THE EFFORTS A D SUPPORT OF THE CHRISTIA . BY REV. JOH SUMMERFIELD, A.M.

Psalm lxiii., 8. — My soul followeth hard after thee ; thy right hand upholdeth me. The Hebrew here rendered followeth hard after signifies also to cleave to, &c. — Perhaps the Psalmist had the idea of a child at once exerting itself to follow and to cleave to its parent. How natural — picture a case : see the father — the child says, " Hold me by the hand ;" still it requires all his exertion to keep pace, &c. — But while he hangs on you, he is encouraged to proceed. He followeth hard, but your right hand upholds and draws him forward. In applying these words to the experience of a child of God, consider, I. The efforts he makes. II. The assistance he receives. I. The efforts he makes. These efforts are directed to three principal points : First. Obedience to the will of God. Self-will is the principle of action with the children of this world. But religion teaches to deny self. God's will is the Christian's chart and compass. " Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?" But this obedience is distinguished by two features : 1. It will be spiritual. There will be purity in the motive, as well as rectitude in the act. 2. Universal. — ot like Saul, who spared Agag, but " having respect to all the commandments."

Secondly. Constant exercise of faith in the promises

THE EFFORTS A D SUPPORT OF THE CHRISTIA . 267 of God. The child of God feels his impotence and his need of him who is able to keep him from falling — he followeth hard ! — often fears he shall be cast down. It would be endless to enumerate all the difficulties to be encountered. — " Many are the afflictions of the righteous," &c. — often they are tried in the fire. — The accuser of the brethren perhaps obtains permission, as in Job's case, to lay his hand on their property, their children, or their persons ; nay, one in whom they trusted lifts up his heel against them. And do they feel no tendency to faint under these tribulations ? no temptation to say, " All men are liars ?" o danger in believing a lie of the enemy that " God has shut up his loving kindness in sore displeasure" — no difficulty in saying, 11 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." O ! it is a narrow ivay, a steep and difficult ascent. — There are moments in which we cry out, " My feet were almost gone, my steps had wellnigh slipped." Yet we follow hard after God, and resemble Gideon and his little army, " faint, yet pursuing." Thirdly. The enjoyment of communion with God. This is a higher point of Christian experience ! — the principal inducement to a child in following, &c. — does not merely originate in the influence of authority, or the fear of surrounding dangers, but from the expectation of that satisfaction and pleasure which is always found in the society and converse of a beloved object. The toil of exertion is sweetened, and the length of the way beguiled by a thousand pleasing inquiries — a thousand pleasing communications. The little traveller, as he runs by the side and holds the hand of his father, lifts up his voice for information and inclines his ear to instruction ; and if it were not. for the interest which this mutual intercourse gives to the journey, it

would be, to the child at least, a dull and irksome toil. He would want a sufficient excitement to persist in the laborious effort ; and beginning at first to follow afar off, would at length be tempted to' measure back his steps to the place from whence he commenced his course. So with the child of God. Communion with his heavenly Father is the most valued and exalted privilege. Divest re-

268 THE EFFORTS A D SUPPORT OF THE CHRISTIA . ligion of this, and it becomes a yoke grievous to be borne. We might, indeed, submit to it for a while in the spirit of bondage unto fear, but we should soon become faint and weary in our minds. And such is actually observed to be the case with those who substitute purposes of amendment, attempts at reformation, and forms of Godliness, in place of spiritual, experimental piety — these have no root in themselves. Religion has no hold upon their affections ; it is not the source of their joy. They flee to it in a time of danger as a matter of necessity, not of choice ; and when the danger seems in some degree subsided, they gradually return to the world ; they endure for a while, and in a time of temptation fall away. Such are the desires they cherish, such the efforts they make. II. The assistance he receives. The inference is, as long as the people of God follow hard after, &c. 1. He will deliver their feet from falling, as the child upheld by the father — so feeling his dependance, he is strong in the Lord, &c. If ever we fail, either there is a want of fervour in our endeavour, or of simplicity in our dependance. We either do not follow hard after, or do not hang upon him. I appeal

