But who is our greatest enemy?

The pride of our heart,
the presumption of our heart,
the hypocrisy of our heart,
the intense selfishness of our heart,
are often hidden from us.

This wily devil, self, can wear such
masks and assume such forms.

This serpent, self, can so creep and crawl,
can so twist and turn, and can disguise
itself under such false appearances,
that it is often hidden from ourselves.

Who is the greatest enemy we have to fear?

We all have our enemies.

But who is our greatest enemy?

He who you carry in your own bosom—your daily,
hourly, and ever-present companion, that entwines
himself in nearly every thought of your heart—that . . .
  sometimes puffs up with pride,
  sometimes inflames with lust,
  sometimes inflates with presumption, and
  sometimes works under feigned humility and fleshly holiness.

God is determined to stain the pride of human
glory. He will never let self (which is but another
word for the creature) wear the crown of victory.
It must be crucified, denied, and mortified.

Now this self must be overcome. The way to
overcome self is by looking out of self to Him
who was crucified upon Calvary's tree—to receive
His image into your heart—to be clothed with His
likeness—to drink into His spirit—and "receive out
of His fullness grace for grace."

 


We need grace, free grace


"May grace and peace be multiplied unto you."
     2 Peter 1:2

When we see and feel how we need grace every
moment in our lives
, we at once perceive the beauty in
asking for an abundant, overflowing measure of grace.

We cannot walk the length of the street without sin.

Our carnal minds, our vain imaginations, are all on the
lookout for evil. Sin presents itself at every avenue, and
lurks like the prowling night-thief for every opportunity
of secret plunder. In fact, in ourselves, in our fallen nature,
except as restrained and influenced by grace, we sin with
well near every breath that we draw. We need, therefore,
grace upon grace, or, in the words of the text, grace to be
"multiplied" in proportion to our sins. Shall I say in
proportion? No! If sin abounds, as to our shame and sorrow
we know it does, we need grace to much more abound!

When the 'tide of sin' flows in with its muck and mire,
we need the 'tide of grace' to flow higher still, to carry
out the slime and filth into the depths of the ocean,
so that when sought for, they may be found no more.

We need grace, free grace . . .
  grace today,
  grace tomorrow,
  grace this moment,
  grace the next,
  grace all the day long.
 
We need grace, free grace . . .
 
healing grace,
  reviving grace,
  restoring grace,
  saving grace,
  sanctifying grace.

And all this multiplied by all our . . .
  wants and woes,
  sins,
  slips,
  falls, and
  unceasing and aggravated backslidings.

We need grace, free grace . . .
  grace to believe,
  grace to hope,
  grace to love,
  grace to fight,
  grace to conquer,
  grace to stand,
  grace to live,
  grace to die.

Every moment of our lives we need . . .
  keeping grace,
  supporting grace,
  upholding grace,
  withholding grace.

"May grace and peace be multiplied unto you."
     2 Peter 1:2



Are you seeking great things for yourself?

Oh, how many ministers do I see led by . . .
  ambition,
  pride,
  self-interest, or
  covetousness!

How few have singleness of eye to God's glory!

"Are you seeking great things for yourself?
 Don't do it!"
Jeremiah 45:5

Ministers often seek . . .
  great gifts,
  great eloquence,
  great knowledge of mysteries,
  great congregations,
  great popularity and influence.

"Are you seeking great things for yourself?
 Don't do it!"
Jeremiah 45:5
 



We are not flogged into loving Him


"Set your affections on things above,
 not on things on the earth."
Col. 3:2

Where are your affections to be set?

Are they to be set on "things on the earth" . . .
  those perishing toys,
  those polluting vanities,
  those carking cares,
which must ever dampen the life of God in the soul?

The expression, "things on the earth," takes in a wide
scope. It embraces not only the vain toys, the ambitious
hopes, the perishing pleasures in which a gay, unthinking
world is sunk and lost—but even the legitimate calls of
business, the claims of wife and home, family and friends,
with every social tie that binds to earth. Thus . . .
  every object on which the eye can rest;
  every thought or desire that may spring up in the mind;
  every secret idol that lurks in the bosom;
  every care and anxiety that is not of grace;
  every fond anticipation of pleasure or profit that the
world may hold out, or the worldly heart embrace
—all, with a million pursuits in which man's fallen nature
seeks employment or happiness—are "things on the earth"
on which the affections are not to be set.

We may love our wives and children. We should
pursue our lawful callings with diligence and industry.
We must provide for our families according to the good
providence of God. But we may not so set our affections
on these things, that they pull us down from heaven to
earth. He who is worthy of all our affections claims
them all for Himself. He who is the Bridegroom of
the soul
demands, as He has fairly won, the unrivaled
love of His bride.

But how are we to do this?

Can we do this great work by ourselves? No! it is only the
Lord Himself, manifesting His beauty and blessedness to
our soul, and letting down the golden cord of His love
into our bosom, that draws up our affections, and fixes
them on Himself. In order to do this, He captivates the
heart
by . . .
 
some look of love,
  some word of His grace,
  some sweet promise, or
  some divine truth spiritually applied.

When He thus captivates the soul, and draws it up,
then the affections flow unto Him as the source and
fountain of all blessings.

We are not flogged into loving Him, but are drawn by
love into love.
Love cannot be bought or sold. It is an
inward affection that flows naturally and necessarily
towards its object, and all connected with it. And thus,
as love flows out to Jesus, the affections instinctively
and necessarily set themselves "on things above, and
not on things on the earth."

