Weary?

"Then Jesus said, "Come to Me, all of you
 who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
 and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

The Lord's purpose in laying burdens upon
us is to weary us out. We cannot learn our
religion in any other way. We cannot learn
it from the Bible, nor from the experience of
others. It must be a personal work, wrought
in the heart of each; and we must be brought,
all of us, if ever we are to find rest in Christ,
to be absolutely wearied out of sin and self,
and to have no righteousness, goodness, or
holiness of our own.

The effect, then, of all spiritual labor is to bring
us to this point: to be weary of the world, for we
feel it, for the most part, to be a valley of tears;
to be weary of self, for it is our greatest plague;
weary of professors, for we cannot see in them
the grace of God, which alone we prize and value;
weary of the profane, for their ungodly conversation
only hurts our minds; weary of our bodies, for they
are often full of sickness and pain, and always
clogs to our soul; and weary of life, for we see
the emptiness of those things which to most
people make life so agreeable.

By this painful experience we come to this point:
to be worn out and wearied; and there we must
come, before we can rest entirely on Christ.

As long as we can rest in the world, we shall
rest in it. As long as the things of time and
sense can gratify us, we shall be gratified in
them. As long as we can find anything pleasing
in self, we shall be pleased with it. As long as
anything visible and tangible can satisfy us,
we shall be satisfied with them.

But when we get weary of all things visible,
tangible, and sensible—weary of ourselves,
and of all things here below—then we want
to rest upon Christ, and Christ alone.

"Then Jesus said, "Come to Me, all of you
 who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
 and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28




Oh, how religious he once used to be!

"And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek
 and save those who are LOST." Luke 19:10

Oh, how religious he once used to be!

How comfortably he could walk to church with his
Bible under his arm, and look as devout and holy
as possible! How regularly also, he could read the
Scriptures, and pray in his manner, and think
himself pretty well, with one foot in heaven.

But a ray of heavenly light has beamed into his soul,
and shown him who and what God is; what sin and
a sinful heart is; and who and what he himself as a
sinner is. The keen dissecting knife of God has come
into his heart, laid it all bare, and let the gory matter
flow out. When his conscience is bleeding under the
scalpel, and is streaming all over with the gore and
filth thus let out, where is the clean heart once
boasted of?


Where is his religion now?

All buried beneath a load of filth!

Where is all his holiness gone?
His . . .
  holy looks,
  holy expressions,
  holy manners,
  holy gestures,
  holy garb;
where are they all gone?
All are flooded and buried. The sewer has broken
out, and the filthy stream has discharged itself
over his holy looks, holy manners, holy words and
holy gestures; and he is, as Job says, 'in the ditch.'

We never find the right religion, until we have lost
the wrong one. We never find Christ, until we have
lost SELF. We never find grace, until we have lost
our own pitiful self-holiness.

"And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek
 and save those who are LOST." Luke 19:10



It is a creature of many lives!

Man is a strange compound. A sinner, and
the worst of sinners, and yet a Pharisee!

A wretch, and the vilest of wretches, and
yet pluming himself on his good works!

Did not experience convince us to the contrary,
we would scarcely believe that a monster like man,
a creature, as someone has justly said, "half beast
and half devil,"
should dream of pleasing God by his
obedience, or of climbing up to heaven by a ladder
of his own righteousness.

Pharisaism is firmly fixed in the human heart.
Deep is the root,
broad the stem,
wide the branches,
but poisonous the fruit,
of this gigantic tree, planted by pride
and unbelief in the soil of human nature.

Self-righteousness is not peculiar to only certain
individuals. It is interwoven with our very being.
It is the only religion that human nature . . .
 
understands,
  relishes, or
  admires.

Again and again must the heart be ploughed up,
and its corruptions laid bare, to keep down the
growth of this pharisaic spirit.

It is a creature of many lives!
It is not one blow,
nor ten, nor a hundred that can kill it. Stunned it
may be for a while, but it revives again and again!

Pharisaism can live and thrive under any profession.
Calvinism or Arminianism is the same to it. It is not
the garb he wears, nor the mask he carries, that
constitutes the man.



The believer's chief troubles

As earth is but a valley of tears, the Christian has many
tribulations in common with the world. Family troubles
were the lot of Job, Abraham, Jacob and David. Sickness
befell Hezekiah, Trophimus and Epaphroditus. Reverses
and losses
fell upon Job. Poverty and famine drove
Naomi into the land of Moab.

Trouble, then, is in itself no sign of grace; for it
inevitably flows from, and is necessarily connected
with, man's fallen state.

But we should fix our eye on two things, as especially
marking the temporal afflictions of the Lord's family:
1. That they are all weighed out and timed by special
appointment. For though "man is born to trouble as the
sparks fly upwards," yet "affliction comes not forth of
the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground."
    Job 5:6
2. That they are specially sanctified, and made to
"work together for good" to those who love God.

But the believer's chief troubles are internal,
and arise from . . .
  the assaults of Satan,
  powerful temptations,
  the guilt of sin laid on the conscience,
  doubts and fears about a saving interest in Christ, and
  a daily, hourly conflict with a nature ever lusting to evil.



A religion that satisfies thousands.

"Having a form of godliness but denying its power."
     2 Tim. 3:5

Much that passes for religion,
is not true religion at all.

Much that goes for hopes of salvation,
is nothing but lying refuges.

Much is palmed off for the teaching of the Spirit,
which is nothing but delusion.

Vital godliness is very rare.

There are very few people spiritually taught of God.

There are very few ministers who really preach the truth.

Satan is thus daily deceiving thousands, and tens of thousands.

A living soul, however weak and feeble in himself,
cannot take up with a religion in the flesh.

He cannot rest on the opinions of men, nor be
deceived by Satan's delusions. He has a secret
gnawing of conscience, which makes him dissatisfied
with a religion that satisfies thousands.




