Andrew Bonar

Chapter 4

The Sinner and the Saviour

"Have I been a wilderness to Israel? a land of darkness?" Jer.2:31

IN the year 1852, during a season of vacation, he had sailed from May to Skye, wishing to explore a little of the scenery of that singular island. Riding up a glen on his way to Loch Cormish, he speaks of being much overawed in spirit by the Lord's works.
"Indeed, my spirit almost shrank from entering in among them, they were so wild and dark; but in the end they rather ministered to me." Next day, on his way back to Sligachan, he was overtaken by a storm of wind, rain, and scouring mist that filled the glen, so that it was not without great difficulty that he found the ford over the swollen stream; and then it was amid drifting showers that swept in columns along the mountain side, and listening with awe to the roar of the sea and the rush of the howling wind through the glen, he reached his destination. Even in the midst of this wild scene, his heart found a song of praise. But it contrasted with another day's scenery, when he came to the side of a calm, full stream, which flowed from between magnificent rocks into the lake. It was sunshine, glorious sunshine, and he bathed in the stream : "And as I did so, prayed for a washing in the fountain opened for sin."

Not unlike this contrast were his experiences in the spiritual world in the great matters of sin and salvation. Very instructive it is to trace the Holy Spirit's dealing with Him during the whole eight years of his student life, as it comes out, first, in his wholesome looking inward, that he may know sin; and next, in his healthful looking outward at Christ, combined with never-ceasing prayerfulness — all in keeping with that trait in his character which a friend who knew him well expressed by saying, "Never yet have I met any one who seemed so anxious that a believer should grow in grace." He delighted to own and adore the sovereignty of God; and not less did he unceasingly and invariably give glory to the Holy Ghost, on whose direct working in the souls of men he placed all his expectation of true conversion and real sanctification. It was, therefore, with his eye on the Father's sovereignty and on the Holy Spirit's grace, that he wrote such records of experience and doctrine as those that follow.

I. Here he is LOOKING INWARD, detecting and watching sin. "Let us realise that when a man ceases to have a persuasion of in, he practically writes a lie across every page of God's book. He says that hell is a delusion; he declares that the coming of the Son of God was a mere mockery. O to tremble before God!" "O unbelief! unbelief! how indigenous it is to the natural heart. How it takes root in every corner of it. How it springs up after the storms and winds of affliction and trial, as well as after the sunshine of a Saviour's love has been made to fall upon it. It is something like the herb which starts from the turf taken from the mountains of Scotland, as soon as it is turned up. It needs no sowing, and grows without rain, or sunshine, or care of any kind. The temperature may be high or low, the soil light or heavy; still again the hateful weed finds root. O for the simple child-like 'looking unto Jesus.' How it invigorates the soul, and presents a strong buckler against the darts of the tempter, or the more insidious attacks of unbelief. When will this be graved and grained into me so that I shall not be able to forget it. Did I see more of His matchless love, then would I naturally look more to Him."

"Surely I am more troubled than any man! Surely I am more the victim of the deliberate assaults of spiritual enemies than others. It seems as if the calm way in which temptations come upon me were peculiarly my own. Others are suddenly tempted, and it would seem as suddenly fall; but my temptations are oftener in the beginning at least calm, and at times rise with a sort of philosophical air which prevents my discovering so clearly their real nature. Sin is sin, O thou of little faith; and no doubt the more slowly and deliberately it enters, the worse it is."
"Jesus can be truly loved only when the sinner sees his own worthlessness. Indeed, this doctrine of the depravity of the human heart seems to be the keystone of the Bible. Without it, all must be dark; with it, all light and sunshine." And then he marks out for special examination, these two subjects : - "A deeper acquaintance with the true nature of sin, as it must be in my own heart; and following from this, a stronger and far more earnest practical love to Jesus; and following from both, more real love to immortal souls, manifested by earnest prayer and unwearied action."

"January 17. 1847. - Sin overcame me; the punishment has come in the form of distance from the throne of grace. How real are the Lord's controversies with His people, and how utterly incapable are they of recovering the distance between them and their God, which their sin has caused." "January 19. - Finished essay on Conscience. Strange that I have scarcely ever received a more deadly thrust from the great Apollyon than during its composition; my conscience more sadly wounded! O the marvels of electing love! The Lord has not left me to perish in my sins. 'Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord.'"

