faith may greatly waver. Is this surprising? No, the greatest wonder is, that with all these severe shocks, through which it passes, it does not entirely fail. Nothing but the Divinity that dwells within that grace, keeps it. Were it not Divine and incorruptible, it would entirely fail. Look at Abraham- on one occasion in the strength of faith offering up his son, and on another occasion in the weakness of faith denying his wife! Look at David- in the strength of faith slaying Goliath, and in the weakness of faith fleeing from Saul! Look at Job- in the strength of faith justifying God in the severest of His dealings, and in the weakness of faith cursing the day that be was born! Look at Peter- in the strength of faith drawing his sword and smiting a servant of the high priest's, and in the weakness of faith forced by a little maid to deny the Lord whom he had but just defended! Oh! the wonder of wonders is, that there remains a single grain in the sieve, or a particle of metal in the furnace, or a solitary spark in the ocean- that all is not utterly scattered, consumed, and annihilated! Nothing but the power of God, and its own incorruptible and imperishable nature, preserve it.

This thought suggests our second topic- THE INTERCESSION OF THE LORD JESUS IN BEHALF OF TRIED FAITH. "I have prayed for you that your faith fail not." That any one grace of the Holy Spirit in the renewed soul can ever utterly perish, would seem, from the nature of that grace, to be an utter impossibility. Nothing that is really holy and spiritual is ever destroyed. Divine principles, holy thoughts, spiritual desires, and Godlike actions, survive the period and outlive the occasion which called them forth, and gave to them an existence. Nothing perishes but the material and the fleshly. Upon these fleshly things, be they the fairest and the purest, the most magnificent and refined, 'passing away' is indelibly inscribed. "Meanwhile, heaven is attracting to itself whatever is congenial to its nature, is enriching itself by the spoils of earth, and collecting within its capacious bosom whatever is pure, permanent, and Divine, leaving nothing for the last fire to consume but the objects and the slaves of concupiscence; while everything which grace has prepared and beautified shall be gathered and selected from the ruins of the world to adorn that eternal city, which has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it, for the glory of God does enlighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." (Hall)

But we must not forget that the great preservative of faith, especially of tried faith, is the intercession on its behalf of the great High Priest within the veil. And yet no part of our Lord's mediatorial work is more overlooked than this, while no part is fraught with richer and more varied blessing to the Church of God. This work of intercession constituted an essential and a delightful part of the priestly office of our Lord Jesus. Not to atone only, but upon the ground of that atonement to base His office of advocate, and with the plea of that atonement to appear in the presence of God as an intercessor, equally entered into the engagements of Christ in behalf of His people. A moment's reference to the Levitical type will throw much light upon this part of the Savior's work. It will be recollected that the high priest, on the day of expiation, was to slay and to offer the sacrifice in the outer part of the tabernacle; after which he entered within the sanctuary, bearing in his hands the blood of atonement, and sprinkled it seven times upon and before the mercy-seat. He was then to bring a censer full of burning coals from off the altar, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, within the veil, and place it upon the fire before the Lord, "that the cloud of the incense might cover the mercy-seat."

All this was beautifully typical of the atonement and intercession of Jesus our great High Priest. The basis of our Lord's intercessory work is the great atonement of His own blood, with which He has fully met the claims of Justice, paid to the law its extreme demands, and blotted out the handwriting that was against His people in pronouncing their sins entirely and forever cancelled. Upon His atonement Jesus takes His stand as an Intercessor in heaven, within which He has gone to sprinkle His blood upon the mercy-seat, and to present the incense of His infinite and precious merits. Having purged our sins, He is forever sat down at the right hand of God, not in a state of inglorious ease, nor cold forgetfulness of His Church on earth, but to plead as its Advocate and to pray as its Intercessor each moment with the Father, pressing His suit on the ground of Justice, and resting His petition on the basis of merit. "For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." "He ever lives to make intercession."

Look up, O you of tried faith, and behold within the veil your Savior there, clothed in His sacerdotal robes, the great High Priest of heaven's temple, the glorious Advocate of heaven's chancery, representing His Church, and for each individual as for the whole body, praying the Father that the weak and tried faith of His saints might not fail. This is no image of the imagination. This is no picture of the fancy. It is a blessed and glorious reality, that our once atoning and now risen and exalted Redeemer is in heaven, bearing the breastplate upon His heart and the ephod upon His shoulder, in which each name is set of all the tribes of Israel. Yes, poor tried and suffering believer, your name is there, written not only in the Lamb's book of life, but written in the Lamb's heart of love.

