A Golden Treasury for the Children of God
By Carl Heinrich von Bogatzky, 1718
[Edited by James Smith in 1856]
Old books, like old friends, are very often special favorites. Having been long known and often proved, they are peculiarly loved; so that many say of a volume that has been long known, and often enjoyed, as David said of Goliath's sword, "There is none like it, give that to me." Bogatzky has been the companion of many of the Lord's people for many long years; it has comforted, cheered, and directed them; so that, though many similar works have been published since, some of which, in some respects, may be even preferable to this yet they cleave to the old volume still. Nor do we find fault with this, seeing they can say of it, as one of Job's friends of his discourse, "Lo, this, we have proved it."
In order, therefore, to meet this taste, an attempt has been made to render the work more profitable still. Some of the portions were very short these have been lengthened, that the different parts of the volume may be more uniform. The present editor's object has been to keep Christ constantly before the eye, and to enforce the precepts of the Divine word on the Lord's people, by the consideration of what Christ is to them, and has done for them, that so the love of Christ may constrain them to every good word, and every good work.
It is hoped that no one will think that any undue liberty has been taken with this work; the author acknowledges that he was assisted by others in its preparation at first, and the present effort is only a brother endeavoring to adapt the work more fully to the present circumstances of the Lord's people; or, in other words, to carry out the author's design.
May the Holy Spirit, who has often blessed this work already, and who alone can render any of our works useful to the Lord's people condescend to accompany it with his own power and sanction, that so the traveler to the heavenly Jerusalem may be directed in his way, quickened in his pace, and cheered in his sorrowful moments. Let us, before entering upon its perusal, and every day as we sit down to read its pages look up and beseech the Lord to make it a special blessing to our souls; so shall we read to profit, and bless God for its preparation.
James Smith, Cheltenham, 1856
"Hosanna!" Mark 11:9
A new scene of time now begins. Present your hosanna, O my soul, that the Lord may save, bless, and prosper you! May He grant you a happy new year, indeed! For this purpose, begin it with a dedication of yourself to God. Your time, circumstances, and life are in His hands; implore His blessing and protection over you, this ensuing year.
Begin this and every following day with prayer. Let God have your first thoughts in the morning; the impression they make will not easily be erased by worldly things. Grace is promised in the use of means be diligent then, and punctual in your attendance upon them. Let your daily request be for an increasing knowledge of yourself, and of Jesus Christ in His offices of prophet priest and king; for a sense of pardoning mercy; for a lively, vigorous faith; for communion with the Father and the Son, through the Spirit; for true holiness in heart and life; for strength and protection against your spiritual foes; and for persevering grace, to hold out to the end.
Pray for the prosperity of spiritual Zion; for your friends and relations, (imploring the Almighty to take them into a covenant relation to Himself); for a blessing on your worldly affairs; for a sanctified use of health or sickness, prosperity or adversity as God shall be pleased to send.
Perhaps, O my soul, this may be the last year of the Lord's patience and your pilgrimage. Is your state safe? Are you a real believer in Jesus? Is the oil of grace in your vessel? If so, you are prepared for every emergency. If not, there is danger! Lose no time, but flee to Jesus flee without delay.
Strive to enter in at the straight gate press through all difficulties! Do not rest until you have the Spirit's witness in your heart, that you are accepted by God. Begin the new year thus, and you shall find at the end of it that you are crowned with loving-kindness and tender mercy.
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?" Hosea 13:14
"And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:15
The world is afraid of a hidden poison where there is none. The real hidden poison is sin which the Lord grants me to fear everywhere; for it has infected all things and all places. Sin is in my nature, and daily appears in my life; I will, therefore, daily look to Jesus, who has said, "Look to Me, and be saved." Jesus alone can deliver me from the guilt, power, and consequences of sin; and it is only by faith in Him, that I can realize and enjoy this deliverance.
Unless I am saved from sin I cannot triumph over death, or look forward to the grave without fear. The sting of death is sin. Faith in Jesus deprives death of its sting and enables the believer to sing in the prospect of death, "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory." I would fear nothing but sin, and trust for deliverance from it to no one but Jesus.
O my Savior, Your being my all-sufficient preservative and antidote in all places, dwell in me continually and increase my faith that I may know You, and enjoy You more and more. Take away all slavish fear of death and Hell from my soul; for You have conquered both for me.
"Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8
Being only clay in Your hands, O Lord as I must not, so I would not, by any means, oppose Your operations. This is my desire, that You would prepare and perfect me for a fit vessel of grace, in spite of a thousand hindrances. No work of Yours ever comes short of its intended perfection; for who can stay Your hand? It is Your own saying, "I work and who will reverse it?" (Isaiah 43:13).
An artist delights in his own workmanship, and would not designedly leave in it a single flaw or defect (Philippians 1:6). Look upon me, wise Creator. See how flesh and blood disorder my poor soul; and deliver me from all that may endanger my spiritual life. Knowing that You can do no less than a human artist, who is ever ready and exerts his skill to mend and perfect his work I trust that You will not always allow these impediments to hinder and disgrace Your work. Nay, such are Your wisdom and power, that out of darkness You can bring light; out of sickness You can bring health. And though I am now destitute of strength and life yet I believe Your work will be finished at last, and glorify the name of its Maker (1 Peter 5:10). Lord, carry it on by Your Spirit's might, and daily conform me more and more to Your image.
"Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD brings back the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad." Psalm 14:7
"If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:36 (See also 31, 32.)
Not that sin is utterly destroyed, or entirely dead, and cannot stir any more in the heart of believers; for the Scripture speaks of them as having still to contend against the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:17). But it is true that pardoned sin has no power either to condemn or to reign over us; nay, it shall be weakened more and more (Romans 6:12, 14). So that Christ reigns even in the heart where sin, though hated, still finds a place. He reigns in the midst of His enemies, encouraging the believer to fight perseveringly beneath His banners, until He become more than conqueror and be presented without fault before the throne of God. I will, therefore, daily seek grace from God to subdue my iniquities, to sanctify my nature, and conform me to the Lord Jesus; that being freed from condemnation and consecrated to His service I may bring forth the fruits of righteousness to His praise and glory. Thus shall I carry out the apostolic exhortation, "Grow in grace."
"All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." 2 Timothy 3:12
"The world has hated them because they are not of the world." John 17:14
The children of God do not love and please the world and are often greatly afflicted on account of abounding wickedness, and particularly the profanation of the Lord's name. When you, therefore, can love the world and the world can love you, there must be much worldliness in you for the world loves its own.
Many pretend to be Christians but they will not endure persecution. Instead of this, they blame others for too much rashness and not acting prudently enough to avoid the mockings and hatred of the world. Therefore, they propose to take wiser measures; and, in order to do more good, take great care not to be despised and rejected. But under this pretense of wisdom and prudence, very often lie concealed a dangerous love of the world and fear of man. Be nobler-minded; live as a Christian indeed, and be not ashamed to bear the cross of Christ. "The disciple is not above his Master." Was it the lot of Him who is eternal love, wisdom, and power to endure the contradiction and reproach of sinners? You would be wiser than He, indeed if you could escape the scorn and hatred of the world. Lord, give me grace, that I may give You glory.
"All things are possible to him who believes." Mark 9:23
Faith is the principal thing in the Christian religion. It is the spiritual eye, enlightening the mind, directing the feet, and cheering the heart the whole turns upon it. As our faith is so are our strength and fruitfulness in good works. At the same time, there is nothing more difficult to be maintained than faith, even after the work of grace has been actually wrought in our hearts. Therefore, nothing is more needful than to pray for faith as long as we live. May the Lord give and increase it continually!
Nothing can be stronger in the universe, than the hand of faith. By this, we lay sure hold on our most glorious and almighty Lord in Heaven. Such an inviolable union is thus established between Christ and a believing soul, that none can separate the one from the other. Faith breaks through the greatest obstacles, removes mountains of difficulties, and possesses, as it were, a kind of omnipotence. "And this is the victory that overcomes the world our faith" (1 John 5:4). Nay, it even wrestles with God and prevails (Genesis 32:28). As straw cannot withstand the force of fire so God, being a wall of fire around His people, the greatest power of our mighty enemies shall be consumed like the stubble!
Look upon Him steadfastly, my soul, and believe in Him with a simple heart. Wondrous are His ways with His people, and past finding out! At last, all their sorrows and strife, by the management of His infinite wisdom, must come to a glorious and triumphant end!
"Christ is all and in all." Colossians 3:11
For a believer to receive and know Christ as his all is the only means to live a true life of faith; when he has done this, it will not be hard to resign all other things. To talk much of Christ and make frequent use of His name one to another, is commendable if the heart goes along with the words. But to call upon God the Father with a filial confidence is also our duty and does not in the least contradict the apostle's meaning; for it is only through Christ that we can do it; and, as He Himself assures us, the Father and He are one.
You are my all, O gracious Lord what then can I lack? I desire no more than to be put always in mind of this, by the animating voice of Your Spirit. To live upon You is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. O Jesus, You are my all, my light, my life, my food, my way, my end! I rejoice in You and glory in Your most holy and ever-blessed name; for it is all I need, all I wish, all I desire. Jesus only, Jesus always, Jesus all shall be my motto!
"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness have not submitted to the righteousness of God ."
"Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." Romans 10:3, 11
The same mistake which proved so fatal to the Jews, proves equally fatal to many who pretend to call themselves Christians. Ignorant alike of the Divine character and their own they build their hope of the favor of God and eternal life upon some works of righteousness which they have done, or intend to do and reject the righteousness of Christ, in which alone they can be justified and accepted. In this mistake, the moral and the immoral are equally involved, for the worst of mankind imagine themselves possessed of some virtues and good qualities that will entitle them to the Divine favor.
The delusion remains until the light of the Holy Spirit darts in, like a sunbeam, upon the mind and reveals the guilt and pollution that defile the best of us. We then abhor ourselves and look to the free grace of God in Christ Jesus for pardon and salvation. Thus we obtain a hope that makes not ashamed and rejoice in anticipation of the glory of God.
Holy Spirit, lead me to Jesus daily that I may receive from Him and use what I receive to His glory.
"I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O LORD! I will keep Your statutes . Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble . I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are before You . I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments." Psalm 119:145, 165, 168, 176
The Word of God should be ever connected with prayer. Why is it that many hear and read the Word without being the better? They do not pray in faith for a blessing. We must, like David, pray with the utmost fervor, that we may understand and retain the Word of God, and bring forth fruit. For a Christian has nothing so much at heart, as that he may always act up to the Word and will of God. His prayer is, "Lord, let my footsteps be sure, according to Your Word; and let nothing contrary to Your law have dominion over me." If this prayer be granted, great will be our peace, for the Word of God is a word of peace. Jesus Himself will be our peace, and then nothing will harm us we shall take heed unto all our ways before God; and so walk before Him as to continue humble, like David, who considered himself as a straying and lost sheep.
Lord, we are, by nature, straying and lost sheep; seek and fetch us back from the error of our ways and preserve us in Your pasture. O bring us to the feet of Jesus, and then keep us there!
"I have waited for Your salvation, O LORD!" Genesis 49:18
Many have received comfort from these words in death and waited in faith for their salvation. The thoughtless and impenitent wait only for temporal prosperity in their lives, and therefore cannot expect eternal bliss but on the contrary, a dreadful judgment after death. O that they would examine themselves this very day; that at the eve of life, they might, like Jacob and Simeon, depart in peace.
We will not, therefore, look for any earthly things, but for the Savior who will grant us His salvation, His aid and deliverance in life and death, and will conduct us safely at last, though we should wait some time for His help.
Yes, my Redeemer, they who wait, depend upon, and hope in You shall not be ashamed. Grant us only faith and patience, that we may wait on You from one morning-watch to another; and enduring all things, make the whole course of our lives one perpetual expectation of Your aid; and may we ever abundantly experience Your help and salvation, especially at our latter end.
O to die, leaning on the bosom of Jesus, enjoying His presence, and triumphing in His name!
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned." John 3:16-18
Oh that these truly precious words were ever warmly impressed on our hearts that they were our last thoughts at night and the first at our waking in the morning; and that they were improved in such a manner as to make our dying-bed easy in the evening of our life, and ensure our rising with gladness in the morning of the resurrection!
What more blessed and delightful meditations can I daily dwell upon than to think thus: God has loved me, even me when I was His enemy and so loved me, that He gave me His only Son! Bless me with faith in Christ then Christ is mine, and all things are mine (1 Corinthians 3:21). For since He has not spared His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all then how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)? He will never allow a believing soul to perish He has passed His word for it. He has told me that I shall not perish; I shall not be condemned, but have everlasting life, if I believe. This will I build and depend upon, to my last moments, as upon an immoveable rock.
Lord Jesus, on You will I rest in life and in death and on You alone!
"In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:14
"Having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Colossians 2:13-14
Have you, O my soul, felt the weight of your own guilt and misery, and been enabled, in reality and truth to lay hold by faith, of the blood of Christ for your redemption? Then you have a sure foundation to build upon; let it be your constant care firmly to depend upon the blessed declarations of the gospel; repair to Christ for everything you need. Has He brought life and immortality to light? Then look unto Him and live. Is there redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins? Then, notwithstanding all your guilt rely cheerfully upon His atonement. Has He blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against you? Then shake off self-righteous dependences and legal fears also. Did He die for your sins? Then let His goodness and love, lead you to sincere repentance. Then let the sense of your sins break your heart and encourage your hope in the gospel. In Jesus is all you need and all that is in Jesus is for you. Bless His holy name!
"Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings." Psalm 17:8
He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler." Psalm 91:4
No one, O Lord, has more need continually to keep close to You in prayer and faith and at the same time no one is more unable to do it than I, the least of all Your flock! O that You would be graciously pleased to incline and enable me to pursue this blessed work!
While I truly rest on Your promise, my faith trusts in Your power and my soul hides under the wings of Your grace I am sure of defense, power, and comfort. But as soon as I wander from You, I am in danger of losing the comfortable sense of these privileges and falling into various errors and perplexities. Therefore keep me by Your power, and sweetly solace me with Your love.
Guide me, O Lord, by Your counsel in this world, and at last receive me into glory! Amen.
"From that time Jesus began to preach and to say: Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" Matthew 4:17
The kingdom of Heaven appertains to those who repent. The first mark of repentance is poverty of spirit; hence Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 5:3). John preached repentance; Jesus preaches it here; and so did His apostles afterward. Thus true repentance is necessary for all.
The beginning of poverty of spirit, is to acknowledge ourselves poor miserable sinners, depraved by nature and totally void of any righteousness and worth of our own; to confess our nakedness; to drop all the fig leaves of vain excuses and false comforts; to lay open our poverty and needs before God; to accuse ourselves and plead guilty of all our sins and at the same time, to seek mercy from Christ. If we do this, we are blessed and the kingdom of Heaven is ours.
This poverty of spirit is both the first and the last foundation laid in the heart, for the faithful are more and more grounded in poverty of spirit, the nearer they approach to their death; and just as they are leaving earth for Heaven they feel themselves to be less than nothing and vanity!
"Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17
If we have not got grace enough it is because we do not pray enough. For most true it is, we need not strive to move God to compassion and extort, as it were, by our prayers, the blessings which He has promised. Very far from it. He is every minute communicating Himself to us; in every word, He holds forth Christ and every good thing to us. But we must always have a soul hungering after Christ, and by incessant prayer stretch out the hand of faith to receive Him. This is chiefly to be understood of the inward desires and groanings of our spirit but we must not omit to pour out our supplications daily, as often as we can, by words; else our secret mental prayers, at last, may become so secret as to cease entirely.
Prayer is the breath of the soul the vital evidence whereby we know of its health and life, and without which it must quickly die. O for grace to pray without ceasing, and thus enjoy incessant communion with God.
"Abide in Me." John 15:4
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life." John 6:68
"It is good for me to draw near to God. I have put my trust in the Lord God." Psalm 73:28
To abide in Christ, who is our righteousness and strength, and not to be moved from Him is the very life and power of Christianity. We are in this happy state, when our thoughts are going out after Him, our hearts cleaving to Him, and our minds staying upon Him. To know Christ, and thus to abide in Him as our righteousness brings peace and joy; this joy in the Lord is certainly followed with strength to overcome sin and the world, which believers renounce the more readily, as they have found something better in Christ.
Satan is violently opposed to this, and therefore tries by all means to allure or drive us away from Christ. Consequently, watchfulness and prayer are daily necessary, lest we should be led away by his wiles.
Simple believers look to Christ for all, go to Christ with all, and depend on Christ through all thus they abide in Jesus, and Jesus abides in them. May the Lord give me grace, likewise, immovably to abide in Him; then shall I conquer sin, overcome the world, and always triumph in Christ.
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Galatians 3:13-14
The Spirit of sanctification is the gift of Christ. Consequently, there is a great difference between moral actions done by our own strength and true sanctification of the Spirit. The latter cannot take place before the soul truly receives Christ and abides in Him as its only atoning sacrifice, righteousness, and peace; for He, being first made to us by God, our righteousness will then be made our sanctification likewise (1 Corinthians 1:30). And the kingdom, work, and image of God will go on best when we trust least to our own strength. The yoke of Christ becomes easy, and His burden light, when He lives and works in us; and we, in a childlike temper, live henceforth to Him who died for us. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, that He may confer on us all the blessings of the gospel, and He confers on us all the blessings of the gospel, to fit us for all the glories of Heaven. O what grace, what love is displayed by Jesus!
"Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 10:4
The law calls for a perfect righteousness which, in ourselves, never will be found; but all its demands were fulfilled by our Surety. Every true believer finds that righteousness in Christ which he stands in need of and is enabled, through the Spirit, to rest upon it for justification. He faithfully endeavors to obey the law as the great rule of his duty both to God and man; yet he is so sensible of his own manifold defects, that he would utterly despair if he could not look up unto Jesus, and say, "You will answer for me, O Lord, my God!"
Well may the apostle exclaim, "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith." I will renounce all righteousness, as the ground of my justification before God but the righteousness of Jesus alone. Yet will I daily walk by the precepts of His holy Word.
"But the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, and she returned into the ark to him, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her, and drew her into the ark to himself." Genesis 8:9
The dove-like spirit communicated to the soul in regeneration, can find no rest for the sole of its foot until it brings us to Jesus, who is the true Ark of the covenant. Many, on their first awakening from sin apply themselves to very hard works and rigorous duties, thereby expecting to find rest for their wounded consciences. But, though the right and diligent use of all the means of grace is absolutely required great care must be taken not to rely on that. We should not place any confidence at all in our own doings but look for rest only through the blood of Christ. To be found in Him, justified and accepted, would soon fill our hearts with peace; nay, prompt, encourage, and enable us to abound in every good work.
My soul, I charge you never to rest, but in Jesus. The world is a wilderness; the church is imperfect; your very duties are mixed with sin; you will, therefore, never find rest such as your immortal nature requires but in Jesus. His blood shed for your sin, His righteousness wrought for your justification, His word given for your comfort, and His prevalent intercession at the Father's right hand will give you rest in every stormy day, and every trying hour. As the dove returned to the ark of Noah so return from all your wanderings to Jesus.
"By this all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another." John 13:35
"Bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace . do not let the sun go down on your anger . And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:2, 3, 26, 32
Humble Christians never affect singularity, nor set up extraordinary claims. They rather study to be of one mind and strive not about words or places of distinction, lest the general harmony existing among them and the edification of souls, should be hindered. Whoever judges and blames everything on others, and can never agree or join in devotion with other experienced Christians is puffed up with self-conceit, and is in the way to make a dangerous shipwreck; for "pride comes before a fall."
Believer, cultivate humility. Take your place at the feet of Jesus, and learn of Him. He sets for you an example of love, patience, forbearance, long-suffering, and readiness to forgive. Remember, if you trust in His finished work for acceptance with God you are bound to copy His example in your dealings with men. If you know these things happy are you if you do them. Practical conformity to the life of Christ is the best proof that we have the Spirit of Christ.
"While the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept." Matthew 25:5
O that I may be roused out of my slumber, and be watchful and ready for the coming of my Bridegroom! How many are there that set out, in good earnest, in their way to Heaven, and run well for some time but at last are lulled to rest and entangled again with a false notion of liberty! Even the wise virgins fell asleep.
Let this be a warning to me, O Lord! Set a guard before my eyes, ears, and other faculties lest the world should again enter through these avenues to the heart. If the spark is not speedily extinguished it will soon break out into a flame; thus sin is of a progressive nature, and its venom spreads quickly and very wide unless it is stopped and opposed in time.
Watch, therefore, over this unsteady heart of mine, O Keeper of Israel, that as soon as it begins to wander from You, I may be alarmed and may flee from sin as from a serpent! Give me grace to look upon every hour as my last, so that, being ever wisely upon my guard I may meet You with joy, when my time is run out, whenever it shall please You to call me hence.
"But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat." Matthew 13:25
No wonder that Christians lose their power and strength if the enemy of souls finds them asleep! How soon may he gain an advantage from without if a strict guard be not kept within! Though Satan seems to sleep sometimes and we should appear to be in no great danger it is only his stratagem to make us careless. He never fails to be vigilant and watch for his opportunity that he may battle us with advantage; and who knows but he may gain the victory by those very sins to which perhaps we, for many years, had hardly any temptation!
How cunningly does Satan work! How enticing is the world! Even in lawful things, very often the most dangerous snares lie hidden. A single word that we hear, may be able to disturb our peace. One unguarded look, is sometimes enough to infatuate our hearts. There is danger on all sides. Unless the Lord opens our eyes and preserves us on all occasions each of us, even the best, may still be overcome and fatally hurt by sin and the world.
Satan is particularly intent upon beguiling the godly; and having caught them in his net he triumphs exceedingly over them. O Lord, allow me never to sink into spiritual slumber again!
"But the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew . Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage . And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them." Exodus 1:12, 2:23, 35
The more we are oppressed by our spiritual and temporal enemies the more will the kingdom of God increase in and through us. And when trouble and dangers oppress us most God hastens to our aid and makes our necessity itself the means of our relief.
What a disastrous period was that during which the children of the Israelites were cast into the river! But God was even preparing for them, in Moses, their deliverer. When Moses came, they were not relieved immediately, for their calamities increased.
This was God's method. They cried the more to God, and He relieved them by signs and wonders. After this, their distress was greater than ever at the Red Sea. (For, after God has shown His glory in assisting us He can still send greater trials.) But, when they were beset on all sides by distress and death then came the most glorious support of all, and their enemies perished in the Red Sea.
Lord, allow us not to despair in any extremity but cause us to believe and feel that the greater our distress, the nearer and more glorious will be Your aid; that man's extremity is Your opportunity; and that at evening time, it shall be light.
"In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins . We love Him because He first loved us . He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him . We will come to him and make Our home with him." 1 John 4:10, 19; John 14:21, 23
What a glorious promise! What kind of love is this! Lord, I would not exchange my cross and sufferings, much less Your love, for the love and honors of the world. Only make it more known to me, how great Your love is and how much You have forgiven me that I may love You much again, and be thereby still better purged from the inordinate love of temporal things. It is my earnest desire that the gates of my heart should be open to none but You, that You alone may dwell in me. Shed Your love abroad in my heart; quicken and renew all the faculties of my mind and body, and work everything in and for me. Keep Your precious, Your infinite love constantly before my mind. May it be my daily meditation, the joy and rejoicing of my heart; and in seasons of sorrow, grief, and sadness may I turn to Your great love for comfort, joy, and peace.
O to be able to say with holy John, "We have known and believed the love that God has for us; God is love," so shall we be able to add, "We love Him because He first loved us." Love in God, begets love in us just in proportion as it is believed and realized by us.
"We make it our aim, whether present or absent to be well pleasing to Him." 2 Corinthians 5:9
This indeed is the disposition of a soul espoused to Christ. She has but one care, which is to please Him in all things. And this desire to do His will is, as it were the ring and seal of her Bridegroom; which she may look upon even in the absence of all spiritual joy as a token for good, that she is His spouse.
Ought not then each day, O my soul, to witness a new recognition of your union to Christ? He is desirous that you should be betrothed unto Him even now, and waits only for your consent. Hearken, O daughter; consider, and incline your ear; be no longer married to the world. Forget your own people and your father's house and take Him alone for your husband; so shall the King greatly desire your beauty.
Will you give the refusal to this glorious and kind Savior? I hope not. Give the refusal rather to the world, and resolutely say, "It is enough; I have done with you, O poor world; my eyes and my feet shall henceforth only be directed to the blessed and eternal city of the new Jerusalem, where my heavenly Bridegroom resides."
And O what need have I to be duly prepared, dressed, and beautified for His coming, and the time of His taking me home to Himself! Lord Jesus, keep me longing for Your appearance!
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16
O that we were all so wise as to prepare and provide ourselves in due time with the right armor of faith before the time of need and hour of death approach!
Come, my reader, let us begin now and go directly to the gate of mercy, lest we should come too late and be undone. Behold the encouragement of Christ: "I am the door and the way" (John 10:9, 14:6). Now by this door, you may find the entrance into the heart and favor of God Christ Himself sitting on the mercy-seat, to receive and welcome the vilest of sinners. And there is no drawing near to God but through Him and clothed in the robes of the righteousness of our only Redeemer, Mediator, and Advocate. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End nay, the very All in All to believers. With Christ they can never part, and He can never part with them. Believing this, let us go to His throne, plead His promises, and expect a full blessing. Jesus loves to see us come to Him, and delights to hear us ask large things of Him.
"God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Romans 5:8-10
Here I have much more reason to cry out than Moses, "He loves the people!" (Deuteronomy 33:3). But here I must beseech You too, O Lord that this infinite gift of Your Son may appear to me greater and greater every day; and that Your love, shining out in His redemption, may go on so to increase in my soul, as to disperse all hard thoughts of Your goodness. Whenever a slanderous spirit tries to lift up his head, grant that my faith and love may be quickened and strengthened in such a manner, as heartily to praise Your great love, in spite of all his suggestions. This is the chief desire which I offer unto You in all my prayers, night and day.
The lack of faith and love, I am sensible, is still my greatest need. My soul is like a large empty vessel; but I pray You to fill it speedily, notwithstanding any opposition that may be made by my unrenewed part. O to be emptied of self and filled with Christ!
"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
To believe in Christ for justification, is but half of the duty of faith. It respects Christ only as He died and suffered for us, as He made atonement for our sins, peace with God, reconciliation for us, and became our righteousness. Unto these ends, He is indeed primarily and principally proposed unto us in the gospel; and with respect unto them, we are exhorted to receive Him and to abide in Him.
But this is not all that is required of us. Christ in the gospel, is proposed unto us as our pattern and example of holiness. And to neglect His being our example, so as not seriously to labor after conformity to Him is a great and destructive evil.
Therefore let us meditate on what He was, what He did, and how in all instances of duties and trials He conducted Himself until a glorious image of His perfect holiness is established in our minds, and all around take knowledge of us, that we have been with Jesus, and that we walk even as He walked.
Jesus, Savior, conform me to Yourself and fill me with Your love!
"The mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations for obedience to the faith." Romans 16:25-26
The obedience of faith here spoken of, is the same thing as believing the report of the gospel (Romans 10:16) a hearty submission to the righteousness of God, even to Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. This is the obedience of faith, strictly speaking by which we give glory to God, take full shame to ourselves, renounce all that nature is proud of, and are brought to rest, for our justification and acceptance with God, on that alone which has satisfied His law and justice.
However slightly we may be disposed to pass over this, it is a high point of obedience. God alone effectually teaches this practical lesson and he who would learn it, must seek it by much prayer continually for in vain shall we strive to obey God in other things, until we learn to obey Him in this.
Careless reader! See to it that you learn your need of Christ.
Awakened and distressed sinner! Seek not to heal yourself by a forced obedience. Learn the obedience of faith, that you may be purged in your conscience from dead works, to serve God.
Self-despairing sinner! Embrace the merciful invitation of the gospel and live.
Believer! Let your fruit be unto holiness; so shall the end be everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
This is a free invitation to every weary and heavy laden sinner, made by Him who alone is able to take away the load and guilt of sin. Every person under the pressure of sin not only may but must, some to Jesus, thus laden with a consciousness of guilt if he hopes to succeed for pardon. While we endeavor to prepare our way by self-created claims we rather fill it with stumbling-blocks, whereby our souls are hindered from attaining to the salvation of Christ.
Christ would have us to believe on Him who justifies the ungodly; He came as a Physician for the sick and does not expect that they should recover their health in the least degree before they come to Him. The cure is entirely His own; and thus He shows forth the exceeding riches of His grace, pardoning our sins and saving us freely (Ephesians 2:5, 9).
It is no affront to Christ, no contempt of the justice and holiness of God to come to God while we are consciously unworthy of His favor. But rather, it is an affront to the saving grace, merit, and fullness of Jesus if we endeavor to make ourselves righteous and holy before we receive Christ Himself, and all holiness and righteousness in Him by faith.
Reader, all you need is in Christ! Come to Him at His bidding; receive and enjoy repose.
"The kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." Matthew 13:45-46
Blessed are they to whom the gospel has made known the unsearchable riches of Christ. He is that one pearl of great price in comparison of which all other goodly things that men desire are worthless. Without Him we are poor and miserable though we abound in all manner of worldly treasure. But if we have found Him and discovered the excellency of His name we are in possession of a treasure that makes us rich indeed, and have reason to be content with our portion, though stripped of every earthly comfort. For the Father gives grace and glory, even eternal life, in His Son Jesus Christ; and he who has the Son of God, has life.
O my soul! You, like the merchantman, have been seeking goodly pearls and eagerly looking here and there for happiness, all your days. Have you at length been enlightened to perceive where true joys are to be found? Then will you be willing to sell all, in order to win Christ and be found in Him? If there is anything that you are unwilling to part with for His sake you know not His value; you are not worthy of Him. Renounce all heartily, at once, and forever and so receive Christ, that priceless pearl, as your own, and you are made rich forever.
"God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6
Without this saving knowledge we have no God, no Christ, no grace, no faith, no union with Christ, no actual justification, no pardon of sin, no peace, nor eternal life. But whoever has found Christ, the Pearl of great price, the hidden Treasure has found matter of great rejoicing! For he was poor before and this Treasure enriches him. He was naked before but finding this treasure, he is gloriously clothed. He was forced before to feed upon husks but now he feeds upon the bread of life. He was far in debt before but now he sees that the debt is paid, that he is justified from all things and pardoned forever. He was a child of wrath before but now he is a child of God. He was a captive and in chains before but now he is set at liberty. He was condemned before but now there is no condemnation to him, nor to anyone that is in Christ Jesus. He was a fool before but now he is made wise to salvation.
Reader! Can you set your seal to the truth and power of such experience? Then you are wise indeed if not, you have much to learn. Apply with speed and remember that it is God alone who gives this light and knowledge. Ask of Him, plead with Him and He will give it, making you wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus.
"This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ . God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." 1 John 3:23, 4:9
The Father breaks forth, as it were, through the whole Scripture in praises of His Son. He calls out from Heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" (Matthew 17:5). Nothing, therefore, can be more agreeable to Him than for us to receive this His Son, and to believe His report (John 16:27). On doing this we shall have life; but by omitting it we treat Him as a liar. Unbelief, therefore, which refuses to accept of this great gift is, no doubt, the greatest of all sins. O Lord, teach me this and grant me faith.
Why are you so backward, O my soul to believe, like the rest of God's children, in Christ? Have you not as good a right to Him as they have? Who can dispute with you this privilege? It is the express will of the Father nay, He even commands you to believe. Has He given His only Son, by an act of inconceivable love, to die for you, to the very end that you should live? O what a pleasing thing will it be to Him, to put your whole trust upon this His well-beloved Son! This would be the joy of His heart, more than anything else. Therefore delay no longer to receive what His love has offered you, in His beloved Son.
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" Revelation 5:12
O Lord, what low and slight notions I have of Your great power! By these I am discouraged and You are robbed of Your praise. Grant, therefore, that, though I would always be duly abased, and convinced of my vileness in such a manner as never to ascribe any good to myself or think myself worthy of the least thing (for at the best I am but an unprofitable servant). Yet Your grace and power may at the same time appear to me abundantly greater than all my sins, so that I may have always encouragement enough to believe in and praise Your holy name.
Holy Spirit, glorify Jesus in me, and before me that I may see His worth, trust His blood, taste His love, and be made happy in Him. Then, O then, shall I unite with all the saints on earth and all the hosts of Heaven in ascribing power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing to His dear, dear name. O for high and exalted thoughts of Jesus that my heart may glow with love to Him!
"My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips." Psalm 63:5
"Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come!" Revelation 19:6-7
Whatever does not tend to Your glory, O Lord, and is not Your own work (whatever appearance it may have) is not really good and profitable. Preserve and assist me, therefore, to do all things as for You, in Your sight, and to Your honor. May my soul be ever magnifying Your name, O my dear Redeemer and Bridegroom and may my whole conversation be directed to Your praise. Grant that my heart and mouth may be ever full of Your great mercies, and overflow continually with thanksgiving.
My soul, I charge you to seek satisfaction in Jesus, and in Jesus alone. Then, when satisfied with His love you will praise Him with joyful lips. Never forget that Jesus, your Jesus is the Lord God Omnipotent, and that He reigns over all; and reigning over all, will secure your welfare. Soon, very soon, will He come to take you to Himself and present you to His Father, as His beloved, blood-bought bride! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!
"Do not forsake the works of Your hands." Psalm 138:8
"He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6
The right way to grow in grace is to give up yourself wholly to your heavenly Father, who knows all your needs and has engaged to supply them. Then labor diligently to walk with Christ and carefully nourish the new life which, be it ever so weak and little now will increase and gradually grow. May the Lord only give us grace to watch against the opposite extreme, so as never to be lulled into a false rest or a lukewarm spirit but to be ever diligently and seriously employed in crucifying the flesh and using all the means of grace. Then we need not to be troubled as though there was danger lest the work of God should not continue and advance within us.
But this can only be done by living on Jesus, cleaving to Jesus, and growing up into Jesus. As we live upon Christ we live above self, sin, and the world, and so grow like Him. My soul, fix your eye and your heart on Jesus every day, and all the day, so will you grow in grace and become like Jesus.
"The form of this world is passing away." 1 Corinthians 7:31
As long as we feed on the husks of the world and are in love with it we are not able to taste the comforts of the love of God. But when sin and the world have become an abomination to us, and we desire to be rid of them and seek diligently Jesus Christ we are then in a right way to receive the love of God and every blessing of salvation. And though we are chastened by the Lord yet He is not angry with us but does it to embitter sin and the world more and more to us and to make us loathe them, that we may not be condemned with the world.
My soul, forget not that you are in an enemy's country, and that all around you is false however fair it appears. Jesus and Jesus alone, is your satisfying portion, and His glorious example is your model. Conformity to Him should be your aim for just in proportion as you are conformed to Him, you are holy, useful, and happy. Spirit of God, deliver me from the spirit of the world and conform me to Jesus! I would resemble Him in all things and so glorify His rich, free, and sovereign grace!
Let worldly minds, the world pursue;
It has no charms for me;
Once I admired its trifles too;
But grace has set me free!
"Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever! Amen." Matthew 6:13
"And cast their crowns before the throne, saying: You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power!" Revelation 4:10-11
One that is really poor in spirit, though he has practiced the duties of the Christian life ever so long and ever so diligently always thinks himself to have received but a very little portion of Christ, and the work of sanctification hardly to be begun in his soul. So far is he from believing that he has already attained it, that after all his best actions, he counts himself not worthy to be called by the name of a grateful son; he is never pleased with himself. No degree of holiness will satisfy his soul.
He seeks and finds no rest or comfort but in the infinite mercy of God, and in the pardon of his sins by faith. At the same time, he does not divide Christ but he receives Him in all His offices and gives himself entirely up to Him without reserve, as his Prophet, Priest, and King resigning himself entirely into His hands, to be more and more sanctified and perfected. In this state, he is safe indeed he is prepared for death and has no reason to be anxiously afraid, though earnestly desirous of higher degrees of sanctification. Christ is his life; God is his Father; the Holy Spirit is his Guide; Heaven is his everlasting home; and his daily language should be, "I will trust, and not be afraid."
"He has made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things and secure. For this is all my salvation and all my desire." 2 Samuel 23:5
"I have made a covenant with My chosen." Psalm 89:3
This was David's plea and confidence when, with eternity fully before him, he was just going to make his appearance before an infinitely pure God. This must be our plea also, if ever we would obtain the approbation of our Judge. After a life of the most eminent holiness, the best of men will have reason to cry out, "Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, O Lord!"
It is true, indeed, the believer will discover some evidences of grace, evincing his filial relation to God but all so imperfect that he dares not ground his expectations on them. Here the covenant of grace steps in to his relief, wherein he sees ample provision made for the security of his eternal interest. For the covenant is made with Christ and His seed. It is an everlasting covenant, not only made before time but extending its beneficial effects through the ages of eternity.
It is ordered "in all things" therefore nothing can be lacking in it, either to promote the glory of God or the salvation of believers.
It is also "sure," depending on no conditions, requiring nothing but what it gives, conferring its blessings freely, and making them sure to all the seed, being established upon better promises. Happy souls, who are interested in this well-ordered covenant! May it be all my salvation, and all my desire.
"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17
When God designed the great and glorious work of recovering fallen man and the saving of sinners, "to the praise of the glory of His grace" He appointed, in His infinite wisdom, two great means thereof. The one was the giving of his Son for them, and the other was, the giving of his Spirit to them. Hereby way was made for the manifestations of the glory of the whole blessed Trinity.
Hereby were made gloriously conspicuous the love, grace, and wisdom of the Father in the design and contrivance of the whole; the love, grace, and condescension of the Son in the execution, purchase, and procurement of grace and salvation for sinners; with the love, grace, and power of the Holy Spirit in the effectual application of all unto the souls of men. To these heads, all the promises of God may be reduced!
Happy for the Church, that the Spirit is to abide with it forever! Awful to think that the unconverted world receives not the Spirit!
"Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." 2 Corinthians 7:10
There is a sorrow that is called godly, because it is produced in us by the Spirit of God revealing the evil of sin and the plague and corruption of our own hearts, and deeply humbling us under a sense of sin producing evangelical repentance and leading the soul to cry to the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and salvation; the Holy Spirit, at the same time, enabling us to believe in Him and to rest upon His person, blood, and righteousness, for redemption and salvation. This repentance will never be repented of.
But sorrow arising from the love of this world works death death eternal.
Lord Jesus, grant me to feel more of this godly sorrow for sin and to rejoice more in You as my Savior.
Reader, would you realize this godly sorrow for sin? Go to Gethsemane and Calvary exercise your thoughts on a bleeding, dying Savior, and pray the Holy Spirit to sprinkle His precious blood on your conscience. This will break your heart, cause your tears to flow, and set your whole soul against sin forever.
"Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous." Psalm 112:4
"Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry." Hebrews 10:35-37
This shows that believers are subject to many changes of joy and sorrow. In a state of gladness, therefore we have reason to fear; and in the hours of trouble and sadness we have reason to entertain good hopes. Thus we shall be able to keep the happy medium between the extremes of levity and despair.
Before a man has a true sense of his own miseries, the complaints and infirmities of the saints are often a stumbling-block; but afterwards they will administer to him great comfort. This is the reason that God has revealed them in Scripture; for the complaints of His children give more comfort than all their most heroic actions.
My soul, beware of presumption; yield not to fear but exercise steady confidence in God believing in the dullest night that light is sown for you and will soon spring up before you. Your Jesus is your light now and soon will He appear as your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.
"I find then a law, that evil is present with me." Romans 7:21
O my soul, you are always striving yet sin is always stirring. You fear the truth of grace because you find the working of sin; but it will be always thus. You cannot come out of Egypt but Amalek will lay wait in the way. He, therefore, who sits down and is at rest in sin proves that he is under the dominion of Satan, who thus keeps his kingdom in peace.
But where there is any work of Christ, there will be always war with sin. Sin was the source of death and death will be the tomb of sin.
God would have my soul humbled; therefore, though He has broken my prison yet He has left the chain upon my feet.
God would have my graces exercised; therefore, though He has translated me into the kingdom of life yet He has left the Canaanite in the land.
God would have my faith manifested and invigorated; therefore Goliath still shows himself in the field, that so I might go out to him "in the name of the Lord." I will betake me to the strength of Christ; and though I cannot help the rebelling power of sin yet through grace, I will labor to prevent the ruling power of it.
"God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them . For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21
It highly concerns believers who desire to keep a constant peace in their bosoms to be ever sensible of their spiritual poverty and to feed and rest wholly on the all-sufficient atonement and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Disquiet of mind and spiritual slothfulness, often proceed from self-righteousness and not looking to Christ for everything but trusting secretly to something in ourselves. Salvation and all the means of obtaining it, are to be sought for in Christ. None other can supply our needs or furnish to the believer that which he needs.
To Him, therefore, let us apply, and in Him let us confide; thus shall we become spiritual and happy, and thus will He receive from us the tribute which He deserves from all His Church.
Lord, help me to believe that You will not impute my trespasses to me, because You have imputed them to Jesus and punished them in His body on the tree. O, Jesus, I would daily, yes hourly, look to You as made sin for me that I may be made the righteousness of God in You!
My Savior's pierced side
Poured out a double flood;
By water we are purified,
And pardoned by the blood.
There, on the cursed tree,
In dying pangs He lies,
Fulfills His Father's great decree
And all our need supplies.
"I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in Heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:23-26 [See also Psalm 16:8-11.]
Babes in religion long not only for Christ but for sensible communion with Him; and very often are they indulged with it, that they may be weaned from the world. But those of fuller age, who have their senses more exercised, are thankful that they can trust Him, when they do not see Him and can follow Him, when they feel no comfort, relying more on the word and covenant of God than on those sensations which, though ever precious and desirable, are often withdrawn.
Lord, give me grace to trust You in the dark to rest on Your promise, believing that You are always present, though unseen. I would not live on frames and feelings but on Jesus; nor imagine that my God changes, because I do. I am always with You as Your child, needing Your watchful care; and You are always with me as my Father, sympathizing with and caring for me.
"There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved." Psalm 46:4-5
"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." 1 John 4:4 [See also Psalm 110:2, Zechariah 2:5.]
True Christians, in a right spirit, are still subject to temptations from within and without; but watching unto prayer, they do not fall by them. On the contrary, as trials and temptations are great helps to reveal their hidden infirmities and stir them up to be more cautious, serious, and faithful they are followed and rewarded with great and glorious victories.
Temptations are not indeed joyous in themselves but are attended with good fruit and blessed effects in the faithful. Hence James bids us count it all joy when we fall into divers trials and temptations. What reason have those to be afraid of trials and temptations who find that every one carries a new blessing along with it? Yet we must never yield to temptation when it comes in the form of solicitation to sin. For if we do, we grieve the Spirit, dishonor our Heavenly Father, and Jesus is wounded again in the house of His friends. Such temptations are not from God but Satan, and are to be zealously resisted in promised strength.
"Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey it in its lusts." Romans 6:12
"Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7
O my soul, how awful is your state by nature and practice! Sin has gained a dominion over you; its influence is universal over soul and body, and over every son and daughter of Adam. Sin has brought death on the body and subjected the soul to everlasting misery; its authority is unjust, and its power is cruel and destructive.
Lord Jesus, let me adore Your effectual grace, that it has in any measure delivered me from its power; and assist my poor heart in opposing and rejecting every temptation to obey it in the lusts thereof. Let Your precious blood effectually secure me from the guilt of sin in this life, and the punishment of it in eternity.
O my soul, if you are a faithful follower of Jesus, though Satan received a deadly wound when Christ was crucified for you yet his malice is still the same. You have a thousand enemies and the devil is the leader of them all. O may I, with the deepest humility, look to Jesus, rest upon Jesus, and derive daily strength from Him to resist the devil; and finally to come off conqueror, and more than conqueror, through Him who loved me. May I daily realize that I am not under the law but under grace; for then sin will not, cannot, have dominion over me.
"We have known Christ according to the flesh yet now we know Him thus no longer." 2 Corinthians 5:16
What is it to know Christ after the flesh? It is to content ourselves with mere intellectual views of His person, character, and kingdom. This was the awe with all those who followed Him, not on account of His teachings and doctrines but for the loaves and fishes. Alas! Are there not too many who wish to know Christ for carnal, worldly interest and not that they may be saved from a proud, rebellious heart and an ungodly life?
O my soul, let me see to it, that my seeking after Christ may not be carnal but spiritual. Worldly interest is too apt, it may be feared, to influence both private professors and even public preachers. True believers can say that henceforth this carnal knowledge of Christ is not then pursuit. Where the Spirit of Jesus regenerates the heart and we are brought to a spiritual and experimental knowledge of Christ, we shall love Him, rejoice in Him, and humbly submit to His will in all things. Blessed Savior, grant that this may be more and more my experience, until I shall know You, in all Your holiness and glory, forever and ever.
