Free Grace and Dying Love!
A Carillon of Bells, to Ring out the Old Truths of Free Grace and Dying Love!
by Susannah Spurgeon
"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe!" Ephesians 1:18-19
"Sometimes, in my house of grief
For moments, I have come to stand
Where, in the sorrows on me laid,
I felt the chastening of God's hand.
Then learned I that the weakest ones
Are kept securest from life's harms;
And that the tender lambs alone
Are carried in the shepherd's arms!"
A CARILLON OF BELLS
"He who spared not His own Son . . how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32
Dear Lord, faith's fingers are joyfully touching the keys of this carillon of sweet bells this morning, and making them ring jubilantly to the praise of Your gracious Name!
"He who spared not!"
"How shall He not!"
What a peal of absolute triumph it is! Not a note of doubt or uncertainty mars the Heavenly music. Awake, my heart, and realize that it is your faith which is making such glorious melody! You can scarcely believe it, for gladness? Yet it is blessedly true, for the Lord Himself has given the grace, and then accepts the tribute of gratitude and praise which that grace brings. Press the tuneful keys again and again, for faith holds festival today, and the joy of assurance is working wonders.
"He who spared not!"
"How shall He not!"
Hear how the repeated negatives gloriously affirm the fact of His readiness to bless! These silver bells have truly the power to scare away all evil things.
"He who spared not His own Son." He gave His most precious treasure — could He withhold any lesser good from you? He has given you pounds; will He refuse you pence? No! While faith is thus quickened into lively exercise by the Spirit of God, the cadences of exulting praise must ring out, clear and loud, "How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
Think well, my heart, what "all things" mean to you! If you have Christ — then along with Him, and included in Him, you possess "all things!" All spiritual blessings, rich and precious — are laid up for you in this Divine storehouse, and God's choicest and most excellent gifts are here waiting for your faith to claim them! Rejoice, O my soul, that Christ and "the things of Christ" cannot be divided!
Pardon, peace, sanctification, close walking with God, constant communion with Jesus, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — are not all these gathered together "with Him" as a cluster of ripe grapes on a choice vine? Having Him — you have all else. There is not a need or desire of your inner life which cannot be triumphantly met by faith's unwavering challenge, "He who spared not His own Son . . how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things!" Nor is there a necessity of your temporal state which cannot equally claim the blessing of possessing "all things" in Christ.
Lord, quicken my faith, give me to see how deep and wide, and full and free — is the unspeakable love which spared not Your own Son, and therefore can spare every other gift, to me, Your undeserving child! I thank You that it is not '"way over Jordan, Lord," that I must go to "ring these charming bells"; but here, now, in the sanctuary of my heart, and all day long in the open cloisters of my daily life — I may make the blessed music resound to Your glory, and my own exceeding gladness —
"How shall He not!"
"How shall He not!"
JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF
"Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope" 2 Thessalonians 2:16
"Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself." Oh, the Divine mystery of wondrous love and pity which is enwrapped in these few words!" The precious things of Heaven," "the chief things of the ancient mountains," and "the precious things of the everlasting hills" — are surely all gathered together here; and, with a deep and unutterable longing, my soul desires to search and find them.
That "Name which is above every name" is sung by angels as their sweetest song; but the tender earthly cadence which my heart hears in that emphatic word — "Himself" — intensifies its melody to me. Never before did a personal pronoun bear such significance, or convey to the heart so dear an assurance of perfect sympathy and love. We say sometimes of choice possessions, that they are our "very own"; and when we speak of You, dear Master, as "Jesus Christ Himself" there is an added fragrance in the "ointment poured forth," a personal realization of what You are to us in Your Divine Manhood, which draws us "with cords of a man, with bands of love." It brings You so close to me as my Savior — it seems to reveal You as the One who can "be touched with the feeling of our infirmities," and who sympathizes in all our sorrows — because You were "found in fashion as a man."
"Jesus Christ HIMSELF!" I say it over and over again until my soul is filled with its sweetness, and my heart is satisfied with the peace of believing — that this Blessed One is mine, and that He loves even me!
"God our Father!" Lord, help me to realize all that this wonderful relationship means to me! As Your child, I may claim all that You have promised to give. And if I am living and acting as Your child — dwelling with You, loving You, and obeying You — I shall assuredly find that Your Father love is ready to grant every reasonable desire of my heart.
Dear Lord, when I see, as I often do, some earthly fathers, whose love for their little ones is intense, forbearing, and unspeakably tender — I feel ashamed that I do not better understand the love of Your heart toward me — Your child through faith in Christ Jesus! Do You ask, "How much more?" I cannot work out such a sum, Lord! But I know that Your love must be infinitely greater, closer, and dearer — because You are the infinite God, and that You have loved me with an everlasting love!
Oh, that I may have the spirit of a little child — when I draw near to You! What little one is afraid to run to a loving father, and ask for all that it wants? Never a doubt rises in a child's mind, as to the supply of all his needs, and the direction of all that concerns him. The child has positively no anxious care for the present, no worry for the morrow, no fears for the past. It reasons, "Father knows everything. Father can do everything. Father provides everything. Father loves me!"
"Who has loved us!" O my soul, can you for a moment imagine what it would be of bliss, and rest, and peace — to live out day by day such a child-life in the love of the Father?
He knows me altogether! He understands all my individual peculiarities. He sees . . .
my sore temptations,
my sinfulness, and
my daily shortcomings.
But He loves me — notwithstanding all! And not for any merit or worthiness in me — but because I am His redeemed child. I have believed on His dear Son, whom He gave to die for my sins; I have received His complete salvation; I have received the Spirit of adoption, and now, with confidence and perfect trust, I can look up to Him, and say, "Abba, Father!"
And does not this suffice to make me absolutely without worry — like a little child?
O my Father, teach me to realize how deep, and strong, and pitiful is the love of Your heart to me — since it led You to give Your only-begotten Son — Jesus Christ Himself — to redeem me, and bring me home to You, my God!
THE GIFT OF GOD!
"If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." John 4:10
O weary Man, footsore and sorrowful, sitting thus on the well, asking a drink of water at the hands of a poor sinful woman — You are my Lord and my Redeemer; I believe in You, I love You, I worship You!
Nearly two thousand years have passed since You spoke the sweet words which are now comforting my heart, yet with what power, and solace, and blessing — do they come to me at this moment!
"If you knew." Lord, You have told me who You are, You have in mercy revealed Yourself to me. I know You to be that blessed "gift of God" who alone can save and satisfy my soul. The depth and compass of Heavenly love are manifested in You, and You have shown me, not my need only — but the sufficiency of Your grace and power to meet it.
I am an empty sinner — You are a full Christ!
"You would have asked!" This, too, O blessed One, You have taught me and enabled me to do; and my heart's constant cry, "Lord, give me this living water!" is familiar to Your listening ears! It is You Yourself whom I want; Lord, "my soul thirsts after You!" Not Your gifts, nor Your grace, nor even Your glory — could satisfy the desire of a soul which You have made to long for Yourself. You, the Giver of all other precious things — are Yourself the choicest, the "unspeakable" gift! Lord, into the thirst of my empty heart — pour the full stream of Your living love! Give me Yourself — or I die!
And, having asked, I believe that You give, for Your own lips have said it, "He would have given" and I whisper softly to myself, the blessed words, "Who loved ME, and gave Himself for ME," realizing the sacred, overflowing joy of pardoned sin, and peace with God, filling and satisfying my soul.
So, dear Lord, my spirit, like a weary bird, folds her wings beside this sweet well-spring of comfort, creeps into this blessed "Cleft of the Rock," and is at rest!
HIS GREAT LOVE
"Not that we loved God — but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10
As the precious balm of Gilead, or the cassia and sweet calamus of the holy anointing oil — so these blessed words came into my dull and aching heart this morning. Dear Lord, I thank You for them; You have taken them from Your own Book, and spoken them to me with Your living, loving voice — and they have quickened me to love You!
With shame and sorrow, I had brought to You my hard and insensible heart. I could only groan out my utter lack both of faith and feeling before You. The very desire to love You — seemed to lie fettered and powerless within me; only an occasional struggle revealing its bare existence. Then, Lord, while I knelt in Your presence, with bowed head and troubled spirit — tears and sighs my only prayers — and You whispered those sweet words in my ear, and they brought light and liberty to my captive soul! Blessed be Your dear Name for this glorious deliverance!