"I have often longed to be like Caleb and Joshua, who followed the Lord fully; but I fear that I would have been among the first to fall in the wilderness."
"Oh unclean, unclean, unclean! from the sole of the foot upwards, soul and spirit alike unclean. O wretched man that I am! Woe is unto me! Yet behold the Lamb of God whom thou hast crucified, who is saying continually, 'Behold me, behold me. I bore the guilt of these thy sins upon the Cross. My grace is sufficient for thee.' 0 the height and depth of the love of God and the glory of Jesus Christ. How perfect must His work be that can justify so great a sinner."

He passed through some weeks of severe conflict with corruption and darkness of spirit. It was as if there had been a cloud between him and the sun. Yet never all that time was he led to doubt of his personal interest in the Saviour. He still (says a friend in referring to what he heard from his own lips) kept hold of Christ, and could say, "My God" He writes: "O to awake to the full joy of life! If I have little pleasure at present in heavenly things, I have still less, or none, in earthly things. My heart I know to be cold to Jesus, but it beats no quicker after this world. Hasten, Lord, the time when I shall rejoice in Jesus with all my heart and with all my soul."
"Yesterday, I had some liberty in praying for the spread of the glorious gospel, for reviving times for our Church, and for a baptizing of the students for the great work; to-day, my prayer was languid and faithless."
"Nothing almost has struck me more than changes in my belief as to the Lord's willingness to bless His chosen, whether in their own souls or as a means of good to others. Upon turning my thoughts to this subject to-day, it seemed to have been an utter stranger in my soul for long. I have found that my heart was full of the plainest unbelief in regard to this. The willingness of my God to bless seemed to have passed altogether from my mind."
"0 may the blessed Holy Spirit reveal this once more, and with greater force than ever, even a full sense of the Lord's willingness, in Christ, to bless His people, and to make them a blessing, Luke 11. 13.
"January 1848.—For five long days my soul has been saying, 'Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?' May the Lord teach me all the controversy He has with my soul. Such an experience as this proves to a demonstration that salvation is wholly of the free grace of God." "This morning the experience of my soul found apt expression in this verse -

'Like as the hart for water-brooks
In thirst doth pant and bray;
So pants my longing soul, O Lord,
That come to Thee I may.'

Yet in the midst of it, from time to time, I was enabled to say, 'He hath done all things well' What will glory be, when these longings after God, even the living God, shall be fully satisfied, yet never satiated?
"The Bride was sick of love on two occasions. Once, when Immanuel's left hand was under her head, and His right did embrace her. Again, when she had grieved away her Lord, and went out into the street to seek for Him, and found Him not! What have all the affairs of earth seemed to my soul lately, compared with finding Him!"
He speaks of some hindrances of a general kind that often intercept the soul in its way to God, or turn it aside from the way.
"April 3 - The surest way to stop a believer's growth in grace is for him to begin to think highly of himself; for God abhors His people's boasting of what is no more theirs, and is no more of their making, than are the hosts of heaven."
"April 10. - The want of the morning season of devotion, wherein the heart is fixed, and the soul is made thoroughly on the Lord's side, leaves one open to be led away. Unless we seek first the face of the Great King, meeting with other believers is comparatively profitless. 'When the soul is carnal, every thing becomes like an electric conductor, to carry off anything of the heavenly fire which may remain.'"

"7th May 1848. - Sometimes, as I may say, the devil runs riot in my soul, suggesting along with my wicked heart every sort of abominable, loathsome, and self-righteous thing. Sometimes the thought of having anything apart from Jesus Christ is as a sword within my bones. At other times, such thoughts rise as complacently and calmly, as if they were the most reasonable in the world. Thus is my heart at times perplexed and in dismay. Sometimes, by the purifying and cleansing grace of God, my soul seems to resemble well-polished armour, from which every shaft of the enemy glances off without almost any effect; while at others, it is like the same, indented and rusty, which lets no arrow pass it by."

"30th, May. - What an amount of obstinacy and dis-agreeableness of temper is in me. Self, also, and pride continually assail me. I see to a demonstration that nothing short of the power of the Almighty can preserve me from its endless attacks. It is an enemy in possession of the fastnesses of my heart, from which the Lord of Glory, who bruised the serpent's head under His own pierced feet, can alone expel it. The Lord help me, for I am a leper from my mother's womb.
" My corruptions are as a sea around me. Wherever I turn the eye, I can at times see no shore whatever. O what a song in heaven shall mine be! What a heavenly day will that be when the Divine One comes from the court of the King. Think of this, O my soul, and tune thy harp even now -

'A new song then my soul shall sing,
A theme of glory shall it be:
Let heaven's wide arch with praises ring
When glorious Christ proclaims me free!'"

