Man's religion & God's religion
"That no flesh should glory in His presence."
1 Corinthians 1:29
Man's religion is to build up the
God's religion is to throw the creature down
the dust of self-abasement, and to glorify Christ.
What a mystery are you!
"So I find this law at work—When I want to do
good, evil is right there with me." Rom. 7:21
Are you not often a mystery to yourself?
Warm one moment—cold the next!
Abasing yourself one hour—
exalting yourself the following!
Loving the world, full of it, steeped up to
your head in it today—crying, groaning, and
sighing for a sweet manifestation of the love
of God tomorrow!
Brought down to nothingness, covered with
shame and confusion, on your knees before
you leave your room—filled with pride and self
importance before you have got down stairs!
Despising the world, and willing to give it all
up for one taste of the love of Jesus when in
solitude—trying to grasp it with both hands
when in business!
What a mystery are you!
Touched by love—and stung with hatred!
Possessing a little wisdom—and a great deal of folly!
Earthly minded—and yet having the affections in heaven!
Pressing forward—and lagging behind!
Full of sloth—and yet taking the kingdom with violence!
And thus the Spirit, by a process which we may feel
but cannot adequately describe—leads us into the
mystery of the two natures perpetually struggling
and striving against each other in the same bosom.
So that one man cannot more differ from another,
than the same man differs from himself.
But the mystery of the kingdom of heaven is this—
that our carnal mind undergoes no alteration, but
maintains a perpetual war with grace. And thus,
the deeper we sink in self abasement under a
sense of our vileness, the higher we rise in a
knowledge of Christ, and the blacker we are in
our own view—the more lovely does Jesus appear.
What stupid blockheads!
"Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them.
What lessons we need day by day to teach
us anything aright, and how it is for the most
part, "line upon line, line upon line—here a
little, and there a little." O . . .
what slow learners!
what dull, forgetful scholars!
what stupid blockheads!
what stubborn pupils!
Surely no scholar at a school, old or young,
could learn so little of natural things as we seem
to have learned of spiritual things after . . .
so many years instruction,
so many chapters read,
so many sermons heard, so many prayers put up,
so much talking about religion.
How small, how weak is the amount of
growth—compared with all we have read
and heard and talked about!
But it is a mercy that the Lord saves whom
He will save—and that we are saved by free
grace—and free grace alone!
Take me as I am with all my sin and shame
"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved." Jer. 17:14
Here is this sin! Save me from it!
Here is this snare! Break it to pieces!
Here is this lust! Lord, subdue it!
Here is this temptation! Deliver me out of it!
Here is my proud heart! Lord, humble it!
Here is my unbelieving heart! Take it away,
and give me faith; give me submission to
Your mind and will.
Take me as I am with all my sin and
shame and work in me everything well
pleasing in Your sight.
Nothing but a huge clod of dust
"Set your affection on things above—not
on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2
Everything upon earth, as viewed by the eyes
of the Majesty of heaven—is base and paltry.
Earth is after all, nothing but a huge clod of
dust, and as such, as insignificant in the eyes
of its Maker as the small dust of the balance,
or the drop of the bucket.
What, then, are . . .
its highest objects,
its loftiest aims,
its grandest pursuits,
its noblest employments,
in the sight of Him who inhabits
eternity; but base and worthless?
Vanity is stamped on all earth's attainments.
All earthly pursuits and high accomplishments . . .
end in death!
The breath of God's displeasure soon
lays low in the grave all that is rich
and mighty, high and proud.
But that effectual work of grace on the heart,
whereby the chosen vessels of mercy are
delivered from the power of darkness and
translated into the kingdom of God's dear
Son, calls them out of . . .
those low, groveling pursuits,
those earthly toys,
those base and sensual lusts in which other
men seek at once their happiness and their ruin.
How can they escape?
"He will keep the feet of His saints."
1 Samuel 2:9
The Lord sees His poor scattered pilgrims
traveling through a valley of tears—journeying
through a waste-howling wilderness—a path
beset with baits, traps, and snares in every
How can they escape?
Why, the Lord 'keeps their feet'. He carries them
through every rough place—as a tender parent
carries a little child. When about to fall—He
graciously lays His everlasting arms underneath
them. And when tottering and stumbling, and
their feet ready to slip—He mercifully upholds
them from falling altogether.
But do you think that He has not different ways
for different feet? The God of creation has not
made two flowers, nor two leaves upon a tree
alike—and will He cause all His people to walk
in precisely the same path? No. We have . . .
each our path,
each our troubles,
each our trials,
each peculiar traps and snares laid for our feet.