It is not my poor, cold, half-hearted love — which is to satisfy and comfort me; but Your love — great, and full, and free, and as eternal as Yourself! Surely, I had known this before, Lord; but I had shut myself up in unbelief until, in Your sweet mercy — You spoke the Word which released me from my bonds, opened my prison doors, and led me out into the sunshine of true peace in believing!
"Not that we loved God!" No, and that is the sad wonder and mystery of our unrenewed life, dearest Master. Not to have loved You — is our greatest guilt and shame. It was even worse than this with us, for we were enemies, by wicked works — to Him who claimed the most ardent and grateful love of our souls! We had put ourselves in an attitude of defiance against our best Friend; or if not openly defiant, we were totally forgetful of Him to whom our heart's allegiance was justly due.
"Not that we loved God!" Ah, dearest Lord, You know how deeply, sadly true this was of me — and how I mourn over the years spent without love to You, and at a distance from You! O hard heart, O blind eyes, O poor, dull, sluggish soul — that could be unmindful of the strivings of God's Spirit, could deliberately neglect the pleadings of a Savior's love, and see no beauty in One who is "altogether lovely!"
"But that He loved us!" Here is . . .
a blessed contrast,
the antidote for sin's sting,
light after darkness,
hope after despair,
life after death!
Lord, my soul flings itself on this glorious fact, this saving truth — as a drowning man seizes upon a life-belt thrown to him in the surging sea! If You do not love me and save me — I must perish forever. But there is no question of sinking — when Jesus saves; no fear of losing life — when He loves.
O my Lord, how I thank You for this precious Word upon which You have caused me to hope! Now, all the day long, my heart shall sing over the safety and blessedness of being freely loved — instead of fretting about the sad lack of my poor love to You.
"Not that we loved God" — is darkness, and bitterness, and eternal destruction!
"That He loved us" — is light and pardon, peace and everlasting life!
THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD
"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed — yet My loving-kindness shall not depart from you, nor My covenant of peace be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you." Isaiah 54:10
Sometimes, we like to think of the consolation which awaits us in Heaven, when our warfare is accomplished, and our iniquity is pardoned. But here, in this precious Scripture — we have comfort and help for the daily life and strife of earth.
The loving-kindness of God! It is unutterable, illimitable, unchangeable! Every believer has experienced it; but the whole host of the redeemed, gathered from all lands, throughout all ages — could not tell the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths of this "great" "everlasting" "loving" kindness, which dwells in the heart of God for His people!
"My loving-kindness!" Dear Lord, the words are as sweet to my soul — as honey and the honeycomb. They carry in them . . .
an answer to all my fears,
a response to all my pleas,
a promise of power to overcome all my weakness.
I say to You, sometimes, "Lord, how is it that You can be so tender and gracious to one so forgetful, so unworthy, so inexcusable as I am?" And Your answer is, "My loving-kindness! I have loved you with an everlasting love!"
"But, Lord, I am a worse and greater sinner than I thought I was! Every day reveals to me some hitherto undiscovered evil in my heart, which must be displeasing in Your sight." Again You say, "My loving-kindness! I have put away your sin!"
"But, Lord, I have no power to do right, I cannot of myself, even think a good thought — much less live that life of holiness which You command and require." And again You give me that sweet reply, "My loving-kindness! My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness!"
Oh! that I had a seraph's tongue to tell, or a pen dipped in the praises of Heaven to write — what His loving-kindness and tender-mercy have been to me!
"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed — yet My loving-kindness shall not depart from you!" God's negatives and affirmatives — are like great rocks jutting out from the insecure and shifting sands of all earthly experiences. When a troubled, bewildered soul is enabled by faith to cling fast to one of these — all fear vanishes, all anxiety is gone, nothing can move it from its confidence and peace.
We have all suffered, more or less, from the ever-changing influences around us. And perhaps we ourselves have added somewhat to the sorrow which is in the world — by reason of our fickleness and changeableness. But never, for one moment, has our God withdrawn the love with which He loved us from all eternity! Never has He forsaken or forgotten one of those who have put their trust in Him. Tis true, our sins and our ingratitude may so grieve and provoke Him — that He may hide His face from us for a while. But even then, "My loving-kindness shall not depart from you!"
O my loving Lord, let the support and comfort of this precious "shall not" sink deep into my soul this morning, and strengthen me to face every difficulty, and resist every evil, and bear any trial — with the courage such an assurance gives! Or, make it a sweet resting place and refuge for me, Lord — where I may be sheltered from all the disturbing changes of the world around me. Though friends may grow cold, and times may change, and circumstances may alter, and old age may creep on, and infirmities may gather themselves together, and flesh and heart may fail — yes, though my feet touch the cold waters of the river of death — yet this promise will stand sure and true! Your loving-kindness shall not depart from me forever — for it shall present me "faultless before the presence of Your glory with exceeding joy!"
THE INCOMPARABLE GREATNESS OF GOD'S POWER
"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the incomparable greatness of His power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength" Ephesians 1:18-19
Come, my heart, satisfy and delight yourself, this morning, with the thought of what your mighty God can do for you — the grace He is able to give you now — the glory He is reserving for you — the uplifting, upholding, strengthening, and preserving power, which is all vested in His loving hands on your behalf. Here is a storehouse of riches on which your largest demands can make no perceptible diminishment — and all this is yours!
"Incomparable greatness." Yes, Lord — You power is more vast and wonderful than my poor finite mind can conceive.
Your power bids the sun to pour forth his radiant light and heat!
Your power holds the stars in space, and hangs the earth upon nothing!
Your power rules the universe with a word!
Is it not exceeding great? All nature shows Your handiwork, and Your wondrous power is as much seen in the lowest forms of life and growth — as in the nobler developments of Your creative hand. All the discoveries of science, all the revelations of its secrets which have of late so surprised and delighted us — are but glimpses of the infinite might and wisdom of the God whose "love is as great as His power, and neither knows measure nor end."
But, Lord, it is not on the majesty of Your Omnipotence as shown in Your material world — that I would meditate at this moment; it is "the incomparable greatness of His power for us who believe" which enthralls my heart, and thrills my soul with joy!
Help me to draw near to You, dear Lord, humbly and reverently, that I may "see this great sight!" For, though this is holy ground, and the bush burns with fire — there is no barrier, as of old, to prevent a near approach to You, seeing that, now, we "are made near by the blood of Christ."
If I have true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — then the incomparable greatness of the power of the Most High God, "according to the working of His mighty power," is for me — is on my side. Or — I say it with deep reverence — at my service, always at hand to help, to guard, to defend, and to provide for me.
My pen pauses as I ask myself, "Do I believe this? Do any Christians really believe this? Is it possible that there can be among the feeble, doubting, self-engrossed, and half-hearted people that I see and hear of — any who possess the assurance that the power of the living God dwells in them, and that they 'can do all things through Christ who strengthens' them? If there are any such — why, oh why do they not walk worthy of their high calling?"
Look to yourself, O my soul. Is the incomparable greatness of the Lord's power manifest in you as it should be? Blessed be His Name, you can say, "He has redeemed me from death and Hell, pardoned my sins through the shedding of His precious blood, and given me a promise of life eternal in His presence!" But what more? Those are the cardinal gifts of His grace — the corner-stones of His mercy and love. What do you possess of the details of His mighty working, the filling-up, as it were, of the great plan of His will and design concerning you? What does "the effectual working of His power" produce in your heart and life? Are you wholly consecrated to His service? Have you given yourself and all that you have — into His loving hands? Are you filled with His Holy Spirit? Does He control every thought, and word, and deed? And are all the abilities of your being, and all the possessions of both soul and body — subject and surrendered to His absolute sway?
Ah, Lord! Your poor child sorrowfully confesses to falling very far short of the high standard of Christian life to which Your Word expects us to attain. In common with so many others, I seem to live at a "poor dying rate" — when I might have "life more abundantly!" I know that the possibilities of conformity to Christ, are only to be measured by the exceeding riches of Your grace, and the incomparable greatness of Your power — and yet I sometimes seem content without a full participation in the glorious experience which Your love offers.
Lord, enlighten and quicken me, I beseech You! Put forth in me the mighty grace which will make my daily life a clear proof that You are working Your own will in me, and giving me to know, at least in some measure — what is "the incomparable greatness of His power for us who believe."
THE MOURNER'S COMFORTER
"He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces!" Isaiah 25:8
Come, all you sorrowful, mourning souls — and see what a wondrous pearl of promise your God has brought to light for you, out of the very depths of your sea of affliction. Here is an assurance so inexpressibly tender, a fact so blessed and joyful — that you can hardly regret the weeping which is to enlist such Divine sympathy and consolation.