"2d June.- Talking with a student who does not seem to realise the depths of iniquity. Yet he loves Jesus; and whoever loves Jesus, my soul, by grace, doth love." Here is surely true charity; and it was his wont to judge thus of those in whom he saw any spark of grace. "July 1848. - If for one moment the hand of the Mighty God of Jacob is taken from under thee, where art thou, 0 my soul? Defenceless, as had been the little lamb which, when a boy, I once saw in the den of the tiger, had the keeper withdrawn. "Remember, O my soul, that it is no writing of resolutions with pen and ink that will ever in the least keep a soul from committing sin. No; all the resolutions made by a man himself fly as dust before the whirlwind, when the hour of real temptation has come. He may make many resolutions when remorse is biting his conscience; but let him beware when the real hour has come. Nothing then for the poor sinner, but the free, all-sufficient grace of Jesus Christ."

"6th Feb. - Severely handled yesterday morning by the evil heart within, - a kind of drawn battle whether carnality or spirituality were to prevail. I could not have believed the strength of the former to have been so indomitable. I sought to put it down, but it struggled and resisted.
"Eminent holiness is eminent happiness. I have never been so happy or joyous as when meditating upon or crying after holiness; or when my heavenly Father has given me to rest in the holiness of Christ Jesus."

" Sept. 1851. - I need much grace among my books; they are more and more as my companions and friends." Imperiouness is one of my besetting sins how distant from the spirit of a little child! Prayer is sometimes like climbing a steep hill, and the mind is ever ready to wander from God. Still, after all, Jesus is the lode-star of all my hopes and desires.
"Feel my need of more than an Indian's watchfulness against my spiritual foes."
He was one who knew well that his acceptance with God did not depend on his frames and feelings, but on the unchanging and unchangeable work of Christ, which his soul heartily embraced. But he noticed his changing frames as bearing upon his progress in sanctification, and in this light they are most interesting to us. He thought that in this way he might "learn some of the deeper notes of David's psalms."

"7th December 1852. - As months and years of sorrow are said sometimes to be enclosed in an hour, so some hours of heavenly bliss seem to contain the joys of many days and months. How divine is the calm which then fills the soul. It is like a well of water, springing, up into everlasting life." "8th - 13th December. - What I most need is a constant faith. O for that watching and praying in midst of temptations which often come in a body, troop upon troop, pouring down on the soul.
"Some cries unto God for a blessing on my future ministry. The sad ignorance of which I am conscious - the blindness - the cleaving to man's opinion - to the earth - the damps of practical atheism - the long tracks of faithlessness - the temptations of the enemy - O Lord, let all these plead with Thee to send succour unto my soul"
The bleak wilderness of sin which is in my soul seems almost hopeless. Reading M'Cheyne's Life. His 'Reformation' is a deep reproof to me. It is encouraging to see what my God and Father is willing to make His chosen ones: but rather thy only model must be Christ, and His promises to His people.
" Have not had enough of secret prayer."
"How strangely are men stereotyped! You meet them one year, the second, and the third, and they are still wonderfully the same. 0 for grace that will penetrate every part of my nature. 'Follow thou me.' Be ever examining the way that thou goest, to find the foot-prints of the blessed Jesus. Seek to be an expert discoverer of these footprints. Remember that Satan often assumes the make of thy Saviour's sandal; yet the wary eye can detect the difference."

"2d August 1856. - I perceive that I have the elements of all false doctrine in my heart."
"I find that what seems spirituality of mind must be tested by the word of God." So far, then, we have followed him in his search into sin and his sinful nature.

Now let us turn and see him as anxiously and keenly -
II. LOOKING OUTWARD, delighting in the Saviour.
"30th August 1849. - Beware of over-tension of soul Religion is a resting on what God has done and said."
His own daily experience was in measure that which is expressed by Milton, when he speaks of the heavenly companies that looked to Him on whom the Father smiled -

"And from the light received
Beatitude past utterance."

In directing souls who sought rest in God, he would say: "You wait for some miraculous manifestation of His love, and are passing by the sure testimony of His own word. If you rest on this or that to be revealed, if you would first see your name written in heaven and then believe, this can never be." (Letter to a soul at Westfield, 1848.)
"When I hear any one dwelling in a disproportionate degree on what religion is not, and seldom dwelling on the vital, life-giving, and life-supporting parts of divine truth, at such times my soul is ready to exclaim, 'Sir, we would see Jesus.' It is necessary to delineate error, yet such delineation is not Him in whom the whole gospel is contained. Yet such have their use in the church. I would fain learn their place and their doctrine, and having got from that part of the vineyard the fruit they have been specially enabled to bring forth, may I be led by Him who guides into all truth also into the sweet And lovely orchards of grace."

