All true religion

Jesus is . . .
  our sun, and without Him all is darkness;
  our life, and without Him all is death;
  the beginner and finisher of our faith;
  the substance of our hope;
  the object of our love.

It is the Spirit who quickens us . . .
  to feel our need of Christ;
  to seek all our supplies in Him and from Him;
  to believe in Him unto everlasting life,  
  and thus live a life of faith upon Him.

By His . . .
  secret teachings,
  inward touches,
  gracious smiles,
  soft whispers,
  sweet promises,
  manifestations of Christ's glorious Person and work,
  Christ's agonizing sufferings and dying love,
the Holy Spirit draws the heart up to Christ.

He thus wins our affections, and setting Christ
before our eyes as "the chief among ten thousand
and the altogether lovely One," draws out that love
and affection towards Jesus which puts the world
under our feet.

All true religion flows from the Spirit's grace,
presence and power.



The regenerating operations of the Holy Spirit

From the very nature of the fall, it is impossible
for a dead soul to . . .
  believe in God,
  know God,
  or love God.

It must be quickened into spiritual life before it can
savingly know the only true God. And thus there lies
at the very threshold—in the very heart and core of
the case—the absolute necessity of the regenerating
operations of the Holy Spirit
upon the soul.

The very completeness and depth of the fall render the
regenerating work of the Holy Spirit as necessary, as
indispensable as the redeeming work of the Son of God.



This hard school of painful experience

In times of trial and darkness, the saints and servants
of God are instructed. They see and feel what the flesh
really is, how alienated from the life of God—they learn
in whom all their strength and sufficiency lie—they are
taught that in them, that is, in their flesh, dwells no
good thing—that no exertions of their own can maintain
in strength and vigor the life of God—and that all they
are and have, all they believe, know, feel, and enjoy,
with all their ability, usefulness, gifts, and grace—flow
from the pure, sovereign grace—the rich, free, undeserved,
yet unceasing goodness and mercy of God.

They learn in this hard school of painful experience
their emptiness and nothingness—and that without Christ
indeed they can do nothing. They thus become clothed
with humility, that lovely, becoming garb—cease from
their own strength and wisdom—and learn experimentally
that Christ is, and ever must be, all in all to them, and
all in all in them.

 

 

Many difficulties, obstacles, and hindrances

"Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press
 on to know Him!" Hosea 6:3

The expression, "press on," implies that there are many
difficulties, obstacles, and hindrances
in a man's way,
which keep him back from "knowing the Lord." Now the
work of the Spirit in his soul is to carry him on in spite
of all these obstacles—to lead him forward—to keep
alive in him the fear of God—to strengthen him in his
inner man—to drop in those hopes—to communicate
that inward grace—so that he is compelled to press on.

Sometimes he seems driven,
sometimes drawn,
sometimes led, and
sometimes carried,
but in one way or another the Spirit of God so
works upon him that, though he scarcely knows
how—he still "presses on."

His very burdens make him groan for deliverance—his
very temptations cause him to cry for help—the very
difficulty and ruggedness of the road make him want
to be carried every step—the very intricacy of the path
compels him to cry out for a guide—so that the Spirit
working in the midst of, and under, and through every
difficulty and discouragement, still bears him through,
and carries him on—and thus brings him through every
trial and trouble and temptation and obstacle, until He
sets him in glory.

It is astonishing to me how our souls are kept alive.
The Christian is a marvel to himself. Carried on, and
yet so secretly—worked upon, and yet so mysteriously;
and yet led on, guided, and supported through so many
difficulties and obstacles—that he is a miracle of mercy
as he is carried on amid all . . .
  difficulties,
  obstacles,
  trials, and
  temptations.

 


The poison fang of sin!


We must go down into the depths of the fall
to know what our hearts are, and what they are
capable of—we must have the keen knife of God
to cut deep gashes in our conscience and lay
bare the evil that lies so deeply imbedded in
our carnal mind—before we can enter into and
experience the beauty and blessedness of
salvation by grace.

"From the sole of the foot even unto the head
 there is no soundness in it—but wounds, and
 bruises, and putrefying sores
—they have not
 been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified
 with ointment." Isaiah 1:6

When the Church of God fell in Adam, she fell with
a crash which broke every bone
and bruised her
flesh with wounds which are ulcerated from head to toe.

Her understanding, her conscience, and her
affections were all fearfully maimed . . .
  her understanding was blinded;
  her conscience stupefied;
  her affections alienated.

Every mental faculty thus became perverted and distorted.

When Adam fell into sin and temptation—sin rushed
into every faculty of body and soul—and penetrated
into the inmost recesses of his being.

As when a man is bitten by a poisonous serpent,
the venom courses through every artery and vein,
and he dies a corrupted mass from head to foot;
so did the poison fang of sin penetrate into
Adam's inmost soul and body, and infect him
with its venom from the sole to the crown.