Then down they sink to the bottom!

"Until the pit is dug for the wicked." Psalm 94:13

In Eastern countries, the ordinary mode of catching
wild beasts is to dig a pit, and fix sharp spears in the
bottom. And when the pit has been dug sufficiently
deep, it is covered over with branches of trees, earth,
and leaves, until all appearances of the pitfall are
entirely concealed. What is the object? That the wild
beast intent upon bloodshed—the tiger lying in wait
for the deer, the wolf roaming after the sheep, the
lion prowling for the antelope, not seeing the pitfall,
but rushing on and over it, may not see their doom
until they break through and fall upon the spears at
the bottom.

What a striking figure is this!

Here are the ungodly, all intent upon their purposes;
prowling after evil, as the wolf after the sheep, or the
tiger after the deer, thinking only of . . .
  some worldly profit,
  some covetous plan,
  some lustful scheme,
  something the carnal mind delights in;
but on they go, not seeing any danger until the moment
comes when, as Job says, "they go down to the bars of
the pit."

The Lord has been pleased to hide their doom from them.
The pit is all covered over with leaves of trees, grass, and
earth. The very appearance of the pit was hidden from the
wild beasts; they never knew it until they fell into it, and
were transfixed.

So it is with the wicked; both with religious professors
and the profane. There is no fear of God, no taking heed
to their steps, no cry to be directed, no prayer to be shown
the way; no pausing, no turning back. On they go, on they
go; heedlessly, thoughtlessly, recklessly; pursuing some
beloved object. On they go, on they go; until in a moment
they are plunged eternally and irrevocably into the pit!

There are many such both in the professing church as well
as in the ungodly world. The Lord sees what they are, and
where they are. He knows where the pit is. He knows their
steps. He sees them hurrying on, hurrying on, hurrying on.
All is prepared for them. The Lord gives them . . .
  no forewarning,
  no notice of their danger,
  no teachings,
  no chastenings,
  no remonstrances,
  no frowns,
  no stripes.
They are left to themselves to fill up the measure of
their iniquity, until they approach the pit that has been
dug for them, and then down they sink to the bottom!

 

Who can come out of the battle alive?

"Hold me up, and I shall be safe!" Ps. 119:117

We know little of ourselves, and less
of one another. We do not know . . .
  our own needs,
  what is for our good,
  what snares to avoid,
  what dangers to shun.

Our path is . . .
  bestrewed with difficulties,
  beset with temptations,
  surrounded with foes,
  encompassed with perils.

At every step there is a snare!

At every turn an enemy lurks!

Pride digs the pit,
carelessness blindfolds the eyes,
carnality drugs and intoxicates the senses,
the lust of the flesh seduces,
the love of the world allures,
unbelief paralyzes the fighting hand and the praying knee,
sin entangles the feet,
guilt defiles the conscience,
and Satan accuses the soul.

Under these circumstances, who can come out of
the battle alive?
Only he who is kept by the mighty
power of God. "Hold me up, and I shall be safe!"




MERCY!

"Look upon me, and be merciful unto me." Ps. 119:132

When shall we ever get beyond the need of God's mercy?

We feel our need of continual mercy . . .
  as our sins abound,
  as our guilt is felt,
  as our corruption works,
  as our conscience is burdened,
  as the iniquities of our heart are laid bare,
  as our hearts are opened up in the Spirit's light.

We need . . .
  mercy for every adulterous look;
  mercy for every covetous thought;
  mercy for every light and trifling word;
  mercy for every wicked movement of our depraved hearts;
  mercy while we live;
  mercy when we die;
  mercy to accompany us every moment;
  mercy to go with us down to the portals of the grave;
  mercy to carry us safely through the swellings of Jordan;
  mercy to land us safe before the Redeemer's throne!

"Look upon me, and be merciful unto me."

Why me?
Because I am so vile a sinner.
Because I am so base a backslider.
Because I am such a daring transgressor.
Because I sin against You with every breath that I draw.
Because the evils of my heart are perpetually manifesting themselves.
Because nothing but Your mercy can blot out such
iniquities as I feel working in my carnal mind.

I need . . .
 inexhaustible mercy,
 everlasting mercy,
 super-abounding mercy.

Nothing but such mercy as this can suit such a guilty sinner!




A flowery path?

Does the road to heaven lie across a smooth,
grassy meadow, over which we may quietly
walk in the cool of a summer evening, and
leisurely amuse ourselves with gathering of
flowers and listening to the warbling of the birds?

No child of God ever found the way to heaven
a flowery path. It is the wide gate and broad
way which leads to perdition. It is the strait
gate
and narrow way, the uphill road, full of . . .
  difficulties,
  trials,
  temptations,
  and enemies,
which leads to heaven, and issues in eternal life.

But our Father manifests mercy and grace. He never
leaves nor forsakes the objects of His choice. He . . .
  fulfills every promise,
  defeats every enemy,
  appears in every difficulty,
  richly pardons every sin,
  graciously heals every backsliding,
  and eventually lands them in eternal bliss!




Toys and playthings of the religious babyhouse

"I will feed My flock." Ezekiel 34:15

The only real food of the soul must be of God's
own appointing, preparing, and communicating.

You can never deceive a hungry child. You may
give it a plaything to still its cries. It may serve
for a few minutes; but the pains of hunger are
not to be removed by a doll. A toy horse will not
allay the cravings after the mother's breast.

So with babes in grace. A hungry soul
cannot feed upon playthings.

Altars,
robes,
ceremonies,
candlesticks,
bowings,
mutterings,
painted windows,
intoning priests, and
singing men and women;
these dolls and wooden horses; these toys
and playthings of the religious babyhouse
,
cannot feed the soul that, like David, cries out
after the living God. (Psalm 42:23)

Christ, the bread of life, the manna that
came down from heaven, is the only food
of the believing soul. (John 6:51)
 



But oh, the struggle! oh, the conflict!