"Fast-day. - Last day of another year. Two causes of equal astonishment - my sins and God's mercies! Had some taste, as it were, how sin will be regarded at the last day, when its whole gloss, and tinsel, and deceivableness, shall be wiped away for ever, and its own essential enormity and inexcusableness shall appear. While I was in the full hope that all were pardoned, this only enabled me the more calmly and dispassionately to behold their true nature.
"Faith should be counted a trial. Sight is what the spiritual man is born for. He is born to behold the glory of the Father and of the Son. He is left without the absolute fruition of God by beholding Him in order to discipline, and to teach many lessons not otherwise to be learnt. Nevertheless, as the bride ought not to be satisfied till publicly united to her affianced, so the believer should not be so till he sees Jesus, and beholds the face of his Heavenly Father. O the wonderful love of the Father in choosing a family for Himself out of such a vile, and guilty, and ignorant race, and not to spare that Son Jesus, whom even we so love; that Son whom, from the partial glimpses we have, we adore as the perfection of beauty, and holiness, and love! O how must the Father have loved Him, who beheld all His glory and loveliness, all His infinite perfections, and yet He spared Him not!

"O Immanuel, when am I to look upon Thee? How long are mine eyes to fail while I look for Thee?
"Jesus bears with me; how then should I bear with others.
"How continually should one plead for an outpouring of that gracious and Christ-displaying Spirit whom Jesus is exalted to bestow, and whose office it is to humble souls at His Cross."

"January 1848. - Why does my soul shrink from that censorious spirit which is cutting, and dividing, and winnowing all the day? Because it savours not much of Jesus Christ I would fain be like Jesus in the discovery of hypocrites, but like Jesus too in an overflowing love to the souls of men; in tender dealing with the weak saints; in weeping over Jerusalem."
"4th February. - Have continually to fight with that self-righteous spirit which seeks ever to have something to come to God with besides Jesus Christ. It is marvellous how inveterate is this disposition to seek for something to be wrought in us, which shall make the soul less immediately dependent on Him! "0 to have meetings without ceasing with my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! "This morning could obtain little access to the throne. This searched me and tried my soul; but after coming out of the Mathematical class, I was reading that verse, 'I am the way,' and it seemed to me that I had been seeking to get views of God and of His glory independent of Jesus's sacrifice. I forgot, as it were, that the only way to the Father is by the Son of His love; and this is true at all times, whatever be the frame of the soul. The sinner's views of the living God must evermore be obtained directly by the peace-speaking and peace-obtaining blood of Jesus. The living and true God, the Father, can only love my soul by and in Jesus Christ.
"There is an amazing unwillingness to come as a simple debtor to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What the Lord is sometimes pleased to employ to deliver from this, is the exhibition of the glorious plan of salvation, amply brought out from the word of God, and applied by the Holy Spirit.
"I feel the truth of what Mr Hewitson says, that there is a great unwillingness to come again as a poor, broken sinner to the bank of Free Grace. With me it is ever self, self, self, instead of Christ, Christ, Christ." "15th September. - It is amazing how the truth, Christ for us, has to be relearned daily and hourly. It is indeed an exotic. I am continually letting go the only anchor of hope, and beginning to trust in myself as righteous; but the blessed Jesus is all my righteousness in the sight of the Eternal of Days.
"The constant sacrifice - the constant rising of the cloud of incense - the continual intercession of the Great High Priest - above all, the continual sprinkling of the blood - are ever needed to sanctify study and all my occupations.
"A holy awe becomes all that dwell in his temple."
"The righteousness of God has for some days been my constant meditation; it has been before me all the day. Its effect is 'quietness and assurance for ever.'
"The golden thread of communion with my God was severed to-day by my sin. I was made to know how bitter a thing it is to offend against God, by the withdrawing of the gracious, soul-filling light of his countenance. I had to walk with the voice of an accusing conscience sounding in my ears, and the sense of my heavenly Father's displeasure heavy at my heart. But I continually repaired to the throne and fountain of grace, and would not give place to my enemy or to Satan."
Some solidity and calmness of faith. My room is sometimes like a little temple, where the high and lofty One deigns to come. It seems as if, like a visitor, He spent so much time with me, and then retired, though not altogether from the house either. Sometimes a sweet experience of this kind follows on a temptation, in which Satan's personal agency is plainly distinguishable. Two weapons have to be used against him - prayer, and the word of God. 'We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.' I must also remark, that in the particular instance I have just experienced, it was after I had begun to devote more time to seek the face of my God, that I felt myself met, as Bunyan expresses it, by 'the fiend striding across the path.'
"When the soul is brought to deal with its sins before the living God, we do not then think of Christ so much as a Friend, but rather as our Advocate, by whose atoning work the way is opened to the living God."
"The great work of the atonement for sin was finished long before the sinner was born into the earth. Hence it is in no way dependent upon what he may say, think, or do. 'By grace are ye saved.'"
"I sometimes feel as if I had only passing emotions of affection to Jesus, but I trust He has lately heard my cry, and shewn me more of Himself, and drawn out my love more strongly to His glorious person. Blessed be His name!"
"This evening in prayer found no comfort, and as little in reading God's word. I could not fix my thoughts upon the Saviour; I felt deserted of God. At last in prayer I began to find that I was not looking to the Cross of Christ. Taken up with trying to see the Saviour as a friend only, I fear I forgot Him as one who died upon the accursed tree in order to save me from just punishment. In this I obtained some relief."

