Friday, February 4, 2011



From a far country indeed ! For it is no less a distance than from heaven to earth. From the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; to a world, which hath no continuing city, " but whose fashion passeth away!" And the remoteness from each other is not more contrasted, than are the manners, and customs, and employments, which distinguish the inhabitants of the different climates. For while the country which is far away, and from whence the good news comes, is a place of holiness and happiness ; and the possessors of that blessed city are at the fountain head of everlasting life; the whole world here below lieth in wickedness and misery; and they that dwell therein are " in darkness and the shadow of death." And what tends yet more to enhance the greatness and preciousness of this good news from a far country is, that had it not been sent from heaven, it never could have been known upon earth. Never would it have entered into the mind of man, untaught of God, that there existed such things as have been related; much less such tidings of good would have been sent to him. And had the blissful intelligence been kept back, the whole apostate race of fallen, sinful Adam, must have remained in everlasting ignorance, and in their awful state of delinquency. Never then in this case could there have been left them the possibility of recovery. Never could any have lifted an eye of hope towards that upper and brighter world. Or if it had been beheld by any, still must it have been looked at as an inaccessible region ! Oh the unspeakable felicity, when tidings first came from that blest country where God is truly known !

And what were and are the interesting particulars of this good news from a far country ? What doth the gazette from the court of heaven, proclaim to the inhabitants of the earth ? Nay, in answer it may be said, what doth it not proclaim, of every thing that be truly called good ? To speak of it in a comprehensive way, as including all blessedness, it may be summed up as containing the whole charter of grace. For the charter of grace folds within its infinite dimensions, what in scripture language is named, " the mystery of God," Rev. x. 7. and " the mystery of godliness," 1 Tim. iii. 16. And when God himself hath developed to the election of grace the mysteries of his kingdom, there is discovered to the objects of his love, somewhat of the vast, illimitable, and unmensurable grant, contained in the charter of grace. I said somewhat ; for in the present twilight of being, even when enlightened by divine teaching, while we are here below, the most that we see and know, we behold only " as through a glass darkly." But the mighty bottom, the ground-work, the foundation on which the charter of grace rests, is most blessedly revealed by Jehovah himself in his trinity of persons; in which he hath made himself over in covenant engagements to the church to be their God for ever. The divine assurance is expressed in these words; " I will be their God, and they shall be my people," Ezek. xxxvii. 27. And as this sovereign grant' comprehends in its infinite bosom all the other promises in the bible, which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus, so are they all rendered hereby everlastingly certain and sure. For they depend not either upon the will or deservings of man, but are all founded in the eternal purpose and good pleasure of God. And so vast and boundless are they, that Jehovah in his trinity of persons, hath taken an whole eternity for the manifestation of them. Yea, an whole eternity must run out, (if the term be warrantable) for the Lord's breaking up all the infinite magazines of his grace, before that the whole can be explored, and the unsearchable riches exhausted, which are contained in this divine charter. Such are among the blissful proclamations in this " good news from a far country!"

But it were to lose ourselves, and be swallowed up as in the Atlantic ocean, to contemplate the subject in one great whole. To enter into a scriptural and spiritual apprehension of the vast depth, by looking on the surface only, as far as the word of God guides us, we shall the better conceive what the immensity of grace must be, when under divine teaching we have discovered what those streams of grace we have already received now" are, flowing from this eternal source, " which make glad the city of God," Ps. xlvi. 4. And as the Lord hath reserved to himself an everlasting duration for the display of it, opening to us in the present time-state of the church, and extending through all the ages to come ; we shall do well to follow the footsteps of the Lord in this divine order; and as we walk on the skirts and shore of those unfathomable depths of grace, mark one by one the several tides of love, rising as they not unfrequently do, above high water mark, " to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus," 2 Tim. iii. 15.

If we were to trace the origin of this " good news from a far country" to its fountain head, we must look back into eternity. For the first dawn of revelation opens with the relation of events which took their beginning from thence. Yea, in very many parts of the bible of God we learn, that in respect to the church, the goings forth of Jehovah in his trinity of persons, " have been from of old, from everlasting." And in reference to those eternal transactions, then ordained to be in the future ages to come, the church was chosen in Christ, and had being in Christ, " before the foundation of the world," Micah v. 2. Eph. i. 4. Hence the conclusion is evident; the present fallen state of the church, in the common ruin of our common nature in Adam, is not her original state, neither her final state, but only her intermediate and preparatory state, to her return, through the redemption by Christ, to the holiness and happiness in which she was chosen in Christ from everlasting. The " good news from a far country," therefore, while containing-in its vast mail, all those blissful intelligences, unfolds by little and little, the wonderful events, which under the old testament dispensation were set forth by shadowy representations, to be explained in substance under the new- The holy scripture states this divine procedure with its usual sublimity of words, when saying, " God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son," Heb. i. 1, 2.