But it is only as sin's desperate and malignant
character is opened up by the Holy Spirit that it
is really seen, felt, grieved under, and mourned
over as indeed a most dreadful and fearful reality.

"The whole head is sick—and the whole heart faint."

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 heedless or wrong decisions;
  the conscience, like an opium eater, lies
      asleep and drugged in stupefied silence.


 

A penitent backslider and a forgiving God!

"And while he was still a long distance away,
 his father saw him coming. Filled with love
 and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced
 him, and kissed him." Luke 15:20

After a child of God has enjoyed something of
the goodness and mercy of God revealed in the
face of His dear Son, he may wander from his
mercies—stray away from these choice gospel
pastures—and get into a waste howling wilderness,
where there is neither food nor water—and yet,
though half starved for poverty, has in himself
no power to return.

But in due time the Lord seeks out this wandering
sheep, and the first place he brings him to is the
mercy seat—confessing his sins and seeking mercy.

O what a meeting!

A penitent backslider and a forgiving God!

O what a meeting!

A guilty wretch drowned in tearsand a loving
Father falling upon his neck and kissing him!


O what a meeting for a poor, self-condemned wretch,
who can never mourn too deeply over his sins, and yet
finds grace super-abounding over all his abounding
sins—and the love of God bursting through the cloud,
like the sun upon an April day—and melting his heart
into contrition and love!

 

 

Salvation!

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now has come the salvation." Rev. 12:10

The sweetest song that heaven ever proclaimed,
the most blessed note that ever melted the soul,
is "salvation."

To be saved from . . .
  death and hell;
  the worm which dies not;
  the fire which is not quenched;
  the sulphurous flames of the bottomless pit;
  the companionship of tormenting fiends;
  all the foul wretches under which earth has groaned;
  blaspheming God in unutterable woe;
  an eternity of misery without hope;
and saved into . . .
  heaven;
  the sight of Jesus as He is;
  perfect holiness and happiness;
  the blissful company of holy angels and glorified
saints! And all this during the countless ages of a
blessed eternity!

What tongue of men or angels can describe
the millionth part of what is contained in the
word salvation!


 

A peculiar people

"But you are . . .
    a chosen generation,
    a royal priesthood,
    a holy nation,
    a peculiar people." 1 Peter 2:9

May we never forget that the suffering Son of God
gave Himself to purify unto Himself a peculiar people . . .
  a people whose thoughts are peculiar, for their thoughts
    are the thoughts of God, as having the mind of Christ;
  a people whose affections are peculiar,
    for they are fixed on things above;
  a people whose prayers are peculiar, for they are wrought
    in their heart by the Spirit of grace and supplication;
  a people whose sorrows are peculiar,
    because they spring from a spiritual source;
  a people whose joys are peculiar, for they are joys
    which the stranger cannot understand;
  a people whose hopes are peculiar,
    as anchoring within the veil;
  a people whose expectations are peculiar, as not
expecting to reap a crop of happiness in this marred
world—but are looking for happiness in the kingdom
of rest and peace in the bosom of God.

They make it manifest that they are a peculiar
people
by . . .
  walking in the footsteps of the Lord the Lamb,
  taking up the cross,
  denying themselves, and
  living to the honor, praise, and glory of God.



Softened, broke, and melted your heart

"I drew them with cords of human kindness,
 with ties of love."  Hosea 11:4

When God draws His people near unto Himself,
it is not done in a mechanical way. They are drawn,
not with cords of iron, but with the cords of kindness;
not as if God laid an iron arm upon His people to drag
them to Himself—whether they wished to come or not.
God does not so act in a way of mechanical force.

We therefore read, "Your people shall be made willing
in the day of Your power." He touches their heart with
His gracious finger
, and he communicates to their
soul both faith and feeling. He melts, softens, and
humbles their heart
by a sense of His goodness and
mercy—for it is His goodness, as experimentally felt
and realized, which leads to repentance.

If you have ever felt any secret and sacred drawing
of your soul upward to heaven—it was not compulsion,
not violence, not a mechanical constraint—but an arm
of pity and compassion let down into your very heart
,
which, touching your inmost spirit, drew it up into the
bosom of God.

It was some view of His goodness, mercy, and love,
with some dropping into your spirit of His pity and
compassion towards you, which softened, broke,
and melted your heart
. You were not driven onward
by being flogged and scourged, but blessedly drawn
with the cords of kindness, which seemed to touch
every tender feeling and enter into the very depths
of your soul.



Fixed and fastened by an Almighty hand.

Truth, as it stands in the naked word of God,
is lifeless and dead—and as such, has no power
to communicate what it has not in itself—that is,
life and power to the hearts of God's people. It
stands there in so many letters and syllables, as
lifeless as the types by which they were printed.

But when the incarnate Word takes of the
written word
, and speaks it home into the
heart and conscience of a vessel of mercy,
whether in letter or substance—then He endues
it with divine life—and it enters into the soul,
communicating to it a life that can never die.