Come, and we will together — for I also am a mourner — look into this precious Word of our God. We will dwell upon its unspeakable love, we will think upon its gentle pity — until our tears catch its soft radiance, and glisten with the beauty of the "rainbow around about the throne."
I have sometimes wondered whether that glorious arch, encircling the very throne of God, can be typical of the transformation of earth's sorrows into Heavenly joys — a lovely symbol of the shining of God's pardoning love upon the rain of tears from mortal eyes — for sin, and suffering, and death. There can be no rainbow without showers — and certainly there can be no weeping in Heaven; so, may it not be, that the Lord has put this rainbow in His high and holy place, as a token to us, that all the tears we shed on earth — are reflected up in Heaven, and gleam there in fair colors, as the light of His love to us in Christ Jesus falls tenderly upon them.
"I have seen your tears," He says, "they shall all be wiped away some day." How often are we constrained to cry, "My eyes fill with tears" — for the sin which still rises up with terrible force in our heart, and how constantly have we to weep over the evil which is present with us! Such tears are mute but eloquent witnesses of our repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No jewels can be so lovely and precious in His sight — as the tears of a sinner for his sin. Yet these tears shall all be wiped away some day!
The salt drops which steal down our cheeks through physical suffering — wrung from our eyes by mortal pain and weakness — are all seen by our loving Lord. They are put into His bottle, His purpose concerning them shall be manifest when their mission is accomplished, and then the source from whence they sprang shall be forever dried up. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!"
And with what inconceivable tenderness, shall the bitter tears caused by bereavement be wiped away, when we get home! Here, the deep waters of our sorrow seem to be assuaged for a little while, only to burst forth again with greater power to deluge our hearts with the memory of past anguish; but how completely will all traces of grief vanish there! When we see for ourselves the glory of that land where our beloved ones have passed before us, our wonder will be that we could have sorrowed at all at sparing them from life's woes — to enter into the "fullness of joy" at God's right hand.
"The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces!" There is not the shadow of a doubt about this, poor sighing soul. Not only did our Father inspire His prophet Isaiah to speak thus assuredly, but, twice repeated, He gave the same sweet message to the apostle John at Patmos: "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!" As a fond mother hushes her child, as a tender husband solaces his spouse — so, weeping one, shall your God comfort you when He brings you home, and your consolation shall be so complete that you shall "no more remember your sorrow."
Yes, the world is full of weeping; even Paul spoke of "serving the Lord with many tears." Every heart knows its own bitterness — and every heart has a bitterness to know. Sin must bring sorrow — tears are the inheritance of earth's children. But in the city where we are bound, "God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain — for the old order of things has passed away."
Blessed be Your dear Name, O Lord, for this "strong consolation" — this "good hope through grace." Tears may, and must come; but if they gather in eyes that are constantly looking up to You and Heaven — they will glisten with the brightness of the coming glory!
THE LOVELINESS OF GOD'S WILL
"May Your will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven." Matthew 6:10
When my soul is tossed on the rough waves of the troubled sea of this life — if I can but cast out the anchor of hope into the depths of God's blessed will — it holds fast at once, and the winds and the waves are rebuked.
Dear Father, I thank You that You have made Your will so dear and precious to me! Once, in the midst of darkness and unutterable sorrow, You enabled me to say, "He has done all things well!" And now, though the days are calmer, the fast-revolving years bring round the time of sad memories, and I look back, and say it still, "He has done all things well!"
"May Your will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven" My God, I bless You for the most welcome and soothing thought that, while the dear one You have taken from me is joyfully doing Your will in Heaven — I, by Your tender grace, may be doing the same on earth. I cannot do it as perfectly; but I may do it patiently, humbly, and acceptably. Lord, make this my daily desire and delight! How near this hope brings me to my beloved! "He is with Christ — and Christ is with me;" there is but the veil of flesh between us, and that may be rent asunder any day soon, and then we shall be "together with Him."
"May Your will be done." This resting in the will of God, is one of the most comforting and blessed experiences of the Christian life. To say, "May Your will be done" — not in a reluctant or compulsory way, as if we were shrinking from some inevitable pain — but with a sincere and glad conviction that our dear Father is really doing for us what is best and most loving, although it may not look so to our dull eyes — this is glorifying to Him, and supremely consoling to us.
God's plans and purposes for me, and for you, dear reader — were all made and determined from the beginning. And as they are worked out day by day in our lives — how wise would we be if, with joyful certainty, we accepted each unfolding of His will — as a proof of His faithfulness and love! When once I, as a believer, can say from my heart, "This is the will of God concerning me" — then it matters not what the "this" is — whether it be a small domestic worry, or the severance of the dearest earthly ties — the fact that it is His most blessed will — takes all the fierce sting out of the trouble, and leaves it powerless to hurt or hinder the peace of my soul.
There is a vast difference between the murderous blows of an enemy — and the needful chastisement of a loving father's hand! The Lord may make us sore — but He will bind us up. He may wound — but His hands make whole. How often has the Lord to break a heart — before He can enter into it, and fill it with His love. But how precious and fragrant is the balm which, thenceforward, flows out of that heart to others! Dear Father, how many of Your children can truly say, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray — but now have I kept Your Word!"
"May Your will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven!" Lord, can such a thing really be? The attainment seems so high, so Heavenly, so impossible! Yet, if it were not within our reach, You would not have taught us to pray for it. Doing the will of God from the heart — must be at least the reflection, the copy — of the perfect obedience of the saints in glory. Oh, to be thus beginning the service of Heaven — while yet on earth! Practicing here — to be made perfect there! We are but learning the laws, and manners, and customs of the land where our eternal inheritance awaits us! Say, my soul, are you thus diligently preparing yourself for your citizenship in Heaven?
YOUR WAY; NOT MY WAY
"Make Your way straight before my face." Psalm 5:8
Dear Father, this cry is going up to You, this morning, from many a tried and perplexed soul, who is fearing to "wander in the wilderness, in a pathless wasteland." Will You graciously bend down Your ear, and listen to their prayer, and grant the desired direction and guidance?
"Make Your way straight." Dear Lord, it is not that Your ways are ever crooked or deviating, but that my eyes are bent on seeing pleasant little bypaths, where the road is not so rough, or the walking so toilsome — as on the King's highway! My way looks so enticing, so easy, so agreeable to the flesh. Your way means self-denial, taking up the cross, and the relinquishment of much that my carnal heart desires.
Now, dear Lord, hear my cry, "Make Your way straight before my face!" Compel me, by the power of Your love and Your example — to go in the narrow road! "Hedge up my way with thorns," rather than that I should take a step out of Your way which You have laid down for me.
What if, sometimes, there are mists and fogs so thick that I cannot see the path? 'Tis enough that You hold my hand, and guide me in the darkness; for walking with You in the gloom — is far sweeter and safer than walking alone in the sunlight!
Dear Lord, give me grace to trust You wholly, whatever may befall; yielding myself up to Your leading, and leaning hard on You when "dangers are in the path." Your way for me has been marked out from all eternity, and it leads directly to Yourself and home! Help me to keep my eyes fixed on the joy that is set before me, and deliver me from the very faintest desire to turn aside, and linger in the flowery meadows which have so often lured the feet of poor pilgrims into danger and distress!
Father, You have said, "My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts." True, dear Lord; but then You can uplift my thoughts to Yours, and exalt my ways until they reach the mountain-top of obedience to Your blessed will. Work this miracle for me this day, O Lord; use that sweet compulsion which will delight my heart, while it directs my steps! Make me to run in the way of Your commandments, and I shall run gladly, with the blessed certainty that I shall reach the goal at last! Have You not given me a monitor within, which strikes a gentle warning note, when my feet turn but an instant from the straight way?
But, best of all, dearest Lord, come Yourself with me along life's road, today and every day! Let the abiding of my soul in You be so real and constant, so true and tender — that I may always be aware of Your sweet presence, and never take a single step apart from Your supporting and delivering hand!
GOD'S BEAUTY UPON HIS PEOPLE
"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us!" Psalm 90:17
When I read these wonderful words this morning, there came to me, quick as a lightning flash, the solemn question, "O my soul, is this beauty now resting on you, and on all your daily life?" Alas! there was no reply by speech or voice; but a bowed head, and silent lips, and the inward sighing of a convicted, yet penitent heart — gave the only possible answer.