"The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me." Psalm 116:6
He who walks in godly simplicity and humility, accounting his own infirmities always the greatest, will best be preserved from being puffed up and sifted by the enemy of souls. And surely nothing should humble us more than justification by free grace. The more we consider and carefully cherish that, the more this simple, child-like, quiet temper will increase; for since there is nothing in ourselves which can be depended upon but all must be freely received from Christ, this, at the same tune cutting off all vain boasting, settles our peace in Christ, who is our All, and is firm enough to be rested upon.
It is only from You, O my Savior, that I can learn true simplicity. Teach me, therefore, to turn my eyes not upon others but upon myself; humble me to the uttermost and fashion me after Your own mind, that I may be careful to avoid everything that is contrary to love. Keep me, O my Light, from all self-dependence and self-conceit; bridle my carnal reason and pull down all vain imaginations. Grant that my eye may be fixed only on that one thing needful, which lasts eternally; and that, in all my words, deeds, and gestures, I may always exemplify the simplicity, innocence, fidelity, and love of a little child (Matthew 18:3).
Oh, from the world's vile slavery,
Almighty Savior, set me free!
And as my treasure is above.
Be there my thoughts, be there my love.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23:3
"I have come that they may have live, and that they may have it more abundantly . I give them eternal live, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." John 10:10, 28
Is the Lord Jesus your Shepherd? Has He called you out of the wilderness; called your heart from the love of sin and the world and brought you into His fold and pastures, causing you cheerfully to attend on His ordinances? And does He feed and refresh your soul with His word? Can you distinguish the Shepherd's voice from the voice of a hireling? And does your heart cleave to the Shepherd in faith and love, adoring His person and approving His laws, as well as admiring His doctrines? Then fear not; the Lord is with you; Jesus is your Shepherd; you shall lack nothing that is really good. Follow your Shepherd until He brings you to glory. Jesus, the faithful, careful Shepherd, never lost one of His sheep yet, and He never will. Keep close to Him, and you are not only safe but happy; He will not only keep you but feed you with His own sweet words and gracious communications. He loves to see His sheep lying at His feet, feeding on His word, and enjoying His presence.
"The everlasting gospel." Revelation 14:6
The gospel is properly called "glad tidings" for these reasons: *We are polluted with the filth of sin; in it is a fountain opened for sin and impurity. *The way to Heaven is blocked up by our sins; it reveals "a new and living way through the flesh of Christ." *We are imprisoned debtors, in consequence of multiplied transgressions; it shows that a price, the most inestimable, has been paid to discharge us. *We have by nature hard and impenitent hearts; in it is promised a heart of flesh. *We can of ourselves do nothing; it shows that through Christ we can do all things. *We feel that we are liable to err and backslide; it declares that God will scourge us until we return to Him but not take His loving-kindness from us. *We know that we are liable to many calamities; it teaches us that they shall all work together for our good. *We see that we are dying creatures; by it we are assured that we have a Forerunner in Heaven and an eternal habitation with God in glory. Lord, send abroad men to publish this gospel, and accompany it with the power of Your own blessed Spirit, that multitudes may be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
"They profess to know God but in works they deny Him." Titus 1:16
There is a profession of a special kind, which, in its own nature, is exposed to reproach in the world: "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." There is a being in Christ and not living godly; for there are branches in the vine by profession, which bring forth no fruit men who have not in them the mind which was in Christ Jesus that mind which is sure to awaken the opposition of a carnal world. But they that will live godly, that is, engage in a profession which shall, on all occasions and in all instances, manifest the power of it they shall suffer persecution. We see many every day keep up a profession but such a profession as will not provoke the world. Now this is to be ashamed of the Author of it. No man can put Jesus Christ to greater shame than by professing the gospel without showing the power of it (Philippians 3:18, Titus 1:16). There can be no more vile and sordid hypocrisy than for any to pretend unto inward, habitual sanctification, while their lives are barren in the fruits of righteousness and obedience. Reader! Of all dangers in profession, beware of a customary, traditional, or doctrinal owning of gospel truths, without an experimental acquaintance with the reality and efficacy of them; lest, after all your hopes and pretensions, you should have your portion where are "weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth."
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." Genesis 3:15
By the "Seed of the woman" is to be understood Christ the Savior, not excluding His friends and followers in every age of the world. This prediction of a Savior signified to our first parent these four things: 1. That the promised Savior was to be born of a virgin. 2. That He was to be a man: "You shall bruise His heel." 3. That He would break the head of the serpent, or destroy his power and dominion over mankind, and punish him and all his votaries with an utter destruction. And 4. That in order to our Savior's doing so, He must have His own heel, or human nature, that lowest part of His mediatory person, bruised by the serpent, or persecuted and put to death by the devil and his emissaries. This was the first intimation of a Savior that was made to the world. It was made to the serpent, for his immediate confusion; made in the sight of Heaven, that the purposes of mercy and the glory of the Godhead might appear complete; made in the presence of our first parents and before their sentence was pronounced, to inspire them with the hopes of pardon and life and with a sense of the distinguishing mercy of God, who, before He denounced so much as any temporal punishment, animated them with the hopes of eternal redemption.
"May the LORD do what is good in His sight." 2 Samuel 10:12
A Christian has still to complain of sin in his heart. If it be asked, "How can Christ and sin dwell together in one heart?" the answer is, "As a king and rebels in one kingdom or town." He does not agree or correspond with them but subdues them, and inspires the heart with an assurance of complete triumph. But where self-will has the dominion, there is nothing but trouble and confusion; for unsanctified passions and a bad conscience not only are inward torments but often occasion perplexity and damage in our worldly affairs; whereas when Christ occupies the throne and impresses a sense of pardoning love, we have a good conscience, abundance of peace, and can be content in the most trying outward circumstances.
Take great heed, therefore, O Christian, never to be led by your own spirit, even in such things as seem to bring glory to God, if they are not of His appointment. Our hearts are sometimes very deceitfully desirous of what pleases ourselves, while we pretend to seek God's glory; and, were we not crossed in these our designs, they would prove a great burden to our life. Blessed is he who not only prays with his lips but is heartily willing, also, that nothing but the will of the Lord should be done in everything. It is God alone who understands what may be good or dangerous to our spiritual or temporal circumstances. We are too much inclined to choose at random what would be most detrimental.
"He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, and shall not despise their prayer." Psalm 102:17
"They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed." Psalm 34:5 [See also Matthew 15:21-28, Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8, Matthew 8:24-27.]
The load of outward and inward affliction is not always removed soon after the utterance of supplication, however sincere. Sometimes it is requisite, after much importunity, to wait from day to day, and even to endure additional distress; how else could faith and patience be exercised? If, therefore, the trial be sharp and lasting, it is not to weaken our faith but to stir us up to be more diligent and earnest in prayer and the right use of the Word of God; and thus to be so much more strengthened in faith; for whatever God sends upon us, it is not for the lessening but for the increase of our faith and for the confirming our trust in Him who, while He remembers that we are dust, makes perfect His strength in our weakness. Bear in mind, then, that delays are not denials. The Lord may make you wait but He will not let you lack. His word is true, and His faithfulness will be illustrated and confirmed in His dealings with you. Trust in Him, therefore, and be not afraid. The Lord will appear.
"I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made." Isaiah 57:15-16
To insist too much upon the sensible joy of faith might make weak Christians weaker still. Many a sincere Christian's heart is like a vessel with a narrow opening, which can receive heavenly comfort only by little drops. But do you feel yourself quite naked and void of all good? Christ will surely cover you with the robe of righteousness. Go entirely out of yourself; look only on Him for everything; and whatever gifts of joy, peace, and holiness may be given you, be very thankful for them; yet rest not in them but in Christ alone. This will make you confident and will surely keep your heart at rest. The love of God is not to be estimated by your comforts but by His promises, the gift of His Son, and the glorious Heaven He has prepared for you. He will give you happiness enough by and by; and until then, as your day, so will your strength be. Jesus says to His poorest, weakest, most imperfect child, "My grace is sufficient for you."
"LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong; You hid Your face, and I was troubled." Psalm 30:7
See, my soul, in this verse, a picture of your own experience; surely your case resembles David's. When I look up to Heaven, how often do I see the sun both shine and set! When I look down into myself, how often do I see my comforts rise and fall! 0ne while, I am upon Mount Tabor and have a glance of Heaven; another while, I lie in the valley of Bochim, weeping because I have lost sight of my heavenly country. Joshua's long day is many times turned into Paul's sad night. When God would quicken my affections, He gives me a glance of Heaven, that so I may love what I see; when I begin to bless myself and rest in my happy privileges, He draws a veil over the bright vision, that I may rest in nothing but Himself, nor loathe what I have so much reason to love. He allows my happiness here to be imperfect, that I may be pressing on to that place where I shall be perfectly happy for- ever. Lord, when You show Yourself, let me love You; when my mountain stands strong, let me praise You; when You withdraw Yourself, let me follow You; when Your countenance is hid, let me still believe that You love me. Under all my changes here, let my soul be always breathing, panting, longing, and reaching after You, until I shall so perfectly enjoy You, that I may never lose You more. And let me rejoice that amidst all my changes, Jesus is the same, and rest in His love to me. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
"Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail." Luke 22:31-32
"Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground." Amos 9:9
"I also will keep you from the hour of trial." Revelation 3:10
Sometimes we may imagine ourselves to be divinely convinced of the will of God, both by seeming outward providences and inward persuasions of faith; meanwhile, Satan may be employing all his efforts to sift us. But let us be of good courage; the Lord will disappoint him at last, and order all things for the good of His people. May the Lord make us watchful against our own spirit and against the evil one, especially when he is transformed into an angel of light, that it may not be in his power to sift us so as to gain an advantage over us by our listening to his inward suggestions or yielding to his subtle temptations.
Reader, Satan is always upon the lookout to do you an injury; watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. Look to Jesus to keep you. Cry to Jesus whenever the enemy assaults you. Cry to the strong for strength, to the wise for wisdom, and to the Savior for deliverance. Jesus is your keeper, and He who keeps you will not slumber. Let your daily prayer be, "Hold me up, and I shall be safe."
Do not let your adornment be merely outward arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4
"In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Isaiah 30:15
A Christian's best accouterments and festival attire are called "the new man, tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, and above all, love" (Colossians 3:10, 12, 14). These are our true ornaments, and we should seek to be dressed in them. Reader! Which do you adorn most body or soul? O meek and quiet Lamb of God, justly I blush before You when I consider my impatience and resentful feelings. I humbly beseech You to forgive me these my transgressions and to soften me down into a better temper. Deliver me from peevish and wrathful propensities and grant that in all inward and outward troubles, I may prove that the same mind is in me, which was in You. Make me daily more and more like a lamb, that on all occasions, grievous or joyful, I may be duly composed and show that excellent heavenly ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, not in many words but in reality and power. Lord, teach me so to dress, so to speak, and so to act, that I may adorn the doctrine of God my Savior in all things.
(LEAP YEAR) FEBRUARY 29
"Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground? But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'" Luke 13:7
You fruitless fig tree, you barren professor, do you hear this and not tremble? God is come seeking fruit; will your bare profession, your knowledge of the principles of religion, satisfy the great God? Will the notions of truth in your head, your talking and disputing, your commending or censuring sermons and preachers, serve your turn? And will you thus endeavor to ward off the heart-searching God? Know you, God is come to seek for fruit, and for good fruit from you: not the fruit of good words only but the fruit of good works; fruit short of this God will not regard. If your conscience is awakened, look to your merciful High Priest; consider well His intercession for such a barren soul as you are; "Lord, let it alone; Father, let this man live one year longer; O turn away from this Your anger! I will yet see what may be done; I will take other methods; I will try what corrections may do; perhaps the rod may work more upon him than My word has hitherto done; I will also stir up My servants to a more sharp and searching manner; and if these new efforts be blessed to him, all shall yet be well Your grace magnified, and his soul saved; if not, then You shall cut him down." Lord, is there any reason to conclude that I am this barren fig tree? O search me and see; and if so, deposit Your grace in my heart, that I may bring forth fruit to Your glory.
"I live by faith in the Son of God." Galatians 2:20
In spiritual things we are too often living upon self; we seek in frames, forms, creatures, and animal life, that inward peace and that stability of mind which are to be found only in the Redeemer. Outward duties are well in their places; they are to be performed but not to be trusted in; they are as the scaffold to the building a means for carrying on the work but not the work itself. When favored with the gracious presence of our Lord, they are blessings; without it they are nothing. The whole dependence must be on Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; without Him, prayers, praises, rites, and ordinances are carcasses without a soul. This is the case with every external service apart from a humble dependence on the Holy Spirit, who alone imparts comfort, a firm and lively faith, and a delightful view of that which is behind the veil of outward ordinances (such as no carnal eye can behold), a purely spiritual discovery of the Lord in His goodness, beauty, grandeur, and glory! Faith, or confidence in Jesus, brings peace to the conscience, solace to the spirit, and joy to the heart. It brings in constant supplies from Jesus and devotes the heart, the life, and all to Jesus.
"Broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:13-14
This sounds harsh in the ears of the old man, who would not have the law made use of in these gospel times, either to the converted or unconverted; and yet to the old man the law, and not the gospel, more especially belongs. Paul, the great preacher of the gospel, made use of the law to rouse unconverted Felix from his security (Acts 24:25), and to warn the converted Romans from falling into it again (Romans 8:13).
Which way do you walk? Examine yourself. Is it in the narrow way? Are you quite sure of it? Venture not to go any farther at random. It is a matter of great consequence; if you will be safe, try better for it; you may easily be deceived. Alas! You are surely in the broad way to destruction, if you still love and are conformed to the world. Are you but indifferent with regard to the things of God, relishing more the vanities, pleasures, companies, treasures, and honors of this world? You are not in the good narrow way that leads unto life. O consider this well and stop short before it is too late, and you drop into the bottomless pit of perdition. In Christ, you are safe; but without union to Jesus, religion is but a name.
"Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the LORD continually. And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim." Exodus 28:29-30
Now am I, says the believer, forever in gracious remembrance with God, since my great High Priest, Christ Jesus, bears my name continually before Him on His heart. Whenever I am troubled about my sins, His powerful mediation will surely obtain mercy for all my transgressions and supply my needs abundantly. God not denying Him anything, I can through Him continually be heard and obtain grace; for He makes perpetual intercession for me in Heaven, by which all my prayers are sanctified and presented to the Father, who hears Him always. Who would not rest his hope in such an Intercessor? Who would not employ such an Advocate in every time of need? O Jesus, give me faith to believe that my name is on Your heart, that my interest is in Your hands, and that You will carry my cause before Your Father! Help me to leave myself and all my concerns, wholly and forever with You, seeing the Father hears You always.
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself." Luke 9:23
This being done, all the rest will be easy. If we know that we are nothing, are unworthy of everything, and have nothing of our own, we can lose nothing. We have no property, since we are stewards of the Lord. We have no honor or shame of our own, after the manner of the world; this being our only honor, if God be glorified, and our only shame, if He be dishonored by us. The glory of God we must have at heart, and in His cause be like lions but in our own cause like lambs. Therefore, when we are crossed by things which do not concern the glory of God and the real good of our neighbor but our own interest, and are unwilling to suffer anything, we shall be involved in greater troubles; but, denying ourselves, we shall lose much needless and carnal vexation, and, instead of this, receive Christ, with all His spiritual and temporal blessings, as far as we want them, which alone can make us cheerful and happy. But whoever desires to please the world (seeking himself and his own glory), cannot be a follower of Christ. And how will it be with him in the hour of death and judgment? By this everyone, learned or unlearned, may try himself whom does he please? God, or the world? Who is sovereign of the heart Christ or Satan? What is the aim of the life holiness or self-indulgence?
"To you who believe, He is precious." 1 Peter 2:7
Reader, put these few following questions to your own heart, as in the presence of God; if you can answer them affirmatively, doubt not your real interest in Him and in His great salvation. Is the Lord Jesus Christ precious to me, as He is to all that believe? 0nce He was to me without form or loveliness, and I saw no beauty in Him; is He now to me the chief of ten thousands, yes, altogether lovely? Do I behold an infinite amiableness and glory in His person, a transcendent excellency in His righteousness, an inexhaustible fullness in His grace, and a Heaven of happiness in His love? Do I esteem Him above every name, love Him above every creature and thing, and value an interest in Him before ten thousand worlds? Is the language of my soul, "None but Christ," "Whom have I in Heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You"? Is all that men admire in the world esteemed by me as nothing, when compared with the unsearchable riches of my Redeemer's grace? Do I wish nothing so ardently, seek nothing so diligently, and rejoice in nothing so greatly, as to win Christ and be found in Him? Be this my portion! I want, I wish, I ask no more!
"The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace; her clothing is woven with gold . Listen, O daughter, Consider and incline your ear; Forget your own people also, and your father's house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him." Psalm 45:13, 10-11
Observe, O my soul, though your celestial Bridegroom finds not in you any merit, worthiness, or beauty, He will wash you Himself with His blood; He will adorn you and make you truly amiable to Himself and to His Father. O sweet and eternal truth! "He has loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood." Being clothed with His righteousness, we have more than angelical beauty. If we have received the Spirit of adoption, let us cleave to Christ alone and love Him above all things. This is not only our duty but a needful evidence of our sonship. But He will not only clothe us in His righteousness; He will sanctify us by His Spirit, thus making our nature holy, as well as justifying our persons. The Church of Jesus is glorious within, as well as adorned without, and our great need is more inward holiness, or a deeper work of sanctification by the Spirit of God.
"And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Galatians 5:24
Although the flesh is alive still and frequently stirs yet it cannot fulfill its desires when it is fastened to the cross. With the crucifying of the flesh we have to do as long as we live. The cross enhances the value of the Word of God; be therefore, O my soul, always prepared to endure it. If no cross from without should present itself, you may still carry on the crucifixion of your own will, in everything that is contrary to the will of God. Painful and hard as this may seem to be at first yet it will certainly very soon grow easier and be matter of real joy. Blessing and peace will attend your ways and steps; and you will glorify God for having been resigned and guided, not by your own but by His good will and pleasure. Self-will, on the other hand, creates nothing but vexation, trouble, and uneasiness. It places the sinner in the place of God and sets at naught the spirit of discipleship. It is punished by itself, deprives us of all real blessings, and therefore deserves to be broken and crucified in its first motions.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
"And the LORD respected Abel and his offering but He did not respect Cain and his offering." Genesis 4:4-5
Here are two brothers bringing each of them an oblation to the Lord. Cain, as a farmer, brought of the produce of the ground which he cultivated; Abel, as a shepherd, some of the firstlings of his flock, with the fat of them; consequently, both believed there was a God who made the world and was to be worshiped; and yet one was accepted, and the other rejected. Cain's sacrifice was wholly a thank-offering to God, for the blessings of His providence. Abel's was not only of a thank-offering but of the expiatory kind; and, while it was an expression of gratitude for the blessings of Providence, it was also typical of the atonement by Christ and expressive of his hope of redemption through Him. In the offering of Cain there is no confession of guilt or reference to the promised Redeemer. In that of Abel there are both repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus God had respect to him and his offering; accepted first his person, as justified, then his offering; but neither the person nor the offering of Cain found acceptance with God. Reader, mark the difference; by this Abel speaks to you. Are you in a state of acceptance with God, by faith in Jesus? Is your whole dependence, for pardon and life, on Christ crucified? Do you obey from a principle of love? Then you shall be blessed with righteous Abel here and forever.
"For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever." Leviticus 16:30-31
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul." Leviticus 17:11
Our great day of atonement is that on which Christ shed His blood for us on the cross, and thereby made atonement for us. If it was necessary for the Israelites to afflict their souls and chastise their bodies on their great day of atonement, how much more might we to pray for humility and repentance, as the evidence of our interest in the atoning sacrifice made by Christ Jesus! And as they abstained from all labor on that day, when the High Priest alone was employed, so should we abstain from all our sinful works, and particularly from all self-sufficiency of righteousness, and seek our salvation only in the meritorious blood of atonement shed by our High Priest; for the life of our souls is in the blood of Jesus. O my Redeemer! May I, with an afflicted soul, ever seek my atonement, life, and salvation, in Your blood and death; and may I lie down and rise up in a comfortable hope that I am pardoned through Your blood, Your Spirit bearing witness of it to my conscience. Spirit of God, sprinkle the blood of Jesus on my conscience this day!
"By the grace of God I am what I am." 1 Corinthians 15:10
Be this my motto, both as to my natural and spiritual life; how else could I have existed at all? Had not foreknowledge planned and wisdom contrived and power put every atom together and fixed my scene of action, I would have never been here. Nor is this God of grace less to be seen in every motion of my soul toward Him. Had not every spring been in Him, this table on which I lean would have felt as much bias toward Him as I. The first check of conscience, the first thrill of fear, the first view of guilt, the first tear of penitence, were all His own; the first drawings of the Spirit, the first sight of Christ, the first dawn of hope, were all His own; every succeeding step in the path of duty, every attainment in grace, every victory over the world and sin, every evidence and token of the safety of my everlasting state, and every sweet interval of communion I have had with Him were still all His own; and the last labor of love, the last act of faith and conquest over sin, death, and Hell, together with an admission into eternal glory, must and shall be all His own. The foundation is the love of God; the superstructure is holiness, wrought by His Spirit; and the headstone shall be brought forth with shoutings, crying, "Grace, grace unto it!" And grace shall be crowned with everlasting glory. O the riches of God's free and glorious grace!
"The love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose again." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
If the love and power of Christ constrains us, we must be meditating and relying on Him and His death. This will cut off all self-confidence and lead us entirely to Him, that He may work everything in us and through us. O Lord, may Your love on the cross fire my frozen heart also, that I may now begin to love and praise You purely and fervently and to offer my whole life up to You as an entire sacrifice of love; that I may be willing to resign myself wholly into Your hands, trusting implicitly in Your Divine sovereignty and grace.
Reader, your zeal for Christ, your love to Christ, and your strength to do the will of Christ, will be just in proportion to your faith in Christ. Faith realizes the love of Jesus, yields the heart to Jesus, draws supplies from Jesus, and consecrates the entire person to Jesus. The love of Christ constrains us, just in proportion as we believe and realize it.
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going." Ecclesiastes 9:10
The business of life is to glorify God and to work out our own salvation; all other concerns are subordinate to these: "The time is short; as the tree falls, so it lies," and where death strikes down, there God lays out, either for mercy or misery. Thus we are reminded of what took place at the Red Sea; if I go in an Israelite, my landing shall be in glory, and I shall rejoice to see all my enemies dead upon the sea-shore; but if I go in an Egyptian, if I be on this side the cloud, on this side the covenant, and go in hardened among the troops of Pharaoh, an inundation of judgment shall overflow my soul for- ever. Or, I may compare death to the sleep of the ten virgins, of whom it is said, "They all slumbered and slept." We shall all fall into this sleep; if I lie down with the wise, I shall go in with the Bridegroom; but if I sleep with the foolish, without oil in my lamp, without grace in my soul, the gates of mercy will be closed upon me forever. I see, then, that this life is the time wherein I must go forth to meet the Lord; this is the hour wherein I must do my work; and the day wherein I must be judged according to my works is at hand. I know not how soon I may fall into this sleep; therefore, Lord, grant that I may live every day in Your sight, as I desire to appear the last day, in Your presence. O to die in Jesus, that I may forever live with God!
"Sin is a reproach to any people." Proverbs 14:32
Be not deceived, therefore, with false notions of faith. Where there is true faith, no sin has dominion. Sin will be ever stirring, often raging, and sometimes it may, for a season, prevail; but on the whole, it cannot predominate in the heart that feels the power of faith. A believer, through a strong and sudden temptation, may be captivated by sin but he is no willing captive; he hates sin and prays and watches against it; and, as faith increases, his power over sin increases too. A man having no feeling of the desperate wickedness of his heart may imagine that he has faith enough; but, being once convinced of that, he soon perceives that it is the hardest thing in the world to believe: it requires the same power by which Christ was raised from the dead. Paul most emphatically describes it (Ephesians 1:19-20). How then can any man think it an easy matter to believe? How can he imagine that his own power shall suffice him at his will? O the dreadful blindness and security which all the world runs into! May the Lord open their eyes! Father of Jesus, give me faith, more faith, that I may be strong in faith, giving glory to You!
"At the command of the LORD the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped. Even when the cloud continued long, many days above the tabernacle, the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD and did not journey." Numbers 9:18-19
Thus it should be with the spiritual Israelite; they ought not to undertake anything from their own will, lest confusion and disappointment should encompass every path. The unconverted are full of their own will; how should they succeed? They are bewildered here, and run into perdition eternally. Sometimes the faithful may, with a good design when they are engaged in a good work, hurry forward without sufficient indications of the Divine will. Herein they are reproved by the ancient Israelites, who journeyed not though the cloud tarried many days, and they might imagine they were losing time on their journey. O my God! Grant that in all things, even in my best works, I may be guided by Your eye and wait for Your counsel with a resigned temper. May I speak or be silent, work or rest, when and as You will; then shall my ways be truly blessed, and You will never leave me nor forsake me. Give me the grace of patience and teach me quietly to acquiesce in Your sovereign will. Be this my daily prayer: "Your will be done."
My God! The steps of pious men
Are ordered by Your will;
Though they should fall, they rise again;
Your hand supports them still.
"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."
Whatever notional knowledge men may have of Divine truths, as they are doctrinally proposed in the Scripture, yet, if they know them not in their respect unto the person of Christ, as the foundation of the counsels of God; if they discern not how they proceed from Him and center in Him, there will be no saving spiritual light in their understandings; for all spiritual life and light are in Him, and from Him alone. The difference between believers and unbelievers, as to knowledge, is not so much in the matter of their knowledge, as in the manner of knowing. Some unbelievers may know more and be able to say more of God, His perfections and will, than many believers; but they know nothing as they ought, nothing in a right manner, nothing spiritually and savingly, nothing with a holy, heavenly light. The excellency of a believer is not that he has large apprehensions of things but that what he does apprehend (which may perhaps be very little), he sees in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light. And this is that which gives us communion with God, and not prying thoughts or curious raised notions. In this knowledge, Lord, give me to increase every day, making me willing to sit at His feet and to learn of Him as He, in His gracious love, shall see meet to teach me. Jesus, be my teacher, for none teaches like You. If You teach me, I shall be truly wise.
"We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves." Romans 15:1
"Considering yourself lest you also be tempted." Galatians 6:1
"Who are you to judge another's servant?" Romans 14:4
Extraordinary quickenings and strengthenings, being often followed by particular temptations, conflicts, and sufferings, require a particular watchfulness, if we would be earnest not to provoke the Lord to visit us with sore punishments for our carelessness. Fear, therefore; rejoice with trembling; and, as a needful means to secure yourself from falling, temper your joy with humility and gentleness toward the faults of others. Be not high-minded; say not, when you observe the misconduct of others, "Nothing would tempt me to do as they have done"; for if God does not hold you up Himself, you will surely make greater mistakes. Therefore you had better not look upon others but upon yourself; and, for fear of falling, be continually watchful in prayer. A great many would not have fallen so deep, had they been truly humble and more charitable in judging of others. He who exalts himself above others and does not bear with the weak, is sometimes humbled and debased under the very weakest of all. Bear, therefore, since God bears with you. He who bears most with others shows the greatest strength. He that sympathizes most with the infirmities of others approaches most nearly the spirit of his Master. O for the meek, the loving, the long-suffering spirit of Jesus, to conform me to His lovely image!
"You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name's sake, lead me and guide me." Psalm 31:3
"They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel." Jeremiah 31:9
He who comes in this manner will certainly be led of God. Now, O Lord, I am blind, and heartily desire also to be directed by You alone in all my ways, in great and also in little things. Allow me never to follow my own spirit and natural inclinations, whatever good appearance they may have. Be pleased to cross them continually, whenever they are contrary to Your will. Often have I been deceived by false appearances already; my zeal has not always been according to knowledge; I have put natural passion in the place thereof and thought I was contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, and have afterwards found it no better than the effects of a party spirit. Be then a Father to me, O Lord, and instruct Your waiting child in all necessary truths and lead me in all Your righteous ways. Make me to sit down at Your feet as a little child, and seek only to know Your will. Teach me to submit to You, and approve of all You do and all You require.
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength." Isaiah 26:3-4
"Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me." Isaiah 27:5
To enjoy an undisturbed peace, great care must be taken that we do not look and depend upon anything in ourselves, since all is but imperfect and ever will be so. We are to trust only in the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world to feed our souls continually in this gospel of peace; and be ever seeking Him by diligent prayer, watchful, faithful, quiet, and humble; for we never lose anything of our peace, except it be stolen by pride or other unguarded affections.
My soul, remember Jesus is your peace. He made peace by the blood of His cross. He speaks peace to you in His precious word. He gives you peace by His Holy Spirit . Only by looking to Jesus and living on Jesus, can you be kept in peace. When self is on the cross and Jesus is on the throne, then and then only, we have perfect peace.
"Your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name." Isaiah 54:5
"The ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads." Isaiah 35:10
When Cyrus took the king of Armenia and his son Tigranes, with their wives and children, prisoners, and upon their humble submission, beyond all hope, gave them their liberty and their lives, on their returning home, when they were commending Cyrus, some for his person, some for his power, some for his clemency, Tigranes asked his wife, "What do you think of Cyrus; is he not a lovely man, of a majestic presence?"
"Truly," said she, "I know not what manner of man he is; I never looked on him."
"Why," said he, "where were your eyes all the while; upon whom did you look?"
"I fixed my eyes," said she, "all the while upon him," (meaning her husband), "who, in my hearing, offered to Cyrus to lay down his life for my ransom."
Thus, if any question the devout soul, once indeed captivated by the world but new enamored with Christ her heavenly Bridegroom, whether she is not charmed with the riches, pleasures, and gaieties of the world, her answer is that her eyes and her heart are now fixed on a nobler object, even on Him who not only made an offer, like Tigranes, to die in her stead but actually laid down His life to ransom her. As her dear Bridegroom is now in Heaven, her looks are after Him, and she can esteem nothing on earth in comparison with Him; and as He has promised to come again, she is looking, longing, and preparing for His coming.
"You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance." Numbers 18:20
Whoever loves and possesses the Lord Jesus finds unspeakably more delight, honor, and riches in Him, than in all other things. Then all is willingly denied for His sake; and this denial springs from faith. Now, O Lord, You are the all I need to make me happy, the only inheritance that can supply all my wants; to draw near to You is my greatest joy. I desire to love You evermore and to show that love by keeping Your commandments; and I pray that a sweet sense of Your love to me may become my daily portion and my bosom treasure. My soul, make Jesus your portion, and as such live upon Him day by day. He is your inheritance; therefore expect little from the world and little in the world. Having food and clothing, be therewith content. Live above the world by living on Jesus and triumph over the world by faith in His dear name.
Engage this roving, treacherous heart,
Great God, to choose the better part,
To scorn the trifles of a day.
For joys that none can take away.
Then let the wildest storm arise;
Let tempests mingle earth and skies.
No fatal shipwreck shall I fear
but all my treasures with me bear.
If You, my Jesus, still are near,
Cheerful I live, and cheerful die.
Sure, when mortal comforts flee,
To find ten thousand worlds in Thee.
"The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us." Romans 8:26
"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." God has many worshipers on particular occasions who cannot be called spiritual worshipers. Take, for instance, the prayers of wicked men under their convictions or their fears, troubles, and dangers, and compare them with the prayers of believers. The former are merely an outcry that distressed nature makes to the God of nature, considering Him only as such; but the latter are the voice of the Spirit of adoption, addressing itself in the hearts of believers unto God as a Father. Woe to professors of the gospel, who shall be seduced to believe that all they have to do with God consists in their attention to moral virtue. It is fit for them so to do, who, being weary of Christianity, have a mind to turn pagans but "Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ," under the promised workings and intercession of the Spirit; for by them alone are the love of the Father and the fruits of the mediation of the Son communicated unto us, without which we have no interest or comfort in them; and by the influences of the Spirit alone we are enabled to make any acceptable returns of obedience to God. To exclude the internal operations of the Holy Spirit is to destroy the gospel. Holy Spirit, daily help my infirmities and make intercession in my soul!
"Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown but we for an imperishable crown." 1 Corinthians 9:25
"He who overcomes shall inherit all things." Revelation 21:7
To be only almost a Christian is to be the subject of manifold vexations but to be a Christian altogether makes all easy and pleasant. Such as desire to have the whole of Christ's salvation and all that is His must give themselves up to Him, not only in part but wholly, according to that fundamental and most reasonable rule, "All for all." As far as we deny Him anything, we make ourselves unhappy; but the more we are resigned to Him, the more we are fit to enjoy Him and His blessing.
Many would sooner be persuaded to follow Christ if it was allowed to serve Him by halves and reserve some things to themselves. But what would that profit them? Christ will not be bargained with, and nothing is more dangerous than the dividing of our hearts between Him and the world or waiting from time to time for a more convenient season. Thus you may live many years and be neither cold nor hot, and so at last be rejected by the Lord. Consider this well, O you double-minded and lukewarm. Christianity requires great striving and overcomes all things, even our most favorite and darling lusts. Awake, therefore, to righteousness; spare yourselves no longer; rise above the trifles of this world; fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life, whereunto you are called.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." John 13:34
All the commandments of God are commandments of love, tending to our real good and great happiness; far from being grievous to those who have faith and love, the practice thereof is life and peace. The world may think it a grievous burden but this is a great mistake. Sin is grievous. In hatred, envy, anger, revenge, pride, there is nothing but torment and slavery; but love produces rest and pleasure. Thus a sinner always punishes himself and is robbed of peace and many blessings by disobeying the commandments of God. In this new commandment he finds the spirit of the whole Decalogue love to God, love to man, perfect love which casts out fear. In commanding love, Jesus commands us to be like Himself. He was love personified. His life was love illustrated. His heart was love's best dwelling-place. Love is holiness. Love is happiness. Holy Spirit, write this new commandment on my heart, and give me grace to carry it out in my family, in Your Church, and in the world! O to love others, as Jesus loves me!
"One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:42
We must not pretend to serve God by only going to church and doing other acts of outward devotion; while we are dead and cold, our religion is vain. They who, like Mary, seek grace from the words of Christ, receive the assurance of Divine approbation; and this stimulates them to fresh acts of piety and beneficence. It is almost impossible for such to go on in haughtiness, envy, hatred, and disobedience. Grace and faith will resist it and make them lowly, gentle, willing, obedient, active, without relying on any works of their own.
He who obtains Christ, the one thing needful, receives with Him all the rest, and has no more occasion to be troubled about many things. He being our All, we may always live happily; whereas the children of this world must always be cumbered and divided between fears and hopes about their fate. We shall never find this good part in the circle of fashionable pleasure, nor yet in the works of the law. Faith alone takes hold of it. Whoever withdraws his heart from the noise and bustle of this world, looking for salvation through the blood and righteousness of Christ, will certainly find there that better part which shall not be taken from him.
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow . Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities." Psalm 51:7, 9
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isaiah 1:18
"I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." Isaiah 44:22
We must not keep away from Christ on account of our stumblings and manifold faults; this would cast us under the law again and bind us under condemnation. But we should humble ourselves directly before God and seek earnestly for pardon through the blood of Christ. The longer we delay this, the worse our case will grow; and the sooner it is done, the sooner we shall have forgiveness. The Lord not imputing those sins to us which are sincerely repented of, our soul returns to its rest again. And instead of falling into carnal security (as some may think), we shall thus strengthen our faith and become more watchful. Hasten, therefore, and come as soon and as well as you can. He will receive you, though you advance toward Him slowly and with trembling. It is a great act of faith to go to Jesus and confess sin as soon as it is committed, and plead with Him for the pardon of it. Satan always suggests delay, and we too often listen to him, as if allowing guilt to rankle in the conscience could do any good. As soon as sin is detected, carry it at once to Jesus.
"Deliver us from the evil one." Matthew 6:13
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you." Isaiah 43:1-2
"With His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." Hebrews 9:12
This precious redemption is the foundation of our present deliverance and will, finally, produce an everlasting deliverance from all evil. He who loathes and detests the evil, not only of punishment but of sin itself, and consequently pants after Jesus, both for His love, and for His likeness, has faith already, and sin has lost its dominion over him. Though he may be tempted very severely yet he is under the law no more; for the reigning power of sin being broken, the law has lost its condemning power also; we are delivered from the power of the evil one, and we may be sure of a continual, nay an eternal redemption. We may often feel the evil but by prayer and watchfulness shall be as often delivered from it also. My soul, rejoice in the glorious fact that you have redemption in the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of your sins; and while rejoicing in your liberty, watch and pray, lest you be entangled with the yoke of bondage again.
"Stir up the gift of God which is in you." 2 Timothy 1:6
How can this be done? By looking as well upon your own great poverty and wants, as upon the riches of that grace which is in Christ for you, and so drawing near to God through Him in faith. But it is not enough to do this once for all, or now and then only. It is to be your daily work. One day's omission may greatly injure your soul. The morning hours are especially adapted to this purpose. These must be directly laid hold on to converse with God in prayer before we meddle with anything else in our business, though ever so needful and important, lest we be entangled and distracted the whole day. In order to obtain the more strength, draw as near to Christ as possible, and plead with Him, as if it were the last time. Pour out your whole heart before Him, not giving over too soon; be instant in your supplications, at least with continual inward groaning, until your heart burns within you and you feel the quickening influence of His grace and Spirit. Then great care is to be taken to preserve this blessing and strength in a quiet and well-composed mind; examine yourself frequently, especially at nights, how the day has been spent. Learn what the gift of God is, and improve it as becomes the recipient of so Divine a treasure.
"For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe." Hebrews 5:13
The apostle, with some severity of expression, tells the Hebrews, or converted Jews to whom he wrote, that instead of being capable of strong meat or attaining to the perfection of Christian doctrine and being skillful in the word of righteousness, they chose to continue babes in knowledge and, like children, had all their work to begin again. It is, therefore, a matter of the greatest importance to know what that word of righteousness is, in which they were unskillful, not having their senses exercised to discern between good and evil, truth and error. Let it only be observed that they were looking back to the law, and consequently in danger of returning to it for justification and thus falling from the doctrine of grace. The design of this epistle was to keep them steadfast in the faith; and it will appear at once that the righteousness which they were ignorant of, or ready to reject, is that of Christ, who "by one offering," the finishing act of His obedience, "has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). How many, in the present day, who have the appearance of well-grown Christians, are just such babes as the Hebrews were and have the same need to be told that they are unskillful in the word (the reason or ground of a justifying righteousness) and exhorted to go on to perfection in Christian doctrine, as well as to further degrees of Christian holiness. Lord, teach me to make Jesus my Alpha and 0mega: first, last, all in all!
"For our gospel did not come to you in word only but also in power." 1 Thessalonians 1:5
By the gospel, the Son of God and Divine truths are revealed to us; and by the Spirit they are revealed in us. External revelation by the Word and internal by the Spirit are both necessary to salvation. Though Paul was separated from his mother's womb to be called by the grace of God yet he had not an inward revelation of Jesus Christ to his heart until he heard the external word of Christ with his ear, saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4). Hence, learn to prize both the outward testimony of the Word and the inward testimony of the Spirit. The gospel is a revelation of Jesus Christ, without which we could never have known that our sins are atoned for by the blood, our persons justified by the righteousness, and our souls everlastingly saved by the work of Christ. But is this knowledge all that is necessary to salvation? No, persons may attain a notion of these things in the head and understand somewhat of them, and yet the heart be without precious faith in Christ and destitute of the love of Christ, and of any saving hope in Him. Many have said, "Lord, Lord," and have heard Christ preach in their streets, who little expected to hear Him say, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" Many heard the gospel preached in Thessalonica, but they alone were blessed to whom it came "in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance."
"It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." Galatians 1:15-16
Hence begins spiritual life, a life proceeding from God, holding communion with God, and tending to the glory of God; the honor and happiness of our souls arise from this revealing of Christ in us. Oh, for the reviving comfort of this, while we consider it! To reveal Christ in us is to make such a clear discovery of the matchless charms and glory of His person as we never saw before, so that we choose Him, love Him, delight in Him, and cleave to Him in all His offices and characters. For by the eye of our soul, we then behold His glory, "the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," on behalf of us miserable sinners; hence He is the chief Beloved of our souls. Without this revelation of Jesus Christ in us, what is all outward profession? No more than mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery. O, my soul! 0, my friends! Let us not be content to live without a constant revelation of Christ. This makes the conscience peaceful, the heart heavenly, and the soul happy. This subdues lust, exalts the affections, makes the whole man happy in God, and creates Heaven in the soul. If Christ be in the heart, all will be right and well in the life. If you believe in Christ as revealed in the Word, this blessed promise is for you: "I will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21).
"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." 1 John 1:7
Whatever we attempt in our own strength, under a conviction of sin, is a covering, not a cleansing; and if we die in this condition, unwashed, uncleansed, unpurified, it is utterly impossible that we should be admitted into the blessed presence of the holy God (Revelation 21:27). "Let no one deceive you with empty words." It is not the doing of a few good works; it is not an outward profession of religion that will give you access with joy unto God. Unless you are washed from your actual transgressions in the blood of Christ and cleansed from the pollution of your nature by the Spirit of God, you shall not inherit the kingdom of God; yes, without this washing, you will be a horrible sight unto saints and angels, to yourselves and one another, when the shame of your nakedness shall be made to appear. If, therefore, you would not perish, and that eternally if you would not perish as base defiled creatures, an abhorrence unto all flesh then, when your pride and your wealth, your beauty, your ornaments, and your duties will stand you in no stead look out early after that only way of purifying and cleansing your souls which God has ordained: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Hebrews 9 22). "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
"I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth." Genesis 9:13
The rainbow is a token of the covenant of preservation made with Noah, and with all the creatures of the earth. It is fixed and sure; it may be considered also as an emblem of the covenant of grace (Isaiah 54:9-10); or rather, it may be an emblem of Christ Himself (Revelation 10:1), and that in many respects. When we are apt to fear being overwhelmed by the rain, Jehovah shows this seal of the promise that we shall not. Thus He removes our apprehensions, by reminding us of the covenant of grace established in Jesus. The thicker the cloud, the brighter is the bow in the cloud; so when affliction abounds, consolations do much more abound. The bow appears when one part of the sky is clear, which intimates mercy remembered in the midst of wrath. The rainbow is caused by the refraction of the beams of the sun; so all the glory of the covenant of grace and the significance of the seals, are derived from Christ, the Sun of righteousness. The bow speaks terror; but this is without string or arrow, is directed upward, and not to the earth. God looks upon the bow, to remember His covenant; so should we, that we may be mindful of the covenant of grace. Blessed covenant, ordered in all things and sure!
"God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14
A true believer has nothing to glory in but Christ alone. Even in his very best performances, he will be often deeply humbled and cry out, "Lord, enter not into judgment." And well he may; for the ground of our glory, comfort, and salvation, is not in works but in Christ and the free grace of God who, for His Son's sake, lays nothing to our charge but daily covers and pardons all our iniquities. And thus believers, walking steadily, might always be kept in solid peace; for the cross of Christ is a solid and unshaken foundation. It is the only thing in which the believer may safely glory and to which he may ever turn with unfailing confidence, as a sure refuge alike in prosperity or adversity. Cross of Jesus! Be the subject of my meditation, the theme of my song, the joy of my heart, my plea at the throne of grace, and my comfort in the hour of death. By the cross of Jesus I conquer Satan, overcome the world, obtain pardon, enjoy peace, and hope for everlasting life. If I rest on anything, it shall be the cross; if I glory in anything, it shall be the cross.
"Purifying their hearts by faith." Act 15:9
By faith in the Son of God we get an interest in His great and glorious salvation; we are justified by faith; we have peace with God by faith. This is an excellent grace, which brings us out of a state of slavery and sin into the liberty of the sons and daughters of God, and will issue in everlasting salvation. Faith purifies the heart of man, naturally vicious, and unites us to Christ, the root of all holiness. Now, reader, examine yourself whether you be in the faith; try the tree by its fruits; ask yourself these questions: Has my faith a purifying influence on my heart? Does the view of Christ dying for my sins make me die unto them? Has my faith in Christ, as wounded for my transgressions and bruised for my iniquities, made me bitterly lament them, sincerely hate them, and seek the death of every one of them? Though there may be still much sin in me, is there none allowed? Is there none, no not one (not even that sin which does most easily beset me), which I desire to be spared and excused in? Do I rather look upon all sin as the enemy of Christ and my own soul, and as such do I hate it with a perfect hatred? Am I praying fervently for Divine grace to subdue it, and in the strength of that grace, do I maintain a constant and vigorous war with it, determined never to give it any rest in my heart, never to cease my conflict with it until I have gained the complete and everlasting victory? Then you are upright; go on and prosper.
"Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit." Isaiah 27:6
"They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing." Psalm 92:14
"Its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit." Jeremiah 17:8
True Christians form a lowly estimate of their spiritual attainments, accounting themselves, comparatively, barren trees in the plantation of God. Hence, when they approach the last tribunal, they will be ready to disclaim those pretensions which even their Judge will distinctly support (Matthew 25:37-40). The reason is, they are poor in spirit and are not satisfied with the fruits which they have borne; all that they were ever tempted to pronounce excellent in themselves, vanishes before the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Grant, O Lord, that I may earnestly seek to bring forth fruit, and may grow in fruitfulness as I grow in years and never cease from yielding fruit, hereby proving myself to be a tree of the Lord's planting, whose leaf is green and whose branches are flourishing and productive. Yet bless me also with deep poverty of spirit, that I may acknowledge myself still to be nothing, having nothing of my own to glory in, and thus may esteem Christ my All, and rest upon Him wholly. In Jesus only would I trust, and in Him only would I glory.
"The one who breaks open will come up before them; they will break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it; their king will pass before them, with the LORD at their head." Micah 2:13
"Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33 [See also Hebrews 12:1-2.]
Sometimes the enemy seems to get an advantage over us; but the battle is not yet over. At last, O believer, you shall have the victory. In hard struggles remember the power of Christ, who in His resurrection broke through every obstruction. With Him you can also break through and be more than conqueror. Yes, in every conflict, if your faith be firm, you can be sure of victory beforehand; for faith engages Christ's power, and His power ensures victory. It is as impossible for your enemies to keep you always in bonds, as it was impossible that Christ could be kept in the grave by the stone, seal, and keepers. Nay, the greater their force is, the more glorious will be the victory of Christ over them. The greater their overwhelming power to our weak nature, the more certain the triumph of the Conqueror. Jesus, who once conquered for us, will conquer in us, and thus gain everlasting renown.
"Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" Amos 3:3
Persons must be agreed in heart, in affection, in will, and in their inclinations and pursuits, or they cannot walk together in any mutual confidence and comfortable union. "What communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). We cannot walk with Jesus, without a living union with Him, a hearty love to Him, and a holy delight in Him; nor can He walk with us on any other principles. We cannot walk with each other without mutual love. A living union with Jesus, cemented and sealed by His Holy Spirit, is the only bond of union and agreement between Christians, whereby they can walk together to the honor of God and their own benefit. Alas! How much is it to he lamented that those who, through grace, are thus united, should be so visibly shy of each other because they differ in their lesser matters. O my Savior, help me to be more agreed with You and to walk more closely with You, and in more real affection and love with all those who are really Yours, to the praise and glory of Your grace!
"Let your gentleness be known to all men." Philippians 4:5
"Love edifies." 1 Corinthians 8:1
If you rebuke others and would have them to be like you, you ought to examine yourself first, whether your rebukes flow from a blind party zeal, impatience, and self-will, or from a true principle of love; and whether you are also much in prayer for them, both before and after. He who lays the longsufferings of the Son of God truly to heart and considers how gently that heavenly Benefactor has treated him and still treats him, like the weakest child, must be moderate also toward all men and think, "If no one else would bear with others, surely I must." May the Lord give us all the right spirit of meekness, to show all lenity to our fellow-Christians!
My soul, when about to reprove others, look into your own heart; look back to your own life, and look up to God for special grace; then your reproofs will be as an excellent oil, which will not break the head, though it may break the heart. Remember, it is one sinner reproving another; a sinner, kept by unmerited grace, reproving one, perhaps, left for a little while to himself.
"Put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?" Psalm 56:8
"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Psalm 126:5-6
Believer, if you are now reaping in joy and singing hymns of triumph, be thankful; but remember that this work belongs more to the next world than the present. Here weeping and rejoicing follow each other, and sorrow will oft find a lodging in the bosom of faith; for there is no retreat from the field of battle, and your enemies will not leave you while you have a breath to draw. Let this be a check to impatience. It is indeed needful to be humbled under a sense of your misery, so as to sigh, groan, and weep often; and this is the true seed for eternity. Not a single tear or groan will be lost. They are all in the book of the Lord. Nor is there a single unneeded sorrow, a single grief in excess, or one suffering of the believer, in which the Man of Sorrows has not borne a part. It is sweet to weep over sin, when we know it is pardoned, and it is sweet to weep in suffering, if we realize that Jesus has a fellow-feeling with us. He who never wept on earth cannot know the blessedness intended by the Lord wiping away all tears from His people's eyes. I would weep over sin and weep for Jesus but for nothing else.
God counts the sorrows of His saints,
Their groans affect His ears;
He has a book for their complaints,
A bottle tor their tears!
"The LORD has heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer." Psalm 6:9
"The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You . For the needy shall not always be forgotten." Psalm 9:9-10, 18
Whoever would receive comfort from these words must first be sensible of his poverty and misery, confessing his sins, and feeling nothing in himself but helplessness and unworthiness. He must come with all his poverty to a rich Savior and daily entreat His mercy, carefully remembering that the Lord has promised to supply all our needs, however great our poverty and misery may be. Therefore beware of unbelief, and do not suspect the Lord's kindness but seek to Him and hope in Him and expect all good things from Him assuring yourself that neither your hope nor your prayer, nor a single sigh will be lost. The Lord supplies all my needs and leaves me nothing to be desired but Himself. O my God, grant me faith, that I may say, "The Lord hears my supplication; the Lord receives my prayer. Praised be God, who has not rejected my prayer nor turned away His goodness from me! Blessed be God, who has not forgotten my needy soul or suffered my expectation to fail but has hitherto supplied all my needs, and still stands engaged to do so!"
"Lead us not into temptation." Matthew 6:13
"God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." 1Corinthians 10:13
The nearer to Heaven, the higher the mountains the deeper the valleys, and the sharper the conflicts. But be not discouraged; it is only for the trial of our faith. God gives also more strength, carries us through all, as He has done from the beginning, and suffers none to be ashamed who trust in Him. Sometimes we may seem to be tempted above measure and are afraid of being confounded but far from it; it is quite impossible that we should. Here you have the plain words of the Lord. Take hold on them and wait His time, for since the world stood, none have been confounded in anything who have waited for His promise. Who have ever asked of Him in vain, who truly prayed in spirit? And surely He will not make you the first instance of the failure of His word. "'For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,' says the LORD, who has mercy on you." (Isaiah 54:10). O to believe the promise, and rest in the faithfulness of the Promiser!
"Satisfy us early with Your mercy." Psalm 90:14
"Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." Psalm 81:10
"My people shall be satisfied with My goodness." Jeremiah 31:14
"The river of God is full of water." Psalm 65:9
"With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." Isaiah 12:3
"In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity." Zechariah 13:1
O my soul, keep close to the gospel; there only will you find a fullness to supply all wants: food for the hungry and clothing for the naked soul and everything in plenty. Whoever will may come and be fed and clothed, without money and without price. Therefore let not the law hinder you from eating and drinking and rejoicing and adorning yourself in the manner that becomes the gospel. The law, as one justly observes, brings in a great bill but nothing with which to discharge it. It sets the soul a-working but so as to neglect the proper nourishment necessary for it. No wonder, therefore, that she is destitute of sufficient strength, that she faints and never comes to the right mark. There is no such thing as making amends by the law. We must go directly to Christ and receive first the grace and strength required, out of His fullness, by faith. First receive from Christ; then work for Christ.
"Fear not, daughter of Zion." John 12:15
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation." Zechariah 9:9
"The LORD has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more." Zephaniah 3:15
"Indeed they shall surely assemble but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake." Isaiah 54:15
"Let them return to you but you must not return to them." Jeremiah 15:19
However strong your spiritual enemies may be now, fear not and be not discouraged. Your King is bound by His office, love, and promise to help you with strength to overcome. Even the hardships of a Christian work together for his good in this world, and brighten his crown of glory in the world to come. Too often, instead of casting and leaving a burden on the Lord by faith at once, we parley with temptation and undertake to heal ourselves by a thousand false contrivances, the effect of which is to make a conflict long that might have been short (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). Lord, give me grace to be watchful and to keep on the armor of faith, that as I pass from conflict to conflict, I may pass on conquering and to conquer, daily pressing forward, and every hour rejoicing in Christ, my mighty King and Savior. Gracious Redeemer, scatter my foes, fire my zeal, and make me more than a conqueror!
"You shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt." Deuteronomy 7:18
"Do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." Deuteronomy 20:3-4
"This far you may come but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!" Job 38:11
The assaults of original sin will ever return; and we must not be surprised, when one conflict is over, that another arises. This warfare is unavoidable, for the enemy is within us. It makes us more careful and humble to know this, than we should be if we believed that we had to encounter sin only from without, and not from within. A deep acquaintance with this subject will also teach us to put a just value on the privilege of drawing near to God through the Redeemer, and pleading those precious promises which encourage us to hope that He will both pardon and subdue our iniquities. God is with us; this is our confidence. God is for us; this is our glory. Let us, therefore, engage with every foe, exercising faith in a present God. If 0mnipotence be with us, if 0mnipotence be for us, whom or what should we fear? Let us not fear or be afraid but let us trust in the Lord.
"Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!" Isaiah 45:15
"All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth." Psalm 25:10
"The LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance." Isaiah 28:29
God is wonderful in all His doings, and His ways often are past finding out; but, on the review of His dealings with us, we are compelled to acknowledge that even those which once seemed the severest were the fruit of mercy. Therefore, when things take such a turn that we are quite at our wit's end and do not know which way to go, we may believe that the hand of the Lord is in it, and that some good will arise out of it at last. Such seasons may serve to remind us of the prediction, "He shall be called Wonderful," and to encourage the expectation that He will show Himself to be our Counselor and Mighty God also. At first everything may seem to be against us and go quite contrary but at last we shall see plainly that all the disappointments of our corrupt nature were intended to produce unspeakable advantage. Though the ways of God are marvelous, they invite our study and win the admiration of the believer the longer they are contemplated. They are capable of an explanation that will demonstrate them to be worthy of our highest praise. Wait on the Lord in the darkest season, and light will soon spring up. It is sown for the righteous.
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Exodus 20:8
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day." Revelation 1:10
Reader, I know not who or what you are but may the God of all grace bless this meditation to your soul. Perhaps you are a careless sinner, who to this day has trifled with Sabbaths. O do not profane the Lord's day any more! But, if you have any value for your soul, attend upon His worship and desire to be "in the Spirit on His day." Perhaps you are punctual in outward services; so far is praiseworthy but awful is your mistake if you make any outward service the ground of your acceptance. "In the Lord alone," exclaims the enlightened believer, "have I righteousness and strength," and so will you say, if "in the Spirit."
Or you may have been a splendid professor but now a grievous backslider. If, happily, once more you should be "in the Spirit on the Lord's day," you will look to God for fresh sprinklings of the Redeemer's blood, and to the Spirit for His restoring influences.
If you are a believer under sharp trials, may you be "in the Spirit," that so when tribulations abound, consolations may abound also. If you are a believer walking close with God, rich in knowledge and experience, you will wish to be "in the Spirit," that grace may be magnified, Jesus more loved, and His name more honored.
Reader, whatever you are, if you wish to be "in the Spirit" and would have your temporal and spiritual concerns prosper, make conscience of keeping the Sabbath day holy.
"Remember me, O my God, for good!" Nehemiah 13:31
"Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him." Jeremiah 31:20
"A book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name." Malachi 3:16
"I know the thoughts that I think toward you." Jeremiah 29:11
As soon as I appear with my prayers before the Lord, He writes all my petitions in His book of remembrance. Should I not pray much? Yes, O Lord; and though I have many things already in Your book yet will I give You occasion to write down more and more every hour. Nothing can be forgotten. All will be granted by Him. Delays we must expect but all shall be made up with so much the larger gifts in due time, though the best will be reserved fur a blissful eternity. God never denies, except when we ask for what would injure us, or ask from an improper motive. He loves to give. He entreats us to ask. He waits to be gracious. He never forgets. Registered prayers will soon be answered prayers, and answered prayers will fill our hearts with gratitude and our mouths with praise.
"And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees." Isaiah 25:6
A feast bespeaks plenty, harmony, and joy. Many feasts were appointed under the law, in commemoration of various deliverances and mercies. The gospel appoints one great perpetual festival, in consequence of the one grand blessing which comprehends all other mercies redemption by the blood of Christ. The table is always spread; the company are always welcome; the season is always pleasant, and the joy is always new. Lord, I once was feeding upon husks, upon ashes, upon the wind, and drinking down iniquity like water; but, O wonderful love! You did invite and bring me to Your own feast! You feed me with the bread of life and cause me to drink of the wine of Your consolation. May I never more have an appetite for the vanities of the world! My soul, have you an appetite for spiritual provision this morning? There is a feast prepared; the invitation is sent to you; the welcome is hearty and sincere; all that is necessary is the appetite. If you are hungry, go feed on the bread of life; if you are thirsty, go drink of the wine of the kingdom. Go drink and forget your poverty and remember your misery no more.
Why was I made to hear Your voice
And enter while there's room
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?
"And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." Genesis 15:6
It is no uncommon thing in Scripture to put the act for the object, especially with regard to faith and hope. Thus hope signifies the object of hope (Jeremiah 14:8; 1 Timothy 1:1; Hebrews 6:18); and faith is often put for the object or doctrine of faith, or that which is believed in, as when it is said Paul preached the faith which once he destroyed; and Felix heard him concerning the faith of Christ; and when the Scripture speaks of keeping and contending for the faith and holding the mystery of faith, and the like. Thus, when Abraham is said to believe in the Lord, the meaning is, he believed in the promise of God, that he should have a seed, and a very numerous one; he believed that the Messiah would spring from his seed. He believed in Him as his Savior and Redeemer; he believed in Him for righteousness; and he believed in His righteousness as justifying him before God. It was not the act of his faith but the object of it; not the promise he believed but what was promised, and his faith received even Christ and His righteousness (Romans 4:3, 10, 22-24).
Reader, mark well how Abraham was justified before God and follow this example of the father of the faithful. It is by faith in Jesus Christ alone that we can be justified before God; by faith all the 0ld Testament saints were justified, as well as the New. This distinguishes the Christian religion from all systems of mere morality, and to err in this is to err in the fundamentals of Christianity.
"Do this in remembrance of Me." Luke 22:19
Come, my soul; obey your dying Lord's command; let it be your delight, as it is your privilege, to attend your Master at His table, to take a nearer view of His bleeding love; and by a renewed act of faith, obtain a fresh taste and renewed pledge of the precious benefits contained therein. Stagger not through unbelief; it is a blessed truth: Jesus died for sinners; this is the foundation of a sinner's hope; let this encourage you, O my soul! You are a sinner guilty and denied. The blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin. He is the Fountain opened for your impurity; you are by nature a child of wrath, condemned by the law, exposed to the curse; but Jesus was made a curse for you. You are unrighteous, unholy; but Jesus is made of God unto you Righteousness and Sanctification. You are weak, beset with enemies; His strength shall be perfected in your weakness, and you, by faith, shall be more than conqueror through Him that loved you. You are afraid of perishing at the last; look to Jesus; He purchased you with His blood; He will not give you up; none can pluck you out of His hand.
Rise, then, O my soul, and come to the banquet of love and partake of the blessings of the everlasting covenant; beseech the Lord to manifest His love and seal your pardon, renew your strength, and enable you to travel the remaining part of your pilgrimage, until you come to Mount Zion and be admitted a welcome guest at the marriage-supper in Heaven.
"I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one." 1 John 2:12-13
God has saints of several degrees, and some of them have more communion with Him than others. From among the multitude He chose twelve to be with Him; from among the twelve He chose three: Peter, James, and John, who were of the privy council; from among the three He chose out John, as His bosom-favorite, of whom it is said five times in John's gospel, that "he was the disciple whom Jesus loved." So now, at this day, God has His "babes," who live upon milk; He has "children" also, who know their Father and are assured of His love; moreover, He has His "young men," who go out to war and fight the Lord's battles victoriously; and He has "fathers" in Israel, who abound in grey-headed experience and wisdom; for they knew Him from the beginning, and they remember His words. It is a great mercy to be one of God's "little ones," yes, the least of all; to be a star, though not of the first magnitude; to be a disciple, though not a John; not one of the three, nor one of the twelve, nor one of the seventy. It is a mercy to be new-born, to be taken into the family of God and household of faith. But to grow up to a perfect stature, to be a man in Christ Jesus 0 how great a mercy! Lord, You know my desires; perfect that which concerns Your servant, that I may rise to be a father in Christ!
"Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering." Genesis 22:2
Abraham desired earnestly to see into the mystery of redemption ; and God, in order to affect his mind most sensibly with the intenseness of Divine love as beaming forth from that mystery, in the surrender and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, caused Abraham to feel, by anticipation, what it was to lose a beloved son: "Take now your son, your only son, your Isaac, the staff of your age, the hope of your family (none else do I require); and offer him up for a burnt offering. In this transaction, see My love to sinners, when I shall give up My only Son Jesus a sacrifice for them." Abraham obeyed; he virtually sacrificed his son; a ram was substituted in his place, and blessings are poured upon the faithful patriarch. In the whole narrative, we have a lively type of greater things. We have seen the day when God spared not His own Son, when He was bound with cords, when He bore His cross, and on this mountain was offered up an offering for sin; when He rose again to live forevermore; and saw His seed, even His redeemed people, whom no man can number and whose possessions are the glories of Heaven and eternity.
Gracious Savior, help me to be faithful, to keep back nothing from You; when You have tried me, crown the faith You have bestowed with the unfading glory You have promised to them that are faithful unto death. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:4-6
Christ being the Head of the body, His Church, all who are His real members are, together with Him, dead, buried, raised up, and seated in heavenly places; for He is the new Adam and has done all these things as our representative, in our stead, and for our good. Therefore, a true believer may rejoice, and say, "I have suffered in You, O my glorious Head, for all my sins already; I am discharged; I have no punishment to fear any more, respecting the guilt and curse of sin! You have fully answered the charge against me; You have satisfied the infinite justice of God for me, and God is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Consequently, I die no more since You can die no more; nay, I live already and have my place with You eternally in Heaven, since the Head will not, cannot, part even with the weakest of His members but influence and draw them after Him wherever He goes."
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21
"To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Romans 4:5
These are very sweet and precious words to those who look upon their own best virtues and performances by nature as sinful, and upon their best condition by grace as extremely weak and imperfect. How comfortable a thing is the justification of the penitent by faith, when the soul is first stripped quite naked before God and thoroughly convinced of its wickedness and weakness! A mere moral man does not meddle with this; he pretends to make amends for his former sins by altering his course and doing better works; but this is not making amends at all, since we are but unprofitable servants and need continually forgiveness of sin, even when we have done all. There is but one way to be justified and to obtain and preserve the blessing of a good conscience, which is, by humbling ourselves, confessing that we are guilty, and looking only for forgiveness and righteousness in Christ. Thus we are made, by Him, the righteousness of God itself. How marvelous is the gift! How wondrous the change on the poor sinner! May the Lord put us all in this way, to the praise of the glory of His grace, accepting us in the Beloved!
The best obedience of my hands
Dares not appear before Your throne;
But faith can answer Your demands.
By pleading what my Lord has done.
"Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." Acts 5:31
Say not, "What reason have I for repentance? I am no murderer or robber." You are both. By your sins you have murdered the Son of God, and by your pride robbed God of His due service; therefore, if your heart be not changed into a new one, repair at once to the throne of grace. It may be that Jesus Christ is even now awakening you from the sleep of sin, and about to bestow on you repentance. He will, assuredly, change your heart and make you a new man, if you can yield up yourself unto Him. But you must not delay, nor must your yielding be a reluctant or an imperfect thing. He stands at the door and knocks, saying, "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him" (Revelation 3:20). He is knocking now but if you delay, if you refuse to admit Him, remember there is a last knock, after which He will go away. Invite Him in. Beseech Him to take full possession. Make a full surrender of your heart, of your whole person, to Him. He will give you repentance for your sins, faith in His blood, and the sweet assurance of everlasting salvation.
"God is not the author of confusion." 1 Corinthians 14:33
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11
O Lord, I am like a little child, knowing neither the beginning nor end of my ways; but You being a wonderful Counselor, I think it my only wisdom to be advised and ruled by You. O show me then always Your way in all things, even in the least, that I may never fail to do Your work in due season and due order. Make me such a faithful steward, as not to go one inch from Your will but on all occasions to act and suffer according to Your good pleasure, to follow You in implicit obedience, seeking only to know Your will, and striving only to do it.
My soul, take your place at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him. He will be your teacher. He will instruct you with discretion. If He teaches you, His teaching will sanctify you, mold you into the will of God, and make you happy. It will make you willing to be ignorant of what God conceals and practically to improve what God reveals. No teacher like Jesus, nor is there any teaching like His!
God moves in a mysterious way.
His wonders to perform:
He plants His footsteps In the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mine
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
You fearful saints, fresh courage take.
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessing on your head.
"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts." 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 [See also Ephesians 1:14.]
A sensible joy of faith, and great delight in prayer, are not the only evidences of the earnest and sealing of the Spirit. The former are sometimes
lacking, when we have reason to believe we are sealed by these marks; namely, when we receive Christ in all His offices and have a sincere desire to
do the will of God in all things; when we love the ordinances of Christ, and regard the children of God with a brotherly affection and seek to do them good; when we hate sin and watch and pray against it; and lastly, when we are poor in spirit, vile in our own eyes, and are led into further acquaintance with Christ Himself and with His gospel, by the Spirit.
These are constant marks, even for the weakest. With them, none need doubt; without them, hope is false and altogether vain. But, however much we may have obtained, there is much more in Christ to be received. His grace will sink us in the depths of humility and raise us to the heights of holiness. His grace will crush our fears, destroy our doubts, and fill us with confidence. O, Jesus, give us more grace, more grace! He gives grace to the humble.
"God be merciful to me a sinner!" Luke 18:13
"Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins." Psalm 25:18
"The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works." Psalm 145:8-9
"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." Matthew 9:2
Justification, or remission of sins before the tribunal of God, and the comfortable assurance of it in the heart, do not always go together. The pardon is passed in Heaven at once, and in the most perfect manner yet the sense of it may be lacking; for the assurance of that pardon is mostly given by degrees, as believers are able to receive it. Feeble glimpses appear now and then, and many tokens usually pass between Christ and a believing soul before the Spirit gives a full and clear witness to his conscience. Therefore a penitent soul must converse much with the gospel and pray continually for more light and a greater degree of faith and peace. As our faith is, so is our assurance, for assurance is the flower of faith. But as some flowers do not blossom the first summer, so the faith of some Christians does not soon rise to full assurance. There is often the faith that saves, when there is not the faith that assures. Seek, therefore, a greater degree of faith; cry with the disciples, "Lord, increase my faith!" Cry on, cry often, until faith is strong and steady.
"Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
If you desire to delight yourself only in the Lord and are more solicitous for the increase of faith, love, and holiness than temporal happiness, and would even part with some earthly good, provided it would enlarge your spiritual welfare, this comes not from nature but is an infallible mark of grace and regeneration; and the Lord shall give you also the desires of your heart, and even more than you desire.
Nothing can be more foolish than to harbor one or more secret lusts in our hearts, after we have been once awakened. We must certainly suffer for it; our conscience will check us; we cannot enjoy it with half the pleasure as before; our course is hindered, and our peace disturbed. How much more prudent and profitable, then, would it be, to forsake all and follow Christ, who only can satisfy the desires of our heart! Consider this, O my soul; act the wiser part; let your eye be single and cleave to Him alone; while others, seeking to serve two masters, God and mammon, are woefully disappointed at last, avoid this folly and be wholly for Christ. Thus you will be able to taste the crystal streams of His heavenly love. Only the true-hearted are really happy.
How vain are all things here below!
How false, and yet how fair!
Each pleasure has its poison too,
And every sweet a snare!
"Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed." Jeremiah 17:14
"I am the LORD who heals you." Exodus 15:26
"Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick." Matthew 9:12
"I have seen his ways, and will heal him." Isa 57:18 [See also Isaiah 43:3, 41:1.]
"He healed all who were sick." Matthew 8:15-17
Christ's healing all bodily sickness was a token of His power and grace to heal all spiritual diseases, though ever so desperate and dangerous. Therefore give yourself only up to His cure; He understands your disease and will certainly restore you. He has healed a great many already, nay, all those who ever desired it, of all their infirmities. You can never be too miserable for Him; He is ever willing and able to help. The worse your case is, the more He will pity you and have patience. Before we can be made whole, His way is to make us thoroughly sensible of our sickness and lay our wounds more and more open. But as the Physician then is most wanted, we must be the more earnest to implore His help; and He will surely bind us up again and heal us; not at once but by degrees, often slowly, yet, at last, completely; He will heal all our diseases (Psalm 103:3). Lord Jesus, I put myself into Your hands, to be healed by You. My worst disease is unbelief. O cure me of this, and make me strong in faith, giving glory to God! Fill me with love and zeal, that so, believing Your word, loving Your person, I may zealously do Your will.
Lord, why is this? I trembling cried;
Will You pursue Your worm to death?
"'Tis in this way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and faith."
"Confess your trespasses to one another." James 5:16
It is related of John the evangelist, that being upon his return from Patmos to Ephesus after the death of Domitian, he was set upon by a company of thieves, among whom was a young man, their captain; to whom John applied himself, by way of wholesome counsel and advice, which took so good effect that he became a new man and was converted and went thereupon to all his fellow-thieves and besought them, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they would walk no longer in their former wicked ways. He told them withal, that he was troubled in conscience, and earnestly entreated them that they would now leave off their old courses. The counsel was good and well taken, so that many of those great robbers became great converts. Thus it is that one sinner's confession of his trespasses to another may happily prove the means of his conversion. Hence the meaning of that precept, "Confess your trespasses one to another," is thus interpreted by some: That he, for example, who has been a drunkard, should go to his companions in iniquity and tell them that he is troubled in mind, and perhaps he may be a means of converting them. Reader! Are you a converted man? Follow this method; go to your old companions; warn them of their danger; and you will either be a means of converting them, or hereby will get rid of their troublesome company in future. Again, he who has injured another, should confess his fault to him, as well as to God, and beg forgiveness from both.
"Do not enter into judgment with Your servant." Psalm 143:2
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life." John 5:24 [See also John 8:51, Isaiah 25:8.]
Since the Judge himself is our Brother, our Bridegroom, the Lord of death and life, yes, even our life, believers cannot die eternally because they are passed from death unto life. He who owns the justice of God's judgment, confesses himself guilty in all things, and appeals from the judgment seat to the mercy seat him the Lord will own and justify through the righteousness of His Son. For "if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged"; nay, we should even sit in judgment together with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:2); and surely, in that day, we shall not pass a sentence of condemnation on ourselves, though owning ourselves worthy of the deepest condemnation but for this imputed righteousness, which is all our hope; and much less will Christ, for He loves us more than we do ourselves. My soul, sit in judgment on yourself every day and afresh exercise faith in the finished work of Christ. This is the way to maintain peace, sustain confidence, and secure the victory. Daily dealings with Jesus will give us daily triumphs.
"Give heed to me, O Lord." Jeremiah 18:19
"Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Psalm 121:4
"Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
The care of the Lord which He takes for His little ones infinitely exceeds the care of the most tender mother over her weak and helpless child. Then, while I feel and own myself weak, foolish, and wretched, the Lord being the guardian of such babes, He will have patience with me. Knowing myself, therefore, to be always a weak and ignorant child, I will labor to keep close to Jesus, in waiting and prayer. And, since He is the Minister of the sanctuary, He will never let me lack anything that is good for me but will defend me and feed me and train me up in the best and most suitable manner. Gracious Savior, give me grace to believe the testimony borne to You in Your holy Word, and enable me daily, yes hourly, to come to You for all I need. I would live believing Your love to me, Your care of me, and Your readiness to do me good. O that I could trust You always, rest in You at all times, and rejoice in Your finished work! You are not only what I want but all I want. Glory, glory, to Your most holy name!
"Then they said to the woman, 'Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.'" John 4:42
"If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." 1 Peter 2:3
It is an important thing to know, assuredly, that the Scripture has such a witness as experience, and that there is a real correspondence between the saints and the Word, between the believer and Christ. What an empty thing would religion be without a heart-felt knowledge of its truth! Experience is the sure and secret mark whereby the Christian knows that the Scripture is of God, and feels his own interest in Christ; he has been often raised from the depths of gloom by the application of the Word to his heart. O what an excellent interpreter is experience! Thus the serious Christian obtains a view of the Scripture and spiritual things, which the most piercing eye of unsanctified schoolmen cannot teach (Psalm 34:8, Psalm 116:10, 2 Timothy 1:12, Galatians 2:16, Hebrews 4:3).
This cannot be found in books; men will not meet with it in a throng of the choicest notions; it confounds the wise and disputer of this world, while the most simple Christian understands it well, to the satisfaction of his soul.
Reader, press after experience; live not by hearsay and upon the comforts of others but entreat the Lord to give you this inward testimony; it will help you in future trials; it will remove many of your fears and make your passage through life easy and comfortable.
"Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it." Mark 8:34-35 [See also Luke 9:23.]
"Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:33
This doctrine is discarded by all who call Christ "Lord, Lord," but do not the things which He says. The language of their hearts is, "Speak to us smooth things, prophecy deceits" (Isaiah 30:10). How different was that of the apostle! "Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). No cross, no crown. Let us not, then, be afraid of the cross; for, when we bear it, it bears us; and when we refuse to take it up, we refuse the staff of every Christian pilgrim and the weapon of every Christian soldier; we renounce the tree of life for that of vain knowledge, and practically deny Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Our life should be an imitation of the life of Christ; He is our exemplar. We must carry His cross, tread in His steps, breathe His spirit, and then we shall wear His crown. The way Jesus went is our way; the end Jesus aimed at is our end, and the home of Jesus will be our home.
"Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Mark 11:24
"Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." John 16:23-24
"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord." James 1:6-7
Herod promised with an oath to give the daughter of Herodias whatever she would ask, even to the half of his kingdom. How advantageous was his promise! But how much more so that of the Lord! "By myself I gave sworn," says He, that "blessing I will bless you" (Genesis 22:16-17). When He bids us ask, He does not lay us under a restriction of not asking above half a kingdom. No, we may ask a whole kingdom, even the kingdom of Heaven, consisting both of grace and glory. Both are purchased for us by the blood of the Lamb; both promised to believers in the word of the gospel, and both actually bestowed: grace upon praying souls in the Church militant; glory upon praising souls in the Church triumphant. If now we do not enjoy the kingdom of grace, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, it is merely because we have not asked, or have asked amiss that is, without faith, or in our own name, and not in the all-prevailing name of Jesus. Spirit of prayer, dwell in my heart!
"O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great." Psalm 25:11
"Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." Romans 5:20
"For He will abundantly pardon." Isaiah 55:7
It is all one with God to forgive a repenting sinner his trespasses, whether great or small, many or few; for they are all atoned for with one ransom. No sin, properly speaking, is little in itself; and none is greater than the grace of God and the infinite price laid down for it. Whatever sins, therefore, a man feels yet he may throw himself upon the abounding grace of God. This grace must also be our comfort, to depend upon alone, even when it is best with us; for then only it is best with us when we depend alone on grace and live in it, as in our element. Grace brings salvation, purifies our nature, and makes us fit for Heaven. It begins, it carries on, and will complete our restoration to God's image. Grace can do anything for a sinner because it acts freely, and a sinner may expect anything from grace because it seeks only its own glory. If sin is a river, grace is an ocean; and the river is not more swallowed up in the ocean, than are the sins of a believer swallowed up in grace. O my soul, admire, adore, and rejoice in free and sovereign grace!
What though your numerous sins exceed
The stars that fill the skies.
And, aiming at th' eternal throne,
Like pointed mountains rise!
See, here an endless ocean flows
Of never-failing grace;
Behold a dying Savior's veins.
The sacred flood increase!
""Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak." Psalm 6:2
"And made me bold with strength in my soul." Psalm 138:3
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9
"He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy." Psalm 147:10-11
"The LORD will give strength to His people." Psalm 29:11
In whatever part we are weak and most beset by corrupted nature, we may yet be strong enough, through grace, to come off conquerors. Therefore hope against hope, and despair not of overcoming by the power of God, be your corruptions within and your enemies without ever so strong and obstinate. I am weak indeed but Christ is strong; I am poor; He is rich; I am sick; He is the Physician; I am a sinner; He is the Savior of sinners; consequently He suits me, and I suit Him. But let me look to Him daily, seek His face earnestly, and obtain grace to help in every time of need. He gives liberally and does not upbraid. The strength of Jesus is for His people; in this they have wrought; in this they have fought, and in this they have all arrived safe at home. O Jesus, teach me to live upon You for strength, and in every conflict, in every trial, in the hour of death, strengthen me, help me, and uphold me!
"How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking head according to Your word . Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law . Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously. I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me . Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end." Psalm 119: 9, 18, 29-30, 33
Neither the old nor the young can walk uprightly, without taking heed to the Word of God; if they depart from that, they soon fall into error and vicious courses; but if they would make the Word their rule, they must read it carefully and pray diligently for the aid of the Holy Spirit. If David considered his eyes as shut, how much more should we consider ours so, and pray, "Open my eyes." He who does not fervently pray thus is still blind, even though he should think himself a profound divine and be so esteemed by others. Lord, give me to see the wonders both of Your law and gospel and turn my feet from every crooked path. Let Your commandments be always before me as my guide and enable me to choose the narrow path of truth and steadfastly walk in it to the end. This was David's request throughout this long Psalm. Make it mine, O Lord, and imbue me with the spirit of David, and of David's Lord. Be my teacher; keep me at Your feet as a learner and make me wise, useful, and exemplary.
"Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies." Psalm 27:11
"Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name." Psalm 86:11
"Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way .
Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses." Psalm 25:8, 12
O Lord, be pleased to fulfill this gracious promise in me also. You have inclined my heart to do Your will, and yet I am often in darkness about Your will. Here it is written, "Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He teaches sinners in the way." It is Your own word; I may depend upon it and would plead it with You; many times You have fulfilled this promise already, and You are willing and able to do it evermore. You are ever mindful of Your word, and I would keep close to it. Then let Your Spirit well explain Your word and write it on my heart, enabling me to understand, to love, and to practice it, giving to me a spirit of perfect faith and implicit obedience and conformity to Your will. My soul, daily seek Divine teaching; no one teaches like the Holy Spirit, and on some subjects, no one can teach to purpose but Him. He not only reveals the truth to the eye but applies it to the heart and enables us to carry it out in our lives.
"Bring back our captivity, O LORD." Psalm 126:4
"The LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." Isaiah 61:1
"Thus says the LORD: 'In an acceptable time I have heard You, and in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You as a covenant to the people, to restore the earth, to cause them to inherit the desolate heritages; that You may say to the prisoners, "Go forth," to those who are in darkness, "Show yourselves." They shall feed along the roads, and their pastures shall be on all desolate heights. They shall neither hunger nor thirst.'" Isaiah 49:8-10 [See also Isaiah 35:10.]
O Lord, I am hungering after the righteousness and freedom, not only of faith but of holiness also; not that I may make holiness the foundation of hope but the evidence of faith; and that I may be able to rejoice and take the comfort of Your righteousness alone, without deceiving my soul; that a sense of my nothingness and my emptiness may be ever present, that so I may be filled with all the fullness of Christ. Grant, therefore, that I may be truly filled and may be strong, easy, and free, so as to be kept no longer in the bonds of pride, unbelief, an upbraiding conscience, or a worldly heart. May I rejoice in Christ Jesus, as formed in me the hope of glory, as well as sacrificed for me, to make atonement for my sins. O to be enabled to say with Paul, from heartfelt experience, "I am crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Poor helpless worms in You possess
Grace, wisdom, power, and righteousness;
You are our mighty All and we
Give our whole selves, O Lord, to Thee.
"How long will You hide Your face from me?" Psalm 13:1
"'For a mere moment I have forsaken you but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,' says the LORD, your Redeemer. '7For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.'" Isaiah 54:7-9
When the Lord is pleased to quicken us in our prayers with a lively impression of one or more promises, we are apt to think that the hour of His help is come. But afterwards, it may be, He not only hides himself for a great while again but things take such a strange and contrary course, as if all had been nothing, or as if nothing was more uncertain than the word of God; nay, even God himself. But Christians must then be prudently upon their guard, not without the pleasing expectation that God is going to do some glorious things for them; for, if they be first more convinced of their utter unworthiness, if they act with faith and patience and be more earnest in prayers, they will afterwards receive more abundant favor. Yet God, as a Sovereign, will give such measures of consolation at such seasons and to such persons as He pleases. And the only right spirit oi the believer is that of humble submission to His will. Lord, give me grace to acquiesce in Your wise, holy, and loving will, always, and in all places.
"How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?" Psalm 13:1
"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me." Isaiah 49:15-16
"I will not leave you orphans." John 14:18
Were all our sins and afflictions so soon to be prayed away with a few words, whence these sad and repeated complaints of David? Why should God advise us to wait for Him and persevere in hope? And how could faith and patience be exercised? In our closets we may be lifted up with high speculations, seem to be strong and able to leap over all the walls but in great distress we see how dejected and distrusting our hearts often are (Psalm 30:7-8). But faith is the true confidence, and weakness the surest claim to strength; for the Lord preserves us; He is our strength and our shield. My soul, seek the assurance of the Lord's love; and having obtained this, remember, Jesus never forsakes or forgets His own. We often turn from Him; He never turns from us; He is faithful, though we are fickle. Yes, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself." Precious Lord Jesus, help me to rejoice in Your unchangeable love amidst all the changes that I experience below!
"Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths." Psalm 25:4
"Show me now Your way, that I may know You." Exodus 33:13
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." Psalm 32:8
"My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14
O Lord, allow me not to step aside in the least from Your way, much less to fall away from You, the true supporter of my soul, by the folly of my own imagination. May I never run before You have called me, to the hurt of my soul; but constantly and confidently abide in You, always drawing the necessary light and strength from You by never-ceasing supplications. Grant that, my eye being fixed continually upon You, I may be guided into all truth, my doings be attended with Your blessings, and my whole life be a constant progress towards Heaven.
CHRIST'S ANSWER: "I will keep you as the apple of My eye, that no evil shall come near you. As a careful mother watches over her child, so have I undertaken to teach you My path and guide you with My own eyes. Whatever faintings and failings may befall you yet will I be ever faithful, raising you up again and leading you evermore in My ways. Nay, as a good shepherd, I will carry you in My own arms, whenever your increasing weakness shall require."
"As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." 1 Peter 2:2
New-born babes must not self-conceitedly be desirous of high things and strong meat. Such is not the way by which they are to grow in grace and advance from strength to strength. Such have more need experimentally to understand the first oracles of Christ and taste the milk and saving power of the gospel. This would best make them grow in grace and wean them from the world. A sucking child esteems nothing else in comparison of its mother's breast, and those that delight more in lofty imaginations than the Bible do not proceed in a right spirit and will therefore find it necessary to retrace their steps and learn over again the first principles of religion. The nearer Christians approach their end and desire to be duly prepared for Heaven, the more they walk in deep humility and godly simplicity, placing themselves on the lowest bench of weak and little children. Thus they become the fittest vessels of grace; they will certainly be enlightened and have the mystery of Christ revealed in their hearts (Matthew 11:25). The lower we lie before God, the more we receive from Him, and the more we become like Him.
"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened ." Ephesians 3:14-21
This is a prayer fit to be used by ministers for their congregations, and by all Christians for themselves; it may be used as a daily prayer; we should offer it up in faith, without apprehending that the favor we ask is too great. God will do exceedingly more for us than we can either ask or understand. Whatever we ask, He will grant us still more; for, though we are sinners, Jesus has received gifts even for sinners, and to every one of us (verse 7) is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, that we may enjoy all things richly Christ being rich toward all them that call upon Him. O God, You are our Father, reconciled to us in Christ; grant us therefore power, great power, according to the riches of Your glory, not according to the narrowness of our hearts. We stand in need of great power, for we have great enemies; strengthen us by Your Spirit in the inner man. Lord Jesus, dwell in our hearts and grant us to be rooted in Your love, that we may know it more and more, that it may be shed abroad in our hearts, that we may be enabled to manifest its fruit in our lives, and that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. You are able to do exceeding and abundantly above all that I can ask or think; work therefore in me all the good pleasure of Your goodness and the work of faith with power.
"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!... Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You .
Then I would not be ashamed, when I look into all Your commandments . Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope . I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart." Psalm 119:11, 38, 6, 49, 32
The comforts of the gospel sweetly and powerfully urge us to obedience, and the terrors of the law warn us against resting on that obedience. Both therefore are needful. Whoever despises or neglects obedience entertains a false notion of the gospel and is running headlong into licentiousness and ruin. And he who relies on his obedience to justify him defeats the design of the gospel and frustrates the grace of God, making it of no effect. May the Lord lead and keep us in the right way. May He be our guide and our shield, our comforter and our great reward. May we rest simply and alone on the finished work of Jesus for our acceptance with God and then assiduously attend to all the precepts of His holy Word, to His glory. Before God, we will have to do with nothing but Christ; but before men, we will endeavor to live soberly, righteously, and godly, that by our good works, they may glorify our Father who is in Heaven.
"For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:19-20
Christ being our Head in whom all fullness dwells, He will certainly fill all His members with life and strength, according to His promise, John 14:19: "Because I live, you will live also"; and chapter 17:3: "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." To know Christ, and God in Christ, is true light and life; he who has this, has enough. O the excellency of the knowledge of Christ! Lord, teach me to know You as the Bridegroom of my soul, that the law may not rush into my conscience, now Your bride-chamber, and condemn me any more. I desire to be devoted to You alone (Romans 7:4). Grant, therefore, that my whole heart and life, all my words and actions, may be governed only by a living faith on You, who have loved me and given Yourself for me. Holy Spirit, reveal Christ to me, and in me, more clearly and more fully, that I may glory in His name!
"I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me." Psalm 109:22
"I know your poverty (but you are rich)." Revelation 2:9
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 5:3
"The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!" Psalm 22:26
"He heals the brokenhearted . The LORD lifts up the humble." Psalm 147:3, 6
"A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, until He sends forth justice to victory." Matthew 12:20
Such are the tender mercies of Christ toward the weakest of His people, that He supplies them from time to time with all strength, until at last they are able to gain a complete victory. As soon, therefore, as we are sensible of our poverty or miserable condition and are desirous of grace and strength to overcome sin, evidencing that desire to be sincere by constant prayer, we have actually some grace and spiritual life and are delivered already from the jaws of Hell; for there is no such feeling in dead souls; and in Hell there is only a desire to be delivered from the punishment of sin but not from sin itself. My soul, bless God for quickening grace, which makes you feel your need; and then seek satisfying grace, even the water which Jesus gives, which shall be in you a well of living water, springing up into everlasting life.
Blessed are the humble souls that see
Their emptiness and poverty;
Treasures of grace to them are given,
And crowns of joy laid up in Heaven.
Blessed are the men of broken heart.
Who mourn for sin with inward smart;
The blood of Christ divinely flows,
A healing balm for all their woes.
"I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life." John 8:12
"Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going." John 12:35
He who is faithful, keeping ever close to Christ and His light, strictly watching and obeying the motions of His Spirit, will be always tender in conscience and will receive proportionate measures of light; consequently he will be from time to time more deeply rooted in repentance, faith, and assurance, so as either to be preserved from many combats and disorders, or at least to be carried sooner through the same. He may meet with dark valleys in his pilgrimage (for nature is covered with darkness, and grace sometimes only glimmers like a spark); yet by degrees it will blaze, and at last break through and enlighten all our darkness. The day will dawn and the shadows flee away before the Sun of Righteousness. My soul, keep your eye fixed on Jesus, as the light of the world. Walk closely with Jesus by faith, in holy fellowship. This will preserve you from darkness, depression, despondency, and despair; this will fill you with joy, peace, confidence, and love.
Is he a Sun? His beams are grace,
His course is joy and righteousness;
Nations rejoice when He appears,
To chase the clouds and dry their tears.
Nor earth, nor seas, nor sun, nor star
Nor Heaven His full resemblance bears.
His beauties we can never trace.
Until we behold Him face to face.
"I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go. Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea." Isaiah 48:17-18
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Revelation 3:20
How often and how variously does the Lord knock at the door of our hearts: by the voice of His Word, of His Spirit, or of conscience! But how seldom are we inclined to give Him the hearing! We are often so distracted with business or pleasure, that we can hardly observe His voice amidst the hurry and noise of worldly things; and we are not at home when He knocks and seeks to take up His abode with us. Even now He is knocking. Hearken to His voice and open the door for Him directly, since He desires nothing from us that is unreasonable but intends to make our heart a glorious residence and banqueting room of love, fill it with heavenly treasure, and give us everything along with Himself. He never comes empty-handed but brings with Him the very blessings that we need. We only find the room; He furnishes the feast and invites us to sup with Him. O how sweet to sup with Jesus and to hear Him say, "Eat, O friends, drink, yes, drink abundantly, O my beloved!"