Jesus must be revealed to our soul by the power of God
before we can see His beauty and blessedness—and so
fall in love with Him as "the chief among ten thousand,
and the altogether lovely One." Then everything that . . .
  speaks of Christ,
  savors of Christ,
  breathes of Christ,
becomes inexpressibly sweet and precious!

In no other way can our affections be lifted up from earth
to heaven. We cannot control our affections—they will run
out of their own accord. If then our affections are earthly,
they will run towards earthly objects. If they are carnal and
sensual, they will flow towards carnal and sensual objects.

But when the Lord Jesus Christ, by some manifestation
of His glory and blessedness—or the Holy Spirit, by taking
of the things of Christ and revealing them to the soul—sets
Him before our eyes as the only object worthy of, and
claiming every affection of our heart—then the affections
flow out, I was going to say naturally, but most certainly
spiritually, towards Him. And when this is the case, the
affections are set on things above.




O what a company of lusts!

"We are powerless against this mighty army
 that is attacking us! We do not know what to
 do. But our eyes are upon You!"
2 Chr. 20:12

There is no use fighting the battle in our own
strength. We have none.

O, when temptation creeps like a serpent into the
carnal mind, it winds its secret way and coils around
the heart. As the boa-constrictor is said to embrace
its victim, entwining his coil around it, and crushing
every bone without any previous warning—so does
temptation often seize us suddenly in its powerful
embrace
. Have we in ourselves any more power to
extricate our flesh from its slimy folds, than the poor
animal has from the coils of the boa-constrictor?

So with the corruptions and lusts of our fallen nature.
Can you always master them? Can you seize these
serpents by the neck and wring off their heads?


To examine our heart
is something like examining
by the microscope a drop of ditch-water—the more
minutely it is looked into, the more hideous forms
appear. All these strange monsters, too, are in
constant motion, devouring or devoured. And, as
more powerful lenses are put on the microscope,
more and more loathsome creatures emerge into
view, until eye and heart sicken at the sight.

Such is our heart. Superficially viewed—passably fair.
But examined by the spiritual microscope, hideous
forms of every shape and size appear—lusts and
desires in unceasing movement, devouring each
other, and yet undiminished—and each successive
examination bringing new monsters to light! O what
a company of lusts!
How one seems to introduce and
make way for the other! and how one, as among the
insect tribe, is the father of a million!

We must take these lusts and passions by the neck,
and lay them down at the feet of God, and thus bring
the omnipotence of Jehovah against what would destroy
us—"Here are my lusts, I cannot manage them. Here are
my temptations, I cannot overcome them. Here are my
enemies
, I cannot conquer them. Lord, I do not know
what to do. Will You not subdue my enemies?"

This is fighting against sin—not in the flesh, but in the
Spirit. Not by the law, but by the gospel. Not by self,
but by the grace of God. And if your soul has had many
a tussle, and many a wrestle, and many a hand-to-hand
conflict with sin, you will have found this out before now
—that nothing but the grace, power, and Spirit of Christ
ever gave you the victory, or the least hope of victory.

"We are powerless against this mighty army
 that is attacking us! We do not know what to
 do. But our eyes are upon You!"
2 Chron. 20:12
 


As if this beautiful viper had no poison fang!


"Deliver me from all my transgressions!" Psalm 39:7

Ah! how rarely it is that we see sin in its true colors
—that we feel what the apostle calls, "the exceeding
sinfulness of sin!" O how much is the dreadful evil of
sin for the most part veiled from our eyes! Our deceitful
hearts so gloss it over, so excuse, palliate, and disguise
it—that it is daily trifled, played, and dallied with, as if
this beautiful viper had no poison fang!

It is only as the Spirit is pleased to open the eyes to
see, and awaken the conscience to feel "the exceeding
sinfulness of sin," and thus discover its dreadful character,
that we have any real sight or sense of its awful nature.

Sins of heart,
sins of lip,
sins of life,
sins of omission,
sins of commission,
sins of ingratitude,
sins of unbelief,
sins of rebellion,
sins of lust,
sins of pride,
sins of worldliness!
As all these transgressions, troop after troop, come
in view, and rise up like spectres from the grave, well
may we cry with stifled voice, "Deliver me, O deliver
me from all my transgressions! Deliver me from . . .
  the guilt of sin,
  the filth of sin,
  the love of sin,
  the power of sin, and
  the practice of sin!"


 

The very remedy for all the maladies
which we groan under!


Grace only suits those who are altogether
guilty and filthy. Grace is completely opposed
to works in all its shapes and bearings.

Thus no one can really desire to taste the
sweetness and enjoy the preciousness of grace,
who has not "seen an end of all perfection" in
the creature, and is brought to know and feel
in the conscience, that his good works would
damn him
as equally with his bad works.

When grace is thus opened up to the soul,
it sees that grace flows only through the
Savior's blood—and that grace . . .
  superabounds over all the aboundings of sin,
  heals all backslidings,
  covers all transgressions,
  lifts up out of darkness,
  pardons iniquity,
and is just the very remedy for all the
maladies which we groan under!





Weaned from feeding on husks and ashes

"I will satisfy her poor with bread." Psalm 132:15

The Lord has given a special promise to Zion's
poor—"I will satisfy her poor with bread."

Nothing else?  Bread?  Is that all?


Yes! That is all God has promised—bread,
the staff of life.

But what does He mean by "bread"?

The Lord Himself explains what bread is. He says,
"I am the Bread of life. He who comes to Me will
never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will
never be thirsty. I am the living Bread who came
down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread,
he will live forever." John 6:35,51

The bread, then, that God gives to Zion's poor is
His own dear Son—fed upon by living faith, under
the special operations of the Holy Spirit in the heart.