Then I sat down before the Lord, wondering and ashamed, and the multitude of my thoughts within me took form and fashion thus: Father, You know that I covet earnestly the loveliness of sanctification, I would gladly obey Your command to be holy; and if longings after complete surrender to You would avail to secure this special grace — I would possess it. What is it that so constantly defeats my purpose, and foils my efforts, and prevents the fulfillment of my most devout desire?
Dear Master, if Your will concerning me is my sanctification, why is not that will more absolutely done in me? Can it be that I am unconsciously cherishing something in my heart that hinders the work of Your Holy Spirit, and so the blessing You have designed for me does not reach me, because the way is barred by a will not wholly yielded to Yours? Or have I been satisfying myself with mere empty desires after conformity to Christ, indulging in poor feeble longings in which there was so much half-heartedness, that the Spirit of God was grieved, and would not reveal His power?
O Lord, pity me — and pardon me! Awaken my soul to an earnest sense of the solemn responsibility involved in belonging to You, and bearing Your Name! Rouse in me, Lord, a blessed eagerness to become all that You wish me to be! Fill me with that mighty influence which works in us "both to will and to do" of Your good pleasure! Yes, chasten and afflict me, Lord — if nothing else will serve to make me a partaker of Your holiness!
"Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Dear Father, I must have this blessing. Help me to pray the marvelous prayer intelligently, remembering at what an awful cost You have secured to me an answer, and glorifying You for the matchless love which makes me —
"With His spotless vesture on,
As Holy as the Holy One!"
What has God wrought! I can see, only too plainly, the ugliness and deformity which sin has worked in my nature, and the havoc it has made among all the creatures whom God had formed for Himself. If it had not been for this heinous thing, sin — we would have borne "the image of God" even now. Does the lily plead for its whiteness, or the tree for its lovely foliage, or the sun for his splendor? Nay, they are as God made them; they have kept their first estate, and are still "very good"; but man, sinful man, has fallen, and he who was made in the likeness of God is defaced and disfigured by the evil within.
Ah! dear Lord, when You give us a sight of our own evil heart — we are overwhelmed with horror, and would soon be driven to despair, did You not at once turn our eyes to that wondrous hill of Calvary, where One "altogether lovely" made the great Atonement which brought us back to You! That precious blood, which cleanses us from all sin, restores to us the beauty which that sin has forfeited; its royal purple not only covers our disfigurement, but removes it, and bestows upon us the loveliness which the Lord looks on with pleasure.
O soul of mine, do you not desire above all things that this "beauty of holiness" may be your glorious dress? Then you must keep very close to the Master, shutting the door of your heart to every evil thing, and opening it wide to the incoming of His Holy Spirit, who, in revealing Christ to you — will make you like Him.
An old fable tells how a piece of common clay became sweetly scented by close contact with a fragrant rose. The fable will be a blessed fact in your experience — if the Rose of Sharon blooms in your heart, and sheds its fragrance around your life.
"Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty," yes, may God grant it; but the condition is thus expressed, "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
Everlasting praises be to the Well-beloved of our soul, that His perfect righteousness covers us now; and also in the day when He shall bring us home to His Father's house, and shall present us "before His glorious presence — without fault and with great joy!" Jude 1:24
"I shall be anointed with fresh oil" Psalm 92:10
Lord, if You Yourself will put this confident language into the lips of my heart this morning, and give me the power to believe in You — then this thing that I say shall come to pass — I have Your own Word for it (Mark 11:23).
"I shall be anointed with fresh oil." How wonderfully do Your mercy and my need meet together here! My soul's necessities — make a blessed occasion for the outpouring of Your grace. When Your love awakens me in the morning, how cheering is the thought that this anointing awaits my poor listless, sluggish, corroded soul! The "renewing of the Holy Spirit", the "quickening of the Spirit", the "coming" of the Comforter — these are the precious ingredients which give "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning," and make the face to shine with Heaven's reflected glory!
"I shall be anointed with fresh oil." O my dear Lord, You alone know the deep and constant need I have of this "anointing which teaches all things." Sometimes, my spiritual life seems to come to a deadlock, like a delicate piece of machinery which is clogged by rust and grime. Scarcely a desire Heavenward moves the lagging wheels, only a feeble heart-throb, now and again, proves the motive-power to be still lingering within. "My soul cleaves unto the dust!" and my whole being is deadened, until I cry, "Quicken me, O Lord!"
Then, in wondrous answer to my call, there comes the whispered word of power and deliverance, "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes," and my soul feels the blessed softening and life-giving working of the Holy Spirit, as she shakes herself from the dust, and utters once again the glad assurance, "I shall be anointed with fresh oil."
And oh, how easily and smoothly all things go — when the Spirit dwells in the heart, and sheds abroad the love of God within and around us! All the grime and rust disappear from our daily lives, and with eager diligence, we set ourselves to do our Master's will.
Dear Lord, Your Word declares, "The anointing which you have received of Him, abides in you." Fulfill this promise to me, I beseech You, that I may no more dishonor You by languid or half-hearted worship or work.
Anoint me for service, Lord — that, in all that I do for You, either directly or indirectly — there may be manifested the power of the Holy Spirit, and the wholehearted earnestness which He alone can supply!
Anoint me for sacrifice — so that, contrary to my sinful nature, self may be overcome, and bound, and crucified — that Christ alone may reign in my mortal body!
Anoint me for suffering, if so it be Your will — that I may praise You as I pass through the waters and the fires of affliction!
Anoint me for intercession, O my Father — that for others, as well as for myself, I may plead with You, and may prevail!
This morning, Lord, pour Your holy "oil of joy" upon my head, and let the precious, fragrant unction of Your grace drop down from hour to hour of the day's garments, until the skirts of night shall enfold both body and soul in the sweet spices of the sleep which You give to Your beloved!
"Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning; for in You do I trust" Psalm 143:8
The ears of my soul are stopped up, Lord — until You open them. I am deaf, and cannot hear the music of the mercies which are singing around me, like sweet choristers from Heaven.
"Cause me to hear." As You opened the eyes of Elisha's servant, to behold Your armies of defense and protection for Your prophet — so unstop my ears that the tones of Your still small voice may penetrate to my heart, and thrill it with exceeding joy. Or, if I am too deafened by the roar and rush of earth's turmoil and distress, speak more loudly to me, Lord. "Cause me to hear," lest I should miss the unspeakable privilege of listening to You.
"Your loving-kindness." Lord, what unutterable depths of compassion are covered by those two words! Your "kindness" would be an undeserved mercy; but Your "loving-kindness" is a miracle of Divine condescension and pity. You do not only rescue — You embrace. You do not only pardon — You espouse; and the robe of Your righteousness, which is wrapped about Your redeemed ones, is lined with the soft miniver of Your tender mercies. And this for me, Lord — so vile, so unworthy, so often ungrateful and forgetful! What can I say to You for this?
"In the morning." When all around are sleeping, Lord, awaken my heart with Your tender call, uplift my spirit into true fellowship with You. Early hours with my God will sanctify all the day. In my quiet time with You, Father — so fill my soul with the sweet sounds of redeeming grace and pardoning love that, through all the following hours, there may be melody within, and joy too deep and real to be disturbed or broken by any of earth's jarring discords.
"For in You do I trust." You know this is true, Lord. My soul rests in You; it lies down on the sure promises of Your Word, and has sweet content. Yes, though this prayer, this desire of my heart to hear Your voice, be not granted today, and You should be silent unto me for a while, it will be but Your way of drawing me closer to You that, in tenderest whispers, You may tell me, "I have loved you with an everlasting love!"
"My eyes fail with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me" Isaiah 38:14
Hezekiah had been very sick when he wrote the psalm, or ode, from which these words are taken. A long and painful illness had brought him to "the gates of the grave," and he here expresses, in pathetic language, some of the groans, and sighs, and cries, which were wrung from his heart during the time when he feared that he might be deprived of the remainder of his years.
"My eyes fail with looking upward." Upon first reading these words, my heart felt envious of the poor sick king's experience. What! To look up to God so constantly and continually, that my eyes should be wearied with the upward glance? This surely would be a pleasant pain, a sweet sorrow, a most rare and blessed spiritual attainment. With me it is, alas! so different; my eyes mostly fail with looking inward! The fountain of sin within seems ever rising from the depths of my nature, and overflowing the banks of my life, and my gaze is too often riveted on the dark flood, instead of being lifted to Him who has cast all my sins behind His back.