In approaching God in any spiritual service, why is it that your person is an object of His complacent delight? Because Jesus presents it. Why do your prayers, imperfectly framed and faintly breathed, come up before the altar with acceptance and power? Because Jesus is in heaven, and as your pleading Advocate separates your petition from all its flaws, and as your interceding Priest purifies it from all its sin, and presents it as a 'golden vial full of aroma' to His Father. And when in pensive sadness you have trodden your lonely path, the spirit chafed, the heart wounded, the world desolate, and a thousand images of terror and of gloom filling the vast void, O little did you think that within that veil, so awfully mysterious to you, there stood one- your Friend and Brother, your Advocate and Priest- who knew your secret sorrow, and who at that moment was pouring out His full heart, His whole soul, in powerful and prevalent intercession, that your tried and wavering faith might not fail.

Nor must we overlook the individuality of our Lord's intercession. This is one of its most interesting features: "I have prayed for you." As if forgetting for that moment the whole Church, and regarding Peter as representing in his person each tempted believer, Jesus makes him the especial object of his prayer. How much comfort do we lose in overlooking this truth- in not more distinctly recognizing the personal interest which each believer has in the love of Christ! "My grace is sufficient for you." "I have prayed for you" are the gracious words with which Jesus would meet each individual case.

Think not, then, O believer, that you are alone, unloved, uncared for, unthought of; Jesus bears you upon His heart; and if loved and cared for, and remembered by Him, you can afford to part with some creature stream, however loved and valued that stream may be. Keep your eye intently fixed upon your Lord's intercession. In every tribulation look unto Jesus, mark His gracious hand directing the scourge and mingling the bitter cup; tempering its proper degree of severity, appointing the limit of its continuance, and converting seeming disasters into occasions of real good. In every infirmity and failing look unto Jesus, your merciful High Priest, pleading His atoning blood, and on its ground making intercession for you. In every prayer look unto Jesus, your prevailing Advocate, bearing the iniquity of your holy things, and recommending your broken petitions. In every temptation look unto Jesus, the author of your faith, the source of your strength, and the captain of your salvation, who alone is able to lift up the hands that hang down, to teach the fingers to fight, and eventually to make you more than conqueror over all your foes.

We too much lose ourselves in the crowd; and merge ourselves in the mass. We forget alike our individual interest in the covenant, and our personal obligation to glorify God in our different walks of life. But it is the especial privilege of the believer to concentrate upon himself, as in focal power, every thought and affection of God, just as the eye of a well-painted portrait may be said to fasten itself exclusively upon each individual in the room. "I have prayed for you." O cheering declaration! Christian reader, lose not sight of it. Come and lay your hand of faith upon the covenant of grace, and say, "the fulness of the covenant is mine." Lay your hand upon the covenant of God, and say, "the God of the covenant is mine; Jesus its Mediator is my Savior. He obeyed, suffered, bled, and expired, all for me. He has loved me, and has given himself for me. Lord! do You think of me? does my case come up before Your notice? do You bear any burden upon Your arm, my sorrow upon Your heart, my name upon Your lip; and do You pray for my poor, assaulted, and trembling faith? Yes, Lord, You do. I believe it, because You have said it- press the precious truth so rich in consolation to my trembling, grateful heart."

It is another beautiful view of our subject- the anticipative intercession of Christ. "I have prayed for you." The Lord as its shepherd goes before His flock. He precedes it every step, not only to map its path, but also to provide for all the circumstances, the most trivial and minute, of its history. To Him nothing can be unforeseen, from Him nothing can be concealed. No event can surprise Him, no contingency can thwart Him, no difficulty can embarrass Him. The entire history of the individual saint of God, from his first to his last breath, is written in His book, when as yet it had no existence, as minutely and as accurately, as though it were a record of the past. In anticipation of each developed circumstance, of each temptation and trial, difficulty and need- Jesus prays for His people: "I have prayed." It would seem as if the sorrow had reached His heart, before it touched our own; as if the assault had fallen upon Him before it fell upon us; and that, knowing what would transpire, seeing in what critical and painful circumstances His child would be placed, He anticipates his case by especial intercession on his behalf: "I have prayed for you."

Can the mind of the tried believer repose upon a truth more sustaining and soothing than this? It is a glorious unfolding of the love of Jesus, to know that when the sifting came, when faith was actually tried, that then Jesus prayed for the sufferer. But to be assured that before a dart was winged, or a shock was felt, or even a suspicion was awakened that the tempter was approaching, and that danger was near; Jesus, robed in His priestly garments and bearing the golden censer in His hand, had entered within the veil to make especial intercession for that trial of faith! Oh, it is a view of His love, which to the mind of the tempted believer would seem to overtop and outshine all others!