Eternal realities are then brought into the soul,
fixed and fastened by an Almighty hand.

The conscience is made alive in the fear of God;
and the soul is raised up from a death in sin, to
a heavenly, new, and supernatural life.

 


When we are reduced to poverty and beggary

How often we seem not to have any real religion,
or enjoy any solid comfort! How often are our minds
covered with deep darkness! How often does the
Lord hide Himself, so that we cannot behold Him,
nor get near to Him! What a painful path is this
to walk in, but how profitable!

When we are reduced to poverty and beggary,
we learn to value Christ's glorious riches.

The worse opinion we have of our own heart, and
the more deceitful and desperately wicked that we
find it—the more we put our trust in His faithfulness.

The more black we are in our own esteem—the more
beautiful and lovely does He appear in our eyes.

As we sink—Jesus rises.

As we become feeble—He puts forth his strength.

As we come into danger—He brings deliverance.

As we get into temptation—He breaks the snare.

As we are shut up in darkness and obscurity;
He causes the light of His countenance to shine.

Now it is by being led in this way, and walking
in these paths, that we come rightly to know who
Jesus is; and to see and feel how suitable and
precious such a Savior is to our undone souls!
We are needy, He has in Himself all riches.

We are hungry—He is the bread of life.

We are thirsty—He says, "If any man thirst,
let him come unto Me, and drink."

We are naked—and He has clothing to bestow.

We are fools—and He has wisdom to grant.

We are lost, and He speaks—
"Look unto Me, and be saved."

Thus, so far from our misery shutting us out
from God's mercy—it is the only requisite for it.

So far from our guilt excluding His pardon,
it is the only thing needful for it.

So far from our helplessness ruining our souls,
it is the needful preparation for the manifestation
of His power in our weakness.

We cannot heal our own wounds and sores. That is
the very reason why He should stretch forth His arm.

It is because there is no salvation in ourselves, or
in any other creature, that He says, "Look unto Me,
for I am God, and there is no other."


 

Not a grain! Not an atom!

What am I?

What are you?


Are we not filthy, polluted, and defiled?

Do not we, more or less, daily feel
altogether as an unclean thing?
Is not every thought of our heart altogether vile?

Does any holiness, any spirituality, any heavenly-
mindedness, any purity, any resemblance to the
divine image dwell in our hearts by nature?

Not a grain! Not an atom!

How then can I, a polluted sinner,
ever see the face of a holy God?

How can I, a worm of earth, corrupted within
and without by indwelling and committed sin,
ever hope to see a holy God without shrinking
into destruction?

When we view the pure and spotless holiness
of Jesus imputed to His people, and view them . . .
  holy in Him,
  pure in Him,
  without spot in Him,
how it does away with all the wrinkles of the
creature, and makes them stand holy and
spotless before God.
 


They will come with weeping

"They will come with weeping; they will
 pray as I bring them back." Jeremiah 31:9

As they come, they weep. They mourn . . .

  over their base backslidings,
  over the many evils they have committed,
  over the levity of mind which they have indulged,
  over the worldliness of spirit,
  over the—
    pride,
    presumption,
    hypocrisy,
    carnality,
    carelessness, and    
    obstinacy of their heart.

They go and weep with a broken heart and softened
spirit—seeking the Lord their God—seeking the secret
manifestations of His mercy, the visitations of His
favor, the "lifting up of the light of His countenance"—
seeking after a revelation of the love of Jesus—to know
Him by a spiritual discovery of Himself.

Being thus minded . . .
  they seek not to establish their own righteousness;
  they seek not the applause of the world;
  they seek not the good opinion of professors;
  they seek not the smiles of saints. But they . . .
  seek the Lord their God,
  seek His face day and night,
  seek His favor,
  seek His mercy,
  seek His grace,
  seek His love,
  seek His glory,
  seek the sweet visitations of His presence and power,
  seek Him until they find Him to be their covenant God,
who heals all their backslidings.



This is the saint's inheritance!

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of
 God
and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in
 His sufferings in order that we may also share in
 His glory
." Romans 8:17

This is the especial blessedness of being a child of God:
that death, which puts a final extinguisher on all the
hopes and happiness of all the unregenerate—gives him
the fulfillment of all his hopes and the consummation
of all his happiness
—for it places him in possession of
"an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that
fades not away, reserved in heaven."

In this present earthly life, we have sometimes sips
and tastes of sonship, feeble indeed and interrupted;
yet are they so far pledges of an inheritance to come.

But this life is only an introduction to a better. In this
life we are but children—but in the life to come, we shall
be put into full possession of the eternal inheritance.

And what is this? Nothing less than God Himself.
"Heirs of God!" says the Apostle. God Himself is
the inheritance of His people—yes, He Himself in
all His glorious perfections . . .
  all the love of God,
  all the goodness of God,
  all the holiness of God,
  all His happiness, bliss, and blessedness,
  all His might, majesty, and glory, in
  all the blaze of one eternal, unclouded day!