"I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it
 shall be no more."  Ezekiel 21:27

Jesus wants our hearts and affections. Therefore
every idol must go down, sooner or later, because
the idol draws away the affections of the soul from
Christ. Everything that is loved in opposition to Him
must sooner or later be taken away, that the Lord
Jesus alone may be worshiped. Everything which
exacts the allegiance of the soul must be overthrown.

Jesus shall have our heart and affections, but in
having our heart and affection, He shall have it . . .
  wholly,
  solely, and
  undividedly.
He shall have it entirely for Himself.
He shall reign and rule supreme.

Now, here comes the conflict and the struggle.
SELF says, "I will have a part." Self wants to be . . .
  honored,
  admired,
  esteemed,
  bowed down to.
Self wants to indulge in, and gratify its desires.
Self wants, in some way, to erect its throne in
opposition to the Lord of life and glory.

But Jesus says, "No! I must reign supreme!"

Whatever it is that stands up in opposition to Him,
down it must go! Just as Dagon fell down before
the ark, so self must fall down before Christ . . .
  in every shape,
  in every form,
  in whatever subtle guise self wears,
down it must come to a wreck and ruin before
the King of Zion!

So, if we are continually building up SELF,
Jesus will be continually overthrowing self.

If we are setting up our idols,
He shall be casting them down.

If we are continually hewing out "cisterns
that can hold no water," He will be continually
dashing these cisterns to pieces.

If we think highly of our knowledge,
we must be reduced to total folly.

If we are confident of our strength,
we must be reduced to utter weakness.

If we highly esteem our attainments, or in
any measure are resting upon the power of
the creature
, the power of the creature must
be overthrown, so that we shall stand weak
before God, unable to lift up a finger to deliver
our souls from going down into the pit.

In this way does the Lord teach His people the
lesson that Christ must be all in all. They learn . . .
  not in the way of speculation,
  nor in the way of mere dry doctrine,
  not from the mouth of others, but
they learn these lessons in painful soul-experience.

And every living soul that is sighing and longing after
a manifestation of Christ and desiring to have Him
enthroned in the heart; every such soul will know,
sooner or later . . .
  an utter overthrow of self,
  a thorough prostration of this idol,
  a complete breaking to pieces of this beloved image,
that the desire of the righteous may be granted, and
that Christ may reign and rule as King and Lord in him
and over him, setting up His blessed kingdom there, and
winning to Himself every affection of the renewed heart.

Are there not moments, friends, are there not some
few and fleeting moments when the desire of our souls
is that Christ should be our Lord and God; when we are
willing that He should have every affection; that every
rebellious thought
should be subdued and brought into
obedience to the cross of Christ; that every plan should
be frustrated which is not for the glory of God and our
soul's spiritual profit?

Are there not seasons in our experience when we can
lay down our souls before God, and say "Let Christ be
precious to my soul, let Him come with power to my
heart, let Him set up His throne as Lord and King, and
let self be nothing before Him?" But oh, the struggle!
oh, the conflict!
when God answers these petitions!

When our plans are frustrated
, what a
rebellion works up in the carnal mind!

When self is cast down, what a rising up of
the fretful, peevish impatience of the creature!

When the Lord does answer our prayers, and
strips off all false confidence; when He does
remove our rotten props, and dash to pieces
our broken cisterns, what a storm; what a
conflict
takes place in the soul!

But He is not to be moved; He will take His own way.
"I will overturn, let the creature say what it will. I will
overturn, let the creature think what it will. Down it
shall go to ruin! It shall come to a wreck! It shall be
overthrown! My purpose shall be accomplished, and
I will fulfill all My pleasure. Self is a rebel who has
set up an idolatrous temple, and I will overturn and
bring the temple to ruin, for the purpose of manifesting
My glory and My salvation, that I may be your Lord and
your God."

If God has overturned our bright prospects, shall we say
it was a cruel hand that laid them low? If He has overthrown
our worldly plans
, shall we say it was an unkind act? If He
has reduced our false righteousness to a heap of rubbish,
in order that Christ may be embraced as our all in all, shall
we say it was a cruel deed?


Is he an unkind father who takes away poison from
his child, and gives him food? Is she a cruel mother
who snatches her boy from the precipice on which he
was playing? No! The kindness was manifested in the
act of snatching the child from destruction!

So if the Lord has broken and overthrown our purposes,
it was a kind act; for in so doing He brings us to nothing,
that Christ may be embraced as our all in all
, that our
hearts may echo back, "O Lord, fulfill all Your own promises
in our souls, and make us willing to be nothing; that upon the
nothingness of self, the glory and beauty and preciousness
of Christ may be exalted!"
 



A snake, a monkey, an onion, a bit of rag

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." 1 John 5:21

Idolatry
is a sin very deeply rooted in the human heart.

We need not go very far to find the most convincing
proofs of this. Besides the experience of every age
and every climate, we find it where we would least
expect it—the prevailing sin of a people who had the
greatest possible proofs of its wickedness and folly;
and the strongest evidences of the being, greatness,
and power of God.

It is true that now this sin does not break out exactly
in the same form. It is true that golden calves are not
now worshiped—at least the calf is not, if the gold is.
Nor do Protestants adore images of wood, brass, or
stone.

But that rank, property, fashion, honor, the opinion
of the world, with everything which feeds the lust of
the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life;
are as much idolized now, as Baal and Moloch were
once in Judea.

What is an idol?

It is that which occupies that place in our esteem
and affections, in our thoughts, words and ways,
which is due to God only. Whatever is to us, what
the Lord alone should be—that is an idol to us.

It is true that these idols differ almost as widely
as the peculiar propensities of different individuals.
But as both in ancient and modern times, the grosser
idols of wood and stone were and are beyond all
calculation in number, variety, shape, and size.
So is it in these inner idols, of which the outer
idols are mere symbols and representations.