But I look again carefully at the text, and find that it should read thus, "My eyes fail upward." The two words "with looking" are interpolated, they are not in the original Hebrew. The meaning is, literally, "My eye-lids droop, my eyes are too weak to look upward." Ah! now I can understand, and Hezekiah's words touch my very soul. It is as if he said, (what I have so often had to say,) "I am utter weakness, Lord; a weight of sin, and sorrow, and sickness oppresses me; I am brought so low that I cannot even lift up my eyes unto You. But come, sit by my bed, close to me, Lord, so that I need not look up, but can shut my weary eyes for very bliss that You are looking down in tenderest pity on me, and saying, "Fear not — for I am with you."
"Undertake for me." Oh, the blessed restfulness of putting everything — physical, mental, and spiritual — into my Father's hands, and just leaving all there! When once faith can heartily make this transfer, all is well with the soul, and its peace is perfect.
God does nothing by halves; if He undertakes our case, then . . .
He will deliver us from all evil;
He will blot out our transgressions for His own Name's sake;
He will sanctify our affliction to His glory;
He will turn our sorrow into joy.
THE DETAILS OF EVERY-DAY LIFE
"You know my down sitting and my uprising. You understand my thought afar off" Psalm 139:2
"You know." Come, my soul, here is a test as to your present spiritual condition! Will you apply it? Will you be weighed in this balance of the sanctuary, and see whether or not you are found lacking? Does your Lord's intimate knowledge of your every thought, and desire, and action, oppress and disconcert you — or are you willing and glad to live under such close inspection, and even to covet the glances of that eye which searches you through and through?
Nothing but "full assurance of faith" in the precious blood shed for you on Calvary — can give you this boldness. Happy are you, my soul, if you know that God looks through Jesus' wounds on you, and through those wondrous windows of ruby — sees you so changed and beauteous that He can say, "You are all beautiful, My beloved, there is no spot in you!"
"My down sitting and my uprising!" Lord, do You love me so much as to watch tenderly over me in such small matters? How the thought comforts me! We do not care about the details of the everyday life of strangers; but when we love anyone very dearly — then we take great interest in all that concerns them. And even so, my God, this searching, knowing, understanding, compassing, besetting, laying of Your hand upon me — are all most precious tokens to me of Your unutterable love!
How watchful and careful should this knowledge make me! "My down sitting and my uprising!" My home life! My daily duties, both of work and of leisure! My going out and my coming in, my conduct and bearing under all circumstances! How these are all gathered into the compass of those five words! Lord, help me to walk worthy of You, unto all pleasing!
"You understand my thought afar off." What infinite knowledge! Well may the psalmist say, "It is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it!"
Before I think — God knows my thought! O my soul, are not your thoughts the source of most of your grievous perplexities and sorrows? They are often so unruly and rebellious, sometimes so unholy and profane — that all your efforts to bring them into captivity to the law of Christ are unavailing!
Then, see where your help lies. The God who can understand your thoughts "afar off" has the power to restrain them; nay, more, before they reach you, while they are yet distant and unexpressed, He will purify and cleanse them — so that they shall enter your heart as angel whispers, and pass your lips only as words of love and blessing.
Dear Master, I make Your servant David's prayer — my very own: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life!" Psalm 139:23-24
The Troubled Heart
"Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27
From whose lips do these tender words fall "like rain upon the mown grass"? Whose heart has such intimate knowledge of my need, and such profound sympathy with my weakness, as thus to meet both with the grace of His exceeding love?
It could be no other than "Jesus Christ Himself," my gracious Lord and Master, who thus speaks, and I shall do well to ponder each weighty sentence as I listen to His loving voice.
"Let not your heart be troubled." Dear Lord, these words of Yours, though so sweet, are imperative. They are a command, and should be instantly obeyed. Perhaps I have never before looked upon them in this light, never realized that, in carrying about within me a troubled spirit, I am acting in direct disobedience to Your bidding!"
"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law." Say the words over again to me, dear Lord! Speak "as one having authority," and, with Your gracious command, issue also the mighty power which will enable me to fulfill it. How often must I have grieved You by my lack of trust in Your tender love and care! How often must You have marveled at my foolishness, in attempting to bear burdens which might have been cast at Your feet!
"Let not your heart be troubled." Truly, I hear a grave note of rebuke and disappointment mingling with the music of these sweet words on my Lord's lips. It may indeed be so, dear Master, for after all that You have done and said — my heart should never be troubled. I ought not to "let" it be afraid. And yet how soon does fear overtake the steps of joyful assurance! How quickly do I pass out of the light of Your presence, into the deep shadow cast by the mountain of my sin!
Lord, help me to reason with myself about this, for a few moments, or rather, say unto me, "Come now, and let us reason together," for then I know that Your infinite love will conclusively silence my fears, and hush all the disquietude of my soul.
Why should my heart be troubled? Is it on account of the overwhelming sense of sin and of unworthiness which sometimes threatens to crush all the spiritual energy out of my life? Then, I have but to turn again to "the fountain of blood", and there see all my iniquities pardoned — because laid upon the Sin-bearer; all my guilt forgiven — because He suffered in my stead. Can I keep a troubled heart — when He died that I might have peace through believing? Can I have trusted Him with my soul's salvation — and yet permit myself to doubt whether He has truly saved me?
Why should my heart be troubled? Is it the things which are seen and temporal, which are distressing me? The cares of this life, the struggle for daily bread, perhaps, or if not that, the thousand vexations and disappointments which are the lot of our poor humanity?
Come again to your dear Lord, my soul, and bring to His feet all that perplexes and grieves you. You will surely hear Him say, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid; all your sorrows are known to Me, and I am guiding and directing all that concerns you. Is it more difficult to trust My love in earthly ills — than for eternal joys?"
Why should my heart be troubled or afraid? There is nothing on earth or in Hell, which can harm a soul who believes in Jesus. Every fear is put to flight — by His perfect love. Even the fear of death — so great a bondage in some lives — is lifted quite away — when "God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Blessed Lord, help me to be obedient to Your command, and to receive meekly Your well-deserved rebuke, glorifying You henceforth in my daily life by a restful faith, which nothing can disturb or dismay! The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose — ought never to know trouble or fear.
THE WELL IN THE WILDERNESS
"It shall not seem hard unto you." Deuteronomy 15:18
Dear Lord, I have this morning lighted upon one of Your secret springs of sweet waters; an ancient, hidden well in the wilderness, which Your love, as it were, kept covered up and concealed, until my great need moved You to open my eyes to discover it. How precious has Your thought been to me, O Lord! How strengthening and refreshing are these "cold waters to a thirsty soul," which You have thus made to break forth in a strange place!
For I thought I was suffering a hard thing, Lord, in the dealings and discipline which You have seen necessary for me. And, though Your grace kept me from openly murmuring and complaining — my inner self constantly cried out, "This is hard, Lord, this is very hard!"
But now You say, "No, My child, it must not even seem hard unto you. Your trust in Me should be so perfect, your faith in My love so strong, your obedience to My will so complete — that nothing should seem grievous which I appoint, no trial that I send should affright or overwhelm you. Have I not always been to you "a very present help in trouble?"
Lord, my heart says, "Amen!" to Your gracious words, Lord — and then trusts You to work all this loving obedience in me, by Your own mighty power.
"It shall not seem hard unto you." The peculiar trial through which I may now be passing, is the very "it" which must not seem hard to me. God's bow is never drawn at a venture; He makes no mistakes, either in counting the number of the stars, or in meting out to me the griefs which shall teach me to glorify Him. And, dear reader, if you would find comfort from the words which so comforted me — then you must look upon your present trouble, whatever it may be, and say, "Lord, this shall not seem hard to me, for I have received so much bounty and blessing from You, I have known so much of Your pity and pardoning love — that I dare not mistrust You, or question for a moment the Divine wisdom of Your dealings with me!"
Ah! our eyes are so dimmed by earth's fogs and shadows — that we cannot see clearly enough to distinguish good from evil; and if left to ourselves, we might embrace a curse rather than a blessing. Poor blind mortals that we are — it is well for us that our Master should choose our trials for us, even though to our imperfect vision, He seems sometimes to have appointed a hard thing.
"Ill that God blesses turns to good,
While unblest good, is ill;
And all is right that seems most wrong,
If it be His sweet will."
Yes, it is in absolute and loving surrender to the will of the Lord — that the secret of true rest and peace is found. This is the divine chemistry which turns earth's sorrows — into Heaven's blessings! Here is . . .
the antidote to every sting,
the cure-all of each care,
the unfailing remedy for all disquietude.
Dear Lord, if I am Your child, trusting, loving, obeying You — then how can Your will for me seem "hard"? Nay, rather, I should joyfully meet and welcome it — well knowing that Your love to me could only send a message of peace, however dark might be the envelope which enwrapped it.