"I will satisfy her poor with bread." Psalm 132:15

But must not we have an appetite before we can
feed upon bread? The rich man who feasts continually
upon juicy meat and savory sauces, would not live upon
bread. To come down to live on such simple food as bread
—why, one must be really hungry to be satisfied with that.

So it is spiritually. A man fed upon 'mere notions' and a
number of 'speculative doctrines' cannot descend to the
simplicity of the gospel. To feed upon a crucified Christ,
a bleeding Jesus!
—he is not sufficiently brought down to
the starving point, to relish such spiritual food as this!

Before, then, he can feed upon this Bread of life he must
be made spiritually poor.
And when he is brought to be
nothing but a mass of wretchedness, filth, guilt, and misery
—when he feels his soul sinking under the wrath of God,
and has scarcely a hope to buoy up his poor tottering heart
—when he finds the world embittered to him, and he has no
one object from which he can reap any abiding consolation
—then the Lord is pleased to open up in his conscience,
and bring the sweet savor of the love of His dear Son
into his heart—and he begins to taste gospel bread.

Being weaned from feeding on husks and ashes, and
sick "of the vines of Sodom and the fields of Gomorrah,"
and being brought to relish simple gospel food, he begins
to taste a sweetness in 'Christ crucified' which he never
could know—until he was made experimentally poor.

The Lord has promised to satisfy such.

"I will satisfy her poor with bread." Psalm 132:15




That secret loveliness

"I drew them with My cords of kindness and love."
     Hosea 11:4

Where Christ is made in any measure experimentally
known, He has gained the affections of the heart. He
has, more or less, taken possession of the soul. He
has, in some degree, endeared Himself as a bleeding,
agonizing Savior to every one to whom He has in any
way revealed Himself. And, thus, the strong cord of
love and affection is powerfully wreathed around the
tender spirit and broken heart. Therefore . . .
  His name becomes as 'ointment poured forth',
  there is a preciousness in His blood,
  there is a beauty in His Person,
  there is that secret loveliness in Him,
which wins and attracts and draws out the tender
affections of the soul. And thus this cord of love
entwined round the heart, binds it fast and firm
to the cross of the Lord Jesus.

"I drew them with My cords of kindness and love."
     Hosea 11:4




Lord, I feel my own utter helplessness!

"O send forth Your light and Your truth,
 let them guide me." Psalm 43:3

The Christian is often dissatisfied with his state. He
is well aware of the shallowness of his attainments
in the divine life, as well as of the ignorance and the
blindness that are in him. He cannot perceive the path
of life. He sees and feels so powerfully the workings
of sin and corruption, that he often staggers, and is
perplexed in his mind.

And therefore, laboring under the feeling of . . .
  his own shortcomings for the past,
  his helplessness for the present,
  and his ignorance for the future,
he wants to go forward wholly and solely
in the strength of the Lord, to be . . .
  led,
  guided,
  directed,
  kept,
not by his own wisdom and power—but by
the supernatural entrance of light and truth
into his soul.

When thus harassed and perplexed, he will at times
and seasons, as his heart is made soft, cry out with
fervency and importunity, as a beggar that will not
take a denial, "O send forth Your light and Your truth,
let them guide me!" As though he would say, "Lord,
I feel my own utter helplessness!
I know I must go
astray, if You do not condescend to guide me. I have
been betrayed a thousand times when I have trusted
my own heart. I have been entangled in my base
lusts
. I have been puffed up by presumption. I have
been carried away by hypocrisy and pride. I have been
drawn aside into the world. I have never taken a single
step aright when left to myself. And therefore feeling
how unable I am to guide myself a single step of the
way, I come unto You, and ask You to send forth Your
light and Your truth, that they may guide me, for I
am utterly unable to lead myself
."

The child of God—feeling his own ignorance, darkness,
blindness, and sinfulness—causes him to moan, and
sigh, and cry unto God—that he might be . . .
  led every step,
  kept every moment,
  guided every inch.

"O send forth Your light and Your truth,
 let them guide me." Psalm 43:3




O what a way of learning religion!

"I was caught up into paradise and heard things so
 astounding that they cannot be told!" 2 Cor. 12:4

Now, doubtless, the apostle Paul, after he had been
thus favored—thus caught up into paradise—thought
that he would retain the same frame of mind that he
was in when he came down from this heavenly place;
that the savor, the sweetness, the power, the unction,
the dew, the heavenly feeling would continue in his soul.
And no doubt he thought he would walk all through his
life with a measure of the sweet enjoyments that he
then experienced. But this was not God's way of
teaching religion!


God had another way which Paul knew nothing of, and
that was—if I may use the expression—to bring him
from the third heaven, where his soul had been blessed
with unspeakable ravishment—down to the very gates
of hell. For he says, "I was given a thorn in my flesh,
a messenger from Satan to BUFFET me
."

The idea "buffeting" is that of a strong man beating
a weak one with violent blows to his head and face
—bruising him into a shapeless mass!

O what a way of learning religion!


Now I want you to see the contrast we have here.

The blessed apostle caught up into the third heavens,
filled with light, life, and glory—enjoying the presence
of Christ—and bathing his soul in the river of divine
consolation.

Now for a reverse—down he comes to the earth.

A messenger of Satan is let loose upon him, who buffets,
beats and pounds this blessed apostle into a shapeless
mummy—no eyes, no nose, no mouth, no features—but
one indistinguishable mass of black and blue!

Such is the mysterious way in which a man learns religion!

But what was all this for?

Does it not appear very cruel—does it not seem very
unkind that, after the Lord had taken Paul up into
the third heaven, He would let the devil buffet him?