Rothesay, June 4. - As each day passes over my head, am I taught more and more the necessity of living as if Jesus were now walking through the world with us? Let me set before my face His blessed example, and picture to myself how He would act were He in my present position. He would not neglect study, nor social intercourse, nor would these things lead Him away from continually seeking the good of souls around Him."

" April 1848. - The souls of even His children are narrow in spiritual things, and the Lord of the vineyard sees fit to bid the different fruits spring up in different parts of His field. All fruits have not the same flavour, all flowers have not the same smell. The lily of the valley represents one view of Jesus and is not the same with the 'Rose of Sharon.' Some fruits are even valued for their acidity, as the lemon, and have their special uses. Yet all combined by the skilful gardener, yield a very pleasant fragrance; so combined, that when the north wind awakes and the south wind comes, and they blow upon the garden, the smell of spices that flows forth is most sweet to the Bridegroom, for whom the garden is 'a garden enclosed - a spring shut up - a fountain sealed.' Even as the husband of the washed and sanctified one declares, when He views her clothed in His own spotless loveliness, 'How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointment than all spices.'"

"June. - My soul longs for the time when, through the abundant outpouring of Jehovah's Spirit, I shall be lifted up and cast into the sea of the love of Jesus, and float away towards the heavenly rest, self being drowned; while the love and person (the unsearchable, incomprehensible love, and the all-glorious Person) of Jesus, shall possess my whole soul, so that the whole spirit and soul and body shall be His, and His only, for time and for eternity.
"I do think that the most spiritual is still the most potent. Those are the engines which are 'mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
"Also seek to maintain 'a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man.' Nothing so paralyses effort for the Master, nothing so grieves the Holy Ghost, as a conscience troubled, ill at ease, because of sin against God or man."
"One hour of the presence of Jesus in the soul is more effectual for the mortification of sin in the heart and life, than ten thousand exhortations and resolutions of the man himself. Sin cannot dwell with Jesus. If He is brightly manifested, and His beauty causes the poor pilgrim's heart to melt within him, sin then seems to lose all its power. It is not so much that it is sensibly hated as that its sources are neglected, and at last disliked. He then glories in such words as these: "Christ, who is our life." His very soul is living in Jesus. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth," is a sweet and inevitable conclusion. The premises contain it so fully, that no tongue can express the sweet and absolute necessity of the conclusion."
"The sum of the message of the minister of the gospel is, 'the unsearchable riches of Christ' Hence the true minister of Jesus must himself have got such a view of those riches, that he can conscientiously declare them to be unsearchable. Hast thou come to the shore of the ocean of Immanuel's heavenly glory, of His merits, of His fulness, and so surveyed some of the pebbles (like the philosopher of nature), that thou canst say, 'O the unsearchable riches of Christ!'
"Luther's preaching at the Diet of Worms was all about Christ and salvation. "These divinely instructed men were willing to be nothing that Christ might be all, and thus God was glorified in and through them.
"Must beware of spurious devotion, superstition, and of any thing contrary to the Scriptures. The church history of the 16th century is well fitted to enforce this."
"December 1848. - The Holy Spirit loves to make a man like the spotless Sun of Righteousness. He loves to bear witness to Jesus; both in the inspired word, and likewise by epistles written on the countenances and lives of the redeemed children of the kingdom. Let me see that I do not falsify His testimony by ungodly thoughts, words, or deeds."
"It is often asked by believers, Does God hide His face from His own in mere sovereignty? He might do so, but the experience of His people testifies very unanimously in favour of the statement made in the following paragraph: -
"As far as my experience has gone, I have seldom been sensible of a withdrawing of my Lord's countenance without being able to assign some sin as its cause. The bitter fruit of sin is invariably an interruption of intimate communion with my heavenly Father. The blood of Christ, and that because He is the Son of God, is the only cure and comfort for the sin-laden soul"
"The Holy Spirit reveals Christ. Therefore, if the believer looks so exclusively to Jesus Christ, that he, as it were, forgets the Revealer of Jesus, that is his sin. If, again, he so dwell upon the Revealer that he forgets the revealed, that is his sin. The path between, O my soul, is 'that which the vulture's eye hath not seen,' Job 28. 7. Two notable cures for the distempers of one-sided views of the truth of God are these: -
"First, There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
"Second, To dwell upon all the attributes of God as they are revealed in His Holy Scriptures.
"Minister of Jesus, Jesus Christ and Him crucified must be the grand subject of thy preaching!" How blessed are the following records of personal affection, strong and tender, toward the Lord "I sometimes ask what is the world to me or I to the world? The Master's glory, that is sufficient to make me delight exceedingly to remain here as long as He desires. Where is the beauty of earthly things? Apart from Jesus, they have none. I would rather have one glimpse of the glorious countenance of Immanuel than the love of the whole human race. The longings of my soul after Christ Jesus have lately seemed well nigh more than I can bear. All the heaven which at present my soul can find it possible to long after is, to be alone with Jesus. I feel as if my heart would break if Jesus come not by His grace and take my soul into His everlasting arms. 0 the peerless beauty of Immanuel!"
"Am I as one who has begun the fifth year of his course on the way to Zion? I trust that, with many sins, Jesus is still all my salvation and all my joy. Other lords have had dominion over me from time to time, but not without much uneasiness and many stragglings to get back to Christ.
"No earthly friend in my days of foolishness and sin ever called forth the longings and yearnings of heart which Jesus so often excites. There is one deep fountain of affections which none but Jesus has ever stirred. There is an inner chamber into which none but Jesus can find admittance; the key of which He keeps to himself, and leaves it not to His poor, weak, saved one.
"The Comforter, i.e., He who is to comfort love-sick souls for the absence of Jesus. Remember thy first love. How wonderfully sweet and melting it was. Wast thou not then, as it were, dissolved in love and tenderness. Remember, too, thy thoughts were not about thyself, but about Jesus Christ The love of thine espousals, when Jesus thy Lord and Saviour was first revealed to thy soul - when thou wert given away to Him out of thy father's house. Remember the hole of the pit whence thou wast taken, and wonder."