But while it will be our mercy, as it is our interest, to have these glorious and momentous transactions of eternity always in view, as we attend to the revelation made to the church, in her present time-state of being, the " good news from a far country," opens to us with " the glorious gospel of the blessed God." Here, as in a focus, all the rays meet, which shine through the whole book of God. Here we discover the whole tendency of revelation centre as in one, which, through a period of four thousand years from the fall of man to the coming of our most glorious Christ, had been delivered through successive generations to the church. And here surely is the one of all the animating subjects to arrest and call up the most awakened attention of the redeemed of the Lord. It is very blessed to behold with what a world of apparatus, the Lord of life and glory was ushered in to his church. The prophets with one voice had prepared the minds of the Lord's people for the expectation of this mysterious event—the advent of the Son of God in our nature. And as the time predicted by them for the accomplishment drew on, every eye was on the look out for the coming Saviour. Every heart whom sovereign grace had awakened to a sense of sin, was panting for his approach. Yea, of some we are told, " which departed not from the temple night and day, waiting for the consolation of Israel," Luke ii. 25—37. The very feet of them was declared to be " beautiful on the mountains, which brought those tidings of good, and that published salvation." And as if these were not enough in calling forth all the attention of men, angels of light who needed not for themselves salvation, having never sinned, yet, emulous to give glory to their Lord, and to shew their good-will to men, posted down from heaven, with the blissful tidings of the birth of the Lord Jesus, on the morning of his incarnation, and became the first heralds of this " good news from a far country," Luke ii. 8—14.

In the further prosecution of this subject, I must not venture to do more (indeed the limits of a tract will not suffer me) than merely to state the outlines. The whole which I shall be able to accomplish, can be simply but the smallest index to the infinite volume itself. It is to the holy scriptures the reader must look for the several contents of .the " good news from a far country." Yea, and though in that sacred inspiration there given to the church, all the great truths abound; yet, unless divinely taught, he will have no spiritual apprehension in himself of their infinite importance. For it is a solemn truth, too firmly established in the word of Gcd, and too long proved in the experience of mankind to be questioned, namely, that the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ's kingdom is not attainable by all the learning of mere human wisdom. That divine proclamation, how mortifying soever to the pride of man, stands as if placed over the portal of the oracles of God. " The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ; for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things !" 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15. While therefore I humbly attempt to open before the reader some few of the more prominent contents, according to the statement of scripture, of this " good news from a far country," (for further, my province cannot extend) it will be both his interest and mine, to seek the divine teaching of " the Spirit of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God." The Lord hear and answer prayer for this blessing ; that he may go before us, and guide us into all truth, as we enter the sacred enclosure ; for then our researches in his word will not be " in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth ; comparing spiritual things with spiritual," 1 Cor. ii. 12, 13.

In stating the outlines of this " good news from a far country," I have already glanced at the origin of the whole, in those ancient settlements of eternity, when in the counsel, will, and pleasure of Jehovah, in his trinity of persons, the church was " chosen in Christ to be holy, and without blame before him in love." I need not therefore observe more on this part of the subject, than just to remind the reader, that in the unceasing contemplation of this leading doctrine of our holy faith, all that follows in the blessings to the church in her time-state, find their sweetness. It is the infinite greatness of his Almighty Person, our most glorious Christ, which gives value and efficacy to all that he hath done, and is doing, and will eternally do for his people. And it is the original state of the church, as she was in Christ, and as she still is in Christ, (notwithstanding her present fallen and degraded condition) which gives confidence to receive and rejoice in " the good news from a far country." The church, (by which I mean, the redeemed and regenerate church) loseth a thousand sweet, spiritual enjoyments, in losing sight of her original and eternal relationship. If a child of God, awakened by grace, was everlastingly to keep in view what scripture so plainly states how, and in what light, God the Father hath testified of his everlasting love to the church, when choosing her in Christ; and when in confirmation of that everlasting love, he gave her to his dear Son. And if the church was always connecting with this scriptural testimony, how God the Son beheld the church, and loved the church, when he betrothed her to himself for ever; and if taught by the same unerring standard of divine truth, the regenerated child of God always had in contemplation, how, and in what light, God the Holy Ghost testified his equal affection to the church, when anointing her as one with and in her glorious head and husband from everlasting. If, I say, these glorious and fundamental truths were impressed and interwoven in the spiritual mind and understanding of the regenerated child of God, here would be an everlasting resource for the most heartfelt joy; and the soul would then enter into a more enlarged apprehension of the blessed things contained in this and every divine proclamation of mercy. It is from the little acquaintance we have of those first and leading principles of our most holy faith, and the want of cultivating a more familiar knowledge of them, through divine grace in our souls, that even some of the Lord's chosen ones enjoy not more than they do, the glad tidings of the " good news from a far country."