This is the saint's inheritance!

Let us press on by faith and prayer to
win this eternal and glorious crown!
 


Savory food such as their soul loves

"For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink."
    John 6:55

This food is specially for the elect . . .
blood shed for their sins, and for their sins only;
righteousness brought in for them, and for them only;
love bestowed upon them, and upon them only;
promises revealed for their comfort, and for their comfort only;
an eternal inheritance reserved in heaven for them, and for them only.

The elect are the only people . . .

  who hunger after it,
  who have an appetite for it,
  who have a mouth to feed upon it,
  who have a stomach to digest it.
They are the only people whose eyes
are really open to see what "food" is.
All others feed upon shadows—they know nothing of
the savory food of the gospel. "I have food to eat
which you know not of." Jesus' food was . . .
  the hidden communications of God's love,
  the visitations of His Father's presence,
  the divine communion that He enjoyed with His Father.

So, for the children of God, there is food in Christ;
and this food the Lord gives them a hunger after.
He not only sets before their eyes what the food is,
but He kindles inexpressible longings in their
soul
to be fed with it.

God's people cannot feed . . .

  upon husks,
  nor upon ashes,
  nor upon chaff,
  nor upon the wind,
  nor upon grapes of gall and the bitter clusters of Gomorrah.

They must have real food, "savory food such as
their soul loves
," that which God Himself communicates,
and which His hand alone can bring down, and give unto
them, so that they may receive it from Him as their soul-
satisfying portion.

"For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink."

 

 

A smoother way to glory?

"They encouraged them to continue in the faith,
 reminding them that they MUST enter into the
 Kingdom of God through
many tribulations."
    Acts 14:22   

The Lord has chosen that His people should pass
through deep and cutting afflictions, for it is "through
many tribulations" they are to enter the Kingdom of
God above, and into the sweetness and power of the
Kingdom of God below.

But every man will resent this doctrine, except God
has led him experimentally into it. It is such a rough
and rugged path
—it is so contrary to flesh and blood
—it is so inexplicable to nature and reason—that man,
proud, rebellious man, will never believe that he must
"enter into the Kingdom of God through many
tribulations
."

And this is the reason why so many find, or seek to
find, a smoother way to glory than the Lord has
appointed His saints to walk in. But shall the Head
travel in one path—and the members in another?
Shall the Bridegroom walk and wade through seas
of sorrow—and the bride never so much as wet her
feet with the water? Shall the Bridegroom be crucified
in weakness and suffering—and there be no inward
crucifixion for the dearly beloved of His heart?

Shall the Head . . .
  suffer,
  grieve,
  agonize,
  groan,
  and die—
and the members dance down a flowery road,
without inward sorrow or outward suffering?

But, perhaps, there are some who say in their heart,
"I am well convinced of this—but my coward flesh
shrinks from it. I know if I am to reach the Canaan
above, I must pass through the appointed portion
of tribulation. But my coward flesh shrinks back!"

It does! it does! Who would willingly bring trials
upon himself? Therefore the Lord does not leave
these trials in our hands—but He Himself appoints
a certain measure of tribulation for each of His
people to pass through. They will come soon enough;
you need not anticipate them; you need not wish
for them. God will bring themin His own time
and in His own way.


And what is more, God will not merely bring you
into them, but God will bring you through them,
and God will bring you out of them!
It will be our mercy if enabled to ask the Lord . . .
to bless us with faith and patience under tribulation;
to give us strength to bear the storm;
to lie as clay in His hands;
to conform us to the image of His Son;
to guide us through this valley of tears below;
and eventually to take us to be with Him above!
 


Should you then seek great
things for yourself?


"Should you then seek great things for
yourself?
Seek them not." Jeremiah 45:5

Ministers often seek . . .
  great gifts,
  great eloquence,
  great congregations,
  great popularity.

They are wrong in seeking these so-called great things.
Let them rather seek real things, gracious things, things
that will make their souls blessed here and hereafter.

 

 

We stand upon slippery places!

"The Lord keep you." Numbers 6:24

How we need the Lord to keep us!

We stand upon slippery places!

Snares and traps are laid for us in every direction.

Every employment, every profession in life, from the
highest to the lowest—has its special temptations.
Snares are spread for the feet of the most illiterate
as well as the most highly cultivated minds. Nor is
there anyone, whatever his position in life may be, who
has not a snare laid for him—and such a snare as will
surely prove his downfall if God does not keep him.

Well, then, may it be the desire of our soul,
"The Lord keep me" . . .
  keep me in His providence, keep me by His grace;
  keep me by planting His fear deep in my soul, and
  maintaining that fear alive and effectual in my heart;
  keep me waking, keep me sleeping;
  keep me by night, keep me by day;
  keep me at home, keep me abroad;
  keep me with my family, keep me with my friends;
  keep me in the world, and keep me in the church.