Does it not strike our natural reason to be as strange
and as unheard of a thing, as if a mother who had been
fondling her babe in her arms, suddenly were to put it
down, and let a large savage dog ravage it—and look
on, without interfering, while he was tearing the child
which she had been a few minutes before dandling in
her lap, and clasping to her bosom?

"But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given
a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to BUFFET
me and keep me from getting proud." Here we have
this difficult enigma solved, this mysterious knot untied!

We find that the object and end of all these severe
dealings was to keep Paul from pride!


Three times Paul besought his loving and sympathizing
Redeemer, that the trial might be taken away, for it
was too grievous to be borne. The Lord heard his prayer
and answered it—but not in the way that Paul expected.

His answer was, "My grace is sufficient for you." As though
He would say, "Paul, beloved Paul, I am not going to take
away your trial; it came from Me—it was given by Me. But
My grace shall be sufficient for you, for My strength shall
be made perfect in your weakness. There is a lesson to be
learned, a path to be walked in, an experience to be passed
through, wisdom to be obtained in this path—and therefore
you must travel in it. Be content then with this promise
from My own lips—My grace is sufficient for you, for My
strength is made perfect in your weakness."

The apostle was satisfied with this—he wanted no more,
and therefore he burst forth, "Most gladly therefore will
I rather glory in my infirmities—that the power of Christ
may rest upon me."

O what a way of learning religion!




In a most mysterious and inexplicable manner

"And we know that all things work together for good
 to those who love God, to those who are the called
 according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

I am often a marvel to myself, feeling at times . . .
  such barrenness,
  such leanness,
  such deadness,
  such carnality,
  such inability to any spiritual thought.

It is astonishing to me how our souls are kept alive.

Carried on, and yet so secretly—worked upon,
and yet so mysteriously—and yet led on, guided
and preserved through so many difficulties and
obstacles—the Christian is a miracle of mercy!

He is astonished how he is preserved amid all his . . .
  difficulties,
  obstacles,
  trials, and
  temptations.

Sometimes he seems driven and sometimes drawn,
sometimes led and sometimes carried—but in one
way or another the Spirit of God so works upon him
that, though he scarce 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 perplexity 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!

He will then understand, that he has . . .
  not had one trial too heavy,
  nor shed one tear too much,
  nor put up one groan too many,
but all these things have, in a most mysterious
and inexplicable manner
, worked together for
his spiritual good!

"And we know that all things work together for good
 to those who love God, to those who are the called
 according to His purpose." Romans 8:28




Wrought with divine power

"Our gospel came to you not simply with words,
 but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and
 with deep conviction." 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Most men's religion is nothing else but
'a round of forms' . . .

  some have their 'doings',
  some have their 'doctrines',
  and others have their 'duties'.

And when the one has performed his doings,
the other learned his doctrines, and the third
discharged his duties—why, he is as good a
Christian, he thinks, as anybody. While all the
time, the poor deceived creature is thoroughly
ignorant of the kingdom of God, which stands
not in simply in word—but in power.

But as the veil of ignorance is taken off the heart,
we begin to see and feel that there is a power in
vital godliness—a reality in the teachings of the
Spirit—that religion is not to be put on and put
off as a man puts on and off his Sunday clothes.

Where vital godliness is wrought with divine power
in a man's heart, and preached by the Holy Spirit into
his conscience—it mingles, daily and often hourly,
with his thoughts—entwines itself with his feelings
—and becomes the very food and drink of his soul.

Now when a man comes to this spot—to see and feel
what a reality there is in the things of God made
manifest in the conscience by the power of the Holy
Spirit—it effectually takes him out of dead churches,
cuts him off from false ministers, winnows the chaff
from the wheat, and brings him into close communion
with the broken-hearted family of God.

"Our gospel came to you not simply with words,
 but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and
 with deep conviction." 1 Thessalonians 1:5



The more lovely does Jesus appear!

The poor believer feels, "I continually find all kinds
of evil working in my mind; every base corruption
crawling in my heart; everything vile, sensual, and
filthy rising up from its abominable deeps. Can I
think that God can look down in love and mercy
on such a wretch?
"

When we see . . .
  our vileness,
  our baseness,
  our carnality,
  our sensuality,
  how our souls cleave to dust,
  how we grovel in evil and hateful things,
  how dark our minds,
  how earthly our affections,
  how depraved our hearts,
  how strong our lusts,
  how raging our passions;
we feel ourselves, at times, no more
fit for God than Satan himself!

"You see, at just the right time, when we were
 utterly helpless, Christ died for the ungodly!"
    Romans 5:6

Christ does not justify those who are naturally
righteous, holy, and religious.

But He takes the sinner as he is, in all his filth
and guilt; washes him in the fountain opened
for sin and uncleanness; and clothes the naked
shivering wretch, who has nothing to cover him
but filthy rags, in His own robe of righteousness!

The gospel of the grace of God brings glad tidings . . .
  of pardon to the criminal,
  of mercy to the guilty, and
  of salvation to the lost!

That the holy God should look down in love on
wretches that deserve the damnation of hell; that
the pure and spotless Jehovah should pity, save,
and bless enemies and rebels, and make them
endless partakers of His own glory; this indeed
is a mystery, the depth of which eternity itself
will not fathom!

The deeper we sink in self-abasement under a
sense of our vileness, the higher we rise in a
knowledge of Christ. And the blacker we are
in our own view, the more lovely does Jesus
appear!




Have you not brought this on yourselves?

"Have you not brought this on yourselves
 by forsaking the Lord your God when He led
 you in the way?" Jeremiah 2:17

"Have you not brought this on yourselves?"
says the Lord to His sinning Israel. Who
dares say he has not by . . .
  his sins,
  his carnality,
  his pride,
  his covetousness,
  his worldly-mindedness,
  his unbelief,
  his foolishness,
  his rebelliousness,
procured to himself many things that
have grieved and distressed his soul?

