The Hour of Silence
By Alexander Smellie, 1899
On the supreme night of history, when the Lord Jesus Christ went forth, at the bidding of a love which the floods could not drown, to embrace His bitter and yet glorious cross, He addressed two brief but most pregnant counsels to His eleven faithful friends. "Arise," He said first, and then, a little later, "Abide." The words seem contradictory. In reality, each supplies that which is lacking in the other, and both are necessary and vital.
"ARISE," said He whom we greet both as Savior and as Master. It was a word of swift alacrity. When He spoke it, He left the couch on which He had been reclining at the Supper. He set His face to the Garden of the Olives and the Hill of Reproach; for He had a baptism of tears and blood to be baptized with on our behalf, and He was straitened until it should be accomplished. Not less than for Himself, this imperative of His is for you and me, who love Him, and whose desire it is to lose our own will in His. We must arise. We have a daily warfare to wage, because against us too, the Prince of this world comes. We have a daily cross to carry. We have the work of our Heavenly Father to finish. We have the goal of our own perfection to reach, and there are many adversaries.
But none of us will ever arise to good purpose, unless he recalls and fulfills the second injunction of our Lord, "ABIDE." It brings us "the flower of peace" in the stress of conflict and cross-bearing and obedience.
This abiding, what is it? It is the perpetual recollection of Jesus Healer, Teacher, Captain. It is the continuous surrender of our bodies and our souls to the grace of the Holy Spirit. But, just as certainly, it is the habitual study of the Word of Christ, written in the Holy Book.
What Christian men and women urgently need, in this hard-driven time, is to sit down in company with the Bible, and not only familiarize themselves with its contents, but hear through its verses the voice of their Redeemer and King speaking intimately to themselves. This will . . .
and give wings to hope,
and keep the flame of love aglow.
In the strength of such heavenly Bread, the Christian soldier girds himself anew for the long campaign, and the Christian traveler turns with invigorated heart to the difficulties of the pilgrim-march on to the City of God. If only we will brood and meditate more on His Word that divine Word will be, to these dull and uninspired souls of ours, spirit and life, wine and balm, wisdom and might!
To help towards an end so greatly to be wished, this book has been written.
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"Blessed is the man who . . .
does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
or sit in the seat of mockers.
There is a perilous progress in sin!
At first I content myself with walking in the counsel of the wicked. It is an occasional companionship. It is a meeting only now and again. For a little while I am with them, and then some better influence calls me away . . .
a remembrance of my mother's prayers,
a sentence in a letter from a friend,
a verse of Scripture shot suddenly into my mind.
But by and by I am found standing in the way of sinners. They have gained a greater power over me, and a completer fascination. I have learned to love them too well. I linger much longer in their society, and it is hard for me to tear myself from them. The poison is working, the leaven is spreading my condition is more fixed and more hopeless by far!
And, at last, where do you see me? I am sitting in the seat of the scornful. I am at home among those who laugh at God and Christ and Heaven and Hell. You cannot see any difference between me and them. I have joined their ranks. I am one of their number. Their resorts are mine;
their sneers and sarcasms are mine;
their seared conscience and withered heart are mine!
Oh dreary ending of a dreary journey!
As I would escape that lowest depth of all let me not look over the precipice, nor set my feet on the fatal slope. Blessed is the man who says, "I will not!" to the first allurements of sin. Blessed is the man who will not so much as walk in the Enchanted Ground.
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"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much!" James 5:16
In prayer, I must . . .
wrestle like Jacob,
and pant like David,
and hope like Elijah,
and be persistent like Bartimeus,
and cry with tears like my blessed Lord!
Prayer must be of the right sort:
Lord, teach me to pray!
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"They served idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them: You shall not do this thing!" 2 Kings 17:12
"Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart" Ezekiel 14:4
"Their heart went after their idols!" Ezekiel 20:16
There is much danger lest I should fall into the same sin of idolatry.
Idolatry is as prevalent today as well as yesterday.
It is as prevalent in Christendom no less than in heathendom.
There are the idols of wood and stone. Lurking in my heart I find too strong a sympathy with the grosser forms of evil; untold possibilities of heinous sin are within me still. But these impure gods must go!
There are the idols of silver and gold. I pay an undue deference to fashion and wealth. I covet a high position and a place among the prominent ones of the earth. But these gods too must be dethroned!
There are the carved images. I may easily be beguiled by my regard for the culture and arts of the world. Contagion and poison haunt its literature, its arts, its amusement. At whatever cost, these deities must be cast out!
There are the molten images. Sudden fires of appetite, swift flames of temptation, leap up within me; and before I know, I may be overcome by them. These powers of darkness must be conquered in a heavenlier strength than my own!
There are the teraphim the idols made in the likeness of men. I am in peril of exalting friends, wife, children, to the seat which Jesus Christ alone should occupy. My dearest idol must be thrown down, and He must be Lord of all.
May Zinzendorf s motto be mine: "I have one passion, and it is Jesus, Jesus only!"
"The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee!"
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"God is Love!" 1 John 4:8
It is a little flower which I pluck from the garden of John's letter this fragrant definition of God. Yet it suggests mysteries and miracles for which my intellect has no solution.
For it carries me away into the dateless years of eternity. Always Love has been God's name; always Love has summarized and crowned God's nature. Deep in His heart it lay through these far-off years. But, even then, it cared for me, and foresaw my sin and bitterness and unrest and death. Long before my world was made, God, who is Love, was busy devising my salvation!
I look again at John's rose-blossom, and I see a Cross on the Hill of Reproach. Love could not remain pent up in the bosom of God. It broke the confining barriers. "The God of love," Plato said with unconscious prophecy, "would be found one day lying on the city streets, shoeless, penniless, homeless." It is true of my God. He gave Himself for me! He became, in this apostle's phrase, the atoning sacrifice for my sins!
Again I lift John's flower, and it awakens in me a glowing hope for myself. There is none so wondrous and powerful as this God of love. I welcome Him; and my heart is transfigured, my life is sublimed. I am changed into His image. I carry His superscription. I dwell myself in love. It becomes my atmosphere and my universe.
God is Love . . .
Love indwelling me,
Love sacrificing and suffering for me,
Love melting and conquering me, and making all things new.
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"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 3:13-14
1. Mine be the Pauline oblivion of the past. It is well to forget the things which are behind. If I remember too vividly former failures the recollection will depress my soul and hamper my movements. If I remember too often former attainments I shall grow contented and make no further progress. There is a tyranny of success as hurtful as the tyranny of defeat. And if I remember too constantly the modes of my religion hitherto, I shall look simply for a repetition of old experiences, instead of desiring fresh gifts. Yes, let me forget.
2. And mine be the Pauline aspiration towards the future. Like the runner in the chariot race, I should stretch forward to the things which are before me. In front of me lie . . .
a fuller holiness,
a larger likeness to Christ,
a deeper humility,
a more wide-reaching usefulness,
the victory over death,
the abundant entrance into Heaven,
the eternal glory yet to be revealed.
These things I must seek with the intensity which . . .
the man of the world carries into his business,
the scholar into his studies,
the explorer into his journeys and toils.
3. And mine be the Pauline endeavor in the present. Always let me be pressing toward the mark for the prize. Some sin I ought to put off every day; some Christian grace or virtue I ought daily to put on. I must open my soul more absolutely to the Holy Spirit. Each hour must bring . . .
its work and its battle,
its duty to be done,
its prize to be gained.
Ah, life is too solemn, too momentous, too earnest!
By forgetfulness, by expectation, by effort . . .
I grow in Christlikeness,
I make progress in the pilgrim march,
I climb nearer and nearer the summits of God's snow-white Alps of purity and holiness.
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"Always be zealous for the fear of the Lord." Proverbs 23:17
The fear of the Lord it is a grand and significant Old Testament phrase. It depicts a state of mind and heart which is absent today but which I must seek to nourish and foster within my own soul.
It is fear felt towards the Lord. Do I think, as much and as deeply as I should, of His dazzling and awesome attributes? His justice cannot be tarnished. His holiness is without flaw. Before the splendor and brilliancy of His majesty, the angels veil their faces with their wings; cherubim who know and seraphim who burn feel themselves unworthy as they stand adoring about His pure and hallowed throne. His is the sevenfold radiance of divinity. Ah, He merits my reverence and my fear!
But it is also fear felt by the Lord Jesus. Many a year after Hebrew psalmists and prophets and sages had finished their course and borne their testimony God lived and moved, labored and wept and died, among men God in the person of my Savior Jesus Christ. And, when He was here, He knew well this sober and befitting grace: "He was heard," the Scripture tells me, for "His godly fear." Hebrews 5:7. In my culture and habitual exercise of fear, I am in the best company. I hold fellowship with my Redeemer and my King.
So beneficial a fear . . .
will deter me from sin,
will deepen my watchfulness and my holiness,
will increase my diligence,
will enable me, always and everywhere, to practice the presence of God.
In many directions, at countless times, it will benefit my life. I should cultivate it more.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" Proverbs 9:10
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"Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29
What sorrow, what sweetness, what glory encircle the head of the Lamb of God!
1. He is the Lamb of Sacrifice. "His blood so red for me was shed!" Priest as well as Victim, Shepherd as well as Lamb He offered Himself in my place, without spot and blemish. He assumed my misery, and reaped the harvest I had sown a mournful harvest of guilt and woe! His unsullied and stainless life, He gave freely, cheerfully for my forfeited and outcast and ruined life. Oh, how He loves me!
2. He is the Lamb of Deliverance. I remember that ancient type of my Redeemer and Lord the Lamb of the Passover. It was slain, and its life-blood was sprinkled on the door-post and the family within was safe. The dark-winged angel of death with the sharp sword in his hand, had no condemnation for them. In the same way, behind the merit and the grace, the atonement and the intercession and the human-divine Person of Jesus I take my stand, and I am free from condemnation!
3. He is the Lamb of whitest purity. There is no spot in Him; He is altogether lovely. And, as I abide with Him, as I meditate on Him, as I trust in Him . . .
old things pass away with me;
I grow in grace;
the meekness and the patience and the beauty of God's Lamb begin to be seen in my life;
upward and heavenward and Christward I mount!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place: Jehovah-Jireh the Lord will provide!" Genesis 22:13-14
And what does He provide?
BREAD when I am hungry. It seems natural to begin there. He has a care for my body as well as for my soul. He is certainly not desirous that I should have wealth or distinction or the means of indulgence and display. But, if I trust Him, I shall get enough for comfort if not enough for luxury; enough to rid me from unworthy worry if not enough to free me from wholesome dependence and continuous faith. Every modest and present need, He is sure to satisfy.
HELP when I am helpless that, too, the Lord will provide. Is it the discipline of my own inner life? Is it to escape this entrancing world? I am sufficient for none of these things.
Sometimes my road is rough,
sometimes it is steep,
sometimes it is dark,
sometimes it is slippery.
My heart whispers discouragement, and says, "This is too hard for me!" But, when I come to the place, I find that God Himself has solved my difficulties, and puts to flight my fears!
And SALVATION when I am burdened with sin this also, this best of all, my Lord will provide. It was a lamb for sacrifice which Jehovah-Jireh prepared on the bare summit of Moriah. And in the end of the days, on the green hill of Calvary, close beside mount Moriah a better Lamb died by divine appointment and made reconciliation for my iniquity! In the presence of such a sacrifice, how full my joy should be! Jesus, the precious Lamb of God . . .
breaks every fetter,
unbars every door,
forgives every debt!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel!" Isaiah 45:15
In the nature of God, in the book of God, in the government of God how many hidden things there are which we have no skill to unravel! It is well that there should be. The mysteries both glorify Him and humble me. It is good to walk with God in the dark!
When the sun rises on my soul, He hides Himself. Quietly, unseen by others, perhaps unobserved by myself, He changes all my beliefs and loves and habits. It is like the daybreak, which comes without observation. It is like the spring of the year, which will be with us before I know. It is like the resurrection of Jesus, taking place in the grey dawn.
And while my day is running its course, He hides Himself. He is with me always, but there is much to try me in His providential dealings with me. My holiness progresses slowly. My experience is filled with fluctuation and vicissitude. My sorrows tread fast on the heels of my joys.
And when the evening shadows fall round me, He hides Himself. For my body there is the dark grave. For my spirit there is life in His presence yet not the full life which will begin on the morning of the resurrection.
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"When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord." Jonah 2:7
When my soul faints within me, I will remember my Lord. That memory is the best of medicines and remedies.
For instance, I will remember His precious promises. Those gracious words of His every one of them His strong and unfaltering "Yes" in Christ Jesus they are stars of Heaven kindled for my comfort in the darkest night. They are as countless as the stars, and as bright and full of cheer.
And I will remember His mighty deeds. I am not by any means the first pilgrim to pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Multitudes have been in its gloom and peril before me, and each of them He has delivered out of his distresses. Me, too, He will bless and keep. For me He will do as much as for those who have gone this way before.
And I will remember His glorious attributes. God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth! What a crowd of shining perfections I have here! And they are all enlisted on my side; they are all my strong defenders and allies.
And I will remember His experience. For, strange yet blessed truth my God has been out in the loneliness before me. He has drained a far bitterer cup than mine. But today He wears the crown that will never fade. And He has said that I am to follow Him through sorrow to glory, through death to eternal life!
"When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord." Jonah 2:7
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"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under Heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
Here is the holy intolerance and exclusiveness of the gospel of Christ. It will brook no rival to Him who is its Center and its Glory. It crowns Him supreme and only Lord.
Modern culture makes much of other saviors. Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, stand almost on a level with Jesus. It reverences them well-near as much.
And society turns to other refuges. It is impatient of the old-fashioned creed, that outside of Christ there is no hope of Heaven. It has its own conventions and rules and ideals; and if a man honor them, he has nothing to fear. They must surely be without reproach who abide by its standards and who win its respect. But there is none other name.
And my own heart would seek its life and peace elsewhere In my prayers, my gifts, my tears, my labors. In the good opinion of my fellows, and the approval of my own conscience. In my indifference to the sterner side of God's character and my neglect of the terrors of the Lord. In my hopes and dreams that all will go well. But but there is none other name.
It is an all-sufficing Name. Let me esteem it my one Foundation, one Hiding-place, one Hope. Jesus, the Puritans said, had one hundred and eight names; and in every one of them there is salvation, free and full, present and eternal.
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"Remember that you were at that time . . .
separate from Christ,
excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,
and strangers to the covenants of promise,
having no hope and
without God in the world." Ephesians 2:12
I once was Christless. I had heard of Jesus with the hearing of the ear, but I did not know Him in my heart and life. He was not my Savior, my Teacher, my King, my Friend the Necessity of my life, to whom I turned perpetually and gladly. I was separate from Christ.
I once was homeless. I was frequently within the walls of the church, but I found no heart-joy in it. It was not the Palace Beautiful to me; it was not my spiritual birthplace, my resort, my delight. I was alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.
I once was messageless. The Bible was often in my hands but its warnings did not move me, its precepts did not command me, its good news did not rejoice me. I was a stranger from the covenants of promise.
I once was hopeless. I professed that I was going to Heaven. But the belief, whenever I looked it fairly in the face, brought me alarm, for I had no true hope.
I once was godless. I was not an atheist in theory and by profession but practically an atheist. I was not governed by the thought of His presence who fills all Heaven and earth. I was not rejoicing in His fellowship. I was not seeking His glory. Nay, I was without God in the world which God's fingers made!
My Lord, You have changed all this, I will look back today to the pit whence You have dug me. It will deepen my humility. It will heighten my praise.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus!" Ephesians 2:4-6
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"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!" Hebrews 12:2
This is how I am justified and forgiven. Not by the hopeless endeavor to win and fight my way to the favor of God and the Celestial City but by looking to Jesus only, and by leaning on Him absolutely.
"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Your cross I cling!"
This is how I find assurance. I am tossed with tempest, overcast with doubt, haunted with fear while I scrutinize my own frames and feelings. But when I fix my gaze steadfastly on Him, so all-sufficient, so perfect the morning awakens and the shadows decay; lo, the winter is past, and the flowers appear! For my own comfort I would see Him as a glorious Sun filling my sky.
This is how I grow holy. While indeed I am bidden work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, it must not be as if everything depended on me. It must rather be by a perpetual faith in Him, and a perpetual prayer to Him, who works in me to will and to do. The battle is not mine, but His. He sows the seed and He ripens the harvest. He lays the foundation and puts the topstone in its fitting place.
This is how I shall be glorified in the end. Self will have vanished in the better country, and Christ will be ALL! I shall follow the Lamb wherever He goes. I shall find my safety, my peace, my victory in keeping very close to Him. He will be familiar, and yet He will be new every morning. And I shall discover in Him a subject of study, and wonder, and worship, and love, that is illimitable and unfathomable!
"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!" Hebrews 12:2
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"For the poor shall never cease out of the land." Deuteronomy 15:11
And well is it for me that I have the poor always with me. They bless me a hundredfold more than I am able to bless them. I am ennobled by their presence. Deprived of the poor, I become spiritually poor myself.
They keep the Angel of Tenderness in my fellowship. If there were not so many poor around me to awaken my compassion and pity if the world were all a smiling and untroubled and fertile world how harsh I should grow, and how cold, and how self-absorbed!
And they keep the Angel of Helpfulness in my company. Their necessities are a constant call to me to rouse myself and go and support them. They bid me open my hand and give. They teach me the sweet and Christlike luxury of doing good. They enrich my days in service and ministry.
And they keep the Angel of Gratefulness in my secret soul. They are a continual parable, never out of my sight, of my own spiritual poverty how I was myself a bond-slave to sin and the devil, and how the Lord my God redeemed me. So I remember, day by day, my indebtedness to Him.
Yes, for my own sake let me thank God that the poor do not cease from the land. And let me not serve them grudgingly nor of necessity, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver.
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"His winnowing fan is in His hand!" Matthew 3:12
The words are not words of terror alone. They do not tell me simply that He will separate false souls from true at last, those who have merely a name to live from those within whom the power of godliness dwells and advances. That is solemn fact which I have need to lay to heart; but there is much more than that.
The words are words of richest comfort also. For the wheat and the chaff are within the same life of each of the redeemed the life which the Savior is sanctifying from day to day.
Is this life mine? Then in my history, He will employ His winnowing and cleansing fan.
It is the winnowing fan of His testing and purifying providence.
It is the winnowing fan of His teaching and purging Word.
It is the winnowing fan of His sifting and sanctifying Spirit.
Through one agency and through another He will busy Himself winnowing me, until all that is worthless and all that is evil have gone from me completely and forever!
He can be satisfied with nothing short of my absolute and stainless perfection.
It will mean a long, long patient process on His part.
It will mean an arduous and sometimes an agonizing discipline for me.
But by and by, the chaff will have disappeared from my soul. By and by, I shall be pure and ripe and precious wheat, which, in His great harvest He will carry with joy into His heavenly garner!
It is a hope which may bring tears of gladness to my eyes!
It is an expectation to fill my heart with melody and music!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Jesus asked: Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?" Luke 17:17
Only one leper returned to give God thanks nine continued on their way unmindful, ungrateful. And why was that?
Perhaps they knew the danger of committing themselves to Jesus, knew that He was narrowly watched and suspected, knew that even to receive a cure from Him was in itself an offence to many. My Lord, I seek grace not to be so cowardly!
Perhaps they were afraid that now the Master would have a claim upon them and would begin to press the claim. He who had given them their health, might demand their loyalty; and they were not ready to yield it. My Lord, I would be more consecrated than they!
Perhaps they were seized with the wish to mix with the world, to go back to its affairs, to play their part in its business. They were impatient of delays which detained them from the promotion of their own interests. My Lord, I would learn to hate such selfishness!
Perhaps they thought that they had only got what was their due. They thought that the loathsome disease was an injustice and a grievance, and health was their right and they need not be profoundly grateful. Ah my Lord, teach me to watch against this self-conceit and pride!
Perhaps they told themselves that their Benefactor was no longer necessary to them. The pressure of urgent need was past, and its disappearance makes a vast difference. My lord, let me never forget Your untold benefits.
There is no darker sin than ingratitude! I entreat You Lord Jesus, to save me from it!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"You do not know on what day your Lord will come!" Matthew 24:42
So many and so different are the days of my earthly life and on any one of them my Lord may come! This is a thought to hallow them all.
It may be a day of ordinary business and toil. Then whatever I do I, must do heartily, as unto my Master. If He should surprise me when I am engaged in my usual task, He must find the task honorably and faithfully and fully discharged. Let mine be the eye which "winces at false work, and loves the true."
It may be a day of weakness and suffering. Then I must suffer patiently, meekly, quietly, even thankfully. I must kiss the cross which He has laid on my shoulders. I must show that His grace has a marvelous power to sustain me. How sorrow-stricken I shall be if, when He comes, He hears me murmur and complain!
It may be a day bright with a special gladness and success. Then I must trace my joy to no secondary and subordinate cause but to Him, and must praise Him for it. I must glory not in myself but in His goodness and mercy. It will be an eternal regret to me, if He should discover me ungrateful, boastful or proud!
It may be a day of worship and prayer. Then there must be the heart-reality behind the form of religion. No fair external, must cover a hollow and insincere heart. How infinitely mournful it will be if, in His searching eyes if my religion should be hypocrisy, and my holy things a falsehood!
Lord, give me grace to live as though You were coming at any moment!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"He went on his way rejoicing." Acts 8:39
He came worshiping. All the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem he journeyed, to do homage to the one true God.
My soul will never approach Him in vain, if it approaches Him with such earnestness and such lowliness, with such whole-hearted intensity of desire and expectation. "To this man He will look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at His word."
He returned searching. For in Jerusalem he had not found all that he sought, and he still continued reading in the book of the Evangelical Prophet. It is a lesson to me: not to be spasmodic, and fitful, and easily discouraged in my quest of the divinest blessings; to knock and knock until the door is opened to me. God loves a persistent and importunate seeker. Then shall I know, if I follow on to know the Lord.
He went on his way rejoicing. After the midnight of weeping, after the twilight of dimness and uncertainty his was the day-dawn of unspeakable gladness. So Christ, if I inquire after Him, if I cling about His feet and refuse to let Him go will bless me . . .
with the assurance of His pardoning mercy,
with the sweetness of His sanctifying grace,
with the delights of communion with Himself,
with the inheritance which never fades away.
Let me repeat the eunuch's significant history and I shall be diademed with his crown.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus!" Colossians 3:17
"In the name of the Lord Jesus" let me write this motto over whatever I do. This is the magic stone that turns all to gold.
Let me pray in the name of Jesus. Just as He would pray, if He were kneeling in my place; just with His desires, His compassions, His importunities, His holy violence which carries the citadel of Heaven by storm.
Let me live my daily life in the name of Jesus. Seeking to reflect Him, my peerless Pattern, my Master without blemish and without spot; walking in His footsteps; carrying about with me His zeal for God and His love for men.
Let me suffer and be still in the name of Jesus. When the dark days come, the desert-place, the sickroom, the weakness and impotence let me imitate Him who took the cup and said, "Not My will but Yours be done." Let me walk, my hand in His, through the shadows, and over the crags and torrents.
Let me enter Heaven at last in the name of Jesus. As one . . .
who believes in Him,
who has received His word,
who glories in His love,
who is immeasurably in His debt,
who has been smitten with the hunger and thirst to love Him
I shall be welcome there. It is my only title to the mansions in the skies.
"In Jesus' name!" Over life and death and eternity, I shall engrave the ennobling and transfiguring inscription; it will make them all holy and sweet.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me . . . I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia." Galatians 1:15-17
Paul went away from all human contact for several years in order to spend time alone with God in the Arabian wilderness.
The newborn soul needs solitude. That, apart from the strife of tongues and the din of the world, it may meditate on those marvelous things which God has done for it. That it may frame a larger, deeper, more adequate conception of what salvation really is. That its gratitude may become more precise and more profound. That, with nothing and no one to distract, it may dedicate itself quietly and fully to its Lord.
Does not the teacher or preacher need solitude? That he may apprehend the breadth and length and depth and height of that great, majestic, illimitable evangel he is to proclaim. That he may seize hold of the truth of God and that the truth of God may seize hold of him. That the gospel may become, more than ever, his own possession and exceeding joy. And then, out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will speak.
Does not every saint need solitude? That he may shake off the dust and grime of worldliness and sin. That, waiting on the Lord, he may renew his strength. That a fresh unction from the Holy One may make him wise and strong.
In Arabia, as he came forth from the cloud, the face of Moses shone. In Arabia, the soul of Paul duly took and strongly kept the print of Heaven.
Ah, there are none of us who can venture to dispense with our Arabian wildernesses!
Is it my custom and my delight to go by myself to a quiet place, and rest awhile with Jesus? (Mark 6:31)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"His name shall be called . . .
Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
The most precious names need to be combined in order to bring out the excellence of my Savior and need to be sublimed, too, to their loftiest significance and meaning.
Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. I am like the passenger in a ship sailing across the wild Atlantic. There are tempests roaring fit to crush the vessel. But I lean on my Captain's clear eye and steadfast hand; His wisdom never fails!
Jesus is the Mighty God. I am like the soldier in a desperate struggle against overwhelming odds. I have no strength against the great army the world-rulers of this darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. What can I do against such unearthly and diabolical foes? But One fights for me who has all power, and I am safe!
Jesus is the Father of Eternity. I am like the pilgrim passing through a foreign land. I see its sights and listen to its sounds but I have no continuing city here and no stable home. But my Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, and He permits me to share in His eternal heavenly home.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. I am like the martyr whom the fiery flames lick and scorch. I cannot be true to Jesus without encountering the world's ridicule and hate. But He is with me all the time. He breathes an assured tranquility into my soul. He gives me His own unspeakable joy. So He supplies all my need.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"It shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom!" Luke 10:12
More tolerable will it be for the heathen than for me if I fail to improve my day of grace and opportunity.
My knowledge is much clearer than theirs. They grope in the dark but I enjoy the full midday beam. They follow confusing voices but I listen to the sure Word of grace and truth. What are shaded Delphos, and Dodona's oaks, and Buddha's footprints compared with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?
And my privilege is much larger. Pulpits and Sundays, the Bible and the Church, the wholesome atmosphere and the helpful surroundings I have these, and they are denied them all. I am tenfold happier in my opportunities, than the most favored of them.
And my surroundings are much richer and fuller. Education and environment have done great things for me, widening my horizon, uplifting my conceptions, expanding all my being. But they only make the Lord more essentially necessary to my welfare and completeness.
And my Savior is much nearer. How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? But I I have been familiar with Him all my days.
They who knew not His will, shall be beaten with few stripes; but I who know it, if I do it not, I shall be beaten with many stripes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said: It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35
It is more blessed to give than to receive: it is one of the sayings of the Lord, and there must be many such, which the Gospels do not record on any of their pages.
More blessed it is, because it is more Godlike. God is always giving:
rain and dew and sunlight,
life and health,
the discipline of sickness,
the chastening of sorrow, and,
best of all, His own dear Son and all that Jesus brings
how that Heart of hearts loves to pour forth its inexhaustible treasure! There are no limits to its bounty! If I give, then I shall be like God!
More blessed it is, because it is more fruitful. It is those who give give money, and time, and labor, and themselves who are the world's greatest benefactors. The selfish soul never blesses those around him; only the self-forgetful soul does that. So I must give, if I would not have my life barren and vain, if I would not be a mere cumberer of the ground.
More blessed it is, because it is the consequence and consummation of receiving. First I receive and then I give. I receive Christ and His salvation with empty hands, with needy heart and then, having been made rich myself, I impart of my wealth and store to others. I am loved, ineffably, divinely in order that I may learn to love others. The receiving is the prelude the giving is the result and crown. The receiving is the pathway and the giving is the end.
So let me remember and obey the words of the Lord Jesus. And let me thank Paul that he has preserved for me a flower of the Master's speech which is not enshrined in the gospels themselves.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
Instead of fearfulness and shame POWER. And the power is heaven-born and heaven-sustained, bequeathed and nourished by the Spirit of God. What opposition should I dread, from what enemy should I fly when this invincible Might has its home within me? My weakness, leaning upon God its end can never miss. He delights in the empty and helpless soul into which He can breathe His strength.
Instead of fearfulness and shame LOVE. The very love of Jesus, limitless, unconquerable, towards men who range themselves against His gospel. If this love abounds in me, it will drive terror far away. It will make me the envoy of peace to those who hate me. Above all my shrinking from them will rise and reign a throbbing compassion for them. Stronger than my misgivings of the harm they may inflict on me, will be my knowledge of the sorrowful destiny they may reap for themselves my yearning to snatch them from it.
Instead of fearfulness and shame DISCIPLINE. The sober and continual government of myself; the watchfulness that mounts ever into prayer. Let me have this lordship over my frailties, my alarms, my moods of despondency and panic, and thrice am I armed; no shaft shall pierce my coat of armor.
God, let me remember, gives me not a spirit of fearfulness but of Power and Love and Discipline.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Be shepherds of the flock of God that is under your care, serving as overseers not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away!" 1 Peter 5:2
When Peter commanded to shepherd the flock of God, three arguments at least prompted his injunction.
There was the MEMORY of Christ. His thoughts were traveling back across all the intervening years to a grey morning beside the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus said to him: "Tend My sheep." Yes, I must get the commandment from the Master Himself, His ordination must commission me, His grace must equip me, His Spirit must inspire mine, if I am to be a good keeper of the flock, and if I am to pass on the responsibility and the privilege to others.
There was the GRACE of Christ. "Not greedy for money, but eager to serve," the apostle writes. It had been his own manner and habit; for the sake of the Name he had gone forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles, nor yet of the poor Jewish. And surely this free and spontaneous and ungrudging service drew its inspiration from the tender mercy of Him who, though He was rich yet for our sakes became poor. There is my pattern. There is my high and heavenly standard.
And there was the HOPE of Christ. When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, Peter goes on, you shall receive the crown of glory that will never fade away! I shall see His face; I shall hearken to His commendation; I shall enter into His joy. What an incentive it is to diligence and faithfulness! I must guard and guide the sheep, I must feed the little lambs; for I shall meet Him soon to whom they belong.
These are three mighty arguments indeed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men." 2 Corinthians 8:21
We are taking pains to do what is right it is the best and noblest rule.
It is the way of JESUS CHRIST. He was so poor that He had nowhere to lay His head yet He was careful to owe no man anything. Render unto Caesar, He said, the things which are Caesar's. That take, He said about the temple shekel, and give unto them for Me and you. My dear and glorious Lord, to whom all men in their hopeless bankruptcy were deep in debt, was Himself in debt to none. And I must walk in my Master's footsteps.