May the Lord keep me, according to His promise,
every moment—keep me by His Spirit and grace
with all the tenderness implied in His words,
"O keep me as the apple of Your eye!"

My friends, you can know . . .
  little of your own heart,
  little of Satan's devices,
  little of the snares spread for your feet,
unless you feel how deeply you need this
blessing—"The Lord keep you."

And He will, for we read of the righteous, that they
are kept "by the power of God through faith unto
salvation;" and that "He will keep the feet of His saints."



One grain of holiness?

Have I one grain of holiness in myself? Not one.

Can all the men in the world, by all their united
exertions, raise up a grain of spiritual holiness
in their hearts? Not an atom, with all their efforts.

If all the preachers in the world were to unite
together for the purpose of working a grain of
holiness
in one man's soul, they might strive
to all eternity—they could no more by their
preaching create holiness, than by their
preaching they could create a lump of gold.

But Jesus imparts a measure of His own holiness
to His people. He sends the Holy Spirit, to raise up
holy desires. He communicates a heavenly, spiritual,
and divine nature—which bathes in eternal things
as its element—and enjoys spiritual things as sweet
and precious. It may indeed be small in measure;
and he that has it is often troubled because he has
so little of it—yet he has enough to know what it is.

Has not your soul, though you feel to be a defiled
wretch, though every iniquity is at times working
in your heart, though every worm of obscenity and
corruption is too often trailing its filthy slime upon
your carnal mind—has it not felt, does it not
sometimes feel—a measure of holiness Godwards?

Do you ever feel a breathing forth of your soul
into the bosom of a holy God . . .
  heavenly desires,
  pure affections,
  singleness of eye,
  simplicity of purpose,
  a heart that longs to have the mind, image,
  and likeness of Jesus stamped upon it?

This is a holiness such as the Lord of life and
glory imparts out of his fullness to His poor and
needy family.

 

 

What is this hidden manna?

"To him who overcomes, I will give some of
 the hidden manna to eat." Rev. 2:17

What is this hidden manna?

Is it not God's Word applied with power to the heart?

What does the prophet Jeremiah say? "Your Words
were found, and I did eat them; and Your Word was
unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart."

When the Lord is pleased . . .
  to drop a word into the heart from his own lips;
  to apply some promise;
  to open up some precious portion of his Word;
  to whisper softly some blessed Scripture into the heart;
is not this manna?

Whence did the manna flow? Was it cultivated by the
hand of man? No—it fell from heaven. And is not this
true of the Word of the Lord applied with power to the
heart? It is not our searching the Scriptures, though
it is good to search the Scriptures—but it is the Lord
Himself being pleased to apply some precious portion
of truth to our hearts—and when this takes place,
it is "manna;" it is . . .
  sweet,
  refreshing,
  strengthening,
  comforting,
  encouraging;
yes, it is angels' food—the very flesh and blood of
the Lamb with which the Lord is pleased from time
to time to feed and favor hungry souls.

But, in the text it is called "hidden." Why "hidden"?
Because hidden from the eyes of the wise and prudent.
Hidden from the eyes of self-righteous pharisees;
hidden from those who fight in their own strength,
and seek to gain the victory by their own brawny arm;
hidden from all but God's tried and tempted family;
hidden from all but those who know the plague of
their own hearts; hidden from all but those who have
learned the secret of overcoming by the blood of the
Lamb and by the word of His testimony.

When the Lord leads us to sink down into weakness,
and in weakness to find his strength made perfect—
to fall down all guilty—and then to feel the application
of atoning blood—this is manna.

The children of Israel had to endure hunger in the
wilderness before manna fell—and thus the Lord's
people learn the value of the hidden manna—the
sweet communications from above—by hungering
and thirsting in a waste-howling wilderness.

This is hidden from all eyes except those that are
anointed by the Spirit to see it—and hidden from all
hearts except those that are prepared to receive
and feed upon it.

"I am the living bread who came down from heaven.
 If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever."
    John 6:51



Entangled, perplexed and distressed?

How many of the Lord's people are continually under
bondage to evil! What power the lusts of the flesh
have over some—how perpetually they are entangled
with everything sensual and carnal! What power the
pride of the heart has over another! And what strength
covetousness exercises over a third! What power the
love of the world and the things of time and sense
exercise over a fourth!

How then are they to overcome sin?


By making resolutions? By endeavoring to overcome it
in their own strength? No! Sin will always break through
man's strength. It will always be stronger than any
resolution we can make not to be overcome by it.

The Lord allows His people to be so long and often
entangled, perplexed and distressed
, that they
may learn this secret—which is hidden from all but
God's living family—that the strength of Christ is
made perfect in their weakness.


