May 24—Morning Devotion
“Then ceased the work of the house of God.”—Ezra 4:24
Ah, how distressed was Zion, when this decree took place; and yet the history of the church plainly proves that the hand of the Lord was in it. My soul, are thine exercises sometimes similar? Doth it seem to thee, as if the work of God in thee was at a stand? Nay, as if it was totally over? Pause, recollect there is a set time to favour Zion. Thy Jesus is of one mind, and who can turn him? He is everlastingly pursuing the designs of his love. And as Zion was graven upon the palms of his hands, and her walls were continually before him, when she appeared in her most desolate circumstances; so the work of his grace, in the hearts of his people, doth not remit, though, to thy view, all thy promising beginnings seems to be blighted, and, as it seems in thy apprehension, thou findest growing imperfection. And is not Jesus, by this very means, emptying thee of self, and all the pride of self-attainments? Is he not preparing thee for his own glory, by removing in thee the rubbish of all creature confidences? Remember what is said: “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” Mark here, that it is the Lord that is to build Zion: and it is the Lord’s glory, and not thine, that is to result from it. The work of the house of God in thee would indeed cease, if the work was thine, or thou hadst any hand in the performance of it. But the same Almighty hands which laid the foundation of this house, those hands shah also finish it. And by this process, the glorious Builder is teaching thee to cease from thine own works, as Jesus, when redemption work was finished, did from his. Precious Lord, is this the cause, and are these the lessons thou art teaching me, in the deadness, emptiness, and the numberless complaints under which I daily groan? Oh then, for grace to cease from self, to cease from all fancied attainments, and to have my whole heart and soul centered in thee, in whom alone is all righteousness, grace, work, and fulness. Yes, Lord, the work is thine, the salvation is thine, the glory is thine, all is thine; and all that remains for me, is to be for ever giving thee the just praise that is due to thy most holy name, content to be nothing, yea, less than nothing, that the power of Jesus may rest upon me; for when most weak in myself, then am I most strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was an Anglican (High-Calvinist) preacher who served as Vicar of Charles Church, Plymouth. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“The prominent features…in Robert Hawker's testimony…was the Person of Christ….Dr. Hawker delighted to speak of his Lord as "My most glorious Christ.” What anxious heart but finds at times in the perusal of the doctor's writings a measure of relief, a softening, and a mellowing? an almost imperceptible yet secret and constraining power in leading out of self and off from the misery and bondage of the flesh into a contemplation of the Person and preciousness of Christ as "the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely." Christ and Him crucified was emphatically the burden of his song and the keynote of his ministry. He preached his last sermon in Charles Church on March 18th, 1827, and on April 6th he died, after being six years curate and forty-three years vicar of the parish. On the last day of his life he repeated a part of Ephesians 1, from the 6th to the 12th verses, and as he proceeded he enlarged on the verses, but dwelt more fully on these words: "To the praise of His glory Who first trusted in Christ." He paused and asked, "Who first trusted in Christ?" And then made this answer: "It was God the Father Who first trusted in Christ."