It is the certificate to the WORLD. The sharp-eyed world judges of religion, approves it or condemns it by the ethics of the disciple. It is watching my character keenly and carefully. If it finds me scrupulously honorable, true to my word, anxious to meet every claim then it will think well of my faith and my King.
It is the herb of Heart's-Ease to MYSELF. I have little rest or peace, if I do not do what is right. My conscience condemns me; my thoughts are troubled and distressed; I am the haunted victim of a hundred forebodings and fears. But I look the whole world in the face, when I think only of the things which are true and lovely and of good report. I live in a peaceable habitation through spring and summer and autumn and winter.
Yes, it is the best and noblest rule.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the edge of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing life forevermore." Psalm 133:1-3
See what brotherly kindness and love can do. They bind together things which seem far apart.
They are like the HOLY ANOINTING OIL the priestly oil of consecration and devotion. On Aaron's head it was poured, and it streamed down to the lowest blue fringe of his garments. That lofty, deep-thinking, venerable head; and this far-off robe of blue that kisses the ground itself they are made one by the oil which sanctifies them both.
In the same way, love unites the prince in learning and in power and in saintliness with the weakest member of Christ's body. Nay, it links Christ Himself, the merciful and faithful High Priest, to whom Aaron is but as moonlight unto sunlight it links Him by blessed bonds never to be broken with the least of His little ones.
Or they are like the DEW. It falls on great and snowy Hermon far in the north of Palestine; it falls, too, on the lowly slopes and crests of Zion in the distant south; it is a blessing which they enjoy together and which renders them close of kin it makes them both hills of the same Holy Land.
Lord, baptize me with the refreshing dews of love. Then, if through Your grace I tower high in the Kingdom, I shall still think well and tenderly of my humbler brothers. And, if I am small and humble, I shall delight to remember that others climb to nobler heights than I; in my shadows I shall know that the day is near when I see their shining foreheads lighted with the early sun.
Love spans all gulfs and distances.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For in Him we live, and move, and have our being." Acts 17:28
How near God draws to me! How essential God is to me! It is in Him that I live and move and have my being.
But I must be very BLIND. For I see so little of His proximity and His working. Secondary causes bulk far more largely in my eyes than the great and adorable First Cause. Lord, quicken my dim and dullard vision, that I may feel You beside me now.
And I must be very THANKLESS. For I do not praise and worship humbly, heartily, the King of my days and nights. He plans and arranges everything the east wind and the west wind, the rain and the sun, the winter and the summer, the tempest and the calm. He makes everything promote my good. I should sing to Him ten times oftener; I should love Him ten times more.
And I must be very BACKWARD. For with such a God so close to me, and so perpetually busy about me, how wise I should be growing in the divine mysteries, and how strong I ought to be in the divine life! My fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ and therefore mine should be a lofty stature and an understanding heart. But is it so? is it so? Am I learning new lessons of truth and grace hour after hour?
Oh that I may begin and continue and end all my thoughts and ways in Him!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!" Matthew 10:24-25
They said of the Master, that He was a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber. His willingness to eat and drink with publicans and sinners they turned into a bitter taunt and a sinister reproach. Shall I not be proud to be branded with a like suspicion?
They said of the Master that He was a Samaritan. His passion and compassion for poor dying sinners of every nation and people and tribe and tongue, His desire to bless and save them they used as an instrument to slander and defame Him. Shall I not wear gladly every sorrowful badge with which such love as His adorns my brow?
They said of the Master that He blasphemed. His words of grace and truth, His messages from Heaven, His kingly commands and kindly invitations and precious promises they pronounced as profanity and unholy sacrilege. Shall I not crave and covet the reproach which comes to him who preaches good tidings and publishes salvation?
They said of the Master that He cast out devils by the prince of the devils. His miracles of might and mercy, His deliverance of the captives from the thraldom of Satan they traced to Hell, and not to Heaven. Shall I not rejoice when the powers of the better world flow from me manifestly and victoriously, and when they stir the hostility of the world?
I need not wonder if I suffer in His service. I am never so blessed as when I am a partaker in His sorrows.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you;
before you were born, I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5
When I am discouraged in spirit, this will renew my energy and enthusiasm: to know that God girded me, distinguished me from others, singled me out to be His ambassador and craftsman, before the mountains were brought forth, or the morning stars sang together, or the first ray of light shot through the gloom.
May God give me the assurance of a PRESENT HELP. That was repeated again and again to Jeremiah. "Do not be afraid, for I am with you to deliver you." And how rich, how potent, how many-sided, the support of God is! Just let me breathe out my troubles to Him, and the abundance of His power will be seen in me.
And may God give me the assurance of a SUCCESSFUL MINISTRY. Jeremiah's ministry was to be one of destruction as well as of construction, of sorrow as well as of joy; but in either case God was to be honored through him. Only let me be loyal to my Master, and it is impossible for me to fail. At length, when I lay my labor down, He will say to me, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" And there is no other prize half so desirable or half so sweet; it is ample compensation for midnight and battle and storm.
Thus I would have God equip me for His own work.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Holding on to faith and a good conscience." 1 Timothy 1:19
A good conscience what a priceless possession it is!
It is a conscience whose fears and alarms have been quieted. It sees and knows its Savior. It rejoices that He has cancelled its guilt and has set it free. The tumult is changed into a calm. The black indictment is obliterated by a pierced Hand. The sorrowful years of banishment are over.
It is a conscience which is tender and sensitive. It detects the far-off shadow and semblance of evil. It recoils from the contaminating touch of the wicked thing. It can penetrate the disguises in which sin arrays its foulness and hides its true and hateful self.
It is a conscience operative and powerful. It rules and directs the whole man. It is his mirror of right and wrong, his inner law directing in what road he should go.
It is a conscience which is governed by the Holy Spirit. It listens for His slightest whisper. It welcomes His least and greatest commandments. It is not its own guide and end; God is its all in all. The fetters which it loves and in which it glories, will lie on it forever, and remain through the ageless future.
My Lord, create in me this conscience, and educate it more and more in those things which are true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and of noble.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and called him by name: Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today!" Luke 19:5
The call of Christ is very personal. Zacchaeus! He says, addressing the soul by name. It is how He comes to me in the hour of my conversion, giving me warnings and precepts and promises of His Word an individual meaning, and a message which singles me out from the crowd.
The call of Christ is very illuminative. Long ago in Jericho, it made two things clear to the publican the knowledge and majesty of the Savior, and the sore and crying need of his own heart. Thus He convinces me of my sin and misery. Thus He enlightens my mind regarding Himself.
The call of Christ is very loving. "I must stay at your house today!" It is the "must" of tenderest affection; it is the imperative of immeasurable grace. And the same "must" governs Him still in high Heaven. Oh marvel of mercy, He cannot bear that I should perish!
The call of Christ is very urgent. "Come down immediately!" He commanded. Today! that was His royal word. So it always is.
And the call of Christ is very transforming. It made a new man of this grasping and greedy tax-gatherer. It will make a new man of me, when He has His blessed and irresistible way with my soul. The fruit of His Spirit is love and joy and peace.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved!" Acts 15:11
How does salvation come to me? How shall I secure the good gift and the perfect blessing?
Not through ceremony and ritual. The man who insists on the importance of rites and institutions and traditions may be a great figure in the Church. But his medicine will not heal my deep-rooted and malignant disease. It is sadly superficial and insufficient.
Not through activity and service. Diligence and laboriousness are good and necessary in the kingdom of Christ. But they will not gain for me the favor and friendship of the King Himself. They are the consequence of His kindness to me, not the prelude and purchase of it.
Not through emotion and feeling. My tears, my prayers, my ecstasies, my raptures it is not through these that the pathway runs, straight and sure, to the heart and the home of God. Sentiment and sorrow will never make me a child in the blameless family of Heaven.
No but through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ I shall be saved. All to Him I owe. His obedience, His death, His glorious righteousness, His precious promises, His abiding love, His omnipotent Holy Spirit: there, there only, is my hope and my boast.
Not I but You: that is the first and important pronoun in the Christian's grammar. None of self, and all of You. When I can do nothing, God does everything; and I live in triumph, because He makes His triumphs mine.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!" Revelation 5:6
"Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Revelation 5:11-12
The Lamb of God is the center of this mystic and glowing book of the Revelation.
There is the Lamb with His wounds the Lamb that was slain. Even in Heaven He carries those scars of His passion and death. Even in Heaven I shall be perpetually reminded that I owe everything to Calvary and to Him who was both Victor and Victim there!
There is the Lamb in His royalty the Lamb in the center of the Throne. The Head that once was crowned with the sharp thorns is crowned with regal glory now! I rejoice in it for Christ's sake. I rejoice in it for my own sake, for what is there which He cannot do for me His little one? Over the world of nature and men, over unseen principalities and powers He rules that He may befriend my soul.
There is the Lamb with His guardianship of His own the Lamb shall lead them. To all eternity He will shepherd me, feed me, protect me, uphold me! I shall never be able to dispense with Him. I shall never wish to stand alone, outside His keeping and His care. Through the everlasting years, I shall avow myself my dear Lord's debtor.
There is the Lamb in His triumphs the Lamb shall overcome them. So, one day, I shall see all my enemies routed and dead. One happy day, I shall be entirely freed from the antagonism and harassment of my sins. He who is for me, is mightier than the hosts arrayed against me!
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Thus says the Lord unto the house of Israel: Seek Me and you shall live!" Amos 5:4
God reveals Himself to me in many ways.
There is the message of NATURE.
The Pleiades, hanging in the sky their cluster of golden worlds;
Orion, with his jeweled sword of light;
the midnight, lying heavy on the land;
the deepening rose of dawn;
the grey mists, rising from the sea;
the clouds, sailing before the wind;
the sweet rain, falling on garden and field;
the very lightning flaming from the heart of the storm:
all these should name the name of God in my ears. They are His revealers and spokesmen.
There is the message of LAW. In His Word God appeals to me more articulately, more directly, than in His world.
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring my soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise my simplicity;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing my heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening my eyes.
Oh that I may have a mind to hearken to this majestic voice of my King!
Best of all, there is the message of LOVE. "I know how manifold are your transgressions and how mighty are your sins," God says to me. But Jesus saves me out of the pit of my corruptions. He is God's last and best Word to me. After Him, God has nothing more and nothing higher which He can say.
So, while I listen to nature and law, let me listen most humbly and most joyfully to Christ.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity." Psalm 37:1
It is better being godly, than evil.
It brings a truer profit. How can I doubt it? The wealth which has no canker staining it and which is more precious than money: the quiet conscience, the restful spirit, the imagination cleansed, the will renewed, the life taught to love and serve and bear fruit in God's behalf and man's these are the most desirable treasures.
It brings a richer pleasure, too. There is a sweetness never failing sweetness happy and secure, in the love of the Father and the grace of the Son and the communion of the Holy Spirit. The world's joys do not satisfy but Heaven's joys fill and content my soul. They leave me no more that I can crave. My heart has attained its uttermost, and the psalm which it sings week in and week out is a Hallelujah psalm.
It brings a nobler permanence. Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be; but he who does the will of God abides forever. For every disciple, the best is yet to come.
Therefore I shall commit my way unto the Lord; I shall trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass. From all discontentment, from all questioning, from all envy and fret, may He set me wholly free. The poorest of His saints, is loftier in rank and richer in treasure than the world's millionaires and princes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Your eyes will see the King in His beauty! They will behold a far-distant land!" Isaiah 33:17
If God is mine, then I shall dwell on high with Him. I am traveling to a world where I shall be fully satisfied.
My intellect will have her blessing then. Just now I am learning many glorious lessons in the school of Jesus; but there are questions of the mind which remain unanswered, and problems which are still unsolved. But by and by I shall know even as also I am known clearly, unerringly, perfectly.
My conscience will have her blessing then. Since Christ became mine, her troublesome accusations have been stilled, and her governing power has been restored. But she has her fears even yet, and her difficulties and uncertainties. It is not quite the full noon in the realm of conscience. But, when she walks with the Lamb in white, all the shadows will be gone.
My will, too, will have her blessing then. By the grace of God I have an obedient will now, whose delight is to run the way of the Master's commandments. Yes but traces of the old rebelliousness linger within me, to my own sorrow and shame. When I see the King, I shall gladly serve Him day and night!
And my heart will have her blessing then. Jesus has met her craving for love; and yet she is crying out for more of His presence and Himself more and more! But, in the far-distant land, my heart's most daring requests will find their fullest response, and she is content and at rest.
What stores of happiness, what rivers of pleasures, are at His right hand!
"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore!" Psalm 16:11
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I will lift up my eyes unto the hills! My help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber! The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and even forevermore!" Psalm 121
God's care of me is divine. When I look up to the hills, what standard is it that I see advancing to my relief? It is the banner of the Lord Almighty! And there is nothing nothing at all which He cannot and will not do on my behalf!
God's care of me is particular and minute. He is my Keeper, O my heart! Mine, as though I were alone in all His universe. He knows my separate case, my necessities, my temptations, my foes. He calls my by name. He has millions upon millions for whom to provide but He never forgets me for one moment! I live day and night in His thought and love.
God's care of me is spiritual. My deepest needs are the needs within my heart and mind. My sorest troubles are my sins. My most urgent poverty is not the poverty of bread, but the poverty of grace. So for my soul, not for my body only, He provides. In the gospel, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit He spreads a table for my soul, and its winter and its bankruptcy are at an end.
And God's care of me is eternal. From this time forth and for evermore, He will keep my going out and my coming in. Death and the grave will not terminate His love for me. My exodus from this world, my entrance into the untrodden world beyond He charges Himself with the supervision of both. Then as well as now, there as well as here I am within the realm which His scepter sways.
Therefore, I will fear no evil. I will be strong in the Lord. Up to the high hills of Heaven I will lift my downcast eyes. "My help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?" Luke 17:17
Only one leper returned to give God thanks nine went on their way unmindful, ungrateful. And why was that?
Perhaps they knew the danger of committing themselves to Jesus, knew that He was narrowly watched and grievously suspected. Perhaps they knew that even to receive a cure from Him was in itself an offence to many. My Lord, I seek grace not to be so cowardly.
Perhaps they were afraid that now the Master would have a claim upon them and would begin to press the claim. He who had given them their health, might demand their loyalty; and they were not ready to yield it. My Lord, I would be more consecrated than they.
Perhaps they were seized with the wish to mix with the world, to go back to its affairs, to play their part in its business. They were impatient of delays which detained them from the promotion of their own interests. My Lord, I would learn to hate such selfishness.
Perhaps they thought that they had only got what was their due. The loathsome disease was an injustice and a grievance, and health was their right, and they need not be profoundly grateful. Ah, my Lord, teach me to watch against this self-conceit and pride.
Perhaps they told themselves that their Benefactor was no longer necessary to them. The pressure of urgent want was past, and its disappearance makes a vast difference. My Lord, let me always be biased in Your favor. Let me never forget Your benefits.
There is no darker sin than ingratitude! Lord, I entreat You to save me from it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"All the merrymakers sigh and mourn!" Isaiah 24:7
"The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord!" Proverbs 15:9
"For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish!" Psalm 1:6
"The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness!" Proverbs 11:5
The lost sinner is his own worst enemy. Remorse and disquietude and fear these are the harvests he reaps. For all his bluster and show, for all his laughter and gaiety he carries a heavy heart!
He is without the gladness of pardon. The thundercloud of God's displeasure hangs lowering and fateful over him. There is a sunless, starless, cheerless future awaiting him. He is chargeable with enormous guilt. His sin merits a fearful wage the wage of awful eternal damnation; and at last he will pay to the uttermost farthing.
He is without the blessedness of purity. Evil passions toss him hither and thither. He is led captive by his lust. At times he loathes himself and longs for deliverance. "Oh," he cries, "oh, that the man I am might cease to be!" But he is helpless: the wicked thing reasserts itself, and he is compelled to do the bidding of his tyrant.
He is without the sweetness of peace. He may have for a while, a certain forced and fitful vivacity, an excitement and an unreal happiness; but even this disappears soon. His apples are apples of Sodom, with nothing but moldering dust beneath the rosy rind. And as for any genuine and firm-rooted and satisfying peace, it and he have never once met they are total strangers to each other.
So "all the merrymakers sigh and mourn!" Isaiah 24:7
But I will turn from my sin, my sin with its miserable wages to God in Jesus Christ. And then I shall have pardon and purity and peace!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"'He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!' Hezekiah's words greatly encouraged the people." 2 Chronicles 32:8
There are those upon whose words I can rest myself, and who out of weakness make me strong.
They are those who maintain an intimate and familiar fellowship with God. Like Hezekiah, like Elisha, like Moses, like Paul they endure as seeing Him who is invisible. Their trust pierces behind the outward shows of things, and behind the forces of the enemy, to the great and glorious throne of the King of kings. These are the men and women who keep me from fainting in the day of adversity.
They are those, too, who are confident that the honor of God is bound up with the deliverance and victory of His saints. His word is pledged to them. His exceeding great and precious promises have been made to them. His Son died for them. His grace is secured to them in this world; and His glory is reserved for them in the eternal world. He will tarnish His character. He will never fail and forsake them. They are certain of it, and their certainty cheers and revives me.
And they are those who triumph in advance over God's antagonists and their own. They do not require to wait for the actual shock of battle, before their victory is gained. It is gained in anticipation, in hope and expectancy, in full assurance, long before then. They see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, though just now the Assyrians are encamped not ten miles away from its walls. Such tranquility cannot but breathe calmness into my soul. It lifts me to its own sublime and sunlit heights.
It is good to know these sons of God. It is better to be enrolled among them myself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Many are asking: Who can show us any good?" Psalm 4:6
"Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?" Jeremiah 8:22
It is not knowledge that the world needs.
It is not eloquent speech.
It is not soldierly courage and achievement.
It is not amusement and pleasure.
More than anything else, the world needs healing.
More than anyone else, it calls out for the physician.
There are diseases worse and deeper than bodily maladies.
There are stings of conscience.
There is deadness of heart.
There are errors of life.
There is the blindness that cannot see God's presence, and the deafness to His voice.
There is the feverish fire of passion that consumes the soul.
There is the hideous inner leprosy that defiles all the nature.
Many around me are stricken with these fatal sicknesses. May Jesus accomplish His sweet works of recovery, not only through His written Word and His almighty Spirit but through me, His living and loving disciple.
May the very sight of what the Christ has done for me the heaven-sent quiet, the satisfaction, the strength, the strange new hope, He has imparted to my life entice and draw some weary hearts to Him.
And may my lips, like my Master's, drop ointment and balm into the sorely wounded souls. Through them let His restoring efficacy flow without let or hindrance to those who require it mournfully. I would seek grace so to live that the following may be true of me: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven!" Matthew 5:16
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"As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him." Colossians 2:6
Help me, my God, as I have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so to walk in Him.
I received Him, I remember well, as my Savior. I laid my guilt on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God. May I walk with Him as my Savior. Whenever, in my running of the Christian race, I have been tempted into sin and how sadly often the old adversaries overcome me! let me bring the sin at once under the view of His mercy and His cleansing blood.
I received Him as my Friend. I told Him all my needs and necessities, and kept nothing back; in that never-to-be-forgotten hour, every barrier of reserve was broken down. May I walk with Him as my Friend. Whenever I am in temptation or perplexity or sorrow, let me lay the matter before Him. I shall have an answer as seasonable.
I received Him as my Master and King. I promised Him all my allegiance; I was prepared at His commandment to go anywhere and to dare anything. May I walk with Him as my Master. Whenever other voices allure me, and other influences solicit, let me turn deliberately from them and resolutely towards Him, my Well-beloved, my Lord and my God. Many a time let me renew with Him my solemn league and covenant.
"Oh, how great is the difference," Archbishop Trench says, "between submitting oneself to a complex of rules and casting oneself on a beating Heart!" It is on the beating heart of Jesus, that I would cast myself every day.
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"Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm . . . He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." Isaiah 40:10-11
The all-powerful Sovereign Lord is loving too. I cannot part with His infinite Majesty and just as little can I lose sight of His ineffable Tenderness.
Our omnipotent God has . . .
measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
marked off the heavens with the breadth of His hand,
held the dust of the earth in a basket, and
weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance!
All nations are as nothing before Him! Thus . . .
He can prevail against my fiercest temptations;
He can satisfy my profoundest needs;
He can deal with my foulest sins;
He can put to flight my most persistent and remorseless enemies;
He can perfect that which concerns me.
I rejoice in His sovereign omnipotence!
Ah, but also, "He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." His graciousness is deeper, larger, more patient, more steadfast than a mother's! Thus, His compassions will never fail me. Though I am poor and needy yet He will think upon me. I am a bruised reed, a flickering candle but He will not break my frail strength, nor quench my flickering light. I rejoice in His measureless love!
"One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that You, O God, are strong, and that You, O Lord, are loving!" Psalm 62:11-12
The Power without the Love, would crush me to the earth.
The Love without the Power, would fail when it sought to deliver me.
I crave both in harmony and union. And He gives me both.
His omnipotence prevails over my impotence; and His gentleness fastens my heart to His.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"He who endures to the end will be saved!" Matthew 10:22
Lord, teach me to endure to the end. Give me the hopeful, brave, steadfast, militant grace of perseverance.
Over all hostile circumstances, let me triumph in Your inspiring strength. I would not ask for . . .
an easier path,
or a clearer path,
or a smoother path,
or a shorter path.
I would ask rather for . . .
the courageous mind,
the heroic attitude,
the unfaltering step,
the noble soul,
the heart great in faith and high in resolve.
Over men who provoke and persecute me, let me prevail in Your name. Then I shall have a song in the gloomiest night and for the dreariest dungeon.
Over failure and the lack of manifest success, let me gain the victory through Your grace.
"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1
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"Some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive." Acts 25:19
A certain Jesus, said Festus, with the contempt of the proud and supercilious Roman in his voice.
A certain Jesus, says the busy man of the world, and passes on uninterested and preoccupied. Other persons, other things, concern him infinitely more than the Son of God. The Christian's faith and hope and love, are a sealed book to him. Getting and spending are all he cares for.
A certain Jesus, says the thoughtful and reverent unbeliever, and bows his head in admiration if not in adoration. Christ represents to him what is most beautiful and most worthy, the consummate Flower of humankind. But he withholds his own heart and life from the Savior, Whom he needs.
A certain Jesus, says the nominal Christian, and renders his external worship and devotion. He is in the Church but he is not of the Church. He has never been born again. All that is spiritual, all that is divine, all that is heavenly, is an unknown territory to him.
A certain Jesus, says the humble and trustful disciple, and his whole soul is in his voice. Christ is his Prophet and Priest and King, his good Physician, his good Shepherd, his Lover, his Beloved. More than all in Him he finds. Day by day he turns like the sunflower to the one and only Sun. Night by night he pillows his head and his heart on the sufficient love of his Lord.
May mine be these last accents and tones, for there is no blessedness except in them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life!" Romans 6:22
I am freed in order to be enthralled. I am made free from sin to become the bond-servant of God. But whereas the old vassalage was slavery the new is the highest and sweetest and best liberty.
It is the servitude of my grateful heart. God has redeemed me not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ His dear Son! I owe Him life and peace and everything. I cannot but surrender myself to Him who surrendered Himself for me.
It is the servitude of my adoring and worshiping heart. The vision of God's beauty, God's perfection, God's love-worthiness, has thrown its spells and charms over me. I am smitten with the hunger and thirst to resemble Him. I am enthralled to His enchantments.
It is the servitude of my obedient heart. I have bound His precepts and injunctions around me like chains of gold! The yoke of His precepts lies upon my neck. But I do not find these commandments grievous; to keep them is my great reward.
It is the servitude of my God-occupied heart. He has come Himself and made His abode in me, through His Holy Spirit given to me. From within He rules me far more than from without. And so, rejoicingly and inevitably and eternally, I yield myself to Him!
Oh happy, happy slave! There is a perpetual song on his lips as he goes about the tasks of his Golden Prince.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Luke 6:31
What is it that I wish men to give to me?
I crave their respect. I cannot bear that my name should be linked in their thoughts with anything that is unworthy or sinister. Free from stigma, from the whisper and blight of reproach, I must be in their eyes. It is the breath of life to me this acquittal by their judgment from what is sinful and what is contaminating.
And I crave their active helpfulness. Times come in my life when I am unable to stand alone. I require some supporting hand to sustain me some neighborly hand which I can grasp and on which I can lean, a staff which is "the strongest in the longest day." Often this is my supreme necessity: this brotherly act, this outward and sensible sign that I have a friend.
More still, I crave their heart's love. Love is tenderer than honor. Love is more strengthening and upholding than help. I cannot live without it. It is my vital breath, my native air God's love and man's. The spirit within me cries out for it, passionately, persistently, confidingly.
Ah well, the treasures I wish men to give to me I must myself give to them. Even my enemy, Jesus says, needs my respect and my help and my love. Let me remember how bankrupt I would be if I were denied these impalpable and transcendent riches, and let me lay them at his feet and lavish them on his life.
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"How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!" Proverbs 16:16
How much better for wisdom buys what gold cannot procure. Wisdom the mind which hearkens to God and the heart which yields to Him brings me . . .
His divine favor,
His forgiving grace,
His power to shield me,
His guidance to lead me,
His knowledge to inspire me,
His glory to crown me!
Wisdom secures for me a wealth beside which the greatest treasures of the world are poor and pale!
Wisdom penetrates where gold cannot go. It carries pardon and peace into the deepest recesses of my spirit while gold can do nothing but deck my body and my home. It gives me the strongest and the tenderest influence over others while gold cannot dispel their griefs and answer their doubts. It lifts me into communion with the Most High God and gold is powerless to lead me there, to that glorious country far beyond the stars.
And wisdom lasts when gold is done. This world's riches take to themselves wings and flee away almost every day furnishes me with a new instance of how fleeting and perishable they are. But wisdom makes mine the possessions which never perish, which are never withdrawn, which through life and death and eternity, are certain to gladden my soul.
"Wisdom is supreme so get wisdom!" Proverbs 4:7
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"Had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me." John 5:46
"He wrote of Me," Jesus, the Son, said regarding Moses, the servant.
Of EMANCIPATION Moses wrote, "You blew with Your wind, the sea scattered them, they sank as lead in the mighty waters." But it is Jesus who has the best emancipation to bestow.
From the prison-house of fear and foreboding,
from the prison-house of defilement and shame,
from the prison-house of helplessness and despair
He liberates my soul.
Out from bondage and the degradation which bondage breeds, He leads me by His strong right hand.
Of GUIDANCE Moses wrote, "Establish the work of our hands upon us." But what guidance is so desirable as the guidance of Jesus? Through every wilderness and desert, He conducts me safely forward. Over the dreariest portions of my history, He reigns. All things, sad and sweet, dull and bright, He compels to work for my welfare. Jesus never fails nor forsakes us.
Of INHERITANCE Moses wrote, "Happy are you, O Israel! The Eternal God is your Refuge, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms." But, here and hereafter, Jesus is Himself my best Inheritance, my Land of corn and wine. He is Physician and Shepherd and Advocate and Brother. I dwell in a spacious and goodly home. I have all and abound.
So Jesus expands and deepens and crowns what Moses wrote.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me!" Mark 8:34
The cross which my Lord bids me take up and carry, may assume different shapes.
There are many crosses, and every one of them is sore and heavy. None of them is likely to be sought out by me of my own accord. But never is Jesus so near me as when I lift my cross, and lay it submissively on my shoulder, and give it the welcome of a patient and unmurmuring spirit. He draws close . . .
to ripen my wisdom,
to deepen my peace,
to increase my courage,
to augment my graces,
through the very experience which is so grievous and distressing.
And then, I grow closer to Jesus under the load.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:9
My salvation has a marvelous origin. It begins with God's foreknowledge. Deep and far in an untrackable eternity its foundations were laid. It is not a thing of yesterday. It will not pass away with tomorrow. The Father has endowed it with His own everlastingness.
My salvation is confirmed by a crowning miracle. It is secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Thus I know that God accepts His dear Son's obedience and blood-shedding in my stead. Thus I am assured that I have a merciful and faithful High Priest in the skies.
My salvation reaches me through a wondrous agency. It is made over to my soul by the sanctification of the Spirit. It remains outside of me, until He quickens me, and instructs, and purges, and perfects. But then it becomes my possession, my very own. And who will snatch from me what God the Spirit gives?
My salvation grows by a bitter-sweet training and discipline. It is carried to completeness through the trial of my faith and through manifold temptations. But why should I complain of the uphill road and the painful experience? It is thus that I am refined and drawn nearer home.
And my salvation travels towards a consummate goal. It ends in the incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. "O happy retribution, short toil, eternal rest!"
Is it not a matchless and peerless salvation? And shall it not awaken in me a ceaseless wonder and an undying gratitude?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Naboth said to King Ahab: The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!" 1 Kings 21:3
I would gladly resemble Naboth the Jezreelite. The law of the Lord ruled his life. It was his religion which impelled him to refuse the king his determination not to violate the commandment of his God. "Here I stand," he said, "I can do no other!"
I am far too easily bribed and far too readily led astray. I find it hard to say No, when others tempt me to set aside my Master's will. It is not pleasant to be singular. It is difficult to turn a deaf ear to the seducing voices. I need Naboth's brave and dauntless piety!
Suffering for the Lord fell upon Naboth. He was in good company when they carried him forth and stoned him outside the gate. He was bearing Christ's reproach. He was the forerunner of Jesus Jesus who was condemned under a false charge, Jesus whom they accused of blasphemy, Jesus who set His face like flint to a cross beyond the city wall. If I suffer rather than sin, then am I a partaker in the sorrows of my King. And it is good to be with Him on the Dolorous Way.
The peace of the Lord garrisoned Naboth's heart. He had so much fear of God that he had no fear of Ahab at all. His faith was strong; his spirit was serene and calm.
Naboth is truly a good exemplar for me; and I shall be rich and happy if I can join hands with him across the chasm of the centuries.
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"Christ did not please Himself" Romans 15:3
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others!" Philippians 2:3-4
Did Paul live a depressed and dismayed life, because he was perpetually denying himself out of love for others? Not at all. The very reverse is true.
This was how he grew in spiritual strength and nobleness!
The discipline prospered his own soul.
It gave him wisdom and insight.
It gave him courage and endurance.
It gave him sympathy and considerateness.
It gave him deep restfulness and glowing joy.
By it he gained inward vigor, and the glow of spiritual health, and spiritual life in its fire and force and fullness.
And this was how he won the hearts of men and women. They saw that his was a yearning tenderness for them, which made him unconcerned for his own comforts. And so others were conquered, and melted, and led willing prisoners to the Lord Jesus. He drew them by the magnetism of his love for them and they followed on.