Have not some of you had to learn this lesson very
painfully? There was a time when you thought you
would get better and better, holier and holier—that
you would not only not walk in open sin as before,
but would not be . . .
  entangled by temptation,
  overcome by besetting lusts,
  or cast down by hidden snares.

There was a time when you thought you were going
forward—attaining some more strength—some better
wisdom than you believed you once possessed.

How has it been with you?

Have these expectations ever been realized?

Have you ever attained these fond hopes?

Has sin become weaker?

Has the world become less alluring?

Have your lusts become tamer?

Has your temper become milder?

Have the corruptions of your heart become feebler and feebler?

If I can read the heart of some poor tried, tempted
soul
here present, he would say, "No! To my shame
and sorrow, be it spoken, I find on the contrary that
sin is stronger and stronger—that the evils of my
heart are more and more powerful than ever I knew
them in my life—and as to my own endeavors to
overcome them, I find indeed that they are fainter
and fainter, and weaker and weaker. This it is that
casts me down. If I could have more strength against
sin—if I could stand more boldly against Satan—if I
could overcome my besetting lusts—live more to God's
glory—and be holier and holier—then, then, I could have
some comfort. But to feel myself so continually baffled,
so perpetually disconcerted, so incessantly cast down
by the workings of my corrupt nature—it is this, it is
this that cuts so keenly—it is this, it is this that tries
me so deeply!"

My friend, you are on the high road to victory.
This is the very way by which you are to overcome.
When you feel . . .
  weaker and weaker,
  poorer and poorer,
  guiltier and guiltier,
  viler and viler,
so that really through painful experience you are
compelled to call yourself, not in the language of mock
humility, but in the language of self abhorrence—the
chief of sinners—then you are on the high road to victory.

Then the blood of the Lamb is applied to the sinner's
conscience, and the Word of God's testimony comes with
power into his soul—it gives him the victory over those
lusts with which he was before entangled—it brings him
out of the world that had so allured him—and breaks to
pieces the dominion of sin under which he had been so
long laboring.

 

 

A very different thing from lifeless,
barren head knowledge


"We know also that the Son of God has come and
 has given us understanding, so that we may know
 Him who is true." 1 John 5:20

There is a difference between a gracious, enlightened
understanding of the truth of God which springs out of
the teaching of the Spirit—and what is commonly called
"head knowledge." There is such a thing—and a most
dangerous, delusive thing it is—as "mere head knowledge"
and it is widely prevalent in the churches.

You may say, "How am I to distinguish between mere
head knowledge and this spiritual understanding?"

I will tell you. When a special light is cast into your mind—
when the Word is opened up in its spiritual, experimental
meaning—when the Holy Spirit seals it with sweetness and
power upon your heart—and you not only understand what
you read but receive it in faith, feel its savor, and enjoy
its blessedness. Is not this a very different thing from
lifeless, barren head knowledge?

 

 

Poor in spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
 is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

None are really poor in spirit, but those whom
the hand of God has stripped—whom He has
brought down—and made to abhor themselves
in dust and ashes—and to see and feel themselves
destitute of everything good, holy, heavenly, and
pleasing in His pure and heart searching eyes.

The heart must be stripped and emptied, and laid
bare effectually—by a work of grace that goes to
the very bottom, and penetrates into the recesses
of the soul—so as to detect all the corruption that
lurks and festers within.

The really "poor" man is one who has had everything
taken from him—who has had not merely his dim views
of a merciful God (such as natural men have) taken
from him—not merely his legal righteousness stripped
away—but all that kind of notional, traditional religion,
which is so rife in the present day, taken from him also
—and who has been brought in guilty before God, naked,
in the dust, having nothing whereby to conciliate Him,
or gain His favor.

 


God's purpose


"That no flesh should glory in His presence."
   
1 Cor. 1:29

Man may glory in himself—but God has forever
trampled man's glory under foot. God's purpose
is to stain the pride of human glory.



Utter fools!

"Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead."
     Romans 1:22

What am I by nature? A fool! All my wisdom, outside
of Christ, is nothing but the height of foolishness—and
all my knowledge nothing but the depth of ignorance!

Left to ourselves we are utter fools! We have
no wisdom whatever to direct our feet. We are . . .
  blind,
  ignorant,
  weak,
  helpless, and
  utterly unable to find our way to God.

All wisdom which does not come down from the Father
is folly. All strength not divinely wrought in the soul is
weakness. All knowledge that does not spring from the
Lord's own teaching in the conscience is the depth of
ignorance.

We must know the value of the gem before we can
really prize it. When diamonds were first discovered
in Brazil, nobody knew that they were diamonds. They
were handed about as pretty, shining pebbles. But as
soon it was discovered they were diamonds, they were
eagerly sought, and their value rose a thousandfold.

So spiritually. Until we can distinguish between the
"pebble of man's teaching" and the "diamond of divine
illumination" we shall neglect, we shall despise, we
shall not value divine wisdom.