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear fruit . Abide in Me, and I in you . He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." John 15:1-5
O Lord, I trust that this word will have its accomplishment in me also, though as yet I have great reason to be humbled on account of my barrenness. Grant, therefore, that I may always abide in You faithfully and quietly, since there is everything in Your power; and nothing can be done by my own strength but as it is You will, and it tends both to the glory of Your Father and Your own. I depend upon being replenished, in due season, with fruits of righteousness. O suffer nothing in me which may dishonor Your name, and which would prove hurtful to myself and offensive to others. But whatever You judge fit for me to suffer, let it work for my real good!
How can I sufficiently adore the patience of the Lord, my gracious Vine-dresser, who still bears with me, the weakest of all His branches. He has not cut me off yet but still employs means to make me more fruitful, though I have yielded little else but wild grapes. Why then should you murmur, O my soul, at the application of His pruning-knife? It is really for your good. He is angry only with the degenerate, unfruitful branches. The more you are pruned, the more fruit you shall bring forth; and the more fruit, the more is your heavenly Father glorified. O for grace to glorify God, by bringing forth much fruit!
"I am glorified in them . I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them . I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one." John 17:10, 26, 23
O glorious promise! How could He love us more! What blessed and intimate union is this! O for such a faith as could always truly believe it! Christ is the Vine; believers are the branches; He the Bridegroom, they the bride; He the Head, they the members of His body, of His very flesh and bones, and consequently, one body with Him. And who ever hated his own flesh? In loving and cherishing believers, He loves Himself (Ephesians 5:28-29). Whenever He shall cease to love Himself, then, and no sooner, will He cease to cherish them also. It is His own delight to do them good, more than the mother's to protect and nourish her child. He is ours, and we are His one with Him, dear to Him as the apple of His eye. Having loved His own that are in the world, He loves them unto the end. Having once brought us into union with Himself, He will preserve the union. Thus He glorifies Himself in us, performing in us all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power. O Jesus, reveal Your Father's name to me more fully and more powerfully!
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29
Here Christ is commending His own meekness, both as a pattern for imitation and as an encouragement for heavy-laden sinners to draw near to Him with confidence. Rest is promised, not for the merit of our labor and humility but merely for our coming to Him and believing in Him. He says, "Take My yoke upon you."
"But how shall I take it?" says the sinner.
"Learn of Me," says the Savior. "Let Me be your Teacher; and though you are blind and foolish, fretful and forgetful, yes, wholly polluted with sin, I can yet bear with you, because I am meek and lowly in heart not rough and haughty to offenders, as Pharisees usually are but full of compassion toward them, willing to receive them, and ready to forgive and comfort them."
Come therefore to Him, O sinner, with all your loads of sin and misery; He will in no wise cast you out but receive you gladly.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake." Psalm 23:1-3
He who is wise in his own conceit, as philosophers usually are, does not pray, like David, to be sought after and healed by Jesus Christ; and therefore he continues, amidst all his boasted wisdom, deeply ignorant of his fallen nature and his ruined state. But as You have given me, O Good Shepherd, to understand my lost and helpless condition and that like a wandering sheep, I can neither find myself when lost nor advise myself how to return, I beseech You to seek, heal, lead, feed, carry, and strengthen me also, as my various necessities require; that I may be able to say with David, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." My soul, look to Jesus this day in this sweet character. View Him as your kind, careful, and watchful Shepherd. Lie at His feet or walk by His side; He will lead you into rich and pleasant pastures, even His own holy Word; He will conduct you to the dear still waters, even His Holy Spirit. There is no lack in following Jesus; lack comes from wandering from Him.
My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is His name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back,
When I forsake His ways;
And leads me, for His mercy's sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
"I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant." Genesis 32:10
"Who am I, O Lord GOD? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?" 2 Samuel 7:18
A soul truly humbled highly esteems every favor and judges itself utterly unworthy of the least, looking upon everything as a free gift and bestowed only for Jesus Christ's sake. Now, O my Father, in myself I certainly deserve none, no, not the least of Your mercies; but as You have graciously looked upon me and given me Your only Son, who has purchased all blessing at a high price for sinners, I do believe that goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. Be it so, holy Father, to Your glory and my everlasting joy. My soul, seek humbling grace from Jesus; so shall you be prepared to receive great things from Jesus. He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Look back also, and trace out the Lord's dealings with you, and mark how goodness and mercy have followed you all the days of your life; observe what returns you have made Him for His innumerable blessings, and you will soon feel as Jacob felt and exclaim as he exclaimed, "I am not worthy of the least of all Your mercies."
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:1-2
The presenting of our bodies a living sacrifice unto God, when attended with serious prayer and reading the Scriptures, is the best means of knowing the will of God. To neglect this and use other means is tempting God and exposing ourselves to the temptations and siftings of the wicked one. We may think ourselves to be divinely convinced by faith of the will of God, though we follow our own imaginations and spoil the best of our actions. Self-will generally takes quick resolutions and has a great deal of assurance, whereas God very often leads His people by a way which they know not and takes methods quite different from those which they would have adopted. "Whoever believes will not act hastily" (Isaiah 28:16). Let everyone be careful that he does not mistake self-will and plausible representations for Divine convictions and assurances of faith and strictly examine himself first, whether his body, soul, will, and affections, are entirely offered up to the good-will and pleasure of God; for God requires the service of the whole man, even a sacrificing of our whole selves to Him at all times, not only at church but in all other places. My God and Father, conform me to Your will; fill me with Your own love, and make a correct representation of Your own Son!
"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Isaiah 61:10
In vain do you adorn yourself, O my soul, before you approach Christ. To Him you must come, not glorying in your presumed loveliness but expecting all your attire and dignity from Him. The very best of our robes need to be washed in the blood of Christ (Revelation 7:14), and it is by faith in His atonement and righteousness that the holiest of men are justified before His heavenly Father. The fruits of this faith are manifested in the renouncement of all self-righteousness, in the spirit of love, of humility, and unceasing prayer, wherein we find evidences that our names are written in Heaven. Spirit of God! Reveal this glorious righteousness of Jesus more clearly to me and put it mere sensibly in me, that I may joy and rejoice in it. To realize that all Jesus did is mine and that all He suffered, He suffered for me will fill me with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Righteousness of Jesus! I will wear no other robe when I appear before God; I will trust in no other work, when I seek justification at God's bar.
"I have sinned against the LORD The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die." 2 Samuel 12:13
"For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged." 1 Corinthians 11:31
He who with sincere repentance accuses and judges himself, placing no dependence on works of righteousness which he may have done but looking to the mercy of God through His dear Son, may expect to receive forgiveness of all his sins at once, though chastisement may follow. For pardons are not bestowed in various measures, as spiritual gifts are. God, through Christ, receives the whole person of a penitent sinner into His favor, forgiving both original and actual sins in one instant, so that either none or all are forgiven. But though repentance is needful to humble a sinner and to bring him to Christ yet no sins are forgiven on account of this repentance but through faith alone in the blood of Christ. This it is that the purifications of the ceremonial law were designed to typify. This fountain washes away the guilt of all sins, though ever so numerous and heinous. For it is written, "The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). And, "God for Christ's sake has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).
"Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all impurity with greediness." Ephesians 4:18-19
If a man be naturally dead, though the sun shine in his face, he sees not its splendor, nor feels its warmth. Offer him rich presents; he receives them not; he has no eye to see them, no heart to desire them, no hand to grasp them. Thus it is with one that is spiritually dead; let the sunshine of the gospel blaze out ever so clearly, he sees it not because he is in darkness; though he live under plentiful means and rich dispensations yet he is blind and poor; offer him the rich pearls of the gospel, the rich treasures of grace in Christ Jesus yet he has no heart to them, no hand of faith to lay hold upon them; so blind, stupid, and senseless is he, that, though these rich treasures, these graces, these pearls of the gospel, be conveyed unto him in earthen vessels, in a plain and familiar manner yet he does not, he cannot apprehend them; judgments do not affright him, and mercies cannot allure and persuade him. In the mean time, this creature is all life in the element of sin: he loves it; he pleads for it, he commits it with greediness. This is Paul's account of the unconverted Gentiles, and how many such have we under a Christian name! O Lord, exert Your great power and quicken all that are thus dead in trespasses and sins. Carry on also Your work in my heart, that I may be holy in word and deed.
"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits." Psalm 130:6
"Those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31
"The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him." Lamentations 3:25
When we have prayed, we must remember to wait also; for this is well pleasing to the Lord and expressly commanded by Him. The more we wait and the more instant we are in prayer, so much more will He give. Nay, He always hears and grants our petitions directly, though He often lays up the enjoyment of the answer until His infinite wisdom determines that the fittest time is arrived. Therefore, we may confidently say, "Such and such gifts I shall have, since I have prayed for them; they are actually laid up for me, and the use and benefit thereof I shall reap in due season, especially in death and in eternity." There are two rules by which we may judge if God will give us anything. The first is: Is it promised in his Word? The second is: Will it really do me good? And the second is included in the first, for God has promised us every good thing. But if a really good thing would become food for our lusts or a snare to our souls, our God will withhold it until we are prepared to receive it without injury. Therefore, if it tarries, wait for it; for there is mercy even in delays.
"In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul." Psalm 94:19 [See also 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.]
A converted man without afflictions is ready to place his trust and seek his comforts in temporal things. Earthly desires crowd upon him, filling his soul with vanity; and he cannot well taste the sweet comforts of God's word but under the burden of the cross. Here we often enjoy more solid rest than if we were without a cross, and then Jesus Christ verifies His declaration (Matthew 11:30), "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." Thus our hearts are set against the world, reconciled to heavenly things, and easily separated from many idols which we could not forsake before. Well then may we bear these beneficial burdens which, when sanctified, will produce present comfort, and soon issue in eternal rest and glory. And since the Lord has promised to give strength sufficient for the day that we may not be tempted above measure, there is abundant reason to acknowledge that His burden is light indeed, that His grace is sufficient for us, and His strength perfected in our weakness. Blessed promise: "As your day, so shall your strength be!"
"I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." Psalm 111:10
"The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." James 3:17
"Knowledge puffs up but love edifies." 1 Corinthians 8:1
Christ crucified, and He alone, is the power and wisdom of God; all Christians, and especially divines, should make it their particular practice to study it well. Were our faith built on human wisdom, then surely the shrewdest philosophers would be the greatest believers, whereas they are sometimes the worst infidels. The wisdom which is from above delights to dwell with the lowly and babes, who pray for it earnestly (Proverbs 11:2; Matthew 11:25). What would all knowledge avail us, then, without the knowledge of Christ! 0ne spark of pure love yields more power than all the stores of empty human learning. May the Lord Jesus shed His love abroad in my heart; Him have I determined to know, and Him only; the knowledge of His love, as exemplified on the cross, I account my greatest wisdom and glory. Jesus! Jesus is my all in all in life, and shall be my all in all in death!
"I will not let You go unless You bless me!" Genesis 32:26
"Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God." Psalm 38:21
"Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you." Genesis 28:15
"I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight." Exodus 33:12
"I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
God will have me to be faithful, and will not He be so Himself? Am I to trust in His word? Then surely He will not forsake me but graciously fulfill His word. Heaven and earth must pass away but His word will not. He is ever faithful. If I do not believe this, I derogate from the character of God, and can have no help or comfort from His word; but if I truly believe Him to be faithful, I believe enough. This is what He requires; and if I really comply, my faith will not be moved, even in the hottest trials; the Word will hold me up, though I receive it even in weakness. But my faith must be constant, undivided, unmixed with self-righteousness; it must be attended with continual prayer. My God, send Your Holy Spirit to work this faith in me. Let me not be faithless but believing. Help me to take up these precious promises and appropriate them; having done so, plead them at Your throne and fully expect their fulfillment. May I never doubt Your veracity or question Your faithfulness; but rather say with Job, "Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him."
"I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment." Matthew 12:36 [See also Ephesians 4:29, 5:4.]
Here all corrupt communication, jesting, foolish talking, and whatever is not convenient and good to the use of edifying, are plainly forbidden. But who truly believes the purpose and the truth of these awful words? Surely the world does not believe them at all: this is quite plain, from that very common and shocking practice of reviling, lying, swearing, jesting, and talking all manner of filthiness. Even religious people do not sufficiently believe and consider these important subjects. How many heedless, slanderous, idle, and unprofitable words do they occasionally utter! Be therefore careful, O my reader, to weigh every word and to make light of none, for such will increase your account. Whenever you are going to speak, let the question be first, "Is it needful to speak? Does it tend to the glory of God? Will it profit me or others?" O Lord, grant that never an idle word may drop from my lips. Whenever I am to converse with others, give me grace first to converse with You by secret prayer. In all companies let Your presence be before my eyes; let me always look upon You as the chief Person in the place, and receive direction when and what I am to speak. May Your good Spirit always teach me and sanctify all my thoughts and words. O for grace to honor Jesus by every thought, every word, and every act! O to keep the great day and the white throne always in view!
"Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called." 1 Corinthians 7:20
Most of the employments of life are, in their own nature, lawful; and all those that are so may be made a substantial part of our duty to God, if we engage in them only so far and for such ends as are suitable to beings that are to live above the world. This is the only measure of our application to any worldly business: it must have no more of our hands, our hearts, or our time than is consistent with a hearty, daily, careful preparation of ourselves for another life. For since all true Christians have renounced this world to prepare themselves, by daily devotion and universal holiness, for an eternal state of quite another nature, they must look upon worldly employments as upon worldly wants and bodily infirmities things not to be desired but merely to be endured until death and the resurrection have carried us to an eternal state of real happiness. A person being called into the kingdom of grace is not designed to make void the duties that arise from his peculiar calling or situation in life but to enforce the practice of them in such a way as may be most to the glory of God. He must be no less diligent in business than fervent in spirit. He, therefore, that does not consider the things of this life as of little moment, or even nothing, in comparison of the things that are eternal, cannot be said either to feel or believe the greatest truths of Christianity; yet he who does not provide for his own house is worse than an infidel.
"The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day." Isaiah 2:17
"Pride," says the son of Sirach, "was not made for man."
"Everyone," says Solomon, "that is proud in heart, is an abomination to the Lord." Yet what is more common than pride and self-righteousness among the fallen children of Adam? So deeply are they engrafted in our corrupt natures that nothing short of almighty grace can root them up.
It is the great design and effect of the blessed gospel, wherever it is applied to the heart by the Spirit of God, to mortify these fatal evils. In that day the haughtiness of man (his self-will, which he set up in opposition to the will of God) shall be brought down; and his self-righteousness, by which he thought to recommend himself to the favor of God, shall be made low; and Christ and His righteousness alone shall be exalted.
Has this precious promise ever been fulfilled in your experience, O my soul? Is the will of God your rule? Is the righteousness of Christ your hope? And is the language of your heart and life, "Let God in all things be exalted in me and by me, through Christ Jesus!" Without this, O my soul, your profession is vain; your faith is also vain, and you are yet in your sins. You have exalted yourself in the place of your Lord, and your righteousness and your confidence are founded on the sand; and so sure as this is the case, the Lord will have a controversy with you and bring you down.
""I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness." 1 Chronicles 29:17
"He is a shield to those who walk uprightly." Proverbs 2:7
"The LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
As God searches the heart and tries the reins, He cannot be deceived by outward form; we ought not therefore to deceive ourselves in this particular. It is no certain proof of a real conversion to God if we renounce merely the grosser sins of our former lives, much less if we abstain from such things only as by nature we are not so much inclined to indulge; but, if our hearts are so renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit as to be firmly and habitually opposed to our most beloved lusts, we have a good evidence of a real conversion. The Lord and all His upright followers attack first, and with the greatest ardor, these inward enemies. But if we would thus effectually prosecute the holy war, we must look with an unwearied eye to the Captain of our salvation, believing that He is both able and willing to support us and to ensure complete and everlasting triumph. Lord, make me upright! May I stand before God, just in Jesus; and walk before men, in sincerity and simplicity. Keep me from duplicity and every species of hypocrisy. To that end, give me a rooted hatred to all sin, steady faith in the word and work of Jesus, and habitual concern for Your glory and praise.
"I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.'" Hosea 2:6
As it is only with You, O my Savior, that I can be happy, I would never leave You any more; sooner than that I should depart from You, under whatever plausible pretenses, let my way be hedged up and let thorns grow all around me. Let me quickly discover and crucify everything which would intercept the manifestations of Your love or diminish mine. Never would I take one step out of the way which You frequent, lest I bring on myself guilt and trouble. As for the cross which You impose, I will cheerfully bear it and even bless You for the burden.
Glory be to You, that You have not given me up yet, and suffered me to run into destruction in my own ways. Be pleased to restrain me still; and whenever I am in danger of wandering into the broad way, let me find no rest until I am brought back, though it be through the briers of affliction. Keep me at the feet of Jesus, whatever is necessary to do so.
I know Your judgments, Lord, are right.
Though they may seem severe;
The sharpest sufferings I endure
Flow from Your faithful care.
Before I knew Your chastening rod,
My feet were apt to stray;
But now I learn to keep Your word,
Nor wander from Your way.
"Then he said, 'Are you really my son Esau?' He said, 'I am.'"
There are certainly some circumstances in this affair which may help a little to excuse Jacob and his mother but cannot justify them. The case may be thus stated. It cannot be denied, on the one hand, that both Jacob and his mother were justly to be praised for having a due esteem of his father's solemn blessing and for their endeavoring to attain it, since this must have proceeded from a full persuasion of the truth of God's covenant with Abraham. Thus, from the consideration of the goodness of the end and from Jacob's title to the blessing, as accompanying the birthright, as also from the foreappointment of God, together with Isaac's ratification of the blessing when done, may be drawn some arguments to lessen their crime. On the other hand, it must be confessed that the means used to attain their ends were highly criminal. Rebecca was wrong in her advice to her son, and he was wrong in following it; for though God, before he was born, designed him to inherit the blessing yet he ought to have waited until the Divine wisdom opened the way, and not have anticipated God and procured the blessing by an irregular act of his own. Besides, both of them, by this act, presumed to limit the power of God by thinking that fraud was needful to accomplish God's purpose. Oh, that we may be taught from this to repose our all implicitly in His hands and to walk in holy simplicity and sincerity before Him.
"Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 3:13
Does sin present itself? Turn away from it with loathing and prayer. Give it not a look, lest it ensnare you. If you commit sin and die without repentance, your soul is lost, and your redemption ceases forever; or, if you commit sin and repent yet expect the hidings of God's face and what David referred to when he speaks of the bones which God had broken. Oh, what bitter pangs, what painful throes, what shadows of death, what terrors of Hell may seize upon you before you can regain your peace or settle your assurance! Will you give way to sin because it is delightful or because it is pardonable? Who loves poison because it is sweet? 0r who drinks poison because he may have an antidote? I have a precious soul; shall I lose it for a lust? I have a gracious God; shall I risk His favor for a sin? Lord, give me grace to resist sin; give me victory over it; let me always reject that for the indulgence of which I am sure to lose my peace and endanger the loss of my immortal soul. O to look at sin as the abominable thing which God hates!
Sin has a thousand treacherous arts
To practice on the mind;
With flattering looks she tempts our hearts,
But leaves a sting behind.
With names of virtue she deceives
The aged and the young:
And while the heedless wretch believes,
She makes his fetters strong.
"This is He who came by water and blood Jesus Christ; not only by water but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth . He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life." 1 John 5:6, 10-12
Jesus came with water and blood; not with water alone, to sanctify us but also with His blood, to make atonement for our sins. We should, therefore, first of all, penitently seek and obtain remission of sins in His blood; then may we hope to obtain the water of life, the Holy Spirit, for our inward purification. And His Holy Spirit will bear witness within us, that the gospel is truth, and that God will fulfill His word by giving us everlasting life as He has promised. We have three witnesses of it in Heaven and three on earth. And if we believe in Christ, we have this true testimony in ourselves and may therefore assuredly know, that having the Son of God, we have life, eternal life; for He is (according to verse 20) "life eternal"; consequently, being in Him, we are already entered into everlasting life. All the blessings included in eternal life are in Jesus; consequently to possess Jesus is to possess eternal life. Have I Christ formed in my heart? If so, I have eternal life abiding in me.
"No one has ascended to Heaven but He who came down from Heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in Heaven." John 3:13
No mere man whatever has entered or can enter into the secrets of God's heart in Heaven, relating to the great mysteries of salvation, so as immediately and perfectly to understand them and make them known to others; but this privilege is peculiar to the Messiah, who is spoken of under the character of " the Son of Man" (Psalm 80:17; Daniel 7:13), and always had an existence in Heaven as the Son of God who came from thence in an incarnate state, that He might reveal God's counsels to men. As many are perplexed about the Divinity of Christ, the following note may help them to conceive of that matter more properly: The Divine and human natures being united in the person of Christ, some things are attributed to one nature, which properly belong to the other. Thus, when it is said (1 Corinthians 2:8) the Lord of glory was crucified and (Acts 20:28) He is called God, who purchased the Church with His own blood, the meaning is not that He, as the Lord of glory, was crucified or as God shed His blood (as if the Divine nature could be crucified and bleed) but that the Person who was the Lord of glory in one nature was crucified in the other. So when it is said, "The Son of Man is in Heaven," the meaning is not that He, as the Son of Man, was there while He was on the earth; but that He who was here in His human nature, was there in his Divine. "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh."
"'I will perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,' says the LORD, 'thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.' Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me . I will bring you back from your captivity." Jeremiah 29:10-14
"The word of the LORD is right . He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." Psalm 33:4, 9
Were it so light a matter to rely on the faithfulness of God in times of distress, what need would there be of so many and various promises? If our faith be right, we must wait His time with patience, which certainly is not an easy task; since the promise of the Lord often tarries, and sometimes His providence seems to oppose His word. On such occasions we must remember that these are the very ways and methods of God, unsearchable by human penetration yet always consistent and just and worthy of the Divine nature. The wisdom of God chooses, first, to help us inwardly, by exercising faith and patience, and so prepares us for a right use of His outward dispensations: the pleasing and the apparently severe. Thus we receive a double blessing at once from His hands. Whatever God does or sends is a blessing to His child.
"Behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her." Hosea 2:14
"Come, my beloved, let us go forth to the field; let us lodge in the villages." Song of Solomon 7:11
O Lord, this world is nothing to me but a wilderness, a place of tribulation, where being tossed to and fro, I enjoy no rest; but, when I lift up my heart and look for peace in You, I am supported and comforted. Grant that I may thus be strengthened for the time to come, whenever I am at a loss what course to take. Let me always firmly believe You to be a present help in trouble, who are able and willing to bear me up under all outward distresses, until I shall safely arrive at the rest appointed for the people of God. And give me fortitude to endure whatever You shall bring upon me, and to improve all the trying dispensations of Your providence. Often allure me from the world into secret fellowship with Yourself, and speak words of comfort and peace to my troubled heart. Let my visits to You be frequent, sensible, and refreshing, like the visits of the wearied and exhausted tradesman, leaving the town to visit the object of his love in his quiet and beautiful country residence.
"When you pray, say: 'Our Father'" Luke 11:2
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss." James 4:3
Many say the Lord's Prayer, who do not pray it! They (like Augustine, before his conversion, when he prayed for chastity) are afraid lest God should say, "Amen," or, "So be it," though they themselves will say so. They say, "Our Father," but if He is their Father, where is His honor? They say, "in Heaven," but if they believed it, how dare they sin as they do upon earth? They say, "Hallowed be Your name," yet take God's name in vain. They say. "Your kingdom come," yet oppose the coming of His kingdom. They say, "Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven," yet will not stand to their words, for "This is the will of God, their sanctification," but they want none of that. They say, "Give us day by day our daily bread," yet mind not the feeding of their souls with "the bread" (Christ Jesus) "which came down from Heaven." They say, "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us," but, alas! If God should take them at their word, how miserable were they whose hearts burn with malice and revenge! They say, "Do not lead us into temptation," yet run into it, and tempt Satan himself to tempt them. They say, "Deliver us from the evil one," and yet deliver themselves to evil and give up themselves "to fulfill the lust of the flesh." Reader, how often have you been guilty of such vain petitions and repetitions? Wonder not, if you pray in such a manner as this, that you receive nothing. Pray for grace, that yon may pray sincerely and successfully.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8
"Who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption that, as it is written, 'He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.'" 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
"Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness." Daniel 9:24
"In the LORD I have righteousness and strength." Isaiah 45:24
In ourselves we find nothing but misery; in Christ all that is good; nay, He is himself our all. He works and gives what is necessary to salvation; therefore we cannot and need not bring any meritorious claims of our own; but since He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, and our all, we may and must rely only on His name and draw everything from Him by the continual prayer of faith. And when, by a living faith in Christ, He becomes our all the law, sin, and Satan lose their power to condemn us. My soul, see to it that you make Jesus your all this day. Go to Him for all you need, flee to Him from all you fear, and carry to Him all your cares, sorrows, griefs, and woes. He is all you could wish; He has all you can want, and He will give all that your circumstances really require. Take Him as God presents Him, and use Him as your experience demands.
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:11
"I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:44-45
Hypocrites may counterfeit the children of God in many things but they cannot love their enemies from their hearts; and yet by this we must try and know ourselves, whether we are really children of God or not. The world very easily but falsely, suppose themselves to be God's children; sincere Christians find it often very hard to believe it, especially upon a new discovery of their sinfulness. It costs them many a sore conflict; for, if Satan disputed the Sonship of Christ, much less will he spare any of us. But, since love to the children of God and to our enemies is a sure evidence of the state of grace, when we are conscious of that love, we may well rejoice, though encompassed with a thousand discouragements.
Lord, fill my heart with holy love. Help me to love my enemies and to pray for those who despitefully use me. Never let malice, envy, or a desire of revenge dwell in my heart. If such feelings are ever awakened, mercifully put forth Your power and crush them in the bud. O to be filled with love!
"And said to his servant, 'Go up now, look toward the sea.' So he went up and looked, and said, 'There is nothing.' And seven times he said, 'Go again.'" 1 Kings 18:43
Six times Elijah's servant looked toward the sea before he could see anything; the seventh time he saw a cloud but no bigger than his hand; yet that cloud, within a few hours, covered the Heaven with darkness and the earth with rain. In like manner may a Christian suppliant be compelled to tarry long for the Divine answer. "Give me," he may often say, "at least, some springs of water some feeling, some sorrow for my sins." Well, though at the sixth time of your bending the knees, God should not grant your request, and though at the seventh time there appears but one small drop swimming in your eyes, be not discouraged; that drop may prove a shower; the beginning of that thaw may at last dissolve your whole heart to water; and, as there is a full joy for the thorough conversion of a sinner, there may lie a suitable measure of joy for one tear, nay, for one desire of a tear, of any one sinner that repents. Pray much for others; look toward the sea and pray for those sailing on its bosom; look toward the land and pray for those crossing it to a better country. Intercessory prayer is often a source of great blessing to us. God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends.
"You shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you . But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell."
Numbers 33:52, 55
"Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean. so that they could no longer stand before their enemies." Judges 1:27, 2:14
The very same is to be observed in the holy and spiritual battles of the Lord. He who fights only against outward sins is but very little, if at all, acquainted with the dangerous enemies in his heart or the deep corruption of original sin; and so the tempter may easily gain an advantage over him. Experienced Christians guard more against the inward assaults of wickedness; they are at peace with no sin but keep up a constant war with all their most subtle and darling lusts. However, though the Canaanites, our inbred foes, must be conquered, they will dwell in the land and cannot be wholly thrust out of the bosom, which makes the Christian warfare continue until death; yet give me grace, O Lord, never to spare my sinful lusts or tempers but to look unto You to destroy them without delay, that I may not be destroyed by them. Give me deep inward sanctification; so shall my lips be holy.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Genesis 1:1-2
"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10
Before we can really grow in holiness we must be born again. How is it possible for a man to grow in sanctification without a real change being first wrought in his heart? It is the Spirit's way first to strip us of our own righteousness and strength, to show us our nakedness and nothingness, to fill us with godly sorrow for sin, and then to lead to Jesus for pardon, sanctification, and justification. Christ being the vine, we must first be united to Him, and draw nourishment and strength from Him by faith. When it is fulfilled, "They shall feed and lie down" in His pasture, "and no one shall make afraid" (Zephaniah 3:13) then we shall be able to bring forth good fruit, and obtain victories. For it is God Himself that thus makes us perfect in every good work and prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. God works in us, that we may work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
"In the LORD I have righteousness and strength." Isaiah 45:24 [See also 2 Corinthians 2:14, 5:19.]
Justification through faith in Christ seems at first a very dark doctrine, hard to be understood; but, after seriously considering it, in reference to ourselves we find by Scripture and by experience that we cannot be saved in any other way and that nothing can be surer than this, though all mankind should turn away from it. When we are made to see that our best performances are unclean in the sight of God and could not he accepted without the imputation of Christ's righteousness, then we are brought to submit entirely to Christ, and at last to look upon ourselves as wholly justified through Him, which alone produces rest, strength, and a gentle spirit the true image of Christ.
In vain do we hope to procure this rest by any reasonings or strong resolutions of our own. For if we are sometimes able to master our affections by our own strength, this is yet a building of our own and prevents our being earnest in prayer. We have now a form of godliness without its power and are still deceiving our own souls. For nothing can be pleasing in the sight of God and profit us in the last day but what He works Himself. Away, therefore, with all confidence in our works of righteousness. Let us acknowledge the weakness of our strength and apply in our poor, blind, naked, lost, and miserable condition, to the blood and righteousness of Christ; then we shall also find power and dominion over sin.
"In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me." Psalm 86:7
"Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'" Isaiah 58:9
"For the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him." Romans 10:12
"And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." Joel 2:32 [See also Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13.]
"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles." Psalm 34:17
"The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him." Psalm 145:18
"The prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16
What encouraging assurances are these! How can God deny me anything now that I pray for? He has passed His word; His Son has purchased every blessing; the Holy Spirit inspires the prayer; the word holds it forth, and the prayer of faith lays hold of it and actually receives it. Prayer is the mouth of faith. If you will have much, "open your mouth wide," and it shall be filled. Who then should not be stirred up to pray much! O what foolishness is this, that we have nothing but may obtain all from God and yet are so loath to pray much, and pray right! Holy Spirit, be a spirit of prayer in me; help my infirmities; subdue my corruptions, and stimulate my soul to pray without ceasing.
"Do not swear at all." Matthew 5:34
Swear not by the creatures; that, in effect, is swearing by their Maker. Neither swear by your Maker, unless called to it by authority for putting an end to strife. Swear not falsely, calling the God of truth to witness a lie; swear not needlessly or rashly, as Saul did (1 Samuel 14:39). Such oaths or vows are ensnaring. Swear not idle, common oaths, such as, "O Christ!" "O God!" "Faith or truth!" "By my soul!" "As I live!" "God bless me!"
If we must give account for every idle word, much more for every idle oath, and most of all for horrible blasphemy that profanes God's name and is the very language of Hell. As for him that is guilty of perjury, he not only destroys his own soul but seeks to ruin his neighbor by perverting justice and robbing the innocent of his right. Sometimes God takes a false swearer and self-curser at his word, and strikes him dead on the spot. Sometimes He says, "Let him alone!" terrible judgment indeed. Lord, help the guilty to repent of their sin and help all to watch and pray against it. My soul, let your yes be yes and your no be no, as your Lord commands you.
"Beloved, do not avenge yourselves but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Roman 12:19
Judge, then, my brethren, would it be wise to snatch the rod out of the all-powerful hand of God, to take it into our own, even were it in our power to do it? We are taught by the holy prophet not to avenge ourselves, it being daring presumption to usurp God's province and to step into His throne. He who chastises the nations, shall not He correct? Might may overcome right for a time, to try God's children; but whether that is done with a close hand, so as not to be discovered, or with a high hand, so as not to be controlled, God will in due time show Himself and vindicate the honors of His slighted government. It is therefore our wisdom to call to mind our blessed Lord's silence when He suffered and to copy after it, committing ourselves to Him that judges righteously. Gracious Lord, give me patience to bear the contradiction of sinners and the opposition of men, leaving my cause in Your hand and trusting Your providence for my vindication. You will then bring forth my righteousness as the light, and my judgment as the noon-day. Lord, fill me with love, pity, forbearance, and long-suffering, for the glory of Your own name! O to be Christ-like!
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJ)
Let no man be discouraged from coming to Christ because he finds not in himself that godly sorrow for sin, that ability to repent, and all those spiritual qualifications which he desires to have; we must first be in Christ before we are new creatures. We would gladly have something before we come; we are prone to conclude that God's pardons are not free but that we must bring something in our hand whereas the proclamation runs thus: "Buy without money"; "Come and take the water of life freely." Therefore, do not say, "I have a sinful disposition and a hard heart and cannot mourn for sin as I should; I will therefore stay until I am better." This is as if you should say, "I must go to the physician but I will have my disease healed first." The end of going to Christ is that this very hardness of your heart may be taken away; that this very deadness of your spirit may be removed; that you may be enlivened, quickened, healed; that you may hate sin and become fruitful in righteousness. Look not for sanctification nor for genuine fruits of righteousness before your soul be united to Christ by a living faith. For it is faith that purifies the heart and works (produces good works) by love. It is faith that proves to us the hand by which alone we can lay hold on Christ. You must first be in Christ, grafted into Christ by faith, before you can be a new creature. Lord, give me faith, if I have it not, and increase it if I have, that I may bring forth fruit to Your glory.
"All things are lawful for me but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me but I will not be brought under the power of any." 1 Corinthians 6:12
Many that are well affected to religion and receive instructions of piety with pleasure and satisfaction, often wonder how it comes to pass that they make no greater progress in that religion which they so much admire. Now the reason of it is, because religion lives only in their head, while something else has possession of their heart; and therefore they continue, from year to year, mere admirers and praisers of piety, without ever coming up to the reality and perfection of its precepts. If it be asked why religion does not get possession of their hearts, the reason is not because they live in gross sins or debaucheries (for their regard to religion preserves them from such disorders) but because their hearts are constantly perverted and kept in a bad state by the wrong use of such things as are lawful; for our souls may receive very great hurt, merely by the abuse of innocent and lawful things. What is more innocent than rest and retirement? Yet what is more dangerous than sloth and idleness? What is more lawful than eating and drinking? Yet what is more destructive of virtue than sensuality and indulgence? Care in the management of a family is certainly commendable; yet what is so prejudicial as an anxious worldly temper? Reader, follow the apostle and be on your guard as it respects even lawful things; let them not engage you beyond due measure.
"There are diversities of activities but it is the same God who works all in all." 1 Corinthians 12:6
Some believers are remarkable for the strength of their faith in trials, even unto death; others for liveliness and activity in duty; others for wisdom and prudence; others for their zeal in defense of the truth; others for spiritual knowledge; others for meekness and patience; others for outward usefulness; and some for an inward and spiritual life of communion with God. But all these are the various gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, dividing severally to every man as He wills, and are given to profit withal, according to the place allotted to each in the Church or in the world. My fellow-Christians, let us hence learn a lesson of forbearance to our brethren. It is not right to judge of another by our own pattern. Are you a warm and active Christian? Condemn not him whose mind may be more placid and contemplative than yours. He who now creeps in humble silence may in a moment be raised higher than you are. The same may be said of other differences among the followers of Jesus. Let us then no longer envy one another or indulge a rash and censorious spirit; but rather covet earnestly the best gifts, such as meekness and love; and, by the help of Divine grace, faithfully improve the talent committed to our trust, that each of us may receive that heart-reviving address, "Well done, good and faithful servant . enter into the joy of your Lord!" The commendation of Jesus at the end will more than make up for all our efforts by the way.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." James 1:17
Reader, it is a point of the greatest importance for you to know, that every evil thing is of yourself and every good thing of God. Without faith we cannot be saved; but (says Paul, Ephesians 2:8), "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." We are commanded to repent; but (Acts 5:31) we read that Christ is exalted at the Father's right hand, to be a "Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel." We must be born again; but regeneration is wholly of God's will. His children are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God" (John 1:13). Saving knowledge is the gift of God: "to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 13:11). Effectual calling is a Divine work (2 Timothy 1:9). Justification is entirely of grace; we are justified freely. Adoption is an act of grace; He grants that high privilege as it seems good in His sight. Perseverance in duty is God's gift; for "We are preserved by the power of God to salvation." Eternal life is also a gift: "the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ." A right knowledge of these things, believer, will keep you humble, and dependent upon God; and not only dispose you to give Him the glory of His grace but to seek to Him diligently for it. And a clear representation of them will encourage the poor, guilty, self-condemned sinner to seek them because they are free gifts, and entirely of grace.
"We wish to see Jesus." John 12:21
"You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me." John 5:39
It is remarkable that the wise men, traveling to find Christ, followed only the star; as long as they had that in view, they were assured that they were in the right way, and we may believe had great pleasure in their journey; but when they entered Jerusalem (whereas the star led them not there but to Bethlehem), they were still at a loss to determine where the new-born Savior was to be found, having lost sight of the star that should guide them there. When we are inquiring for the doctrine of Christ and feel anxious to approach Him, let us keep in view the star of God's word. This will indeed prove a light to our paths by following which, while others are misled by the meteors of imagine, we shall be brought to the knowledge of Christ here, and to the full enjoyment of Him hereafter. Reader, the whole design of this little book is to lead you to "search the Scriptures," which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. God's word, rightly used, always leads to Jesus.
"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." Ephesians 4:29
"Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting." Ephesians 5:4
Idle words are hurtful words; they grieve the Holy Spirit, destroy the sacred and happy feelings which have been obtained by prayer, and cause nothing but levity and distraction of mind. Let this be a caution against a talkative disposition, which is usually productive of corrupt communications. May all Christians take heed to refrain their tongues and never speak unadvisedly but always consider first whether their words can be profitable to others and acceptable to God in Heaven. O Lord, teach me Your wisdom, "to keep my mouth as it were with a bridle," and to weigh all my words like gold. Let my heart and lips be governed by Your Holy Spirit, that both my silence and talking may be according to Your will and discretion. Grant that I may converse much with You in prayer and thanksgiving, for my own spiritual good and that of others; and whenever I open my lips, let my words be so seasoned and blessed as to minister grace to the hearers. O for salt to season the conversation of Christians in the present day, and my conversation especially!
If anything could tempt my soul to stray
From heavenly wisdom's narrow way,
To fly the good I would pursue,
Or do the thing I would not do
Still He who felt temptation's power
Will guard me in that dangerous hour.
"Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to Heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it." Genesis 28:12
This ladder the Lord Jesus Christ applies to Himself (John 1:51); it may be considered as representing the Divine Providence which governs all things. The several steps of the ladder are the motions and actions of Providence; the angels going up and down show that they are the great ministers of Providence, never idle but always employed in the preservation of the just; their ascending means their going up to receive the Divine orders and commands; and their descending, their coming down upon earth to put them in execution. So that, in His representation, God signified to Jacob that the man who is under the custody and protection of Divine Providence finds company in a wilderness, security in the midst of dangers, and direction in the most difficult undertaking. Many ministering spirits hold continual correspondence between earth and Heaven and are daily and hourly "sent forth to minister unto them who shall be heirs of salvation." Yet Jesus trusts not His people to angels but keeps them Himself.
"Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" Revelation 19:6
God is the Lord of Hosts; He is the great Commander of Heaven and earth; He it is that directs all conflicts in war; no field is pitched, no battle fought but by His special order and commission, and all for the accomplishment of His glory. But as those who stand on the same level with two great armies ready to engage conceive them to be a disordered multitude, though if they beheld them from a high hill, they would discern that they were artificially ranged and that everyone served under his own colors even so, those who behold the state of the world with the eyes of flesh and blood, dim by reason of the corruption of their judgments and affections, conclude that all things are thrown into confusion; they see "servants riding on horses, and princes going on foot"; they observe that the worse men are, the better they fare; and that they fare the worse, the better they become. But if they would go into God's sanctuary and judge of occurrences by heavenly principles, then they would confess that the armies of Heaven, earth, and even Hell are duly marshaled and that, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, the God of order will bring light out of darkness and order out of all this seeming confusion. He works all things after the counsel of His own will.
Deep are His counsels and unknown
But grace and truth support His throne!
Though gloomy clouds His way surround,
Justice is their eternal ground.
"You pushed me violently, that I might fall but the LORD helped me."
"Called and preserved in Jesus Christ." Jude 1:1
Jesus was in the council, undertook our cause, struck hands in the covenant as our Surety, wrought out a righteousness for us, suffered on the tree to redeem us, ever lives, and ever loves, and ever pleads our cause, while He represents our persons before the infinitely just and righteous Jehovah, His Father and our Father, now well-pleased with us because accepted and preserved in the Beloved. Are these things so? And has the Lord the Spirit, the glorifier of Jesus, enlightened our understandings to see these things, enabled us to believe, and assured our hearts of our own happy share and interest in them? 0, my soul, stop, reflect, dwell on such wonderful power, distinguishing love, and appropriated mercy! Now let all my enemies exert their utmost power; I will not be afraid. Afflictions, pains, temptations may await me; waves and storms may go over my head; Satan may sift me as wheat; the waters of death may prove bitter to my taste; yet will I not be discouraged; He who died for me will cake care of me; He who pardoned my aggravated offences will heal my infirmities; He who knew the power of temptation will support and deliver me out of all. This I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.
The wisdom, the power, the love, the promise, the covenant, and the oath of Jehovah stand all engaged for the preservation of a poor unworthy believer of Jesus.Alleluia.
"Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29
"Be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." 1 Peter 5:5-6
Such as are haughty and self-conceited rush against the mighty hand of God and destroy themselves but those that are humbled under it will be protected by the same. Whatever knowledge or skill we may obtain in the schools of human learning, the Scripture does not allow us to be truly wise but calls us blind and mere worldly students until we learn to be poor in spirit, lowly in heart, and dead to the world (Proverbs 11:2; 1 Corinthians 1 and 2). Therefore, the more a man dies to this world, the more he is enlightened the more he lives to Christ and becomes one with Him. Naturally, we love pride and hate humility; but just in proportion as we are taught by the Spirit of God, we admire, long, and pray for humility. The dust is our proper place, and the lower we lie, the happier and holier we shall be. Nature was ruined by pride, and it is restored by humility. Better, therefore, to be of a humble spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud. "Walk humbly with your God."
"So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him." Genesis 32:1
As Jacob was favored with a heavenly vision when he first departed from his father's house, so the Divine Being thought proper again to favor him with the same token of His protection on his return thither, in order to encourage him to meet with confidence the dangers he had to encounter. Hence we may observe that when God designs His people for extraordinary trials, He prepares them by extraordinary comforts. We should think it had been more seasonable for these angels to have appeared to him just in the heat of his engagement (either with Laban before, or Esau after) than in this calm and quiet interval when he saw not imminent peril. But God will have us, when we are in peace, to provide for trouble; and when trouble comes, to draw comfort and encouragement from former experiences; knowing assuredly that He who has delivered in six troubles, will also deliver in seven, and in due time out of all. This may be a representation of God's people at death, who are then returning to Canaan, to their heavenly Father's house; the angels of God will then meet them, to congratulate them on the happy finishing of their labors and carry them to their everlasting rest.
"By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:37
The general turn of a man's discourse will clearly reveal the bent of his mind, for, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." 0ther outward marks may be imitated; but not to offend in tongue, to be free from detraction and boasting, to speak the truth in love, to "let no corrupt communication" (nothing contrary to peace and holiness) "proceed out of the mouth": this is the finger of God. Here the hypocrite and formalist always fail. Let us earnestly pray for grace to bridle the tongue. "O Lord, set a guard before my mouth; keep the door of my lips," that I may never bring a reproach upon my profession by speaking proud, false, foolish, or censorious words. Deeply sanctify my heart, that out of the good treasure of my heart I may bring forth good things. My justification before God as a sinner is by the perfect work of Jesus; but before man as a professed saint, by my words I shall be justified, and by my words I shall be condemned. If the tongue denies Jesus, the heart cannot be right; and if the lips habitually utter folly, the soul must be depraved. O for grace to guard the tongue!
"Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them." Matthew 21:2
"The Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands." Judges 15:14
Thus the Spirit of the Lord makes us free from all spiritual bonds, for "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). Though I was torn from Christ by the enemy yet as a robber he gets no right to me. Christ does not give up that right to me which He claims on so many accounts; and as soon as I am made willing by His grace to surrender myself to Him and desire to be delivered from the power of Satan, He vindicates and saves me, as His property; I am His; Satan loses his hold, and nothing in the world can withhold me from my Redeemer. All the fetters must fall off. My soul, beware of yielding to the solicitations of any Delilah, or you will suffer for it as Samson did. But if you have backslidden, cry aloud to Jesus, and the Spirit of God will come upon you; and then your spiritual strength will return to you again. Sin weakens but grace strengthens us. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by which you are sealed to the day of redemption.
"Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit." Ezekiel 18:31 [See also 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.]
Many who would be thought to have made considerable advances in religion remain to this hour destitute of deep and self-abasing convictions. Hence they never effectually repaired to Christ for reconciliation and righteousness; they feel not the necessity of a new heart but content themselves with the observance of religious rites, and with a morality that elevates them but a little above the prevailing manner of the world. O Lord, let me daily receive a word from You, to nourish and strengthen my soul, so as to be renewed daily by it more and more. Renew a right spirit within me; make me conformable to Your will, and wholly Yours. You said to Israel, "Get yourselves a new heart," and a new heart I need; but conscious of my inability to produce one, I lay myself at Your feet and pray, "Fulfill in me all the good pleasure of Your goodness and the work of faith with power." O take my heart and make it new! Put Your own sweet Spirit within me and make me holy, as You are holy. "Give what You require, and then require what You will."
"Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things." Luke 10:41
"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23
As the virtue of a strong spirituous liquor evaporates by degrees in a vial which is not closely stopped, in like manner the life and power of the Spirit insensibly vanish away if the heart is not kept with all diligence. Therefore many must be tried and sifted, that they may know, like Hezekiah, what is in their hearts (2 Chronicles 32:31). What then is more necessary than to take heed to our own spirit and to keep close to the written word? For as the latter times draw nearer, the more plausible will errors and seducements appear, both on your right hand and on your left; beware of being drawn off from the truth, either by the worldly prudence of half-hearted professors, or by pretenses to merit in the self-righteous Pharisee. Gracious God, do then keep my heart and preserve me from being led away by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, lest Your word in me be choked, and so become unfruitful. Give me a quick discernment and a tender sensibility, that I may detect error and tremble at the approach of sin. May I never trust my heart but keep my eye upon it, as upon a thief, and hold it in check, as with bit and bridle, knowing that it is deceitful and desperately wicked.
Be earth, with all her scenes, withdrawn.
Let noise and vanity be gone;
In secret silence of the mind,
My Heaven, and there my God, I find.
"My soul longs for You like a thirsty land." Psalm 143:6
"Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." John 7:37
When your spiritual vigor and enjoyment, O man of God, begin to fail, examine yourself closely what may be the cause; implore pardon for all known offences and guard against repeating them. And though you should not discover any particular sign of degeneracy yet humble yourself deeply before the Lord; remembering, at the same time, that you are accepted, beloved, justified, and blessed in Christ. In this disposition quietly wait to be refreshed again with the streams of Divine grace; but be also sure to cherish and make a right use of them. Thus you shall be like a watered garden. (Isaiah 58:11). We daily need the renewing of the Holy Spirit. The earth does not more need the dew and the rain to make it fruitful, than we need Divine communications to make and keep us holy. We must often go to Jesus for the living water, or we shall become dry, barren, and unlovely. God has said, "I will be as the dew unto Israel," and Israel should daily plead with Him to fulfill His word.
"My soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation . He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved . Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62:1, 2, 8
The more patient, believing, and single-eyed we are, the sooner we shall see the salvation and victory of the Lord. Double-minded souls have the greatest struggle, and the slothful must tarry the longer. Sometimes, it is true, though we are faithful yet we must cry out, "O Lord, how long?" (Psalm 6:3). But nevertheless, He always hears and delivers us, though we do not see and feel it directly but seem to suffer continually. In Heaven we shall certainly see it and reap the blessed fruits of all our afflictions and prayers. But even when the Lord delays to deliver, He supports us secretly communicating strength, suggesting precious promises, and giving us inward composure. We may well wait for God now, who waited for us so long; and we may well wait upon God, seeing He has appended a blessing to waiting. He who waits longest often receives most and is filled with gratitude and praise. Those who wait on men will be disappointed but those that wait on the Lord shall be satisfied.
"I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread." Psalm 37:25
This declaration is animating to every believer's heart. The Lord indeed cares for the righteous, for those who, having seen the want of mercy, feel confident through the promise of God that there is forgiveness with Him, through the meritorious life and death of Jesus Christ. He has declared that He will never leave nor forsake them, that He will withhold from them no manner of thing that is good. He cares also for their seed, so that they shall not beg their bread. He frequently provides for them when their parents are no more, and in such unexpected ways that many who see it are constrained to acknowledge, "This is the Lord's doing." Sometimes, while parents are living, in addition to the bounties of His providence, He places before them the bread which endures unto everlasting life and gives them an appetite for the heavenly food. O Lord, if my ears have heard, if my eyes have seen, and more especially, if I partake of such blessings, thankfully may I own that You are a God keeping covenant and mercy; and make this proof of Your faithfulness a ground of reliance upon You for all needful and promised blessing! Help me to cast all my care on You and to endeavor, by prayer, instruction, and example, that Your goodness may be sanctified to my seed, that we may live together, here and hereafter, to the praise of the glory of your grace. O to meet my offspring at God's right hand!
"Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power." Colossians 1:11
O my soul, what encouraging words are these! How full of meaning! The Lord our Righteousness is the Lord our Strength. He is near at hand, believer, to strengthen you according to your need; not in one or two respects but "with all might," with a supply suited to every occasion, and that to the utmost, answerable to what may be expected from the exertion of "His own glorious power." Happy state of the believer in Jesus! Though feeble in himself, surrounded with enemies, and exercised with a continual warfare, he shall not be overpowered; for the promise and the arm of God are on his side. The Lord, who can do what He pleases, is in alliance, yes in covenant, with a believer; and therefore he shall be made more than conqueror through Christ who has loved him. Observe, my soul, this is part of Paul's prayer for the Colossians; you need the blessing as much as they did; therefore adopt it as your own; and often today and every day, lift up your heart to God and beseech Him to strengthen you with all might according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness.
"My beloved is mine, and I am his." Song of Solomon 2:16
"I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in loving-kindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD." Hosea 2:19-20
By faith in the blood of Christ we are accepted and closely united to Him as our Bridegroom. By that we daily eat His flesh, drink His blood, and are sprinkled all over; and need there is of a daily sprinkling, that our persons and services may be accepted and that our sinful souls may be washed and renewed in the all-purifying fountain; since the best of our works, our prayers and praises, our duties and graces, are all unclean until washed in the blood of Jesus. (See Hebrews 9:19 21.) But if sprinkled with His blood, we shall desire to be united to His person and to call Him our beloved. Nor will union to Jesus satisfy us, for we shall want close and intimate communion with Him. O the blessedness of being betrothed to Jesus now, for then we shall be openly acknowledged and be publicly married to Him, when He comes in His own glory, and all the holy angels with Him!
Object of my first desire,
Jesus, crucified for me!
All to happiness aspire,
Only to be found in Thee;
You to praise, and You to know,
Constitute our bliss below;
You to see, and You to love,
Constitute our bliss above.
Lord, it is not life to live,
If Your presence You deny;
Lord, if You Your presence give,
'Tis no longer death to die!
"When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, LORD, I will seek.'" Psalm 27:8
"I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts." Psalm 119:94
"Those who seek me diligently will find me." Proverbs 8:17
"The humble shall see this and be glad; and you who seek God, your hearts shall live." Psalm 69:32
"Seek, and you will find." Matthew 7:7
"Whoever finds me finds life." Proverbs 8:35
"I am the life." John 14:6
Such arguments and entreaties we may use with God to strengthen us in faith; He does not need them but we do; and He is well pleased when we take Him at His word. Were we to decline approaching God with supplications until our hearts were conscious of peculiar life and earnestness, we might perhaps forever remain distant and prayerless. We must not therefore yield to the suggestions of a dull frame but rouse ourselves and at least make a determined effort. Thus we may hope that God will help our infirmities and warm our affections so that our hearts, while seeking Him amidst much discouragement, may "live." O Lord, I plead Your precious promises, and You cannot deny Your word. You have engaged to assist a feeble petitioner. Let Your Holy Spirit abide with me, to quicken my soul when fainting and to rule my heart in all things, that no sin may have dominion over me; but, that I may conquer evil within me, overcome the world without me, and win the prize set before me.
"O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed." Psalm 25:2
"In You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God." Psalm 38:15
"Let no one who waits on You be ashamed." Psalm 25:3
"Hope does not disappoint." Romans 5:5
"Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which abides forever." Psalm 125:1
"The vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak . Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." Habakkuk 2:3 [See also Isaiah 46:23.]
Does God delay His promises, and the enemy raise a suspicion against His faithfulness? Remember, it is said, "Wait." You are still alive and will be a witness to God's faithfulness. If He were not faithful and true, He could not be God. His faithfulness is eternal, and as sure and great as Himself above all our thoughts. You shall at last the more gloriously experience it, and not be ashamed. Heaven and earth shall pass away but His word shall not fail, because "He keeps truth forever." And His truth concerning His people comprehends all their salvation and all their desire. Are you tempted to repine or complain? Ponder well the question, "Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" Then, instead of repining, you will exclaim, "Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Thanks be unto God that I am out of Hell!
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." John 12:32
Jesus spoke this of His death; and it is the remembrance of His cruel death, of what He suffered, said, and finished, when He hung naked and wounded upon the cross, that relieves an afflicted conscience and effectually engages the sinner's heart to Himself. The sharpest convictions, if not relieved by this sight, will never teach the heart to love. The strongest resolutions, unless made with this bleeding object in view, will melt away like snow. But a crucified Savior is a powerful loadstone indeed; multitudes have been drawn by it from sin to holiness, from Satan to God, from earth to Heaven. My soul, whenever you feel at a distance from God, turn to the cross, look to Jesus, and fix your eye on Him until drawn close to Him. Looking, we almost insensibly move toward Him; and when we get near Him, we enjoy pardon, peace, and fellowship with God. O to experience daily the attracting power of the cross of Jesus!
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might I hide my blushing face,
While His dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can never repay
The debt of love I owe;
Lord, I would give myself away.
'Tis all that I can do.
"[Love] does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:5-8
O my heavenly Father, I desire to love You and my neighbor with a pure heart fervently, and entreat that You would let me know and enjoy Your love in Christ, as the only means of producing this love in me. For how can my heart be cold, when resting at the cross of Christ and feeling the virtue of His blood? 0r how can it be hard when lying in Your bosom, richly tasting of Your grace, and sweetly experiencing Your everlasting love to me, a vile and miserable sinner? 0r how can it be destitute of love and gratitude, when dwelling on the fullness of the manifestation of Your Divine mercy? May a sense of Your love melt my hard heart into love and entirely transform it. There is nothing that I need so much as love. There is nothing I find so difficult as love. To love and pity sinners. To love and bear with saints. To love and cleave to Jesus. To love and exercise unhesitating confidence in God, under all circumstances. Ah, this is difficult! But grace can make me lowly and loving; may that grace in abundance be given me, O my God!
"To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul." Psalm 25:1
"You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear." Psalm 16:17
Faith only desires Christ and neither delights in the gain, nor grieves much at the loss of temporal things; but through an earnest desire for Christ and His word, rises above all creatures and overcomes all worldly pleasures and fears. This being the work which God undertakes, will certainly be accomplished; nay, it is looked upon as really accomplished already, in our desires and endeavors after it; in the same manner as evil desires are reckoned for deeds in the sight of God, though they never proceed to outward acts. Such is the encouragement of the feeblest believer, amidst all difficulties and in the face of the most powerful opposition. Oh, may I guard my thoughts and keep a watch on my tongue, that I offend not in thought or word against my Lord. How sweet, how refreshing, the words of the apostle on this subject: "If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." O the infinite condescension of our God, to read our thoughts, accept our desires, and take the meaning of our sighs, groans, and tears!
"You drew near on the day I called on You, and said, 'Do not fear!' O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life." Lamentations 3:57-58
"Fear not, for I am with you." Isaiah 43:5
"I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death." Revelation 1:18
Christ has overcome death, led captivity captive, and ''by one offering perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). Whoever leaves this world, believing in Him, has therefore nothing to fear after death. O, my heavenly Father, dispose me to seek diligently after holiness; and though the work of sanctification will be imperfect in this life (which should humble me much) yet let it cause no fear of death, nor disturb my confidence in You; since my salvation and my confidence do not depend on a perfect holiness here but on my being in Christ and adopted through Him. This adoption the weakest child enjoys as well as the strongest, though both are not equally sensible of it. Every true believer, whether weak or strong, has eternal life, and shall not fall into condemnation. If, therefore, I am a child of God, though a weak one, I am still an heir and shall find life and deliverance in death. He has often made His strength perfect in weakness, and His promises never fail. Spirit of adoption, descend into my heart and bear witness with my spirit that I am a child of God!
"And He gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up." 2 Chronicles 32:24
Ahaz, trusting in the Assyrians for help, had refused a sign graciously offered by God as a token of deliverance. He did not choose to put his whole trust in God, though his pretense was that he would not tempt the Lord. This might lead his son Hezekiah to ask for a sign, and it proved a snare to him. The king of Babylon, on finding Hezekiah so highly honored by the sun (see Isaiah 38:7-8), thought it incumbent upon him to send ambassadors with a letter and present to such a favorite of the God of the Babylonians.
Hezekiah, delighted with this mark of attention from a court which he had feared, made an ostentatious display of his treasure and dignity. In consequence of this, Isaiah was directed to assure him that what he had shown, in the vanity of his heart, would be carried to Babylon. Hezekiah had neglected a fair opportunity of stating to these ambassadors, and through them, to their king, the folly of their idolatry in worshiping the sun, which the recent miracle had proved to be under the direction of a superior Being. He ought also to have given God all the glory in this matter and have rested on Him, and Him alone, for safety, who had just then given him such a striking proof of His power and favor. Worldly wisdom is absolute folly; and, when set in opposition to the will of God, will be sure to disappoint us. Lord, preserve me from Hezekiah's sin, and every sin!
"Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" Amos 3:3
Reader, I suppose you a religious person, one that has been converted by the power of grace, one that is desirous to glorify God in life and conversation, one that has an interest in Jesus and wants to have it made more manifest to your own self every day; one that considers this life as a passage to a better and would be glad of a spiritual companion to go along with you, for "two are better than one." Give not the right hand of fellowship to any before you have tried him, for two cannot walk comfortably together except they be agreed; bring him to the law of God the eternal, moral law of God, contained in the Ten Commandments, and ask him, "Do you look upon that law of God as the rule of your life?" If he denies it, avoid him. If he says that he is not under the commanding power of it, turn away from him. But if he says that he sincerely takes it as God's revealed will to him, owning the authority thereof over his conscience and conversation, breathing after universal obedience, repenting and mourning where he falls short, and fleeing by faith to Christ for all peace and pardon, take such a one for a friend and companion. He will guard you against licentiousness on the one hand, and against proud self-confidence on the other. "He who walks with wise men will be wise."
"My soul faints for Your salvation . My life is continually in my hand . Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope . Look upon me and be merciful to me, as Your custom is toward those who love Your name." Psalm 119:81, 109, 116, 132
O Lord, I love Your name, since You are called merciful, gracious, long-suffering, and even the Lord our Righteousness. I depend upon nothing of my own but throw myself entirely upon Your free grace and righteousness, which alone keep me in peace. Without You I am ignorant and weak; and, Satan being as wicked as he is cunning, what would become of me if I were not kept and preserved by You? Your name is a strong tower; the righteous enter there and are safe; there let me abide also continually, so shall I be safe from every adversary. There shall I dwell in peace, under the shadow of the Almighty's wing. I long, I faint to experience Your delivering power. O deliver me from the power of sin, the assaults of Satan, and the influence of this evil world. Deliver me often, deliver me daily, and at my last hour let my deliverance be signal and complete. Then may I be freed from guilt, fear, and temptation, and have an abundant entrance administered unto me into Your heavenly kingdom.
The arms of everlasting love
Beneath my soul are placed;
And on the Rock of Ages set
My slippery footsteps fast.
Satan may vent his sharpest spite,
And all his legions roar;
Almighty mercy guards my life,
And bounds his raging power.
"Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us but to Your name give glory." Psalm 115:1
How little reason have we to glory in anything of our own, since nothing but sin is ours which even defiles that which is of God!
O Lord, grant that I may always give You the praise of Your own and may learn to delight and glory in You, having no aim but to walk before You in godly simplicity and sincerity. For he who walks uprightly, walks surely (Proverbs 10:9). All disquiet of mind arises from our own lusts and unmortified tempers, which make the bosom like a troubled sea. And no settled calm shall we find until we have a single eye to God's glory and can count ourselves worthy of no good. Then we may draw comfort out of trouble and learn to praise the Lord, whether He gives or takes away. Then shall we recognize His hand in every dispensation of providence, being sure that all things are working for our good and tending to God's glory (which He knows best how to promote) and that nothing but sin can make us unhappy and miserable. Lord, keep me from sin and then deal with me as You will!
"Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." Romans 8:33-34
If "the accuser of the brethren" should appear to a dying believer and exhibit, as on a parchment roll, the various idle, false, unchaste, and angry words which he had at any time uttered, together with a statement of all his sinful thoughts and actions, the believer, while pleading guilty to every charge and even adding, from his sorrowful recollection, a thousand aggravations, might ask, "Why have you not reminded me of what is equally true, and to me, thus burdened with your reproaches and my own, unspeakably important that 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin'?" The atonement made by that blood avails for the pardon of everyone who humbly embraces it, and at the same time tends to strengthen holy principles and to promote universal obedience. He may also add, "In myself I am vile, polluted, and depraved; but in Jesus I am holy, righteous, and complete. Out of Christ, I may be condemned but in Christ, I am justified from all things and may challenge the universe to substantiate a charge against me."
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory." 2 Corinthians 3:18
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5
"Leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
If before we say or do anything, we would always consider whether it was agreeable to the pattern of Christ, a multitude of sins would be avoided. Lord, however guilty and miserable I am yet when I can humble myself before You as the vilest of sinners and look up unto You by faith, depending only on Your free grace, I enjoy peace. Grant, therefore, O my God, that this beholding of You may be my constant exercise, and that thus I may be strengthened cheerfully to follow Your pattern and be daily more changed into the glorious image of Your love, patience, and humility, and thus be ripening for eternal life. The face of Jesus is a mirror in which may be seen God's glory; and looking into this mirror by faith conforms us to the image we behold. So as Moses, while in intimate communion with God on the mount, was transformed and his face shone so brightly that the people could not look on him without being dazzled, we also shall be changed into the Divine likeness from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord. Spirit of the Lord! Daily place Jesus before my mind's eye!
This life's a dream, an empty show!
But the bright world to which I go
Has joys substantial and sincere;
When shall I wake and find me there?
"He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:45
When we are urged by the children of poverty to assist them, we do well to distinguish between the precious and the vile, between those whose petitions flow from necessity and those who fly to beggary as a trade. To bestow our benefactions on the latter would often be to sanction practices alike disgraceful to the individual and injurious to the community. Yet on the other hand, we must not shut up the affections of compassion even from the unworthy. While relieving the palpable wretchedness in which we may sometimes see them involved, we can scarcely fail to recollect, as a motive to our kind interposition, that if God showed kindness only to those whose characters entitled them to expect it, the condition of the best would soon become forlorn and hopeless. It may be said, "Men of bad principles will make an ill use of your bounty." What then? The goodness exemplified under such circumstances assimilates us to our Father who is in Heaven, who "sends rain on the just and unjust." This recollection, combined with a prudential regard to the best method of treating each particular case, will secure us alike from the imputation of harshness and from the danger of encouraging idle and profligate habits; it will preserve our charitable feelings, without suffering the exercise of them to prejudice the community. "Do not forget to do good and to share."
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4
To rejoice in the light of God's countenance is certainly most pleasant but not always so profitable to everyone, as sometimes to walk in the dark, nay, in the valley of the shadow of death. Some are more humble and cautious while walking in the dark than in the light; and glimpses of grace are then exceedingly precious; yet such should consider, for their humiliation, that darkness is commonly the effect of a wrong spirit and careless walk. O Lord, grant that when I am deprived of sensible comforts, I may yet be enabled to rely upon Your bare word, and in death may be refreshed by the light of Your countenance. Amen. You have declared that "the righteous has a refuge in his death" (Proverbs 14:32). The shadow of death is often cast over some of the Lord's people, and they dread the thought of dying; but such have generally found that the fear of death was worse than the reality, and that they have felt a thousand deaths in fearing one. Believer, Jesus will be with you when dying, and His grace will be sufficient for you. Live for Jesus and walk closely with Jesus now, and leave death and all the future until it comes. Dying grace is for dying moments.
"Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding." Proverbs 4:1
"We speak what We know and testify what We have seen." John 3:11
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits, whether they are of God." 1 John 4:1
Reader, let the following monitions, the result of long experience and observation designed for your spiritual good, be acceptable to you. Let the life you live in the flesh be by faith in the Son of God. Labor after a constant soul-reviving fellowship with the Father and the Son, through the Holy Spirit. Watch over your passions, conduct, and conversation, so that the Spirit of the Lord be not grieved, nor His comfortable influences withdrawn from your soul. Be ready for every good work, as you have ability and opportunity; and take special care that your good be not evil spoken of, through the manner of your performing it. Let no external services whatever, either respecting yourself or others, make you neglect a constant watchfulness over the inward motions of your own heart. Let the written word of God be your invariable rule, both in principle and practice. Whatever persuasion advances not the Redeemer's honor and tends not to magnify His grace, work, and salvation, comes not of Him that calls us. Be very earnest after meekness, humility, patience, self-denial, inward holiness, and all other graces of the Spirit; these carry their own evidence that they are wrought of God, and in their blessed effects will remain with you forevermore. Daily pray for and expect the renewings of the Holy Spirit.
"Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law." Psalm 119:18
"Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death." Psalm 13:3
"For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light." Psalm 36:9
"I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness." John 12:46
"The LORD opens the eyes of the blind." Psalm 146:8
Many imagine that their eyes are opened and that they have clear notions of religion but they see just like Eve after eating the forbidden fruit; their hearts, being corrupted, are destitute of Christian simplicity and godly sincerity. For he that does not understand the word of God by the light of the Holy Spirit, through faith and prayer but only through his natural reason, is certainly blind still (Revelation 3:17); and one plausible temptation to error and sin is enough to break the strongest chain of human reasoning; it is only faith that gets the victory (1 John 5:4). The Spirit that inspired holy men to write the word must teach us to understand the word, or we shall never enter into its meaning, feel its power, or illustrate its truths. "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." We must have spiritual sight to discern spiritual objects.
"Without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
"Abide in Me." John 15:4
I can no more do without You, O my dear Savior, than the branches can do without the vine! Keep me, therefore, always in Yourself, that I may be effectually convinced of my insufficiency, and with humble gratitude may acknowledge my boundless obligations to Your preserving and strengthening grace. May I never be left in the least thing to my own strength but be directed, assisted, and blessed by You in all my doings. As far as I confide in myself, I am distrustful of You and consequently weak. On the other hand, the more I distrust myself, the more I confide in You and shall be strengthened and blessed. My soul, never lose sight of this for one moment you can do nothing without Jesus There must be union to Him, faith in Him, and communications from Him, or there will be no good works, no fruits of righteousness. Just in proportion as you are living in close and intimate fellowship with Jesus, will you be able to perform duty, resist Satan, overcome the world, and bring glory to the Savior's name. Cleave, cleave, then, to Jesus, with full purpose of heart; never leave Him for one moment.
"Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me . Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God." Psalm 50:14-15, 23 [See also Isaiah 25:9.]
Nothing moves God more to hear us than the glorifying of Him by faith with thanksgiving, and the keeping up of a childlike confidence in Him as our reconciled Father in Christ; and nothing quickens faith more than sure promises of answers to our prayers. Thus God will certainly hear and deliver us since all His dealings with us are designed to strengthen us in faith and to save our souls. Why, then, should we be afraid in times of trouble? 0ught we not rather to draw near to God in prayer and thanksgiving and glorify Him even beforehand, confidently believing that we shall certainly meet with new deliverances and fresh accessions to our faith? There is no uncertainty about this, for the promises are plain, positive, and sure. It is impossible for God to lie. Heaven and earth may pass away but the word of our God abides forever. Trust the promise, or rather, trust the Promiser, and expect Him to do as He has said. This will glorify Him.
To what a stubborn frame
Has sin reduced our mind!
What strange ungrateful wretches we,
And God as strangely kind!
Turn, turn us, mighty God,
And mold our souls afresh.
Break, sovereign grace, these hearts of stone,
And give us hearts of flesh.
"Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings." Isaiah 3:10
"Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace." Psalm 37:37
Many are for having that first, which is not to be expected till the end. They would be glad of the triumph but will not fight; the time of waiting for the Lord seems to them too long. But for the most glorious promises we must often wait the longest. Jacob, though indulged with more precious promises than Esau, was obliged to wait longer for their accomplishment; and how many ages rolled away before the promise of Christ, the greatest of all, was accomplished! It shall be well with the righteous, and the end of the upright is peace; but for the present they may remain in heaviness through manifold tribulations; when their faith, love, and patience are tried enough in the furnace, then the acceptable year shall come, and the blessed days of joy will appear.
"Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart." Psalm 26:2
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24
Would David, the man after God's own heart, not trust himself but present his heart to the Lord to be tried? Much less can or ought we to trust our hearts; "He who trusts in his own heart," says the wise man, "is a fool" (Proverbs 23:26). We have more reason to be afraid of our own hearts than of all other enemies. It is not necessary for us to know when or by what means the Lord searches our hearts but everyone that is really in a state of grace and walking in the fear of the Lord will pray to Him to search the heart and to deliver him from every wicked way. The Holy Spirit has various ways of searching the hearts of His people and makes use of different means with the same person. We are not to limit the mode nor the extent of His operations but it is our duty to pray that He will in everything guide us in the path that leads to everlasting life. Some may be wrought upon very differently from others but the whole administration of these things is under the direction of infinite Wisdom and tends to manifest the glory of Divine grace in our salvation.
"Lord, all my desire is before You." Psalm 38:9
"Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name." Psalm 86:11
Encouraged by Your blessed word of promise, O Lord, that before men call, You will answer, and while they are yet speaking, You will hear (Isaiah 65:24), I now draw near to You and present my supplication before You. Teach me, by Your word and Spirit, the things of my everlasting peace; let my soul be cast in the mold of the gospel and let me be obedient to Your will in all things. Manifest Yourself unto me, as You do not to the world; show me my inward corruptions and let me see into the depth of iniquity that is in my heart; grant me that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom; incline my heart unto Your testimonies; lead me into all truth; help me to learn that he that believes will not make haste; restrain the impetuosity of my natural temper, that I may do all things deliberately, as becomes one that fears always, that is ever looking unto You for direction. Lord, preserve me calm in my spirit, gentle in my commands, and watchful that I speak not unadvisedly with my lips; moderate in my purposes, yielding in my temper, and at the same time steadfast in my principles. Lord, grant me Your protection, and may Your blessing rest upon me, that I may not bring an evil report upon the good land but walk honorably through the wilderness and pass triumphantly over Jordan into Canaan. Amen.
"Strive to enter through the narrow gate." Luke 13:24
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2:12
"Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead." Philippians 3:13
He that feeds only upon Christ and yet with fear and trembling works out his own salvation, is in the right way; the former preventing discouragement, and the latter presumption. Grant, O Lord, that I may still continue to fight the good fight of faith and never look back on the flesh-pots of Egypt; and choose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin for a season." May thoughts of the painful death which You suffered on the cross have an abiding place in my heart, that thereby unbelief and slavish fear may be destroyed on the one hand, and security on the other; that my heart may be inflamed to gratitude and love, that my faith may grow day by day, and that I may walk at all times and in all places with holy and filial reverence, as in Your presence. O to be pressing forward and reaching forth to greater attainments! There is much treasured up in Christ for us and promised to us, not yet received by us.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 [See also Ezekiel 11:19-20.]
This petition will be fulfilled, if earnestly presented in the name of our Redeemer; and surely the object of the petition is unspeakably important . "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). In regard to justification, this is completed by Christ's obedience unto death; but in regard to sanctification, our hearts, though the subjects of it, are in their best state such that we have continual need to pray, "Create in me a clean heart." O Lord, may Your blood and Spirit cleanse and sanctify me thoroughly from all my sins, that I may be purified and made meet for the Master's use and may at length sit down with Him in His kingdom. O for a clean heart and a clean life, that Jesus may be glorified!
"Enoch walked with God." Genesis 5:24
Happy they who in their early days are turned from sin, themselves, and the world, by repentance toward God and faith in the Promised Seed, as Enoch was, who, from the time of his conversion, walked with God in a continued progress. To "walk with God" is to come out from a sinful generation and cleave to the Lord, as Noah and Caleb did, and God requires this of all believers (2 Corinthians 6:17). It is setting the Lord before our eyes continually and fearing Him always, as Joseph and Nehemiah did, thereby avoiding everything that would offend Him. It is also making an open profession of faith in Him and zeal for His service, as our highest honor and best interest. And further, it is such a walk as obtains a holy intimacy and communion with God, which is kept up by constant meditation, prayer, and praise, by our hearkening to the voice of His word and Spirit, and humbling ourselves before Him; hereby holiness is promoted and encouraged in the soul. Thus "Enoch walked with God"; thus he maintained a holy confidence in Him, committing all his ways to Him, always expecting help from Him and rejoicing in the hopes of being with Him forever.
For these happy ends the grace of God is sufficient for all that see their need and ask it. The Lord help us to seek it, that like Enoch, we may walk with God here below, and live with Him forever in glory. Walking with God is honorable, useful, and happy. How can we be unhappy with God for our Companion?
"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise .Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is." Ephesians 5:15, 17
"That you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense." Philippians 1:10 [See also Luke 12:36.]
Believers have nothing more at heart than the will of God; being once convinced of that, they immediately hasten to fulfill it, at all hazards; but sometimes they cannot come to a thorough knowledge of the same without great conflicts and much patience (Hebrews 10:36); having to encounter the errors which prevail around them, their own prejudices, and the occasional darkness of the Divine dispensations. The Lord, however, will carry us through. Yes, Lord, this You have done innumerable times. O that I might trust You also for the time to come, and not be so weak in faith any more. In general, "This is the will of God, even our sanctification." In particular, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." It is therefore God's will that I should live for Him, and strive to be like Him, and then go to live forever with Him.
Beloved self must be denied,
The mind and will renewed;
Passion suppressed and patience tried,
And vain desires subdued.
Flesh is a dangerous foe to grace,
Where it prevails and rules;
Flesh must be humbled, pride abased,
Lest they destroy our souls.
Lord, can a feeble, helpless worm
Fulfill a task so hard?
Your grace must all my works perform,
And give the free reward.
"If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." 1 Peter 4:14
"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in Heaven." Luke 6:23
"Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in Heaven." Matthew 10:32-33
Every real Christian must expect persecution from the world; and though he should guard against giving needless offence by self-will or rash conduct of any kind yet should he not seek to shun the cross by what some men call prudence but which in reality is a lowly compliance with the world. On the contrary, he should be willing to suffer everything rather than to hurt the cause of God in the least. We should openly confess Christ out Lord, and not mind being called fools by the wicked, as we know that at last they will call themselves by that name; let us not, therefore, care for the approbation and praise of the world but count it a great honor to bear the reproach of Christ even as Moses, who counted the reproach of Christ greater treasure than all the riches of Egypt. If we are reproached for the sake of Christ now, we shall be honored by Christ by and by. For when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.
Bless'd are the suff'rers who partake
Of pain and shame for Jesus' sake,
Their souls shall triumph in the Lord,
Glory and joy are their reward.
The Lamb shall lead His heav'nly flock
Where living fountains rise;
And love divine shall wipe away
The sorrows of their eyes.
"Take heed to your spirit." Malachi 2:15
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
Sinful lusts may become so inactive as to seem quite dead; but if we grow careless, they spring up again on a favorable occasion and sometimes appear in a spiritual shape and take a spiritual name. Thus, though the carnally minded delight exceedingly in sensual indulgences, yet, in order to acquire the reputation of being perfect, they will sometimes endure great mortification. Therefore we ought always to be jealous of ourselves, lest we become satisfied with a partial conversion and thus exhibit in our spirit, language, and behavior, a mass of inconsistencies. The flesh is never more dangerous than when it covers its lusts with the veil of apparent holiness and zeal. Oh, may I be taught to take heed of my spirit and to know the deceitfulness of my heart. Gracious God, be my teacher, and not only my teacher but my sanctifier, that I may be sanctified through the truth! Thoroughly renovate my soul. Make me entirely new. Let the work be so powerful, so clear, that all that see me may acknowledge me, that I am one whom the Lord has blessed.
"Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle." Psalm 43:3
"But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day." Proverbs 4:18
The wiser we are in our own conceits, the more negligent we are in prayer, and more destitute of true wisdom and faith. The Lord gives sight to the blind and to the babes who pray for it. Therefore the deepest humblings go before the greatest blessings. O my blessed Savior, since I am always blind and ignorant of myself, if I am not guided by Your eyes, I desire always to look up to You and do everything under Your direction; sitting down like a little child at Your feet, and submitting my will wholly to Yours. Give me so much of Your Spirit, that under all my trials, troubles, and conflicts I may say, "Not my will but Yours be done." Preserve me from dictating to my heavenly Father or complaining of any of His dispensations. Lead me by Your hand; keep me at Your side, and whisper to me as I pass along, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you." Conduct me to the hill, where You hold communion with Your people now, and at last raise me to the mount of God, to be forever with the Lord.
"By grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:5
To rely on grace and desire to be saved only by free grace is a sweet exercise; but, so far from being practiced enough, we have all need to learn the prayer of the publican better still, since the Pharisee is ever busy to creep in again. But care must be taken that we do not build our faith only upon the sweet enjoyments of the grace of God in our hearts but also upon grace in the heart of God, as it is procured by Christ and promised to us through Christ. For which reason God sometimes denies us sensible enjoyments, that true faith may begin to act like itself and depend upon nothing but free grace in Christ. All this we have the boldness to do, should we ever seem to fall short of the due measure of faith, godly sorrow, and repentance. For since there is no merit to be placed in these things, there is no certain measure prescribed to all but it is enough truly to hate sin, to desire grace, and sincerely to enter upon the Christian race. Enough to prove us Christians but not enough to make us happy or very useful Christians. Let us not be satisfied with what we have, while there is so much in Jesus for us; but let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.
"Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins." 1 John 3:4-5
There is more power in the blood of Christ to save and cleanse, than in sin to defile and destroy. Hence it may be called "precious blood." When applied to the heart by faith, it diffuses peace, excites love, and endears the authority of Him from whose side it flowed. Yet these effects are accomplished in the very best of mortals, in part only. It therefore becomes us all to be earnest at the throne of grace, that we may be kept by Almighty power, and that Jesus may be for us, who is stronger than all that can come against us; and that He may so manifest Himself to us in love and in power, that we may enjoy an assured sense of pardon and peace; and not only so but that our hearts may be set against sin and our lives be free from the open commission of sin. May we delight in the law of God after the inward man, as Paul did; and walk by the law, which only requires supreme love to God and equal love to men. O to love God as God deserves to be loved and to love men as God wishes us to love them!
Enslaved by sin and bound in chains,
Beneath its dreadful tyrant sway,
And doom'd to everlasting pains,
We wretched, guilty captives lay.
Jesus the sacrifice became,
To rescue guilty souls from hell;
The spotless, bleeding, dying Lamb,
Beneath avenging justice fell.
"Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you." Psalm 32:9
"If you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear." 1 Peter 1:17
Reader, do you believe that there is a God and that He will shortly judge you for every evil action you have done, and for all the secret iniquity of your bosom? How then can you meet your Judge, unless your heart be changed and your sins pardoned? There will be no opportunity of dissembling, excusing, or escaping them. Begin, therefore, in time, to consider how you must appear before that awful judgment seat. The door of mercy is yet open. Call upon the Lord Jesus for repentance and pardon before the door shall be shut, and you be lost forever. Now but now only, is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation. You have rejected Christ hitherto; you have neglected the great salvation, it may be. Let me, then, beseech you to consider the question which the apostle proposes: "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" How? There is no sacrifice for sin but the one offering of Jesus; there is no remedy for human guilt or misery but His precious blood; there is no coming to God with acceptance but by Him. How then will you escape if you live and die neglecting Him?
"Be strong and of good courage." Joshua 1:6
"I will be with you. I will not leave your nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5
"Only be strong and very courageous." Joshua 1:7
"Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
God calls upon us to be strong in faith, and strong faith will make men cheerful and courageous and enable them to overcome strong difficulties. Therefore, if your feet and heart are bound for Canaan, trust in the Lord to carry you safely through. Feeble as you are, go on and fear nothing, for God is with you. He that has but this one care and fear: not to displease Him, needs not care for or fear anything else. His safety is ensured in the promise of God, who will keep him continually in all things, who will sustain him by His almighty arm in every temptation and difficulty and danger, and will be a wall of fire to him on the right hand and on the left. My soul, fear nothing but sin; fear no one but God. If holiness is your element and God your friend, nothing can possibly harm you. All things must work together for your good. Grace here will lead you to glory in a better world. Trials and troubles will end in everlasting joy; therefore fear not.
"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29
"These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple." Revelation 7:14-15
He that washes himself continually in the blood of Christ does not make light of sin but detests it above all things; for what can be more abominable than sin, since it cannot be taken away but by the blood of the Son of God? This humbles true believers and makes them watch against sin; and, if it has not the same effect on you, reader, the state of your soul should make you tremble. Talking of the blood of the Lamb and yet trifling with sin cannot agree together but show a false or a deceived heart. Nothing crucifies us to sin but the cross of Jesus but this always does. Sin cannot thrive in Gethsemane or Golgotha. Blood makes it wither, fade, and die. And what destroys sin, nourishes grace, so that the believer who has much to do with Jesus in His sufferings, will be holy unto the Lord, ornamental in the Church, and useful among men. May I look away from everything below, and behold the Lamb of God.
Behold the Lamb of God, who bore
Thy burden on the tree,
And paid in blood the dreadful score,
The ransom due for thee!
Look to Him, till the sight endears
The Savior to thy heart;
His pierced feet bedew with tears,
Nor from His cross depart.
"Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8
For this crown faith earnestly strives; yet the believer acknowledges, and will forever acknowledge, that his enjoyment of it must be resolved into sovereign grace. For if he loves the Lord and His appearing, the Lord first loved him; and he ascribes all his strength and courage and victories to that Divine arm which alone brings salvation. Oh, to have the well-grounded and assured faith of the apostle and to be able to say, in the spirit of such a hope, "I know that my Redeemer lives!" My Redeemer comes. Jesus will soon come, according to His word, and will judge the living and dead at His appearing, rendering to everyone according to his works. Then the crowns will be distributed; then will everyone have praise of God; then Jesus will be glorified in His saints and admired in all them that believe. Lord Jesus, hasten Your coming and Your kingdom; and may I, through Your free grace, receive glory, honor, and immortality then.
"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1
He that runs and lacks endurance will never arrive at the end of his spiritual race; for whereas every man will remove impediments from him who runs as an earthly competitor, he that runs in the way of God's commandments is liable to be constantly interrupted. One will revile him, another falsely accuse him, a third endeavor to intimidate him. David had many enemies that spoke mischievous things against him and laid snares for his life; but he was as a deaf man that does not hear and "like a mute who does not open his mouth." Saul was twice in his power yet he would not avenge himself on him not that he lacked either courage or wisdom. Moreover his malicious adversary was intent upon destroying him yet he submissively committed his cause to God and waited God's time of deliverance. Christ's active and passive obedience made Him a complete Mediator. May your active and passive obedience, reader, make you a complete Christian, teaching you to hold on in the Christian race until at length you attain the prize. Grace gives it; the gospel reveals it; faith runs for it; justice will confer it; and the winner forever wear it.
"Whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed." Romans 3:25
God has set forth the propitiation. From all eternity He proposed Christ to be the Mercy-seat; the spring of all is from the Father, who is Love. He proposed, revealed, and made Christ known to Adam, to Abraham, to the prophets; He proposed the mercy-seat as an object of faith in all the sacrifices that were types of Christ. This mercy-seat is clearly and fully set forth in the gospel dispensation. In this plan the righteousness of God is declared, while He vindicates the honor of His perfections and laws and maintains the authority of His government by punishing the offences of rebel subjects in the sufferings of the Surety, who was made an offering for sin, "that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
Where shall I, a poor sinner, conscious of guilt and apprehensive of wrath, flee for refuge? Where shall I find it? Where but in Christ's atonement? While others have recourse to refuges of lies and would establish a righteousness of their own, in the Lord my Righteousness I find rest and safety; having fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before me. In Christ, my Hope, I shall have strong consolation. Him has God set forth to be a propitiation for sinners such as I. My soul, look to Jesus as God's mercy-seat. Expect to meet Him there and enjoy sweet and soul-refreshing communion with Him.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:24
Does Satan tempt you, either by pleasures, dignities, or profits? O my soul, stand upon your guard; gird on your strength with such thoughts as these: What can the world profit me, if the cares of it choke me? How can pleasures comfort me, if their sting poisons me? 0r what advancement is this, to be triumphing in honor before the face of men here and to be trembling with confusion before the throne of God hereafter? What are the delights of the world, to the peace of my conscience or the joy that is in the Holy Spirit? What are the applauses of men to the crown prepared by God? 0r what is the gain of the world to the loss of my soul? The vanity of the creature is far beneath the excellency of my soul, and the things of time are not worthy to be mentioned with the things of eternity. Two masters of such opposite principles as God and mammon I cannot serve. Deign, blessed Lord, to employ me in Your family and at the same time engage my whole heart, that I may admit no rival to Yourself but serve You eternally, and You alone. I give myself to You, to be Your devoted and grateful servant, to do Your will, suffer Your pleasure, and honor Your name.
"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good." Psalm 34:8
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8
There is an infinite fullness of all spiritual blessings treasured up in Christ Jesus for all His people, and out of His fullness they receive even grace for grace. But, alas! We are slow of heart to believe the truth; we please ourselves with small things and come slowly forward to receive an abundance of that fullness. Young converts, enamored with what they have in hand, or living upon their feelings, are ready to flee from knowledge as something dangerous and destructive of holiness. On the other hand, some cold-hearted professors would explode all affection and animation, as though the passions had no share in the Christian religion, and that the whole consisted in a mere assemblage of notions. O my soul, be a humble suppliant at the feet of Jesus, for a live coal from off the altar to purge away your iniquity and to warm your feelings; implore also the aids of the Holy Spirit to lead you into the knowledge of the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Then shall you both taste and see that "the Lord is good." Then shall you rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy 0ne of Israel.
O Sovereign Love, to Thee I cry,
Give me Thyself, or else I die!
Save me from death, from hell set free;
Death, hell are but the lack of Thee!
My life, my crown, my heaven Thou art,
O may I find Thee in my heart .
"We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory." 1 Corinthians 2:7
There are some things declared in the gospel which are absolutely its own, which can be traced neither in the law of nature nor in the law of God. Of this nature are all things relating to the love and good will of God in Christ Jesus: the mystery of His incarnation, of His offices, of the work of the Spirit, of our interest in it, and of our consequent union with Christ; to this class belong our adoption, justification, and effectual sanctification. These things are properly evangelical, being peculiar to the gospel.
The apostle Paul, to whom a dispensation of the gospel was especially committed, insists on these subjects with all his characteristic firmness and ardor. He felt their efficacy and was anxious that all mankind should feel it also. Let us copy his example, and by the tongue, the pen, and the press endeavor to spread abroad the knowledge of Christ. The gospel should be preached to every creature, and everyone that knows it should assist in preaching it. May we spread abroad the fame of Jesus throughout the whole country.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Ephesians 1:8
We are all naturally intent on present gratification. It is by no means sufficient, therefore, to explain to us our duty or enforce it by future rewards and punishments. There must be pleasures at hand to outweigh the enticements of sin and outbid whatever that sorceress can offer. The religion of Jesus adapts itself to this prevalent feeling it brings the possession of the best happiness here: a rich foretaste, in this life, of heavenly glory. Salvation comes of the Lord to the sinner upon believing, just as an ample estate bequeathed to a person in debt. At once it alters his whole condition, setting him free from all he owes, supplies all he wants, gives him rank, figure, and authority, to which before he was a perfect stranger.
Such blessedness, in the pardon of all my sins, in access to God with confidence, in victory over my spiritual enemies, give me, O my God, to enjoy freeing me from the sense of debt and the fear of guilt and every obligation but faith and love.