And this was how he learned the secret of fellowship with Jesus. Christ did not please Himself; and the servant Paul came very close to the Master, and the Master to the servant, just as the servant took up his cross and gloried in it as he carried it in his arms. His little lamp was lighted from the flame around the Savior's sacrifice.
So Paul lived in a noble place, because he looked perpetually not on his own interests but on the interests of others. Let me master the truth. I shall never regret the surrender and sacrifice of my desires and interests. It is my own good, as well as my Lord's wish and will.
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"But when Gallio became governor of Achaia, some Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him before the governor for judgment. They accused Paul of 'persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.' But just as Paul started to make his defense, Gallio turned to Paul's accusers and said, 'Listen, you Jews, if this were a case involving some wrongdoing or a serious crime, I would have a reason to accept your case. But since it is merely a question of words and names and your Jewish law, take care of it yourselves. I refuse to judge such matters!' And he threw them out of the courtroom." Acts 18:12-16
I may well learn many lessons for my own life from Gallio.
Like him, let me feel that there are more important concerns than the settlement of frivolous and petty religious disputes. My years are given me, not for the trivialities of religious ceremonies and forms and opinions but . . .
for the discharge of duty,
for the discipline of character,
for the manifestation of love,
for the service of Christ.
Like Gallio, let me refuse to meddle needlessly in other men's affairs. I have . . .
my own work to remember,
my own soul to educate,
my own race to run.
I must . . .
not intrude into places that are not designed for me,
nor judge questions I do not understand,
nor overstep the province which is distinctly mine.
Like Gallio, let me leave trifling wrongs to arrange themselves. There is true wisdom in such a course. If I fan the spark then it will grow into a great flame. If I let it alone then it will flicker out and disappear.
And, like Gallio, let me resolve rather to be just and impartial, than to curry favor and to win a little passing popularity. I ought always to place righteousness above policy, and the law of God above what may seem advantageous and expedient for myself.
Thus Gallio may teach me much that is profitable and wise.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"You were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:9
God has called me into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ my Lord. What a marvelous partnership it is! There are two sides to it:
1. Christ has entered into alliance with me. All that is communicable in Him
His sweet and untainted holiness here, and
His sinless and deathless and endless Heaven by and by
He makes over to me. He gives me Himself, to be . . .
and my King!
As the vine pours its life without stint and without abatement into the branch; as the head exists for the welfare of the members so the Lord lavishes His overflowing wealth on me, His little one.
2. But then, too, I have entered into alliance with Christ. I have given up my own life, that I may know and share His fuller and nobler life.
His cause is my cause henceforward in its successes and its trials.
His sublime aims are the aims of my soul.
His sufferings I partake in, and His reproach sometimes falls on me.
In the Valley of Humiliation I walk with Him as well as in the Delectable Land.
Whatever engages His heart is of supreme interest to my heart too.
We two are so joined He with me, and I with Him, in this world and forever in eternity! The thought of it should kindle a rapture of love and joy and ecstasy in my heart!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For why will you die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 18:31
"Why will you die?"--God inquires of me.
Shall I tell Him that my sin is a sweet morsel to my taste, and that I cannot bear to part with it? But He answers me that it is . . .
a fruit of the Dead Sea shore, full of dust and nothingness;
a nauseous thing;
a cup of poison which will destroy me at last;
a draught of Hell.
Shall I tell Him that I am well content with myself, and that I see no cause for undue concern? But He warns me that Self "has preyed more cruelly upon human lives than Moloch or Minotaur." And He assures my careless heart that He has probed my real condition, and knows that I am headed towards eternal destruction, and is full of pity for my grievous peril.
Shall I tell Him that there is no hope for me, that I have long gone after my iniquities, that I have sunk so deep into the mire of sin. But He makes reply that Christ's grace will travel down and down to my foulest evil, to throw its strong and tender arms around me and to lift me up.
Shall I tell Him that I never can live the godly life, never can conquer the world and the flesh and the devil, never can be His servant and His soldier? The dread of subsequent defeat and shame frightens me, and I dare not enlist under His red-cross flag. But He whispers, "My strength will be perfected in your weakness; on Me be the burden."
So He rebuts all my arguments. Why will you die? He asks; and I have no valid reason to give. Let my response be, "My gracious Lord, I will not die. Tis life, not death, for which I pant!"
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"Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care!" 1 Timothy 6:20
There is a treasure of truth which I must hold fast; the pattern of sounds words, Paul calls it. The simple and pregnant gospel of the grace of God, which tells me . . .
of my lost and hopeless estate,
of the electing love of the Father,
of the sin-bearing Cross of the Son.
I must ring it forth in no dubious accents. I must defend it with soldierly courage. It is assailed from many quarters but I must avow myself its advocate and spokesman.
There is a treasure of life which I must hold fast that spirit of power and love and discipline with which God has endowed me. That new and heavenly nature which He has created within me. I must not risk and imperil it where it will be in danger. I must not tamper with anything that may dull its keen edge and rub away its delicate bloom. And yet I must not hide it in fearfulness and cowardice but must show the shining light.
There is a treasure of other souls which I must hold fast. Whatever position I occupy in Christ's church, however humble I am, I am appointed a teacher. There are the sheep to tend. There are the young lambs to feed. There are the wanderers to win. I must leave no method untried which may benefit them. I must love them with the Master's love. If need be, I must lay down my life for the brethren.
If I am to hold these treasures fast, must not God hold me fast all the days of my life?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The Holy Spirit says: Today!" Hebrews 3:7
Today, the Holy Spirit says, is the season for surrender and consecration. I have gone after strange gods too long; at the most and best, it has been a sadly divided allegiance which I have rendered my Lord. But now is His chosen time for ending this drooping piety and this lukewarm love.
I must abjure every doubtful practice.
I must forsake every questionable companionship.
I must crucify every ensnaring sin.
I must live nearer to Christ and His cross.
It may cost me much but the gain will far outweigh the loss.
Today, the Holy Spirit says, is the season for service. Each fresh morning He calls me to do something, however little it be, for my Master and for His people. He appeals to me by the immensity of the debt I owe my Lord Jesus Christ, and by the shortness of the time, and by the largeness of the work that remains to be done, and by the sweetness of labor for His dear sake. "Up and be doing!" the Spirit of God says to me.
Ah, there are immeasurable possibilities in a single day!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the uttermost!" John 13:1
This is . . .
love in its essence,
love in its consummate blossom and fruit,
love in its ultimate and final perfection.
The love of Jesus bends very low. It travels from Heaven to earth and there is no science which can compute that distance. It seeks out the chief of sinners and all human philanthropy is as nothing compared to His surpassing generosity. It is not ashamed even of me me in my depravity and my sin.
The love of Jesus gives very much. It wins my pardon, although my transgressions are scarlet in their dye and countless in their multitude. It brings me holiness, although I am prone to evil. It fills my cup to overflowing with the rich and gladdening wine of Heaven!
The love of Jesus suffers very deeply. It was not by some word of kingly majesty alone it was not easily and in a moment that He made me the possessor of these incalculable blessings. God spared not His own Son. The Son spared not Himself. There was no bitterness from which He shrank. There was no punishment which He did not bear for me.
The love of Jesus lasts very long. Who shall separate me from it?
Life will not, with its manifold trials and temptations.
Death will not, with its icy chill.
Eternity will not, with its unending years!
"I pray that you may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge!" Ephesians 3:17-19
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"These are the regulations for the leper at the time of his cleansing, when he is brought to the priest . . ." Leviticus 14
The leper must go to the priest. And for me, all leprous with sin, there is provided a High Priest, merciful and faithful, mighty and tender Jesus, the Son of God.
Let me tell Him the plague of my own heart.
Let me beseech Him to have compassion on me.
Let me venture near to Him, that I may touch the hem of His garment.
He will not scorn and reject me.
He will welcome and pardon and relieve.
The leper is cleansed with sprinkling of blood and with anointing of oil. Is it not a parable of my twofold cleansing?
Precious blood has been shed for me, the blood of the Lamb of God without blemish and without spot I need it to redeem me from my sin and guilt.
And I too must receive the unction of the Holy One, the oil of the heavenly Spirit I need it to conquer my festering disease, and to keep the frightful malady from asserting itself again.
However poor he may be, there is purification and recovery provided for the leper. Bless the Lord, O my soul, the rule still holds in the kingdom of Christ. Destitute and outcast, I am the Savior's special care. Helpless and hopeless, I am welcomed by Him to His heart. He has no cold condescension nor haughty patronage.
The Jews say that, when Messiah comes, He will be found sitting among the lepers in the gate. Most willingly shall I take rank among the stricken beggars and lepers, that He may sit down beside me and assure me of His healing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me through the desert." Jeremiah 2:2
"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love!" Revelation 2:4
What are the causes for the decline of my first love? Why do I leave my God no resource but to contrast my disappointing present, with my nobler past, and to remember the devotion of my youth?
Perhaps I have omitted to nourish my affection for Him. Love has to be fed. It must be in the society of the person on whom it is centered. If my tenderness for God is to thrive, I must spend many fruitful moments every day in His company, and must cultivate an intimate fellowship with Him. It may be that I have failed here.
Or perhaps I have omitted to exercise my affection. Love diminishes, unless it busies itself in laboring for its beloved.
What have I been doing for God?
What sacrifices have I been making?
What offerings have I been laying at His feet?
It may be that I have been living a life of self-pleasing, instead of a life of service. Yes, it may well be that the root of the trouble has been here.
Or perhaps I have omitted to shield my affection. Love has to be guarded. My attachment for God cannot flourish side by side with the conscious indulgence of sin. Love cannot mount up on eagle's wings, if I am absorbed in worldly fascinations and entertainments. It cannot preserve its brightness, if I hanker after the prizes and pleasures of those who are strangers to Christ. It will wither in such an impure atmosphere!
Let me search and see. One means which will lead to my recovery, is to discover the reason for my decay.
"Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first!" Revelation 2:5
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I will . . ." The Psalms
I love the old psalmists because they understood so well the force and value of resolute purpose in the matters of the soul.
"I will take refuge in the shelter of your wings!" they would say (Psalm 61:4). It is a word for me when I am halting still between two opinions.
"I will love You, O Lord my Strength!" they would also say (Psalm 18:1). It is a word for me, when my heart is languishing and growing cold. Too often I acquiesce in the coldness and languor, as though they were inevitable. But I must bestir myself. I must dwell on the thousand reasons I have for loving God. I must do my utmost to rekindle the flickering flame.
"I will rejoice in the Lord!" they would say again (Psalm 104:34). It is a word for me if I have lost my joy and peace. I forget that often grief and gloom are sins which I must strive against. I must stay my soul on . . .
the faithfulness of the Father,
and the grace of the Son,
and the comforts of the Holy Spirit
until sorrow and sighing flee away!
On the American prairies the butterflies start westward in their migrations, and make steady progress, though the wind is against them and the sea in front. The delicate butterflies rebuke me. I must infuse a more resolute purpose and a more vigorous decision into my religion. I must learn to say:
I will trust,
I will love,
I will rejoice and be glad!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I will make the Valley of Achor, a Door of Hope!" Hosea 2:15
The Valley of Achor is the Valley of Trouble. But the Valley of Achor, when God is in it, becomes, the prophet Hosea says, the Door of Hope.
I pray that the sorrowful Valley may bring me the same experience.
It is the place where I see my sin in its true colors; all those plausible excuses I have been framing for myself, all those mirthful hues in which my imagination has painted my wicked sins, fade away. It is the place where I humble and hate myself for my defilement. It is the place where God's chastisement falls upon me. Surely it is fitly named the Valley of Trouble.
Yet it may be the Door of Hope. For there God will say, Your sin is taken away, and your iniquity is pardoned. There He will recover me from my failures and falls. There He will make me strong in His strength, to do valiant battle for Him. Forgiven sin . . .
breaks a man's proud heart,
opens a man's closed lips,
quickens a man's sluggard and dormant energies!
Nothing will constrain me, nothing will equip me, so effectually for the service of my Lord.
It is His great promise: "I will make the Valley of Achor, a Door of Hope!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Behold, a Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to Him, crying out: Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession!"
Jesus did not answer a word. So His disciples came to Him and urged Him: Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us!" Matthew 15:22-23
Sorrow is Christ's angel. The mother's home-grief, and broken heart, and helplessness, and despair of ordinary methods of cure the hand of the Good Physician were in them all. They were storms of His arranging, designed to strand her at last on the Rock of Ages! Is it not why He afflicts me today?
Delay is Christ's incentive. I cry to Him, and cry again. But the heavens are like impenetrable brass over my head, and no answer comes. It is hard to bear yet it is meant in love.
He would have me cling closer.
He would have me ask more earnestly.
He would have me take the kingdom by force.
And, when at length He blesses me, "a moment's fellowship with Him, my grief will overpay."
The healed soul is Christ's missionary. Was not this mother the first convert of the Church in Tyre, about which we read in later Scriptures? Having freely received, she freely gave. It is why I am redeemed, blessed, crowned. It is that I may be the evangelist and messenger of my Savior. "Potent with the spell of Heaven," I am to go and entice my brothers home.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord!" Jeremiah 17:5
"How long will you wander, O unfaithful daughter?" Jeremiah 31:22
"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9
How numerous are the points of departure from God! Directly opposite experiences and circumstances may prove equally disastrous to my truest and inmost being:
success and misfortune;
the mind and the body;
company and solitude;
self-pleasing and self-denial.
Each day, each minute, brings with it its own allurements!
And how plausible and specious the points of departure are! The heart is the most deceitful of all things it has a hundred arguments to urge in favor of yielding to the temptation.
For how terribly momentous and fatal the points of departure are! More and more they diverge from the good land which the Lord our God cares for, and from the pilgrim road to the Celestial City. Deeper and deeper they plunge into ravines and dark forests and quagmires a salt land and not inhabited until the conscience is seared and the heart is hopeless.
O God, preserve my feet in Your good ways of peace! O God, have mercy on me who has wandered far, and restore me to the paths of righteousness, for Your Name's sake!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire He is God!" 1 Kings 18:24
The old test holds true still.
Fire quickens the dead. It runs along the barren ground, and its victorious glow awakens the seeds of some ancient prehistoric forest, slumbering beneath the soil. Just so, God's flame, God's grace, God's radiant energy of life and love must restore my spiritual vitality. I live, only when He kindles my soul out of its deathlike sleep.
Fire warms the chilled and cold. On the hearthstone, beside the leaping blaze what was frigid begins to throb and palpitate with gladsome heat. So, when I have grown backward in the service of my Lord, icily wandering, poor in my affection for Him and for His people, I only need the renewing of the Holy Spirit, and I burn!
Fire cleanses the defiled and stained. In the furnace the gold is purged from the dross, and comes forth pure and bright. And so the divine Spirit, by the meaning He infuses into the teaching of God's Word, and into the discipline of God's providence, must remove my lingering sins and must make me clean.
Fire equips the feeble with power. The beams of the sun in spring, end the winter and the poverty and the silence of the world. And so I, neither courageous nor enthusiastic, shrinking from great problems and expecting no striking victories receive the gracious Holy Spirit, and I laugh at impossibilities.
Yes, it is the God who answers by fire, who alone is God. Sinners and saints, the individual and the Church, alike testify to it. From a full heart may I add my personal witness to the miracle of Carmel and Pentecost.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at the same time. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also!" 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Let me hearken to what is the sum of the gospel. Let me handle the wondrous sword with which Paul vanquished the heathen gods from the Roman empire.
Christ died for my sins. In my place He stood condemned, outcast, forsaken by man and of God. Death and the curse were in my cup but He has drained it, and it is empty now for me! "That bitter cup, Love drank it up!" By His stripes and passion I am healed.
Christ was buried. He laid Himself down to rest for a little while in Joseph's tomb. And thus He has hallowed and beautified the grave for me. The grave has become my quiet habitation. It is the hostel of a traveler on his way to heavenly city.
Christ has been raised on the third day. It is the pledge that the Father and the Judge has accepted Christ's doing and His dying on my behalf. It is the pattern of my rising into spiritual life here. It is the prophecy of my inheritance of eternal glory hereafter.
Christ has "appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at the same time. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also!"He appeared to me also, who am less than the least of all saints. By His Word and by His Spirit, He has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light. I have seen Him for myself. I have heard His all-prevailing and conquering voice.
It is a simple gospel. Yet it is very full and very significant, very potent and very gladdening. If there are shallows in it where a little child may wade then there are depths where a giant can swim!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" Psalm 116:12
Religion is nothing, if it is not personal. I must be able to praise God my Savior with my whole heart and voice, for His deliverance of me. To live in the midst of godly people, to know intellectually the doctrines of the Scripture these are totally inadequate. I must love my Lord because He has inclined His ear unto me.
Religion is nothing if it is not grateful. I ought never to forget where my Redeemer found me How, when He stooped to bless me, the cords of death and the pains of Hell held me fast. As I get farther away from the moment of my conversion, my sense of indebtedness to Him is apt to become less. But I must not allow it to do so. I should perpetually recollect His exceeding grace to me, the chief of sinners.
Religion is nothing if it is not thorough. All that I have, I ought to give to Jesus. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" should be my ever-recurring question; and this should be the answer, "My mind and body, my time and my money, my opportunity and my influence, my days and my nights." I need to be a thousand times more whole-hearted and more surrendered than I am.
Personal, grateful, thorough Lord, let this be the nature of my religion from this day forward. I am, I confess with sorrow, earth-bound, rather than captivated and constrained by Jesus. For it is my chief complaint that my love is weak and faint.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit." James 5:16-18
These many centuries after the heavens had received him, Elijah is still remembered by his prayers. And today he says to me
"Pray, pray, pray no help but prayer,
A breath that fleets beyond this iron world,
And touches Him that made it."
I see that he brought definite requests to God; let me be like him. Too often my prayers are shot like arrows into the wide and vague expanse of the air; there is no mark set before them to which they are winged; they ask for nothing practical. But let me have my particular petitions which I plead before my Lord.
I see, too, that he made entreaty about temporal matters sunshine and storm and harvest. Frequently I am told that prayer in connection with these things is useless and unscientific, and that the world is governed by iron laws which I cannot hope to modify. But God is mightier than the laws of His enacting and the forces of His guiding. He will hear and answer.
And I see that he prayed for others rather than for himself. In my secret retirement do not let me confine my petitions to my own necessities. Interest in others will enlarge my heart, and will bring me into closer sympathy with God God who gives to all men liberally and upbraids not.
Elijah was a man of like passions with me but his supplication availed much. If I practice his secret, I too shall conquer Heaven by prayer.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the end of that man is peace." Psalm 37:37
What a noble epitaph is this! The end of that man is peace! May this be the verse that you engrave for my tombstone!
May my end be peaceful, because my sin is forgiven. The sting of death, its edge, its anguish, its virus, is sin. But when sin is cancelled, because Jesus has paid it all all the debt I owe, the sting is gone forever. When the pardoned man dies, it is no leap into the dark; it is a falling into the embrace of the Savior! There is now no condemnation for me, and all is well. I know Him whom I have believed.
May my end be peaceful, because my work is done. I must not selfishly idle my life away, or I shall be full of regrets and griefs when I am called away from my unaccomplished tasks. I must embrace every opportunity and redeem every minute, and rest will be sweet when it comes; after the working day, comes the quiet night. The evening will bring slumber to the tired body, and a soft nest to the worn spirit in the paradise of God.
May my end be peaceful, because my future is bright. Before me are . . .
ease from pain,
immunity from sorrow,
the heart and life entirely emancipated from evil,
the society of the holy,
the sight of Christ's face, and
the full enjoying of God to all eternity!
It baffles my imagination to paint it now; but one day I shall arrive and attain and reap and triumph. O hope that conquers fear! O long and fruitful years of Heaven!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Buy the truth, and do not sell it!" Proverbs 23:23
Let me buy the truth at any price the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.
Perhaps it is my indolence which I must forego, to win the truth. I love my own ease too well. I am in danger of losing salvation through shallowness and superficiality, because I am not sufficiently in earnest. I must say good-bye to my hollow life of selfish ease.
Perhaps it is my pride which I must part with for the truth's sake. It is only when I am emptied of confidence in myself, when I confess that I am a beggar and not a prince, that I am "poor, wretched, blind" that I am enrolled among the disciples of Jesus. But it is not easy for my proud spirit to humble itself so very far.
Perhaps it is my love of sin which I must forsake. I must put off the old man must crucify him, kill him, break with him short and sharp before Jesus will consent to paint His peerless image on me. He dwells in no soul which still gives house-room and daily bread to a darling lust.
Perhaps there are associations and pursuits which I must abandon for the truth. Whatever blunts my spiritual hearing, whatever dulls my spiritual vision, whatever may succeed in separating me from Christ from all such things I must turn away, however much I love them, with an "Adieu for evermore!"
Thus the truth which blesses and saves me has to be bought, even if it is free as free as the sunshine and the rain.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity!" Zechariah 13:1
"The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!" 1 John 1:7
There is a river, the streams of which make glad the City of God. It is a river whose waters are crimson red, rather than crystal clear. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin His life-blood, shed for our redemption on the shameful tree.
So many have proved the potency of this blessed fountain a great multitude which no man can number! From the East and the West, the North and the South; from the early dawn of Christ, and the dark Middle Age, and the modern home they have pressed to its brink, and they are pressing still. Whoever is willing, may stoop down and drink and live!
Such continuous and permanent efficacy resides in the fountain. It is not like the Pool of Bethesda, endowed with a strange and vitalizing virtue only at intervals. The dying Lamb never loses His power to save. The Cross is at every moment, the instrument of pardon. The blood cleanses retains its capacity of cleansing perennially, age after age.
And so universally and omnipotently successful these blood-red waters are. From all my sin they will purge me:
my secret sins and my presumptuous sins,
my sins of youth and my sins of old age,
my sins against others and my sins against myself,
my sins when I was a stranger to God and my darker and more hateful sins since I came home to Him.
There never was a fountain like this! Exploration has not discovered its like, nor imagination conceived it! It is peerless, matchless, unique. Surely I have washed and am daily washing in it, that I may be clean.
"There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains!
The dying thief rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away!
Dear dying Lamb, Your precious blood
shall never lose its power
till all the ransomed church of God
be saved, to sin no more!
E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Your flowing wounds supply,
redeeming love has been my theme,
and shall be till I die!
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I'll sing Your power to save!"
(William Cowper, 1731-1800)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"So we make it our ambition to please Him" 2 Corinthians 5:9
"It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known" Romans 15:20
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands" 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Three times over in his Epistles, Paul speaks of the Christian's ambition. I may learn much from every one of his three messages.
What should be the ambition of my personal life? It should not be to be merely pardoned, nor simply permitted to escape from eternal wrath. "We are ambitious," the apostle says, "that we may be please Him."
What should be the ambition of my church life? It should be to further the prosperity and to enlarge the boundaries of my Lord's kingdom on earth. It should be to proclaim His Evangel, and to extend His realm, and to win some new captives and subjects for Him. "It has always been my ambition," the apostle says again, "to preach the gospel where Christ was not known."
And what should be the ambition of my social life? It should be, in my ordinary duties, in my simplest and lowliest occupations, to exhibit Christlikeness and my heavenly citizenship. If I cannot be holy at my daily work, it is scarcely worth while taking trouble to be holy at other times. "Be ambitious," says the apostle to me once more, "to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands."
These are the apostolic ambitions. Lord, let them be mine. Towards such goals, to gain such prizes, I should lay aside every weight and run the race with perseverance.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Look! I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God!" Daniel 3:25
That mystic and blessed fourth person walking in the midst of the fire! There is no fire so fierce that He will not bear the heat and be by my side. Very thankful I should be, that I have a Savior touched with the feeling of my infirmities.
The furnace may be one of sickness. Jesus passed through bodily pains such as I cannot know and cannot conceive.
Or it may be a furnace of poverty. Jesus was so poor that He had nowhere to lay His head.
Or it may be the fiery trial of temptation. Jesus has been tempted in every way, just as we are.
Or, perhaps, it is the sorrow of misunderstanding by others. They called Jesus a Samaritan, and a glutton and drunkard, and the ally of the prince of the devils.
Or it is the deeper and more awful grief of spiritual desolation. Out in the loneliness and shame Jesus cried, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!"
So Jesus understands; He sympathizes; He knows. And He has power all power in Heaven and on earth to rescue and deliver. When the fire is fiercest, He is there!
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses" Hebrews 4:15
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The Lord opened Lydia's heart to respond to Paul's message." Acts 16:14
Lord, it is You You alone who must open my heart. I need Your victorious, irresistible, effectual grace. I cannot save my own soul or repair my own ruin. Helpless, I look up to You. Lost and dying, I confide in You. I am a beggar who knocks, penniless and starving, at the gate of Your Heaven. It is my great encouragement that, when I am at my wit's end, I am nearest to You.
And it is my heart, my Lord, that You must open. Not the outworks of my nature the understanding, the intellect, the memory, the imagination; but the very citadel itself. Into the innermost room enter now, O King of mercy; and from that curtained shrine, reign over all the courts of the temple. Mine is a heart too long desecrated and profaned; but You will not despise it You will transfigure it into Your Holy of holies.
And it is that I may love and obey the glorious truths of your Word. They are indeed familiar to me from my childhood; yet I do not grasp them, hold them, or rejoice in them until Your Spirit teaches me. They are vague, pointless, inefficient until You give them force and pricelessness. You must make them a light, a guide, a solemn warning, a sweet consolation.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Hate what is evil, but hold fast to that which is good!" Romans 12:9
There is hatred in the Christian life hatred of sin in every shape and form, abhorrence of the very appearance and approach of evil. "Which thing I also hate!" says Jesus Himself. (Revelation 2:6)
Religion today is apt to be an easy-going, lukewarm, worldly thing. But the true Christian will win and wear the commendation which one gave his friend, "He is a very good hater!" Provided only my indignation burns against sinful things, I cannot have too much of it, and it cannot be too intense and unyielding.
But if hatred is the negative pole, love is the positive pole love which cleaves to that which is good. And in this case, good is no abstract quality, no dead theory. Good is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let me always be learning of Him: Jesus waiting in Nazareth, and working in Capernaum, and praying on the cold mountains and in the midnight air, and obeying and suffering in the Garden and on the Cross it is . . .
He in whose footsteps I am to follow,
He whose image I am to bear,
He into whose glory I am to be changed.
Lord, strengthen me with might by Your Spirit, for both the hating and for the loving. For apart from You I can do nothing. A strange mist hangs over my eyes, so that I see neither sin nor Christ in their right proportion and their true character. A strange speechlessness paralyzes my speech, so that I lift up my voice neither in condemnation of my sin nor in eulogy of my glorious King!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the desert for our God!
Every valley shall be lifted and filled up,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low;
and the crooked places shall be made straight,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed!" Isaiah 40:3-5
Is not my own life the wilderness in which the way of the Lord needs to be prepared?
There are valleys of neglect. Many are the duties I have left undone. Many are the opportunities I have missed and wasted. Many are the calls of the Master to which I have given no response. I have paid heed to the trivial, the vain, the inferior and have forgotten the precious, the supreme, the essential. It is more than time to fill up the hollows and valleys.
There are mountains of pride. I will not acknowledge my poverty of spirit. I will not humble my heart because of my sin. I will not rank myself among the destitute and derelict souls. I will not look to Jesus only and always. I am too big, too important, too conscious of my own worth. These mountains and hills must be brought low!
There are crooked paths of sin. I have my bosom and favorite iniquities. I cling to them, and rejoice secretly in them, and refuse to part with them. I love them even though they are poisoning my life and sapping my hope. The blight is creeping over me insidiously and stealthily. It is as if lovely, fine robes should cover a leper. Ah, what is crooked must be made straight!
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed the Lord who will give me a view of my neglect and my pride and my sin tenfold profounder and tenfold more painful than I can get anywhere else. But after His wounding His healing will follow. After the night of weeping, follows the morning of joy the morning which moves and marches and grows until it is glorious noon.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins!" Colossians 1:13-14
I have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of my sins!
It was not merely that Jesus was a martyr for the truth He taught. Indeed He was a martyr, and the very Captain and Prince in the noble army. He died to bear witness to the verity and preciousness of His glorious gospel. But there was far more than that, when the sun was darkened and the rocks were rent and the Sufferer yielded up His spirit on the cruel tree.
It was not merely that Jesus was showing me an example of courage and patience in sorrow. His death does so in preeminent fashion; there is no lesson like it. But there was far more than that the day He cried It is finished! and went through the floods on foot.
It was not merely that Jesus was sharing all my infirmities and griefs, even the last and most awful. He is indeed my Brother, who has descended into the gloom of the valley in front of me. But that is not everything, nor nearly everything.
In my place He died. He bore my sin in His own body to the stark and hateful cross. He became a curse instead of me. He was sore stricken by His Father sore stricken for my healing and health.
And now, and now, I, the culprit, the criminal, with my guilty past, with my helpless present, with my hopeless future have my redemption in Him. He has exhausted my penalty He has blotted out the terrible handwriting that was against me.
This is the gospel which is all my boast, and which is mightier than all my necessity!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The people were all so amazed that they asked each other: What is this? A new teaching and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him!" Mark 1:27
A new teaching! the wondering people said about the words of Him who spoke as never any man spoke.
For He spoke so boldly. It did not matter who might be listening to Him what opponents, what adversaries. He never feared the face of man. Mightier transports moved Him. More unbending imperatives urged Him on. He saw the eternal realities, God and the soul and the everlasting world; and then it was a small thing to Him with what judgment the majority judged Him.
And He spoke so tenderly. His lips dropped honey and balm and dew. He discerned the heart beating and quivering even in sufferers whom the unclean spirits oppressed, even in lepers whom all others held in abhorrence, even in grasping publicans and despairing sinners. He knew what a priceless jewel the heart is, though it should be hidden under the mire and clay. With gentlest grace He sought and found and healed it.
And He spoke so powerfully. God's Holy Spirit was His in abundant and divinest measure. When He uttered His message, it was as if the Spirit resident in Him overflowed and entered the souls that hearkened to Him. They could not resist His wisdom, His majesty, His love. He led them captive. They became pliable and plastic in His all-constraining hands. He turned them, like rivers of water, into whatever channel He would.
I would gladly have Jesus speak to me boldly, tenderly, powerfully. And then I would myself, in my finite measure and degree, learn His great language, catch His clear accents, make Him my pattern to live and to die.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out." Isaiah 42:3
Let me rejoice in a Savior and Lord who has Himself taken hold of my own nature in its frailties and sorrows. I may be perfectly sure of His sympathy and His support. Even if I am a bruised reed He will not break my feebleness. Even if I am a dimly burning wick, He will not quench my flickering light. He remembers too well when they put a reed in His own hand, the one scepter which they allowed Him; and when, in the darkness of Gethsemane and Golgotha and the grave, His light seemed altogether extinct and gone.