This comfort cannot apply to troubles which we make for ourselves, and which we sometimes glorify into spiritual hardships — when they are really selfish sins. These are not God's will for us — but our own perverse way, and they bring nothing better than bitterness and tears!
But a God-given burden or sorrow, carried out into the sunshine of His love, and laid at His blessed feet — immediately loses all its "hardness", and is transformed into a blessing, for which our soul praises the Lord with tender thanksgiving.
"It shall not seem hard unto you." Ah! dear Master, it must grievously pain Your loving heart when we, Your own redeemed ones, think any of Your dealings with us as harsh or stern. You have loved us from everlasting, You did not spare Your own Son when a ransom was required for our souls, You have led us, and fed us, and cared for us all our life long; can we be so wicked and ungrateful as to deem anything "hard" which Your wisdom and love appoint?
"It shall not seem hard unto you." Since this precious text rippled from the pages of God's Word, like "a brook along the way," I have been drinking of its waters with great joy; and when a trouble, great or small, oppresses my soul, and causes my heart to faint within me — I take another draught from this sweet spring, and soon am ready to say, "Tis no longer hard, Lord, for I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all my tribulation!"
AMONG THE FURNACES
"Everything that may abide the fire, you shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean." Numbers 31:23
Is not this Your way, even now, O Lord? The ancient statute has never been repealed, this "ordinance of the law which the Lord commanded Moses" is still in force in a spiritual sense for His own spiritual Israel. His prey which He has taken from the mighty, His precious spoil which He has gathered from among all nations — must be cleansed and purified — before it can be fit for His use. And so it comes to pass, that all that may abide the fire, shall be made to go through it.
Herein, surely, are comfortable thoughts for tried and afflicted souls. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you;" it was even so in the days of old, and there is a needs-be for the fulfillment of the commandment yet.
If we are God's gold — we must be subjected to constant purifying by fire. If He claims us as His silver — we shall be refined again and again, that our pollution may be purged, and all that is true and precious may shine forth with fresh luster to His glory.
It is not the actual separation of the ore from its original dross that is here referred to, but the necessary cleansing of fashioned vessels and shapely treasures — which have contracted any defilement, or suffered some dishonor. Alas! our inmost hearts tell us what abundant need there is that "the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is."
But now, dear Lord, help me to apply this Your law, to my own most valued possessions. Let me see what I have that will "abide the fire." Will my "good hope through grace" stand the test of such an ordeal? Will my "joy and peace in believing" crumble into nothingness under the fierce heat of tribulation? Can the "strong consolation" which God gives me, disappear as a vapor when the flame of affliction touches it? Or, if I should lose my best and dearest treasures — can the hot furnace of bereavement burn up all my strength and comfort? God forbid!
The true work of grace in a human heart — can abide the fire of any trial to which the Lord may be pleased to expose it. We can sing of His love — when the heat is most vehement; and glorify Him — by proving that promise true, "When you go through deep waters — I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty — you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression — you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:2-3
This is why the command is so frequently heard, thrilling through heart and life, "You shall make it go through the fire!"
Because our faith is so precious, and our love is so golden, and our hope is so uplifting — that they must be ever subject to the Refiner's fire. Does the flesh sometimes shrink from such an refining as this? Yes, doubtless it does; "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak!" Yet need we not fear; the purpose of our great Refiner is to discipline — not to destroy us. He makes the sighs of the furnace to strike the key-notes of the new and everlasting song; and the coming forth of His "tried gold" will be found "unto praise, and honor, and glory at His appearing."
Dear Father, what a blessed reason this gives for glorying in tribulations also, for thus we are being made perfect to do Your work and will. What though the fire is hot, and the process a painful one — can we not see Your eyes watching tenderly, and hear Your loving voice saying, "Fear not, for I am with you!" And does not Your presence give "fullness of joy" anywhere — even in the furnace? To abide the fire — is sure proof that we shall pass through it, and emerge at last in Your likeness.
You do not refine, and try, and prove that which is spurious and valueless; but, having seen the glint of the gold which is Yours, even through the defilement which defaces us — You patiently wait, and "perfect that which concerns us."
"It shall be clean!" O glorious promise! Not a moment longer than the furnace is needed — shall we be exposed to its heat. But only when all that is vile is consumed — shall we come forth white and glistening.
Dear Lord, we cannot love the fire — but we do praise You for the fire's work upon us. By Your grace, we would rather feel the hot breath of the purifying flame as it destroys our rust and rubbish — than disgrace our Lord and Master by living tarnished and corroded lives.
TESTING TIMES, THE PROOF OF LOVE
"Fear not! for God has come to prove you." Exodus 20:20
It was not from amidst the thunderings and darkness, the fire and smoke of Mount Sinai — that these words reached my heart this morning. They were whispered by a "still small voice" in the quiet of my own chamber, and they brought courage and comfort in a time of sore need and depression.
"Fear not!" This was the tender message; and the reason for confidence was given — "for God has come to prove you!" The blessed fact of His presence, changed the appearance of all the things that seemed against me. The trial was not taken away, but my eyes were opened to see that, if it came from the hand of my God, there must be a blessing in it. My soul pondered the sweet assurance, and found therein the calm of Heaven, after the storms and strifes of earth.
Whatever may be the grievous circumstances in which I am placed, or the injustice of others from which I am suffering — if my God says, "Fear not!" then I ought surely to be brave and strong. If we can only get firmly fixed in our hearts, the truth that the Lord's hand is in everything that happens to us, we have found a balm for all our woes, and a remedy for all our ills. When friends fail us and grow cold, when enemies triumph and wax confident, when the smooth pathway upon which we have been traveling suddenly becomes rough, stony, and steep — we are too apt to look askance at the visible second causes; and to forget that our God has . . .
foreseen every trial,
permitted every annoyance, and
authorized each item of discipline
— with this set purpose!
"The Lord your God proves you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 13:3). O heart of mine, what is your response to this demand? Do you not love Him enough to endure any test to prove it?
I remember once reading words to this effect — that the moment we come into any trial or difficulty, our first thought should be, not how soon can we escape from it, or how may we lessen the pain we shall suffer from it — but how can we best glorify God in it, and most quickly learn the lesson which He desires to teach us by it? Had we grace and faith enough to do this — our trials and troubles would be but as so many steps by which we would climb to the mountain-top of continual fellowship and peace with God. The soul that has learned the blessed secret of seeing God's hand in all that concerns it — cannot be a prey to fear. It looks beyond all second causes — straight into the heart and will of God — and rests content, because his all-loving and all-wise Heavenly Father rules!
"God has come to prove you." My soul, think how great must be His love to you — that He should stoop to search for your heart's obedience and devotion! Think of the Infinite God, your Redeemer — longing, desiring, yearning to be assured of your supreme affection! As He Himself puts it by His servant Moses, "You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you — to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."
What pains He has taken with you! How tenderly He has borne with you! Every trial has been a test, every pain has had a purpose. And can it be — that you are still keeping back from Him the full surrender of heart and life which His Divine love demands? Can it be — that you are still lingering and wavering on the borderland of half-heartedness, instead of gladly leaving all to follow Him?
Nay, Lord, it shall be so no longer! Help me to give You, at this moment, instantly and eagerly — the proof of my love which You seek, in the submission of my heart to all Your will — and the entire consecration of body, soul, and spirit to Your service! Then, every yoke will be made easy, and every burden will become light, for I shall carry them under the firm conviction that my gracious Lord has laid them on me, and is but testing the strength of the love and grace which He Himself has given!
BRIERS AND MYRTLES
"Instead of the thorn-bush — a cypress will come up; and
instead of the brier — a myrtle will come up; it will make a name for the Lord as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed." Isaiah 55:13
My Blessed Lord, how tender and pitiful are You to me! What a delight it is to tell of Your mercy and grace to one so unworthy! Yet it is no singular story, for this is Your sweet and usual way, dear Lord, towards all who put their trust in You. When depression and sadness come to me, by reason of the sin within, or the discouragements without; when the thorns and briers of daily cares and vexations prick and tear the weary pilgrim's feet and hands — then You turn my footsteps to where the cypresses and myrtles of Your loving mercies grow, and in their shelter and fragrance — my troubled spirit finds rest.
Nay, more than this, dear Lord, Your power is so great that You sometimes transform the very things which hurt and grieve me — into means of grace and blessing to my heart and life!