And the wisdom of the all-wise God is shown by His
eyes being in every place—marking the footsteps of
every pilgrim—suiting His remedies to meet their
individual case and necessity—appearing for them
when nobody else could do them any good—watching
so tenderly over them, as though the eyes of His
affection were bent on one individual—and carefully
noting the goings of each, as though all the powers
of the Godhead were concentrated on that one
person to keep him from harm!
God will meet all your needs
"And my God will meet all your needs
to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:19
Until we are brought into the depths of poverty,
we shall never know nor value Christ's riches.
If, then, you are a child of God, a poor and
needy soul, a tempted and tried believer in
Christ, "God will meet all your needs."
They may be very great.
It may seem to you, sometimes, as though there
were not upon all the face of the earth such a
wretch as you—as though there never could be
a child of God in your state . . .
so blind and ignorant,
so proud and worldly,
so presumptuous and hypocritical,
so continually backsliding after idols,
so continually doing things that you
know are hateful in God's sight.
But whatever your need be—it is not beyond the
reach of divine supply! And the deeper your need,
the more is Jesus glorified in supplying it.
Do not say then, that . . .
your case is too bad,
your needs are too many,
your perplexities too great,
your temptations too powerful.
No case can be too bad!
No temptations can be too powerful!
No sin can be too black!
No perplexity can be too hard!
No state in which the soul can get, is beyond
the reach of the almighty and compassionate
love, that burns in the breast of the Redeemer!
That sympathizing, merciful, feeling,
tender, and compassionate heart
"For we do not have a High Priest who is unable
to sympathize with our infirmities." Hebrews 4:15
The child of God, spiritually taught and convinced,
is deeply sensible of his infirmities. Yes, that he is
encompassed with infirmities—that he is nothing else
but infirmities. And therefore the great High Priest
to whom he comes as a burdened sinner—to whom
he has recourse in the depth of his extremity—and
at whose feet he falls overwhelmed with a sense
of his helplessness, sin, misery, and guilt—is so
suitable to him as one able to sympathize with
We would, if left to our own conceptions, naturally
imagine that Jesus is too holy to look down in
compassion on a filthy, guilty wretch like ourselves.
Surely, surely, He will spurn us from His feet. Surely,
surely, His holy eyes cannot look upon us in our . . .
Surely, surely, He cannot bestow . . .
one heart's thought,
one moment's sympathy,
or feel one spark of love
towards those who are so unlike Him.
Nature, sense, and reason would thus argue,
"I must be holy—perfectly holy—for Jesus to love;
I must be pure—perfectly pure—spotless and
sinless, for Jesus to think of. But . . .
that I, a sinful, guilty, defiled wretch;
that I, encompassed with infirmities;
that I, whose heart is a cage of unclean birds;
that I, stained and polluted with a thousand iniquities;
that I can have any inheritance in Him—or that He can
have any love or compassion towards me—nature, sense,
reason, and human religion in all its shapes and forms,
revolts from the idea."
It is as though Jesus specially address Himself to the
poor, burdened child of God who feels his infirmities,
who cannot boast of his own wisdom, strength,
righteousness, and consistency—but is all weakness
and helplessness. It seems as if He would address
Himself to the case of such a helpless wretch—and
pour a sweet cordial into his bleeding conscience.
We, the children of God—we, who each knows his own
plague and his own sore—we, who carry about with us
day by day a body of sin and death, that makes us
lament, sigh, and groan—we, who know painfully what
it is to be encompassed with infirmities—we, who come
to His feet as being nothing and having nothing but sin
and woe—"we do not have a High Priest who is unable
to sympathize with our infirmities," but One who carries
in His bosom that . . .
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
"Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so
disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for
I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
Do you forget, O soul, that the way to heaven
is a very strait and narrow path—too narrow for
you to carry your sins in it with you?
God sees it good that you should be cast down.
You were getting very proud, O soul.
The world had gotten hold of your heart.
You were seeking great things for yourself.
You were secretly roving away from the Lord.
You were too much lifted up in SELF.
The Lord has sent you these trials and difficulties
and allowed these temptations to fall upon you,
to bring you down from your state of false security.
There is reason therefore, even to praise God
for being cast down, and for being so disturbed.
How this opens up parts of God's Word which
you never read before with any feeling.
How it gives you sympathy and communion
with the tried and troubled children of God.
How it weans and separates you from dead professors.
How it brings you in heart and affection,
out of the world that lies in wickedness.
And how it engages your thoughts, time after time,
upon the solemn matters of eternity—instead of being
a prey to every idle thought and imagination, and
tossed up and down upon a sea of vanity and folly.