If we now go on to prosecute the subject, and take it up from that part of the time-state of the church, when we behold her, according to the statement of holy scripture, sunk, debased, and degraded, in the Adam-fall transgression; what an awful change is here? She, that as "the King's daughter was all glorious within ; her clothing of wrought gold : Psalm xiv. 13. now in such circumstances of delinquency, and both in guilt and wretchedness, so lost, and helpless, and hopeless in herself, as no finite capacity, yea, even when spiritually taught of God, hath ability fully to fathom ! But even then from hence ariseth a contemplation yet more to endear and appreciate this " good news from a far country !" For what vast volumes doth this good news contain in relation to this one great and momentous event, the church's recovery by grace ? When we read in the sacred word, how incalculably great the salvation; how blessed and blissful the effects of that salvation, by whom it hath been solely accomplished ; with what a word of sovereignty and power it hath been wrought; how eternally secure and unalterably fixed the partakers of it are, in a state of holiness and happiness beyond the possibility of any future change; Oh ! what " glad tidings of good things ; what great joy is here 'to all people !" The Son of God hath displayed his Almighty arm in this great salvation. He hath raised his church from the gulph of sin and misery into which she was fallen, and hath brought her back to her first, and original state of holiness and happiness in himself. He hath crushed with everlasting destruction, all her tremendous foes; and hath not only for ever " put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, but hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through his gospel," 2 Tim. i. 10. Let any, and every truly redeemed and regenerated child of God, pause here, and calculate if he can, the innumerable blessings of this rich salvation ! Indeed, who shall say what it must be, to be for ever freed from the burden of sin, from the guilt of sin, from the dominion of sin, from the unceasing terrors of sin, from the dread of punishment due to sin, from the self-reproaches of sin; yea, from the very being of sin, which now as a canker, eats into the very vitals of all our comforts. What name shall be found for the designation of such mercy, as brings deliverance from wretchedness so superlative, more expressive than " good news from a far country."

But we must not stop here. Infinitely higher views than even what concerns the church are opened to our contemplation in this, charter of grace, when the Lord unfolds yet further, the knowledge of his Almighty person, by whom redemption is accomplished; and in the knowledge of him, is included the spiritual apprehension of, and communion with all the Persons in the Godhead; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The very mention of subjects so infinitely sublime and incomprehensible, even in the more transient and momentary view, dazzle the eye; though the eye be spiritualized and enlightened by grace. The mysterious union of the Son of God with our nature, the stupendous method in the substitution of himself for his church, in the transfer of our sins on him ; " he who knew no sin, made both sin and a curse for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him :" and yet in the very moment we contemplate these marvellous relations of holy scripture, we are equally taught from the same divine authority, that in the nature and essence of the Godhead, all divine perfections are his; underived, personal, and eternal! These revelations, loudly and decidedly proclaim, that his glory is the first and predisposing cause ; the salvation of his church the effect. Hence the everlasting security of the church, which had for its prime object the divine glory. And hence the culminating point to crown all, and endear all, in this " good news from a far country."