"Do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited." Isaiah 54:2-3
How comfortable is it to the religious man to behold an increase of the true worshipers of God, and more especially in the place where his soul has dwelt among lions and been vexed from day to day "by the filthy conduct of the wicked"! To see the banner of Christ set up there and numbers flock unto it, as doves to their windows to see the kingdom of Satan weakened and contracted and the kingdom of God and His Christ strengthened and enlarged; to see the hand of the Lord protecting and providing for His people going before them, like the pillar and cloud, refreshing them by day and by night this is indeed a feast of fat things. Lord, grant that I may be thankful for what I have already seen, and may I behold Your glory thus displayed more and more. And while You lengthen our cords, help us to strengthen our stakes by holding fast the form of sound words, living as persons professing godliness, showing that we are Christians indeed, by love to each other and keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Thus shall our light shine before men, and the gospel break forth on the right hand and on the left, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. O to be used by the Lord, to bring souls to Jesus, and believers into the Church, and so to win souls from death!
"If anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." 2 Timothy 2:5
"Until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence." Matthew 11:12
If those cannot expect to be crowned who strive but not lawfully, what must become of those who do not strive at all? O Lord, grant both to direct and to strengthen my soul, that I may glorify You by resisting and overcoming all my spiritual adversaries. In humble reliance on Your grace, I will go forth and fight the good fight of faith, till the happy hour arrives when I shall be summoned by the Captain of salvation to quit the combat, to leave the scene of watch and of trial, and I shall joyfully exclaim, "Thanks be to God, who gives me the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!" My soul, you have foes to conquer and a kingdom to obtain. The armor of God must be taken, and the strength of God must be sought. No other weapons will conquer your foes; no other strength is sufficient for your work. But in the strength of God, with the armor of righteousness, the weakest will overcome, and the lame will take the prey. Take, therefore, to yourself the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.
"So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs but of God who shows mercy." Romans 9:16
"You have a little strength." Revelation 3:8
"Go in this might of yours . I will be with you." Judges 6:14, 16
A little strength in the Christian is the strength of God through Christ the second Adam, and consequently stronger than the power of Satan and the first Adam, should it seem ever so strong. Nay, it is the death of the old man already and kills him by degrees more and more, till at last, when we drop this body of sin, it will destroy him entirely. Believers in such a state may think themselves weaker than before they had any grace, not being able now to advance in their new and better course so rapidly as they did in the course which they have, through grace, forsaken. They no longer swim with the stream, experiencing no resistance but have incessantly to contend against the most determined opposition. Thus they are made to feel their own insufficiency and learn both to ascribe all their past progress to Divine grace and to rely on its continued communication for their future safety and improvement. Therefore we must not give over praying and hoping in this case; but, as it is only the lovingkindness of the merciful Redeemer that preserves and strengthens the poor and feeble, we rather ought to be more earnest in drawing near to Him with all our misery, weariness, and apprehensions. God's strength is for the weak and feeble; and the weaker we feel, the clearer is our title to it, and the stronger our claim upon it.
"If, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning." 2 Peter 2:20
Some affirm that experienced Christians meet with no strong temptations and feel no evil suggestions from within, and, of course, no striving against the same; but it is quite the contrary. For young converts are engaged chiefly in escaping from the outward pollutions of the world, while those who are further advanced find it necessary to strive more immediately against their inward and spiritual iniquities. Therefore take heed to your spirit, though your meaning be ever so good, and your assurance ever so great. Be not high-minded, for fear of falling. The least sin may, unawares and by degrees, draw you into many others, so that you may at last be entangled in such a manner that, without great watchfulness, it will be impossible to extricate yourself. Therefore, be not deceived; flee all occasions of sin. Say not within yourself, "It is a light matter; it only concerns outward things, which do not belong to the essence of Christianity." Such language betrays a most unbecoming levity, or rather a seared conscience. If we indulge any degree of improper conformity to the world, we so far supply the enemy of our souls with the means of ruining them, and may well fear that our latter end will prove worse than the beginning. Lord, keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings.
"If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." Romans 12:18
There is much contest in the world about property; but believers, taking Christ for their only Property (a property of which none can dispossess them) have, in Him alone, immense treasures and lasting peace. And since, therefore, wrath and anger turn into nothing but disquietness and are punished by themselves, why do you, having so much to enrich and delight you, suffer yourself to be easily moved by them? The least provocation, it may be, even a single word, will stir up the corruption of your heart, so as to change your countenance and make you speak unadvisedly. But consider how God bears with you and what an abomination anger is. It is the venom of the old serpent. As for you, called as you are to bear the image of God and bring forth the fruits of the good Spirit, you must follow the lamb-like mind of Christ. For this purpose it is necessary: first, to avoid all occasions of strife; secondly, if quarrels arise, to bridle our tongues; thirdly, to suffer patiently when we are wronged; fourthly, immediately to offer up fervent prayer and thus to quench the sparks of fire before they break out into a flame. This is the easiest and the only method to prevent great troubles and lead a peaceful, happy life; for anger carries in itself uneasiness, and love a sweet satisfaction. Lord, preserve me from anger, wrath, clamor, and all that is opposed to the mind and temper of Your beloved Son!
"Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:19,22
Christ has forever purged our sins by Himself: "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). To this sprinkling of the blood of Christ, all believers, even the weakest, are to come, in order to receive the forgiveness of sins. The blood is said to be sprinkled to show the need of its application to the conscience by the Holy Spirit. In this purple fountain the believer daily washes; it is the fountain wherein he is purified from sin and from uncleanness; it is his element and life. Thus he "lives by faith in the Son of God," who also loved him, always pleading His merits before his heavenly Father; thus he keeps his conscience pure and easy. My soul, draw near to God through Jesus; stand not at a distance, as the poor publican did. You have liberty given you through the blood of Jesus to draw near. Your God and Father invites you near and loves to see you draw near unto Him. Draw near and confess your sin; obtain a pardon, and find grace to help you in every time of need. Precious blood of Jesus, I will rejoice in your merit and efficacy in life, in death, and forever!
"What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them." Romans 1:19
Some things declared and enjoined in the gospel have their foundation in the law and light of nature; such are all the things which relate to our moral conduct. The apostle, speaking of mankind in general, says, "What may be known of God is manifest in them"; the essential properties of God, rendering our duty to Him necessary, are known by the light of nature. By the same light are men able to make a judgment of their actions, whether they be good or evil (Romans 2:14-15). The same law and light which reveal these things do also enjoin their observance. Thus it is with all men before the preaching of the gospel to them. The gospel adds two things to the minds of men: 1) It directs us to a right performance of those things, from a right principle, by a right rule, and to a right end; so that they, and we in them, may obtain acceptance with God; hereby it gives them a new nature and turns moral duties into evangelical obedience. 2) By a communication of that Spirit which is joined to its dispensation, it supplies us with strength for their performance in the manner it directs. Having this manifestation both of the authority and of the grace of God, let us walk constantly in the light of Divine truth recollecting that in proportion to the extent of our privileges, will be the weight of our condemnation if we remain either ignorant or unholy. But while the precepts direct our way, let us look to the promise for strength to walk in it.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:35,37
Stars shine brightest in the darkest night; grapes come not to the proof till they come to the press; spices smell best when bruised; young trees root the faster for being shaken; and gold looks brighter for scouring. Such is the condition of all God's children; they are then most triumphant when most tempted; most glorious when most afflicted; most in the favor of God when least in man's and least in their own. As their conflicts, such are their conquests; as their tribulations, such their triumphs. They live best in the furnace of persecution so that heavy afflictions are the best benefactors to heavenly affections; and where afflictions hang heaviest, corruptions hang loosest; and grace that is hid in nature, as sweet water in rose leaves, is then most fragrant when the fire of affliction is put under to distill it out. Rejoice, believer, in this glorious truth nothing can separate you from Jesus. Your greatest trials will be overruled for your good and may often be numbered among your choicest mercies. They only wean you from the world, endear a throne of grace, and make you cleave closer to your Savior. In Him there is no condemnation; from Him there is no separation.
"Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away! O my dove, in the clefts of the rock." Song of Solomon 2:10-14
O Lord, how often has it been winter with me; but You have always quickened me again! Grant that by these experiences I may be so used to Your ways, as always to expect the best from You in everything, and to have only this one care: how I may please You as Your bride and dove, and be accepted through You with Your Father. Let my faith be so strengthened by all Your dealings with me, that at last I may have boldness and find complete rest in Your wounds, my crucified Savior, where there is room for the greatest of sinners even for me. My soul, Jesus calls you away from self, from sin, and from the world. He says, "Come away." He desires your company; He wishes to hold communion with your spirit; He desires to make you happy with His own sweet love. Arise; follow Jesus; go with Him to your closet, to his Father's word, and to your mother's house; let Him have your heart, Your company, Your all, for He is worthy.
"Do not be conformed to this world." Romans 12:2
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him . And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:15, 17
Reader, whose will do you do? Examine yourself. Perhaps you think that to love the world and do its will cannot be a great sin because many reputed honest men and Christians do the same. No but for your soul's sake, consider what the Scripture says, "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Without this love of the Father, you have no faith; and being destitute of faith, you have no part in Christ, and consequently no life and salvation. Consider further whether you do not love the world above either God or your own soul. Have you not more than a hundred thoughts about the world for one of God or of your soul? Do you not talk a hundred times more about the world than about God or your soul? Is not your pursuit continually after the world, to the neglect of God and your soul? If so, the world is your idol; you love not God and are murdering your own soul. Alas, what a piteous case you are in! The Lord have mercy on you! Holy Spirit, convince us of our true state and condition before God; if it is right, confirm us in it; if it is wrong, convert us from it!
"Not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct." 1 Peter 1:14-15
"Be even more diligent to make your call and election sure." 2 Peter 1:10
"For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles." 1 Peter 4:3
None can be so sure of salvation as to be forever free from fears and doubts. Confidence itself has its conflicts; therefore all diligence is required in order to attain a prevailing hope and to meet death with tranquility. We ought at all times to guard particularly against presumption, since we do not know what temptations await us. It becomes us also to suppress the feeling that despises weaker Christians and the language that would urge them beyond what they are able to bear ever remembering that our own experience is not to be stretched into an absolute rule for others, lest the doctrine of assurance, though a source of comfort, prove a torment to them who have not yet attained it. Let all who have received a measure of grace be thankful yet not rest in it; but press forward, fighting the good fight of faith till they lay hold on eternal life. If you indulge in any sin, it will make the eye of faith dim, and you will lose your assurance; therefore beware of sin. Good and gracious God
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
He who seriously seeks to be saved both from the power and the punishment of sin and seeks deliverance only through Christ, should by no means give way to heaviness of heart. For consider: are you a lost sinner? Christ's salvation is brought to such. Are you seeking His salvation? This is a good token that Christ has sought you, else you would not seek after Him. Whom Christ seeks He saves. Now, therefore, call upon Him earnestly to set up His kingdom in your bosom and say to yourself, "O my soul, the very purpose which brought Christ into the world was to save sinners circumstanced just as you are! Though your sins be as scarlet, yea though they be as red as crimson, be not cast down, O my soul, and be not disquieted within me; but encourage a cheerful hope in your covenant God. While mourning over your sins, consider the infinite love of Christ in dying for them; and constrained by a sense of that love, pray earnestly for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you may live to the Divine glory, accompanying your petitions with a diligent use of all the means that may conduce to this important end. Believe the word, and you will come to Jesus. Believe in Jesus, and you will enjoy peace. Only believe, and you are safe. Believe, and you will soon be happy."
"Repent, and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:15
Repentance, or a godly sorrow for sin, is required by the gospel; it is absolutely necessary to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a life of union and communion with Him. O reader, the Baptist calls you to repent; Jesus calls you to repent; the God of heaven and earth calls you to repent; and you must repent or perish eternally in the flames of hell. Can you not give yourself the grace of repentance? You cannot. Pray, therefore, earnestly to the blessed Jesus, that His Holy Spirit may produce this saving change in you. Entreat Him to give you a living, justifying faith in His blood and righteousness, and that your heart may be filled with real sorrow for sin, with holy indignation against it and with a sincere and active determination to forsake it. Pray that you may walk by faith and not by sight, as seeing continually Him who, to the natural eye, is invisible. Faith will deepen and regulate repentance. Where there is no faith, there is no evangelical repentance; and where there is no repentance, there is no real religion. O for more faith in Christ, and then we shall have more repentance toward God! The gospel requires both, and Jesus is exalted to bestow both; and He does so freely, without money and without price. Make instant application to Him for them.
"What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" Mark 13:37
On a day set apart for the celebration of some great event, how anxious are the people to get in time to the place appointed, and what earnestness may be traced in every countenance! And should not Christians watch, with at least equal solicitude, for the hour in which their Lord shall come, that they may not be ashamed before Him? A heart deceived by sin may suggest many arguments against this holy earnestness but they are the reasonings of folly. The language of Christ is express and continually urgent, "What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" Almost every day affords an instance of someone hurried into eternity suddenly. "You do not know what hour your Lord is coming." Give me grace, O Lord, to live always as if I heard that solemn voice sounding continually in my ears, "Awake, you dead, and come to judgment!" That so at length, when the Bridegroom comes, I may be found with my lamp burning, ready to go in with Him to the feast Holy Spirit, make and keep me ready for my Lord's glorious appearing! O Jesus, may I meet You with joy and holy triumph at Your coming!
"Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me." Psalm 71:18
"Keep my soul, and deliver me; Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You." Psalm 25:20-21
"Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, Who have been carried from the womb: even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you." Isaiah 46:3-4
God receives all His people into a union far more intimate than that which connects the parent with the child. A mother may forget even her sucking child; but the eyes of God are upon His people for good, continually; they are graven on the palms of His hands and dwell securely in His heart. They may expect everything from Him, and we shall evermore please Him in proportion to the strength of out confidence in Him. I would therefore "be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving" make my requests known to Him (Philippians 4:6), always trusting that He will as certainly carry me through the difficulties to come as He has done through the difficulties which I have already met; so that I may even give Him thanks for it beforehand. O my God, give me faith to trust You, love to cleave to You, and indulge me with sweet and intimate communion with Your blessed self! My soul, grasp the promise, plead it, and expect it to be made good!
"Do not trust in these lying words, saying, 'The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.'" Jeremiah 7:4
"Thoroughly amend your ways and your doings." Jeremiah 7:5 [See also John 4:24, Romans 12:1, James 1:27.]
One of the most pernicious, and at the same time successful artifices of Satan is that by which he induces men to substitute extensive knowledge and an assurance of their own making, not witnessed by the Spirit, for true faith. Thus deceived, they trust in some outward form of worship or in the church communion they have with real believers, and those strong and perhaps frequent feelings which they call Christian experience but which, in them, are unattended with a change of heart. As long as this inward change is lacking, we read and pray and attend the sanctuary and receive Divine ordinances to no purpose. We must be renewed in our minds; and then, and then only, shall we prove, by our words and deeds that we are the living temples of God. Reader, never rest short of union to Christ and the renewal of your nature by the Holy Spirit. It is to be feared that many do, and therefore are light and vain and worldly in their lives. True religion always includes tenderness of conscience, sorrow for sin, faith in Jesus, and a holy life. Have you these? Search and look, for it is for eternity. My soul, make sure work for eternity!
"Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me!" Psalm 38:21
"'The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,' says the LORD, who has mercy on you. O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones." Isaiah 54:10-12
Such as have never felt spiritual distress cannot relish this word of promise. But they who have been brought out of great misery by this or any other word of promise applied to their hearts by the Holy Spirit, will henceforth take hold of it and prize it. Yea, they should firmly believe (even without a present feeling of its comfort) that God will certainly perform His promise. He is a God that changes not, and a God in covenant with His people. Therefore He will not forsake his people but order all things for their good and conduct them safely through their pilgrimage, though violent enemies assault them and mighty tempests fall upon them. For this the Divine faithfulness stands engaged. Fears of being forsaken spring from corrupt nature or Satan's temptations and should, therefore, be resisted by every believer.
"Lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5
"Do not be wise in your own opinion." Romans 12:16
"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." 1 Corinthians 3:19
Whoever desires to know the will of the Lord and prays earnestly for instruction, shall certainly know His will. But he must not be wise in his own opinion, nor lean to his own understanding, nor expect that the wisdom or learning of this world will explain the things of God. He must not seek to reconcile the word to his lusts but combat his lusts by the word. In short, he must come to Jesus for instruction, with great simplicity of mind; and not come for a month or a year but sit all his life at the feet of Jesus, to receive instruction from Him. Lord, make me jealous of myself; enable me to go in and out with prayer, and keep me from all errors that may hurt my soul. Be my teacher. Give me a docile disposition, a retentive memory, and a good and honest heart, that so I may receive, retain, and make use of Your instructions. O for that wisdom which is from above and is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and of good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy!
"So we preach, and so you believed." 1 Corinthians 15:11
The method of the gospel is this: First, it proposes things which are peculiarly its own. It reveals its own mysteries, laying them as the foundation of faith and obedience; and it also fixes them in the mind, thereby conforming the whole soul unto them (1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 6:17; Galatians 4:19; Titus 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 2 Corinthians 3:18). This foundation being laid, the obedience of faith is built upon it. Where this foundation is not laid through ignorance, or where it is rejected through prejudice, the gospel is of no service. It neither renews the soul nor produces any genuine obedience. Thus the apostle Paul, in all his epistles, teaches first the mysteries of faith that are peculiar to the gospel, and then specifies those moral duties which are regulated thereby. In order that the gospel may be effectually believed, it must be diligently examined and well understood; and when our faith is thus firmly established, it is to show itself in the practice of all those good works that are required of us in the Scriptures. "As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."
"How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Genesis 39:9
Joseph was a slave and in a strange country; he was tempted by a wanton and revengeful mistress; had he complied, he would have been sure of secrecy and rewards but if he resisted, he might expect her keenest resentment, if not the loss of his life. Yet all these could not influence him; he chooses to submit to every inconvenience and danger, rather than be guilty of so foul a crime and sin against God. Hence we may learn that the fear of God is a most effectual preservative against all criminal indulgences; it was this that restrained Joseph, and will, where it is possessed, have the same effect on all mankind. It regulates every passion, every spring of human actions, and includes in it all the most powerful motives by which the conduct of mankind is determined. If interest be the principal thing that sways us, it surely cannot be so certainly promoted as by securing the favor of God and avoiding His displeasure. If we regard our fears, He is the most formidable Being in the universe to a mind that has perverted its faculties and transgressed the laws of its nature. If we are swayed by hope, He is the supreme Good; if by love, He is the most amiable and perfect Excellence; if by gratitude, He is the Author of all our happiness.
Give me, O Lord, such godly fear,
As feels Your presence nigh;
And looks to You when sin is near,
And makes the tempter fly.
"I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD." 2 Kings 22:8
Some have supposed that the priests, to save themselves the trouble of writing and the people of reading the book at large, had furnished themselves with abstracts of the law, leaving out or slightly mentioning some parts thereof, and particularly the threatenings; and therefore, that Josiah, when he made the discovery of the whole, was the more affected, in consequence of having been brought up without the knowledge of it. The book of God's law seems in our day also to be lost as it regards many congregations of professed Christians; imperfect accounts of it are given, which hide the promised blessings and the threatened curses. When this book by spiritual light is found, and on reading or hearing thereof, conviction reaches the conscience, it is a great instance of God's favor, a token for good, and must be faithfully acknowledged as such. Reader, are you truly apprehensive of the weight of God's wrath and solicitous to obtain His favor? Seek earnestly, upon your knees and in the house of the Lord, redemption from the curses of the law; pray that Jesus may be revealed to you. The blood of the Lamb of God alone can take away the guilt of sin; having therefore found the law, rest not till you find the gospel also. Josiah's heart was tender; he wept and was encouraged. Refuse not to participate in his sorrow; so shall you receive favor, even as he did. Make the law of God your continual delight and counselor.
"Draw me . We will run after you . The king has brought me into his chambers . We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine." Song of Solomon 1:4
"In You the fatherless finds mercy." Hosea 14:3
The needle in the mariner's compass cannot rest till it points directly to the pole. The wise men of the East followed the course of the star which appeared unto them; and the star itself never stood still till it came right over the place illuminated by that other Star, which shone more brightly in the manger than the sun did in the firmament. Noah's dove could find no rest for the sole of her foot all the while she was fluttering over the flood, till she returned to the ark with an olive branch in her mouth. So the heart of a true Christian can find no rest all the while it is hovering over the waters of this world, till with the silver wings of a dove, and the olive branch of faith, it flies to Jesus, the true Noah and Rest of our souls, who puts forth His hand out of the ark; and, taking the dove in, receives it to Himself. In His presence and in communion with Him, the believer finds safety, strength, and the most exalted joy. Gracious Redeemer, let my soul find rest in You; give me Your own peace, and render me happy in Your own love!
"What do you think about the Christ?" Matthew 22:42
Ought we not to put this question to our souls, when our happiness forever depends upon Him, and when without Him we are undone to eternity? How then should we estimate the Lord Jesus Christ? Surely as the Scripture represents Him to be, "the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely." We ought to think of Him in His person, as the great God incarnate; in His work and His offices, as the Savior of Israel. We ought to think of Him as One in whom justice is satisfied, love and righteousness are manifested, and sinners are saved. O how highly have God's people ever thought of Christ Jesus! And how exultingly do the saints now in heaven think of Him! But what think we of Christ, when burdened with sin, when oppressed with affliction? When we cannot entertain a good thought of ourselves, can we then think of Christ as highly as heretofore? Yet this is the test that we must try ourselves by: "What do you think about the Christ?" Alas! How very weak is our faith, at the best; Lord, strengthen our faith, inflame our love, enlarge our views, support us in trials, guide us by Your counsel, and receive us into glory, that we may sing Your praise to all eternity. Holy Spirit, so reveal Christ to me, as will fix my heart, soul, affections, and all upon Him, this day and forevermore!
Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see You as You art,
I'll praise You as I ought.
"Our citizenship is in Heaven." Philippians 3:20
"Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven." Luke 10:20
"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2
A Christian, being only a traveler through the world, must expect a traveler's fare: bad roads, bad weather, and bad accommodation. But since his journey will soon end and he will then enter the celestial city, all his actions, sufferings, prayers, and conversation turn that way. O Lord, grant that my eyes may be always fixed upon this mark, and that I may regulate all my desires and doings accordingly! Thus may Your grace be shed abroad in my heart, so that I may engage in nothing that is unsuitable to the anticipation of heaven. Give me a clear title, an habitual preparation, and many sweet foretastes, while I am sojourning below. Let me like the patriarch live, looking for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. What a privilege to have our names written in the Lamb's book of life, to have our citizenship in heaven, and to live with the heart set on things above! This honor have all His saints: the poorest, the weakest, the most timid, the most unworthy.
"To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43
"Your name is ointment poured forth." Song of Solomon 1:3
"The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Proverbs 18:10
In this name we should draw near to the Father in prayer, and not approach Him with a strange fire of our own, kindled from the fancied merit of devotion; and He will draw near to us again (James 4:8). He will certainly grant our petitions, and we shall receive, that our joy may be full (John 16: 24). "You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You" (Psalm 86:5). All the promises are yea and amen in Christ; so that every believer may say, "The Lord will receive my prayer" (Psalm 6:9). "Blessed be God, who has not turned away mv prayer nor His mercy from me" (Psalm 66:20), for "He has dealt bountifully with me" (Psalm 13:6). Yes, for in Jesus He has blessed me with all spiritual blessings, adopted me for His own child, constituted me His heir, and appointed me to fill a throne of glory. O the riches of grace, of free and sovereign grace! I ascribe it to grace and grace alone, that I am out of hell, on the road to heaven, and expecting glory, honor, and immortality. From grace flows all the good, and to grace be all the glory.
"In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11
"Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Revelation 21:2 [See also verses 3, 4, 10, and 12.]
O my dear Savior, look upon me in mercy. You see what earthly desires and unmortified tempers are yet found in me; and though I cry unto You daily, my enemies still prevail over me. Yet You are almighty to save and have promised to cast out none that come unto You. Let me, then, experience the power of Your grace in raising me up to more newness of life, in stirring up prayer, and strengthening faith; in creating hungerings after righteousness and thirstings after God, and in bestowing a right heavenly mind upon me that my soul may be as a bride prepared and adorned for her husband. Give me also a frequent taste below of those pleasures which are at Your right hand forevermore, that my heart may be kept eagerly looking for Your coming. O to be daily fitting us for the inheritance of the saints in light! May my eye, my heart, and my hopes be there, because Jesus is there; and it is the sight of Him and the enjoyment of Him that will be the cream of all our pleasures. No heaven without Jesus, and no hell with Him. Happy soul that can with confidence say, "Jesus is mine, and I am His." Holy Spirit, witness to my heart that I am His!
"Watch and pray . Let us be going." Matthew 26:41, 46
"Remember Lot's wife." Luke 17:32
"This is the way, walk in it." Isaiah 30:21
To be kept from self-righteousness on one hand and from false liberty on the other, is to be led in the right Christian way. But how shall I find this way? Blessed Jesus! You are the Way. Teach me, then, to walk in Your strength, to live in Your faith, to gaze much upon You, to cleave firmly unto You, and abide ever in You; so shall I experience the liberty of Your gospel, which yields no license for sin but brings joyful deliverance from its power. For when my heart rests on You, it cannot rest in the flesh and seek to fulfill its lusts; but, being delighted with Your beauty and glorious love, it ceases to wander from You, and I become watchful, fervent, and animated. Rise, my soul, rise, and let us be going; this world is no home for you. Rise from earth, from self, and from sin; rise to high and holy objects and subjects. Linger not, like Lot; look not back, as did Lot's wife; but press forward; urge on your way. There is much land to be possessed, many blessings to be obtained, and great honors to be won. Onward, onward, then, until you shall hear the Master's voice saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."
"Walk before Me and be blameless." Genesis 17:1
"Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
Many things now accounted indifferent, will, in the day of final investigation, be condemned. Hence the necessity of circumspection, even when there is no apparent danger. We can scarcely consider our ways with too much attention or scrutinize our hearts with too much rigor. Under the vain presumption that certain pursuits and amusements are innocent, thousands advance into the snares of Satan and the very flames of Hell. Conscience, perhaps, interposes with a scruple, until overborne by the suggestion that the measure contemplated, unquestionably agreeable, is also harmless; to this the heart, already attracted and engaged, yields a willing consent, and thus guilt steals in, and ruin follows. O Lord, grant that I may have a quick and clear perception of right and wrong, and that I may indignantly revolt from the latter, however pleasing to the flesh, and eagerly prosecute the former, at whatever cost and hazard.
"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3
In this solemn manner does our Lord teach us that no outward form of religion will suffice but that we must be renewed by the Spirit of God and have our hearts changed, or we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. How, then, can men who rely on their self-produced morality hope to be saved? Will Christ withdraw His assertion? Surely not. Much serious attention is due to this subject; so many being prone to satisfy themselves with an exemption from gross faults or, at best, with such a performance of duties as may be compatible with an unregenerate state. All having sinned, conversion is necessary for all; and this results from that inward and spiritual change to which our Lord refers, when He says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." My soul, have you experienced this change? Have you been quickened to feel your lost condition? Have you been enlightened to see the requirements of the law, the provisions of the gospel, and the glory of Christ? Can you say, "Old things are passed away, and all things have become new"? Beware of a mistake here, for everything depends on it. There can be no salvation without a new birth, a new creation, a spiritual resurrection.
"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." Psalm 42:11
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Romans 8:18
Believers, we are here assured, may be in great distress; but, though much perplexed and often discouraged, they are secretly held up by faith and brought off conquerors. If God had commanded us to pray and hope only till a certain time, and His help had failed to come within that time, we might justly despond. But since He requires us to hope even to the end or the last moment of life, this should keep us from impatience and despair; for though He should tarry even to the end, believers will certainly find Him then to be faithful to His promise. He may try our faith and patience to the utmost but He cannot break His own word. Dear Lord, whatever load You are pleased to lay upon me, enable me to wait, in faith and prayer, till the joyful hour of deliverance comes. Give me patience and a spirit of persevering prayer, that I may at last rejoice in Your delivering grace.
"Not to be soon shaken in mind." 2 Thessalonians 2:2
"I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2
"In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:3
O my blessed Savior, enable me to rest humbly and quietly in You, avoiding all such novelties as might breed presumption, distract my thoughts, and cause my heart to swerve from You. Whoever has tasted the sweetness of Your Word will be satisfied with it; and better it is to improve in the life of faith and power of godliness, than in new words, forms, and professions. May the Lord quicken me by the truths that have been established of old and humble my heart evermore, so that I may receive them better and abide in that which I have heard from the beginning! Novelty often proves the bane of souls and is always calculated to unsettle and distract them. It is work enough for the meek and quiet to keep within the bounds divinely prescribed and effectually to center in God. How can such enjoy true rest who, from a vain curiosity to know everything, are continually longing to hear new doctrines? Lord, save me from this mental fluctuation, and make me determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. My soul, let God's word alone be your guide and directory, and beware of "lo here" and "lo there."
"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." Psalm 51:2
"The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." 1 John 1:7
Under the ceremonial law all things were purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there was no remission; thus it is impossible that any one sin should be taken away, except by the blood of Christ Jesus. May this teach me the heinousness of sin, keep my heart humble, and my conscience tender. For how dreadful must the stain of sin be, since nothing but the blood of Christ can wash it out! Blessed be God for opening this fountain, and keeping it open day and night for the vilest sinners. May my polluted soul be daily washed in it, and so receive both peace and strength. Ever remember that whatever God does, He does perfectly. If He washes us, it is thoroughly; if He cleanses us, He makes us white. And when the Holy Spirit teaches, He always leads the soul to seek thorough work. Thorough sanctification, as well as complete justification. To be thoroughly cleansed from filth within, as well as covered completely with the robe of righteousness without. My soul, are you seeking a thorough work? A thorough change of heart of life? Look well to this.
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith." 2 Corinthians 13:5
But is there any need of such self-examination, when yet we preach Christ and stay ourselves on His name? Alas, it is possible both to preach and profess Him, yea to have a seeming confidence in Him and call Him our Rock and talk of His grace, and yet be lovers of sin and haters of holiness thereby showing that we have no interest in Him but are on the road to destruction. Thus Jesus has told us (Matthew 7:22-23). Let us therefore examine ourselves. Is our faith in Him accompanied with much self-abhorrence, in the view of our sinfulness and pollution before Him? Do we prize Him, not only for His favor to us but for His own goodness, His grace, and His excellence? Do we love Him, so as to love nothing else in comparison of Him: neither self nor the world nor pleasure nor advantage? Then surely we are His, and He also is ours. These graces are the fruits of the Spirit within us; they are proofs of our faith and of our union with Him; and if we are united by the Spirit to Jesus, He will certainly own us before men and angels; He will never forsake us in time or eternity. But how dreadful will their case be, who habitually give themselves unto sin and iniquity, while yet they make mention of Jesus Christ and wish to be thought His disciples! Keep us, Lord, we beseech You, from such sad delusion. O give us to remember all our past provocations and to know, to love, and to serve You in sincerity! Make us like Jesus in spirit, temper, and conversation, that there may be no doubt of our state.
"What do I still lack?" Matthew 19:20
"You still lack one thing." Luke 18:22
"One thing is needed." Luke 10:42
This one thing needful is to have Christ but He must first serve and treat us with His grace before we can draw strength from Him, to serve Him again. We must account Him our food and hunger for Him, before we can feed upon Him or do anything for Him. And as Christ is the Author of faith, He gives it increase out of His fullness; and faith being somewhat strengthened, begins to work for Him, though it be but faintly. Yet we become Christians and remain in a state of salvation not by what faith works but by what it receives. For though a feeble faith will perform feeble works, it can receive a whole and perfect Christ, which is the one thing needful. If we have Christ, we have all things; but if we have not Christ, one thing, and that the grand thing, is lacking. It matters little what I have, if I have not Christ; and if I have Christ, it is comparatively unimportant what I may be without. Having Christ, I have pardon, righteousness, peace, holiness, the promises, and heaven at the end of my course. O my soul, look well to this point, that Christ is in your heart!
"Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel)." Genesis 49:22-24
Joseph is acknowledged to have been an eminent type of the Messiah; by bringing some circumstances under view, the resemblance will appear conspicuous and striking. Joseph was in a peculiar manner beloved by his father Jacob; Christ is the infinitely dear Son of His Father, God. Joseph was hated by his brethren, and they could not endure to think that he should have dominion over them; the Jews, Christ's brethren according to the flesh, hated Him, and would not have Him to reign over them. Joseph was sent by his father a long journey, to visit his brethren and know their welfare; Christ was sent from the bosom of the Father, to seek and to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Joseph's brethren conspired to take away his life; the Jews said, "This is the heir, let us kill Him," and they consulted to take away His life. Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver, at the suggestion of Judah; and Christ, by one of the same name, was sold for thirty pieces. Joseph was delivered to strangers, and Christ to the Gentiles. Joseph's being reckoned dead by his father, and yet alive, may be an emblem of Christ's death and resurrection from the dead. Joseph's brethren could not prevent his exaltation; nor could the Jews prevent Jesus' being exalted, extolled, and set on high. He is Lord of all.
"What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him." Philippians 3:7-9
This was the life and constant mind of Saint Paul. The expressions "in Him," "in Christ," "in the Lord," occur in his writings continually. I choose them also for my staff and my song in the wilderness; they direct me to my great tower, my strong fortress, my sweet paradise, my only element and life. Here may I take up my abode forever; and may the Lord keep me steadfast. "It is good for us to be here," for this is Pisgah, the mount of the Lord, where Jesus being transfigured, reveals His glory to His disciples. Here we should build our tabernacle, and here may death find me at last. In Christ we are justified from all charges, are entitled to all blessings, may claim all the promises, and are safe at all times and under all circumstances. To be in Christ is true dignity and eternal security.
"'What must I do to be saved?' So they said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.'" Acts 16:30-31
Faith is not confidence of our own making but it is God that produces it in a broken and repenting heart. This faith purifies us, crucifies the old Adam, overcomes the world, effects a change through all our faculties and feelings. True faith receives Christ as presented in the gospel, works by love, and brings forth the fruits of righteousness. All true believers have received it under a sense of godly sorrow. If we feel something of this and apply to Christ by prayer for faith and grace, we have a sure mark of faith already; for if we did not believe, we would not thus mourn and pray. He that daily applies to the blood of Christ for cleansing has true faith and hope already, though he is but weak and does not taste any joy. Salvation is promised to believing, and the faith to which salvation is promised is simple confidence in Christ. Jesus has done all that is necessary to save us, and what He has done is placed to the account of everyone that flies to and exercises confidence in Him. My soul, do you believe in Jesus? Have you committed your soul into His hands to be saved by Him? If so, trust and be not afraid; He will save you.
"Abstain from every form of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22
"That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Philippians 2:15
Lord, I desire to shine in good works, the genuine fruits of faith; therefore will I give myself up to You, to purge me, that I may bring forth more fruit. Looking upon myself as Yours, I would not only abstain from evil but from the very appearance of it. Some are satisfied with knowing that they are blameless, and care not what others think of them; but, for the gospel's sake, I desire to appear blameless before others, lest some offense should come through me, which as far as in me lies, I would prevent . Your children, O God, are as lights in the world. O pour Your grace, that heavenly oil, into my lamp; and so trim it, that it may give light unto all around, that they may be led to glorify Your holy name. O influence me by the Spirit of Christ, that I may live as Jesus lived and work as Jesus worked. I would be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, even as Jesus was. I would let my light so shine before men, that they, seeing my good works, may glorify my Father who is in heaven. O to represent Jesus in my spirit, temper, and whole deportment!
O Lord, my stubborn will subdue,
Create my ruined frame anew,
Dispel my darkness by the light;
Into all truth my spirit guide,
But from my eyes forever hide
All things displeasing in Your sight.
"Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17
If there be a sense of sin and lack of spiritual blessings and a willingness to be saved by grace, though you know not that it is Christ's secret power that makes you willing yet being athirst and willing, you are invited. Do not puzzle and perplex yourself with such questions as these: "Am I elected? Have I a right? Am I prepared?" But come upon the invitation and take pardon, peace, righteousness, and every gospel blessing, as free gifts to the needy. If one ready to perish with hunger and thirst were invited to a feast, and assured of a welcome, and he should hesitate, inquiring, "Have I a right? Am I worthy?" would it not seem preposterous in him thus to demur, when his necessities were pressing upon him and a plentiful table before him? The weary, the hungry, the thirsty, the guilty, the worthless, the vilest, are invited to believe on Jesus, who came only to save sinners and has assured them, in His word, that they who thus come to Him shall in no wise be cast out. Jesus never yet cast out one, nor will He cast out you. Go to Him and try.
"Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed." Revelation 5:5
"The Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8
"Sin shall not have dominion over you." Romans 6:14
Many complain that, though they will not turn back yet they have no power to advance further. If this be your case, my reader, remember that the enemy of souls will discourage you. But go on praying and venture evermore upon the Lord. Consider how He awakened you at first, how often He has since heard your prayers and assisted you in many hard struggles. Surely He will help you now also. If that will not do, begin, as it were, afresh; acknowledge yourself guilty in every respect; and as the chief of sinners, plead for mercy and be instant in humble supplications looking at the same time upon God as a reconciled Father through Christ, who is willing to pardon you and bless you, in spite of all your misery; then you will soon make a better progress. To despair of our own strength is good but we must never despair of the power of Christ, who is risen from the dead and will enable you to overcome with Him at last. He will certainly help you in the due and best season. He has said, "As your day, so shall your strength be," and He will make good His word. The creature's day can never be a match for the Creator's strength.
"Whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?... He [chastens us] for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." Hebrews 12:6-7, 10
To these chastenings belong outward afflictions, which are precious means, and sanctified to believers. O my dear heavenly Father, You are pleased with a true childlike confidence but I have still a distrustful heart which is soon overwhelmed by the stroke of sudden calamity. Help me always to entertain the kindest thoughts of You and to fear no adversity, looking upon it as a token of love and not of hatred; and really believing it to be intended for my good. Whatever Your providence may order, let me not only be convinced of Your fatherly affection but fall in with Your wholesome and kind designs. Send the Holy Spirit with every trial, to apply the promises, throw light on my path, strengthen my faith, and keep up my soul in prayer to You. I need to be chastened, for I am but a child, and a wayward, refractory, self-willed child; and You will chasten me because I am a child, and Your own child. O for grace to kiss every rod and meekly submit to every stroke!
"The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple . Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me." Psalm 119:130,133
We may have a clear sight and a real taste of the gospel, and yet be soon deprived of the comfort of it again if we do not walk in godly simplicity and poverty of spirit; for Christ will have none but humble and childlike disciples. But if we abide in Christ by a close and humble walk with Him, we shall come to great and lasting assurance. For neither a sweet sense of the love of Christ nor even faith itself in Christ, is the ground of our salvation; but Christ alone, received into the heart as the Savior. Faith does not save but enables us to receive the Savior, and with Him salvation. Nor does the most delightful sense of the love of Christ save us; it only shows that the Savior is present with us. Now the weakest true believer receives Christ as well as the strongest, though he reaps no present comfort from his faith. We must first believe before we can hope for present feelings, and when we are favored with such feelings we must not make them the ground of our confidence. Christ, and Christ alone, must be the ground of confidence.
Order my footsteps by Your word,
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
Make me to walk in Your commands,
'Tis a delightful road;
Nor let my head or heart or hands
Offend against my God.
"Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way." Psalm 119:37
If you were to see a man endeavoring all his life to satisfy his thirst by holding an empty cup to his mouth, you would certainly despise his ignorance; but if you should see others of finer understandings ridiculing the dull satisfaction of one cup, and thinking to satisfy their thirst by a variety of gilt and golden empty cups, would you think that these were ever the wiser or happier or better employed than the object of their contempt? Now this is all the difference that you can see in the various forms of happiness caught at by the men of the world. Let the wit, the great scholar, the fine genius, the great statesman, the polite gentleman, unite all their schemes; and they can only show you more and various empty appearances of happiness; give them all the world into their hands; let them cut and carve as they please; they can only make a greater variety of empty cups. For search as deep and look as far as you will, there is nothing here to be found that is nobler or greater than high eating and drinking, than rich dress and human applause, unless you look for it in the wisdom and laws of religion. Reader, reflect upon the vanity of all who live without godliness, that you may be earnest at a throne of grace, to be turned from the creature and seek for happiness in the Creator. The poorest Christian who lives upon Christ and walks in daily fellowship with God, is happier than the richest worldling. Indeed, such only are happy.
"Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you." John 16:23
"For the Father Himself loves you." John 16:23
"Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear." Isaiah 65:24
"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Mark 11:24
He that converses much with God in prayer and has a childlike confidence in His word shall certainly be heard; and these answers of prayer are undeniable evidences of the truth, faithfulness, and love of God. They also greatly strengthen his faith and promote an intimate acquaintance with God. The more we receive, the more we are enlightened to see how much there is still wanting. This stirs us up to more frequent and fervent prayer; and the more we desire, (believing that we shall receive it) the more shall we be gratified. Unbelief receives nothing (Matthew 13:58) but faith opens all the treasures of God and never goes away empty. My soul, it is in God's heart to bless you, to make large communications to you; and therefore He has given you so many, such exceeding great and very precious promises. These promises are solemn pledges, given to assure you that God waits to be gracious, delights in mercy, and rejoices over His people to do them good. "Ask," then, as Jesus bids you, and "receive, that your joy may be full." Ask in His name and expect for His sake.
"If I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification." Romans 15:2
"A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet." Proverbs 29:5
"He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue." Proverbs 28:23
We are ever inclined to extremes, even when God has begun to make us wise and to conform us to His own holy nature. At one time, we are apt to run into a false activity for the conversion of others, trusting too much on our own sufficiency and strength; at other times, we fall into remissness and languor. May the Lord therefore always guide me into the right course, so that I may walk in all singleness and humility of heart, as well as cherish true fervency of spirit and steadfast faith, that it may be said, "I believe, therefore I speak." Grant, O my dear Savior, that I may shine as a light and be useful to all about me, never seeking my own but only the salvation and good of others, with sincere love. O that Your love may constrain me in all things! May I please men to win them to You but never flatter them or pander to their lusts. Teach me to rebuke in love, and whether I commend or blame, may I do it in the spirit of meekness, gentleness, and holy love. Lord, preserve me from all extremes and teach me the happy medium, in all things, and at all times, so shall I correctly represent Your religion.
Father of mercies, send Your grace,
All-powerful from above,
To form in our obedient souls,
The image of Your love.
"By this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." 1 John 3:19
The evidence of our assurance of eternal happiness is that which every soul that makes any serious reflections on matters of religion pants after; it is therefore necessary to know upon what foundation this blessed evidence is built, and from what principles it arises; and these, I think, are chiefly faith, love, and obedience since no man can have this assurance who does not feel in himself the principle of obedience; nor can he have obedience without the principle of faith; for it is a notorious contradiction to imagine that any- one can be assured of God Almighty's pardon without obeying Him; of His favor without loving Him; or of the eternal enjoyment of Him without a firm and steadfast belief in Him. But many mistake the nature of these things. True belief in God represents Him to the mind as infinite in glory, power, wisdom, goodness, and all perfection; with such charms, such beauty, such loveliness, as to captivate the affections of the soul and smite it with a Divine love. True love reigns triumphant in the soul, engrosses all its affections, strips other objects of their charms nay, makes them appear vile and contemptible in comparison with supreme good. True obedience strives to please God, to resemble Him, to render itself acceptable to Him, and ardently desires the enjoyment of Him. Holy Spirit, shed abroad the love of God in my heart; fulfill in me the work of faith with power; so shall I keep Your precepts and be assured of my adoption.
"He who endures to the end shall be saved." Matthew 24:13
"Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown." Revelation 3:11
"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12
He who stands fast in faith and is of a cheerful temper must not magnify the measure of his own faith, nor undervalue that of weaker believers; such conduct would declare that he is even now fallen into pride and a contempt of his brother; therefore, however fast we may seem to stand, let us be wary and watchful. We are never so near a fall as when we grow self-confident. He who knows the nature and power of temptations will not discourage the weak nor insist too much upon particular enjoyments and sensible assurances, which are not the constant witness and marks of faith. The Holy Spirit Himself is the earnest and seal of adoption, who is to be known not only by His joy but by all His other fruits and operations. To trust too much upon feeling disturbs our peace as soon as it is gone; but to rely on the word of God preserves a settled assurance. Let what God is and what God has said be the ground of your confidence; so will your soul be steady and your obedience regular.
"If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." Romans 8:9 [See also verses 7, 8, and 14.]