But, above all, when there is a sweet response from
the Lord, and the power of divine things is inwardly
felt, in enabling us to hope in God, and to praise His
blessed name—then we see the benefit of being cast
down and so repeatedly and continually disturbed.
"Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so
disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for
I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God."
Treasure in earthen vessels
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels."
2 Corinthians 4:7
Do not be surprised if you feel that in yourself
you are but an earthen vessel—if you are made
deeply and daily sensible of your frail body.
Do not be surprised . . .
if your clay house is often tottering;
if sickness sometimes assails your mortal tabernacle;
if in your flesh there dwells no good thing;
if your soul often cleaves to the dust; and
if you are unable to retain a sweet sense
of God's goodness and love.
Do not be surprised nor startled . . .
at the corruptions of your depraved nature;
at the depth of sin in your carnal mind;
at the vile abominations which lurk and work
in your deceitful and desperately wicked heart.
Bear in mind that it is the will of God that this
heavenly treasure which makes you rich for
eternity, should be lodged in an earthen vessel.
We have ever to feel our native weakness—and
that without Christ we can do nothing—that we may
be clothed with humility, and feel ourselves the
chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints.
We thus learn to prize the heights, breadths,
lengths, and depths of the love of Christ, who
stooped so low to raise us up so high!
All trials, all temptations,
all strippings, all emptyings
The very trials and afflictions, and the sore
temptations through which God's family pass,
all eventually endear Christ to them.
And depend upon it, if you are a child of God,
you will sooner or later, in your travels through
this wilderness, find your need of Jesus as "able
to save to the uttermost."
There will be such things in your heart, and such
feelings in your mind—the temptations you will
meet with will be such—that nothing short of a
Savior that is able to save to the uttermost
can save you out of your desperate case and
felt circumstances as utterly lost and helpless.
This a great point to come to. All trials, all
temptations, all strippings, all emptyings
that do not end here are valueless—because
they lead the soul away from God.
But the convictions, the trials, the temptations,
the strippings, the emptyings, that bring us to
this spot—that we have nothing, and can do
nothing, but the Lord alone must do it all—these
have a blessed effect, because they eventually
make Jesus very near and dear unto us.
"There is no fear of God before their
Those who have every reason to fear as to
their eternal state before God, have for the
most part, no fear at all. They are
and free from doubt and fear.
The depths of human hypocrisy,
the dreadful lengths to which profession may go,
the deceit of the carnal heart,
the snares spread for the unwary feet,
the fearful danger of being deceived at the last;
these traps and pitfalls are not objects of anxiety
to those dead in sin.
As long as they can pacify natural conscience,
and do something to soothe any transient
conviction—they are glad to be deceived!
God does not see fit to disturb their quiet.
He has no purpose of mercy towards them;
they are not subjects of His kingdom;
they are not objects of His love.
He therefore leaves them carnally secure, as
in a dream—from which they will not awake
until the day of judgment.
These difficulties . . .
"From all your idols will I cleanse you." Ezekiel 36:25
When there are no crosses, temptations, or trials,
a man is sure to go out after and cleave to idols.
It matters not what experience he has had. If once he
ceases to be plagued and tried, he will be setting up
his household gods in the secret chambers of his heart.
Profit or pleasure, self-indulgence or self-gratification,
will surely, in one form or another, engross his thoughts,
and steal away his heart.
Nor is there anything too trifling or insignificant to
become an idol. Whatever is meditated on preferably
to God—whatever is desired more than He—whatever
more interests us, pleases us, occupies our waking
hours, or is more constantly in our mind—becomes
an idol, and a source of sin.
It is not the magnitude of the idol, but its existence
as an object of worship—that constitutes idolatry. I have
seen some 'Burmese idols' not much larger than my hand;
and I have seen some 'Egyptian idols' weighing many tons.
But both were equally idols—and the comparative size had
nothing to do with the question.
So spiritually, an idol is not to be measured by its size,
or its relative importance or non-importance. A flower may
be as much an idol to one man, as a chest full of gold to
If you watch your heart, you will see idols rising and setting
all day long, nearly as thickly as the stars by night.
But God sends . . .
to pull down these idols—or rather
to pull away our hearts from them.
These difficulties . . .
pull us out of fleshly ease,
make us cry for mercy,
pull down all rotten props,
hunt us out of false refuges, and
strip us of vain hopes and delusive expectations.
"They tell how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God." 1 Thes. 1:9
Nothing is too small or too insignificant
which, at times, may not be an idol.
What is an idol?
Something my carnal mind loves.
How may I know whether my carnal mind loves it?