"Sabbath Evening. - Yesterday I was insensibly led to think of the heavenly glory; and for the first time, for long, my eye was moistened. It enabled me to proceed with study with alacrity, but yet in a subdued spirit. 'Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.' How cold is the unbelieving heart! An armed man is not more powerful than is temptation, nor the Indian stealing on his enemy more subtle.
"The love of Christ has been unspeakably, indeed overcomingly, precious to my soul this day. Justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law, has seemed to me, as it always does, just like an entirely new doctrine. May to-morrow be as this day, and much more abundant. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love.'
"When my Creator and Redeemer causes His breath to play through the deep recesses of my nature, it produces inexpressible longings, which seem to exhaust the energies of my soul."

"July 1848. - My soul this morning was taken into the garden on the Mount of Olives. I was so sweetly filled and engaged, that I am sure I felt happier than was Adam before he fell. I see Jesus still loves to resort to that garden with His disciples, and to rehearse to them what they can bear of His sufferings there for them. He shews where the weariness of His soul brought Him - the Spotless One - to the dust of His own created earth, and how it made Him cry in agonies never to be fathomed by created soul.
"It is in Jesus that the soul is taught to call the mighty God of Jacob, 'Father.' It is when the soul, in sweet and glorious fellowship with Jesus as elder brother, looks up to the great God, that he cannot but cry, 'Abba, Father' Some deem this blasphemy; others, presumption; others, that it tends to false security; but Jesus whispers into the ear of faith, 'I am ascended to my Father and to thy Father, 0 my redeemed one.'
"Surely my mouth shall sing aloud to His praise, while I have any being. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. The heart of Jesus was faintly figured forth in Solomon's, of whom it was said that he was given 'largeness of heart, as the sand that is on the sea-shore.' But as one grain is to all the sand on the shores of the sea, so was Solomon's heart to that of Immanuel. 'This is my Beloved, and this is my friend, O daughter of Jerusalem.'"