No, no. He uses and loves and transfigures bruised reeds. They become pens, to write the marvels of His truth and the riches of His grace. They become instruments of sweet music, to ring forth His praises in winning melody. They become columns which support and adorn His temple. They become swords and spears to rout His enemies; so that, as a poet sings, "the bruised reed is amply tough to pierce the shield of error through."
And He loves and employs and fans into bright and glowing flame dimly burning wicks. They are changed . . .
into lamps that shine for the guidance of wandering feet,
into beacon-fires that warn the voyagers from sandbank and iron coast,
into torches which hand on His message to the generation following,
into lighthouse rays and beams which conduct storm-tossed sailors to their desired haven.
I am thankful for a Lord who is so mighty and so kind. I need not despair of myself since it is Jesus with whom I have to do.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"He is able to save to the uttermost!" Hebrews 7:25
My Lord Jesus Christ is able to save me to the uttermost!
He is able to save to the uttermost depth of my need. Science is now sounding the lowest abysses of the ocean; but there is no science, nor thought, nor imagination, which can send its plummet to the bottom of Christ's unsearchable grace!
Down to my sharpest sorrow He goes,
down to my profoundest loneliness,
down to my keenest temptation,
down to my foulest sin!
He traveled for my sake from Heaven to Calvary; and I know of no descent which He will not make today.
He is able to save to the uttermost limit of my nature. And such a many-faceted nature mine is! The intellect has its demands, and the memory, and the conscience, and the imagination, and the will, and the heart each of them cries out for a separate satisfaction. And each of them finds it in Jesus!
He answers the questions of my intellect.
He plucks from my memory its rooted sorrows.
He cancels the accusations of my conscience.
He paints the noblest pictures in my imagination.
He renews and directs my will.
He fills my heart with His love.
He is able to save to the uttermost verge of my life.
My various conditions and experiences,
my conflict and my calm,
my work and my rest,
my gladness and my grief
He blesses me through them all. Lo, He is with me all the days, even unto the end, and through the end, and beyond the end forever and ever! Death cannot part me from Him. Eternity will only draw me closer to Him. To the ages of the ages He is mine, and I am His!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The battle is not yours, but God's!" 2 Chronicles 20:15
There are many times and circumstances when all my safety is to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
I must do so, when I am face to face with spiritual antagonists.
The unholy thoughts which torment me,
the inconsistent words that escape my lips,
the old evil habits that are always coming back to annoy and defile me
they will never be overcome by my strenuous efforts alone. Daily I must turn to, daily I must receive from, my God's inexhaustible treasury of grace, if I am to overcome and prevail.
I must do so, too, when I am in darkness of mind and soul. I cannot carve my own way out of these periods of gloom. I must, even when He seems to have withdrawn His loving and life-giving presence, continue looking up to Him in my loneliness and waiting until He have mercy upon me. It is He who will cause my midnight to flee away, and will restore the sunshine and the summer.
I must do so yet again, when I am concerned about the salvation of others. I can, indeed, speak to them. I can pray for them, on bended knees, in the secret place. I can warn them night and day with tears. But when all has been tried that my wisdom and love can suggest, I must recognize the limits of my power. I am helpless to save my friends. God alone can give the increase! (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Thus, along the whole of my Christian course, from the moment of birth, on to the moment of coronation, the battle is not mine but God's.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" Philippians 4:13
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation! You have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth!" Revelation 5:9-10
The song of the glorified has three notes in it.
There is the note of Redemption. You purchased me with Your blood. Jesus ransomed me the slave of sin, of frailty and futility, of dark despair! And not by a mere act of sovereignty and might. No but by breaking the alabaster vase of His unblemished body for me, and by pouring forth the costly ointment of His blood. It will be the theme of my praise through the unending years of eternity!
There is the note of Royalty. "You have made us kings!" O wondrous thought to quicken the torpid pulses of my soul! I will sit down with Him on His own throne, and He will share His great empire with me!
There is the note of Consecration. "You have made us priests!" I am, through Jesus Christ my Lord, a white-robed, white-souled worshiper, thanking and adoring God, offering to Him the incense of prayer, presenting to Him continually the sacrifice of my praise, lifting up holy hands in ceaseless intercession!
Jesus has done it all! "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Revelation 5:12
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"The Lord Almighty will hover over Jerusalem and protect it like a bird protecting its nest." Isaiah 31:5
As birds fluttering over their nests with quivering and palpitating wings, thus will Jehovah protect His people.
So God shelters me. Like the bird brooding above its young when some danger threatens, He will screen and secure my soul. My greatest perils are spiritual ones my own sinful flesh. But nearer and mightier, are the shadow of God's guardian wings.
And God loves me. For He is like a mother-bird, the prophet says, as tender, as solicitous, as unconquerably pitiful. He has not only a father's strong right arm; He has a mother's strangely, marvelously, unsearchably affectionate heart. There is no woman, there is no mother half so mild.
And God suffers for me. The parent-bird may have to lay down her life in her defense of her young. Is it not a little quaint parable of Calvary? I know the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ how He drank the bitter cup, how He bade the sword of divine justice to smite Him. I have eternal rest through His sorrow.
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"As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!" Galatians 6:14
There were three Crosses on the Hill of Calvary long ago one was that of the King of Love, and two were those of the slaves of sin.
On my Mount of Salvation there are three crosses still; and on one the Heavenly Victim dies, and on the other two the victims that are earthly and evil.
The first is the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ, so full of dreary desolation for Him, so full of life and peace for me the charter of my pardon, my acceptance with God, my heirship in the glorious household of the King of kings. God forbid that I should boast in anything other than it. It will be my song in time and eternity.
The second is the Cross of this present world. Since I met my Savior, the world, which used to bulk so large in my regard, has received a mortal wound. It is now a hollow thing, a lie, a vanity, tinsel and paint. Its ambitions, its prizes, its pleasures, its friendships every one of them is fallen from its high estate, and other motives govern me now.
And the third is my own Cross. For I myself share my Lord's death. I am initiated into the mystery of His sacrifice. I am separated, by a gulf like that of the grave, from my old thoughts and ways, my old loves and hates, my old being and doing. I have died and risen again, quickened by the same Almighty power that quickened my Redeemer these many years ago.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep!" John 10:11
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home!" Luke 15:4-5
Let us consider the wandering sheep. It leaves the fold. It is silly, foolish, wayward. It prefers its own way to the Shepherd's wise restraint and guardian care. It may be on the very verge of the precipice, or like to die in the waterless desert under the fierce hot sun, or in danger of the wolf's attack and cruel pitilessness; so many perils beset it. And concerning myself the story is told I am the bewildered sheep, at the mercy of ruthless and remorseless foes!
But let us consider, also, the restoring Shepherd. He pities the sheep. He seeks and rescues it, though the search costs Him His own life. He is . . .
a human Savior one able to suffer and die;
a sin-bearing Savior my Judge and Sovereign has laid on Him my scarlet and crimson iniquities;
a solitary Savior requiring no priest to supplement His obedience and sacrifice;
a triumphant Savior He shall see His seed, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me!" John 10:27-28
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die!" John 11:25-26
Jesus raises the dead. There is no captive of the King of terrors held in such thraldom, that the strong Son of God cannot undo the bars and open the great iron gate of the dungeon.
Perhaps, like the little daughter of Jairus, I am newly overcome and vanquished by the enemy. I have not lain long yet under the shackles of my trespasses and sins. Into my young and opening soul, the tempter is instilling his poison. Death has just claimed me for its own, and I have only commenced to sink down and down into its wretchedness and abyss.
Perhaps, like the widow's son at Nain, I have been under the cold and tyrannous scepter of the adversary for a longer time. Today they are carrying me out to bury me. It is apparent that I have forfeited all spiritual vitality and vigor; there is no doubt of it. I have strayed many a weary mile from my first love. I am lost to life and usefulness.
Perhaps, like Lazarus in his Bethany grave, the process of decay and corruption has set in. In my face, in my conversation, in my behavior, there are sad traces of the presence and masterhood of the evil thing. I have fallen low indeed. I have wandered far into the distant land. Everybody sees that I have fought and finished a sinful fight.
But let my death have gained over me what grasp and empire it may, Jesus is able and willing to deliver me.
His Cross cancels its condemnation,
His Spirit terminates its rule,
His gospel peals forth the joyous news of its overthrow and destruction. With Him is the Fountain of Life.
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"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath!" Ephesians 2:1-3
How mournful and how complete is my captivity to sin!
A bondslave in the prison-house of fear, dreading the eternal death which the Scripture says is the wages of my sin;
a bondslave in the prison-house of shame, hating and despising myself because of my evil thoughts and ways;
a bondslave in the dungeon of helplessness, longing to break the meshes which entangle me and to escape into Heaven's free air but finding all my endeavors of no avail;
a bondslave in the dungeon of despair, seeing in front of me nothing but "dreadful time, dreadful eternity, no comfort anywhere!"
that is what I am.
But how blessed and how complete is Christ's freedom!
In His Book there are a thousand precious promises for me.
In His redemption there is a full atonement for my basest and blackest transgressions.
In His Holy Spirit there is a sanctification which will rid me from my defiling corruptions.
In His Heaven I shall not see my sins any more!
Thus my Savior deals with me and my hateful iniquity!
"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus!" Ephesians 2:4-6
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"Jesus Christ makes you whole!" Acts 9:34
Jesus Christ makes you whole! Every word is a note of melody, most musically rung.
'Jesus Christ' does it Jesus, my own Brother, my Kinsman-Savior, who is a partaker in my nature, who has been through my sorrows, who understands me thoroughly! Christ, the Anointed of the Father, the Possessor and Giver of the Holy Spirit, the divinely commissioned Mediator! I cannot doubt His fitness for the work. He is able.
'Makes' O blessed continuousness and perpetuity of His redeeming activity and grace! Though He has gone up on high, though my eyes do not see Him He has lost none of His ancient power. He lives, He works, He heals, He reigns. He is the same today as He was yesterday. What He did for palsied Aeneas at Lydda when the Church was young He does for me in this late autumn of the Church's circling year.
'You' and I thank Him for the personal address and the singular number. Me, He separates from all around me. He knows and loves and blesses ME! He understands my guilt. He probes my need. He completes my cure. He has a care for me in the separateness of my temperament, in the plague of my heart, in the possibilities of my life.
'Whole' so He is not content with only pardoning me. He gives soundness, wholesomeness, holiness, health. He chases the last relics of sin away. He perfects that which concerns me until I share His own glorious likeness until I am fit for the inheritance of His happy saints.
Is He not a mighty Savior? Is it not a rich salvation?
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"For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body." James 3:2
My tongue is a great power.
Its words wound or else they cure.
They poison or else they bless.
Once they have gone forth from me, shot like arrows into the air they will find their lodgment, and they will accomplish their errand.
I cannot recall them.
I cannot cancel and undo them.
For weal or for woe they have sped away from me.
There is a sense in which my words are my deeds; they achieve as much of mercy or of misery, of healing or of harming as my actions do.
Far too often my tongue has been an agent of mischief and hurt. It has spoken untenderly or untruly, harshly or hastily.
It has suggested unworthy motives to the deeds of others. It has magnified their failures and errors. It has been a firebrand. It has distributed bitter and corroding acids instead of the honeycomb. Sometimes it has been the propagandist of actual sin!
My Lord, regenerate and keep this tongue of mine. Refine it, and sweeten it, and sanctify it! May it love . . .
the voice of prayer,
the voice of confession,
the voice of encouragement,
the voice of consolation and comfort,
the voice of worship and thanksgiving!
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"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these." Mark 12:30-31
I will only love my neighbor as I ought if I love the Lord my God first and supremely.
For then the neighbor-love will have its fitting place. It will not usurp the throne, it will not occupy the chief room in my heart. Through it and beyond it, I shall climb to the affection which is more august and divine. Ardent though it may be, full and faithful it will still yield to my love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The union of friend with friend, of husband and wife, of mother and child, is sweet beyond all telling; yet it should be to me but the earthly copy of things in the heavenlies.
And then the neighbor-love will be impelled by the best motives. It will not content itself with seeking the worldly prosperity and comfort of those who are so dear to me. It will covet for them nobler treasures than these. It will pray and toil and live to bring them into vital and blessed union with our God and His Christ. Nothing short of this divine coronation will satisfy it.
And then the neighbor-love will last through eternal years. When the heavenly Master is first in my friend's affection and in my own, we are heirs together of the grace of unending and undecaying life. And, by and by, "we shall meet as heretofore, some summer morning" meet never to separate again. Hands that clasp here round the Cross of Jesus will clasp yonder before His Throne. Voices that praise Him in the outer court will magnify Him better within the veil.
They are wise indeed, who do not forget the first commandment in the second.
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"And Moses said unto them, I am a hundred and twenty years old this day." Deuteronomy 31:2
There can be no testimony better deserving my credit, or more calculated to impress my soul than the testimony of the veteran soldier and saint.
It speaks of God's enduring faithfulness. How every inspiriting promise that He made years before to the young disciple, every assurance of mercy and help that He gave, every provision for the long journey and the weary campaign that He pledged Himself to communicate He has more than fulfilled and bestowed.
It speaks of God's invincible wisdom. How no device of the enemy could outwit Him, and no emergency could find Him unprepared, and no sudden and urgent call upon His guiding hand went unanswered, and no necessity of His child had not its seasonable and sufficient support from the Father's arm and the Father's heart.
It speaks of God's triumphant power. How all the craft of the adversary was baffled by Him; How His little one, confronted by "the ancient Prince of Hell," discovered that the Lord Sabaoth's Son was fighting on his behalf and making him a conqueror; How, here and here, He put to flight the armies of the aliens.
It speaks of God's over-overcoming love. How He has turned darkness into light for the lowly heart; has disappointed all its fears; has answered all its prayers; has led it forth by the right way; has borne it up, year after year, in His everlasting arms.
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"Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself." Luke 24:39
It was just as if there could be no mistaking these blessed hands and feet. The disciples knew them much too well about them there were a unique character and an unmatched glory the hands which had never wearied giving and helping and ministering; the feet which had gone about continually doing good.
My soul, have you felt the touch of the Master's health-imparting and peace-bequeathing hands, so that now you must recognize them anywhere? Have you so often knelt at those blessed feet, so that you are better acquainted with them than any other feet in all the world?
But, when He came to these friends of His on the evening of His resurrection Sabbath, He showed them pierced hands and pierced feet the rough nails had hurt and shamed them sorely, and had left their scars behind.
Surely I love to contemplate these nail-prints of my Lord!
They are the certificates of my redemption.
They are the pledges and proofs of my everlasting life.
With them, He has purchased my freedom.
With them, He has taken the prey from the mighty, and has delivered the captive.
His wounding is my healing.
His sorrow is my salvation.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" 1 Corinthians 15:17
If Jesus has not risen then the lessons of my mind will never be learned the blessed lessons of heavenly truth and wisdom which He has commenced to teach me by His gospel and by His enlightening Spirit. My discipleship will fail to have its proper ending and its due reward. It will have awakened hopes which it does not fulfill.
If Jesus has not risen then the progress of my life will never be finished the happy progress in love and purity which began when He renewed me first. The snow-white mountains of holiness, to whose gleaming summits I had steadfastly set my face will not be scaled by my feet.
If Jesus has not risen then the work of my hands will never be completed the free and joyful service I have been seeking in His strength to render Him. It will have no adequate harvest. It will reach no fitting goal. It will be broken off midway, and He and I and those for whom I labor, will be cheated of its fruits.
If Jesus has not risen then the friendships of my heart will be shattered friendships with those who trusted Him and who have gone from my side; friendship with Himself, my Dearest and my Best friend. In the grave these kith and kin of my soul will be buried, and the skeptical poet will be right my love for them and theirs for me will have withered.
If Jesus has not risen then the God of my trust will have deceived me.
But there let me stop. I cannot bear to go further with the cheerless supposition. And there is no need. For Jesus has risen, and all is well with me, His little one, now and through the everlasting years.
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"You have made the Most High, your dwelling place" Psalm 91:9
How spacious and how satisfying is such a home as this!
One of its chambers is that of invincible Power. No walls are so impregnable, no defences are so sure, as the Most High God. Sheltered behind this stronghold, I may laugh to scorn all the embattled hosts of Hell. How feeble their weapons are, how empty their pomp, how doomed to defeat all the pride of their onslaught!
And another of its chambers is that of unbreakable Truth. God in whom I hide, is faith-loving and faith-keeping. There is not a great promise He has given, which He is not both able and willing to fulfill for me. None of His precious promises shall fail not the smallest and gentlest, not the vastest and most universal.
And another of its chambers is that of inexorable Right. What is just my Lord will do. What is in harmony with the perfect law He will give. And, though I have broken that law, I need not fear when Christ is mine. God's very rectitude is on my side, if I glory in the merits of my Savior. He will forfeit His perfection if He forsakes me now.
But the best of its chambers, is that of unquenchable Love. No earthly father loves like the God of my salvation, and there is no mother half so mild. His is the love that forgives, forbears, perseveres, abides! Many waters cannot quench it. Many slights and wounds cannot exhaust it. It is infinite and eternal like Him from whom it comes.
A spacious and satisfying home indeed!
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"Once you were not a people, but now you are Gods people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." 1 Peter 2:10
In old libraries there are palimpsests (a parchment from which the text has been scraped or washed, off so that it can be used again Editor). The parchment once, long ago, carried another writing from that which you read on it now. But the ancient writing has been obliterated, and something new and different has been put in its place. Perhaps a heathen poem, with foolish and evil stories of the false gods of Olympus, was there before. But the pagan poem is gone, with its ensnaring witchery and glamour and in its place there is one of the Gospels in Greek or Latin the blessed history of Jesus and His love.
Every redeemed and renewed heart is just such a palimpsest.
Formerly the heart had written on it all wickedness, and all deceit, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings. But the old lettering has been washed off by the grace of God; and now the heart bears this inscription: A newborn babe, a living stone, a spiritual house! It is a soul for God's own possession. It shows forth the excellencies of Him who called it out of darkness into His marvelous light. It is an epistle of Christ, written by His Spirit, and sealed with His autograph!
I wonder whether my heart is among the palimpsests of the kingdom of God. Once "disregard of Him" was engraved there but now a passion of delight in Him. Once the world filled it from title to end but now it lives in eternity's sunrise!
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"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:57
A great painter has portrayed the victory of Death over Love. At an open door, Love is standing, his wings beaten back and broken against the doorposts, his bright young face turned upwards in unfathomable appeal and anguish, his arm raised to stop the tall white-sheeted figure, the Shadow feared of man. But Death moves forward calmly, inexorably, remorselessly scarcely so much as halting in his progress. Love cannot keep him from entering the home. Love cannot prevent him from fulfilling his dread mission there. It is a dreary victory, with which we are all familiar, and which each new day sees reiterated many times over.
But there is another victory the victory of Love over Death. Thanks be to God, cries Paul, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. When, for Love's sake, my Savior suffered on the cross, He conquered Death and ended Death's despotism and dominion! When I trust myself to Him, the last adversary is powerless to retain me in his grasp. When I pass over the River, it is with the Pilgrim's watchword on my lips, "Farewell night! Welcome day!" My Lord has said that, where He is, I shall be with Him, and with all who have committed their souls to Him to guard and keep.
So there is one door which Love defies Death to enter the door of the New Jerusalem, opened to me by my Redeemer's pierced hand. The king of terrors has no foothold in the wide and shining realms of the King of Salvation. The strong man must confess himself foiled and outwitted by One stronger than he.
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"For she loved much." Luke 7:47
Three things this woman gave:
PENITENCE was one. If her sin was dark her sorrow was deep. If she had been a prodigal daughter it was with weeping and mourning that she sought again her Father's house.
And LOVE was another. There was something about Jesus the looks of His countenance, the tones of His voice, His whole manner and bearing which drew her towards Him with a commanding and irresistible affection.
And SACRIFICE was a third. She spilled and spent her precious ointment on the Savior. She counted all things loss for His dear sake.
These are the gifts which I must bring to Christ. They are the treasures which His great heart covets. My penitence, my love, my sacrifice He would rather have them than my knowledge, my eloquence, my patronage, my diligence, my wealth.
And three things this woman received:
PARDON was one. He said unto her, 'Your sins are forgiven!' The burden of her guilt, was loosened from her shoulders and fell from her back.
And PURITY was another. She went from the Gracious Presence and the Sacred Face to live a life blessedly new. God her Healer restored the miserable past which the cankerworm had wasted.
And PEACE was a third. 'Go in peace,' the Lord commanded. And what He commanded, He gave. Hers was now and forever the peace which passes all understanding, "the Rose that cannot wither."
These are the gifts which I take from Christ. They are the treasures my poor heart needs. His pardon, His purity, His peace they are more to be desired than a universe of gold, or than the mines where the diamonds and rubies lie!
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"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!" Isaiah 55:1
In God's cup of salvation, I discover all that I can crave! There is no deficiency here, and no disappointment.
There is water in this cup the water of spiritual life. I am dying of thirst in the desert the desert of my sin and guilt. But He puts the cup to my lips, and I live. It brings me . . .
full and free pardon,
the remission of all my transgressions,
His own eternal favor and fellowship,
the assurance that He is pacified toward me!
There is milk in this cup the milk of spiritual nourishment. I am frail and powerless . . .
against my besetting and beguiling iniquities,
against the world and the flesh and the devil.
But He puts the cup to my lips, and I am strong. My sanctification is there. His own Holy Spirit is there. I am more than a conqueror now. My weakness, casting itself upon Him is exchanged for His mightiness!
There is wine in this cup the wine of spiritual joy. I am restless, uneasy, disillusioned, troubled. My heart has no deep and abiding contentment. I wander into fruitless seedbeds of sorrow, with a proud dejectedness and a cheerless weariness. But He puts the wine-cup to my lips, and I rejoice. For there is the peace of God here, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the victory over the world, and the sure and invincible hope of glory!
Water, milk, wine and I may have them, now and here, without money and without price! I am at the source of every gracious and glorious thing; and my part is simply to receive my Lord's munificence, and to say farewell to my hunger and thirst, and to be eternally satisfied!
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"I came not to send peace but a sword!" Matthew 10:34
Not peace, but a sword! Lord Jesus, this is a hard saying! Teach me to believe it, and to submit to the ordeal sharp and keen and sore though it may be.
Between me and my world, Christ's sword may pierce with its remorseless edge. He separates me . . .
from old sinful habits,
from old sinful employments,
from old sinful pleasures,
from old sinful friendships.
He divides me from the society in which I was accustomed to move. "Your home is no longer there!" He says. And I go out from the familiar surroundings, into an untrodden region and realm.
Between me and my nearest and dearest Christ's sword may pierce pitilessly. Perhaps the loved ones of my own house will have nothing to do with my Redeemer and Lord. Perhaps they see no beauty in Him, that they should desire Him. Then, in the deepest and noblest things, they and I will stand apart a sundering tide rolling between us. And how immeasurably sad that will be!
Between me and myself Christ's sword is sure to pierce with a blade that does not spare! The I, the self that used to be so vain, so confident, so proud must be slain outright! Its days of pride, pleasure and selfishness must end until I can say, "It is no more I who live but He my Prophet, my Priest, my King who lives in me!" What a change that is! What a martyrdom!
It is painful, this stroke of Christ's sword. But the old confessor was right: "The nearer the sword the nearer Heaven!" If I am victim I am victor too. Smitten down by Jesus I am not destroyed, but crowned!
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"Cast your burdens on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22
There is a burden of worldly anxiety which I ought to lay down. Even in the hours when I am away from my business, I am apt to let myself be pursued by its frets and worries in my secret soul; and then I glean little benefit from my very communion with God. The week-day follows me into the rest-day, like some persistent and troublesome spirit, and spoils it altogether. That should not be.
There is a burden of personal sin and unworthiness which I ought to lay down. Sometimes I despair of salvation. My guilt has been so great that I see in earth and Heaven, in time and eternity no comfort or deliverance for me. But the promise should lead me to the place somewhat ascending where the Cross of Jesus stands, and there the load falls from my back, and I go on my way with a merry heart.
There is a burden of haunting solicitude for other souls which I ought to lay down. When I have prayed for them, and appealed to them, and done my utmost on their behalf, let me commit them to the strong and tender love of my Lord, a thousand times wiser and warmer than my own. Let me not be crushed by a weight too heavy for me. He holds the key of all these hearts, and can turn them where He will.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Some men came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them." Mark 2:3
"No man can save his brother's soul, or pay his brother's debt." Yet I may help my brother to Him who will bless his soul and will remit all his debt.
My prayers may do it. Let me be individual and particular, as well as loving and persevering, in my requests for others. Let this soul and that other be singled out by me, and named and dwelt upon, and carried in the arms of entreaty to the feet of Jesus, and laid down there. I forget and omit the element of intercession far too frequently.
My words may do it. This very day, as I move up and down among my fellow-men, I may have an opportunity of speaking to a neighbor on Christ's behalf, simply, naturally, tenderly to some sinner, or some sufferer, or some wearied wrestler with sore temptation, or some doubting Christian heart. I hope no cowardice or pride will close my lips then.
My life may do it. A life which manifestly He has quickened, uplifted, transfigured. A life which declares His omnipotence and His grace. A life shining with His beauty, and inspired by His Spirit. A life that invites men winningly and irresistibly to draw near Him.
So, like the four good friends in Galilee long ago, it is possible for me to lift and bear some sick and needy one into the presence of the Lord. And once he is there, the blessed end is gained. Jesus will do the rest.
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"Hear, O Lord, and answer me for I am poor and needy." Psalm 86:1
How insightful are the "fors" in this psalm! And each one of them introduces an argument which I shall do well to use in my prayers, and which is sure to have weight and efficacy with God. Let me put them together, adding plea to plea, and let me think of their accumulated force.
For I am poor and needy my own utter poverty sends me to the mercy-seat and constitutes of itself, an unconquerable appeal.
For I am a child of Yours. It means, in Your family and covenant, and therefore dear to Your heart.
For I cry unto You daily I am ever looking and beseeching and clinging; and apart from You I can do nothing.
For unto You I lift up my soul that You may see it to be, not without spot and blameless but at least sincere and true in its affection for You.
For You, Lord, are good and ready to forgive. Ah, there I am on firm and stable ground there can be no mistake about the grace and liberality of my God.
For You will answer me. It is Your delight to do so; and all experience, my own and that of tens of thousands, makes certain the blessed fact.
For You are great and do wondrous things. There never is in You, as there is so often in myself the will to help, while the means and opportunities are lacking Your strength is as great as Your love, Your resources are inexhaustible.
These are a battalion of unanswerable requests. And I can employ them all.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love!" Ephesians 4:2
Christ's demand is absolute Meekness. His most exacting demand is not to weary me, nor to anger me, nor to draw forth my churlish and untender refusal. I should be ready to sacrifice my own pleasure and comfort, even my own rights and claims and dues. My blessed Master, though He was God over all, did not please Himself; and no more should I.
Christ's demand is invincible Love. I cannot walk through the world without awakening hostility in some hearts. How shall I treat the enemies who thwart and persecute me? Shall I render them evil for evil? Nay, let me forgive them the hundred pence which they owe me, for His dear sake who freely remitted my great debt of ten thousand talents.
Christ's demand is the very Perfection of God. To these snows so pure, these peaks so high, He points me on and up. With nothing short of the stainless beauty of the heavenly places, will He be satisfied. He would have me spiritually sound, vigorous, every trace of weakness gone, my soul and my body those of a child in the blameless family of the Father. May my desires coincide with His!
I cannot fulfill His demands in myself; but when it is not I who live but He who lives in me, all things are possible, and there is nothing too high or too hard. Long ago, in Israel, David not only became the king's son-in-law but the king himself every inch a king. And so may I, a king in the dynasty of God, through my Lord's grace dwelling in me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"He who loves his brother abides in the light." 1 John 2:10
Love brings light. It is only if I love my brother, that I abide in the light. And the light shines more and more, the wiser and the warmer and the fuller is the love.
Let me consider how many chambers of light, love alone holds the magic key. Let me see how often the heart leads me safely and surely where the plodding and bewildered brain would only lose its way.
Thus I come to know my brother: he opens his nature to me, with its weaknesses, with its needs, with its possibilities in proportion to the reality and the intensity of the love I give him.
And thus I come to know myself: the call to exercise love will be a touchstone to disclose to me where I am likely to fall an index, too, to reveal the heights to which I may rise.
And thus I come to know the truth: it is not intellectual study half so much as a loving life, which opens up to me the profound and hidden meanings in Christ's doctrines, Christ's requirements, and Christ's great and precious promises.
And thus I come to know God: by loving everyone, all the day, in spite of rebuff and coldness and disappointment I enter somewhat into the secrets of that great Heart of the Most High which is most wonderfully kind. Yes, if I love I dwell in the light.
Heaven is the home of light! They have no need of the sun or the moon to shine there. Why is that? It is because Heaven is the home of love love in its transcendence, its perfection, its consummation.
But let me have antepasts and prelibations of Heaven, while I am pursuing my pilgrim march toward its gates.
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"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth!" 3 John 1:4
Let me be TRUE true in every company and at every moment.
I owe it to myself. What a flaw is in steel that a falsehood is to my character, a source of weakness, a forfeiture of worth.
I owe it to my neighbor for society must fall to pieces without truth.
I owe it to my God He is Light, and He expects sincerity in me.
Let me be true in speech. Without uttering what is manifestly and flagrantly false, it is so easy for me . . .
to give a wrong impression,
to err either by excess or by defect,
to color my statements so that things will be seen in misleading lights and in unreal tints and hues.
There are a hundred temptations to exaggerate or to conceal and deceive. I must guard well my lips.
Let me be true in act. I crave that noble and straightforward consistency which is an attribute of the most fruitful character. I would be free from fickleness, from unsteadfastness, from instability, from the fear of man which brings a snare. I would follow always the high path of honor and of truthfulness.
Deepest, most momentous of all, let me be true in heart. Underneath the surface of my life, may I have a soul . . .
that hides nothing from itself or from its God,
that is transparent and sincere,
that does not change in its loyalty to earthly friends,
that is as clear as the crystal,
that is as firm as the mountains.
You desire truth, O God, in the inward parts. Give me that which You command it is alien to me, it is remote from me, it must be of Your creating and fostering and perfecting.
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"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see Heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!'"
"While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' When he had said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7:55-60
In dying, Stephen looked on Jesus. Just so, when my last hour comes may my gaze pass beyond this world onto Jesus, forgetful of all around, absorbed in what I behold. I would know Him to be with me then, who died for me once, and who is risen now at God's right hand to welcome me. The mysterious border-country loses all its terror, when the glory of the Lord changes its twilight into cloudless noon!