When we think of it, and are very much pleased with
it. We pet it, love and fondle it, dallying and playing
with it, like a mother with her babe. See how she
takes the little thing and gazes at it. Her eyes are
fixed on it—she dotes upon it because she loves it.
Thus we may know an idol if we examine our own
hearts—by what our imagination, desires and secret
thoughts are going out after.
Instead of being spiritually minded, having his
heart and affections in heaven, he has something
in his mind which it is going out after—something
or other laying hold of the affections.
The child of God has, more or less, all these evil
propensities working within. There is idolatry in
every man's heart. How deep this idolatry is
rooted in a man's heart! How it steals upon his
soul! Whatever is indulged in—how it creeps over
him, until it gets such power that it becomes master.
A man does not know himself—if he does not
know what power this idolatry has over him.
None but God can make the man know it—and
when the Lord delivers him, he then turns to
God and says, "What a vile wretch I have been!
What a monster to go after these idols, loving
this thing, and that. A wretch—a monster of
iniquity, the vilest wretch that ever crawled
on the face of God's earth—for my wicked
heart to go out after these idols!"
When the soul is brought down to a sense of its
vileness and loathsomeness—and God's patience
and forbearance—it turns to God from idols, to
serve the only living and true God, who pardons
Through the inward conflicts,
Through the inward conflicts, secret workings,
mysterious changes, and ever-varying exercises
of his soul, the true Christian becomes established
in a deep experience of . . .
his own folly and God's wisdom,
his own weakness and Christ's strength,
his own sinfulness and the Lord's goodness,
his own backslidings and the Spirit's recoveries,
his own base ingratitude and Jehovah's patience,
the aboundings of sin and the super-aboundings of grace.
He thus becomes daily more and more confirmed in . . .
the vanity of the creature,
the utter helplessness of man,
the deceitfulness and hypocrisy of the human heart,
the sovereignty of distinguishing grace,
the fewness of heaven-taught ministers,
the scanty number of living souls,
and the great rareness of true religion.
Wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores
"The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there
is no soundness in it—but only wounds, and bruises,
and putrefying sores. They have not been closed,
neither bound up, neither soothed with ointment."
Every thought, word, and action is polluted by sin.
Every mental faculty is depraved.
The will chooses evil.
The affections cleave to earthly things.
The memory, like a broken sieve,
retains the bad and lets fall the good.
The judgment, like a bribed or drunken judge,
pronounces mindless or wrong decisions.
The conscience, like an opium eater, lies
asleep and drugged in stupefied silence.
When all these 'master faculties of the mind' are
so drunken and disorderly—need we wonder that
the bodily members are a godless, rebellious crew?
Lusts call out for gratification.
Unbelief and infidelity murmur.
Tempers growl and mutter.
Every bad passion strives hard for the mastery.
O the evils of the human heart, which, let loose,
have filled earth with misery, and hell with victims;
which deluged the world with the flood—burnt
Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven—and
are ripening the world for the final conflagration!
Every sin which . . .
has made this fair earth a 'present hell';
has filled the air with groans; and
has drenched the ground with blood;
dwells in your heart and mine!
Now, as this is opened up to the conscience by the
Spirit of God—we feel indeed to be of all men most
sinful and miserable—and of all most guilty, polluted,
and vile. But it is this—and nothing but this—which
cuts to pieces our 'fleshly righteousness, wisdom, and
strength'—which slays our delusive hopes—and lays us
low at the footstool of mercy—without one good thought,
word, or action to propitiate an angry Judge.
It is this which brings the soul to this point—
that if saved, it can only be saved by the
free grace, sovereign mercy, and tender
compassion of Almighty God.
"They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary
way; they found no city to dwell in." Psalm 107:4
The true Christian finds this world to be a wilderness.
There is no change in the world itself.
The change is in the man's heart.
The wilderness wanderer thinks it
different world from what he has hitherto known . . .
his own family,
the employment in which he is daily engaged,
the general pursuits of men—
their cares and anxieties,
their hopes and prospects,
their amusements and pleasures, and
what I may call 'the general din and whirl of life',
all seem to him different to what they were—and
for a time perhaps he can scarcely tell whether the
change is in them, or in himself.
This however is the prominent and uppermost feeling
in his mind—that he finds himself, to his surprise—a
wanderer in a world which has changed altogether its
appearance to him. The fair, beautiful world, in which was
all his happiness and all his home—has become to him
a dreary wilderness.
Sin has been fastened in its conviction on his conscience.
The Holy Spirit has taken the veil of unbelief and ignorance
off his heart. He now sees the world in a wholly different
light–and instead of a paradise it has become a wilderness—
for sin, dreadful sin, has marred all its beauty and happiness.