The heart of God's child

There is much . . .
  presumption,  pride,
  hypocrisy,
  deceit,
  delusion,
  formality,
  superstition,
  will-worship and
  self-righteousness
to be purged out of the heart of God's child.

But all these things . . .
  keep him low,
  mar his pride,
  crush his self righteousness,
  cut the locks of his presumption,
  stain his self-conceit,
  stop his boasting,
  preserve him from despising others,
  make him take the lowest room,
  teach him to esteem others better than himself,
  drive him to earnest prayer,
  fit him as an object of mercy,
  break to pieces his free-will, and
lay him low at the feet of the Redeemer, as
one to be saved by sovereign grace alone!



A spirit of delusion

A spirit of delusion seems to us widely prevalent  . . .
  a carnal confidence,
  a dead assurance,
  a presumptuous claim,
  a daring mimicry of the spirit of adoption.

Who that has eyes or heart does not see and
feel the wide spread of this gigantic evil?

No brokenness of heart,
no tenderness of conscience,
no spirituality of mind,
no heavenly affections,
no prayerfulness and watchfulness,
no godly devotedness of life,
no self denial and crucifixion,
no humility or contrition,
no separation from the world,
no communion with the Lord of life and glory.

In a word, none of the blessed graces and fruits
of the Spirit attend this carnal confidence.

On the contrary . . .
  levity,
  jesting,
  pride,
  covetousness,
  self-exaltation, and
  often gross self-indulgence
are evidently stamped upon many, if
not most, of these hardened professors.

 


The husks which the swine eat


All forms, opinions, rites, ceremonies and notions
to me are nothing—and worse than nothing. They
are the husks which the swine eat—not the food
of the living soul.

To have the heart deeply penetrated with the fear
of Jehovah—to be melted and filled with a sweet
sense of Jesus' dying love—to have the affections
warmed and drawn forth under the anointings of
the Eternal Comforter—this is the only religion
that can suit and satisfy a regenerate soul!
 


Then they cried

"They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary
way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and
thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they
cried
unto the Lord in their trouble, and He
delivered them out of their distresses."
    Psalm 107:4-6

Until they wandered in the wilderness;
until they felt it to be a solitary way;
until they found no city to dwell in;
until hungry and thirsty their soul fainted in them;
there was no cry.

There might have been
  a prayer,
  a desire,
  a feeble wish, and
  now and then a sigh or a groan.

But this was not enough. Something more was
needed to draw forth loving-kindness out of the
bosom of the compassionate Head of the Church.

A cry was needed—a cry of distress, a cry of soul
trouble, a cry forced out of their hearts by heavy
burdens. A cry implies urgent need—a perishing
without an answer to the cry. It is this solemn
feeling in the heart that there is no other refuge
but God.

The Lord brings all His people here—to have no
other refuge but Himself. Friends, counselors,
acquaintance—these may sympathize, but they
 cannot afford relief. There is . . .
  no refuge,
  nor shelter,
  nor harbor,
  nor home
into which they can fly, except the Lord.

Thus troubles force us to deal with God in a
personal manner. They chase away that half-
hearted religion of which we have so much;
and they drive out that notional experience
and dry profession that we are so often
satisfied with. They chase them away as
a strong north wind chases away the mists;
and they bring a man to this solemn spot—that
he must have God to support him—and bring
him out of his trouble.

But what a mercy it is when there is a cry!

And when the Lord sends a cry in the trouble,
He is sure in his own time and way to send
deliverance out of it.

 


O what painful work it is!


"You also, like living stones, are being
 built into a spiritual house." 1 Peter 2:5

God's people require . . .
  many severe afflictions,
  many harassing temptations,
  and  many powerful trials
to hew them into any good shape, to chisel
them into any conformity to Christ's image.

For they are not like the passive marble under
the hands of the sculptor, which will submit
without murmuring, and indeed without feeling,
to have this corner chipped off, and that jutting
angle rounded by the chisel.

But God's people are living stones, and therefore,
they feel every stroke.
We are so tender skinned
that we cannot bear a 'thread of trouble' to lie upon
us—we shrink from even the touch of the chisel.

To be hewed, then, and squared, and chiseled
by the hand of God into such shapes and forms
as please Him—O what painful work it is!

If the Lord, then, is at work upon our souls . . .
  we have not had,
  we are not now having,
  we shall never have . . .
one stroke too much,
one stroke too little,
one stroke in the wrong direction.
But there shall be just sufficient to work in us
that which is pleasing in God's sight—and to
make us that which He would have us to be.

What a great deal of trouble would we be spared
if we could only patiently submit to the Lord's
afflicting stroke
—and know no will but His.

 


We get no better, but rather worse


"Accepted in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:6

We are ever looking for something in SELF to
make ourselves acceptable to God—and are
often sadly cast down and discouraged when
we cannot find . . .
  that holiness,
  that obedience,
  that calm submission to the will of God,
  that serenity of soul,
  that spirituality and heavenly mindedness,
which we believe to be acceptable in His sight.