If indeed we take no notice of the sin that dwells
in us; and pay no regard to our thoughts, desires,
words, and actions; and take our stand on our own
righteousness; we may refuse to believe that we
are such vile sinners.


But if we are compelled to look within, and painfully
feel that SIN is an indweller, a lodger, whom we are
compelled to harbor; a serpent that will creep in and
nestle in our heart, whether we will or not; a thief
that will break through and steal, and whom no bolt
nor bar can keep out; a traitor in the citadel who will
work by force or fraud, and against whom no resolution
of ours has any avail; if such be our inward experience
and conviction, I believe there is not a man or woman
here who will not confess, "Guilty, guilty! Unclean,
unclean!"

"Some became fools through their rebellious ways,
and suffered affliction because of their iniquities."
    Psalm 107:17

We bring affliction upon ourselves. We procure
suffering by our own iniquities. "O!", says the fool . . .
"my worldly-mindedness,
my pride,
my covetousness,
my carnality,
my neglect of divine things,
my rebelliousness,
my recklessness,
the snares I entangled myself in,
my various besetting sins;
this it is which has provoked the Lord to afflict
me so severely, and leave me, fool that I am,
to reap the fruit of my own devises!"



A religious animal

"Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious,
 for as I was walking along I saw your many altars.
 And one of them had this inscription on it—TO AN
 UNKNOWN GOD." Acts 17:22-23

Man has been called, and perhaps with some truth,
a religious animal. Religion of some kind, at any rate,
seems almost indispensable to his very existence—for
from the most civilized nation, to the most barbarous
tribe upon the face of the earth—we find some form of
religion practiced. Whether this is ingrained into the
very constitution of man, or whether it be received by
custom or tradition—I will not pretend to decide. But
that some kind of religion is almost universally
prevalent, is a fact that cannot be denied.

We will always find these two kinds of religion . . .
  false and true,
  earthly and heavenly,
  fleshly and spiritual,
  natural and supernatural.

Compare this vital, spiritual, heavenly,
divine, supernatural religion . . .
  this work of grace upon the soul,
  this teaching of God in the heart,
  this life of faith within
—with its flimsy counterfeit.

Compare the actings of . . .
  real faith,
  real hope,
  real love;
the teachings, the dealings, the leadings, and
the operations of the blessed Spirit in the soul
—with rounds of . . .
  duties,
  superstitious forms,
  empty ceremonies, and
a notional religion, however puffed up and varnished.

Compare the life of God in the heart of a true Christian,
amid all his dejection, despondency, trials, temptations,
and exercises; compare that precious treasure, Christ's
own grace in the soul—with all mere . . .
  external religion,
  superficial religion,
  notional religion.

O, it is no more to be compared than a grain of dust
with a diamond! No more to be compared than a criminal
in a dungeon to the King on the throne! In fact, there is
no comparison between them.



What a contrast!

"Those who endure to the end will be saved." Mark 13:13

Saved!

Saved from what?


Saved from hell!

Saved from an eternity of endless misery and horror!

Saved from the worm which never dies!

Saved from the fire which is never quenched!

Saved from the sulphurous flames!

Saved from the companionship of devils and damned spirits!

Saved saved from ever-rolling ages of ceaseless misery and horror!

Have you not thought sometimes about eternity?
What must an eternity of misery must be—when
you can scarcely bear the pain of toothache half an
hour! O! to be in torment forever! How it racks the
soul to think of it! What tongue, then, can express
the mercy and blessedness of being saved . . .
  from hell,
  from the billows of the sulphurous lake,
  from infinite despair!

When a soul strikes upon the 'rock of perdition',
it is at once swallowed up in a dreadful eternity!

Not only are believers saved from all this infinite
and unending misery—but they are saved into
unspeakable happiness and glory! They are . . .
  saved into heaven,
  saved into eternal communion with the infinite God,
  saved into the eternal enjoyment of His blessed presence,
  saved into the perfect enjoyment of that perfect and
everlasting love in those regions of endless bliss where
tears are wiped from off all faces!

What a contrast!

Heaven — hell!

Eternal misery — eternal bliss!

Ages of boundless joy — ages of infinite despair!

But salvation includes not only what we may call
future
salvation—but present salvation. Thus,
there is a being saved in the present . . .
  from the guilt, filth, love, power, and practice of sin,
  from the curse and bondage of the Law,
  from the spirit and love of the world,
  from inward condemnation,
  from the entanglements of Satan,
  from worldly anxieties and cares,
  from following after idols,
  from carelessness,
  from coldness,
  from carnality,
  from every evil way,
  from every delusive path.



Sweet buy!

You say, "I am rich—I have acquired wealth and do
not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are
wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you
to buy from Me white garments, so you can cover
your shameful nakedness.
   Revelation 3:17-18

The only qualification is a deep feeling of our necessity,
our nakedness and our shame—and a feeling that there
is no other covering for a needy, naked, guilty soul—but
the robe of the Redeemer's spotless righteousness.

And when the soul is led to His divine feet—full of guilt,
shame, and fear—abhorring, loathing, and mourning over
itself—and comes in the actings of a living faith—in the
sighs and cries of a broken heart—in hungerings, thirstings,
and longings—desiring that the Lord would bestow upon
him that rich robe—then the blessed exchange takes place
—then there is a 'buying'—then the Lord brings out of His
treasure-house, where it has been locked up—the best
robe—puts it upon the prodigal, and clothes him from
head to foot with it!