"4th August 1848. - My soul is at times ready to break for its longings after Jesus. I feel at times as if I could be alone all the day - yea, if that were possible, all my days - if Jesus would but shew me more of His love, and satisfy my longing and fainting soul. 0 why is He so long in coming, and satiating my fainting soul? I am twice over sick of love. O why tarry the wheels of his chariot? O that I had ten thousand hearts, that I might love more. I feel, as Rutherfurd says, 'O what can a bairn carry away of the ocean?' O for the breaking of the long night. O for the shadows to flee away, that I might look and be filled with His overcoming love. Every other love is a faint shadowing of Jesus's love. One of two things my soul must choose, either to be capacitated to hold more of His love now, or to be removed to be with Himself.
"O holy, pure, and spotless, thou infinitely bright and radiant One, turn away thine eyes from me, else I will faint away with Thy love.
"O sun and moon, and bright clouds with your snowy tops, hanging under the azure dome, help me to set forth the glory and beauty of Jesus, for His hands made you all!
"0 for a thousand tongues and harps to praise Him. (Well, each converted soul is such a tongue and such a harp.) The sea of glass, clear as crystal and pure as gold, is dim beside His glorious beauty, His depths of holy purity, of infinitely pure holiness!
"Oh when from His Cross He turns the eyes of His deep love upon me, I am constrained to cry, 'Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples.' I am utterly overcome by the glance of such love from the depths of agony and woe. I cannot speak even to Jesus Himself. I faint and fail, and can only heave deep sighs, which, however, he knows well to understand.

"22d July 1849. - At the Table, Canticles 1.13 precious; also Psalm 69.1. It seemed to me that it was a feast of loves. What wilt thou have of the King? That all my sins which crucified Thee, may be crucified in Thee. Among other sins which occurred to me was deep ignorance of God, and of the work of the Holy Spirit.
"The dress of the Bride, from head to foot, from, her Beloved, is the Righteousness of Christ Jesus. The feast, the very body and blood of Christ, all through the wilderness. Again, 'till He come' - only till then - was made precious.
"Saw that Jesus, as it were, counts the number of showings forth and rememberings of Him, and of His death. He longs and waits for the last
"Precious faith, precious Christ, precious feast! - all that comes from Him is precious
"0 to be continually sprinkled, to be continually hearing the sound of the bells and the pomegranates on the skirts of the High Priest's garments.
"And now to be Christ-like, gentle, meek, and lowly, and to be more noble-minded.
"Much to humble. How easy to devise and resolve; how difficult to perform!
"Let me remember the robe which I must be ever wearing."

It will be seen that he was one who "rightly divided the word of life." If we might allude to and accommodate a saying of one of our poets, used on a different occasion, he felt that his own wants and leanness might be taken as an "inventory to particularise the abundance" to be found in the Lord Jesus. His eye looked into the hole of the pit, but always turned upwards faithfully to the right hand. Now, all these views of sin and the Saviour were found by him in the word, and drawn from the word into his soul by prayer. On one occasion, Hewitson, his beloved friend, with his finger on the verse in Mark 9.21, "All things are possible to him that believeth" wrote him a few lines, in which he quaintly puts the question, "Are there any of those Almighty believers in the world now?" We do not say that David Sandeman was such an one; but we will say, that he was one who despaired of gaining any thing except prayer was used. "How short is life! What urgent need that it should be redeemed! Let me remember 'Pray without ceasing'." We have already seen how this characterised him; but it was so marked a feature in his life, and was so truly the seat of his strength and the source of all his spiritual riches, that we cannot help shewing it again. The world's great men reached their eminence by effort, not by ease: there were pathways to those mountain-heights which they climbed, and these pathways they took pains to find out and use. And this is not less true of godly men; the heights which they reached were won

"Not by sudden flight;
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night."

"3d January 1847. - When obliged to be much occupied with others, a few minutes stolen for communion with the Lord refreshes the spirit. O above all things I at times long to be a servant of Jesus, who will ever be stepping aside and letting Jesus, and Him alone, be seen. This from sad experience I know to be hard to accomplish, nay, impossible, except by the effectual working and present influence of the Holy Ghost. How blessed to depend upon my God for daily spiritual bread. On retiring to my room I found the word of God calmly, sweetly, and solidly precious to my soul. I felt quite reluctant to lay it down. Alas, how seldom do such passing glimmerings of attainments such as these happen to me! O God, how Thy people dishonour Thee, by not living more with Thee upon the mount. How much, O Searcher of hearts, how much Thou knowest I have brought dishonour upon Thee in not dwelling more with Thee upon Mount Sinai.
"Could have prayed for long, but was called away to studies. Have seldom felt more of a calm glorying in the Lord than I have experienced this day. Feel painfully at times the want of ministers and others living in earnest, as if eternity were truly near. How cold may I myself be, by the time these years of study are closed; and yet I see I need them all. The Lord keep me close wrapped in the mantle of Jesus's love and righteousness."