In dying, Stephen reflected Jesus. The accents of the Savior's prayer for His murderers, were echoed in the disciple's prayer for those who stoned him. In death as in life may Christ's purity and tenderness, Christ's meekness and magnanimity shine from me. To my last moment, until I am with Him where He is I would remind others of Him, my Redeemer and my Lord.
In dying, Stephen went to abide with Jesus. The luster on his face was no glimmer of a setting sun but the light of the morning clouds which is lost only in the perfect day. Just so, may I overcome the last enemy, and feel my Savior's hand outstretched to receive me!
Whether I live I will live unto Christ my Lord; or whether I die I will die unto Christ my Lord; whether I live therefore or die, I will be His alone. My chief end is to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever!
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"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God!" 1 Corinthians 1:18
The Cross the power of God! What a paradox, what a folly, what an impossibility it seemed to Jewish religiousness, and to Greek wisdom! But simple faith understands the mystery well.
The Cross shows me a God who clothes Himself with absolute humility. He bends to this sharpest sorrow, and this darkest shame. And whereas my proud spirit would only rebel against a King who was all majestic, all glorious, all untouched by poverty and grief and disgrace I am subdued and vanquished by One who comes to me in so lowly a guise. The Sufferer and the Savior prevails where the Sovereign must have failed.
The Cross shows me a God who meets and discharges the perfect demands of law. The divine law hates my sin, and has righteously condemned me to die because of it. I cannot answer it for one out of a thousand of my transgressions! But my Lord, whose mouthpiece it is, fulfills its commands and bears its penalty in my place. And this is all I need this fetters and enthralls me in glad bondage to my Redeemer.
The Cross shows me a God who loves me without stint. Many waters cannot quench His love the floods cannot drown it. He knows from the beginning the end, so bitter and so shameful the agony in the Garden, the desolation on the bloody Tree; and yet He cares for me so passionately that He steadfastly sets His face towards this end. My heart of stone is melted thus, and I am led in willing captivity.
So the Cross, to me who am being saved by it, is indeed the very power of the Most High God!
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"Now my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me!" Psalm 27:6
Out of faith, courage is born out of faith alone.
For faith knows that the past of my life has been forgiven. It can say, The Lord is my salvation. And not until the strangling load of guilt is rolled away, not until the yoke of sin is broken off have I freedom, buoyancy, energy, boldness. With no fears to haunt and harass me I am brave to dare, to do, to suffer, to win.
And faith sees that the present of my life is filled with the power and the protection of God. It recognizes His nearness, His graciousness, His omnipotence. It believes that He is closer to me than the enemy can ever be. He keeps me secretly in His pavilion. He hides me in the covert of His tabernacle. No foe may venture behind these walls of fire!
And faith finds the future of my life aglow with the rose of dawn. She waits, as one portrays her, "with suspended rapture in her face." On this side of death, and on the farther side of death, behold, she says, it is all very good. Here and yonder, below and above I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, to behold the beauty of the Lord! And thus I am stout of heart and rescued from disquietude and dread.
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"Instead of the thorn bush the cypress tree will come up. And instead of the nettle the myrtle tree will come up!" Isaiah 55:13
Let me learn the parable of the trees.
Some of them are unprofitable and worthless. Their fruit is evil, sour and acid perhaps poisonous and noxious. They cumber the ground. They are fit only to be hewn down, and to be cast into the fire.
And such was I once! God's springs came but they did not clothe me in a mantle of green. God's summers came but their dew and sun simply increased my gracelessness. But "Instead of the thorn bush the cypress tree will come up. And instead of the nettle the myrtle tree will come up!"
In the blessed husbandry of hearts, the bad-natured trees may be changed by divine power and mercy into good trees, the planting of the Lord. Is it so with me? Has the nettle blossomed into a rose fit for the bosom of the King of kings?
Then let me make it evident by bringing forth fruit to the glory of Him who has done great things for me. I should be a vine hanging with the purple grapes of love. I should be a fig tree whose large and glossy leaves impart coolness and refreshment. I should be an olive tree clad with the grey-green verdure of wisdom. My Lord looks for these things.
It is my encouragement that He who planted me waters and keeps me also. The Father is the Gardener (John 15:1). He will give the increase. He will ripen the vintage, and mature the harvest. Just let me pray to Him, and trust always in Him, and cast myself upon Him with an implicit faith. Then I shall be neither barren nor unfruitful.
"The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green!" Psalm 92:12-14
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"It came to pass at the seventh time" 1 Kings 18:44
I would copy Elijah's humility. He bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees.
While I am a child and can use all holy boldness with my Father I am a subject also, and must stand in awe of my Sovereign God. Therefore I will take off the shoes from my feet. I will remember that no spot on earth is so sacred as the footstool of God's throne. I will count it ever a wondrous privilege that I am permitted to pray.
I would copy Elijah's expectancy. He sent his servant to the topmost peak of the mountain, to look toward the sea. Many a time the fleets of God have come sailing into the harbor laden with the very gifts I need but I have not been there to welcome their arrival and to receive their priceless cargoes. I should get up to my watch-tower. I should look and look and look toward the sea.
I would copy Elijah's perseverance. Seven times the servant reported, "There is nothing," and seven times he was bidden return to the mount. Often, after I have prayed, I say to my heart, "There is nothing no sign of amendment in the wayward life so dear to me; no deliverance from my own perplexities." But I must ask until seven times, perhaps until seventy times seven. I must . . .
wrestle like Jacob,
and pant like David,
and hope like Elijah,
and be persistent like Bartimaeus,
and cry with tears like my blessed Lord!
"More things are wrought by prayer, than this world dreams of." But the prayer must be of the right sort very humble, very expectant, very persevering. Lord, teach me so to pray!
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"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth!" Hebrews 11:13
Let me be a pilgrim treading every day the road to the Celestial City a glorious and heavenly city!
Then the promises of God will be my staff. I shall be persuaded of their truth. I shall embrace them. I shall lean hard upon them. In their strength I shall walk the narrow way, with a stout and merry heart. I shall know Him whom I have believed how trustworthy He is, how faithful, how unfailing.
And strangerhood will be written over all my nature. I have another birth, another Lord, another being than the man of the world does. I speak another tongue. I have other purposes, other energies, other hopes. I would glad if he linked himself with me but I dare not identify myself with him.
And an irrevocable farewell will separate me from my old way of life, and my former thoughts and ways. Truly, I might have had opportunity to return to the country from which I set out. But I have lost relish for it now. I have ceased to find a supreme attraction in it.
And well I may, for such prospects will lure me on. God has prepared a glorious city for me! The Heaven in front of me is radiant with the lights and glories of the New Jerusalem. I am "stepping westward." I am climbing Christward. I "can never be at rest, until I regain my ancient nest."
Surely, surely, the pilgrim's compensations are immeasurably greater than his losses. There are Interpreters' Houses, and Palaces Beautiful, and Delectable Mountains, and Lands of Beulah, on the way; and, at the last, there is the gate of the City, where the bells ring for joy when the traveler arrives!
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"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself!" Luke 24:27
Jesus is not only the one glorious Subject of the Scriptures He is their one effectual and unerring Expounder and Revealer.
As I bend over the holy Book my Master will make His voice known to my mind, my conscience, and my heart. Are not these faculties of His creating and fashioning? And does He not use them for the disclosure to me of His purpose and His love? By the avenues of my own nature, which He comprehends well, and to which He has many modes of access my Savior draws near me.
The discipline of my life is His instrument, too, for the explanation and unfolding of His Word. In weakness and sorrow many a text grows plain to me. In difficult duty many a promise glows with a new light. In temptation many a precept and sacred example shine out as they never did formerly. This, also, comes from my Lord, who is wonderful in His counsel and excellent in His working.
Most of all, the Holy Spirit is His Interpreter. It is He who makes the Bible living, and powerful, and active. He helps me to hear in each of its sentences the "yes" of heaven strong, sufficient, final. He renders it all profitable to me for my teaching, my reproof and correction, my guidance and consolation. And He is my dear Master's Deputy and Ambassador.
Thus Jesus, though He walks no longer in visible form along the highways of my world continues to expound to me the things in the Scriptures which concern Himself and myself.
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"I will be as the dew unto Israel." Hosea 14:5
Hosea, more than most of his fellow prophets, is the prophet of the Love of God. With wonderful virtue and healing in them, these ancient sentences of his should fall on my heart.
I will be as the dew, God says to me through this old messenger and servant in His family. How good a word that is!
Nothing is more beneficial than the dew. It refreshes the hot, tired earth. It rekindles its vanished beauty. It calls forth its fruit the grass and the clover and the grains. Just so, God, in His mercy and grace, promises that He will deal with me. He will change my soul and my life from a wilderness, into His sweet garden.
But nothing is quieter and more noiseless than the dew. It makes no stir as it does its gracious work. It is as silent as it is mighty. There is none of the whir and bustle of man's machinery about its operations. Just so, God performs in me His miracles of regeneration and renewal and His presence is not seen by the world outside at all. But I see, and know, and love, and praise.
And nothing is more discriminating and isolating than the dew. It falls on the wide world on both field and forest and hill. Every blade of grass receives its own coolness and quickening and blessing. Thus God assures me that He will not forget and miss me in the vast and thronging crowd. On me, even me, the showers of His rich blessing will descend, as if I were His sole and only child!
Is it not the very promise I require?
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"Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts." Acts 3:2
There are many cripples among us still cripples in morals, in purity, in the energies of the soul. They are cripples through the sins of others and through their own. The world is full of these poor, disabled, crippled men and women. In the spiritual sphere, they are helpless. Made to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever they are doing nothing whatever towards the fulfillment of their chief end.
And they lie at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. The doors of the Church stand open on every side of them. Sacred and Christian influences permeate the atmosphere which they breathe. The streets where they spend a miserable existence are filled with the worshipers of our God and His Christ.
Strange is it not that they are not cured before now? Strange that they should be so near to health and grace and the life which is life indeed and still should miss them after all. Strange and shameful and wrong.
But if I am to bless the despairing, dying cripples the love of God must be pulsing and flowing through me. I will be their spiritual physician, only if the name of Jesus Christ is all my boast, and if the Holy Spirit dwells in me richly. Then He who fills my soul, who regenerates my being, who uses my words and deeds, will accomplish through me His own miracles of tenderness and power. He will repeat by my hands His mighty works.
Because the helpless world needs a true Christian so much Lord, make and keep me one. May the life of my Redeemer in me overflow its banks, and carry its divine refreshment to parched and perishing souls!
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"The word is very near unto you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it." Deuteronomy 30:14
God's commandment is not too hard for me. But it too hard, indeed, if I attempt to fulfill it in my unaided strength for this boasted strength of mine is helpless inability, so far as spiritual and heavenly things are concerned. But, when He gives the commandment, He is eager to give me, too, His kingly and overcoming power to make all things possible to me. Augustine puts it well: God bestows what He enjoins and then He may enjoin whatever He will.
Neither is His commandment far off. I have not to go through a long novitiate, like the mediaeval knight, before I can be pleasing to Him. I have not to tarry for maturity and old age before I shall satisfy Him. I have not to wait for Heaven, before I am qualified to do His will. Here and now I may obey His first mandate that I believe on Him whom He has sent. And, after that, the other mandates will follow, little by little, step by step. I shall meet them at each turning of my path, and always with a smile on their faces.
Neither is God's commandment a covenant of cursing and death. I can only make it so by willful impenitence and by disobedience persevered in to the end. God has no desire that it should bring me anything but blessing and life. Judgment is His strange work, and nothing but the sternest necessity will compel Him to have recourse to it. If I am willing and obedient, I shall eat the good of the land. If I keep the commandment, I shall reap a great reward.
If His law fetters me it is with a chain of gold. When I am within its threshold, there is "a world of strife shut out, a world of love shut in."
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"How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets." Hebrews 11:32
It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith.
Ah, then, the saints, the confessors, the martyrs, the conquerors, are more in number than I sometimes suppose. In my moods of doom and gloom, my seasons of pessimism and despair, I imagine that Satan is getting the victory in the world, and that Christ has few faithful servants and few good soldiers. But I am wrong. The Lord has His hidden ones He never leaves Himself without many witnesses. Therefore, let mine be a more hopeful spirit.
It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith.
Indeed, there is no cause to prolong the story. As much as Christ's real and steadfast followers have differed one from another, their resemblances have been far more than their differences.
They all entered by the gate of faith.
They all trod the way of obedience.
They all sought the city which has the foundations.
Is their Redeemer mine?
Is their experience mine?
Is their mother-country mine?
I am near of kin with Abraham, with Joseph, with Moses, with David, with those of whom the world was not worthy because their eyes and mine are fixed together on Jesus, the same yesterday and today and forever! The languages of earth are many, the language of Heaven is one.
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"Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!" Nehemiah 8:10
The joy of the Lord is my strength!
There is the joy of my Lord's Almightiness. I am weak. I am beset by adversaries. My burdens and my tasks are many. But I have Omnipotence on my side!
There is the joy of my Lord's Wisdom. How many are His contrivances, what pains He takes, how well-ordered and sure are the methods He employs to instruct me, to purify me, to crown me! Patiently and graciously He presses to His goal, and never once is He betrayed into a false step.
There is the joy of my Lord's Truth. His great and precious promises promises of temporal and spiritual deliverances, of holiness, of grace to help in time of need, of Heaven and home at last! Not one of them will fall to the ground.
There is the joy of my Lord's Love. The Father loves me He is not satisfied until He has me as a child in His heavenly family. The Son loves me He pours out His life-blood for me on the Cross, and He lives again to plead for my welfare. The Spirit loves me He is content to abide with me until I am as pure as Christ is pure.
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"Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation!" Luke 2:29-30
I cannot depart in peace, until my eyes have seen the salvation of the Lord.
My conscience shrinks from the thought of death. It holds up before me the pattern to which I ought to have conformed, and shows me how I have come short and sinned. It speaks of a future judgment, in which I shall stand abashed before the splendor and whiteness of the throne. But I see the salvation of my Lord, and it means forgiveness and pardon; and the alarms of my conscience are stilled, and I can depart in peace.
My imagination turns away perturbed from the thought of death. In this sleep what dreams may come! Nay, what stern realities there are in this awakening! Tribulation and anguish, indignation and wrath it is a prospect that dismays me! But I see the salvation of my Lord, and it means the reversal of the doom, and what my imagination portrays now is my King in His city of gold and I can depart in peace.
My heart shudders at the thought of death. Death is the snapping of my friendships. It is orphanhood, famine, banishment. It is, worst of all, the separation of my soul from God, in whom I live and move and have my being. But I see the salvation of my Lord, and it means an eternity in fellowship with Him and with the glorious citizens of His court; and my heart asks for nothing more, and I can depart in peace.
Is not the Christian happy in dying as well as in living?
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"And I saw thrones, and those who sat upon them." Revelation 20:4
There are four states of human nature.
There is the state of Innocence in Paradise, when man was surrounded only by what is pure and sweet, and when man was himself in absolute sympathy with his magnificent and winsome surroundings. But that golden age lies far behind me in the distant past. I scarcely remember it I have trudged so many willful and wearisome stages from my first love.
There is the state of Sin and Misery. Today I imagine myself free but I have bound the irons on my ankles and wrists; I am a slave who should have been a prince. Have I not worshiped the beast and his image? Have I not received his mark on my forehead and my hand?
Yes; but there is the state of Regeneration and Renewal. I am born again by a divine majesty and grace. I am lifted out of the old Slough of Despond. One is my Master now, even Christ. And yet my new life is subject meantime to many fluctuations. I am waiting still for some better thing, like the men of the frozen Arctic world who see a light above the horizon, and wait and long for the advent of the summer and the sun.
So, finally, there is the state of Perfection in Heaven. I saw thrones, and those who sat upon them. Over these, the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ. At length, my nature is altogether holy and obedient and consecrated and true. At length, I shall exclude evil, and shall do holiness and purity alone.
God bring me to the golden age in front, which is still better than the golden age behind!
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"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want." Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my Shepherd, in the morning hours, leading me forth to the duties and temptations and difficulties of the day, and Himself going before me. As I gird myself for the activities and the thousand perils of my life I am sure that He is with me. I dare not journey out to them alone. For apart from Him, I can do nothing.
The Lord is my Shepherd, in the hot noontide too, when the sun beats fiercely down. He conducts me then, to green pastures and along the banks of the waters of quietness. As I ply my daily task with busy feet, I would often come aside to be with Him, to ponder His Word, to listen to the restoring whisper of His Spirit. It is the secret of abiding and prevailing peace.
The Lord is my Shepherd, when the night falls, and it is growing dark. You have seen the picture of the girl who walks through the Valley of the Shadow, with her hand clasped in Christ's hand. Trust is conquering terror on her face, and she grows confident that no enemy will vanquish her. So may it be with me, whenever I enter the ravine and bosom the chilling floods.
The King of Love, my Shepherd is! How this "my," this pronoun of personal possession comforts my poor heart, "The Lord is my Shepherd!"
Can I say it? If I can, humbly and heartily then assuredly in life and death and eternity I shall not want. For I am persuaded that nothing shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord. His shepherdhood is no transient endowment and no fleeting impulse and no passing mood; it is from everlasting to everlasting.
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"The foolishness of God is wiser than men." 1 Corinthians 1:25
Sometimes I say, "I am so young what can I do?" But He has many a time used the artless speech even of little children to accomplish results denied to human argument and eloquence and wisdom. And many a time He has made the presence of a child a deterrent from evil, a spur to holiness.
Sometimes I say, "But I am of no account; my surroundings are too strong for me." And yet He is well able to endow me with a celestial strength in my home, my business, my neighborhood, where everything seems to be against me. His roses bloom among Alpine snows and His lilies in tropical sands.
Sometimes I say, "It is useless for me to go out to His battles; I am very timorous and fearful." But He can lift me above my natural disposition and temperament. He takes the shivering spear of grass and it becomes like the rod of Moses. He takes the well-near extinct light and it shines like the golden candlestick.
Sometimes I say, "The work is so great and what am I?" Indeed it is, and there are many adversaries, and I am destitute of might. But Paul's history teaches me that, if my food and my drink are found in doing His will, nothing shall be too high for me. The foolishness of God is wiser than men.
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"Be sober, and watch unto prayer." 1 Peter 4:7
I trust that I watch during prayer, against all irreverence and carelessness and unbelief. I trust that I watch after prayer also, looking up and expecting the answer to my cry. But do I obey Peter's injunction, and watch unto prayer watch beforehand, watch in preparation for my entreaties and requests?
There is so much that I might watch.
There is the beautiful world outside me its sights and sounds should call me to thanksgiving and adoration and awe.
There is the condition of my secret soul its health or its sickness, its growth or its decay, its encouragements or its alarms; its necessities demand of me a constant fellowship with the saving and sanctifying Lord.
There are the circumstances and events of my daily history they are ever inviting me to lift up heart and voice to my Father in Heaven.
There are the chapters and verses of the Holy Book I should discover in them a thousand potent arguments which I can plead with God.
There are the needs of neighbors and friends often I can see my brother's necessity before he is aware of it himself, and can supplicate for him the support and the salvation he requires.
So let me be on the outlook for motives and occasions to pray, and for helps in prayer. My converse with God will not be so haphazard then, so rambling, so ineffective, as it too often is. It will set out from a fixed and definite mark, and it will journey towards a fixed and definite goal.
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"For just as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners so also through the obedience of the one Man, the many will be made righteous!" Romans 5:19
By one man's disobedience, many many were made sinners. What immeasurable harm and loss one sinner may inflict! His sin does not end with himself. When he imagines that he is done with it its outcomes and consequences expand in ever-widening circles, until it is impossible to set limits to them.
Is there not a solemn lesson, is there not a loud and insistent warning, for me in these words? What if in the great revealing day, I should encounter my sin looking out at me from a thousand faces, and upbraiding me from a thousand tongues for the injury I have done?
But what incalculable good and blessing one Savior can impart! His obedience does not terminate with Himself. It brings life and peace to a multitude which no man can number. Its harvest of souls is boundless and infinite. From all the centuries and all the countries, they come to God, through Jesus. On this obedience and this Savior, is my hope built steadfast and stable? Am I one of the many whom it and He make righteous?
"Through the obedience of the one Man, the many will be made righteous!" Let me believe its message. Let me rejoice in its strong consolation. Let me shelter my own bankrupt soul in one of its innumerable crevices and chambers!
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"The bricks have fallen down but we will rebuild with hewn stone; the fig trees have been felled but we will replace them with cedars." Isaiah 9:10
It was difficult to convince these Israelites that they were sinners. Driven from one refuge they took shelter in another. The bricks have fallen down, they said but we will rebuild with hewn stone.
Just so, I have many subterfuges and coverings for my guilt. Convicted on one indictment my pride shapes another excuse. Forced back from the outer walls my pride retreats into the citadel.
My imagination paints the ugly thing in fair colors as the parents of my race hid themselves from God's face among the green leaves and the bright flowers of Paradise.
The customs and fashions of the day blind me to my peril as there were mourners in the Middle Ages who concealed their grief under a dress of purple and gold.
The whirl of business dulls the discords and tumults within me as in the midst of the hot battle the soldier forgets his mortal wound.
The round of gaiety and pleasure absorbs me as sometimes the inhabitants of a plague-stricken city give themselves up to recklessness and riot.
My blameless creed and my religious observances hinder me from seeing the leprosy that is eating into my heart and life as the broad phylacteries and the long prayers of the Pharisees prevented them from confessing that they were white-washed sepulchers.
Thus, when the bricks are fallen down I rebuild with hewn stone; and when the fig trees have been felled I will replace them with cedars. But from all my false refuges, may God with loving severity and invincible sweetness drive me drive me into true self-knowledge, and lowly penitence, and His own everlasting arms!
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"Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal:
"The Lord knows those who are His," and,
"Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." 2 Timothy 2:19
Paul as well as John, had his vision of the foundation-stone of the City of God. He saw that it had impressed on it two seals, each bearing its own legend and inscription.
One of these seals I must read, before I am permitted to gather the comfort and assurance of the other. Its message is the preface to the message of its neighbor.
It is the seal with this motto: "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." To that touchstone, I have to bring myself. By that standard, I have to try my thought and my life. Is my dearest, best known, most intimate sin losing its charm for me? Am I crucifying the flesh, with its affections and lusts? Is my deepest desire, the passionate desire to be holy? Do I covet the beatitude of the pure in heart?
Then I may pass round to the farther and inner side of the foundation-stone, and I may read and appropriate the strong consolation which is engraved there: "The Lord knows those who are His." It is for me this marvelous and blessed word.
He knows me.
He cares for me.
He loves me with an unchangeable love.
He will allow no one to snatch me out of His hand.
I am His now, and through life, and in death, and forever and ever! I have lived in His soul through unthinkable years of the past and through innumerable ages of the future I shall dwell in the same peaceable habitation.
First let me make my calling sure my calling to discipleship and sainthood and purity. Then I am permitted to make God's election sure, beyond gainsaying and beyond doubt.
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"And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
Philip said to him, "Come and see!" John 1:46
Philip is one of the duller, slower, more backward, less brilliant disciples. Let me not despise him, however. It will be well for me if I am like him. If he did not mount up on the wings of eagles, he walked without fainting and I am not sure that this is not the harder and the nobler thing.
When he heard the invitation of Jesus, it had from him a swift reply. He felt that now was the acceptable time for him now the day of salvation. He did not "lengthen out his little while into a long while," as Augustine did, and many another. There Philip is my pattern. From me, too, the Savior's call should have an immediate answer, and I should make haste and delay not.
When he had scanned the features of Jesus well, he set off to gain his friend for his Redeemer. He bids me confess Jesus, though it should be falteringly. He bids me lose no time in laboring for Him. I must not wait for the maturity of my new-born life it is frank avowal and service, it never is concealment and procrastination, which enable that life to gather strength.
When he was met by argument and criticism, he took the best plan he asked the objector to make personal trial of the Savior for himself. I may not be able to reason and debate. I may have little skill in logic and apologetic. My words may be destitute of the orator's passion and poetry. But at least I can say, "Come, and you shall see. Come, and you shall find for yourself how good He is."
I would gladly be a disciple of the type and family of Philip of Bethsaida.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The Lord redeems the soul of His servants. None of those who trust in Him shall be condemned." Psalm 34:22
I thank God for this present tense. He redeems. He keeps on redeeming. He never wearies of the task and the joy of redemption. He lives in an enduring and undecaying Now and His Now always spells salvation, rescue, rest, purity, strength, for the children of men. It was so in the distant days of Hebrew psalmists. It is so in my time. It will be so to the end.
What a tribute it is to the perseverance of my God! I am touched with tenderness and zeal through a week; He is tender and zealous through an eternity. I take up charitable schemes, and let them drop; my enthusiasm is gone. But His heart does not weary. Summer and winter, in my brief seconds of devotion and my long seasons of coldness He redeems my soul.
What a hope, moreover, the word awakens for the world! Most storehouses of blessedness wear out and are exhausted. They vanish like the snows of a hundred years ago, or the roses that bloomed when I was a little child. But His redemption comes out to men and women today, unlessened and full. Still, as in the old era of Abraham and David and Paul and John, they may hear and see and handle His Word of Life.
And what an assurance there is here for my poor and needy heart! God the Father does not tire of me. Christ my Savior does not lose His interest in me. The Holy Spirit will go on performing the good work He has begun. My Lord's mercy toward me is as steadfast and unmovable as the sunrise which never failed us yet. He redeems me. He will redeem me always.
Yes, I bless Him for the pregnant and precious present tense!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" Acts 9:4
"Why do you persecute Me?" asks Jesus. Let me lay the emphasis on the first word "Why?" Why is it that I have opposed Him? that I have neglected Him? that I have forgotten Him? Ah, there is no coherent response that I can make. I am speechless, like the man in the parable, like Saul stricken to the ground. It is impossible for me to define the motives and the arguments which have led me on. It is impossible for me to frame a sufficient and satisfying apology for what I have been. Thus the Spirit of God teaches me the folly, the perversity, the stupidity of my sin.
"Why do you persecute Me?" asks Jesus. Now let me lay the emphasis on the last word "Me!" "What have I done," the Savior inquires "I, that I should receive your wounding and your hate?" He is the Shepherd who died for my healing. He is the Physician who comes to bind up my broken heart. And I I will have none of Him. I pitched so low, and He so exceeding high I still dare to despise and refuse Him, Him who merits all my reverence and all my love. Thus the Spirit of God teaches me the black thanklessness and criminality of my sin.
I would learn both lessons, as solemn as they are. For the Lord's afflicting, goes before the Lord's cure. The night of weeping, is the introduction to the morning of joy. Indeed, I cannot have too deep a sense of my own guiltiness. Because it is not a temporary relief that I need, because it is an everlasting salvation, I must understand the deadly nature of my disease. I may cheat myself otherwise with a counterfeit peace. I may mistake tinsel for gold.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds!" 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
"Though we live in the world."
God does not take me, immediately on my conversion, to the perfect security of His heavenly house. He leaves me here for a time, in a world that is filled with temptation and evil.
Nor would He have me hide from these snares and dangers, as monks and nuns do, in cloistral retirement and seclusion. In the very midst of the world's allurements and perils, He bids me to bear witness for Him and for my Savior. I move through the heart of the enemy's country! Yes, and within myself, so long as I am on this side of the inheritance He has prepared for me, there are a thousand solicitations to yield to the foe. My hazard is great and perpetual!
But we do not wage war according to the flesh. Indeed, the weapons of the world would be of no avail in such a struggle as mine. I need diviner, more spiritual, more celestial aids. And I have them. God is for me His angels, His providences, His people, His Word, His indwelling Spirit, Himself, in His wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth! I would be baffled and routed before an hour had passed, if it were not for Him. But He can cast down strongholds and every high thing that exalts itself. His grace is sufficient. There is nothing too hard for Him. The Lord Almighty is my Banner, my Captain, my Vanguard and Rearguard too.
Let my whole life be one of faith in Him. From the pomp and power of the enemy, from the subtle craft and poisonous sweetness of the tempter I flee to the King my Friend!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers!" Hebrews 2:11
My Lord Jesus Christ belongs to the same spiritual household in which, through His tender love and immeasurable grace, I am myself enrolled. He can speak of singing God's praise in the midst of the congregation. The interests of the Church, redeemed by His blood, called after His name are inexpressibly dear to Him; of none of its members, the least inspiring, the most disappointing is He oblivious. My welfare, because I am a citizen of the commonwealth in which He is Prince, can never be forgotten by Him.
My Lord Jesus Christ stood, when He was in my world, in the same position of dependence in which I stand. He was accustomed to say, "I will put my trust in Him." He leaned on God, and God never forsook Him. Thus He encourages me to confide in the Lord my Righteousness and the Lord my Strength. He bids me follow Himself along the path of faith and the path of prayer. Once He was a poor man, and He cried out to God, and the answer came. Just so, if I cry, I shall have a response as seasonable and sufficient.
My Lord Jesus Christ is a partaker of the same nature with which I am myself endowed. "Behold, I and the children which God has given Me" these are His words. So He is acquainted with my every necessity; He has experienced all the trials and changes of my mortal life; He can send me the very help I require. I make my appeal to no stranger, however benevolent and well-intentioned; in my hour of need, it is to my Elder Brother that I go.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" Philippians 4:13
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"I have had enough, Lord. Take my life!" 1 Kings 19:4
Why do I lose heart in the way and work of God?
Sometimes it is physical and nervous exhaustion. Elijah was worn and wearied after the excitement of Carmel; and a much smaller cause may lead me to a similar result. "There are times," Blaise Pascal says, "when I cannot bear the alighting of a fly on my face without irritation." I bless my God that He knows my frame.
Sometimes it is the lack of a human friend. Would not even Elijah, serene and resolute and still, have been benefitted by the fellowship of kindred souls? Let me remember the old word: One of you shall chase a thousand, and two of you shall put not two, but ten thousand to flight.
Sometimes it is the sense of failure in my work. That was what brought on Elijah the loss of courage, the weakness, the collapse. It is hard to go on, when I seem to be spending my strength in vain. But my Lord's Calvary, the unlovely and sorrowful hill has blossomed into fruitfulness long before now; and so may mine.
Sometimes it is the defect in my view of God. Elijah thought of Him simply as fire, sternness, vengeance; and I, too, may fall into a like error. But, more than anything else, He loves to speak in the still small voice of pardon, of invitation, of promise. Let me not stumble at the riches of His forbearance and forgiveness.
I rejoice that, whenever my heart is overwhelmed, there is a cleft of the Rock for me!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." Psalm 37:23
A man's goings are established of the Lord if only the man's heart is committed to the Lord's keeping. Suppose I had to travel for one single hour through a region to which the government of my Father did not extend, I could never emerge from that wilderness; I must die in its desolation. But it is a baseless fear.