Sweet buy!

Blessed exchange!

Our nakedness—for Christ's justifying robe!

Our poverty—for Christ's riches!

Our helplessness and insufficiency—for
Christ's power, grace, and love!

You say, "I am rich—I have acquired wealth and do
not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are
wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you
to buy from Me white garments, so you can cover
your shameful nakedness.
   Revelation 3:17-18

 

God's perfect will

"That good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
     Romans 12:2

God's will is "perfect". In it, there is . . .
  no spot,
  no stain,
  no weakness,
  no error,
  no instability.

It is and indeed must necessarily be as perfect as God
Himself; for it emanates from Him who is all perfection;
and is a discovery of His mind and character.

But when God's perfect will . . .
  sets itself against our flesh,
  thwarts our dearest hopes,
  overturns our fondest schemes,
we cannot see that it is a perfect will. But rather, are
much disposed to fret, murmur, and rebel against it.

God's perfect will may . . .
  snatch a child from your bosom;
  strike down a dear husband;
  tear from your arms a beloved wife;
  strip you of all your worldly goods;
  put your feet into a path of suffering;
  lay you upon a bed of pain and languishing;
  cast you into hot furnaces or overwhelming floods;
  make your life almost a burden to yourself!

How can you, under circumstances so trying and
distressing as these, acknowledge and submit to
God's perfect will; and let it reign and rule in
your heart without a murmur of resistance to it?

Look back and see how God's perfect will has, in
previous instances, reigned supreme in all points,
for your good. It has ordered or overruled all
circumstances and all events, amid a complication
of difficulties in providence and grace. Nothing has
happened to your injury; but all things have worked
together for your good.

Whatever we have lost, it was better for us that
it was taken away. Whatever . . .
  property,
  or comfort,
  or friends,
  or health,
  or earthly happiness we have been deprived of,
it was better for us to lose, than to retain them.

Was your dear child taken away? It might be
to teach you resignation to God's sacred will.

Has a dear partner been snatched from your
embrace? It was that God might be your better
Partner and undying Friend.

Was any portion of your worldly substance taken
away? It was that you might be taught to live a
life of faith in the providence of God.

Have your fondest schemes been marred; your
youthful hopes blighted; and you pierced in the
warmest affections of your heart? It was . . .
  to remove an idol,
  to dethrone a rival to Christ,
  to crucify the object of earthly love,
so that a purer, holier, and more enduring
affection might be enshrined in its stead.

To tenderly embrace God's perfect will is
the grand object of all gospel discipline.

The ultimatum of gospel obedience is to lie
passive in His hand
, and know no will but His.

"That good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
     Romans 12:2



This sinner, not the Pharisee

The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this
prayer: "I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like
everyone else, especially like that publican over there!
For I never cheat, I don't sin, I don't commit adultery,
I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my
income." Luke 18:11-12

Man unites in himself, what at first sight seem to
be completely opposite things. He is the greatest
of sinners—and yet the greatest of Pharisees.

Now, what two things can be so opposed to each
other as sin and self-righteousness? Yet the very
same man who is a sinner from top to toe, with the
whole head sick and the whole heart faint—who is
spiritually nothing else but a leper throughout—how
contradictory it appears that the same man has in
his own heart a most stubborn self-righteousness!

Now, against these two evils God, so to speak, directs
His whole artillery—He spares neither one nor the other.

But it is hard to say which is the greatest rebellion
against God—the existence of sin in man and what he
is as a fallen sinner—or his Pharisaism, the lifting up
his head in pride of self-righteousness.

It is not easy to decide which is the more obnoxious
to God
—the drunkard who sins without shame—or the
Pharisee puffed up with how pleasing he is to God.

The one is abhorrent to our feelings—and, as far as
decency and morality are concerned, we would rather
see the Pharisee. But when we come to matters of
true religion, the Pharisee seems the worst! At least
our Lord intimated as much when He said the publicans
and harlots would enter the kingdom of God before them.

"But the publican stood at a distance and dared not
even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he
beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful
to me, for I am a sinner!'

I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home
justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself
will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be
exalted." Luke 18:13-14



Five devilisms!

As regards sin in its workings, we may say
there are five devilisms from which we need
to be saved . . .

1. The GUILT of sin.

2. The FILTH of sin.

3. The LOVE of sin.

4. The DOMINION of sin.

5. The PRACTICE of sin.

1. We need the application of Christ's precious blood
to our conscience, to take away the guilt of sin.

2. We need the Spirit of Christ to sanctify and
to wash the soul in the fountain, to cleanse
from the filth of sin.

3. We need the love of Christ shed abroad in
our hearts, to take away the love of sin.

4. We need the power of Christ, to rescue
us from the dominion of sin.

5. We need  the grace of Christ, to preserve
us from the practice of sin.

It is feeling sin in its various workings, which
makes us value Christ! Strange mysterious way!
O, strange path! that to be exercised with sin,
is the path to the Savior!


Very painful, very mysterious, very inexplicable
—that the more you feel yourself a wretched,
miserable sinner; the more you long after Jesus,
who is able to save you to the uttermost!

Thus, we shall find that we need all that Christ is.
For we are no little sinners; and He is no little Savior!

We are great sinners!

He is a Savior—and a great one!

"He is able to save to the uttermost!" Hebrews 7:25



This is the struggle!

"Oh, what a wretched man I am! Who will free me
 from this body that is dominated by sin?" Rom. 7:24

If a person were to tell me he did not love sin in his carnal
mind, I would say with all mildness, "You do not speak the
truth!" If your carnal mind does not love sin . . .
 
Why do you think of it?