And for what does Jesus pray? That the temptation might not come? that faith may not be tried? O no! He asks not the Father in behalf of His people for their entire exemption from temptation and trial. Full well does He know that if conformed to Him their Head, they must through much tribulation enter the kingdom. Pure and sinless though He was, needing no sifting and no refining, He yet passed through each process as if there were in Him the chaff to scatter and the dross to consume. How much more needful does Jesus see that His people, in whom there is such a mixture of the precious with the vile, so much indwelling sin, so much powerful corruption perpetually seeking to destroy indwelling grace, should not be exempted from the process which, painful though it be, is absolutely needful and eternally good!

But Jesus prays that in the actual trial of faith it might not fail. And mark how signally the prayer was answered in the case of Peter. His faith did not fail. Trace his subsequent history. "When you are restored", said his Divine Master, "strengthen your brethren." He was restored. One look from Jesus, of painful remembrance, of gentle reproof, and of loving forgiveness, broke his heart, "and he went out and wept bitterly." Deep and sincere was his repentance. 'He went out,' apart from others, and sought some retired spot, where, alone with God, he might with tears acknowledge his transgression, and in faith seek the forgiveness of his sin. I repeat- trace his subsequent history. What a loving disciple, what a zealous apostle, what a vigilant pastor, what a useful preacher, what a valiant soldier of the cross, did he afterwards become! The chaff of self-confidence, and false zeal, and light views of sin, was now scattered in the sifting of his faith, and that faith was now purer and stronger than ever. Peter stood more firmly after he had lamented his fall, than before he fell; insomuch, that he found more grace than he lost grace.

Listen to the words with which, at his Master's bidding, he strengthens his brethren after his recovery. He reminds them that they are "kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation. Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season (if need be), you are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." Now, why is it, O believing soul, that your tried faith has not failed? Why have you passed through the sifting, with not one precious grain fallen to the ground? Because your great High Priest prayed for you before the trial, and prayed for you in the trial, and has not ceased to pray for you since the trial. All upholding grace, all restraining grace, all restoring grace, all establishing grace, has been meted out to you through the channel of your Lord's perpetual and ever-prevalent intercession. O how should this truth endear the Savior to your heart! With what holy contrition should it fill your spirit, and with what sweet affection should it constrain your soul to a simple and an unreserved surrender to God!

But what, my reader, if your religion should prove to be nothing but chaff? Does the bare probability startle you? Ah! there are multitudes whom it might well startle- for multitudes are thus deceived. Not a grain of pure wheat is found in their souls. There is no vitality in their faith, no solidity in their profession, no substance in their religion. Before every wind of false doctrine they bend, and by each blast of temptation they are carried away. The stubble of the field, and the chaff of the threshing-floor (fit emblems of their Christianity), are not more unsubstantial and fleeting than it. All is woeful deception. They have substituted a form of godliness for its power; union to the church for union to Christ; the baptism of water for the regeneration of the Spirit; gospel ordinances for sanctifying grace; works of benevolence for faith in the Lord Jesus. And thus their religion is hollow, unsubstantial, and unreal; possessing a "name to live, they are dead."

And what will be the end of such? Departing into eternity in this state of soul deception- building their hope of heaven upon this false foundation- in their sad experience must be realized the awful description which the evangelist gives of the judgment power of Christ; "whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Thus will perish all human religions, all false hopes, all hollow professions, all soul-destroying doctrines- the 'wood, the hay, the stubble,' of a form of godliness- destitute of the power. Unconverted reader, weigh and consider this solemn statement- it is for your life. Examine the nature and foundation of your hope. Let nothing be a substitute to you for the new birth, for faith in Christ, or for love to God. The most beautiful ritual, the most accurate creed, the most costly religion, the most splendid profession, without Christ in the heart, is but as fuel preparing for the final and eternal conflagration. To such the Savior pointedly and solemnly refers, when He says, "Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name have done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me."

But if, dear reader, you are in possession of real faith, even in the smallest degree, expect its conflict and its trial. It is truly remarked by the holy Leighton, that God never had but one Son without sin, and never one without suffering. The existence of faith seems necessarily to imply, the endurance of suffering. Not, as we have shown in another part of this volume, because of any intrinsic defect in faith, but in consequence of the impurity of the heart in which that faith is lodged, its perpetual admixture with the dross of a mind but partially renewed, its constant contact with the objects and scenes of sense and of earth, render trial as essential to the purification of faith, as the flail to the pure wheat, and as the crucible to the precious metal.

The trials and temptations, therefore, with which God visits His people, are designed, as tests of faith. Without them we should lack some of the strongest evidences of experimental Christianity. Who would wish the stubble and the chaff to render doubtful the existence of the true grain, or the tin and the dross to obscure the luster of the fine gold? Welcome, then, every trial and test of your faith. Welcome whatever stamps its reality, increases its strength, and heightens its luster.