He leads me into the lonely place, into the chamber of study and communion, into the retirement where the world is far away.
There is truth to be appropriated there.
There is comfort to be won there.
There is fragrance to be inhaled there.
There is strength to be gained there.
He leads me into the life of the home. He asks me in the family, where there are many petty annoyances and many real cares to witness quietly and lovingly and steadfastly for Him. Day by day, this is the task He apportions me.
He leads me into the battlefield. The enemy is to be confronted and conquered, in His name and by His power. Against sin within me and without, I have to fight the good fight of the faith, until the long campaign is over at last.
He leads me into the harvesting-ground. The wheat is ripe. The harvest is plenteous. There are souls whom I can influence and win. There is work which I can accomplish. There is good that I can do. I must come home rejoicing, bringing my sheaves with me.
Through rest and labor,
through gladness and sorrow,
through victory and defeat,
through life and death
my steps are ordered by the Lord. Wherefore, as Chrysostom said when they drove him into his exile, "Glory to God for all events!"
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"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." James 1:27
Pure religion is Love. It is slow to become angry. It is full of tender mercy. It visits the fatherless and widows in their affliction. It overflows, like the full ear of wheat, like the perfect apple on the bough with what is wholesome and sweet. My Lord, create and foster in me the sincere love for all.
Pure religion is Humility. It receives with meekness the engrafted word, even when the word corrects and chastens and abases. My Lord, teach me to be silent and still, that You Yourself may speak to me to me, whose ear is open to hear, whose heart is quick to understand.
Pure religion is Diligence. It is not content with hearing. It does. It acts. It continues patiently fulfilling the perfect law of liberty. My Lord, deliver me from the indolence and pride and cowardice which keep me idle too often. I would hasten from duty to duty, from errand to errand, from one glad ministry to another.
Pure religion is Holiness. It holds itself unspotted from the world. There is a sweetly stern separateness about it. There is a perfume of the better country, as though one of the roses in God's upper garden were transplanted for a while to the lower. My Lord, may I be a citizen of Heaven on the earthward side of it.
Give me this pure and undefiled religion. So I shall dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, here and hereafter, below and above. If I am marching to the sight of Christ's face, I carry with me, the whole way through, the riches of His salvation and the approval of His heart.
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"Depart from Me!" Matthew 25:41
"Depart!" There is no word, I may be certain, which passes Christ's lips with such unwillingness, or which it more grieves His tender soul to utter, than the awful word "Depart."
There is a ring of finality and hopelessness about the word! It is like the clang of a closing door a door which, you know as you hearken, will not be opened again forever and ever.
It means, so far as I can unfold and expand its gloom and sadness, that the heart is shut outside of every gracious influence. It is left by the pleading Holy Spirit. It is left by the pitiful and loving Savior. It is left by the Father, who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. It has banished itself into the blackness of darkness. The gate of the City of God is barred and locked, so firm, so fast, and it is on the wrong side of the gate. Oh, I shudder as I attempt to interpret the mournful word I cannot see far, I dare not send my plummet down, into its fathomless abysses!
But Christ will never say "Depart" to me, unless I have said it beforehand to Him. When He called, I refused. The world absorbed me. Or I was befooled by a darling sin. Or I did not see my need. Or I was not melted by His love. Once, twice, seventy times seven, a thousand times, He stood and knocked at the door of my heart. And always I turned a deaf ear always I said "Depart."
Ah, let me not write my own sentence of doom. Let me not compel Jesus the Savior to lift and unsheathe the sword, whose hilt is as sharp for Him as its blade is for me!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Loved by God!" Romans 1:7
Paul calls his Roman friends Loved by God! There is music in the very fall and cadence of the words.
This is the penitent's song. My iniquities are forgiven. My diseases are healed. My life is redeemed from destruction. The God of my salvation has crowned me, through Jesus Christ, with His tenderest mercies. Now and forever I am Loved by God! I who of late had exiled myself from Him so foolishly and so far.
This is the soldier's security. Around me, within me, are enemies too strong for my feeble arm and my fickle heart. I have no might against the great army of my temptations and sins. But the Lord Almighty is on my side, and the victory is sure. I am Loved by God! I whose resources are nothing, am loved by Him who has all power.
This is the pilgrim's staff. The road winds uphill all the way. There are many difficulties, many privations, many hardships. Shall I be able to persevere to the end? Yes, Jehovah-jireh the Lord sees and provides. I am Loved by God! I, the beggar, am loved by Him, who is not impoverished by giving nor enriched by withholding.
This is the saint's assurance. If God is mine and I am His, the grave will not end our fellowship. I shall see Him again. I shall dwell with Him through eternity. I am loved by Him whose years are from everlasting to everlasting, and to whom both my body and my soul are unspeakably dear.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Lord, there is no one like You to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you." 2 Chronicles 14:11
Simple faith is fearless. Its strength is as the strength of ten, though it has to do battle against a world in arms; for it sees the invisible God hastening to its support. Lord, increase my faith, in order that, when I am face to face with the fury of the tempest and the pride of the adversary, I may know that You are nearer still.
Big battalions are helpless. God must be behind the army and the fleet, or they will avail nothing. If He is against them, a little thing will abase all their glitter and power. Lord, show me where my true success and prosperity are to be found in You and not in the arm of flesh or the resource of man.
Child-like prayer is invincible. It summons to my weakness the wisdom and holiness and might and truth of the Most High God. Lord, teach me to find in prayer a trusty weapon, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against me.
God's intervention is real. Less quietly and less startlingly than in the age of miracle but not a whit less effectively, He will interpose for my deliverance. His arm is not shortened in these later years of the Church, nor has His ear grown heavy. Lord, whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.
There are noble and beautiful souls who have walked much in gloom often their life seemed to them "but as an arrow flying in the dark." But, because I have such a God, and because He is all my own, let me put sadness away and array myself in joy.
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"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21
Help me, my Lord, to return good for evil.
It is a fruitful training and discipline for my own soul. Many a grace will be fostered within me by the blessed exercise.
The grace of watchfulness for there are ungenerous and revengeful dispositions against which I must be on my guard.
The grace of prayerfulness for I shall need God's support and God's Spirit if I am to succeed in the hard exercise.
The grace of gentleness for to forbear and to forgive will fill my heart with new tenderness and love.
It is the path, moreover, which my Master has trodden before me. He was always overcoming evil with good . . .
among His disciples and among His enemies,
in His words and in His deeds,
when He lived and when He died.
He prayed for those who despitefully used Him. He blessed those who cursed Him. He gave Himself for sinners for me, unthankful and loveless. Surely, whatever my Lord the King has done for me it is good for me to do unto others.
And it is the weapon which will best conquer an adversary and transmute him into a friend. Love achieves, what vengeance will never succeed in achieving. Unmerited kindness is a thousand times more prevailing, than merited judgment. The still small voice penetrates souls which are closed against the stormy wind and the earthquake and the fire. It is only the heart's blood, the fable says, which melts adamant and is not the fable true?
Love is the chain which binds sweet peace to me.
"But I say to you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" Matthew 5:44
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"With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years!" 2 Peter 3:8
What delights are in store for me in Heaven unutterable, inconceivable, surpassingly sublime!
With the Lord, one day is as a thousand years. In His society, the shortest period of time will appear the longest so much will be crowded into it, and it will bring me such marvelous treasures and joys. In that better country, a single day will be fraught with satisfaction to my senses, my intellect, my memory, my imagination, my conscience, my will, my heart satisfaction which I could not find in a whole millennium here on earth. For I shall be . . .
with my Lord,
admitted to His closest intimacy,
transfigured into His beauty,
participating in His dominion.
I will not only gaze on His glory but on my King and Savior Himself!
Nor need I grieve that these celestial pleasures seem remote and distant from me. For a thousand years are with the Lord as one day. Let my waiting-time be briefer or more protracted, let the hour of the reception into my eternal inheritance be far away in my reckoning God sees the consummation near at hand. The decades and centuries of this world's chronology, are as nothing to Him who is from everlasting to everlasting. It is as if, in the morning, I should look forward to the evening thus short-lived appears the space which intervenes before I see Him and am with Him where He is. The thought should curb my impatience and should intensify my hope. "Yet a little while yet a very little way" and I shall enter my eternal home with God!
Thus, here and hereafter all is well.
"In Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore!" Psalm 16:11
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Enter by the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it.
Because narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it!" Matthew 7:13-14
There are only two GATES:
One of them wide. Its name is Self . . .
my own desires,
my own proud thoughts,
my own righteousness,
my own chosen and darling sins,
my own plans and pleasures.
The other gate is narrow. Its name is Christ Christ sought with repentance and godly sorrow Christ followed at any hazard. It is the gate of the crucifixion of Self!
There are only two WAYS:
One of them is broad, easy, pleasant, comfortable, pleasing to the flesh, thronged with multitudes a primrose path, always tending downward, and bringing disastrous consequences.
The other way is difficult and narrow, as it were through a gorge between precipitous rocks which nearly meet, haunted by dangers and enemies, chosen by comparatively few. The Christian's toilsome pilgrimage and long campaign ah, how the road climbs up and up!
There are only two ENDS:
One of them is destruction
dark, hopeless, irretrievable,
the death of peace,
the death of hope,
the death of every good impulse,
the death of the soul.
The other end is life
life at its fullest, sublimest, sweetest,
life without sin and without sorrow,
life in the land of life and glory,
life in the presence of Christ to all eternity.
Consciously, deliberately, unequivocally, let me prefer . . .
the narrow gate,
the difficult way,
the end which is everlasting life!
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"Once I was young, and now I am old." Psalm 37:25
The old are apt to err by over-cautiousness and excessive prudence. As the years roll on, their first enthusiasms decline, and their first love grows cold. They are wary and careful to a degree. Yet, if this is their characteristic shortcoming and fault they have the wisdom of experience too. The revolution of seasons, when they have had the hearing ear and the understanding heart has taught them many priceless lessons. It is always worthwhile listening to a veteran disciple of Jesus Christ.
The young, on the other hand, are apt to err by rashness and undue daring. They do not reflect enough. They do not sufficiently count the cost. They do not look before and after. Often they are not very willing to hearken to advice. Yet they have the glowing heart, the fire of passionateness, the zeal, the bravery. Theirs is the courage that scorns the consequence. Theirs is the soul which girds itself for the fulfillment of great undertakings. Theirs is the passion to spend and be spent for Prince Emmanuel.
Surely he is the best Christian who combines the thoughtfulness of the old with the boldness of the young; who has the skill to calculate and plan and yet the decision and abandon to venture and achieve and win.
Unite these diverse and complementary qualities within my heart, my Lord. Make me a well-rounded and complete man in Christ Jesus.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Now abides faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13
Faith is good. It is the eye by which I see the wealth and loveliness of Jesus Christ my Savior, Master, Friend.
It is the hand by which I grasp and hold and possess all His treasures.
It brings me into contact, it keeps me in communion, with the glorious Lord, who is a place of broad rivers and streams. And so my sorrow is turned into singing, and my night into noonday. Faith apprehends and appropriates the unspeakable Gift of God; and without it, how poor am I!
And hope is good. It travels away and away, beyond the present, with its troubles and vexations into the glorious future! It rises with . . .
the apostle John, from the sea-girt rock of Patmos into the New Jerusalem;
John Bunyan, from the prison on Bedford Bridge into the Celestial City;
Richard Baxter, from the turmoil of Kidderminster into the Saints' Everlasting Rest.
Hope has wings, to bear me far from gloom and solitude and unfriendliness to the country where it is summer the whole year round!
But love is best for love is so unselfish. It does not seek its own not even its own spiritual prosperity and joy. It forgets itself, denies itself, sacrifices itself, and walks the road which the King of glory walked. It thinks . . .
of God above, to be adored;
of the world around, to be brightened;
of poor and needy hearts everywhere, to be cheered and refreshed.
Love prays and schemes and lives and labors not for itself at all.
So I covet love the most an unselfish love which takes its sunny tint and bloom, from God's boundless love of me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"His own new tomb." Matthew 27:60
Let me come and see the place where my Lord lay.
It was a disciple's tomb. For Joseph of Arimathea was a lover of Jesus, though hitherto he had followed the Master secretly. But indeed it will be well with me, if my affection, like his, discloses itself when Christ is ridiculed, shamed, and rejected. My devotion and obedience will be placed beyond dispute then.
It was a rich man's tomb. Not many mighty are called; but here and there, let me rejoice, the world's great ones are not ashamed to own their Lord. And, for myself, let me put all my little treasures at His disposal, and let me make a home for Him, not in my sepulcher but in my soul.
It was a new tomb. Never man had lain in it before. And surely it was most fitting that it should be so. Had not my Savior done a new thing in the world? Had He not routed enemies that before seemed impregnable? Had He not brought in a righteousness and a redemption that looked unattainable? He merited a fresh-made grave.
And it was a garden tomb. Around it sprang the little anemones, and the purple lilies stood kingly and tall, and the blood-red roses blossomed. Over it, the fruit trees bent lovingly. Ah, it was a chamber of rest which became my King. For He was changing the desert into the harvest field, and the wilderness into the garden of the Lord. He was planting Paradise on earth again.
My Lord slept well after that awful cross.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds and lounge on your couches, eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock and of choice calves fattened in the stall. You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David. You drink wine by the bowlful and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions. You care nothing about the ruin of your nation." Amos 6:4-6
There is an aristocracy to which it is no honor to belong. That which toils not, neither does it spin. That from which little good ever proceeds. That which is a root of much of the evil in the nation. I do not covet a place in the ranks of its members.
But there is the true aristocracy, in which I would gladly be numbered holy upright men, and gracious queenly women.
I would have an ideal of social life above the level of those who satisfy their souls with the fat of lambs and the calves out of the stall, with bowls of wine and the fragrant ointments. I pray to be delivered . . .
from the inanities and vulgarities of the world,
from the follies of fashion and pleasure,
from the pride of riches and prestige.
I would desire a share even of the sorrows of those who are grieved for the sins of the nation. I would carry Christ's cross, and be crowned with the sharp thorns of His love and shame. I would be a partaker in the afflictions of His people. For all other pleasures are not worth these pains.
It comes to this: I would be risen with my Lord, and would seek only and always the things which are above.
Earth's joys grow dim. Earth's glittering prizes are transient and unreal. Only he who does the will of God abides forever
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn." Mark 13:35
It will be well that, in the quiet evening-time, I should accustom myself to prayer and to meditation on the things which are unseen and eternal. I shall be prepared then to welcome my Lord, if in the darkening He should halt at my door and should call for me.
So, whenever I awake from my sleep and the gloom is all about me, I should train my mind to turn instinctively towards Christ and Heaven, as the magnetic needle quivers back after every deflection to the Pole. I shall not be taken by surprise then, if suddenly, while all the world slumbers, my King should summon me.
The dawning, I recollect, was Henry Vaughan's chosen moment for the Lord's return. So I should be up early, alert and active. And the first thoughts of the new day should be about my Master and His love and His commandment. Come, my heart, and dedicate yourself afresh to Him. I shall be ready then if He say, Friend, go up higher.
So, as I turn again to my earthly tasks, I must see that my spirit is resting and my life hid with Christ in God. I must resolve to toil, as beholding the invisible world and the invisible Lord. I shall be detached then from the present, if, in a happy moment, He takes me into the everlasting future.
I cannot tell when He will come again; I must be always wakeful, for I would not be ashamed before Him at His appearing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another" Romans 13:8
What do I owe my neighbor? What are his rights and claims, of which I must never be oblivious?
I certainly owe him truth. In his society I ought to be free from all ulterior motives, all reservations, all exaggerations, all lies, whether they are black or white. I should ever speak honestly and fairly with my friend as I would desire him to speak with me.
I owe him graciousness too. If I must be angry at times, I ought never to let the sun go down upon my anger. I should harbor no sour and sullen resentments. Nay, nay, in his hour of need, I should hasten to cheer and comfort his broken spirit and the wounded heart.
And I owe him help. My sympathy must not be a beautiful sentiment only, an idle emotion of my soul. It must travel beyond tender phrases and pitiful looks and the "droppings of warm tears." I ought to work and to give, to minister and to sacrifice.
Then, also, I certainly owe him inspiration. For his sake, as well as for my own all that is demoralizing and destructive must be far from my speech and my conduct. I must be noble-minded and holy. He must have from me that which uplifts and never that which degrades.
Above all, I owe him Godlike love nothing short of this, nothing poorer than this. I am to be kind, and tender-hearted, and forgiving, Paul says, even as God in Christ forgave me. I am to resemble that magnificent, sublime, unearthly Pattern of love. "As I have loved you, so you must love one another!" John 13:34
My neighbor makes great demands on me may I have daily grace to fulfill them.
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." Matthew 7:12
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"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
"We beheld His glory." I trust I can utter this personal note, and witness this good confession.
There is the glory of my Prophet. Who teaches like Jesus? Not Buddha, nor Confucius, nor Mohammed, nor all the princes of philosophy. He shows me my sin and then He shows me His salvation. He tells me of God's truth, God's love, God's sweet and sovereign will. He unveils the path I must take, the tasks of my life, the riches of my future. His words are wonderful.
There is the glory of my Priest. Once he offered Himself for me; He laid down His body and soul on the altar of death, both Victor and Victim. And so He redeemed me. Now He is my Advocate with the Father, pleading His own fulfillment of all laws. And God bends always to such reasoning and to such a Reasoner. What a High Priest I have!
There is the glory of my King. He rules within my soul; and if, as one has said, there are both a Cain and an Abel there, a demon and an angel He conquers the demon and seats the angel in the citadel. The soul is His microcosm but He is Prince of a great universe too. He rules over all men, all circumstances, all events, for my well-being. He performs in me and for me, His own good work. There is no King so omnipotent as the Lord Almighty.
I behold His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29
"Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." Ephesians 5:4
How many are the sins of the tongue! How many, and how deadly! From anger, from slander, from folly, from untruthfulness, from untender judgments, from impure and defiling speech good Lord, deliver me!
There is, Paul says, a foolish talking which is not fitting. My conversation may be insipid, vain, unprofitable, trivial and idle. It may do no good to anyone. It may kindle no consoling, strengthening, inspiring thought. It is not seasoned with the salt of grace. It has not the earnestness and the spiritual quality which befit the Christian.
There is, Paul says again, a filthy language which should never proceed from a disciple's mouth. It is suggestive of what is evil and unholy. It paints sin in mirthful and brilliant and enticing colors so that its real ugliness is not recognized. All such speech, I must abhor. I must not listen to it in others, nor tolerate it in myself.
There is, Paul says once more, a coarse joking which is not befitting in the believer. In whatever pleasantry and humor I may allow myself, I must always be refined, noble-hearted, and tender. There is a teasing, a wit, a banter, a sarcasm, which is neither noble-minded nor kind. It is enlisted in the service of sin, and not in that of Christ.
My Lord, help me today to set a watch over my lips, that I do not offend against You with my tongue. My purest speech will need much purifying, before it can join in the praises of Your temple on high. For that worship I would tune my voice now, by the tones of prayer, by wholesome speech, by the accents of love.
"A wholesome tongue is a tree of life." Proverbs 15:4
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Jesus said unto him: Receive your sight; your faith has saved you." Luke 18:42
Your faith has made you whole why is that? Not assuredly because of any intrinsic virtue resident in my faith but simply because it unites me in my bankruptcy with my strong Savior and all-sufficient Lord.
For faith is the eye, which turns away from the scrutiny of self and sin to the examination of Christ's illimitable grace. And what a satisfying and transcendent sight that is! Yet the eye does not create it it merely grasps a little of its surpassing splendors.
And faith is the ear, which refuses to be troubled any longer by harassing questions and suspicious doubts but listens in simplicity to what Jesus says. And what melody there is in His voice! Yet the ear does not evoke the chords and strains; it only drinks them in.
And faith is the hand, which leans on no lesser support than the Everlasting Arm of the King of kings, and so it does not tremble even when things look dark enough. What almighty strength is stored in Him! Yes in Him; not by any means in the frail hand which is clinging to Him.
And faith is the foot, which flees to Christ. It makes me at home in His fullness, His nearness, His friendliness. But my foot itself has small credit for that inevitable flight to Paradise.
Surely I am not surprised that this is the armor which invests me with unassailable might even my faith.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." Revelation 20:12
I saw the dead, John says, his eyes anointed with the Spirit's eye-salve. I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.
The vision has its sad and serious meaning:
It dissipates so roughly my fond and foolish dreams; for it is the assurance that even death will not open a door into quiet oblivion and rest. It overturns so completely my favorite tests and standards of conduct; for it carries me not to the bar of self or of society or of friends but of God and the great white throne. It rebukes all pride and exclusiveness; for it destroys class distinctions, and sets the small side by side with the great it tells me that rank and culture and correctness of belief will not help me, unless I have hidden myself in the high tower of the Rock of Ages. And it cuts off a thousand vain hopes. For who can conceal himself from the King's gaze? Who can escape the King's verdict?
But the vision has its bright and blessed meaning:
It promises the children of God a full and abundant life. It promises them a large and glorious brotherhood. It promises them a confirmed and unspotted holiness. The pillar of Cloud and Fire, which is so disquieting to Egypt is a token of good to Israel.
May the grace of God prepare me here for standing before Him yonder.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I have waited for Your salvation, O Lord." Genesis 49:18
Let mine be the heart which cannot be taken at unawares. Out of the trance of the prophet, out of the seventh Heaven to which he has been caught up Jacob is recalled to himself, to the weakness of a deathbed, to the cumbersome world. But he stands the test. He is not surprised into sin. He returns to the attitude of the pilgrim he has maintained so long. I pray that I may come forth as well from my moments of reaction.
And let mine be the heart which passes from earth unsatisfied. The patriarch is waiting for God's salvation, as he has been since he became God's child in Bethel seventy summers ago. Just so, how much grace I have not tasted yet! Oh the visions of my soul a stainless manhood, and the land of promise, and the throne of God! I hope to see these things one day.
And let mine be the heart which distrusts human help. Jacob has been transported into stirring times. He sees the victories of the tribes. The lion of Judah, and the wolf of Benjamin, and the serpent of Dan they will achieve much. But he needs a better Ally. He waits, he leans, on God. It is my sole and single hope. I am impotent without the Lord Almighty.
And let mine be the heart for which God keeps some nobler thing. It is long since the patriarch has seen the salvation he coveted. On the other side of death, his spirit has met with Christ, and he asks today for nothing more. So may it be with me at last.
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." John 16:23
"In that day" in the long and blessed day of the New Covenant which Christ's death and resurrection and ascension have ushered in. In the happy day in which it is my joy to live. In the day which is now and here.
In that day you shall ask Me nothing ask Me no questions. For your minds will be satisfied; your problems will be solved; and My revelation, so far as it concerns your deepest and highest interests, will be finished and complete. The dimness of the older dispensation will be over and gone. The Cross will make much clear, which was veiled and uncertain before. The risen and reigning Savior, will dispel many a cloud. The unction of the Holy Spirit will teach you all things. How great is my privilege to live in the day when the Sun of Righteousness shines undimmed and bright!
Yet in that day whatever you shall ask the Father, and He will give you whatever you ask in my name whatever you ask in your prayers and petitions at His throne. For if your knowledge has been marvelously enlarged, your heart's needs will still remain, and prayer will continue to be your vital breath and native air.
And, in the gospel day, there is . . .
the sacrifice and righteousness of the dying Christ to plead as your argument;
the intercession of the living Christ to add sweetness and merit to your requests;
the Spirit of the exalted Christ sent down into your soul.
What ample encouragement I have here to expect great things from God!
Is it not a good day? And it moves on to the hour when all things will be made new, and when the light of my soul will be multiplied sevenfold!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Let not then your good be evil spoken of." Romans 14:16
Let me not spoil my religion by censoriousness. Who am I that I should constitute myself my brother's judge? I have more than enough to scrutinize, more than enough to condemn, more than enough to correct in my own thoughts and ways! There are weeds in my garden, which I ought to be uprooting and destroying. I must show no sympathy with the spirit of petty criticism. I must give account of myself to God.
And let me not spoil my religion by selfishness. What may be harmless and good for me may be dangerous and deadly to the soul of another. I ought to consider this. I ought to be careful to make no one stumble, to plunge no one into perplexity, to lead no one astray. I should not live the isolated and solitary life of a hermit; my brothers and sisters have a thousand claims upon me. For their sakes, I should be prepared to surrender and crucify my own desires.
And let me not spoil my religion by coldness. With all my rectitude and wisdom, there may be a sad lack of warm and tender love. But "it is the heart and not the brain, that to the highest doth attain." Let me follow after the things which make for peace. Let me be kindly affectioned. Let me burn, as they said of the saintly missionary, "with the intense flame." Let me talk of Jesus Jesus whose exceeding grace the strong floods could not quench.
So my good shall not be evil spoken of. What a thousand pities it will be, if the holy vessels of the sanctuary would get rusted and unlovely in my hands! What a sadness and disgrace it will be, if on my lips the new song should lose its melody!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Psalm 34:6
"This poor man cried." Sometimes my prayer must be a cry sad, wild, importunate.
It may be the ill-desert of my sin that is pressing on me the knowledge of what it merits the sense of the divine displeasure which hangs over me like a thundercloud.
Or it may be the shame of my wrong-doing, so that I hate to think of what I have been, and blush to lift my face to the pure and radiant Presence.
Or it may be the onslaught of subtle and frightful temptation. I am ready to sink in cheerless gulfs of doubt, in awful abysses of vile iniquity, in masterful currents of worldliness.
Or it may be another's need which haunts me as though it were my own, and all my soul goes out in that old, old yearning, "Oh that Ishmael might live before You!"
Storms are sudden and waters deep, and frequently my little boat is in danger of sinking, and I can do nothing else but cry.
But when this poor man cried the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. "There is no justice," Olive Schreiner asserts; "all things are driven about by blind chance." But his dismal creed is not true. God lives God listens God answers me!
Blessed be His name, His arm is not shortened, and His ear has not grown heavy. The revolution of centuries makes no change in Him. His enrichment of multitudes, leaves His grace as full and victorious as before. There is nothing that touches Him, nothing that sets in motion the machinery of His omnipotence, nothing that prevails with His tender heart like a cry!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes!" Romans 1:16
Let Paul's conception of the gospel of Christ, be mine. May the great and absorbing sights on which I never weary dwelling, be my Savior's cross and my Savior's empty tomb! For the one speaks to me of the precious blood shed to wash away my ill-desert and my defilement. And the other speaks of the living strength and love which will never fail nor forsake me. He died; He was buried; He rose again and He had me in His thought all the while!
Let Paul's commendation of the gospel of Christ be mine. It is the power of God, said he. Power indeed in its strangest guise, for never did anyone reign from such an unlikely and unlovely throne before! Yet power in its happiest operation, leaving no track of red ruin behind it like the legions of Rome bringing, on the contrary, salvation and peace and life. And power in its widest sweep, its virtue and efficacy reaching out to everyone who believes.
Let Paul's enthusiasm for the gospel of Christ be mine. "For I am not ashamed," he declared. And neither will I be ashamed. Every argument of reason bids me to glory in Jesus and His good news. Every page of history testifies to the mighty things which He has done. Every fact of personal experience summons me to thank Him who has loved me and given Himself for me I have heard Him myself, and I know.
Let me tell it out firmly, joyously, hopefully the old-new story of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With so much ice around me, I must heap more fuel on the inner fire. I must rouse my soul to a more vigorous faith, a more steadfast loyalty, a more stalwart confession.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way." Acts 19:23
It will be a significant and encouraging sign, if in connection with my life, there should arise a great disturbance about the Way.
It will prove that my Christianity is thorough-going. It is not merely a convenient and conventional profession. It is a deep and vital experience of my soul. It has altered the current of my history. It has transformed the character of my being. It draws sharp, decided, distinct the line of cleavage between what I was and what I am. It is so unmistakable that it attracts notice, and excites wonder, and awakens dislike.
It will prove, moreover, that my Christianity is public-spirited. I am not content when all is well with the little world which is myself. I travel out in thought and longing and prayer and effort to reach the greater world outside the neighbors round about me, the town where I live, the country of which I am a citizen, the whole round earth, east and west and north and south.
And it will prove that my Christianity is aggressive. It cannot meet an idolatry, a sin, without condemning and opposing it. It is salt, with a certain biting forcefulness about it. It is light shining into the dark places, revealing the ugly sinfulness of the world around me.
This is the Christianity which is greatly needed but which is sure to encounter tribulation. Let me make very sure that it is mine.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul." 2 Chronicles 15:12
Long ago, in our own land, godly men and women used to enter into personal covenant with God; and often they would sign the covenant with the ruddy life-blood drawn from their veins. There ought to be something like this covenant personal, irrevocable, whole-hearted in my Christian life.
There should be a moment of specific dedication. There should be a conscious and decided surrender . . .
of thought and conduct,
of body and soul,
of time and means.
There should be the vow of devotement and allegiance: "Accept and keep and inhabit and use me. Solemnly, willingly, fully, finally I yield myself to You." By a deed that I can remember, at a season which stands out clear before my mind, in a way which leaves no room for dispute I ought to put myself into God's hands, to be His willing slave.
It is best when this deliberate and unfaltering consecration, this solemn and yet happy covenanting, follows immediately on the experience of conversion. As soon as God's Spirit has made me a new creation in Christ Jesus I should give Him the heart He has quickened, and the life He has saved. But it is often delayed until a later time in the disciple's history, and sometimes it seems forgotten altogether; and then the man loses much joy and much power. He does not he cannot glorify God as he should. Better that it should be done in the evening of life, than never done at all; but for this, as for so much beside, the morning of life is most fit.
Have I sworn my commitment unto the Lord with all my heart?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The Tempter came to Him." Matthew 4:3
Temptation is certain. If anyone will escape its onslaught and seduction and pain, it will be my Lord Jesus Christ; but even into His stainless heart, the cunning and cruel foe dares to seek an entrance. Because my nature is sinful, because my world is evil, because my adversary the devil haunts and dogs my steps it is inevitable that I should be tempted.
And temptation is many-sided. Out in the wilderness it assailed Jesus in His body and in His soul. It appealed to His physical hunger, and to His longing to have the whole round earth for His own, and to His perfect and unquestioning trust in His Heavenly Father. Temptation has as many channels and avenues by which it approaches me. In secret and in public it comes to me, in the world and in the Church, from my opponents and from my friends as well.