Not only gross wickedness but even a carnal mind and "the friendship of this world, is enmity against God" (James 4:4, Philippians 3:18-19). But how do I know that I have the Spirit of Christ? I have prayed for Him earnestly; this cannot be in vain (Luke 11:13.) He works also hatred of and sorrow for sin, rebukes me, comforts me, and urges me to Christ and to prayer. This is His abiding witness, built upon the word of God, which no man of this world can have but even the weakest believer enjoys. Having this privilege, I draw nigh, in the spirit of adoption, and fix my firm confidence in the parental care of the Almighty. Faith cannot be deceived when its foundations are fixed on the Rock of Ages. My soul, the Spirit of Christ always convinces of the need of Christ, unfolds the suitability of Christ, leads the soul to Christ, causes it to renounce everything for Christ, to build for salvation alone on Christ, and makes the man like Christ. Have you these proofs that the Spirit of Christ is in you? Do you need Him, approve of Him, flee to Him, trust in Him, and daily pray and strive to be like Him? If so, the Spirit of Christ is in you.
"Whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance." Matthew 13:12
"The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14
Of the remarkable increase of the kingdom of God, even from the least beginning, see Matthew 13:31-33, and that beautiful figure, Ezekiel 47:1-12. This well being opened, it highly concerns us to draw living water out of it daily by fervent prayer, and then it will spring up freely. But, reader, if you begin to be slothful and distracted with worldly cares, not abiding closely with Christ nor calling diligently on Him, your spirit will soon be dried up, and you will scarcely be able with anxious groans to draw a single drop from this well. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and if you desire your own comfort and God's glory, keep near the well's mouth and drink thereof abundantly. Remember, there must be daily supplies for the soul, as well as daily bread for the body. Faith will not grow except it be fed. The plants of grace will not thrive unless they be watered. The fullness of Jesus is always open to you; the invitation is daily addressed to you, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink." Are you thirsty? Go to Jesus. Do you fear to go? He says, "Whoever will, let him come and take freely."
The Lord my Shepherd is,
I shall be well supplied;
Since He is mine and I am His,
What can I want beside?
"Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 25:30
Look at this man, to whom his Lord had given one talent! He could not bear the thought of using his talent according to the will of him from whom he had it, and therefore he chose to make himself happier in a way of his own. "Lord," said he, "I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed." But his lord, having convicted him out of his own mouth, dispatched him with this sentence: "Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness." Here you see what this man secured, by not acting wholly according to his Lord's will. It was, according to his own account, a life of murmuring and discontent, "I knew you," said he, "to be a hard man." It was a life of fears and apprehensions: "I was," said he, "afraid." It was a life of vain labors and fruitless travails: "I went," said he, "and hid your talent." And after having been a while the sport of foolish passions, tormenting fears, and fruitless labors, he is rewarded with darkness, eternal weeping, and gnashing of teeth. Look at the man with his five talents! Here you see a man wholly intent on improving his talents; his work prospers in his hand; the blessing of five becomes the blessing of ten talents, and he is received with a "Well done, good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your lord." Lord, give me grace to use every talent, every day, for Your glory and praise.
"A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment." Proverbs 18:1
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Galatians 5:22
Intellectual and spiritual proficiency implies exertions which must for the most part be made amidst the tranquility of retirement. There the soul escapes from the interruptions so prevalent in the world, loses its prejudices, finds leisure to open the stores of knowledge, and communes most intimately with its God. Those persons have little prospect of attaining true wisdom who seek it only, or even chiefly, in the scene of public ordinances. The Lord was not in the strong wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire but in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12). The wisdom which He imparts is practical and engaging. It softens the character, permitting nothing to attach but what is lovely and of good report. It fills the possessor with sacred peace and diffuses around him kindness and joy. It makes him like Jesus, the personal wisdom of God. O that all the Lord's people sought this sanctifying wisdom! Lord, give it me in great abundance.
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35
"Love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God"; if we love one another as brethren in Christ and love all saints as such, not because they are of this or that party; and, if we love not in word only but in deed and show the truth of our love by works and labors of love this is a solid proof to ourselves and to others that we are real disciples of Jesus. It is a clear testimony that we have truly learned Christ and that we have His Spirit and His love shed abroad in our hearts, that we are of the household of faith and shall enjoy all the privileges ensured to that happy community. This is a better evidence, and more convincing to all around us, of what we are than all knowledge, gifts, attainments, and outward privileges whatever. O God of love, cause me to love You and all Yours: the poor, the weak, and the feeble, as well as the strong, for all are Yours. To this end shed abroad Your own love in my heart, more fully and more powerfully than I have ever experienced it yet. You are love; make me loving; so shall I be like You and bring honor to Your cause and name.
"Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:42
To watch is the wise exercise of a real Christian who is sensible of his own weakness, loves his Savior, and fears to grieve his Spirit; who is well acquainted with the depth of corruption in his fallen nature; is well apprised of the invisible powers of darkness, and hearkens to the voice of his kind and adorable Shepherd. This watchfulness discovers an awakened attention to our spiritual concerns, has the love of Christ for its motive, and is accompanied with a constant dependence on Christ for protection from dangers and for strength against all enemies, together with supplies of grace in every time of need. If our religion be only in outward profession, it may pass without watching; but if it be true grace in the heart from Jesus Christ, that sacred treasure will need to be guarded with the most anxious circumspection. The exhortation is to all God's children, necessary in every condition, in every stage of a Christian's life: in youth, manhood, in old age; in prosperity and in adversity; in the seasons of consolation and in times of temptation; in company and when alone. O blessed Jesus, help me to watch and pray; let me be always ready; keep me in Your love and preserve me by Your power, till my change shall come.
"As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." Psalm 42:1-2
"He! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance." Isaiah 55:1-2
Though a degree of uneasiness is connected with thirsting and panting yet when considered as signs of spiritual life, they call for grateful acknowledgments, especially since they constitute a state of mind to which God applies great and precious promises. Wherefore, let not the hungry and exhausted despond, as though refreshment and strength would forever be withheld from them. They are invited to receive a supply from the Divine fountain; nor shall it ever be said, "You approach in companies too large," or "You ask too much." The Holy Spirit produces the thirst, which qualifies us to receive from Jesus, and then He leads us for the satisfaction of our appetite to Jesus. The thirst of grace is always definite, springing from spiritual life; it can only be satisfied with spiritual blessings. Christ, and Christ alone, will satisfy the soul that is really taught of God. If the Holy Spirit has led me to thirst for spiritual blessings, I shall never be put off without them but my soul will continue to cry until God gives them.
"How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?" Psalm 13:2
"Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6
"Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him." Psalm 37:5
"Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22
"You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth." Isaiah 25:1
"Be anxious for nothing," is a wall against a thousand troubles. If, on the other hand, we give way to care and unbelief, they will spread their mischievous effects through all our actions. Therefore we ought, while prosecuting our lawful engagements, to rely in all things on the good providence and faithfulness of God; firmly believing that He will never fail to carry us through the most difficult and intricate circumstances, though there should be ever so little probability in our own eyes. But this we never can do, except we realize that God is present with us, cares for us, and listens to us. God, as our Father wishes us to be happy in His love, active in His ways, and devoted to His praise; therefore He offers to take all our cares on Himself, both for body and soul, for the present and future. O for grace to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, casting all our cares upon Him because He cares for us! If God cares for us, surely we may live in peace. My soul, cast your every burden upon the Lord.
"It is done!" Revelation 21:6
When Jesus bowed the head and gave up the spirit, He said, "It is finished." The arduous and important work of obedience and suffering which He had undertaken in His mediatorial capacity was brought to a conclusion. He could say to His heavenly Father, "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do." When all the redeemed are gathered, He who sits on the throne, beholding those He purchased with His blood and brought to glory, rejoicing in these works of His hands, may thus express Himself: It is done. The means and helps appointed for training you up and preparing you for glory are now laid aside, being no longer necessary; the scaffolding is now taken down, when the grand and glorious building, in all its parts, is completed. That which is perfect has come, and that which was in part is done away. What depth of wisdom, what beautiful order in the plan of salvation and in the tendency of its various parts, to perfect the glorious work of redeeming love, agreeably to the eternal counsel of peace! How harmoniously are all the links of the golden chain connected (Romans 8:29-30)!
This is the doing of the Lord, and is it not marvelous in my eye? When receiving the Spirit that is of God, I see the things that are freely given of God. Do I not see and admire Immanuel in the whole of the plan? Is not His eye upon me, and His arm around me? O amazing wisdom and love! O my God, I will live in hope of enjoying Your presence and glory forever!
"We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22
"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1
"You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." Hebrews 12:4
Some professors of religion are so careless that they never think of striving against sin, and some would seem to be so holy as to be above it; but here we are plainly told that sin must be opposed. What Paul speaks of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit is to the same purport (Galatians 5:17). And the most experienced Christians are witnesses to it. The word of God is said to be a sword, our prayers a wrestling, and our faith the victory. Thus our whole race consists in striving and conquering. There is always an enemy to be encountered before we can make considerable progress in anything that is good; none of our enemies are to be overcome easily but some are very stubborn. Therefore courage and patience are required, and thus we may be sure to have the victory at last. Thus shall we be enabled to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life. O for courage, confidence, and final victory!
"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed." Romans 3:24-25
How sweet are the words, "By grace you are saved"! Here is an overflowing fountain of comfort and Divine strength. How little are the generality of vain and worldly people, who still feed upon husks, acquainted with these words! How little are they relished by the self-righteous and merely moral professors of Christianity! But how deliciously does a poor hungering sinner fare upon them! There is hardly anything less known and understood as to the power and experience, than the mystery of Christ's suffering and dying for us, and justification by faith in Him; though these things belong essentially to the gospel, and they bring into the believer's mind peace and joy. When such is their effect, sin is not only deplored but subdued; and thus faith, repentance, pardon, and a holy life become associated, till that which is in part be done away, and that which is perfect, come. My soul, see to it that you are justified, and justified by grace alone, through faith.
My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine,
While like a penitent I stand
And there confess my sin.
My soul looks back to see
The burdens Thou didst bear,
When hanging on the accursed tree,
And hopes her guilt was there.
"See that you do not become troubled along the way." Genesis 45:24
Joseph, having shown himself fully reconciled to his brethren, dismisses them with this needful caution, "See that you do not become troubled along the way." He knew that they were but too apt to be quarrelsome. One might say, "It was you that first upbraided him with his dreams"; another, "It was you that said, 'Let us kill him'"; another, "It was you that stripped him of his coat"; another, "It was you that threw him into the pit"; another, "It was you that sold him to the Ishmaelites." Thus their journey to their father's house would be very uncomfortable, if this spirit of quarreling and upbraiding once got possession of them.
Fellow-Christians, what a lesson is here for us! What says our Lord Jesus to us? "Love one another." Are we not all brethren? Have we not all one Father? Are we not all subjects of free and sovereign grace? Are we not agreed in essential points? Are we not all sinners by nature and practice? Have we not all one object of faith? Are we not all traveling the same road? Why, then, should we fall out by the way? The best and most enlightened see but in part, "through a glass darkly." Suppose we be of different denominations; yet holding the same Head, why cannot we love as brethren? Suppose our way should part a little as to externals; yet all setting out from the same spiritual Egypt, all under the same Leader, why may not we all hope to meet at last in the true Canaan? If Christ is our center, all believers will be within our circle.
"Thus says the LORD: 'Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.'" Jeremiah 6:16 [See also Matthew 11:28-29.]
In our own ways there is nothing but trouble; but giving ourselves entirely up to be guided of God at His own pleasure, we may always be easy, since we know that by every step He brings us nearer to Heaven. The only way to rest is the way of repentance and faith in which we consider ourselves, from the beginning even to the end of our Christian life, as utterly lost and condemned by the law but as perfectly reconciled and justified through Christ. Thus to abide in Him, to let Him work alone, and be truly resigned to His ways will certainly have the desired effect; while, by the righteousness and workings of our own hearts, we can never attain to it, and, which is worse, may be lulled into a false rest. Or should we escape this, we may do so only to run to the opposite extreme and be like the troubled sea that never rests. We never work for God to any purpose until we leave off working for life, and seek and find rest in Jesus and His finished work alone. If grace saves us, good works will characterize us.
"You are complete in Him." Colossians 2:10
Think, O believer, with wonder and amazement; reflect with gratitude and love, that while you are deploring the common ruin of human nature and mournfully feeling its sad effects upon your own soul, you may yet look through all your imperfection, frailty, and unworthiness to your glorious Representative, and see yourself complete in Him. The law which would condemn you, He has completely satisfied; the obedience which it requires in order to your acceptance with God, He has completely paid; and that eternal life from which your sinful imperfections must have forever barred you, is now your inalienable inheritance, as the reward of His righteousness, who lived and died for you. Go forth, then, and glorify Him in heart and life; the more you believe in Him, the more will you love Him; and the more you love Him, the better will you serve Him; and till He shall remove you from this vale of sin and sorrow, let your song in the house of your pilgrimage be this: "Complete in Him." "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." Christ is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
"Will you speak wickedly for God, and talk deceitfully for Him?" Job 13:7
"Your word is truth." John 17:17
When Moses saw an Egyptian and an Israelite striving together, he killed the Egyptian and saved the Israelite (Exodus 2:12). But when he saw two Israelites striving together, he labored to reconcile them, saying, "You are brethren; why do you strive?" So when we meet, in the volumes of heathenism or of anti-Christian superstition, with sentiments hostile to those of the Bible, let us (to borrow the language just cited) "kill the Egyptian but save the Israelite." But when we notice a seeming contradiction in the Bible, let us avail ourselves, as much as possible, of those aids by which we may be able to trace a real agreement. While we remember the solemn language of inspiration, "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent" (Numbers 23:19); and yet read, "The Lord was sorry that He had made man, and He was grieved in His heart" (Genesis 6:6); and again, "God tested [tempted] Abraham" (Genesis 22:1); yet it is also said, God tempts no one (James 1:13). Here and in many other places, we must be reconcilers and distinguish between a change of mind and a change of dispensation, and a temptation of trial and a temptation of seducement; thus, these two apparently differing friends will appear to be brethren and agree well.
"And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance." Joshua 14:13
All the spies that went up to view the promised land except Caleb and Joshua made a formidable report of the gigantic inhabitants of Hebron, saying, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we." "Caleb [answering well to his name, which signifies All-heart] quieted the people before Moses, and said, 'Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.'" We are told that he had a different spirit in him and followed God fully. Moses, therefore, was commissioned to make him a grant of all the land whereon his feet had trodden, which was the mountain of Hebron. Caleb was eighty-five-years-old when he reminded Joshua of this promise; he was forty when Moses sent him to spy out the land; thirty-eight years the Lord had kept him in the wilderness, through the plagues of the desert; and seven years in Canaan, through the perils of the war. The city Hebron was already reduced but the inhabitants had repaired to the refuges of the mountain; these he wanted to dispossess, assuring Joshua that he had now the same strength of body and holy confidence in God to engage in this dangerous enterprise, as he had at forty years of age when he was sent as a spy. "Joshua blessed him" acknowledged his claim and deserts, besought God to prosper him in his undertaking, and gave him the country; thus were his fidelity and uprightness rewarded.
"And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon." Exodus 12:29
The death of every first-born of the Egyptians contained so lively a resemblance and bore so natural a relation, to their sin in destroying every male of the Israelites, that they must surely have perceived in it a punishment for that very cruelty; and consequently, must have concluded that the God of Israel took particular notice of human transactions and sooner or later rewarded every man according to his works. The gradual increase of the judgments inflicted on Egypt is somewhat remarkable, and equally expressive of the mercy and justice of God. The first four plagues were loathsome, rather than fatal; but, after that of the flies came the murrain, which chiefly spent its rage upon the cattle; the boils and blains reached both man and beast, though there was still a reserve for life; the hail and locusts extended, in a great measure, even to life itself the first by an immediate stroke and both, consequently, by destroying the fruits of the earth. That of darkness added consternation to their minds and lashes to their consciences; and when all this would not reclaim, at length came the decisive blow: first the slaying of the first-born, and then the drowning of the incorrigible tyrant and all his host. "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints."
"Draw me away! We will run after you." Song of Solomon 1:4
"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you." Jeremiah 31:3
Many and various are the ways the Almighty takes in bringing His children to Himself, and to a knowledge of the things which belong to their peace. Sometimes He draws by the silken bands of love, sometimes by the knotted cords of pain and sickness; sometimes He urges them by the storm and tempest of His broken law, sometimes, and most effectually, by the display of their Redeemer's sacrifice. Reader, pray incessantly that He may make you sensible of the secret tender influence of His mercy. This habit of praying is very needful because we are always in need, and without being instant and earnest we cannot receive much. Therefore it is not a hard command but a great benefit and privilege; as if God should say, "You are a poor child, always needing something; but you must always pray to Me, and I will always hear and assist and draw you after Me." My soul, are you dull, heavy, lifeless? Here is a prayer just suited to you. You can look up to your good and gracious God, and cry, "Draw me." He who drew you at first will draw you again. O Lord, draw me to the garden, the cross, and the tomb of Jesus; and draw me from self, sin, and the world, to Your ever-blessed self.
O draw me, Savior, after Thee,
So shall I run and never tire;
With gracious words still comfort me
And be my hope and whole desire.
"Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed." 1 Samuel 2:30
This is part of the prophet's message to Eli, when he honored his sons above God; he had indeed reproved them, saying, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people." But he did not exert his authority in punishing them as they deserved when they slighted his reproof. This was accounted by God as winking at their sin. He therefore acquaints him, by a prophet, that Hophni and Phinehas, as they had sinned together, should die together, and his posterity be cut off from the high priesthood. Eli was not much affected with his prophecy until the threatening was repeated by Samuel, an artless child, who did not know the voice of the Lord until Eli instructed him. It appeared then much more terrible than from the mouth of the prophet and led him humbly to acknowledge the justice of God and to submit to the sentence with a truly penitent heart. This is written for our admonition. Are we valiant for the truth? Parents, let this be a warning to you to train up your children in the fear of the Lord; for if you do not, those children will be thorns and briers to you and will sorely wound you.
"[Abraham] who, contrary to hope, in hope believed." Romans 4:8
O my soul, you have not one single promise only, like Abraham but a thousand promises, and many patterns of faithful believers before you. It behooves you, therefore, to rely with confidence upon the word of God. And though the Lord delay His help and the evil seem to grow worse and worse, be not weak but rather strong; and rejoice since the most glorious promises of God are generally fulfilled in such a wondrous manner, that He steps forth to save us at a time when there is the least appearance of it. He commonly brings His help in our greatest extremity, that His finger may plainly appear in our deliverance. And this method He chooses, that we may not trust upon anything that we see or feel (as we are always apt to do) but only upon His bare word, which we may depend upon in every state.
"I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood." Galatians 1:16
"Not lagging in diligence." Romans 12:11
The speediest and easiest method to accomplish our desire of overcoming what is evil and doing what is good is an immediate compliance with our first convictions, without conferring with flesh and blood. If we delay the work, we give-room to fellow-sinners from without and to Satan and our depraved hearts from within, to persuade us to the contrary; by which the flesh can easily renew its strength and the spirit will be weakened. And what will be the consequence of this but that either we miscarry in our design, or that the conflict will be afterward so much sharper and the good work, if not stifled, dropped entirely. And if it be done, it will not be done so completely and with such singleness of heart as it should be. If we narrowly watch our hearts and directly engage with every the least opposition when it stirs, then our enemies will not be so strong, and we shall have no reason to despair. O for grace promptly to carry out one's convictions! Lord, preserve me from consulting nature or feeling, instead of Your word and will!
"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." Romans 6:13
If God has my members as weapons and instruments in His hands, I shall certainly be able not only to work but also to conquer, since He understands full well how to manage them. May the Lord only give me grace not to wind myself out of His hands. For how can a pen write alone, without being in the hand of a writer? It is true indeed that it is very hard, nay impossible, to be really good and to do all that is good, if we undertake it alone; but God Himself living and working in us, and we truly delighting in Him, it is very easy and pleasant. Therefore care is to be taken that our hearts may be always the working-place and our members the instruments of God, in which and through which He can perform everything Himself. In ourselves we are not sufficient so much as to think anything as of ourselves; but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Union to Christ gives ability, and daily communications from Christ enable us to do the will of God from the heart. Our good is all Divine.
Now God I serve, to Him alone
My thankful homage pay;
My only Master, Christ I own,
And Him will I obey.
Servant of sin too long I was,
But Christ has set me free;
Glory to His victorious grace,
Which freely ransomed me.
"The fear of man brings a snare." Proverbs 29:25
"Do not be conformed to this world." Romans 12:2
"If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15
How many people swell with pride and vanity for such things as they would not know how to value at all but that they are admired in the world! How fearful are many of having their houses poorly furnished or themselves poorly clothed, lest the world should make no account of them! How often would a man yield to the haughtiness and ill-nature of others and show a submissive temper but that he dare not pass for such a poor-spirited man in the opinion of the world! Many a man would often drop a resentment and forgive an affront but that he is afraid, if he should, the world would not forgive him. How many wish to be real Christians and would carefully practice Christian temperance and sobriety, were it not for the censure which the world passes upon such a life. Others have frequent intentions of living up to the rules of the Christian religion, which they are frightened from by considering what the world would say of them. Thus does the impression which we have received from living in the world enslave our minds, that we dare not attempt to be eminent in the sight of God and holy angels for fear of being little in the eyes of the world. Reader, how is it with you? What can the world do for you in sickness, death, and judgment? Make serious reflection on this, with prayer to God, and the snares of the world will be broken.
"At the beginning of your supplications the command went out." Daniel 9:23
"Continuing steadfastly in prayer." Romans 12:12
Oh, comfortable and encouraging thought, that in the same moment that the supplication arose from the prophet's heart, the gracious answer descended from the heart of the prayer-hearing God! When we call upon the name of the Lord with simplicity and holy earnestness of soul, the return of grace and love meets our request before it has ascended half-way to heaven; and when the Lord is going to bless us, He pours out a spirit of prayer and raises a cry in our hearts after the particular blessing He is going to communicate. Therefore, when we are enabled to pray earnestly, we may be sure that blessings are coming, and that we shall certainly receive in due time seasonable and visible help. Then let us only go on and put, as it were, one weight of prayers after another into the scales of the sanctuary; surely our greatest distress will, at last, be overbalanced, and salvation brought down. But it is well to be observed that we must also be watchful, and not act contrarily to the intent of our prayers, which might provoke the Lord to disannul His grant, or at least to delay His help. But when He tarries long, it is not His intention to give us a denial but rather make us more desirous and earnest, that He may bestow the more upon us afterwards; for, this delay He will certainly well recompense and grant us abundantly above all that we could ask or think.
"When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate." Genesis 3:6
"Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." James 1:14
Thus one sin always begets another. By the eyes it rushes into the heart; from the heart it proceeds into the mouth, hands, and feet; from us it is transferred to others; and thus we go on sinning and falling deeper and deeper. Therefore we must set a strict guard over our eyes and ears; be very cautious and resist the least beginnings of sin, not making light of any; for the least spark of worldly lust being entertained and cherished, we eat of the forbidden tree standing everywhere before us; and thereby a great fire may be kindled. But having always our eyes fixed, in all our conduct, upon the presence of God in Christ, so as to walk continually in the light and directly to quell the least inward motions of evil, they will never break forth into gross outward sins; but we shall daily grow in grace. May the Lord enable me to practice this good lesson and watch Himself continually over my heart, eyes, lips, and all other senses and powers of my nature. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. They overcome him by the blood of the Lamb.
With my whole heart I seek Your face;
O let me never stray
From Your commands, O God of grace,
Nor tread the sinner's way.
"The message of the cross is to us who are being saved the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
O that I might always live near the cross and experience its power, till I have obtained a complete victory! Whoever was bitten by a fiery serpent and looked upon the brazen serpent, lived (Numbers 21:8). Thus always to look upon Christ crucified is the one thing needful, from which all other blessings flow (John 3:14-15). May the eyes of my faith be fixed immovably on You, my crucified Savior! For, as long as I live, I shall feel the wounds inflicted by the old serpent, and therefore have need to look unto You continually. Gracious Lord, afford me cure day by day, with entire healing at last! My soul, look not at your works, at your feelings, or even at your graces, if you would enjoy peace with God; but look to the cross. Pool superstitious persons may look at the crucifix but I will look at the cross. The cross is the antidote of sin, the key that opens the heart of God, and the subject of the songs of heaven. If I preach, I will preach the cross; if I talk, I will talk of the cross; if I write, I will write of the cross; and if I sing, I will sing of the cross. The cross shall be my subject in health, my solace in sickness, and my joy in death. Cross of Jesus! I will cling to you, and thus sail over the Jordan of death.
High on the cross the Savior hung,
High in the heavens He reigns;
Here sinners, by the old serpent stung,
Look, and forget their pains.
"The law is not made for a righteous person." 1 Timothy 1:9
A righteous man is one who enjoys an interest in the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and whose heart is purified by the Holy Spirit. The law is said not to be "made for a righteous man," inasmuch as he is not the object of its condemnation; and also because he needs not, in the same sense, or at least to the same degree as other men, those enforcements which imply alienation and uncontrolled depravity. He obeys from love and would continue to obey, were you to suppose it possible for him to be removed from the sight and hearing of the law and never to be assailed by those threatenings which roll their thunders over the sinner's head. He obeys yet not he but Christ which is in him, making him like unto His own glorious image. But if the law is not made for a righteous man, the gospel is; and it is the charter of his privileges, the subject of his meditation, and the rule of his life. It furnishes him with motives, presents him with models, and stimulates him with promises. The more he understands and enjoys the gospel, the more he admires the law, rejoices that it is established by the gospel but has no power to anathematize him. What the law requires of him, the gospel presents to him, and is consequently prized by him. We honor the gospel, in obeying the law.
"There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you, and in His excellency on the clouds." Deuteronomy 33:26
In these last words of Moses we have the glory of God set forth, in the communication of good to God's Israel. God has created the whole universe for Himself. His throne is heaven, where He makes the chief display of His dignity and dominion. The scenes with which we are conversant, subject as they are to such continual changes and revolutions, may be compared to the wheels of His chariot. His providence is represented by the motion of the wheels; He brings to pass His own counsels in the lower world and manages and directs all, as a man does his chariot, which he turns as it pleases him. How safe, then, must they be who are under the wing of the God of Jeshurun, who find Him reconciled to them by the death of His Son, and feel themselves reconciled to Him by the power of His grace! "He rides the heavens" for their help, and none can outstrip His progress or overturn his purpose. He it is that gives strength and victory to His people; blessed be God! Reader, is the God of Jeshurun, the God of Israel, your God? Is He who rides on the heavens your help? Does your heart trust in Him alone, and His grace subdue your outward iniquities and your inbred corruptions? Then whatever be your outward condition, you are secure from the worst evils and shall soon be delivered from all. But except the God of Jeshurun be your help, you are in imminent peril.
"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have." Hebrews 13:5
"But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." 1 Timothy 6:9-10
A covetous man is called an idolater and has no part in the kingdom of God; but who believes that he is covetous? The charge attaches to everyone who is not content with what he has. And what says the apostle of such as will be rich? They fall. Not only they may fall but they actually do fall; nor can the fall be avoided, if men are determined that they will be rich. O reader, it is fit that you should take alarm! Get the covetous desires of your heart subdued and kept disentangled from worldly things; for who knows how soon you must go out of this world and leave everything behind? Away from it with your heart, else your death will be very hard. The Christian's motto is, "God and enough": for he that has God is content and, consequently, always rich enough, even in poverty. He must be a covetous man indeed, who has not enough, having God. O Lord, make me so free by faith from the love of earthly things, that I may equally praise You, whether You be pleased to give me something or take it away from me; and that I may never covetously refuse that to others or to myself, which You have given for my own and my neighbor's comfort. O Jesus, let me so realize You as mine, as to rise superior to all temporal things, rejoicing in You as my portion!
"The soul of the diligent shall be made rich." Proverbs 13:4
You are concerned for having no more grace. What is the reason? Perhaps you are indolent, careless, and unfaithful; and, though you have no warrant even for an hour to live yet you unreasonably suppose that you have time enough; therefore you are not serious, diligent, and fervent in prayer for sufficient strength to be always prepared and have boldness in death. No wonder, if you do not immediately resist sin, that it grows strong and you are always weak and discouraged. And how can you expect to receive more grace, if you do not faithfully improve what little you have? If you would but diligently and faithfully apply yourself to the word and prayer, God would certainly not be lacking on His part to fulfill His promises and give you enough. It is well to be observed, and we must know it once for all, that there is no such thing as making any progress in grace and carrying our point, unless we are mindful of ourselves, watching and praying against all sins and whatever may be a hindrance on the one hand, and following with all diligence that which is good and what may be a furtherance, on the other. It is not enough to use some, we must use all diligence; and, according as our grace is increased, our diligence must increase also, since it goes against the stream. O for more sanctifying grace!
"in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." Philippians 2:3
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." Galatians 6:2-4
If we were truly humble and looked upon ourselves as most miserable sinners, we should willingly submit to all adversities and patiently bear the burden and infirmities of others, considering that God has borne with us a great deal more. Observing, therefore, the faults of our neighbor, we must not forget our own. Perhaps in other things we are weaker than he. This will restrain us from judging rashly or speaking unadvisedly to others but first we should speak to God about it and then try with gentle means to improve those whom we may think worthy of blame. Nay, the best method is to consider our neighbor on the good, and ourselves on the bad side; and to see whether we cannot apologize for him, and have not reason severely to condemn ourselves. If his fault admits of no excuse, still we must not suffer him to stir up our corruption but plead affectionately for him before the throne of our forgiving God. It is very easy to find fault with others but to show love and restore them by prayer and brotherly correction is quite another thing. Lord, teach me to love my neighbor as myself!
"You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." Psalm 145:16
Who considers these words with sufficient care, and practically draws from them the right conclusions? The hand of God being my chief provision and storehouse, is it not a shame to be anxiously careful for anything? Has the Lord all things in His hand? Then surely I shall receive what He has for me; none will be able to withhold it. Faith has always a free access to the treasures of God, who is never lacking. Christians have their treasures in such a high place, even in God, that no thief can rob them; and they are sure to have enough in God. Though the Lord should try them with lack a little while yet He relieves them in due season: their bread shall fall from heaven, rather than they shall be left without it. You need not, says Christ, seek these other things; they shall be brought to you, if you only abide in Me. If this does not comfort and strengthen us, nothing else will. Many rely on their ample worldly stores; but if they had true faith, this would be their confidence and joy: that God has engaged to supply all their need. If the Lord is pleased to bestow on His servants any particular expression of His providential bounty, they are thankful and make a proper use of it; but if He withholds what they ask for, they learn cheerfully to submit. "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." "Having food and raiment, with these we shall be content." Christ and plain living, is true prosperity.
"And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, 'It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God.'" 2 Chronicles 26:18
Here is the only blot we find on the name of Uzziah. As long as he sought the Lord and worshiped Him according to Divine appointment, God made him to prosper. God helped him "marvelously till he became strong"; but when he was strong, his heart was lifted up, to his own destruction. He was not content with the honors God had put upon him but would usurp those that were forbidden him, like our first parents. The chief priest and other priests were ready to burn incense for the king, according to the duty of their office, and plainly acquainted him that if through a mistaken zeal he offered to do it himself, he would incur the wrath of God and suffer for it; but this served only to excite his wrath, till he felt the judgment of God's hand in his punishment. Though he strove with the priests, he could not strive with his Maker but retired as soon as he was smitten with the leprosy. We here see that the God we have to do with is a jealous God, who expects that all who serve Him shall do it according to His own institutions. Do you, reader, come to Him in the way of His appointment? Take care that you come not with the unhallowed fire before the Lord, lest you be also smitten. Come only through Jesus, the great High Priest, and you are safe.
"He will beautify the humble with salvation." Psalm 149:4
"if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed." 1 Peter 3:14 [See also Psalm 10:17, 22:26, 37:11, 48:10; Isaiah 54:11.]
All this is for the humble and poor in spirit. But how can we be both poor and blessed? The answer is obvious. We are poor in ourselves but become blessed in Christ. If we derive no happiness from Him, it is because we are not truly sensible of our own insufficiency and wretchedness. When we are brought low, let us confidently lay hold on Christ, and we shall be blessed, for all is ours. We may say, "O Lord, if You are a glorious help to the needy (lo, here are want and misery enough), therefore I come with all my want and poverty, to the riches of thy grace; with all my darkness to Your light; with the body of this death to You, the Fountain of life. Grant that all evils may be swallowed up in the fullness of Your love. My innumerable wants I set before You, as so many empty vessels, and desire to have them filled with Your spiritual and heavenly blessings. O glorify Your free grace in my poverty and emptiness! Fill me with Yourself. O fill me with all the fullness of God!"
"Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." Ephesians 4:23
O Lord, grant me daily repentance and a tender feeling of my sins, that by the power of Your death the old man may be crucified, and by the power of Your resurrection, the new man may rise up and grow in grace, being filled and refreshed with the fruits of Your Spirit. Let me ever be earnest and look upon every day as the very first and the very last that with each I may, as it were, begin anew to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, and so be always prepared for death and eternity. Give me grace to surmount all difficulties and to avoid everything that may prove a torment to my conscience in the hour of death. And as there is no standing still, I humbly beseech You to stir me up daily and hourly more and more, that I may make all haste and "give all diligence to make [my] calling and election sure." Spirit of God, let me daily experience Your divine operations, Your renewing influences, for I shall never be renewed in the spirit of my mind apart from Your presence, power, and work! You have begun a good work in me; O carry it on and complete it in the day of Christ! You have given me the desire to be like Jesus; now gratify that desire and grant that as He is, so I may be in this world.
"He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Psalm 112:9
"In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand." Ecclesiastes 11:6
Those that lay up treasures on earth put out all that they can spare to interest, and those that desire to reap soon and plentifully are careful to sow accordingly. Let us imitate them in our charitable distributions. We must not pretend to pay the debt of charity with some poor mites and pence. If you will give something, give bountifully; take your hands full as if you were sowing, like the poor widow with her two mites, which she sowed freely, though it was her whole substance. But the rich ones were not so liberal but covetously offered only what they could spare very well. Is it not said we should sow? Now seedsmen sow with hands full, and so should we, for God loves a cheerful giver and will in His turn dispense again bountifully to you, that you should have sufficiency in all things to every good work. But God dispenses so bountifully to you; why should you then grudge Him anything or make only such poor returns? For what we do to our neighbor is the same as if it were done to God Himself, if done in faith and love. How gracious His condescension who accepts such service and esteems it at such a price! Lord, give me a truly liberal spirit and enable me to imitate Jesus in His benevolence!
"And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities." Psalm 130:8
"O the Hope of Israel, his Savior in time of trouble." Jeremiah 14:8
"In wrath remember mercy." Habakkuk 3:2
Despair not, O my soul, in any tribulation or conflict, as if it were impossible to overcome. The healing word of God contains advice and comfort for all cases. The Lord, being your Helper in all adversities and able to turn the sharpest afflictions into the greatest blessings, would never smite if He were not willing to heal, nor withhold from you one privilege, if He had not a better to substitute. O Lord, I trust You will carry me through all difficulties. Though my misery and weakness were ever so great yet there is nothing too great for You; it is all one to You, to help in great and small distresses; nay, the more I am surrounded with grief and weakness, the more will You pity, spare, and nourish me, as a tender mother does the least of all her children; and the more occasion there will be to display Your mighty salvation. The sharper and longer my distress and conflicts have been, the nearer, greater, and sweeter, I trust, will also be my victory and salvation; for the same Lord who has assured me that I shall not be tried above measure, has also engaged to lead me on, conquering, till at length all my enemies are subdued. My soul, wait only upon God; from Him comes my salvation.
"There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you."
"Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." 2 Peter 1:4
Known sin, in all its various forms, is an accursed thing by which we are deprived of the protection of God and cannot stand before our enemies. Behold, therefore, the severity of God (Joshua 7:21-26), and be more earnest. Make all haste to flee from the lust of the world, especially from the lust of the eye, which is the love of money. Break off even the most subtle and specious bands of unrighteousness. Unless the splinters of the unjust mammon be taken out, the wound cannot be healed up. Nay, examine yourself closely in other things, and whatever sinful lust is found in your breast, put it off and flee from it, else you must not wonder at your being so weak in spirit. He that does not resist the sinful motions of his heart will very easily give a loose to his hands and tongue. But he that immediately subdues the inward corruptions will certainly be preserved from their breaking out in sinful actions. O Lord, deliver me from all accursed things and keep my heart always under Your closest inspection and discipline. Fill me with Yourself; then shall I be above coveting the poor things of earth.
Why should my passions mix with earth,
And thus debase my heavenly birth?
Why should I cleave to things below,
And let my God, my Savior go?
"I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:6
My dear reader, reflect a moment who it was that made this confession and consider the many excellencies that he had (see chapter 31). Doubtless you will be ready to ask, "Why this self-abhorrence? What did this man mean?" Let me give the answer. Before he obtained that discovery of God which produced the expressions just cited, he had a far less perfect knowledge of himself, and therefore was not sufficiently abased in his own esteem. We all need to grow in humility, and nothing tends to promote humility more than a clear view of the Divine perfections. Elihu charges Job home with an undue opinion of his own righteousness but it was not till God spoke that Job exclaimed, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." The whole narrative should serve to convince us that man cannot, of himself, "be just with God"! In this view, it is preparatory to the gospel and a striking comment upon those words of Paul and the Psalmist, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." "In Your sight no one living is righteous." "God be merciful to me a sinner" is a prayer easy to be said but hard to be felt. It can be felt by those only who view themselves in the light that shines from Your holy law, and are influenced by the grace that flows through Your holy gospel.
"And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'" Revelation 5:9
In heaven the saints have a full sense of their great deliverance, together with a perfect knowledge of sin, far beyond anything we now conceive of it; and the glory of redeeming grace will be the eternal ground of their love and adoration. On earth, it is the great exercise and difficult work of faith to see sin and Christ at the same time, or be penetrated with a lively sense of our desert and absolute freedom from condemnation. But the more we know of both, the nearer approach we shall make to heaven; and we are our own greatest enemies, if, together with the fullest comprehension of sin and the deepest humiliation for it, we do not look steadfastly unto Jesus and see it taken away by the Lamb of God. This, though continually repeated by the heavenly choir, is called their new song; because it is always matter of as great joy to them as if they had never sung it before; and because the love of God and of Christ in their redemption is always opening upon them with new and increasing wonders. O my soul, let nothing hinder you from beginning it now! Sing, sing to Jesus with heart and voice, and so do honor to His blood!
"Follow Me." Luke 5:27
"Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." 2 Timothy 2:3
Would you follow Christ? Exemplify self-denial, humility, patience, and a readiness for every good work. Follow Him, bearing a daily cross; and look to His cross, to make your burden light. Follow Him as your Guide and Guard, and learn to see with His eyes and to trust in His arm for defense. Follow Him as the Friend of sinners, who heals the broken in heart and gives rest to weary souls and casts out none that come unto Him. Follow Him with faith, resting your whole acceptance with God and your title to heaven, on His meritorious blood and righteousness. Lastly, follow Him with much prayer. For though He is full of compassion, He loves to be much entreated; and, when He is determined to give a blessing, you must yet wrestle with Him for it. Thus follow Jesus, and He will lead you to glory. When arrived there, you will be far from regretting the toil which was sustained or the sacrifices which were made in your progress toward that region of inconceivable and eternal joy. There He will lead you to living fountains and fill you with His own joy.
"He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:27-28
"The very hairs of your head are all numbered." Luke 12:7
How close and tender the love which the Lord bears to His people! Nothing is so lowly as to be overlooked by the providence of God, and scarcely anything is so minute as not to be capable of either injuring or profiting the soul. How sweet is it to observe the Divine footsteps, even in the least considerable affairs, and to be satisfied that we may trust every concern in the Divine hands! O Lord, grant that I may never swerve from You, nor do anything without You; but that, in going in and out, I may always have respect to Your presence, as if I had to do with none but You. O that I could transact all my affairs as if with You alone, and in all places look upon You as my 0bserver and Friend! Let me carefully mark the inward workings of Your grace and the outward tokens of Your providence, so as daily to have a true sense of Your gracious presence in everything, whether more or less important; and thereby to be strengthened in faith and kept in a composed state of mind considering that nothing happens by mere chance but that all is wisely ordered by tYour providential care for our good; firmly believing, if anything goes contrary to expectation, that some benefit will accrue from it, if I be but patient and resigned. Lord, give me resignation, and produce in me entire acquiescence in Your wise, holy, and gracious will.
"Cling to what is good." Romans 12:9
"Seek those things which are above." Colossians 1:9
The tendencies of those subjects which we habitually contemplate and the manners of those persons with whom we are familiar, display themselves in our prevailing sentiments and behavior. If we converse much with God and heavenly things, we shall be heavenly-minded; but if we deal much with the world and temporal things, we must be sensual and worldly-minded. Up, therefore, with your heart to God; lift it hourly up to Him. Though it sinks down often to the earth again yet the Lord has patience and will as often receive it again. Therefore, raise it up continually and take great care to keep it above, that it may not sink down and be denied with worldly things again. Thus it will be easy to abide in a spiritual frame but without this care we cannot abide in it at all. A feather easily rises higher and higher when kept above ground but moves slowly upward when once fallen into the mire. Choose now, which you please. O that I may always choose the best: namely, to cleave unto the Lord, seeking the things which are above.
""Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace." Luke 2:29
"Say to those who are fearful-hearted, 'Be strong.'" Isaiah 35:4
It is only willful unbelief that seals the condemnation of the soul; no such melancholy result attaches to the weak faith of a fearful and tempted Christian. If I do not reject the ransom of Christ my Surety but feel my utter need of it and am heartily desirous to accept it by faith, God will no more reject me than He will reject my Surety, or His own eternal decree. Yet since I have very weak faith and am often ready to sink into despair, how can I depart this life in peace? With God this is possible, for He can impart the peace that passes all understanding. It is not by any power of our own but solely by Your Divine power that we shall be kept through faith unto salvation. With God, it is equally easy to carry the weakest or the strongest through the scenes of life and the gates of death, into the eternal world. Since, then, God is the same wise, gracious, and mighty God in all circumstances, He will lend me His aid in every extremity and bring me safe to the heavenly shore.
"O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions." Psalm 104:24
"Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD." Psalm 107:43
O Lord, how many are Your unknown mercies! I am surrounded with them on all sides yet how little do I observe them and acknowledge them to Your praise! If You have punished even the heathen for not having glorified You in Your works, what will become of me? Pardon, O Lord, this my blindness and ingratitude; and to all Your other kindness add a thankful heart, that I may joyfully praise You for the blessing of my creation, the daily bounty of Your providence, and the adorable gift of Your Son. In all Your creatures may I see and adore Your infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; and be thereby continually strengthened in faith and stirred up to Your praise and love. Thus let me always converse with You, cleave to You, and have uninterrupted communion with You; that nothing may in the least disturb this disposition of my soul. O Lord, grant me this privilege and ever keep me near to Your most blessed self, for Your glory's sake. Amen.
"The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!" Judges 7:20
"They are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them." Numbers 14:9
"But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went." Numbers 14:24
Take care, O my soul, that there may also be another spirit with you, as there was with Joshua and Caleb not to be discouraged on account of your weakness and the great number of your enemies, as if it were impossible to live holily and get the victory. Christ, a Leader infinitely superior to Joshua or Caleb, marches out before you, to make war Himself against your enemies; and who can conquer Him? He is unchangeable; His Spirit is as mighty now as ever, and His word as powerful. His strength shall be made perfect in your weakness; and with the sharp two-edged sword which He will teach you to wield, you shall destroy or put to flight all your adversaries. Afflictions and temptations may harass you from day to day but your triumph shall soon be complete. You shall quit this sinful and perplexing world. Then shall you receive a crown from the Captain of salvation; and all that, like you, have conquered through His aid, shall unite their voices with yours, eternally in His praise. "Not unto us, Lord, not unto us but to Your name be glory, for Your mercy and Your truth's sake."
"Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger." Isaiah 46:12-13
"We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." Isaiah 64:6
True religion is founded upon the knowledge of the true God. Sinners are apt to think that they have a high opinion of God because they think highly of His mercy; whereas God is as holy and as just as He is merciful, and He will as certainly punish the guilty as He will pardon the penitent and believing soul. "God, I thank You that I am not like other men," says every self-righteous sinner; not considering that, if God were extreme to mark what is amiss, no flesh living could be justified. "God, be merciful to me a sinner," says every true Christian and real believer. Till this be your language, O my soul; till you feel yourself a lost and helpless sinner; till you be brought to acknowledge the justice of God in your condemnation; till you be driven to Christ as your only refuge and hope of salvation, you are "ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish [your] own righteousness," and do not submit to the righteousness of Christ.
"You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." 2 Timothy 2:3
Princes combat with flesh and blood; Christians wrestle with principalities and powers; princes engage in conflicts which are often suspended by a truce; Christians are not allowed a moment's respite. The former may make conditions of peace; the latter must refuse all overtures; princes may be vanquished yet escape with their lives; professed Christians can yield only at the expense of their salvation. Therefore watch as for your life; fight as for your soul. The enemies whom you see today, you shall see no more; when, having put them all to flight, you shall lay down your sword and take up your crown and sing, "Victory, victory!" forever, through the blood of the Lamb. Let then the prospect of heavenly glory fire you; though your enemies be powerful, go forth against them in the strength of the Captain of your salvation.