Our crooked tempers,
our fretful peevish minds,
our rebellious thoughts,
our coldness,
our barrenness,
our alienation from good,
our headlong proneness to evil,
with the daily feeling that we get no better,
but rather worse
—make us think that God
views us just as we view ourselves
. We
seem to lose sight of our acceptance in Christ,
and get into the miserable dregs of SELF. We
are so vile, and only get worse as we get
older.

Now the more we get into these dregs of SELF,
and the more we keep looking at the dreadful
scenes of wreck and ruin which our heart presents
to daily view—the farther do we get from the grace
of the gospel—and the more do we lose sight of
the only ground of our acceptance with God.

It is "in the Beloved" alone, that we
are accepted—and not for any . . .
  good words,
  good works,
  good thoughts,
  good hearts, or
  good intentions
of our own.

And a saving knowledge of our acceptance "in
the Beloved," independent of everything in us
either good or bad, is a firm foundation for our
faith and hope—and will keep us from sinking
altogether into despair.

 

 

Blundering and stumbling on in darkness

After the Lord has quickened our souls, for a
time we often go blundering on, not knowing
there is a Jesus.

We think that the way of life is to . . .
  keep God's commandments,
  obey the law,
  cleanse ourselves from sin,
  reform our lives,
  cultivate universal holiness in thought, word,
and action—and so we go—blundering and
stumbling on in darkness
—and all the while
never get a single step forward.

But when the Lord has allowed us to weary ourselves
to find the door, and let us sink lower and lower into
the pit of guilt and ruin, from feeling that all our attempts
to extricate ourselves have only plunged us deeper and
deeper—and when the Spirit of God opens up to the
understanding and brings into the soul some spiritual
discovery of Jesus, and thus makes known that there
is a Savior, a Mediator, and a way of escape—this is the
grand turning point in our lives, the first opening in the
valley of Achor (trouble) of the door of hope.

 


When you are in the wilderness


"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring
 her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably
 unto her." Hosea 2:14

When you are in the wilderness, you have . . .
  no friend,
  no creature help,
  no worldly comfort—
these have all abandoned you.

God has led you into the wilderness to bereave you
of these earthly ties, of these 'creature refuges and
vain hopes', that He may Himself speak to your soul.

If, then, you are separated from the world by being
brought into the wilderness—if you are passing through
trials and afflictions—if you are exercised with a variety
of temptations—and are brought into that spot where
the creature yields neither help nor hope—then you are
made to see and feel that nothing but God's voice
speaking with power to your soul can give you any
solid grounds of rest or peace.

But is not this profitable? It may be painful—it is painful—
but it is profitable, because by it we learn to look to the
Lord and the Lord alone—and this must ever be a blessed
lesson to learn for every child of God.



O what crowds of pitiable objects

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with
 confidence, so that we may receive mercy and
 find grace to help us in our time of need."
    Hebrews 4:16

What heart can conceive or tongue recount the
daily, hourly triumphs of the Lord Jesus Christ's
all-conquering grace?

We see scarcely a millionth part of what He, as a
King on his throne, is daily doing. What a crowd of
needy petitioners every moment surrounds His throne!
What urgent needs and woes to answer;
what cutting griefs and sorrows to assuage;
what broken hearts to bind up;
what wounded consciences to heal;
what countless prayers to hear;
what earnest petitions to grant;
what stubborn foes to subdue;
what guilty fears to quell!

What grace,
what kindness,
what patience,
what compassion,
what mercy,
what love,
what power,
what authority,
does this Almighty Sovereign display!

No circumstance is too trifling;
no petitioner too insignificant;
no case too hard;
no difficulty too great;
no seeker too importunate;
no beggar too ragged;
no bankrupt too penniless;
no debtor too insolvent;
for Him not to notice and not to relieve.

Sitting on His throne of grace . . .
  His all-seeing eye views all,
  His almighty hand grasps all,
 and His loving heart embraces all whom the
Father chose—whom He himself redeemed by
His blood—and whom the blessed Spirit has
quickened into life by His invincible power.

The hopeless, the helpless;
the outcasts whom no man cares for;
the tossed with tempest and not comforted;
the ready to perish;
the mourners in Zion;
the bereaved widow;
the wailing orphan;
the sick in body;
and still more sick in heart;
the racked with hourly pain;
the fevered consumptive;
the wrestler with death's last struggle.

O what crowds of pitiable objects
surround His throne—and all needing . . .
  a look from His eye,
  a word from His lips,
  a smile from His face,
  a touch from His hand!

O could we but see what His grace is—what His
grace has—what His grace does—and could we
but feel more what it is doing in and for ourselves,
we would have more exalted views of the reign of
grace now exercised on high by Zion's enthroned King!




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