Disappointments in my work,
obstacles to its performance,
the estrangement of friends,
conscious incompetence and weakness, and
often an overpowering sense of deepening responsibility
— these experiences are all like thorns and briers, which irritate and worry by their persistent and close contact! Yet all these vanish when You, my gracious God, give the word — and I wonder as I find myself walking peacefully among the cypress trees, where the leaves lie thick upon the ground, spreading the softest of carpets under my tired feet; and where the myrtle's snowy blossoms and glossy leaves promise perfume and sweetness even to those who bruise them.
Your ways, O Lord, are past finding out — but they are very gracious and tender; and this turning of seeming evil — into good; of making Your children's trials — grow into triumphs; and their pains — into pleasures, is a wonderful proof both of Your pity and Your power!
"It will make a name for the Lord." My Father, can this be really so? Does Your great Name receive added glory when You thus manifest Your sovereignty on my behalf? When I come to the next sharp thorn-hedge in my path — will it honor You if, instead of trying to force my way through it, and getting wounded for my pains — or attempting to avoid it by some roundabout course, and plunging deeper into the thicket — that I would just calmly sit down before it, and pray, and wait for You to wither it up, or turn it into a myrtle grove? Yes, I believe it will, and I seek faith and grace from You to do constantly this otherwise impossible thing. Past mercies and deliverances should strengthen me to expect yet greater manifestations of Your marvelous love.
Dear Lord, when troubles come, I would like to learn to look upon them as ways and means of glorifying You, to accept them as tests and trials of my faith, and to meet them with a brave heart, expecting Your sure deliverance! If my pathway were always smooth and pleasant, with never a thorn or brier to vex and trouble me — there would be no opportunity for the glorious exercise of Your love and mercy in deliverance from them. Courage, my soul! Your God will give you grace to say, as did His servant Paul, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities — that the power of Christ may rest upon me!"
A CURE FOR DISCONTENT
"Let my mouth be filled with Your praise and with Your honor all the day" Psalm 71:8
Lord, may this cry of my heart reach Your attentive ear this morning! Lips, and tongue, and mouth are all empty at this calm, quiet hour — and I come to entreat You to cleanse and consecrate them to Yourself and Your service, so that "all the day long" they may be filled with the sweetness of Your love, and out of this blessed fullness, may "show forth Your salvation."
Far too often, O my Master, is my mouth filled with the bitterness of earth's polluted fountains; but now, my chief desire is that only the bright streams of thankful love and praise to You, should flow from it. How seldom does the tender grace of the early morning devotion, last throughout the busy hours of the day! It is gone as the dew on the grass when the sun looks upon it, or as the fleecy cloud when the west wind blows it away. Why is it, dear Lord, that earth and earthly things — have such power to draw away my thoughts and heart from the unseen but eternal realities which are so near and precious to me when I am alone with You? Will You not teach me the blessed secret of abiding "under the shadow of the Almighty!"
"My mouth." This is a distinctly personal matter, about which I should be seriously concerned. "All Your works shall praise You, O Lord; and Your saints shall bless You;" but if every creature and all creation were silent — this tongue of mine ought to speak of Your loving-kindness and Your tender mercy, for "He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God."
"Filled with Your praise." Abounding in thanksgiving! Brimming over with grateful love! So full of joy and rejoicing in God that, "my tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long." This is how it should be; but, alas! Lord, I have not thus glorified You. My heart has more often been troubled than glad; petitions have more frequently filled my mouth than praise; sharp and hasty words have escaped the lips which should "drop as the honeycomb" — and the glory due unto Your Name has been less thought of, than the passing needs of my sinful and selfish heart! O Lord Jesus Christ, how much You have to pardon and to pity! How very far I am yet from being conformed to Your likeness!
A surly servant is no credit to his master; a thankless guest is no joy in a house; and a miserable Christian is an anomaly in God's universe! Lord, help me to cultivate gladness, teach me to improve every occasion of receiving mercy from You; so fill my mouth with praise and thanksgiving, that there may be no room in it for anything less choice and precious! I have Your dear promise to plead when I ask this, for You have said, "Open your mouth wide — and I will fill it." As the hungry little birds in a nest clamor for the food they need, but cannot obtain for themselves, so do all the emotions of my soul long to be supplied by You with the power to show forth Your praise.
Ah, Lord! there is no lack of material for thanksgiving — no dearth of causes for gratitude. There are mountains of mercies to praise You for, seas of exceeding love, boundless stores of grace! I am surrounded, weighed down, covered and submerged with countless blessings — all of which I owe to You, my God. If I could ceaselessly praise You throughout my mortal life, and then through all eternity — I could never begin to repay the debt of love I owe. If every word I spoke, and every act I performed, and every desire of my soul were "to Your Name, and to the remembrance of You" — this would be far less homage, more incomplete devotion than I am bound to render.
"Filled with Your honor." Lord, can it be that Your honor is thus entrusted to the lips of Your believing people? Do you look to such a source for the proclamation of Your perfect justice and Your glorious grace? Is it in this way, that You come seeking "the fruit of our lips giving thanks to Your Name"? How often, then, must we have disappointed and dishonored You, O Lord! I bow my head for very shame before You, when I think how often You have found upon this tongue of mine — either a guilty silence, or thankless and half-hearted words — when there should have been jubilant psalms of praise, and sweetest of songs of thanksgiving. But now, alter all this for me, dear Master: "Let my mouth be filled with Your praise and with Your honor all the day."
From morn to eve, may the chief thought of my life be — how I shall glorify my God by "speaking well of His Name." Through every moment of every hour of every day — may the consciousness that I am Yours, and that You have loved me — stir my spirit to the constant melody of whole-hearted gratitude! You have said, "Whoever offers praise, glorifies Me," and I joyfully reply, "Yes, Lord, my lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto You, and Your praise shall continually be in my mouth."
THE FETTERS OF UNBELIEF
"Why couldn't we cast it out? Jesus said unto them: Because of your unbelief!" Matthew 17:19, 20
Dear Lord, behold another poor failing disciple comes to You, this morning, with the same pitiful question! I have tried to live for You, and work for You — with honest purpose endeavoring to bless others in Your Name, yet, how signal, oftentimes, have been my failures!
Lord, why could I not overcome the sin which so easily beset me? Why could I not check the sharp word on my tongue, and subdue the fierce risings of anger in my heart? Why can I not always walk so near to You, that my whole life may be under Your sweet control, and every thought, and deed, and word — be sanctified by Your consent and approval? Why have I not the power to influence and draw others to Your dear feet, that they may find in You, as I have done, "a very present help in trouble?"
Lord, I know Your answer to me will be the same as that to Your first disciples. Sadly and sorrowfully You say, "Because of your unbelief?
What a humbling revelation these words convey! My soul, 'tis but a little while, since you rang the joy-bells of faith triumphantly! Has your right hand already lost its cunning? Has the wicked unbelief, still lingering within you, stopped the glorious music your faith was making? Satan has taunted you with your unworthiness. But do you think your demerit could stay the hand from blessing — which gave "His only-begotten Son" — or overturn the covenant of grace of which He was made "Surety" in the days of old? Lord, it is too true that my faith is often bound by the fetters of unbelief, and her wings are clipped, so that she can only painfully attempt to fly Heavenward. I know this is the secret cause of many an unanswered prayer, many a failure in service and in holy living.
Now I bring myself to You, with every whit as much need of spiritual healing as the poor lunatic boy had of deliverance from demoniac possession. Cast out every evil thing, Lord — and manifest in me "what is the exceeding greatness of Your power to us who believe." You are the Author and Giver of faith, endue me plenteously with this living grace, banish all doubt and mistrust from my heart — that faith may be always rejoicing, always conquering, always bringing glory to You! "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"
THE HILL-COUNTRY OF PERFECT TRUST
"Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me." Micah 7:7
Heart-rending griefs are often the forerunners of great spiritual blessing. It must needs be a heavy wave of affliction — which casts some of us high and dry on the safe and sheltered shore of complete confidence in God. It was a most distressful acquaintance with earth's shame and sorrow which drew from the Lord's prophet, the exalted utterance of the text — and we often have to learn the blessedness of turning to God, and trusting Him — by the sharp pain of finding out that He alone is a dependable and constant Friend.
Come, my heart, God has set you a lesson to repeat, this morning, which has stood you in good stead in many a time of sorrow! To say it over again, will help you to get it by heart, for you can not too often remember the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the many deliverances He has wrought for you.