Nor be surprised that this, above all the graces of the Holy Spirit, should be a target for the great enemy of God. As faith is the grace which most glorifies God, which brings the greatest degree of joy and peace unto the soul, and which constitutes its mightiest shield in the conflict, it becomes an especial object of Satan's malignant attack. The most Christ-exalting, God-honoring, and sanctifying of all the Spirit's graces must not expect to escape its fearful assaults. If this 'gold' was 'tried in the fire,' in the sinless person of Jesus, is there not a greater necessity that in our fallen and corrupt nature it should be subjected to a second process of trial? It was tried in the Head to show that it was real gold; it is tried in the members to separate it from the dross with which it becomes mixed in its contact with our hearts. In the one case, the trial was to stamp its divine nature; in the other case, the trial is to purify it from the human nature. Thus are we honored to suffer in some small degree, as our Lord and Master suffered. Therefore, beloved, "do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy."

Keep your eye intently fixed upon the intercession of Christ. Is it a privilege to be borne upon the affectionate and believing prayers of a Christian friend? Ah yes! precious channels of heavenly blessing are the intercessions of the Lord's people on our behalf. But there is a Friend still closer to the Fountain of Mercy, still nearer and dearer to the Father, than your fondest earthly friend- it is JESUS, "who ever lives to make intercession for those who come unto God by him." Oh how precious is that declaration upon which in any assault, or trial, or perplexity, you may calmly and confidently repose: "I have prayed for you." Yes, when from confusion of thought, or pain of body, or burning fever, you cannot pray for yourself, and no friend is near to be your mouth to God, then there is one, the Friend of friends, the ever-skillful Advocate, and never weary Intercessor- no invocating saint, nor interceding angel- but the Son of God Himself, who appears in the presence of God moment by moment for you. O keep, then, the eye of your faith immovably fixed upon Christ's intercession; He intercedes for weak faith, for tried faith, for tempted faith- yes, for him who thinks he has no faith. There is not a believer who is not borne upon His heart, and whose prayers and needs are not entwined in His ceaseless intercession.

When you deem yourself neglected and forgotten, a praying Savior in heaven is thinking of you. When you are tried and cast down, tempted and stumble, the interceding High Priest at that moment enters within the holiest, to ask on your behalf strength, consolation, and upholding grace. And when sin has wounded, and guilt distresses, and unbelief beclouds, who is it that stands in the breach, that makes intercession, that removes the darkness, and brings back the smile of a forgiving Father? The Lord Jesus, the interceding Savior! Oh, look up, tried and assaulted believer! you have a Friend at court, an Advocate in the chancery of heaven, an Intercessor curtained within the holiest of holies, transacting all your concerns, and through whom you may have access to God with boldness.

How sweet are the fruits of the Lord's restoring grace! In the case of Peter, we read that "he went out and wept bitterly." He had never wept such tears, nor sorrowed with such a sorrow before. It was the look of the Savior's forgiving love which broke his heart, and dissolved his whole soul into penitence and sweet contrition. We trace the same in David: "I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with your free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors your ways; and sinners shall be converted unto you." Blessed and holy results of the Savior's intercession in behalf of tried, and tempted, and staggering faith! May we, dear reader, constantly taste the sweetness of the Lord's restorings. That restoring we need day by day, and His upholding grace moment by moment. Let no consciousness of departure from God keep us from returning to Him- seeing that Jesus lives and prays for us.

Heart-melting is the language of our sin-pardoning and soul-restoring God to His backsliding Church. "You have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to Me, says the Lord." And again, "And I said, after she had done all these things, Turn unto me." And yet again, as if he would exhaust all the tenderness of language, "Return, backsliding Israel, says the Lord; and I will not cause My anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, says the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity." Can we resist arguments, and appeals, and persuasives like these? And oh, may the result of our restoring be a closer, holier walk than ever! "The Lord will speak peace to his people, but let them not turn again to folly."

Jesus, let Your pitying eye
Call back a wandering sheep;
False to You, like Peter, I
Would sincerely like Peter weep.
Let me be by grace restored,
On me be all its freeness shown;
Turn, and look upon me, Lord,
And break my heart of stone."
"Savior, Prince, enthroned above,
Repentance to impart;
Give me, through Your dying love,
The humble, contrite heart.
Give, what I have long implored,
A portion of Your love unknown;
Turn, and look upon me, Lord,
And break my heart of stone."
"See me, Savior, from above,
Nor suffer me to die;
Life, and happiness, and love,
Smile in Your gracious eye.
Speak the reconciling word,
And let Your mercy melt me down;
Turn, and look upon me, Lord,
And break my heart of stone."
"Look, as when Your pitying eye
Was closed that we might live;
'Father (at the point to die
My Savior gasped), forgive!'
Surely with that dying word,
He turns, and looks, and cries, 'tis done!'
O my loving, bleeding Lord,
This breaks my heart of stone!"