But temptation may be very blessed. It was so to my Lord, and it may be so to me. It is sent to reveal to me of what I am, and to make stronger and simpler my confidence and hope in God, and to prove to me the value of the sword of the Word, and to give me new assurances of the strength of prayer. It is not a hostile but a friendly force, not an antagonist but an ally. It should leave me wiser and holier than I was.
And, when the conflict is over, God's angels will come and minister to me. Indeed they have been with me all the time, nearer than the wild beasts of the desert-place, closer than the prince of Hell in his strong armor of craft and power. But, now that the fight is ended, I shall taste the comforting gentleness and strong sustenance of their society.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"We command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that they work in quietness and eat their own bread." 2 Thessalonians 3:12
Let me think of my daily work, even if it should be very humble and inconspicuous as hallowed and sacred.
It is God's ordinance for me. He has appointed me my place and my duties; He would have me occupy the one and fulfill the other so that He may be glorified. It is the King of Heaven who bids me discharge those tasks which sometimes look so common and trivial. He says, "If any will not work, neither shall he eat."
It is the path which Jesus trod before me. He wrought at the carpenter's bench. He waited, in the unnoticed experiences of Nazareth, for thirty quiet years before His public ministry began. I should be thankful and glad to hold fellowship with Him. It is good to learn the secret of Christ's lowliness.
It is a means of grace to my soul. In these common toils and labors, what lessons of wisdom and trust and patience and holiness are taught my heart! I shall miss a great deal, if I am slothful in business. I shall never be a godly Christian, if I forfeit and despise the difficult discipline.
It is the sphere where my Lord may find me at the last. He may lead me straight from my accustomed and monotonous work to sit down with Him at His own right hand. And if I am performing it to His praise, how sweet the transition will be! Today, as it were the kitchen in my Father's house; tomorrow, the very audience-chamber and pure white throne!
So I shall be content to fill a little space for Christ's sake and in Christ's name.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest!" Psalm 4:6
When the soul is in sore straits, there is no solace and no cure comparable to prayer. Let me take the wings of a dove, and fly away, and be at rest not in neglect of my appointed tasks but in communion with my all-sufficient Lord. "Up, my drowsing eyes! Up, my sinking heart! Up to Jesus Christ!"
Prayer recalls the great and precious promises, and dwells on their wealth of meaning, and appropriates them as a personal possession.
Prayer deepens and intensifies the sense of dependence, so that, instead of planning and toiling and fighting for itself, the soul clings and trusts and cleaves to Him who is its Lover and its Beloved.
Prayer brings the remembrance that there is One my King, my Father who is wiser, mightier, immeasurably more prevailing, than all my adversaries.
Prayer brings the strength of Heaven itself to my aid. There are a thousand valid reasons why I should pray and should not faint.
And the centuries behind me, since the old days when storm-driven psalmists sent their supplications up to their Lord are filled with God's answers to prayer. His seasonable mercies and deliverances sparkle bright through all these dim bygone years, like the stars which illumine the midnight sky. I am compassed about by a great cloud of witnesses, and they cry with one voice: "Ask, and You shall receive. Seek, and you shall find."
So, in the windy storm, I will give myself to prayer.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But we see Jesus." Hebrews 2:9
I see Jesus and my most vexing questions are answered, my most grievous misgivings dispelled.
I contrast my littleness and weakness with the vastness of the material world round about me, and with the inexorable action of God's natural laws, and I am sorely disquieted; what am I among these constellations and systems and irresistible forces? But He redeems me at a tremendous cost, and I know that I must be a thing of price.
I look at my solitude in the midst of the millions who people the universe; and again I am filled with perplexity and foreboding. But He loves me and gives Himself for me; He sanctifies and keeps and chastens and cleanses me me apart from all others. So I am comforted, for I understand that I am not forgotten.
I think of my guiltiness and sin in the presence of the holy law; and this thought begets still keener doubts and worse alarms. But His Cross assures me that there are forgiveness and welcome for guilty men. It justifies me altogether. It solves my every difficulty, victoriously, touchingly, divinely.
I am saddened by the shortness and transitoriness of my life; once more trouble is born within my soul. But then there rises in front of me the sight of Him who has conquered death as my Representative and Forerunner, leaving behind Him a rifled and empty grave. Here is the very consolation for which I yearn.
The vision of Jesus is indeed the medicine for all my distresses. It never fails to effect a cure. It ends my every soul sickness, solves my every riddle, peoples my every desolation, defeats my every dread.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God!" Luke 12:6
Let me learn a lesson from the sparrow. I shall find him a wise and gracious teacher.
The sparrow lives in God's royal House. The sparrow has found a house, and the swallow a nest, where they may lay their young, even Your altars, O Lord Almighty. What the bird does unconsciously let me do consciously and willingly. Let me feel, and be comforted by feeling that the palace of the King is my home here and hereafter. Let me dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The sparrow feeds at God's wealthy Table. Behold the birds of the Heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; and Yet my Father feeds them. I would gladly live as freely and happily and trustfully, taking with thankfulness what my liberal Lord is sure to send. A mighty Hand caters for me, a tender Heart remembers my hunger and thirst. Jehovah Himself sees me and provides.
The sparrow dies under God's compassionate Eye. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them, though their little span of life is ended now, is forgotten in the sight of God. Surely, surely, His child will be still more dear to Him. My soul, are you afraid His power shall fail?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The voice of one that cries." Isaiah 40:3
The voice of one that cries it is what I gladly would be.
Simply a voice, not a personality that obtrudes itself and makes prominent its presence and importance. I would not go to my Lord's work in my own vaunted wisdom and my own imagined strength. I would be humbled and emptied. I would be nothing if He is All. Let me be only an ambassador and servant uttering the message of my Master and King. Let me be only a vessel which holds and conveys the Water of everlasting life. Let me be only a voice whose tones and syllables and utterances are taught by my Savior, and are concerned with Him, and sound forth His praise and seek His glory.
Yet a distinct and individual voice not a mere echo and reminiscence. I would not take up, and appropriate, and reiterate just what others around about me are saying, or just what those who have gone before me have handed down. I would have a clear accent of my own. I would have a definite and unmistakable language. My King has had His secrets for me, for me apart from my brothers and sisters in the family; and these secrets should give their distinctive aroma and perfume to the gospel I speak.
The things which I have seen and heard I myself; that which I beheld, and my hands handled, concerning the Word of Life that I would declare to others also, that they may have fellowship with me; yes, and my fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
The voice of one that cries by God's grace I shall write the designation over all my history.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For even Christ did not please Himself." Romans 15:3
Even Christ did not please Himself. And Christ is the Standard and Pattern of my life.
He stooped to the little children He who is the Lord of glory and the Prince of the kings of the earth. He took them up in His arms, and called them by their names, and breathed over them His blessing. So let me carry the young lamb's heart among the full-grown flocks.
He suffered long with backward disciples. He gave them line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little of the Word of Life. He never lost patience with them never once, however they might provoke Him. So let me bear and forbear.
He welcomed timid and doubting souls. When one came to Him by night, He did not rebuke his fearfulness but took him and expounded to him the plan of salvation. So let me encourage the feeblest seeker after truth; I once groped in the dim twilight myself.
He hoped for the worst. The woman of the city, and the grasping tax-gatherer, and the robber on the tree He redeemed and saved. The jewel had fallen into the mire, and was all encrusted with foulness; but to His eyes it was a jewel still. So let me despair of none.
He loved His enemies. Father, forgive them He prayed almost with His last breath. Nothing could kill or destroy His exceeding grace. So let me overcome evil with good, and out of ruins help to raise temples to the glory of God.
Would that I might rise to this height of Christliness!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"We were with Him in the Holy Mount." 2 Peter 1:18
Peter never forgot the Holy Mount. In his old age he recalls its glories. It was an undecaying memory in the veteran's heart. But he knew now that it was better for him and for the others not to sojourn there, as he had proposed on that supreme night.
That would have brought back the happy and triumphant saints, the spirits of the just made perfect, Moses and Elijah, to this world of conflict and evil. I cannot but yearn at times for my "loves, my best-beloved of all"; but I know that with them it is well it is far better. They rest from labor. They are clothed in white. They see the face of the King.
That would have blotted out from the gospel, the redemption won by the Lamb of God on Calvary. Had the Transfiguration rapture been prolonged, it must have kept Jesus from His cross. But I cannot do without Golgotha and its shameful Tree. There the Sinless gives Himself for me, the sinful. There the condemnation is borne by the Innocent and I am condemned no more.
That would have exaggerated one side of the Christian life. I need the Mount of prayer and ecstasy there I forget my weariness, there faith and hope spread their wings again. But there must be more in my life. I have to fight sin in the work-a-day world. I have to rescue the captives at the foot of the hill. I have to glorify my Father in Heaven.
So Moses and Elijah, and Jesus the Savior, and Peter and James and John, and I too we must not stay on the Mount!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2
"I determined not to know anything." But is not this to starve mind and soul, to forego much that is desirable, to condemn myself to a meager and ascetic experience? Will not the Pauline gospel narrow and circumscribe my life?
No for the gospel touches all my activities. Only from Jesus and the Cross, can I derive power to live aright. Here is the pardon which sets me free to serve intensely, to rejoice daily, to dare and endeavor and do. Here is the motive to ardent zeal and patient diligence. Here is the channel too, rough and stony, through which the Holy Spirit comes to me the Spirit who strengthens me with might.
And the gospel transfigures all my sorrows. If I am familiar with Jesus Christ and Him crucified if I know that innermost peace which has its fountain on the hill of Calvary I have a balm for every pain and a solace in every grief. The wood of this shameful and saving Tree, turns . . .
my Marahs into Elims,
my bitterness into sweetness,
my loneliness and desolation into rest and company and calm. His Cross is the remedy for all my ills.
And the gospel ennobles all my future, through the years of time and eternity. It is a gospel which will not fail me in any emergency that can confront my soul. It will make the Valley of the Shadow of Death bright for me. It will open the golden gates of the City of God before me. It will continue a wonder and a delight through the everlasting years of Heaven.
There is no impoverishment of my nature in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And Elisha prayed, 'O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.' Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha!" 2 Kings 6:17
I only need the eyes which God has opened and I shall see that all things are working together for my good.
I shall see His providences busy promoting my truest welfare. Prosperity easily spoils the soul and adversity easily discourages it. But, let my vision be purged and illuminated and intensified by the touch of the divine hand and I shall trace in light and in darkness, in rest and in storm, in joy and in grief the presence and grace of my Father who does all things well. I will go unharmed now through the Enchanted Ground; I will have a song in the midnight and the dungeon.
I shall see His angels surrounding me to enshield me from wrong. Usually the angels are invisible. They are my bodyguard of ministering spirits, sent forth to watch on my behalf; yet a veil is drawn between them and me, and my eyes are blinded. But faith removes the obscuring veil, and I know that the mountain is filled with horses and chariots of fire!
I shall see His Holy Spirit occupying my being and perfecting that which concerns me. And this is the best sight of all: God Himself . . .
dwelling in my heart,
subduing my sin,
increasing my wisdom,
ripening my character,
leading me on and up
there is nothing which is so much to be desired. Now and always it is the assurance of the noblest blessedness. To have God not simply near but within my soul it is a more satisfying vision than that which Elisha's servant witnessed in Dothan.
He lives victoriously, whose eyes God opens.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then Agrippa said to Paul: Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" Acts 26:28
It is probable that Agrippa spoke in irony and scorn.
His knowledge stood in his way. He knew the prophets, the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the religion of the Jews. He imagined that nothing more was required of him. How pitiful it will be if my intellectual knowledge should become a hindrance to my humble and clinging faith! May my head never oppose and ruin my heart nor the light that is in me, be the fountain of present and perpetual darkness.
His pride held him back. The sect of the Christians was held in contempt and everywhere spoken against. Not many wise, and not many mighty, and not many noble were called. Agrippa, poor little kinglet though he was did not care to be the companion of fishermen and peasants and slaves. Ah, may no lofty thoughts, no foolish and fatal sense of my own importance prevent me from allying myself with the meek and humble people of God.
His resentment rose up and said "No!" He was perhaps angry that Paul should make that personal appeal to him, there in the presence of the crowded and brilliant court. And what if some silly displeasure of mine at the manner of Christ's approach, at the importunities of those men and women with whom is the secret of the Lord lead me to despise and spoil my day of grace?
Agrippa is not the only one who has lost and thrown away the moment of his merciful visitation. Let me watch and pray!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6
I should not be anxious about anything. It is true that I am to exercise my mind calmly and judiciously, with reference both to my temporal affairs and to my spiritual prosperity. There is abundant room for my planning, my prudence, my industry, my zeal. But whatever goes beyond these, is sin. I must not permit myself to be worried or shaken with vague uncertainties and ceaseless alarms. For today and tomorrow and the time to come I will learn to trust God more. I will lean on my Beloved.
I should be prayerful for everything. Prayer counteracts the manifold dangers in which I live, summoning spiritual allies from unseen worlds. Prayer corrects the feverish restlessness of my heart bringing me into God's atmosphere of calm. Prayer enables me to continue steadfastly in well-doing, giving me back old energy. Prayer endues me with marvelous influence over others, opening not only the door of the Celestial City, but the door of human hearts, and my King comes in.
I should be thankful for anything.
For the persecution and the prison.
For famine and nakedness and peril and sword.
For gloom and difficulty and hindrance and trouble as well as for pleasantness and triumph and joy. Tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope the hope which makes not ashamed. All is right which seems most wrong if it is God's sweet will.
And this is the life which is life indeed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." Matthew 5:13
"You are the salt of the earth," my Master says.
Salt is diffusive. It spreads itself rapidly through the substance with which it is mingled. Thus should it be with the grace of Christ in my soul. It ought to go forth through succeeding generations, forward through the ages of eternity. It ought to spread itself in ever-widening circles, until only the eye of God is able to trace it until nothing but the apocalypse of the great day will reveal its extent to me.
Salt is preserving. It has the power to prevent corruption and decay. Just so, I should be a means of saving the earth from moral putrefaction and death. Not only for my sake should the poor defiled world continue to live in God's sight but by my effort too. I must rebuke and deny my besetting sins. I must remind others of neglected duty. I must compel them to pay tribute to Christ and His law.
Salt is health-giving. The use of it is needful if the body is to live and grow. So I should be seasoning my whole neighborhood with wholesome piety by making the truth known, by exhibiting the beauty of holiness, by intercessory prayer, by persuasive and heaven-taught speech. Like Andrew, I must bring my brother to Jesus. Like Paul, I must travail in birth until Christ is formed in souls.
Let me be careful that the salt in me does not lose its savor. What if I should be growing cold and unprofitable?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42
A cup of cold water given to God's servant, is crowned with a prophet's rich reward. It deserves to be.
For let me think what the cup of water means for the disciple who receives it. Strength to journey another mile or two on the pilgrim road. The discovery of a comrade who is like-minded with himself. A new proof of his Lord's unfailing remembrance of him. A new topic for praise. A new message of grace and mercy and peace.
And let me think what it means for the friend who gives it. An observant eye, open to the necessities of Christ's kingdom. A warm heart, anxious to do good to every member of the household of faith. A quiet love, proving its reality and its depth by obedience to the smallest of the commandments.
And let me think what it means for the heavenly Master who is looking on. It is a proof to Him that He has two followers instead of one. I cannot serve God's people, counting it joy to do so, without a true regard for God Himself. When He sees what I do, it is a token to my Lord that He is dear to me. He knows that I am on His side in a world where His friends are all too few.
Therefore let me watch for opportunities of doing these little kindnesses. Let me run to help any child of God and any disciple of Jesus.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9
It is well when the Word of God governs my personal life.
It should control my body with its members and passions.
It should solve the puzzling questions of my intellect.
It should answer the indictment and allay the fears of my conscience.
It should fill my imagination with pure and inspiring pictures.
It should make my will the happy bond-servant of Christ.
It should satisfy the cravings of my heart for the perfect and eternal love.
And it is well when the Word of God governs my home life. When I teach it to the children, when I talk of it sitting in the house and walking by the way, lying down and rising up I am giving them . . .
the sublimest theme for meditation,
the best rule of conduct,
the strongest safeguard against evil,
the passport to the family of the Lord and the city of the eternal King.
I am rendering them the most noble service conceivable!
And it is well when the Word of God governs my social life. Let it be written on the posts of my house and on my gates. Then my neighbors will know where I stand, and whom I serve. They will not come to me to talk gossip and scandal, and to whisper away the good name of others with idle tongues. They will not wish me to be a partner with them in any evil work. They will be drawn rather towards the Book and towards the Lord.
In my personal history,
in the relationships of my home,
in my social fellowship
may God rule through His Word, with an undisputed scepter and a gracious tyranny!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"They will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." Zechariah 12:10
I had my own part and lot in bringing the unutterable anguish on the Lamb of God. Not the chief priests alone, and Judas the false disciple, and the rough Roman legionaries, and the fickle multitudes not these alone were His crucifiers.
I wove the crown of thorns for His brow!
I nailed Him to the shameful Tree!
My disobedience and my guiltiness led Him out to His bitter death!
But I am healed with His stripes. If I am humbled and convicted of sin when I consider Calvary I am gladdened also. After the midnight of poignant self-accusation there is the dawn of a divine and endless peace. It was for me that my Lord's unblemished body was bared and broken! He assumed my misery, and reaped the harvest I had sown. Thus I, once Graceless of the City of Destruction but now Christian of the Pilgrim's narrow way I have rest by His sorrow, and life by His death.
And all that I have to do, is to look upon Him. Not by works of righteousness, not by tears and penances and prayers and gifts, do I with difficulty and after long delays, attain to salvation. My redemption is fulfilled already, and I need simply to turn with a trustful spirit to Him who has accomplished it. This is the medicine of Heaven which ends my disease and despair.
First I am stricken with self-reproach. But, as I linger on the Hill of the Cross my sorrow is changed into song, and I go on my way with a merry heart.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5
James practiced what he preached. In the early Church he was known pre-eminently as the man of prayer. Men said that his knees were worn as hard as a camel's, through his frequent kneeling. And, when he died a martyr's death in Jerusalem, at the hands of cruel persecutors, "the just one is praying for you," bystanders said. Was it not one chief secret of his power, that, whenever he lacked wisdom, he asked it of God?
So it has always been. The apostolic men, the saintly men, the heroic servants of God, the strong soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ, have everywhere and always prayed without ceasing.
Martin Luther's ejaculations' helped him to witness his good confession the Pope. John Welsh spent eight hours out of the twenty-four in communion with God, and therefore he was equipped and armed to dare and to suffer. David Brainerd rode through the endless American woods praying, and so he fulfilled a long time in a short time, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. John Wesley came out from his seclusion to change the face of England. Andrew Bonar did not once miss his way to the mercy-seat, and his fellowship with Heaven made him the winsome Christian he was.
Ah yes, if I would attempt great things for God, and achieve something before I die I must pray at every moment and in every place.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces." Ecclesiastes 2:8
There is much which money will never gain for me so why then should I weary myself to accumulate it?
It cannot buy the peace of home. It is not wealth that wins me the truest friends, the souls to whom I can cling in calm and stormy weather a sister to suffer long with me, a brother to defend me, a wife to pardon and cheer and prompt and inspire. All the gold and diamonds of Indies will fail to purchase one of these consummate treasures.
It cannot buy the peace of heart. "The world," James Renwick said, in his quaint seventeenth-century English, "will never fill the heart of man, for the heart is three-cornered, and the world is round." There must remain angles and nooks unoccupied and empty, possessed rather by poverty and misery and confusion and sin. The richest man may be the unhappiest man. Rest of conscience and mind and soul, is not one of the wares of the market-place, to be purchased by my purse.
It cannot buy the peace of God. His forgiveness does not come to me in response to my gifts and labors and penances. His fellowship is not secured with any equivalents which I think I can offer. His holiness is not sold over a counter. These best blessings are free as free as the air and the dew and the sunlight. God is given away gratis; Heaven is mine for the asking.
So I will not hanker after money but rather after the blessings which money cannot procure. In this age, when many go careworn through the day and lie awake the long night scheming and dreaming, I will pray, "Give me neither poverty nor riches. Give me just enough to satisfy my needs." Proverbs 30:8
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"IF anyone sins we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1
"We know that we have come to know Him IF we obey His commands." 1 John 2:3
Here is the "If" of rich encouragement and good cheer. If any man sins we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. I am always offending, always coming short, always disappointing the tender and holy heart of God. But day by day my Intercessor makes no pause. He pleads His own obedience to the law I break so often and so sadly. His blood, His love, His entreaty, He Himself speak for me with a perseverance which never falters and with a power which never fails. Thus is my desperate case relieved, and all my necessity met.
But here again is the "If" of solemn admonition and obligation. Hereby know we that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. Only if my heart loves His perfect and spiritual and searching law, only if my feet run with alacrity the way He has marked out for me have I any assurance that He is mine and I am His. I may stumble twenty times a day; I may fail to realize my own ideals and hopes; but is there in my soul the delight, steadfast and true, in the injunctions He has laid down for me and the path He has determined? Not otherwise, have I any certainty that I stand among His sons and daughters.
My consolation and my responsibility go hand in hand. I have no right to assume that Jesus is my Paraclete in the heavens unless I am doing His will on the earth. Suppose that I keep my envy when I kneel and pray, or my vaulting ambition, or my luxuriousness, or my desire for revenge I am disobeying His commandment and I cannot have His advocacy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived!" Numbers 21:9
I see that the bronze serpent reproduces on a larger scale, the fiery flying serpents which have wrought such misery and havoc. Just so, I am reminded of my Savior, made in the likeness of sinful flesh, burdened with the awful weight of human sin, numbered with the transgressors, identified so closely with my shame and evil.
I see, too, that the pole on which the bronze serpent is lifted assumes the shape of a cross. And thus I have a hint of Calvary. It was by the sorrowful cross, and by the glorious sacrifice consummated there it was by nothing else that my redemption was perfected.
And I see that Moses is not content when the serpent is made but himself points the sufferers to it. It tells me what I must do, if I have been healed by God. It is not enough for dying men that Jesus has been lifted up. I must unveil Him to them and invite them to Him.
I see, once more, that simple faith is possessed of measureless power. Around the serpent on the pole, are the poison-smitten and perishing. But they are looking upward, and there is life in that look. Only let me turn to Jesus, only let me get others to turn, and the soul's deliverance is assured and certain.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out." John 6:37
O wide and measureless love of Christ! There is nothing in the earth or sky or sea to rival it.
It matters not from what quarter I may come. No longer from Jerusalem and Olivet alone does the way ascend to Heaven. From the Arctic ice and the African forest the soul finds its road to Jesus. The love of the Savior has room in it for the whole world for a thousand worlds as vast and as evil as this.
And it matters not with what burden I may come. Let it be, that no one has ever sinned quite so darkly as I have done, against such light, with such aggravation; let it be that others will have nothing whatever to do with me; still He will welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve. He is the Helper of the helpless, the Physician not of the dying only but of the dead.
And it matters not at what hour I may come. It is best assuredly, for me, for Him, for all, that I should come in the morning of life, when life is young. But at noonday, in the evening, at midnight, His doors stand open still, and yet there is room in His home and His heart. When I have wearied out all other friends, when I am repulsed from all other gates His gate is wide, His friendship is within my reach.
"Here," said the Pilgrim, "is a poor burdened sinner, fleeing from the City of Destruction but going to Mount Zion. I would therefore, Sir, know if you are willing to let me in." And the Man at the Gate, the Porter whose name is Goodwill, made answer, "I am willing with all my heart."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross!" Matthew 27:40
Too often is the old taunt repeated still.
This is the cry of the self-ignorant soul. It does not understand its own great sinfulness and need nor yet the justice and holiness of the God with whom it has to do. It lives in a fool's paradise, and anticipates no danger. It is like the citizens of Pompeii, rejoicing in the gaiety of the town, and never thinking of the ruin the volcano would bring. So it sees no urgent necessity for the agony of the Savior on the Hill of Reproach, nor for the accursed Tree.
This is the cry, too, of the self-righteous soul. It believes that it can merit and achieve its own salvation. It is not willing to be indebted, first and last, to the doing and the dying of Another. It shrinks from classing itself among the chief of sinners, who owe everything to the precious blood of the Lamb of God. It is a traveler to an El Dorado which it cannot discover; but it will not admit its inability and failure. So it has its quarrel with Calvary and the Sufferer there.
And this is the cry of the self-indulgent soul. It feels little love for a Savior who summons it to participation in His sorrows. It recoils from that stern commandment of His If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. It clings fast and eagerly to its own ease, and to the half-hearted and indeterminate religion of the majority. So it would gladly have a Redeemer who does not drink the bitter cup.
From spiritual shallowness,
from spiritual pride,
from spiritual sloth and ease
O Lord, deliver me!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord: O Lord my God, let this boy's life return to him!" 1 Kings 17:21
If I would be used in quickening the dead, what prerequisites must I possess?
Life is one. I must stretch myself, so to speak, on the soul I would see new-born. I must breathe my own breath into it, or, let me rather say, God's breath in me. The dying will never bless the dying. If I would be a good physician, the life of Heaven must be pulsing and coursing through my own veins.
Love is another. I must take the dead child into my arms and carry him into my chamber. Around him the embrace of my compassion and affection must be thrown. There is a cold and statuesque and patronizing way of dealing with sinful hearts which never can benefit them. May God keep me far from it.
Prayer is needed too the energized prayer of a righteous man which is of great force. I must besiege Heaven with my cries. I must call in the omnipotence of God the Holy Spirit. I must believe and be sure that there is no problem too difficult for my Lord. I must seek and expect His intervention.
And perseverance is essential. The answer I crave may be delayed. For a while there is no change on the soul so dear to me. For a while I spend my strength for naught. Then I must return again and again and again to the throne of the King. I must refuse to accept a denial. I must enmesh God, as it were, in His own promises. I must have power and prevail.
That is how the dead are raised to newness of life. The miracle is not obsolete to a heart of this caliber.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth." Ephesians 5:9
The fruit of the Light is in all Goodness. It is grace embodied. It is vanity, and selfishness, and evil temper, and malice, and envy shamed and burnt out of the soul by the holy fire of the love Christ. It is the warmth, the tenderness, the generosity, the charity, which are learned beneath the Cross. Lord, I wish to be good.
And the fruit of the Light is in all Righteousness. It is not only fervent feeling and passionate devotion. It is high principle, scrupulous honor, stern fidelity to duty. It is the sanctification of the conscience. It is loyalty to God's holy and perfect law. It is the quality, the distinct aroma, of that heart which is in thorough and willing sympathy with God's law. I would scorn to stoop to anything crooked or unworthy or doubtful. Lord, I wish to be righteous.
And the fruit of the Light is in all Truth. Something more than truth of words my speech, my action, my thought must be consistent and harmonious and transparent. There is no 'image'. There is no make-believe. There is no pretense. There is no "little pitted speck" in the garnered fruit. The man is an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit. I would be saved from sham work, sham feeling, sham service, sham orthodoxy. Lord, I do wish to be true.
Let Your Light shine on me, and in me, and through me, more and more. Help me to walk day by day with my unseen Savior, who is Light of Light!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." Romans 5:20
Grace abounds to the chief of sinners. John Bunyan tells me that I ought to look diligently for a twofold treasure the treasure of my first and my second experience of this grace of God, the blessing of the threshold and the blessing of the home.
There is my first experience. For do I not remember the word that laid hold on me, when I was sunk in sin and misery? Do I not recall my terror of conscience, and fear of death and Hell; my tears and prayers also yes, how I sighed under every hedge for mercy? Have I forgotten the the stable, the barn, and the like, where He first visited my soul? No, no; I will praise Him always for this first experience of His grace. Oh happy day, that fixed my choice on Christ, my Savior and my God!
But there is my second experience too. If I have sinned against light, sinned after being brought home from the waste wilderness and the far country; if I have been tempted to blaspheme; if I am down in despair; if I think God is fighting against me; if Heaven is hid from my eyes; and yet and yet out of them all the Lord delivers me: here are new themes and motives for thanksgiving. As a child no less than as a sinner, within the Father's house as well as outside its walls, I have tasted and seen that God is gracious.
By the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ He leads me out of the land of sand and thorns into the land flowing with milk and honey. This new morning I recall and commemorate the plenitude of His mercy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"We love Him, because He fret loved us." 1 John 4:19
The great, profound, sublime affection of God my Savior I am to reproduce it in my own degree; I am to manifest it in turn.
My love should have the same objects as God's. To what does His grace travel forth, eager to help and bless? To the misery and peril of perishing men, and to the sadness and broken-heartedness of His own children. So my love must strive and pray for the redemption of the sinner, and for the comfort of the saint.
And my love should be the same in character with God's. It ought to shrink from no effort, no sacrifice, no martyrdom. I must not weep over the distresses of sufferers whom I am doing nothing to aid. My affection must go out to actual living men, surmounting every barrier to get close to them, bearing with them in unconquerable patience though they disappoint its hopes.
And my love should seek the same goal and end as God's. It will not be content with conferring outward help and temporal blessing. It will long and labor to lift souls to the loftiest heights to forgiveness, to peace, to holiness, to the hope of glory, to where I am seated myself in the redeemed household of my Lord and King.
I wonder whether this is the heart which beats within me, and which animates all I say and do. The golden sun may mirror itself in a raindrop, until the raindrop flashes like a diamond; and my redeeming God is to have His miniature in me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"You set a crown of pure gold on his head!" Psalm 21:3
There are three diadems which my Lord will give to me, if I fight the good fight and keep the faith.
There is the crown of righteousness. "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing!" 2 Timothy 4:8
At last, I shall not only be perfectly justified, but perfectly just. At last, I shall be delivered not simply from sin's punishment and from sin's power but from sin's presence! At home with a righteous God, my righteousness will be without spot or blemish or any such thing. I shall see the beauty of my King, and I shall share it too!
There is the crown of glory. "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away!" 1 Peter 5:4
All honor and majesty and might and dominion are to be mine. That old royalty, which I forfeited and which I cannot fully regain on this side the grave, will be completely restored. I shall have a sweeter and stabler Eden than Adam ever knew. I shall sit down with Christ on His kingly seat. I who once was poor shall be gloriously rich. Instead of the rags of the slave I shall be clothed in the best robe of the child.
There is the crown of life. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12
Life, without touch of disease or fear of death for my now tempest-tossed and sickness-stricken flesh. Life, without tarnish of evil, without possibility of failure, without shadow of sorrow, for my struggling and falling and yearning soul. Life, which is length of days forever and ever.
This is written in the visions of the Revelation about my Master and King: "On His head were many crowns!" But the far-reaching and glorious word holds true of the servant, as well as of the Lord. It is a prophecy of what awaits me in eternal bliss!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS!" Luke 23:38
Over His head they set up His accusation written, This is Jesus the King of the Jews. In Greek, Latin and Hebrew they wrote it, and "God," as George Herbert says, "God held their hands while they wrote!" For this title was a little gospel, told out in the three great languages of the earth.