It is not because the world itself has changed that the Christian
feels it to be a wilderness—but because he himself has changed.
There is nothing in this world which can really gratify or satisfy
the true Christian. What once was to him a happy and joyous
world has now become a barren wilderness.
The scene of his former . . .
anticipations of profit or happiness—
is now turned into a barren wasteland.
He cannot perhaps tell how or why the change has
taken place, but he feels it—deeply feels it. He may
try to shake off his trouble and be a little cheerful
and happy as he was before—but if he gets a little
imaginary relief, all his guilty pangs come back upon
him with renewed strength and increased violence.
God means to make the world a wilderness to every
child of His, that he may not find his happiness in it,
but be a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth.
"The Lord knows how to deliver the godly
out of temptations." 2 Peter 2:9
Few will sincerely and spiritually go to the Lord,
and cry from their hearts to be delivered from the
power of a temptation—until it presses so
upon their conscience, and lies so heavy a burden
upon their soul, that none but God can remove it.
But when we really feel the burden of a temptation;
when, though our flesh may love it, our spirit hates
it—when, though there may be in our carnal mind a
cleaving to it, our conscience bleeds under it, and
we are brought spiritually to loathe it and to loathe
ourselves for it—when we are enabled to go to the
Lord in real sincerity of soul and honesty of heart,
beseeching Him to deliver us from it—I believe, that
the Lord will, sooner or later, either remove that
temptation entirely in His providence or
by His grace,
or so weaken its power that it shall cease to be what
it was before, drawing our feet into paths of darkness
As long, however, as we are in that state of which
the prophet speaks, "Their heart is divided—now
shall they be found faulty" (Hosea 10:2)—as long
as we are in that carnal, wavering mind, which James
describes—"A double minded man is unstable in all
his ways;" as long as we are hankering after the
temptation, casting longing, lingering
after it, rolling it as a sweet morsel under our tongue;
and though conscience may testify against it, yet not
willing to have it taken away, there is . . .
no hearty cry,
nor spiritual breathing of our soul,
that God would remove it from us.
But when we are brought, as in the presence of a heart-
searching God, to hate the evil to which we are tempted;
and cry to Him that He would—for His honor and for our
soul's good—take the temptation away, or
deaden its power—sooner or later the Lord will hear
the cry of those who groan to be delivered from those
temptations, which are so powerfully
down to the dust.
Idling life away like an idiot or a madman
When one is spiritually reborn, he
sees at one and the same moment . . .
God and self,
justice and guilt,
power and helplessness,
a holy law and a broken commandment,
eternity and time,
the purity of the Creator, and
the filthiness of the creature.
And these things he sees—not merely as
declared in the Bible—but as revealed in
himself as personal realities, involving all
his happiness or all his misery in time and
in eternity. Thus it is with him as though
a new existence had been communicated,
and as if for the first time he had found
there was a God!
It is as though all his days he had been asleep,
and were now awakened—asleep upon the top of
a mast, with the raging waves beneath—as if all
his past life were a dream, and the dream were
now at an end. He has been . . .
blowing soap bubbles,
fishing for minnows,
building houses of cards, and
idling life away like an idiot or a madman.
He had been perhaps wrapped up in a religious
profession—advanced even to the office of a deacon,
or mounted in a pulpit. He had learned to talk about
Christ, and election, and grace, and fill his mouth
with the language of Zion.
But what did he experimentally know of these
things? Nothing, absolutely nothing!
Ignorant of his own ignorance (of all kinds of
ignorance the worst)—he thought himself rich,
and increased with goods, and to have need of
nothing—and knew not that he was wretched,
and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
This wily devil!
What a foe to one's peace is one's own spirit!
What shall I call it? It is often an infernal spirit.
Why? Because it bears the mark of Satan upon it.
The pride of our spirit,
the presumption of our spirit,
the hypocrisy of our spirit,
the intense selfishness of our spirit,
are often hidden from us.
This wily devil, SELF, can wear such
masks and assume such forms!
This serpent, SELF, can so creep and crawl,
can so twist and turn, and can disguise itself
under such false appearances—that it is often
hidden from ourselves.
Who is the greatest enemy we have to fear? We all
have our enemies. But who is our greatest enemy?
He whom you carry in your own bosom—your daily,
hourly, and unmovable companion, who entwines
himself in nearly every thought of your heart—who . . .
sometimes puffs up with pride,
sometimes inflames with lust,
sometimes inflates with presumption, and
sometimes works under pretend humility and fleshly holiness.
God is determined to stain the pride of human glory.
He will never let SELF, (which is but another word for
the creature,) wear the crown of victory. It must be
crucified, denied, and mortified.