Nothing has been . . .
  too base or too brutal,
  too great or too little,
  too noble or too vile,
from the sun walking in its brightness—to a snake,
a monkey, an onion, a bit of rag
—which man has
not worshiped. And these intended representations
of Divinity were but the outward symbols of what
man inwardly worshiped
. For the inward idol preceded
the outward—and the fingers merely carved what the
imagination had previously devised. The gross material
idol, then, is but a symbol of the inner mind of man.

But we need not dwell on this part of the subject.
There is another form of idolatry much nearer home;
the idolatry not of an ancient Pagan, or a modern
Hindu—but that of a Christian.

Nor need we go far, if we would but be honest
with ourselves, to each find out our own idol . . .
  what it is,
  how deep it lies,
  what worship it obtains,
  what honor it receives,
  and what affection it engrosses.

Let me ask myself, "What do I most love?"

If I hardly know how to answer that question, let
me put to myself another, "What do I most think
upon? In what channel do I usually find my thoughts
flow when unrestrained?"—for thoughts flow to the
idol as water to the lowest spot.

If, then, the thoughts flow continually to . . .
  the farm,
  the shop,
  the business,
  the investment,
  to the husband, wife, or child,
  to that which feeds lust or pride,
  worldliness or covetousness,
  self-conceit or self-admiration;
that is the idol which, as a magnet, attracts
the thoughts of the mind towards it.

Your idol may not be mine, nor mine yours; and
yet we may both be idolaters! You may despise or
even hate my idol, and wonder how I can be such
a fool, or such a sinner, as to hug it to my bosom!
And I may wonder how a partaker of grace can
be so inconsistent as to love such a silly idol
as yours! You may condemn me, and I condemn
you. And the Word of God, and the verdict of a
living conscience may condemn us both.

O how various and how innumerable these idols
are!
One man may possess a refined taste and
educated mind. Books, learning, literature, languages,
general information, shall be his idol. Music—vocal
and instrumental, may be the idol of a second—so
sweet to his ears, such inward feelings of delight
are kindled by the melodious strains of voice or
instrument, that music is in all his thoughts, and
hours are spent in producing those harmonious
sounds which perish in their utterance. Painting,
statuary, architecture, the fine arts generally, may
be the Baal, the dominating passion of a third.
Poetry, with its glowing thoughts, burning words,
passionate utterances, vivid pictures, melodious
cadence, and sustained flow of all that is beautiful
in language and expression, may be the delight of
a fourth. Science, the eager pursuit of a fifth.
These are the highest flights of the human mind.
These are not the base idols of the drunken feast,
the low jest, the mirthful supper—or even that less
debasing but enervating idol—sleep and indolence,
as if life's highest enjoyments were those of the
swine in the sty.

You middle-class people—who despise art and science,
language and learning, as you despise the ale-house,
and ball field—may still have an idol. Your garden, your
beautiful roses, your verbenas, fuchsias, needing all the
care and attention of a babe in arms, may be your idol.
Or your pretty children, so admired as they walk in the
street; or your new house and all the new furniture; or
your son who is getting on so well in business; or your
daughter so comfortably settled in life; or your dear
husband so generally respected, and just now doing so
nicely in the farm. Or your own still dearer SELF that
needs so much feeding, and dressing and attending to.

Who shall count the thousands of idols which draw
to themselves those thoughts, and engross those
affections which are due to the Lord alone?

You may not be found out. Your idol may be so hidden,
or so peculiar, that all our attempts to touch it, have left
you and it unscathed. Will you therefore conclude that you
have none? Search deeper, look closer; it is not too deep
for the eye of God, nor too hidden for the eyes of a tender
conscience anointed with divine eye-salve.

Hidden diseases the most incurable of all diseases.
Search every fold of your heart until you find it. It may
not be so big nor so ugly as your neighbor's. But an idol
is still an idol, whether so small as to be carried in the
coat pocket, or as large as a gigantic statue.

An idol is not to be admired for its beauty, or loathed
for its ugliness—but to be hated because it is an idol.

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." 1 John 5:21


 

The mother and mistress of all the sins

"I hate pride and arrogance." Proverbs 8:13

"The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure
 of this: They will not go unpunished." Prov. 16:5

Of all sins, pride seems most deeply imbedded in the
very heart of man
. Unbelief, sensuality, covetousness,
rebellion, presumption, contempt of God's holy will and
word, deceit and falsehood, cruelty and wrath, violence
and murder—these, and a forest of other sins have
indeed struck deep roots into the black and noxious
soil of our fallen nature; and, interlacing their lofty
stems and gigantic arms, have wholly shut out the
light of heaven from man's benighted soul.

But these and their associate evils do not seem so
thoroughly interwoven into the very constitution of
the human heart, nor so to be its very life-blood,
as pride. The lust of the flesh is strong, but there
are respites from its workings. Unbelief is powerful,
but there are times when it seems to lie dormant.
Covetousness is ensnaring, but there is not always
a bargain to be made, or an advantage to be clutched.

These sins differ also in strength in different individuals.
Some seem not much tempted with the grosser passions
of our fallen nature; others are naturally liberal and
benevolent, and whatever other idol they may serve,
they bend not their knee to the golden calf.

But where lust may have no power, covetousness no
dominion, and anger no sway—there, down, down in
the inmost depths, heaving and boiling like the lava
in the crater of a volcano, works that master sin—
that sin of sins, pride!


Pride is the mother and mistress of all the sins;
for where she does not conceive them in her ever-
teeming womb, she instigates their movements,
and compels them to pay tribute to her glory.

The 'origin of evil' is hidden from our eyes. Whence
it sprang, and why God allowed it to arise in His fair
creation, are mysteries which we cannot fathom. But
thus much is revealed—that of this mighty fire which
has filled hell with sulphurous flame, and will one
day envelop earth and its inhabitants in the general
conflagration, the first spark was pride!