Reading the first six verses of this chapter, we see in each of them a "because" for the "therefore "which follows in the seventh. Manifold miseries and woes, are here delineated by the prophet. He has discovered the faithlessness of friends, he has endured the pitiless malice of enemies — feuds and factions, bribes and betrayals, crimes and cruelties have encompassed him, even the closest of all human ties has been strained; he is solitary, desolate, and discouraged — his soul faints within him. But in the face of all this grief, nay, because of it, he remembers the Lord, and an upward look to Him brings swift and sure relief. The very extremity of his condition has caused him to flee to the only Refuge, the very bitterness of his distresses has suggested the sweet solace of rest in God's unchangeable love.
Dear Father, how often do we, Your children, share in the experience so vividly described by Micah! Great tempests of sorrow beat upon us, we see the shipwreck of all our dearest hopes, and suffer the desertion of many friends — before we reach this rock of "therefore", and can stand upon its summit with uplifted face, regardless of the angry waves below, and with all our hope and expectation centered in God alone. The teaching and the discipline of life are truly blessed to us — when earthly troubles serve to raise us nearer to our Heavenly Father, and the sad inconstancy of the creature reveals to us more distinctly, the immutability of Him who has loved us from all eternity.
"Therefore I will look unto the Lord." Eyes and heart are both sorely aching with grief at the sight of the sin, and selfishness, and sorrow which are within and around me; but help me, dear Lord, to look up, enable me to "lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help." As travelers on the great mountains refrain from looking down the steep precipices, keeping their eyes fixed on the heights above, lest a sudden vertigo should overcome them — so may I look unto the Lord with humble, steadfast gaze, and receive courage and strength to press onward and upward in the path He has marked out for me!
"I will wait for the God of my salvation." Though bruised and wearied by the roughness of the way, I have at last reached a safe shelter and resting-place where I may wait until my Lord reveals Himself to me as my Deliverer.
How blessed am I to know that One so mighty both in love and power, watches over and directs my steps — One who is not only "God", but "the God of my salvation!" He has a more tender and personal interest in me than in the angels of Heaven, for I am that marvel of marvels, a sinner saved by grace, a soul redeemed unto God by His most precious blood!
For Him I will wait, confident and expectant. As someone lately said, "I know I am cared for; but just what His care may deem best for me, this I do not know." I can leave all with Him, and wait the unfolding of His will and purpose concerning me.
Waiting for the Lord is often the surest mode of progression in the Divine life; and to be silent before Him, is not infrequently the most importunate of petitions.
"My God will hear me!" Of course He will; let us never doubt it. This is the language of full assurance, the tongue of the dwellers in the hill-country of Perfect Trust. Such speech well befits those who look to and wait for the God of their salvation.
Dear reader, do you use it often and well?
WAITING AT THE GATE
"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits — and in His Word I hope." Psalm 130:5
I am a suppliant at the door of a palace, a beggar at the gate of a King, but with this gracious dissimilarity to usual petitioners — that the Lord of the palace is my personal Friend, and, though I am waiting outside at present, I possess an invitation to enter, and know that the door will be wide open to me some day. Nay, more than this, if I tell all that is in my heart — I am daily expecting that the King Himself will come and call me in, and admit me to His presence as His own child.
Well, my soul, this is a blessed condition of favor and privilege, surely! You may well afford to wait patiently for so glorious a hope as this. You know that waiting is far better than wandering, and that silently uplifted hands, plead more eloquently than a torrent of words. Keep your tarrying, entreating posture; and if the summons comes not yet, it should be joy enough to wait and watch for His time and His will, and to anticipate the coming glory in which He has promised that you shall share.
For what do you say you are waiting? Alms? Entrance? Welcome? You have the first even now, for His bounty reaches you as you stand watching daily at His gates; and the better blessings are certain when He has perfected that which concerns you, for then you will know with glad surprise "what He has prepared for him who waits for Him."
Meanwhile, do you not get some wondrous glimpses of your glorious Friend through the lattices, and have there not been times when you did catch the sweet tones of His voice as He said, "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself"?
"I wait for the Lord." Blessed Master, I thank You for my waiting times — they are times of love and favor, they draw me nearer, closer, more urgently to Your feet. Your "delays are not denials." Your tarryings do but ensure a more bountiful providing. When you seem slow to answer prayer, it is but to make me more eager for the mercy, or to teach me to ask with greater confidence, or that You may gather up Your blessings in order to bestow them "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
"My soul waits." Ah, Lord! what special blessedness of sweet contentment I find in waiting before You, when You fill my heart with adoring love and gratitude, when I am silent, because no words are needed between You and my wondering soul, when I am humbled to the very dust by Your love and favor, yet lifted into the Heavenly places through Christ Jesus — and thus I wait, and watch, and worship! This is the waiting upon You which renews the strength of my spiritual life. This is the waiting that never wearies, the expectancy that never disappoints, the "hope that makes not ashamed." Oh, to be found thus waiting for God, and upon God, "until He comes!"
"And in His Word I hope." What is His "Word" to you this morning, my soul? Have you already gathered your daily manna, and tasted its sweetness? The Heavenly food lies thick around you, for the Lord has strewn the pages of His Word with promises of blessedness to those who wait for Him. And remember, His slightest Word stands fast and sure; it can never fail you. So, my soul, see that you "have a promise underneath you," for then your waiting will be resting, and a firm foothold for your hope will give you confidence in Him who has said, "those who wait for Me, shall not be ashamed."
"I am yours — and all that I have." 1 Kings 20:4
This morning, on the table of my heart, there rests a covenant, one I would gladly renew with You, and to which I pray You to set Your seal and signature. O my Lord, come near, I beseech You; look down with Your great love upon me as I write these solemn words, "I am Yours — and all that I have," and let my soul hear Your tender response, "I have called you by your name — you are Mine!"
There is nothing on earth, O Lord, You know, that I desire so much as to be absolutely surrendered to You, and to Your service. I want the fullest spiritual blessing You can see fit to give me; and to obtain this, I do gladly yield up body, soul, and spirit — all that I am and have — into Your loving hands, that You may reign over me, and rule within me as my absolute King and Master.
Do You ask me if I have counted the cost? Yes, Lord, it means, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, 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." This is the cost, but Your grace is sufficient to meet it, and to fill Your child's heart with unspeakable joy at the thought that she is no longer her own, but "bought with a price."
"I am Yours." Who has so great a right to me, as You have? Created by You, I belong of necessity to Him who made me. Daily preserved by You, the life You maintain ought to be consecrated to Your service. But the closest tie of all, is that You have loved me, redeemed me from death, purchased me with the price of Your own blood — and thus bound me to Yourself forever! O love, amazing and Divine, why did You do all this for one so unlovely and unworthy? It is but another instance of "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight," and, since it has pleased You to be thus gracious, and You have made it possible for me to say, "I am Yours," it must naturally follow that I should add, "and all that I have" laying every possession and power at Your dear feet; for what have I, Lord, of anything good or excellent, which is not Your own gift to me?
I pray You to grant that my surrender may be real, practical, and complete; not in word only, but in deed and in truth — not simply a spiritual submission, which might be counted easy and pleasant — but that constant denial of self and its pleadings, that keeping under of the body, and bringing it into subjection, which I find so difficult of attainment.
If You have given me but one talent — may that be so used as to bring the greatest possible interest of glory to You! My time must not be aimlessly frittered away, or merely employed for self-indulgence; but every hour should bear on its fast flying wings the witness of something said, or done, or thought, for You, my Master, or Your service. My money all belongs to You, and every coin of it should be spent, as in Your sight, and with Your approval. I pray You, enable me, in this matter, to render a good account of my stewardship. Deliver me from the evil of looking on money as a gift, to be used at my will and pleasure, instead of receiving it from You as a sacred loan or trust to be employed and expended only for Your glory. Be it much or little which You bestow on me, help me from my heart to say, "All that I have is Yours!"
O my pitiful Lord, You will remember that my dearest and most precious possession is already in Your safe keeping, and that You have long since taught me, by a sorrowful experience, to measure earth's losses — by Heaven's gain! Yes, Lord, I can bless You that You have but removed my treasure into Your own treasury, and gathered my priceless jewel into Your own regalia. "Of Your own — have I given You" when resigning into Your arms that most dearly-beloved one who is now with You in the glory.
Dear Lord, in taking him, You seem to have taken ALL THAT I HAVE, so that it is no longer a question of "surrender", but only of quiet, happy submission, as Your will daily unfolds itself, and directs my work and my way.
Lord, keep me ever thus in the secret hiding-place of Your love, "as having nothing, yet possessing all things;" it is so safe a shelter for a weary, waiting soul, and so blessed a way of being made fit for the coming inheritance!