to experience. When have your feet slipped ? # # # On the other hand, when have you been most sensibly assisted ? Indeed, the Divine perfections preclude the possibility of any other result. It would be unnatural in one of you that is a father to withhold assistance from your child, while labouring to keep pace, &c. — so here. But you say, We know all things are possible to him that believeth ; but then my faith is liable to fail. * * 2. He will keep your faith from failing — " Thy right hand upholdeth me." David meant that he not only perfected his obedience, but maintained his confidence, by means of the grace of God assisting him. Indeed, our observance of the law is inseparably connected with our faith in the promise. The Christian's work is the work of faith ; his walk is a walk of faith ; his life is a life of faith. Faith,

THE EFFORTS A D SUPPORT OF THE CHRISTIA . 269 as Samson's hair, is the principle wherein his great strength lieth ; if shorn of this, he becomes weak like other men. Hence Satan lays his axe to this root of the tree ; and how often has he who is able to succour them that are tempted helped us against our unbelief. "What would have become of the faith of Jairus, if Jesus had not strengthened it by, " Fear not ; believe only, and she shall be made whole." — What of the faith of Martha ? What of the Psalmist's at the Providence of God, if he had not gone into the sanctuary ? What of Peter's, if Jesus had not prayed that his faith might not fail ? — and what of our own ! — In fact, as in the child's case, our hold is so feeble, that if our heavenly Father did not grasp our hand in his, we should fall. Every stone of stumbling would trip us. Every danger would turn us back. Our nature tends to "an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." We are only more than conquerors through him that loved us.

How much is implied in the encouragement to Paul at Corinth, " Fear not," &c. Paul might have departed, like Mark, from the work, if the right hand of Jesus had not upholden him. So we " drink of the brook in the way ; therefore do we lift up our heads." 3. He will preserve your hearts from fainting. And here is the cause of apostacy. Men do not follow hard after and hang upon God as the source of their delight ; and, consequently, remaining strangers to joy and peace in believing, become weary of the comfortless and formal round of duties and restraints, till at last they altogether break the yoke from their necks. There is no stability in religion short of this experimental knowledge of the love of Jesus — it shall be in you "a well of water springing up into everlasting life." — Such have "bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and drink of the brook." so that in the days of famine they have enough. Yes, even under the loss of outward comforts they have inward refreshments, and say, " Though we walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive us : thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of our enemies, and thy right hand shall

270 THE EFFORTS A D SUPPORT OF THE CHRISTIA . save us." " Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil : for thou art with me ; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Application. — What is the object of your pursuit ? Is there any resemblance between you and the Psalmist? What is the bent of your desires, the tenor of your exertions ? May the Spirit of God enable you, as in a glass, to discover your own character and conduct while I seriously press on you these propositions.

1. " They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh." Are there not some here who haste to rise up early and eat the bread of carefulness, in hope of saying ere long, " Soul, take thine ease ; eat, drink, and be merry ?" Or perhaps, free from care, you are like the thoughtless prodigal rather than the calculating fool ; your course is marked not by industry and thrift, but waste and riot. To enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season is the end at which you aim. But in whatsoever form the world may ensnare your affections, it will elude your grasp, and leave you the experimental knowledge that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Oh ! begin to follow hard after God. * * * God will not disappoint your largest expectations. He promises to give you rest. Take hold of his strength and say, " Draw me, we will run after thee." 2. " They that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit." Are any aiming at a spiritual universal obedience ? a more humble, simple, constant, and peaceful dependance ? glad to withdraw from the avocations of business and the masquerade of worldly company to cultivate communion with Jesus ? — " following hard after God ?" " Fear not, worm Jacob ! His right hand upholdeth thee." Be not discouraged because of the way. " Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary ?" Whatever the difficulties of thy warfare, " be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," and thou shalt eventually say, the right hand of the Lord hath the pre-eminence. The right hand of the Lord hath brought wondrous things to pass.

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