Pride is therefore emphatically the devil's own sin.
We will not say his darling sin, for it is his torment,
the serpent which is always biting him, the fire which
is ever consuming him. But it is the sin which hurled
him from heaven, and transformed him from a bright
and holy seraph, into a foul and hideous demon!

How subtle, then, and potent must that poison be,
which could in a moment change an angel into a devil!
How black in nature, how concentrated in virulence
that venom—one drop of which could utterly deface
the image of God in myriads of bright spirits before
the throne—and degrade them into monsters of
uncleanness and malignity!
 


I needed no monkish rules then.

A man may . . .
  have a consistent profession of religion,
  have a sound, well ordered creed,
  be a member of a Christian church,
  attend to all ordinances and duties,
  seek to frame his life according to God's word,
  have his family prayer, and private prayer,
  be a good husband, father, and friend,
  be liberal and kind to God's cause and people,
and yet with all this bear no fruit Godwards.

What is all this but pitiful self-holiness?

Real gospel fruit is only produced by the word
of God's grace falling into the heart, watering
and softening it. Without this there is . . .
  not one gracious feeling,
  not one spiritual desire,
  not one tender thought,
  not one heavenly affection.

We have tried, perhaps, to make ourselves holy.
We have watched our eyes, our ears, our tongues;
have read so many chapters every day out of God's
word; continued so long upon our knees; and so
tried to work a kind of holiness into our own souls.

Many years ago, I used to try to pray for the better
part of an hour; and I am ashamed to say, I have
been glad to hear the clock strike. What was this
but a monkish, self-imposed rule, to please God
by the length of my prayers?

But when the Lord was pleased to touch my conscience
with His finger, He gave me a remarkable spirit of grace
and supplication; I needed no monkish rules then.


 

The strong man sinks down into a babe!

"The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
 my God, my strength, in whom I will trust." Psalm 18:2

As long as a man has any strength of his own, he will
never have any strength in the Lord; for the strength
of Jesus is made perfect in our weakness.

Oh, what a painful lesson we have to learn to find
all our strength is weakness. There was a time
when we thought we had strength, and could . . .

  resist Satan,
  overcome the world,
  endure persecution,
  bear the reproach of man,
  mortify and keep down pride, and the evils of our heart.

Have we found ourselves able to carry out our fancied
strength? What has been our experience in this matter?
That we have discovered more and more our own weakness;
that we cannot stand against one temptation; the least
gust blows us down!


Our besetting lusts, our vile passions, and the wicked
desires of our hearts, so entice our eyes and thoughts;
so entwine themselves around our affections; that we
give out in a moment
, unless God Himself holds us up!
We cannot stand against sin; our heart is as weak as
water.

Thus we learn our weakness, by feeling ourselves
to be the very weakest of the weak, and the very
vilest of the vile.

As the Lord leads a man deeper down into the
knowledge of his corruptions, it makes him more
and more out of conceit with his righteous, pious,
holy self
. The more the Lord leads a man into the
knowledge of . . .
  temptation,
  his besetting sin,
  the power of his corruptions,
  the workings of his vile nature;
the more deeply and painfully he learns what
a poor, helpless, weak, powerless wretch he is.

As the Lord is pleased to unfold before his eyes the
strength, power, and fullness lodged in Jesus Christ;
He draws him, leads him, brings him, encourages him,
and enables him to come to this fullness. And by the
hand of faith he draws supplies out of that fullness.

As the Lord enables the soul to look to Jesus, His
blessed strength is communicated and breathed into
his soul. Then the 'poor worm Jacob' threshes the
mountains, beats down the hills, and makes them
fly before him as chaff. When the Lord strengthens
him, he can . . .

  stand against temptation,
  overcome sin,
  bear persecution,
  subdue the evils of his heart, and
  fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

When the Lord leaves him, he is like Samson with
his locks cut. He sinks into all evil, and feels the
helplessness of his fallen nature. Let the Lord but
remove His gracious presence, and the strong man
sinks down into a babe!
And he that in the strength
of the Lord could thresh the mountains, falls down
as weak and helpless as a little child.

Thus the Lord painfully and solemnly teaches us, that
being nothing in ourselves, and feeling our weakness,
helplessness, and wretchedness; in Him alone we
have strength.


 


Save me, and I shall be saved!

"Save me, and I shall be saved!" Jeremiah 17:14

This implies salvation from the power of sin;
the secret dominion sin possesses in the heart.

O, what a tyrannical rule does sin sometimes
exercise in our carnal minds! How soon are we
entangled in flesh-pleasing snares! How easily
brought under the secret dominion of some hidden
corruption! And how we struggle in vain to deliver
ourselves when we are caught in the snares of
the devil, or are under the power of any one lust,
besetment, or temptation!

The Lord, and the Lord alone can save us from all
these things. He saves from the power of sin by . . .
  bringing a sense of His dying love into our hearts,
  delivering us from our idols,
  raising our affections to things above,
  breaking to pieces our snares,
  subduing our lusts,
  taming our corruptions, and
  mastering the inward evils of our dreadfully fallen nature.

Here is this sin! Lord, save me from it.

Here is this snare! Lord, break it to pieces.

Here is this temptation! Lord, deliver me out of it.

Here is this lust! Lord, subdue it.

Here is my proud heart! Lord, humble it.

None but the Lord can do these things for us . . .
  nothing but the felt power of God,
  nothing but the putting forth of His mighty arm,
  nothing but the shedding abroad of His dying love,
  nothing but the operations of His grace upon our soul,
can deliver us from the secret power of evil.

"Save me, and I shall be saved!"




Crush its viper head with the heel of our boot!

"Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself,
 and take up his cross and follow Me" Mark 8:34

To deny and renounce self lies at the very foundation
of vital godliness.