One point more remains to be unfolded; and that, as it concerns every individual interested in this " good news from a far country," is among the sweetest notes in this spiritual song ; namely, that all these blissful intimations from heaven come to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ upon earth, free as the light, " without money and without price!" There is nothing in the highly favoured objects of this bounty to merit those mercies, but there is every thing in them, if demerit would disqualify to keep them back. But the whole is of free, rich, full, sovereign grace. And it appears, as though written with a sun-beam on the cover of the good news itself, that the Almighty Giver of those unspeakable blessings, hath never through the whole of them, had in view what man deserves, but what the Lord can give: not what they have done, or can do, but what sovereign grace can do, and will do, for his own glory, and their happiness. So that wherever this " good news from a far country" comes, and by whomsoever it is heard, if the tidings of salvation it brings be welcome to them, they are welcome to the Lord. Grace begins with the Lord, and it descends to man. If any man feels the need of it, this is a plain proof that the Lord hath created the sense of that need in his heart. For as the Holy Ghost saith upon another occasion, so the same doctrine holds in this, " If we love him, it is because he first loved us," 1 John iv. 19.

Shall I now pause, and ask the reader, whether he hath heard this " good news from a far country ?" and whether it is indeed good news to his soul? The question is easily answered. Hath the reader felt the misery of a lost, ruined, and miserable state by reason of sin ? Hath he tasted of " the wormwood and gall" of the Adam-transgression ? and hath the cry ever issued from his heart, " O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death •?" Rom. vii. 24. To all such, those tidings of good things will be, as life to the dead. Look at the effect of it in others. Figure to yourself a soul deeply depressed by reason of sin, and full of apprehension how to " flee from the wrath to come!" And let it be further figured to the imagination, that " this good news from a far country," was brought to him in an hour of deep soul-despair and wretchedness; and that the Lord who gave this proclamation of mercy, gave with it the heart to receive the mercy and believe in it; and sounded through all the chambers of his conscience, the soul-reviving words, as in the apostle's sermon at Antioch to the sinners there, " unto you is the word of this salvation sent!" Acts xiii. 26. Think with what transports of rejoicing would such an one receive the joyful sound, and on his bended knees bless God " for his unspeakable gift!"

And why not you? The apostle Paul, who was himself a standing miracle of the riches and extensiveness of sovereign grace, hath left it upon everlasting record, that in whatever heart such grace was received it should be effectual. " This is a faithful saying, (said he) and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Surely, if it be worthy of all acceptation, then is it worthy of your acceptation, and of mine. Nay, Paul goes further and saith, that " it was for this cause he obtained mercy, that in me, (said Paul) first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." So then the grace shewn to Paul, was not simply to his own person, but it was that others from his example, might be encouraged to hope under similar circumstances for the like mercy. Well, say you, but what if my circumstances are not similar to the apostle s? He perhaps never sinned as I have! Nay, hear what he himself saith, on that score. " I was before (saith Paul) a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious !" So that Paul stood charged in his own mind, and before God, not only for his own personal sins, but for being instrumental to promote the sins of others: not only a blasphemer of God, but a persecutor of God's people ; not only sinning with an high hand himself, but injurious as far as his influence reached to make others sin also, and become injurious to the cause of God, and the cause of man. Notwithstanding all these things, (said Paul) " I obtained mercy, that in me the Lord might shew forth a pattern to others. It is a faithful saying, therefore, (said he) and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," 1 Tim. i. 15, &c. So that " all acceptation" includes all cases, the most desperate cases, the most apparently hopeless cases ; for our most glorious Christ is suited, divinely suited, to every case, and to every circumstance out of hell. What will any sinner argue more ? No state is exempt. No situation of a trembling, awakened, fearful sinner is precluded. Our most glorious Christ is able " to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him." And what is the uttermost ? Nay, the uttermost hath no boundary, that the horizon of sense, or even the imagination can form. For if there were a limitation, it could not be the uttermost!

But though there are no boundaries to the divine mercy, my paper of a penny tract, as well as my reader's indulgence are both exhausted. I would therefore close all with observing, that the few, (and they are but few) though grand truths, I have brought before the reader, are among the many, though not the thousandth part, of the " good news from a far country." And I shall not have laboured in vain, neither spent my strength for nought, if the few here enumerated shall prompt the reader under the Lord's teaching to regard those, and seek for more among the sacred pages of the scriptures of God. Do, my brother, I beseech you, turn from all the dying and the dead circumstances of time and sense, to the consideration of things of eternity and salvation. And while the world, and men of the world are for ever passing their time in unprofitable inquiries from each other, what news ? let you and I be daily found studying and meditating under the Lord upon this divine science, and this only, "the good news from a far country !"