"April 1848. - I have sought to devote these last two days specially to fasting and prayer, before the gracious God and Father of Him who has these last four years bid me arise and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.
"As the Lord gives me grace, I desire to devote a good part of my most profitable time to prayer and meditation on the nature and ends of the gospel ministry, as well as upon the doctrine which it is established to preach and defend."

"30th January 1849. - During my walk, He was gracious in an especial manner to me, giving me engaging communion with His holiness and justice. I found it to be very precious, yet solemn too and overawing, to have near access to His presence while walking by a retired road. I stopped for a little by the way and prayed more directly, when my soul was taken up, as it were, into His presence."
"March 1849. - Remained up till four in the morning considering my case before God. It has been my universal experience, that to set apart time, even at some sacrifice, to seek the Lord's face, never is without its reward."
"14th December 1851. - Up early and waited on God, chiefly using the Hebrew Psalm 31st. I find a peculiar sweetness often in using the original tongue in worshipping. The word was made rich to my soul, and dwelt with me much of the day.
"The last chapter of Exodus was also precious. The wonderful symbolical truth in His dwelling in the tabernacle, I entreated Him to fulfil to me. 'We will come and make our abode with him.' In the washing of Aaron and his sons, saw the holiness necessary in the service of the sanctuary."
"16th, December. - All my walk to-day was made like a serious yet sweet prayer. Was walking as before the great God: some awe, yet of a joyful kind: quite fresh, and mind unencumbered by my studies. Punctuality is among the things of good report, and is very conducive to tranquillity of soul. With me want of prayer always leads to undue haste."

At another time we read in his journal: - "In writing discourses, to remember, first, that without the immediate enlightenment of the Holy Ghost, there can be no apprehension of the spiritual meaning or connection of any passage; second, the Spirit does not work without the due use of all means within reach, e.g., thorough study, comparison of spiritual things with spiritual, opinion of others etc. With regard to the former, there is a continual temptation to forget our need of it; the old nature and the natural mind rising up against the expectation of immediate help from the Spirit in finding the meaning. A clear conscience and a quiet heart are a great help in such high and holy study."

At another time: - "A very different day: my Lord being silent towards me, because of my iniquity towards Him. What necessity for fearing alway, yet not with a legal, but a gracious fear. O Lord, support my soul in this constant act of trust and reliance, that my foes triumph not over me. I need as it were a constant river of atoning merit wherein to wash and be clean."
I believe he never allowed a fellow-student who called, to leave his room without either himself or his friend engaging in prayer, if at all possible. And in their familiar intercourse it was both prayer and brotherly faithful counsel, that seasoned all their meetings. Thus he writes: - "A student called - had prayer. Trust that some of His myrrh and cassia did drop upon my hands, and kept my soul in some measure of serenity during the rest of the day.
"In a time of hard work, all the forces of the mind and body must be kept in proper efficiency. Compare the training of horse and rider previous to the race. Temperance an absolute requisite.
"It will be sweet in heaven to join Manasseh in praising free, free grace."
Again: "There is no point on which I am conscious of erring so constantly and so grievously, as in my apprehensions of Jehovah's willingness to enlarge the spiritual dwelling of His people, and to make them in Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit, saints, that is, holy men."
Evidently with a wistful eye to future usefulness, like that of him he so admired, we find him quoting the following notice: - "Oliver Heywood, in one year, besides his stated Sabbath work, preached one hundred and fifty times, kept fifty days of fasting and prayer, nine of thanksgiving."
His holy living is all the more remarkable, inasmuch as during all these years he enjoyed robust bodily health. He was temperate in all things, and wise in attending to the ordinary means of preserving health. There is an allusion (5th May 1847) to "a severe sick-turn," and it lasted not long; nor were such turns frequent. The Refiner wished to shew, in the case of His servant, that He can purify in more ways than one. We are made "clean by the word He speaks to us" (John 15.3), when it pleases Him, without personal afflictive chastisement. Here is an example of it. For here is a true pilgrim going steadily on his way, unallured by fleshly lusts that war against the soul, and watching unto prayer, while in possession of uninterrupted bodily health and strength. In the fulness of physical vigour, and with opportunity, if he had chosen, to enjoy the lawful things of the world in that way in which very many Christians enjoy them, this youthful pilgrim passed on, using the world as if he used it not.'

Transcribed from Memoir of the Life and brief Ministry of the Rev. David Sandeman,
missionary to China
first published
Berners Street

HTML transcription files copyright © 2002-2017

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