It is easy in some measure to leave the world; easy
to leave the professing church; but to go forth out of
self, there is the difficulty, for this "self" embraces
such a variety of forms.

What varied shapes and forms does this monster
SELF
assume! How hard to trace his windings! How
difficult to track this wily foe to his hidden den; drag
him out of the cave; and immolate him at the foot of
the cross, as Samuel hewed down Agag in Gilgal.

Proud self,
righteous self,
covetous self,
ambitious self,
sensual self,
deceitful self,
religious self,
flesh-pleasing self.

How difficult to detect, unmask, strip out of its
changeable suits of apparel, this ugly, misshaped
creature
, and then stamp upon it, as if one would
crush its viper head with the heel of our boot!

Who will do such violence to beloved self, when every
nerve quivers and shrinks; and the coward heart cries
to the uplifted foot, "Spare, spare!"

But unless there is this self crucifixion, there is
no walking hand in hand with Christ, no heavenly
communion with Him; for there can no more be a
partnership between Christ and self, than there
can be a partnership between Christ and sin.

 

Poor, moping, dejected creatures

We are, most of us, so fettered down by . . .
  the chains of time and sense,
  the cares of life and daily business,
  the weakness of our earthly frame,
  the distracting claims of a family, and
  the miserable carnality and sensuality of our fallen nature,
that we live at best a poor, dragging, dying life.

Many of us are poor, moping, dejected creatures.
We have . . .
  a variety of trials and afflictions,
  a daily cross and
  the continual plague of an evil heart.

We know enough of ourselves to know that in SELF
there is neither help nor hope, and never expect a
smoother path, a better, wiser, holier heart. As then . . .
  the weary man seeks rest,
  the hungry man seeks food,
  the thirsty man seeks drink,
  and the sick man seeks health,
so do we stretch forth our hearts and arms that we
may embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and sensibly
realize union and communion with Him.

He discovers the evil and misery of sin that we may
seek pardon in His bleeding wounds and pierced side.

He makes known to us our nakedness and shame,
and, as such, our exposure to God's wrath, that we
may hide ourselves under His justifying robe.

He puts gall and wormwood into the world's choicest
draughts, that we may have no sweetness but in and
from Him.


 

What a battlefield is the heart

I have so much opposition within, so many
temptations, lusts, and follies; so many
snares and besetments; and a vile heart,
dabbling in all carnality and filth.

I am indeed exercised "by sin and grace."

Sin or grace seems continually uppermost;
striving and lusting against one another.
What . . .
  lustings, sorrowings;
  fallings, risings;
  defeats, and victories.

What a battlefield is the heart, and there
the fight is lost and won. When sin prevails,
mourning over its wounds and slaughter.
When grace and godly fear beat back
temptation, a softening into gratitude.




How can he travel through this waste howling wilderness?

If you are alive to what you are as a poor, fallen
sinner—you will see yourself surrounded by . . .
  enemies,
  temptations,
  sins, and
  snares.

You will feel yourself utterly defenseless, as weak
as water, without any strength to stand against them.
You will see a mountain of difficulties before your eyes.

If you know anything inwardly and experimentally
of yourself of . . .
  the evils of your heart,
  the power of sin,
  the strength of temptation,
  the subtlety of your unwearied foe,
  and the daily conflict between nature and grace,
the flesh and the Spirit, which are the peculiar marks
of the true child of God—you will find and feel your
need of salvation as a daily reality.

How shall you escape the snares and temptations
spread in your path? How shall you get the better
of all your enemies . . .
  external,
  internal,
  infernal,
and reach heaven's gates safe at last?

There is present salvation, an . . .
  inward,
  experimental,
  continual
salvation communicated out of the
fullness of Christ as a risen Mediator.

Don't you need to be daily and almost hourly
saved? But from what? Why, from everything in
you that fights against the will and word of God.

Sin is not dead in you.

If you have a saving interest in the precious blood
of Christ—if your name is written in the Lamb's book
of life, and heaven is your eternal home—that does
not deliver you from the indwelling of sin, nor from
the power of sin—except as grace gives you present
deliverance from it.

Sin still works in your carnal mind, and will
work in it until your dying hour. What then
you need to be saved from is the . . .
   guilt,
   filth,
   power,
   love, and
   practice
of that sin which ever dwells and ever works
in you, and often brings your soul into hard
and cruel bondage.

Now Christ lives at the right hand of God for His dear
people, that He may be ever saving them by His life.
There He reigns and rules as their glorious covenant
Head, ever watching over, feeling for and sympathizing
with them, and communicating supplies of grace for the
deliverance and consolation for all His suffering saints
spread over the face of the earth. The glorious Head is
in heaven, but the suffering members upon earth; and
as He lives on their behalf, He maintains by His Spirit
and grace, His life in their soul.

Each Christian has to walk through a great and terrible
wilderness, wherein are fiery serpents, and scorpions,
and drought (Deut. 8:15); where he is surrounded with
temptations and snares—his own evil heart being his
worst foe.

How can he travel through this waste howling
wilderness
unless he has a Friend at the right hand
of God to send him continual supplies of grace—who
can hear his prayers, answer his petitions, listen to
his sighs, and put his tears into his bottle—who can
help him to see the snares, and give him grace to
avoid them—who observes from his heavenly watch
tower the rising of evil in his heart, and can put a
timely and seasonable check upon it before it bursts
into word or action?

He needs an all-wise and ever-living Friend who can . . .
save him from pride by giving him true humility;
save him from hardness of heart by bestowing repentance;
save him from carelessness by making his conscience tender;
save him from all his fears by whispering into his soul, "Fear
not, I have redeemed you."