"I will heal your backslidings." Jeremiah 3:22
"It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." Philippians 2:13
Blessed Lord and Savior, I would fain believe in You, be faithful, obedient, and work always that which is good. And since this also is Your will, I trust it shall be done; for if You will and I will, who can hinder it? True it is that sin, flesh, the world, and devils are against it; but shall these enemies be stronger than You, the mighty God? Shall their opposition be able to quell Your work in me, if I do not consent to it? That can never be. The more violence they use upon me, the more earnest may I be with You in prayer; and the more I pray, the more glorious will Your assistance be; the more they hinder, the more You will further; so that all their hindrances shall be swallowed up by Your furtherances, as the serpents of the sorcerers in Egypt were swallowed up by the serpent of Moses. The enemy will fall by his own sword, and the greatest opposition will turn to my good, and to the promoting of Your work. Everything indeed can overcome me, if I do not abide in You by continual faith and prayer; but by thus abiding in You, all opposition proves not only weak in itself but profitable to my soul. O Jesus, let Your strength be made perfect in my weakness, and may I ever find Your grace sufficient for me!
"I am like a green cypress tree." Hosea 14:8
"I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground." Malachi 3:11 [See also Isaiah 27:2, 6.]
Is it not a disagreeable thing for a gardener to see the finest blossoms and fruits destroyed by the caterpillars? Does it not rejoice him to see all the branches bow with ripe fruit? O heavenly Gardener, grant that I may not displease You! Let me abide in Christ, my true Vine, and always bring forth good fruits. But since every fruit has its enemies and You have no sooner produced what is good than the insects of sin endeavor to destroy it, I beseech You to make me watchful and diligent. Rebuke the devourer and preserve me as a branch of Christ, night and day, as You have promised; that my fruits may endure to eternity. The fruitfulness of the gardens and vineyards which Your right hand has planted, glorifies Your name. O that I may contribute largely to that noblest end of all human, all angelic actions! Let the crystal stream which proceeds from Your throne fertilize the soil in which You permit me to grow. Spirit of God, make me very fruitful!
"He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him." Psalm 145:19
The Lord is both able and willing to do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think," granting not only according to the notion of our narrow hearts but according to the riches of His glory, as becomes His Majesty. Christ delights in great petitions, for He is a great Lord and is rich unto all that call upon Him. He has all the riches of His merits and gifts, not for Himself (since, being the very God, He lacked nothing for Himself) but only for us, even the rebellious, who sincerely call upon Him. Therefore, what He has as Mediator, all belongs to me, if I am but a humble and earnest petitioner. O my soul, pray to Him; nay, be much in prayer; and, as often as you pour out your soul before Him in prayer, let these words recur and fill you with joyful expectation: "He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him." Not a petition, not a groan, shall be lost. How many blessings, in addition to those which we have, should we all receive, if we were but more frequent and earnest in our applications! Why are we so reluctant to glorify God and to seek higher measures of felicity?
"Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai." Joshua 8:26
"For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8
A willing subjection to any one sin is not consistent with the grace of God and true saving faith (Romans 6:14). For though wicked inhabitants will abide in the heart and sometimes prevail over a believer, they must not reign there but should be vigorously resisted, since we may be utterly ruined by willing subjection to a single sin. Though you are actually converted and have gained the dominion over your sins yet you must not draw back your hand and lay the spear and sword of the Spirit aside. There is no truce in this war, nor any rest found but in fighting; for if you do not vanquish your enemies, they will vanquish you. Therefore the Christian soldier's watch-word is "Fight on," looking to Jesus. Satan left Christ only for a time; much more will he renew his assaults upon us again and again; nay, if a man is not watchful but presumptuous, he "takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself." But if the conflict lasts long with you, remember that it is also the case with others; fight on, therefore, and faint not; at last the victory will be the more sweet and glorious. Only above all things, take the shield of faith; for faith, by which we are in covenant with Christ, alone triumphs. Faith honors Christ by pleading with Him, and Christ honors faith by giving to it.
"Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Isaiah 55:1
"Come, for all things are now ready." Luke 14:17
"The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." John 6:37
Would the heart of a tender parent permit him to reject the application of a child imploring that relief which he must have or die? No more will God turn a deaf ear to the cry of a trembling sinner. Let us, therefore, press through a thousand discouragements and venture, just as we are, to make known unto Him our requests. "The one who comes," He has said, "I will by no means cast out." He is pleased with our solicitude and importunity, and ere long will send an answer of peace. A feeling of joy is not needful to bring us to Christ but a feeling of our wants. Jesus always says, "Come." Whatever may be your wants, whatever your miseries, or whatever your sins, Jesus says, "Come unto Me." He has what you need. He has all you need. He has the heart also to give it you, and to give it freely. Not only so but He really wishes you to have what you need. He considers Himself to be glorified by giving, and that you glorify Him by receiving. Will you not glorify Jesus by looking into yourself to see what you need, and then going to Him to be supplied? All things are ready; Jesus is willing and waiting, arise and go to Him, for He is calling you. Ask and receive, that your joy may be full.
"Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21
"Who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?" 1 Peter 3:13
The life of a Christian is a warfare, and the conflict between sin and holiness and between sorrow and comfort, is often very violent. Sin, Satan, self, and the world are his daily enemies. He is also exposed to poverty, affliction, reproaches, and persecution. O my Savior, help me to overcome every evil in the strength of Your grace; give me a heart to do good to all who may seek to hurt me. "Who," my Christian associates, "is he who will harm you, if you become followers of what is good?" Not the Father for He loves you. Not Jesus He died for you. Not the Spirit His work is to comfort you. Not good men they love those who follow that which is good. Not wicked men, nor devils for though enemies, they are confined and cannot stir one step beyond what your God and Savior permits them. When you meet with a trial, look not to men but to Jesus. Pray for patience to bear it and look up for a blessing upon it. Then all things shall work together for good (Romans 8:28). Let every temptation make you more careful and put you on closer watching against the enemy. Cleave to Jesus by faith and prayer, like a child to its parent, when it sees an enemy coming toward it. Behold Him, flee to Him, rest upon Him, and then you will rejoice in Him. My soul, I charge you to flee to Christ from all danger, and for every needed blessing.
"Prayer also will be made for Him continually, and daily He shall be praised." Psalm 72:15
What a condescending King we have, who may always be approached! You say, "O that my coldness and indifference would permit me to do it!" But are you not sensible of your wants and miseries? Is not this backwardness of which you complain, misery enough? Therefore you ought always to pray, and to pray most when you feel yourselves sinking into a worldly and torpid frame. Arise, therefore, and pray; the good Spirit of God will assist you in it. Encouraged by the promise of a prayer-hearing God, and the special assistance of the Holy Spirit in this work, we must, even in the greatest conflicts, not omit to resist the temptations of the devil. Though we have sinned, we must not refrain from prayer; for what can we do better? What can we do besides? If we stop till we make ourselves worthy, we shall never approach God. Lord, grant me more of the spirit of prayer, and let it never be extinguished in my heart; but may it become as natural to pray, as to breathe. May I pray without ceasing, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting.
"What are you doing here, Elijah?" 1 Kings 19:13
Let this question be supposed as addressed to us: "What are you doing here," in this world, into which you are sent? Are you working the work of Him that sent you, or standing all the day idle? How do you acquit yourself in the duties of your particular calling? Are you upright, conscientious, and useful therein? Are you in the post assigned you, truly called and properly qualified for it? 0r have you thrust yourself into it without warrant or invitation, and therefore have no cause to expect success? What are you doing here, in this retirement? Is the world shut out of your thoughts, and are the visits of the blessed Spirit invited? What are you doing here, if it be not your wish and endeavor to have communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ? What are you doing here, if you are not at peace with God? If you desire peace and safety, plead the blood of Jesus; flee to the city of refuge before the avenger of blood overtakes you and you perish. "Remember Lot's wife," and look not behind you, lest you become a monument of wrath. What are you doing here in times of trial? Are you flying from the danger, or boldly facing it in the name and strength of the Lord? Are you ashamed of the cross, or do you willingly take it upon you? Are you for pitching your tent here, satisfied with your present portion? Or are you looking to a better country, to "a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God"? O to say honestly and heartily, "I am here, Lord, to glorify You!"
"My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net." Psalm 25:15
"Happy is the man who is always reverent [fears always]." Proverbs 28:14
Our spiritual enemies are powerful and crafty; they lie in wait everywhere, so that in all places and at all times we are surrounded with many cruel murderers. Blessed is he that keeps clear from self-confidence; and fearing always, says within himself, as soon as he awakes in the morning, "Who knows what temptations I may meet with today? Perhaps when I arise, at the very first step, my feet may be entangled in dangerous snares and nets." Grant, O Lord, I beseech You, that distrusting myself, I may put my whole confidence in You, watching evermore in all things, and looking cautiously in all places about me, where there is any fear of danger. Whatever I am about to do or to speak, let me first commune with You by prayer; that keeping always close to You, I may be preserved against the power and craft of my enemies, as in a stronghold; and confidently say, according to Your own pattern given (Psalm 16:8): "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved."
God is my Portion and my joy;
His counsels are my light!
He gives me sweet advice by day,
And guards me through the night.
My soul would all her thoughts approve
To His all-seeing eye;
Nor death nor hell my hopes shall move,
While such a Friend is near.
"My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." John 5:17
O my soul, rely on the Divine power, which is ever active and cannot fail to destroy your sins and fulfill the good pleasure of God in you. He is our All; we are nothing and can do nothing. Happy are we, that we can have Him for our support in all things; and that the children of God are not required to direct their own steps but shall be led by their heavenly Father. Now, O Lord, since by the will and workings of my own heart I throw only so many hindrances and blocks in my way, grant, I beseech You, that in true dependence on You, I may venture everything; and despairing of my own sufficiency, may always abide in You, draw all necessary strength from You by prayer, and bring forth many good fruits, which may last to eternity. Your work in true believers, weak as it may seem now, will last forever, and none shall be able to destroy it. Work in me mightily, both to will and to do of Your own good pleasure; and as the effect of Your working in me, may I work for Your glory, the spread of Your truth, and the conversion of souls to Jesus. Lord, I would live to honor You and be a blessing to all around me. O take me and make me meet for Your use, and then employ me in Your cause.
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." James 4:8
"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7
"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." James 5:16
O my soul, draw near to God in prayer, and He will draw near to you; be instant in it, and the devil cannot stand against you; for prayer will drive away sin and Satan, as the wind drives the smoke before it; it works wonderfully great things and will make easy what seems impossible. If God has given you some spiritual blessings already, this is an encouragement to hope also for that which you lack yet; therefore only pray confidently, and you shall receive evermore. Ask in faith, nothing doubting, for He is faithful that has promised, and not one of His promises shall fail. Nothing but unbelief can exclude us from the enjoyment of many blessings in this world, and all blessings in the world to come. Expect Satan to oppose you, for he will, and especially when upon your knees. He hates prayer, and therefore he frequents our closets to harass, perplex, and fill us with confusion. When he has stirred up our corruptions, bewildered our imaginations, and distracted our understandings, he will suggest that it is no use to pray in such a state of mind. Resist him, and he will flee; plead with God against him more fervently. Never yield but pray on; if you cannot as you will, pray as you can.
"I live by faith in the Son of God." Galatians 2:20
In spiritual things we are too often living upon self. We seek in frames, forms, creatures, and animal life, that peace and that stability which are to be found in the Redeemer only. Outward duties are well in their place but they have no Divine life in themselves and therefore can give none. They are to be performed but not trusted in; to be used with grace but not as the price with which grace may be purchased. They are as the scaffold of the building, a means for carrying on the work but not the end of the great design. In the power of Christ, they are blessings; without it, they have no power. The whole trust must be in Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life; without Him prayers, praises, rites, and ordinances are carcasses without a soul. All our performances, in order to be holy and acceptable, must be animated by His Spirit. Then it is that we enjoy a communion of heart and interests with the adorable Jesus, and a delightful view behind the veil of outward ordinances (such as no carnal eye can behold), manifesting the Lord in His goodness, beauty, grandeur, blessedness, and glory. What will it be to enjoy this vision and communion without a veil between; and to enjoy it forever! Lord Jesus, prepare me for it, and then introduce me to it.
"Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." Exodus 2:9
As Moses was ordered to be saved by the daughter of his most cruel enemy, so Satan himself, even when he meditates our destruction, must be a means of our life. Blessed Savior, You will not leave me in the hands of any that can hurt me! If You are mine, all is mine, even Your Father, Your Spirit, and Your heavenly glory; all accidents, all enemies, must work for my good and be instruments and ministers of my salvation. May I, trusting in You, never yield to fear but find that everything which occurs to me is made a blessing, that winds and waves are but accelerating my progress toward the shore of a happy eternity. May I be enabled to say, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is [great] gain" is ever to be present with the Lord. Teach me to live by faith on Jesus, to walk in close and intimate fellowship with Yourself, and to employ every talent for Your glory and praise. I want to be taught of God. To be taught to believe, love, and work for You. "O lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation."
"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns." Ephesians 5:19
"Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns." Colossians 3:16
If we are obliged to promote the temporal good of our neighbor, how much more the spiritual by edifying discourses! But how often have we occasion to remark that the children of God seem at a loss for conversation, or slide into unprofitable subjects! It would be well for them if at such seasons, they were thus to appeal on high: "O my God, here I receive a guest, and having nothing to set before him, I pray You to give what will prove wholesome food both for him and myself." They would often be indulged with a gracious answer, and thus at once receive and convey spiritual improvement. Some, affecting to be philosophers, mock at Divine things and even at prayer, as if we needed no other help than our own depraved reason and will. But what Saint Paul says (Romans 1:22), is fulfilled in them: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." What will become of these poor scoffers upon their dying bed, and at the day of judgment? O that they would take warning while it is time, and now, even now, ere the day of mercy is forever past, turn to the only refuge of the guilty! Lord, send Your Spirit to convince, convert, and thoroughly turn them Yourself.
"Tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you into Galilee." Mark 16:7
"If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." 1 John 2:1-2
"Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees." Hebrews 12:1
Have you been slack, unfaithful, and fallen away? You are not to make light of it: lamentations become you; and you ought to humble yourself deeply before God. But why will you continue in your fallen condition any longer? From the depths of your humiliation and sorrow, call upon the Redeemer; He is ready to forgive you, as He forgave Peter; "having received gifts from the rebellious." Delay not to lay hold of your ransom, which is greater than all the sins in the world. Be not discouraged, nor listen to those suggestions which would urge you either to cherish despondency, or to seek relief in the pleasures of the world. The Lord even now reaches forth His hands to you anew by this very word; come, lift yourself up at it, and be careful for the time to come, to be so much more cautious and humble, and especially to treat others with greater tenderness and affection. Gracious Savior, speak to the heart of every fallen Peter and bring him back! O send one of Your loving messages to every backsliding child, and thus restore him to Yourself!
"Indeed we do come to You." Jeremiah 3:22
"I will come to you." John 14:18
"And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.'" Luke 19:5
O my Savior, since I come to You, and You come to me, who shall prevent or disturb or break up our interview? Surely I have heard You say, "In Me you find, not an angry Judge but a kind Mediator. I make effectual intercession on your behalf. The Divine wrath shall not descend on your trembling soul." I will therefore rejoice and be confident. For He who speaks these comfortable words is the Son of God, in whom dwells all the fullness of grace, and for whose sake the Father will blot out every sin and impart all spiritual blessings. In the hour of conflict and danger, Divine aid flies, as on the wings of the wind; and when its movements are slowest, it will yet arrive in due season. Meanwhile, I am taught to improve in the exercise of patience and faith and learn not only to be more diligent but also to wait patiently for my God. O Savior, visit me this day; unveil Your glories to me, and put a double portion of Your grace within me!
"My iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me." Psalm 38:4
It is a sure sign that a man is awakened out of his sleep, when he discovers the error of his dream. In the drawing up of water out of a deep well, so long as the bucket is under water, we feel not the weight of it; but as soon as it comes above water, it begins to hang heavy on the hand; and if a man dives under water, he feels not its weight, though there may be many tons of it over his head; whereas a small vessel, full of the same water, would be very burdensome to him and make him soon grow weary of it. In like manner, so long as a man is overhead in sin, he is not sensible of the weight of sin; it is not troublesome to him; but when he begins to come out of that state of sin wherein he lay and lived before, then sin begins to hang heavy upon him, and he groans under its weight. So long as sin is in the will, the proper seat of sin, a man feels not the weight of it but it is sport and pastime to him to do evil. It is therefore a good sign that sin is removed out of its chair of state, when it becomes burdensome to us; and such a sense of sin may well be considered as an entrance into a state of grace.
"Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings." Jeremiah 3:22
"When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him." Luke 15:20
Hear therefore the voice of your loving Father and Shepherd, O backsliding child and lost sheep, crying earnestly, "Return! Return!" Do not run on in the broad way with the world any longer. Are you not tired yet of the husks of the world? Do you feel no troubles in your soul? Shall not these drive you to God? Lo! Your Father and Shepherd seeks you. He is gone forth to call and meet you already. He will receive you willingly and joyfully. Approach Him, praying as the prodigal son, and He will freely forgive you, though you have sinned beyond what it is in your power to describe. He is also able to heal the most desperate corruptions of your heart. He can deliver you from the very jaws of hell. Begin, then, to call upon Him earnestly in prayer; and poor and wretched as you are, come to Him as the Physician of your soul; for the Physician and the sick, a rich Savior and a poor sinner, are the best suited to one another. Come just as you are to Jesus again.
"Watch therefore, and pray always." Luke 21:36
"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us." Hebrews 12:1
The hearts of men are not like their clocks, which need, at most, to be wound up only once a day. They are liable to become inactive and to fall into disorder every moment and must therefore be searched and excited, without intermission. We should accompany all our actions with prayer, strictly examining the principles from where they flow, and anxious that those principles may be of the highest order. If we proceed according to this rule, accepting every monition from above, we shall both avoid many severe chastisements, and glorify our Father who is in heaven. A Christian has daily his proper burden, like a clock its weights, by which the flesh is kept under, so that the spirit may rise. Therefore, when any trouble occurs, he looks upon it as his weight for the day, to stir him up to the exercise of prayer and meditation on the word of God. O Lord, grant that I may always bear Your easy yoke and never be the cause of my own distress and dullness. Quicken me in Your way and fill me with life and love.
"Give an account of your stewardship." Luke 16:2
"O Lord, how have I wasted my time, goods, and faculties! Pardon me for Your infinite mercy's sake; blot out my debt by Your blood; and grant that henceforth, keeping a daily good account and acting more prudently, faithfully, and diligently, my reckoning may not be false at last. But preserve me also from all needless cares and cause me cheerfully to prosecute the business which You allot me, and to anticipate merciful support in all difficulties and afflictions. Teach me, O Lord, and give me wisdom and grace to govern my house and manage all my affairs rightly. Be the principal Governor and Father of my family; I would be nothing but Your servant; direct me only in all things, that I may not suffer or do any harm." He that does not expostulate with God but accuses himself as guilty in all things, even his best performances, and flies to Christ as his only refuge, will be justified by God through the righteousness of His dear Son. Being thus adopted of God, he is ready and willing to be governed and directed by Him in all things as a child. O for grace always to do God's will, aiming at His glory!
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith." 2 Corinthians 13:5
Many might be induced to pray for faith, if they did not presume that because they are not heathens, Muslim, or Jews, they must therefore be believers. Such as have faith often doubt the fact, while such as are destitute boast as if they possessed an abundance. Faith is wrought in the souls of those only who are deeply humbled by a thorough conviction of the greatness and heinousness of their sins, confessing themselves not only with their lips but their hearts, to be the chief of sinners. Without this repentance we do not enter through the right gate, and our faith is only imagination. Faith is the greatest and most difficult thing even to a child of God; it receives Christ into the heart and overcomes the devil, world, and all sins, which is not easily done. But if the generality of people have true faith, nothing is easier than to believe. For what can be easier than to assent to the Bible as true, which is all that the multitude intend when they say that they believe? There would be no need for men to pray for faith or to examine themselves whether they have it. The wicked, therefore, who live in sin, deceive themselves in thinking that they have faith. For faith gives victory over the world. Those also who trust in their own works deceive themselves; for the prayer of faith is, "God be merciful to me a sinner." "Lord, save or I perish." True faith always receives Christ as its Savior, copies the life of Christ as its example, and aims at the honor of Christ as its end.
"For Your name's sake, lead me and guide me. Pull me out of the net." Psalm 31:3-4
"Whenever the ark set out, Moses said: 'Rise up, O LORD! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.'" Numbers 10:35
Everyone is beset with his own particular enemies who endeavor to obstruct, to deceive, and to destroy him. But as the way is cleared for an earthly king when he travels for a comparatively low and limited purpose, much more shall valleys be exalted and hills be made low, crooked places be made straight, and rough places plain, when He, whose throne is heaven and whose footstool is the earth, comes forth for the salvation of His devoted people. Grant, O Lord, that all my goings and restings may have respect to Your will. Be pleased to go continually before me and to make room, causing my spiritual enemies to flee before You. You are able to confound their craft and power. Enlighten my eyes, blessed Jesus, that I may see my enemies distinctly; and strengthen my faith in You, that I may not fear them. Be the Captain of my salvation; lead me on praying and believing and fight all my battles for me. So shall I come off conqueror through Your love, and will give to You eternal praise. Reader, is this your prayer? Is Jesus your hope? Is God's word your rule? Is sin the object of your fear? Is holiness your ardent, habitual desire?
"And Moses said to them, 'This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.'" Exodus 16:15
This manna was entirely different from the common manna, which is shaken from the leaves of trees and used only in medicine; this dropped down from the clouds and was truly a miraculous production, as is evident from the following circumstances: that it fell but six days in the week that it fell in such a prodigious quantity, as sustained almost three million souls that a double portion of it fell the day before the Sabbath and that none fell on that day.
This manna is called "spiritual meat" because it signifies spiritual blessings in heavenly things. Christ Himself is the true manna, the bread of life, of which that was a figure. The word of God is manna too, by which our souls are nourished. The comforts of the Spirit are also "hidden manna." These come down from heaven, as the manna did, and are the support and comfort of the Divine life in the soul, while we are in the wilderness of this world. The manna they gathered in the wilderness was not to be hoarded up but eaten; so they that have received Christ must live upon Him daily by faith, and not think of laying up a stock today to serve them tomorrow. They who ate manna in the wilderness hungered again, whereas they that feed on Christ by faith shall never hunger. "Lord, give us this bread always." Reader, is Christ Jesus manna to your soul? Are you living upon Him upon Him alone upon Him day by day? You have no life without this.
"What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you up to half the kingdom!" Esther 5:3
Do you want nothing, O my fellow-mortal? Have you nothing to ask? "Yes," you reply, "I need an infinite supply." Well, then, draw near to your gracious King and Bridegroom without fear. Lo! He holds out His golden scepter to you, saying, "Only ask; not the half but the whole of My kingdom shall be granted; nay, I will give Myself unto you." Disclose to Him, therefore, your whole heart, mentioning all your wants and grievances. Whatever is poured out before Him is lodged in its proper place; He takes the burden from you and encourages you to hope for seasonable and full relief. If you have already experienced His loving-kindness, your faith will rest upon Him so much the more firmly. Be it yours to persevere in fervent supplications. We may be tempted to suppose that His bounty and compassion fall short of our necessities and afflictions. But in truth, He is far more in earnest as a benefactor than we are as petitioners; or, to speak more explicitly, it is He that excites, as well as promises to fulfill, all our desires. Ask of Him, therefore, all you need, and ask in faith.
"What do you want Me to do for you?" Luke 18:41
O Lord, do You ask me also this question? I answer, that I may see how gracious You are; and that, knowing Your love, I may make the warmest and best return. This is the sum and substance of all my desire. You know that of myself I can contribute nothing toward its accomplishment; but, in requiring me to ask, You assure me that You are willing to bestow. Therefore, faith and love being Your demand, I humbly ask them at Your hands. O grant them to me, that I may exercise them both for the manifestation of Your glory. Since nothing is pleasing to You but what is Your own gift, I trust that You will certainly hear and fulfill this my request. My salvation is not grounded on my own but on Your and Your Father's love and counsel; save me, therefore, by free grace, through Your merits, and let me go on, covered all over with grace and pardon. This is treasure enough, by which my heart can be well satisfied. This is more, infinitely more, than I have merited; it is all that my heart can desire. My prayer this day is, "Say to my soul, 'I am your salvation.'"
"In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Isaiah 30:15
"By your patience possess your souls." Luke 21:19
Christians must suffer patiently; and patience is their armor, while God is fighting for them. But when we are unwilling to suffer, going about to make complaints everywhere and to seek human comfort or to rid ourselves by our own contrivances, we lose the comfort of the Lord's help; we are stirring up the wasp-nest of our unruly thoughts, and bring more trouble upon ourselves and others; nay, we are fighting against God, who thereby intends to cure our impatience, pride, and anger. The more peevish we are, the more desperate is our disease; and consequently, we have so much more need of such sharp but wholesome trials of affliction to mortify these bad passions. Therefore we must not presume to murmur or complain, which will only make bad worse. He who through impatience will flee from one trouble, may run into ten others; and though it were possible to free ourselves from trouble yet the help is not so glorious and blessed as if we had waited for the help of the Lord.
"Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge but he who hates correction is stupid." Proverbs 12:1
What evil can be affirmed of us, the root of which is not found in our hearts? While maintaining the holy conflict, God, who can make even the wrath of man to praise Him, visits us with a sharp (and apparently undeserved) reproof from some unkind acquaintance. If we receive this as from above, turning it into an occasion of deeper self-examination and resolving more vigorously than ever to abstain from all appearance of evil, we certainly gain a great victory and blessing. But if we grow impatient and make many excuses, being determined to resent all slights and imputations, we aggravate the evil and neglect the means by which both others and ourselves might be improved. O Lord, correct our weakness and conform us entirely to Your will and nature. May we see Your hand in every event, either directly working or overruling; and amidst our sorest trials remember that whatever man intends, Your design is to do us good. If Shimei curse us, may we not retaliate but say, "It may be the Lord has bidden him and will requite me good for his cursing."
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." Romans 3:28
"You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." James 2:24
Both these apostles wrote by inspiration. Paul answers this question both affirmatively and negatively, that a man is justified before God by faith, without the deeds of the law; and in the 20th verse positively affirms that "by the deeds of the no flesh will be justified." James asserts that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Paul speaks of the justification of penitent sinners before God, James of the justification of saints before men; Paul of the justification of sinners believing in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and life, James of the works of righteousness after justification by faith in Christ. Paul speaks of faith touching its office in the article of justification before God, James of faith in its fruits and effects. Paul's faith is supposed to be fruitful in obedience, in consequence of an interest in the merits of Christ; James's faith is declared so to be by obedience actually performed. Wherever there is a true faith, it must fix on Jesus Christ alone for salvation. This faith unites to Christ; and where there is union there must be love; and where there is love there must be obedience; and where there is obedience there will be a reward of grace; and when the reward is acknowledged to be of grace and not of merit, God will have all the glory in time and in eternity. Lord, give me a living, working faith, that I may be justified before God and men!
"For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth." Exodus 33:16
Reader, do you adopt the language of Moses and request with him that in all your removals, God's presence may go with you? That you be not permitted to stir without this distinguishing testimony that you are in the path of duty? Are you waiting upon the Lord, earnest to serve Him in sincerity and truth, not being conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of your mind, and desirous to be numbered with His peculiar people? Then you may expect the Divine blessing, and that your way will be prosperous. It was a distinguishing privilege of the Israelites, that they were to "dwell alone," and not to be reckoned among the nations; and it is the privilege and duty of the spiritual Israel to be separate and distinct from the world; they are a separate people in the love of God, in their election in Christ, in the covenant of grace made with them in Him, in effectual calling, in their being seated with Him at His right hand in the day of judgment, and in their being with Him to all eternity. Nor are they reckoned among the nations but they are called out of them and generally treated as the refuse and off-scouring of all things; they do not reckon themselves to be of the world but as pilgrims and strangers in it. O my God, separate me from the world; conform me to Yourself, and may all acknowledge me as Yours!
"And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21
Sin is our deadliest foe; it cast our first parents out of paradise; it defaced God's image in man; it brought pain, sickness, and death into the world, and a spiritual death into the soul; it causes a distance from God and a dislike to His holy ways; it gave Satan power over mankind; it once drowned the world and will at length consume it; it exposes body and soul to the just judgment of a holy God and will sink every unpardoned offender into everlasting destruction. How is this deadly foe to be conquered? How is this fretting leprosy of the soul to be cleansed? Reader, be careful in this matter and seek a remedy that will be efficacious. Duties, prayers, tears, sacrifices, morality, and partial reformations avail nothing in this case; all below Christ Jesus will prove physicians of no value. Jesus is the only Savior; God the Father sent Him into the world to save sinners; His name declares the same; he is called "JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." His blood is the only atonement for sin; this, sprinkled upon the heart by the Spirit and apprehended by faith, removes the guilt and curse of sin and speaks pardon and peace; His grace breaks the power of sin and turns our former love to it into utter hatred. Thus is holiness secured in the heart and life, as well as peace in the conscience. He will save from the very being of sin all that place their trust in Him. O Jesus, save me and give the evidence of salvation in my heart!
"Pour out your heart before God." Psalm 62:8
What a different view does this lively text give of praying, when opposed to the usual expression of saying our prayers saying what our books or our parents teach us, or what we have been long used to say in a formal and customary manner! To pour out our hearts is like emptying a vessel of all its contents, so that nothing remains; and what a pleasing, awesome, important thing must this be! Whatever is in my heart, my guilt or fears, my sins or sorrows, my cares and crosses, my wants, dangers, weaknesses, temptations, darkness, and ignorance, my doubts and anxieties respecting both body and soul, myself and others, the Church and the world; every thought that arises relating either to past, present, or future, I have leave to empty myself of, or to pour out my drops in a more copious stream, till not one burden remains; and this not by myself or before men (for what help can I get from either?) but before God, who is a prayer-hearing God, both able and willing to relieve, and who will not turn away from His creatures when they pour out their hearts before Him but will fill them with His consolations, which are neither few nor small. He can send a Hannah away no longer sad; can say, "Son or daughter, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you"; and send an instructor to an inquiring Cornelius, to inform him what he must do. No wonder then that real prayer is such a cordial, when it is made before Him who is a refuge for us. O for the Spirit of grace and supplication!
"By the grace of God I am what I am." 1 Corinthians 15:10
"Born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God." 1 Peter 1:23
"As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." 1 Peter 2:2
What made the wonderful difference between Saul the Pharisee and Paul the Christian? Grace. What made him trample upon his former legal righteousness and desire to be found in the righteousness of Christ? Grace, enlightening grace. Wherein consists the difference between the mere moralist and the real Christian? There may be a moral conduct where there is no grace, no principle of saving, Divine faith; there may be the fear of the Lord, taught by the precept of men, and not by the Spirit of God. A person may make a high profession, may attend the ordinances of religion and scrupulously refrain from everything that would sully his reputation before men yet all this time he may continue a stranger to the power of godliness. The apostle Paul presents, in the former part of his life, a memorable specimen of the extent to which the moral character may be carried, even while the heart is at enmity with God.
Have I the principle of grace in my soul? Have I tasted that the Lord is gracious? Then shall I desire the sincere milk of the word and thence draw comfort and nourishment for my soul. Redeeming love will be my delightful subject; it will sweeten everything in the service of my blessed Lord; it will fire me with zeal for His glory and will keep me lying low at His feet.
"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." 2 Corinthians 5:10
And are there scoffers, who madly walk after their own lusts and question the coming of the Lord? The hour hastens when infidelity shall doubt no more: "The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God." How will sinners fade away and be afraid in their close places, when visible to all, the Judge shall appear on His great white throne, and from His face the earth and the heavens flee away! Before Him shall stand the whole race of men, small and great, and by the testimony of God and their own consciences, shall be fully proved and openly declared what they have been and what they have done. Then sentence, most righteous, irrevocable, and big with eternity, shall be pronounced; on the wicked, everlasting punishment; on the righteous, life eternal! Think, oh think, what destruction is hanging over your heads, you obstinate transgressors! For, "Behold He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him." "Now is the accepted time now is the day of salvation." Now embrace Him as your offered, your all-sufficient Savior; so shall you be forever delivered from Him as your angry Judge. If you neglect the call, how shall you abide the day of His coming in flaming fire, to take vengeance on all them that know not God and obey not the gospel? O to be found in Christ at that day! O to be acquitted of all charges in consequence of union to Him!
"We, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually member of one another." Romans 12:5
O the blessed communion of saints! One member has the benefit of all the other members' gifts, prayers, and ministrations. One prays for all, and all pray for one. What one has, the other enjoys also. It may be truly said to them, "All is yours." There is no envy, no haughtiness, no strife among real saints; for why should I indulge envy toward another on account of his possessing that which I also enjoy? Why should I despise that which accommodates and assists me? And why should I strive against him whose sufferings involve my own? Is there any strife between the members of our natural body? By no means; they all serve one another. If one is injured, the rest contribute what they can toward its relief, never desisting till it appears that their efforts are unavailing. O Lord, unite us all in hearty fellowship and tender feelings for one another and heal all divisions; suffer not the proud, selfish, and litigious spirit of the world to influence the members of Your body; but bless and grace them all with true humility; then we shall live in a solid union and uninterrupted harmony.
"Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." 2 Corinthians 3:3
The image is beautiful and instructing. The epistle of Christ, written not in a stony heart but in a heart of flesh a heart softened by grace. The heart is the seat of vital religion (Jeremiah 31:33).
The word is not effectual without the operation of the Spirit of God. By the Spirit, Christians are cast into the gospel mold; thereby they become evangelical, spiritual, and heavenly; their resemblance to Christ is gradually increased; they have the witness in themselves, have the comfortable experience that they are Christ's, when they can trace His image on their hearts. They are declared to others to be epistles of Christ by their good conversation and conduct in the world, showing forth the truth, reality, and power of religion in times of affliction, and often at a dying hour. "Holiness to the Lord" is impressed in clear and durable characters. They also resemble one another in mutual love, and in love to all that bear the image of their Master.
Am I the epistle of Christ? Do I read the epistles of Christ in my Bible, and find them written on my heart? Do I see the finger of God in this Divine book, and feel His Spirit renewing my soul? Do I read the mind of God there and heartily approve of His mind? What shall I render to Him for so great a privilege? O that all who see me may recognize the handwriting of Jesus in me!
"Alleluia!" Revelation 19:1
You began the year, O my soul, with "Hosanna," imploring the Lord's blessing; can you now conclude it with an "Alleluia"? Take a review of the year past. Have you not had many mercies? Have not the eyes of the Lord been upon you for good from the beginning of the year to the end thereof? Has He not conducted you through many seen, and many more unseen dangers? Can you not with truth, as well as gratitude, set up your Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the Lord helped me"? If you have not been so fruitful in good works as might have been expected, is your Lord to blame, or yourself? Whatever good has been done in you or by you surely belongs to the favor of God; and whatever has caused shame or humiliation is nowhere chargeable but upon yourself. Praise the Lord, then, "O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you [year after year] with loving-kindness and tender mercies"; and may I be crowned at length with everlasting glory. You will soon, O my soul, enter upon another year; let dear-bought experience teach you to avoid all occasions of evil and keep you close to your God. If you live to see another day, set out afresh and remember to offer the daily sacrifice of obedience as well as of praise to your gracious God.
QUESTIONS FOR DAILY USE
Am I vitally united to Jesus Christ?
Am I crucified with Christ?
Am I entirely consecrated to Christ?
Am I daily receiving grace from Christ?
Am I growing in conformity to Christ?
Am I a friend to all the friends of Christ?
Am I living for the glory of Christ?
Am I an honor to the name of Christ?
Am I walking in the steps of Christ?
Am I breathing the spirit of Christ?
Am I a blessing to the Church of Christ?
Am I bringing sinners to Christ?
Am I daily, hourly, always, and in all things aiming to please Christ?
Am I grieved on account of the dishonor done to Christ?
Am I desiring to be with Christ?
Am I looking for the advent of Christ?
Am I ready for the coming of Christ?
A PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN GRACES
Holy, holy Lord God Almighty, who are and was and are to come: who is a God like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? You are blessed in Yourself, and the gracious Author of all our blessings. You are the only sovereign Lord, who can do what You please in heaven or earth. You alone have everlasting life in Yourself, and You only can bestow it upon others; and You dwell in that light which no man can approach, whom no man has seen or can see. You are a God at hand and a God afar off; none can hide himself in secret places where You cannot see him, for You fill heaven and earth; Your eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good; You search the heart and try the reins; even the thoughts and intents of the heart are naked and open before You.
I know, O Lord, that You can do everything. Power belongs to You, and with You nothing is impossible; what You have promised, You are able also to perform. You are good, and do good, good to all; and Your tender mercy is over all Your works.
O that You would cause Your goodness to pass before me, that I may taste and see that the Lord is good, and have His lovingkindness always before my eyes.
O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face before You; for my iniquities are increased over my head, and my trespass is grown up into the heavens; behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I will lay my hand upon my mouth and put my mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope, crying out, "Unclean, unclean!"
Lord, I come to You as the poor publican, and I pray his prayer: "God be merciful unto me a sinner!" The God of infinite mercy be merciful to me. Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin; for I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Purge my conscience with the blood of Jesus, and I shall be clean; wash me in that purple fountain, and I shall be whiter than snow; hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Let me be justified freely by Your grace, through the redemption of Jesus. Take away all my iniquities, and receive me graciously; heal my backslidings and love me freely; and let Your anger be turned away from me, for in You the fatherless finds mercy. I will say to God, "Do not condemn me but deliver me from going down into the pit, for You have found a ransom." I have sinned, Father, against heaven, and before You, and am no more worthy to be called Your son; but I have an Advocate with You, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He is the propitiation for my sin. Remember the covenant in His blood, and be merciful to my unrighteousness, and my sins and my iniquities remember no more.
Let me be justified by faith and have peace with God through Jesus Christ; and through Him let me have access to that grace wherein believers stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Lord, give me a wise and understanding heart; that which I know not, teach me; let the Spirit of truth guide me into all truth and make me to understand wherein I have erred. Make Your way plain before my face, because there are many that watch for my halting; and by the teaching of Your word and Spirit, make me wise unto salvation.
Unite my heart to fear Your name, that I may keep Your commandments. O put Your fear into my heart, that I may never depart from You, and let me be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.
Give me grace, I beseech You, to love You, the Lord my God, with all my heart and soul and mind and strength; to delight myself always in You, and therein shall I have the desire of my heart. Circumcise my heart to love You and shed abroad Your love abundantly in my heart by the Holy Spirit. May Jesus be very precious to me, as He is to all that believe. Let me delight in Him, as the chief of ten thousand and altogether lovely; and though I have not seen Him yet may I love Him; and by believing in Him, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Let the love of Christ to me constrain me to live not to myself but to Him who died for me and rose again.
Lord, put upon me that love which is the bond of perfection, that I may keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and may live in love and peace, that the God of love and peace may be with me. Give me to love my neighbor as myself, with that love which is the fulfilling of the law; to love Him with a pure heart fervently. Enable me to be kindly affectioned toward my Christian brethren; so shall I know that I am passed from death unto life, and all will know that I am Your disciple. Lord, teach me to love my enemies; to bless them that curse me; to pray for them that despitefully use me; forbearing them and forgiving them, as I trust You, for Christ's sake, have forgiven me.
Lord, give me grace to deny myself, to take up my cross daily and follow Christ, to keep under the body and to bring it into subjection; let me learn of Christ to be meek and lowly in heart, that I may find rest to my soul; hide pride from me and clothe me with humility; and put upon me the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in Your sight is of great price. Let anger never rest in my bosom, nor the sun go down upon my wrath; but enable me to show all meekness toward all men; let me have bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and long-suffering that the same mind may be in me which was in Christ Jesus my Lord.
Lord, teach me in every estate to be content; let my conduct be without covetousness; may I always be content with such things as I have still saying, "The will of the Lord be done." Lord, give me grace to weep as though I wept not, to rejoice as though I rejoiced not, to buy as though I possessed not, and to use this world as not abusing it; because time is short, and the fashion of this world passes away. May the very God of peace sanctify me wholly; and I pray God, my whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life; when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, be with me, that I may fear no evil; let Your rod and Your staff comfort me. Redeem my soul from the power of the grave and receive me; guide me by Your counsel and afterwards receive me to glory, through Jesus Christ my blessed Lord and Savior to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, thanksgiving and praise, for- ever and ever. Amen.
A PRAYER FOR THE GRACE OF PERSEVERANCE
Eternal God, with whom is everlasting strength, You are able to keep us from falling and to perform the good work begun in us, till the day of Jesus Christ. But, Lord, You know how weak and changeable I am, how apt to shrink back or start aside after I have been hopefully set in the way toward heaven; and in what danger I still am of ruining myself, after all the great things You have done for me. O Lord of love, have pity on my infirmities and strengthen me in my weakness. Preserve me, blessed Guardian of Your people, who keeps the feet of Your saints; O preserve me from the danger of apostasy and put Your fear in my heart, that I may not depart from You. Make me so firmly Yours, that nothing which befalls me in the world may ever part You in my soul; and make more resolute for Your service, that nothing which any can say or do may interrupt me in that way of life which is to depart from hell beneath. Let me not be of the number of those who draw back to destruction but of their happy number who believe to the saving of the soul.
O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand; go on, I pray, to work for the glory of Your name and to perfect that which concerns me. You have been my help; leave me not nor forsake me, O God of my salvation; but hold me up, and I shall be safe, and I will have respect to Your statutes continually. Establish, O Lord; strengthen, settle me, and leave me no will or power to resist the gracious designs and methods of Your love and mercy, for the healing and saving of my soul. And as I, by my frailty, do still renew my sins, gracious Lord, through Your mercy, renew me to repentance; and though I fall, let me not utterly be cast down but uphold me by Your almighty hand; preserve me to Your heavenly kingdom and keep me by Your power, through faith unto salvation. Lord, make me faithful unto death, that You may give me the crown of life, that blessed end of my faith, even the eternal salvation of my soul, through Jesus Christ, my dear Lord and Savior. Amen.
A PRAYER FOR A CHILD
Glory be to You, O Lord, in whom I live and move and have my being, who have preserved me ever since I was born.
I humbly worship You, O Lord, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, my Redeemer. O give me Your grace, that I may faithfully serve You all the days of my life. Wash me from the guilt of my sins in the fountain of Christ's precious blood; save me daily, by Your grace, from the practice of sin; let Your good Spirit restrain and cleanse the corruption of my nature; help me to remember You, my Creator, in the days of my youth; preserve me from those errors and follies to which the frailty of my age most exposes me, and keep me innocent from every great offense. Deliver me from lying and vanity, from picking and stealing, from swearing and Sabbath breaking and from the temptations of evil company.
Incline my heart to all that is good, that I may be modest and humble, true and just, meek and kind, temperate and diligent, respectful and obedient to all my superiors; and especially that I may fear and love You above all, and my neighbor as myself. Let Your good providence defend me from all evil night and day; let the grace of Your Holy Spirit continually direct and assist me; bless me in my learning and help me daily to increase in knowledge and wisdom and in all virtues; instruct me, O Lord, more and more in the truths of Your holy word and in the knowledge of Your salvation, that I may live holily, die comfortably, and be eternally happy in Your kingdom of bliss and glory.
Bless all my dear friends, relations, and benefactors; grant to them whatever may be good for them in this life, and guide them and me to everlasting happiness in Your kingdom, through Jesus Christ, my dear Lord and Savior. Amen. Our Father, etc.
AN ADDRESS BEFORE PUBLIC WORSHIP
O Lord, I am now in Your house; assist me, I pray, and accept of my services; let Your Holy Spirit help my infirmities, disposing my heart to seriousness, attention, and devotion, to the honor of Your holy name and the benefit of my soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
AFTER THE SERMON IS DONE
Blessed be Your name, O Lord, for this opportunity of attending You in Your house and service. Make me, I pray, a doer of Your word, and not a hearer only. Accept both us and our services, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Heavenly Father, as You have kindly made this provision for our needs, condescend to sanctify it to our use and give us grace to eat and drink to Your glory. Feed our souls with the bread of life and indulge us with communion with Yourself, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Gracious Lord, we bless You for every manifestation of Your kindness, especially for the food we have now received for the refreshment of our bodies; ever more supply our needs as they return and grant us every spiritual blessing that we need, for our dear Redeemer's sake. Amen.