Why do you secretly indulge it in your imagination?

Why do you play with it?

Why do you seek to extract a devilish sweetness out of it?

O, what a mercy it would be, if there were not this
dreadful love of sin in our heart! This is the struggle
—that there should be this traitor in the camp; that
our carnal mind should be so devilish as to love that
which made the blessed Jesus die; as to love that
which crucified the Lord of glory, and to love it with
a vehement love!

"Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord!"
   Romans 7:25



It is I

"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Mark 6:50

It is I who formed you in the womb, and brought you
forth into your present existence. It is I, the Lord your
God, who has fed you, and clothed you from that hour
up to the present moment. It is I, the Lord your God,
who has preserved you on every side. When you were
upon a sick bed, it was I, the Lord your God, who
visited your soul, raised up your body, and gave you
that measure of health which you do now enjoy. It is
I
, the Lord your God, who placed you in the situation
of life which you do now occupy.

It is I, the Lord your God . . .
  who deals out to you every trial,
  who allots you every affliction,
  who brings upon you every cross,
who works in you everything according
to My own good pleasure.

When we can thus believe that the Lord our God is
about our bed and our path, and spying out all our
ways; when we can look up to Him, and feel that
He is the Lord our God, there is no feeling . . .
  more sweet,
  more blessed,
  more heavenly!

"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Mark 6:50

 

That sweet grace

"Remember how the Lord your God led you through the
 wilderness for forty years, to humble you." Deut. 8:2

We learn humility by a deep discovery of
what we are
; by an opening up of . . .
  the corruption,
  the weakness,
  the wickedness,
of our fallen nature.

The Lord's way of teaching His people humility is
by placing them first in one trying spot, and then
in another; by allowing . . .
  some temptation to arise;
  some stumbling block to be in their path;
  some besetting sin to work upon their corrupt affections;
  some idol to be embraced by their idolatrous heart;
  something to take place to draw out the sin which is
in their heart; and thus make it manifest to their sight.

As a general rule, we learn humility, not by hearing
ministers tell us what wicked creatures we are; nor
by merely looking into our bosoms and seeing a whole
swarm of evils working there; but from being compelled
by painful necessity to believe that we are vile, through
circumstances and events time after time bringing to
light those hidden evils in our heart
, which we once
thought ourselves pretty free from.

We learn humility, not merely by a discovery of what
we are, but also by a discovery of what Jesus is.

We need a glimpse . . .
  of Jesus,
  of His love,
  of His grace,
  of His blood.

When these two feelings meet together
in our bosom . . .
  our shame, and the Lord's goodness;
  our guilt, and His forgiveness;
  our wickedness, and His superabounding mercy;
they break us, humble us, and lay us, dissolved in tears
of godly sorrow and contrition, at the footstool of mercy!

And thus we learn humility, that sweet grace, that
blessed fruit of the Spirit in real, vital, soul-experience.



Slaves of Satan!

"Then they will come to their senses and escape from
 the Devil's trap. For they have been held captive by
 him to do whatever he wants.
" 2 Timothy 2:26

In our natural state, we are all the slaves of Satan!

We love our foul master, hug his chain, and delight in his
servitude, little thinking what awful wages are to follow.

This mighty conqueror has with him a numerous train of
captives! This haughty master, the 'god of this world', has
in his fiendish retinue, a whole array of slaves who gladly
do his behests. They obey him cheerfully, though he is
leading them down to the bottomless pit! For though he
amuses them while here in this world with a few toys
and baubles
, he will not pay them their wages until he
has enticed and flattered them into that ghastly gulf of
destruction, in which he himself has been weltering for
ages.

"Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the
 minds of those who don't believe." 2 Cor. 4:4



To keep me from getting puffed up

"But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was
given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan
to torment me and keep me from getting proud.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take
it away. Each time He said to me, 'My grace is
sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect
in your weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the
more gladly about my weaknesses, so that
Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Cor. 12:7-9

Depend upon it, the Lord's family have to go through
much tribulation on their way to heaven
. So says the
unerring word of truth, and so speaks the experience
of every God-taught soul. Now . . .
  in these seasons of trouble,
  in these painful exercises,
  in these perplexing trials,
the Lord's people need strength; yet the Lord
sends these trials in order to drain and exhaust
them of 'creature strength'.

Such is the 'self-righteousness' of our heart; such
the 'legality' intertwined with every fiber of our
natural disposition—that we cleave to our own
righteousness as long as there is a thread to
cleave to; we stand in our own strength as long
as there is a point to stand upon; we lean upon
our own wisdom as long as a particle remains!

In order, then, to exhaust us, drain us, strip us, and
purge us of this pharisaic leaven, the Lord sends . . .
  trials,
  temptations,
  sorrows,
  perplexities.

What is their effect?


To teach us our weakness, and bring us to that
one and only spot where God and the sinner
meet—the spot of creature helplessness.

In order, therefore, to bring us to this spot, to know
experimentally the strength of Christ, and feel it to
be more than a doctrine, a notion, or a speculation—
to know it as an internal reality, tasted by the inward
palate of our soul—to have this experience wrought
into our hearts with divine power, we must be brought
to this spot—to feel our own utter weakness.



If anyone loves the world

"Do not love the world or anything in the world.
 If anyone loves the world, the love of the
 Father is not in him."  1 John 2:15

If the love of the Father is in us, we will not
love the world—nor will the world love us!

If your heart and spirit are still in the world,
and you are not separated from . . .
  its society,
  its amusements,
  its pursuits,
  its pleasures,
  its delights,
  its men,
  its maxims,
you certainly lack any evidence of a divine
change having been wrought in your soul.

"Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the
 world
becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4

 

Paul's highest attainment

"I am nothing." 2 Corinthians 12:11

This was Paul's highest attainment
in the knowledge of self.

To be a daily pauper living on alms is humbling
to proud nature, which is always seeking to be
something, and to do something.

If this self-nothingness was wrought in us, we
would be spared much pain, in wounded pride.

People are building up religion all over the
country, but there is not one of a thousand who
has yet learned the first lesson—to be nothing.
Of all this noisy crowd, how few lie at Jesus' feet,
helpless and hopeless, and find help and hope
in Him!

If you can venture to be nothing, it will save you
a world of anxiety and trouble! But proud, vain,
conceited flesh wants to be something . . .
  to preach well,
  to make a name for one's self,
  and be admired as a preacher.

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;
 of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15

"I am less than the least of all God's people." Eph. 3:8

"I am nothing." 2 Corinthians 12:11



Let God but take the cover off

"The human heart is most deceitful and desperately
 wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Jer. 17:9

It is our mercy, if we only feel and groan under
corruption inwardly, without it breaking forth
outwardly—to wound our own souls, grieve the
people of God, and gladden our enemies.

Let God but take the cover off the boiling
cauldron of our corrupt nature
, and the filthy
scum would surface in the sight of all men!

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



When the cold winds are whistling over your grave

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on
 what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary,
 but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corin. 4:18

How really empty and worthless are all human
cares and anxieties, as well as all human hopes
and pleasures—when viewed in the light of a
vast and endless eternity!

In twenty years, today's price of oil will probably
mean little to you. But it will matter much whether
your soul is in heaven or hell.

When the cold winds are whistling over your grave,
or the warm sun resting on it—what will it matter
whether sheep sold badly or well at the market?

Could we realize eternal things more, we would
be less anxious about temporal things. It is only
our unbelief and carnality which fetter us down to
the poor things of time and sense.

"This world is fading away, along with everything
 it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will
 live forever." 1 John 2:17


 

The art of preaching

We are overrun with a shallow, superficial ministry,
which is destitute of all life, savor, and power. A dry,
dead-letter scheme of doctrine, as mathematically
correct as the squares of a chess-board, prevails,
where what is called "truth" is preached. And to
move Bible texts on the squares as pawns, is called
"the art of preaching".

How simple is truth!

Man's misery—God's mercy.

The aboundings of sin—the super-aboundings of grace.

The depths of the fall—the heights of the recovery.

The old man—the new man.

The diseases of the soul—the balm of a Savior's blood.

These lessons learned are in the furnace of inward
experience. How different from . . .
  the monkish austerity of the Ritualist,
  the lip service of the Pharisee, and
  the dry Calvinistic formulary!

What a dreadful lack is there of true preaching now!
I look round and see so few men qualified to feed the
church of God. We are overrun with parsons, but, oh
dear! what are they? I cannot but attribute much
of the low state of the churches to the ministers!


Ezekiel 34 is a true picture of the false shepherds.
 


 

My desire is . . .

1. To exalt the grace of God.

2. To proclaim salvation alone through the blood
   and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. To declare the sinfulness, helplessness, and
   hopelessness of man in a state of nature.

4. To describe, as far as I am able, the living
   experience of the saints of God in their trials,
   temptations, and sorrows—and in their
   consolations and blessings.


 

A great and inestimable mercy

It is a great and inestimable mercy when our
various trials and troubles are made a means of
driving us to the Lord, as our only hope and help.

Those circumstances, outward or inward,
temporal or spiritual, which . . .
  stir up an earnest spirit of prayer,
  make us cease from the creature,
  beat us out of all false refuges,
  wean us from the world,
  show us the vileness and deceitfulness of our hearts,
  lead us up to Jesus, and make Him near, dear, and
precious—must be considered blessings.

It is true, troubles rarely come to us as such, or at
the time appear as such—no, they usually appear as
if they would utterly swallow us up! But we must
judge of them by their fruits and effects.

Job could not see the hand of God in his troubles and
afflictions. But it was made plain after he was brought
to abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes.

I am very sure, if we are in the right way, we shall find
it a rough way, and have many trials and troubles.

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share
 in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the
 time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a
 harvest of righteousness and peace for those who
 have been trained by it."  Hebrews 12:10-11
 


 

Such freaks are more fit for a traveling circus

I have been much puzzled by those in the professing
church. Most have a great assurance and unwavering
confidence—unaccompanied by godly fear, and the
other fruits and graces of the Spirit. I see this as
presumption or delusion.

Where the Holy Spirit works faith, He also works . . .
  sorrow for sin,
  deadness to the world,
  tenderness of conscience,
  brokenness of spirit,
  humility,
  simplicity,
  sincerity,
  meekness,
  patience,
  spiritual affections,
  holy and heavenly desires,
  true hope, and
  love toward the Lord and His people.

Where we see these fruits and graces of the Spirit
lacking, or sadly deficient, there we must conclude
that true faith, the root from which they all grow, is
lacking or deficient likewise.

There are no 'freaks' in the kingdom of heaven.
I mean such as have . . .
  'little hearts' and 'large heads',
  active legs and withered hands,
  nimble tongues and crippled arms.
Such freaks are more fit for a traveling circus
than the Church of the living God.

To fear God,
to tremble at His word,
to be little and lowly in our own eyes,
to hate sin and ourselves as sinners,
to pour out our hearts before the Lord,
to seek His face continually,
to lead a life of faith and prayer,
to be dead to the world,
to feel Jesus to be precious,
to behold His dying love by the eyes of living faith;
these realities are almost despised and overlooked
by many 'great professors' in our day!




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