The Christian has to be continually looking
to the Lord Jesus Christ . . .
  to revive his soul when drooping,
  to manifest His love to his heart when cold and unfeeling,
  to sprinkle his conscience with His blood when guilty and sinking,
  to lead him into truth,
  to keep him from error and evil,
  to preserve him through and amid every storm,
  to guide every step that he takes in his onward journey,
  and eventually bring him safe to heaven.

We need continual supplies of His grace, mercy, and
love received into our hearts, so as to save us . . .
  from the love and spirit of the world,
  from error,
  from the power and strength of our own lusts,
  and the base inclinations of our fallen nature.

These will often work at a fearful rate; but this will
only make you feel more your need of the power and
presence of the Lord Jesus to save you from them all.

You are a poor, defenseless sheep, surrounded
by wolves, and, as such, need all the care and
defense of the good Shepherd.

You are a ship in a stormy sea, where winds and
waves are all contrary, and therefore need an all
wise and able pilot to take you safe into harbor.

There a single thing on earth or in hell which can
harm you—if you are only looking to the Lord Jesus
Christ, and deriving supplies of grace and strength
from Him.




What trifles, what toys, what empty vanities

What trifles, what toys, what empty
vanities
do the great bulk of men pursue!




If God left us for a single hour

"Don't leave us!" Jeremiah 14:9

How much is summed up in those three words!

What would it be for God to leave us?

What and where would we be,

if God left us for a single hour?


What would become of us?

We would fall at once into the hands . . .
  of sin,
  of Satan, and
  of the world.

We would be abandoned to our own evil
hearts—abandoned, utterly abandoned to
the unbelief, the infidelity, to all the filth
and sensuality of our wicked nature—to fill
up the measure of our iniquities, until we
sank under His wrath to rise no more!

"Don't leave us!" Jeremiah 14:9




An idol is an idol

"Son of man, these leaders have set up idols
 in their hearts!
They have embraced things
 that lead them into sin." Ezekiel 14:3

An idol is an idol, whether worshiped inwardly
in heart, or adorned outwardly by the knee.

Therefore, give the people of Israel this message
from the Sovereign Lord: "Repent and turn away from
your idols, and stop all your loathsome practices. I,
the Lord, will punish all those, both Israelites and
foreigners, who reject Me and set up idols in their
hearts
, so that they fall into sin." Ezekiel 14:6-7




A worldly spirit will ever peep out

"He gave Himself for our sins to rescue us
 from the present evil age." Galatians 1:4

The first effect of sovereign grace in its divine
operation upon the heart of a child of God, is to
separate him from the world by infusing into him
a new spirit. There is little evidence that grace
ever touched our hearts if it did not separate us
from this ungodly world.

Where there is not this divine work upon a sinner's
conscience—where there is no communication of this
new heart and this new spirit, no infusion of this holy
life, no animating, quickening influence of the Spirit
of God upon the soul—whatever a man's outward
profession may be, he will ever be of a worldly spirit.

A set of doctrines, however sound, merely received
into the natural understanding—cannot divorce a man
from that innate love of the world which is so deeply
rooted in his very being. No mighty power has come
upon his soul to revolutionize his every thought, cast
his soul as if into a new mold—and by stamping upon
it the mind and likeness of Christ to change him
altogether. This worldly spirit may be . . .
  checked by circumstances,
  controlled by natural conscience, or
  influenced by the example of others;
but a worldly spirit will ever peep out from the
thickest disguise, and manifest itself, as occasion
draws it forth, in every unregenerate man.

 

What a lesson is here for ministers!

"And my speech and my preaching were not
 with enticing words of man's wisdom
, but
 in demonstration of the Spirit and of power"
   1 Cor. 2:4

The word "enticing" is as we now say, "persuasive."
It includes, therefore, every branch of skillful oratory,
whether it be logical reasoning to convince our
understanding—or appeals to our feelings to stir up
our passions—or new and striking ideas to delight
our intellect—or beautiful and eloquent language to
please and captivate our imagination.

All these "enticing words" of man's wisdom—the very
things which our popular preachers most speak and aim
at
—this great apostle renounced, discarded, and rejected!

He might have used them all if he liked. He possessed
an almost unequalled share of natural ability and great
learning—a singularly keen, penetrating intellect—a
wonderful command of the Greek language—a flow of
ideas most varied, striking, and original—and powers of
oratory and eloquence such as have been given to few.
He might therefore have used enticing words of man's
wisdom, had he wished or thought it right to do so—but
he would not. He saw what deceptiveness was in them,
and at best they were mere arts of oratory. He saw that
these enticing words—though they might . . .
  touch the natural feelings,
  work upon the passions,
  captivate the imagination,
  convince the understanding,
  persuade the judgment, and to a certain extent force
their way into men's minds—yet when all was done that
could thus be done, it was merely man's wisdom which
had done it.

Earthly wisdom cannot communicate heavenly faith.
Paul would not therefore use enticing words of man's
wisdom, whether it were force of logical argument, or
appeal to natural passions, or the charms of vivid
eloquence, or the beauty of poetical composition, or
the subtle nicety of well arranged sentences. He would
not use any of these enticing words of man's wisdom
to draw people into a profession of religion—when their
heart was not really touched by God's grace, or their
consciences wrought upon by a divine power.

He came to win souls for Jesus Christ, not converts
to his own powers of oratorical persuasion—to turn
men from darkness to light, and from the power of
Satan unto God—not to charm their ears by poetry
and eloquence—but to bring them out of the vilest
of sins that they might be washed, sanctified, and
justified by the Spirit of God—and not entertain
or amuse
their minds while sin and Satan still
maintained dominion in their hearts!

All the labor spent in bringing together a church
and congregation of professing people by the power
of logical argument and appeals to their natural
consciences would be utterly lost, as regards fruit
for eternity—for a profession so induced by him and
so made by them would leave them just as they were . . .
  in all the depths of unregeneracy,
  with their sins unpardoned,
  their persons unjustified,
  and their souls unsanctified.

He therefore discarded all these ways of winning
over converts—as deceitful to the souls of men,
and as dishonoring to God.

It required much grace to do this—to throw aside
what he might have used, and renounce what most
men, as gifted as he, would have gladly used.

What a lesson is here for ministers!

How anxious are some men to shine as great
preachers! How they covet and often aim at
some grand display of what they call eloquence
to charm their hearers—and win praise and honor
to self!

How others try to argue men into religion, or by
appealing to their natural feelings, sometimes to
frighten them with pictures of hell, and sometimes
to allure them by descriptions of heaven.

But all such arts, for they are no better, must be
discarded by a true servant of God. Only the Spirit
can reveal Christ, taking of the things of Christ, and
showing them unto us, applying the word with power
to our hearts, and bringing the sweetness, reality,
and blessedness of divine things into our soul.

"And my speech and my preaching were not
 with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in
 demonstration of the Spirit and of power
."

Unless we have a measure of the same demonstration
of the Spirit, all that is said by us in the pulpit drops to
the ground—it has no real effect—there is no true or
abiding fruit—no fruit unto eternal life. If there be in it
some enticing words of man's wisdom, it may please
the mind of those who are gratified by such arts—it may
stimulate and occupy the attention for the time—but
there it ceases, and all that has been heard fades away
like a dream of the night.


 

A peculiar, indescribable, invincible power

"Our gospel did not come to you in word only,
 but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and
 with deep conviction." 1 Thes. 1:5

The gospel comes to some in word only. They
hear the word of the gospel, the sound of truth;
but it reaches the outward ear only—or if it touches
the inward feelings, it is merely as the word of men.

But where the Holy Spirit begins and carries on
His divine and saving work, He attends the word
with a peculiar, an indescribable, and yet an
invincible power.


It falls as from God upon the heart. He is heard to
speak in it—and in it His glorious Majesty appears
to open the eyes, unstop the ears, and convey a
message from His own mouth to the soul.

Some hear the gospel as the mere word of men,
perhaps for years before God speaks in it with a
divine power to their conscience. They thought
they understood the gospel—they thought they
felt it—they thought they loved it. But all this
time they did not see any vital distinction between
receiving it as the mere word of men, and as the
word of God.

The levity, the superficiality, the emptiness stamped
upon all who merely receive the gospel as the word
of men—is sufficient evidence that it never sank
deep into the heart, and never took any powerful
grasp upon their soul.


It therefore never brought with it any real separation
from the world—never gave strength to mortify the least
sin—never communicated power to escape the least snare
of Satan—was never attended with a spirit of grace and
prayer—never brought honesty, sincerity, and uprightness
into the heart before God—never bestowed any spirituality
of mind, or any loving affection toward the Lord of life and
glory. It was merely the reception of truth in the same way
as we receive scientific principles, or learn a language, a
business, or a trade. It was all . . .
  shallow,
  superficial,
  deceptive,
  hypocritical.

But in some unexpected moment, when little looking
for it, the word of God was brought into their conscience
with a power never experienced before. A light shone in
and through it which they never saw before . . .
  a majesty,
  a glory,
  an authority,
  an evidence
accompanied it which they never knew before. And
under this light, life, and power they fell down, with
the word of God sent home to their heart.

When then Christ speaks the gospel to the heart—
when He reveals Himself to the soul—when His word,
dropping as the rain and distilling as the dew, is
received in faith and love—He is embraced as the
chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely
one—He takes His seat upon the affections and
becomes enthroned in the heart as its Lord and God.

Is there life in your bosom?

Has God's power attended the work?

Is the grace of God really in your heart?

Has God spoken to your soul?

Have you heard His voice, felt its power,
and fallen under its influence?

"And we also thank God continually because,
 when you received the word of God, which you
 heard from us, you accepted it not as the word
 of men
, but as it actually is, the word of God,
 which is effectually at work in you who believe."
    1 Thes. 2:13
 



The deep things of God
  


"But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.
 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep
 things of God
." 1 Cor. 2:10

The Spirit of God in a man's bosom searches
the deep things of God, so as to lead him into
a spiritual and experimental knowledge of them.

What depths do we sometimes see in a single
text of Scripture as opened to the understanding,
or applied to the heart?

What a depth in the blood of Christ—how it
"cleanses from all sin,"—even millions of millions
of the foulest sins of the foulest sinners!

What a depth in His bleeding, dying love,
that could stoop so low to lift us so high!

What a depth in His pity and compassion to extend
itself to such guilty, vile transgressors as we are!

What depth in His rich, free, and sovereign grace,
that it should super-abound over all our aggravated
iniquities, enormities, and vile abominations!

What depth
in His sufferings—that He should have
voluntarily put Himself under such a load of guilt,
such outbreakings of the wrath of God—as He felt
in His holy soul when He stood in our place to
redeem poor sinners from the bottomless pit—that
those who deserved hell, should be lifted up into
the enjoyment of heaven!
 



The religionists of the day

"And everyone will hate you because of your
 allegiance to Me." Luke 21:17

Professors of religion have always been the
deadliest enemies of the children of God.

Who were so opposed to the blessed Lord as the
Scribes and Pharisees? It was the religious teachers
and leaders who crucified the Lord of glory!

And so in every age the religionists of the day
have been the hottest and bitterest persecutors
of the Church of Christ.

Nor is the case altered now. The more the children
of God are firm in the truth, the more they enjoy its
power, the more they live under its influence, and
the more tenderly and conscientiously they walk in
godly fear, the more will the professing generation
of the day hate them with a deadly hatred.

Let us not think that we can disarm it by a godly life;
for the more that we walk in the sweet enjoyment of
heavenly truth and let our light shine before men as
having been with Jesus, the more will this draw down
their hatred and contempt.

"And the world hates them because they do not
 belong to the world, just as I do not." John 17:14




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