If, like the Greeks, I prize beauty and wisdom above everything beside, it says, "Here is Jesus your King!" He, He alone, can create beauty within your soul, can banish its ugliness and make it lovely! He, He alone, can teach you the truest wisdom the wisdom which answers all your questions and gives you peace.
If, like the Latins, (or Romans) I prize law and government and empire most of all, it says to me, "Here is Jesus your King!" He will bring you under the best law, the most beneficial law, the most gracious law. He will teach you how to govern yourself. He will win for you the empire over my own heart here and now an empire over all things before very long!
If, like the Hebrews, I prize righteousness far above every other blessing, it says to me, "Here is Jesus your King!" There is none but He who can clothe you in a spotless righteousness, who can cancel your hideous guilt, who can justify you at God's bar, who can lift you into a new realm of pardon and purity!
His enemies meant it for evil but God meant it for good! He is King of the human heart! And I, too, will bring forth the royal diadem, and will crown Him Lord of all!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear." John 16:12
My heart is sorry for Christ. So much there was in His human ministry unuttered, unattempted, undone. The soil was not yet ready to receive the good seed for it was strange and novel and perplexing to backward and sluggish souls.
But the Spirit of Truth, whom He has sent in His place, has revealed the unspoken mysteries and accomplished the broken labors. He is busy rounding into a perfect circle, the truths which the Lord needed to leave incomplete.
That is why new light has kept dawning on the Church since Jesus went away. The Epistles contain things undisclosed in the Gospels. And, at great epochs since, a fresh sunrise has gladdened the hearts of men, and an undiscovered country has opened to their wondering gaze.
That is why new enterprises have been undertaken by the soldiers of Christ. There is the great missionary movement, to choose but one example out of many. It is my Master saying what He was hindered from unveiling before, and doing what He could not attempt when He tabernacled in my flesh and blood.
And that is why new victories have been won. Greater works have been achieved, more conversions have taken place, the kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit has gone forward more rapidly, since Jesus returned to the Father.
I am glad that He is not hampered now. I only pray that I may have wisdom to hear, and courage and patience, to do whatever He says to me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink." Daniel 1:12
Plain living, let me remind myself, is often the ladder up which I mount to high thinking.
So let me set myself against the undue indulgence of my body in eating and drinking. Nothing is surer to befog and darken and blunt the mind. Nothing more unfits the soul for the lofty and sublime delights of fellowship with God.
And let me beware of overmuch restfulness and ease in sleep. While I am slumbering, others are climbing upward through the night, learning more of truth, drawing nearer the far-off glittering summit of the Hill of Holiness. It is high time that I should awake out of sleep.
And let me guard against the sloth and spiritual dullness which are engendered by material prosperity. Many a man who has lived near God in days of poverty has forgotten Him in days of wealth. The wheels of his chariot have been clogged by the abundance of the flowers which carpet his path.
Sometimes a season of fasting, not only from food but from any bodily pleasure which may ensnare me will be found a helpful regimen. Jesus fasted in the wilderness. The apostles prayed with fasting. Paul was in fastings often. Let me copy such exemplars.
"I shall be spare of sleep, sparer of diet, and sparest of time," they were the words of a devout Englishman of a past century "that, when the days for eating, drinking, clothing, and sleeping shall be no more I may eat of my Savior's hidden manna, drink of the new wine in my Father's kingdom, and inherit that rest which remains for the people of my God forever and ever!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But Ittai replied to the king: As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be!" 2 Samuel 15:21
Ittai's vow of allegiance ought to be mine too.
My Lord the King comes to Bethlehem, down from the throne of His glory. Let me be found with Him there, laying aside my righteousness and pride and wealth all those vain things which charm me most.
My Lord travels to Nazareth, and waits in quietness for many a year. Let me tarry God's leisure, and sit submissive and still at God's feet until He is pleased to bid me run His errands.
My Lord goes up and down Judea and Galilee, doing good. Let me copy His zeal for the Father and His love for the children, paying no heed to the suggestions of a wearied body and a disappointed spirit.
By and by the shadows of Gethsemane and Calvary gather around my dear Lord. Let me face tribulation and distress and persecution and peril in His service and for His sake.
Today my Lord is an interceding Priest in Heaven. Let me always be a citizen of that better country, and yet a pleading and untiring priest, carrying the burdens of the poor and needy continually on my heart.
Yes, in whatever place my Lord the King shall be, there also will His servant be. Jesus reckons on my tears, my prayers, my service, myself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold fast. Let us bestir and encourage ourselves to hold fast, for there are many adversaries.
My own temperament and disposition may be a foe to steadfast endurance.
I am stern and exacting, it may be and I find it hard to comprehend a Savior so patient with sinners.
Or I am tolerant and I pronounce Christ too exclusive and too severe.
Or I am optimistic and I marvel at the slowness of His movements.
Or I like certainty and I resent the many mysteries which encircle Him and His ways.
My pains and tribulations may tempt me to apostatize. Why should so many trials be apportioned to me, while this world's sons and daughters walk on the sunny side of the hedge? Why should I be beset round with misunderstandings and dislikes? Why should obscurity and a lowly place be allotted me, when I long for conspicuous employment? It is very strange and very sore. It makes me question whether I do well to continue loyal to a Lord who tries me so.
My second-hand and indirect knowledge of Christ may cause me to doubt Him. I read about Him in books but books often make mistakes. I listen to what the Churches say but the Churches are frequently drawn aside from the Master to subordinate issues. I give heed to teachers and friends but their errors and blemishes may dim His luster and diminish His love worthiness. I ought to cultivate a closer intimacy with Him myself.
Lord, enable me to persevere to the end. Lord, strengthen me to hold fast.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:37-40
If Faith introduces me to salvation at first then Love is salvation itself.
Faith is the gateway and Love is the palace within.
Faith is the fountain and Love is the brimming and victorious river.
Faith admits Christ into my heart and, once Christ lives and reigns there, the result, the history, the harvest, is Love.
He saves me from the power of sin and self, and in the degree in which I am sanctified, I love and am everywhere and ever loving.
It is by Love that I am to be tested at last by my love to men and women and children round about me. And it is right that it should be so. For, while it is my attitude towards God that is the main thing is not this attitude best revealed by my feelings and actions towards men? Religion, creed, experience these all must have their fruits in Love. "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing!" 1 Corinthians 13:2
But then, while others may see my love, I cannot easily see it myself. Those whom the King approves, welcomes, crowns in the end of the days are quite unable themselves to remember any service of theirs worthy of such amazing commendation. I would gladly have this modesty and sweet humility. I would be like Moses, who knew not that his face shone. I would keep in my old age the charm of childhood, which is unconscious of the good it is doing and the happiness it is conferring.
Because only the heart of love goes to the Heaven of love Lord, create this heart in me, and give it day by day a more thriving vigor and a more tireless energy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations I cannot bear your evil assemblies! Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts, My soul hates! They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them!" Isaiah 1:13-14
It is not mere outward ritual which God asks from me.
God desires my adoration:
a sense of His solemn and consummate holiness;
a bowing low in heart and mind before the sevenfold radiance of His majesty;
a realizing of His infinite condescension in suffering and dying for me.
I cannot be too reverent when I am face to face with Him.
God desires my confession:
a feeling of the evil of my doings, not superficial but deep and penetrating;
an abhorring of myself, and a repentance in dust and ashes;
a cry from the depths, "In me dwells no good thing!"
I have need to understand more vividly, more humblingly, the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
God desires my petitions:
a sincere pouring out of my soul's desires;
a taking fast hold of God's almighty strength;
a clinging with both hands earnestly to the Rock of Ages.
Simply, naturally, explicitly, whole-heartedly, let me unbosom my necessities to Him that He may answer them according to His wise and holy will.
God desires my thanksgiving:
thanksgiving which is thanks-living also;
a humble ceasing to do evil, and a patient learning to do well;
a glad and grateful obedience;
a bondslave's vow, "I love my Master I will not go out free!"
Jesus Christ asks all, from the innermost pulsation of conscious being to the most tangible outworks of my life!
Such is the service my God will welcome my God who hates all meaningless offerings, and who is wearied with mere ritualism and formality.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Overcome evil with good!" Romans 12:21
It is the way of Nature. She takes the fields which men have marred with their mines and slag-mounds and she plants her ferns and mosses over the unlovely spot, doing her best to make it beautiful again. From the place of strife and battle, where the swords clashed and the guns thundered and the ground was drenched with blood she brings her richest harvests.
It is the way of Providence. Disasters that seem irretrievable, calamities that are overwhelming as an avalanche yet benefit in the end, the life of the community and the nation. Growth and advance are the fruits of adversity. We are benefitted by our woes. We are led to victory through our lost campaigns.
It is the way of the Holy. The angels, those ministering spirits who support the heirs of salvation, bear and forbear with my multitudinous provocations. The best men and women love their enemies, and pray for those who despitefully use them, and bless those who curse them.
It is the way of God. The Father sets His heart on me who has rebelled against Him. The Son gives "His unblemished body" on the cruel Tree for me His antagonist and adversary. The Spirit comes and dwells in me, and loves me into life and grace and holiness though I grieve and vex Him every day. God's tender mercies are over all His works.
Manifestly I am in the best of company, when I overcome evil with good.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened." Mark 1:10
As He came up out of the water, Jesus saw the heavens opened.
It was the reward of His sacrifice. He had parted with very much. He had left the quiet home in Nazareth, and the fields He knew so well, and the mother-love which had brooded and planned and toiled for Him all His earthly life. But in His hour of surrender God draws closer to Him, and enriches Him with His strong consolations. And I if I part with all for His sake, shall I not win much more than I lose?
It was the preparation for His work. Such a heavy task lay before Him, and such a stupendous enterprise. To magnify the Father's law and make it honorable. To seek and save that which is lost. To die for sinful men. But, when He feels His weakness, He is endowed, marvelously, immeasurably, with the Holy Spirit. And I if I yield myself to God's service, shall I not have the divine baptism and unction which I need?
It was the prophecy of His triumph. The heavens were opened, to tell Him what He should accomplish when His labor was ended, His sorrow vanquished, His Jordan passed. For, indeed, He was to throw wide the gates of the City of God to a great multitude which cannot be numbered. And I if I lay myself in God's hands to do His will, shall I not come home in the harvest, bringing my sheaves with me?
Thus the Father blessed that dear Son of His who was consecrating Himself to His business. Thus He waits to bless me, if He finds in me a similar consecration.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"As it is written in the second Psalm: You are my Son; today I have become your Father!" Acts 13:33
It is written in the Psalms concerning Jesus
Concerning His divine majesty. You are My Son, says God. So I may be sure that He has strength and wisdom and grace sufficient for the tremendous task of my redemption. He is the Father's Equal and the Father's Fellow. He is very God of very God.
Concerning His lowliness and suffering. There are hints given beforehand of Gethsemane and Calvary and the Sepulcher; the Psalmists had glimpses into these mysterious wonders of anguish and love. I join them in thanking Him who died and was buried for me.
Concerning His rising again. Today I have become your Father You, God says, speaking not of the everlasting conception of the Son but of His resurrection from the grave. And I rejoice in Him who has broken the captivity of death for Himself and for my helpless soul.
Concerning His eternal kinghood. The Holy One is not allowed to see corruption; He reigns through dateless and ageless years. And I, when I am united with Him, share His unending rule. I shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck me from His hand!
Augustine wrote centuries ago the New Testament lies hidden in the Old. And I am indebted to the Hebrew singers for many pictures of my Redeemer and Lord. Let me study them, rejoicing that since the Babe was born and the Savior was crucified and the King was invested with the name which is above every name I can read deeper meanings in their words than they were themselves able to do.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right." 2 Kings 17:9
The secret sin of Israel had its outcome in open punishment. Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults!
I do not improve my opportunities of instruction, and therefore many of my errors are hidden from me. If only I hearkened always to conscience, and to the Book in which God's will is written out for me, and to His own Spirit who is ready to illuminate all my being there would be no point of darkness anywhere. But I am negligent. I live in the disuse of my privileges.
Then, too, I measure myself by inadequate rules of righteousness. I ask for nothing loftier and nothing more penetrating than the maxims of thought and conduct which are current round about me. I copy the pattern set by those with whom I associate, and seldom rise above their level. And so my shortcomings and transgressions are in large measure concealed from me.
And I am biased in my own favor, and have many 'extenuations' for sin in myself. And there is a large part of my life which is mechanical, done without attention being paid to it. And sin itself has a strange power of deceiving me. It is the mirage which looks like the shady city of palm trees. It is the apple of Sodom which looks like the fruit of Paradise.
Thus I am in peculiar danger from secret faults. I open the city gates, and let in the adversaries, and dream all the while that they are my friends whom I am welcoming back. Lord, guard and screen me from myself "myself, arch-traitor to myself."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." John 19:11
Though Pilate and the priests crucified my Lord, no man took His life from Him He laid it down of Himself. They could have had no power at all against Him, except it were given to them from above.
I thank Him that His death was voluntary. With a free heart, with a willing mind, with a steadfast resolution He went down for me into the gloom, the pain, the desolation. He was not compelled to suffer; He suffered at His own initiative and with His own consent. As Priest, He offered Himself on the altar the Lamb of God without blemish and without spot.
I thank Him that His death was long foreseen. It was not in an impulse of sudden generosity, that He allowed Himself to be led away to Calvary. It was not in the last days of His life, that He came in sight of the place where the Cross stands. It was not as though He turned around a sharp angle in His path, and there was the scaffold lifting itself, somber and stark and awful, against the sky. He had looked forward to it from all eternity. How deep, deep, unfathomably deep, are the strong foundations of His love!
And I thank Him that His death was vicarious and effectual. He gave Himself for me. In my place, condemned He stood. I have redemption through His blood. I am saved by Him. It was to enrich and crown my sin-destroyed soul, that He tasted the wormwood and the gall.
No one ever loved and lived like my Lord Jesus, and no one ever died like Him!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"We will sing for joy over Your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners." Psalm 20:5
Here is faith distrusting all human strength. Not of former victories, not of man's bravery and prowess, not of the soldier's daring and the captain's strategy and skill does the singer make his boast.
It is a lesson to me. I do not redeem my soul, I do not sustain my spiritual life, I do not deepen my holiness by my own painful and strenuous efforts. Apart from my God, I can do nothing. I must look out and look up. From beginning to end, it must be "none of self and all of You!" "Without Me you can do nothing!" John 15:5
Here is faith bringing the future into the present. It esteems the victory already won, though the battle is not yet commenced. It sees the enemy prone on the earth. It sees the redeemed risen from subjection and standing firm.
So it should be with me. I should sing my song of triumph in the midst of the tempestuous and fierce conflict. I should be sure that the quiet haven and the conqueror's crown await me. Like Jehoshaphat and his Levites, I should march to the fight, praising God for all the grace I have not tasted yet.
Here is faith making its boast in Jehovah. Again and again it tells out its unwavering confidence in Him.
Thus let me speak. What is there my gracious and mighty Lord will not give me or will not do for me? From haunting fears, from sharp accusations, from evil thoughts, from nervelessness and impotence, from unholy habits, from the dominion of death from every enemy, He sets me safe and free. Only let me take ten looks to Him for every one look I take at myself, and the black squadrons of my antagonists will torment me no more!
Therefore in His name I shall unfurl my banner. What an almighty, lofty, ineffable name it is!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him: "If You are willing, You can make me clean." Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him: "I am willing; be cleansed!" Mark 1:40-41
There is no touch like the touch of Jesus. It brings life and health. It gives speech and strength and sight.
It is the touch of my Kinsman. It declares His sympathy, His brotherliness the guarantee that He will recognize anywhere His suffering child, and will hasten to his aid. He is high above me, and yet He bends over me. He takes me to His heart, in spite of the leprosy of my corruption, and the depravity of my sin.
It is the touch of my Lord. It was, and it is the medium through which His divinity and omnipotence flow. Through it, I shall feel the impact of His vivifying fingers. Through it, I shall find an immediate pardon, and a new supernatural life and strength.
It is the touch of my Priest. He is . . .
priest by God's appointment,
priest who has clothed Himself in my flesh and blood,
priest whose sacrifice is no fleecy lamb from the fold but His own body and soul,
priest who, when He lays His nail-pierced hand on me imparts to me His redemption His forgiveness.
And it is the touch of my Teacher. These brotherly, powerful, redeeming hands of His, are set before me for my pattern. I, too, am to bless the world of sinners and sufferers. I, too, am to place myself side by side with those I would help.
"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters!" Psalm 18:16-17
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes." Romans 10:4
Christ is the object of my faith Christ in all the aspects of His many-colored perfection. My Teacher, my Redeemer, my Intercessor, my Good Shepherd, my Master and Captain never had any monarch such a palace as I have in Him. Not Solomon, though he was thirteen years building his stately home. Not Nero in his Golden House on the Palatine Hill. Not the Moorish princes in their beautiful Alhambra in Granada. More than all in Christ I find.
But Paul does well to make particular mention of His obedience and sacrifice, as that on which my faith rests with special satisfaction and delight. He is the end of the law unto righteousness to myself, who believes.
When the eyes of my understanding, blinded too long, are opened at last;
when I know myself for what I am poor and wretched and deserving damnation;
when I feel that I stand as a culprit and a criminal at the bar of a holy God, and that I cannot answer Him for the least and smallest of my transgressions
then my chief necessity is a righteousness that will cover and justify me. I have none of my own. Earth in its length and breadth can furnish me with none. But Jesus presents Himself to me when my heart and flesh fail. He offers me His flawless righteousness. There is no spot in it; and my faith, conscious that I am derelict and smitten with yearning for Him, says, "Give me that, for there is none like it!"
Naked, I clothe myself in this heavenly dress and God Himself is well pleased. I am His Red Cross knight today, and the shield which is my shelter is made of one Diamond, "perfect, pure, and eternal."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:10-12
Jesus blesses the quiet and unnoticed graces. They seem to bloom in secret, like "violets by a mossy stone, hidden from the eye." God sees them and rejoices in them but men may easily overlook them altogether.
Give me this unobtrusive godliness, my Lord. May my heart sit silent through the noise and concourse of the street silent in communion with Heaven. May I love to do good in secret.
Jesus blesses the character which the world dislikes. The world takes pleasure in the man . . .
who has abundant faith in himself;
who is merry and careless;
who stands up for his rights;
who gets even when others wrong him.
Let me prefer the favor of my Master, to the goodwill of this present world. Let me covet a place in the aristocracy of Heaven, although I should win the ridicule of men along with it.
Jesus blesses the soul that drinks the bitter cup for His sake. It must be whole-hearted and decided in its allegiance, at home and at business, on Sunday and week day, in secret and in society; whole-hearted and decided, although its loyalty exposes it to scoffing and opposition and hatred. Let me rather walk with Christ through the narrow and difficult way than live at ease in Vanity Fair. I shall find a strange delight in passing through the darkness hand in hand with Him.
They are arduous heights to which He calls me.
The clouds gather on the upward slopes.
The ascent is steep.
The shining summits seem unattainable to me.
But in His strength I can rise nearer them every day!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"As the mountains surround Jerusalem so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore!" Psalm 125:2
God, to the humble heart that leans on Him, is like the mountains which surround Jerusalem. In the mountain there is safety.
In this dangerous world, I am . . .
pursued and hunted by principalities and powers,
in peril of traps and snares and temptations,
unable to secure my deliverance.
But God in Jesus Christ, becomes . . .
and my Strength!
I flee to Him, and I am in a secure dwelling there is no evil which can befall me now. When I hide myself in the Rock of Ages cleft for me who can separate me from the love of Christ? That Rock Himself would have to crumble, before any harm could come to my soul! I am so weak in itself yet so strong in its Savior.
In the mountain there is assurance. I feel that the ground is solid and stable underneath my feet. My sorrow and sighing should flee away. My fears should be scattered. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are eternally mine! From all forebodings and anxieties, my Lord means me to be set free.
In the mountain there is everlastingness. My soul is wise when it builds its life-house on the Rock of . . .
The storm will never be able to blow it down.
The gates of Hell will never prevail against it.
Through the countless and varied changes of my lot through death and through the long eternity that lies beyond it will endure, incorruptible, immovable, abiding!
"I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth! He will not let your foot slip He who watches over you will not slumber. The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm He will watch over your life. The Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore!" Psalm 121
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!" Philippians 1:21
Death will not be gain to me unless my life is lived for Christ!
It must be my passion to know Christ. Every day I ought to learn a little more of Him and His truths. Every day I ought to become somewhat more conversant with His will. In His school, it is impossible for me ever to finish my education, for . . .
there is so much to learn,
there are such mysteries to master,
there are such heights to scale!
It must be my ambition to follow Christ:
Jesus going about doing good in the Galilean fields;
Jesus praying on the cold mountains;
Jesus bowing to the Father's will in the garden and on the cross
He is to be my Pattern, my Model, whom I set deliberately before me.
It must be my joy to speak with Christ. I should always be lifting up my heart to Him. I should keep telling Him . . .
my every thought,
my every desire,
my every misgiving and fear.
Between friends so close and true there must be no reservations, no secrets.
It must be my longing to serve Christ. Though I cannot do it in a conspicuous sphere yet, up to the farthest verge and limit of my ability, I will labor for Him. And I rejoice to remember that mere show and public ministry count for nothing with Him the humble and loving heart is everything.
And then, and then, death will be gain indeed! Then, when He calls me home I shall go to Him with the gladness of a boy bounding home from school!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled . . . Jesus wept." John 11:33-35
Jesus wept with those who wept. A sympathy and a compassion like His, are greatly to be desired.
Tears relieve and soften and refine my character. Without them, it may be strong and impressive and useful but it will be lacking in grace and tenderness. Lack of sympathy and compassion holds it back from perfection.
Tears give me power with others. Never do I get so close to them, as when I go to them in their grief. A grasp of the hand then, a few faltering words, a look of sincere love and their souls are knit with mine. Sometimes Christ approaches nearest to a man when the man is sitting in the darkened chamber beside his dead and sometimes I am able to do the same.
And tears make me a follower of Christ. For He is not only mighty and just and holy but gracious and merciful and compassionate. He is like the great mountains and also like the little flowers violet, edelweiss, anemone which add immeasurably to the mountain's charm. It was God who stood beside the grave of Lazarus and wept!
So let me pray, as one did, for "the grace of tears." If I am tearless, I fear I am loveless too; for as love is so is compassion. He who has tasted the one in its power cannot fail to be familiar with the other. They caricature Christianity, who would freeze the moisture of human eyes. Not women only, but strong men David the soldier, and Jesus the Lord do right to weep.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Herod said to his attendants: This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him." Matthew 14:2
Is this not a parable of the Preacher, Conscience?
How Conscience rings out solemn and unwelcome truth! It accuses the sinner of his sin. It will not let him rest. It keeps him wretched and miserable. Its wounds are keen, though they are most beneficial and wholesome. It is hard for Herod to kick against the sharp point of its iron goad!
How Conscience may be imprisoned and silenced. There are dungeons into which the stern Preacher may be thrust dungeons of forgetfulness, of rationalization, of self-will. Yet, even now, the weak and headstrong and wayward soul will go down to talk with its mentor at times, and Mr. Recorder continues to make his voice heard every little while!
How Conscience may be seared and slain for the tragedy is deepening, and the heart's midnight draws on apace. At last comes a time when God's Prophet has nothing more to say. It is as though he lay cold and speechless and still in a martyr's grave. There is peace in the soul; but it is the peace of death, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
How Conscience rises again from his grave! For, out of the silence and the sepulcher, the Preacher returns before long. But now his name is Remorse, Judgment, Despair! Then, even Jesus and His love are full of dread, fearful and terrifying, to the spirit. Its day of grace is done. There is no comfort for it anywhere.
Ah, Lord, grant that Your Preacher, Conscience, may drive me to You, as he seeks to do and not to these fears and desolations which are without cure.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"He will keep the feet of His saints!" 1 Samuel 2:9
It is a promise for the everyday walk of my life the walk of . . .
the soldier who pushes on, whatever enemies hinder his march;
the pilgrim from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City;
the child of God in company with his Father, the human hand linked in the divine.
Am I one of His saints? It seems to me often too high a title to claim. But let me remember that everything depends on what my heart is fixed upon.
The poet dreams about a masterpiece of music he is yet to write,
and the artist dreams about a surpassing picture he will paint one day,
and the sculptor dreams about a statue whose grandeur will draw all eyes.
What then, are my dreams? Are they about one day being . . .
completely liberated from sin,
and changed into the image of Christ,
and perfected in holiness?
Then I am among the saints!
And He will keep my feet. Not from . . .
the Valley of Humiliation,
or the Garden of Sorrow,
or the Hill of Cross-bearing.
No but from . . .
the temptation that ensnares me,
the cliffs and precipices of sin,
"the delicate plain called Ease,"
the High Street of an overweening confidence in myself,
the gloomy mountain-ravines of anxiety and despair.
It is a welcome assurance indeed.
None less than God Himself, keeps these peril-beset feet of mine! He brings many protecting influences into play:
His precious promises,
His clear commandments,
the perfect example of Jesus,
the influence of those who fear His name,
the inner grace of His Holy Spirit.
Yes, yes; I walk safely I walk at liberty when the charge of my feet is with the all-loving, all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful redeemer-God!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from Heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." Acts 2:2-4
Breathe on me, life-giving Spirit of God!
Come as Wind.
I am dead quicken me.
I am listless, inoperative, lukewarm, indolent revive me.
Sweep from my soul . . .
all its torpor,
all its indifference,
all its lethargy.
Like the moaning of the pines in the dark,
like the rush of the tempest,
like the quiet footfall of the breeze
let me hear Your goings. Blow, Wind of God! "Come, south wind! Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad!" Song of Songs 4:16
Come as Fire. I need the Fire that . . .
destroys noxious and sinful things there are many such elements in my heart,
purifies imperfect motives and an inconsistent life,
infuses a new spiritual warmth and glow.
I live, I leap, I soar, I develop hidden graces when I am touched by Your flame.
Come as Speech. Give me . . .
utterance, that I may tell the wonderful works of God,
boldness, that I would be afraid of none,
the grace of witness-bearing, that my lips may testify gladly to the goodness of Christ my Savior.
This is the demonstration of the Spirit these wide horizons, these great prospects, these thoughts that breathe, and words that burn!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But Naaman was a leper!" 2 Kings 5:1
I too, am stricken with Naaman's disease!
All through the Bible, I see that leprosy is a type and figure of sin. Does not my sin separate me from God and Heaven? Does it not descend from father to son, generation after generation a repellent and woeful and yet inevitable legacy? Does it not grow from less to more, until the whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint?
And there is no ordinary effectual method of cure. I am helpless in the grip of the festering malady! I lie at its mercy. Nearer and nearer to me, creeps the shadow of death.
But for me, God opens Naaman's door of hope. It may be such a little thing that brings me the promise of recovery as little as the captive maid carried from Israel into Syria in some border raid.
It may be a verse of the Bible which I have read a hundred times.
It may be a seemingly trivial occurrence in my daily life.
It may be a word dropped into my heart by a godly friend.
It may be the influence of a child.
It may be a sentence in a personal letter.
And at once I know that there is a way of deliverance a sure and successful remedy for my sore disease.
After all, God the God of salvation is mightier than my leprosy and evil. Not all the perfumes of Arabia can sweeten my sin-soiled hands. Not all the multitudinous seas can wash out my deep stains. But where my sin abounds His grace much more abounds. "Iniquities prevail against me," the Psalmist cries but he adds, "As for my transgressions, You shall purge them away!" In my heart I shall write this "You" in letters of bright gold. The "Me" is feeble, evil, discredited. The "You" is infinite, all-gracious, divine!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Go and wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean." 2 Kings 5:10
I am very likely to encounter Naaman's disappointment. Being what I am, I can scarcely escape it.
He did not like God's method of healing. It wounded his pride he was a great man, with silver and gold enough to make the poor prophet rich for the rest of his life. Just so, my pride chafes and rebels against God's method of saving me. Is it true that I can do nothing for myself? Must I be wholly dependent on Another? And must I enter into pardon and peace, side by side with harlots and sinners? It seems intolerable. It kindles my anger. I am disposed to turn away in a rage.
His servants brought him to reasonableness, instead of reasoning. And his disease admonished him, and asked, "Are you going back as you came, a mass of ugly and putrid sores?" Humbled at length, he washed in Jordan, and his flesh came to him like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
And I have only to wash, and be clean.
I have only to look, and live.
I have only to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I shall be saved.
It is the Good Physician's remedy, and it is available for me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise!" Luke 23:42-43
"Twas a thief," Robert Browning writes, "who said the last kind word to Christ."
In the morning the thief was OUT of Christ:
far from God and far from righteousness,
the helpless captive of sin,
the child of despair and death.
At noon the thief was IN Christ:
remembered graciously by the Savior of the lost,
redeemed with an everlasting redemption,
endowed with the new heart,
and freely and perfectly justified.
In the evening the thief was WITH Christ:
gazing on the glories of paradise,
safe at home with his good Shepherd and adorable Redeemer.
What a crowded and memorable day this was in his history! So much was pressed into these few hours. Such a glorious and unprecedented transition they brought, from the cruel cross to Heaven's glory!
OUT of Christ,
Lost in the far country,
then under the Savior's wings,
then beside the Lord on His throne!
Are these the three stages in my spiritual biography?
I know the first only too well.
Am I growing more and more familiar with the second?
Is it my joy to look forward to the third?
"I ask not the favor given to Paul," Copernicus said, "I seek not the grace bestowed upon Peter but I beg the mercy granted to the thief on the cross!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22
Hearing and doing: they ought to be conjoined and to go hand in hand. "That house is best," one says, "where Martha's reconciled to Mary."
Many hear and fail to do. They listen carelessly and negligently, and the Word does not seize hold on them and lead them captive. They listen emotionally, and while the message enters the region of feeling and sentiment it is kept outside the region of will. They listen selfishly, for their own comfort and help, and they have no thought of their neighbors to whom they should carry the treasure which has enriched themselves. From such fruitless and barren hearing, the Lord deliver me.
But many do and fail to hear. They busy themselves, out of an inborn love of work, out of philanthropy and sympathy, out of the desire to quiet conscience and to win a name for good deeds. Even Christians labor without sufficient hearkening in quietness and retirement, without adequate nourishment from the divine Word. Theirs is a surface activity which does not strike its roots deep down into the secret place of the heart. From such restless and self-righteous and superficial doing, the Lord deliver me.
Let me not hear without doing, for that is the part of a soul which consults only its own need. Let me not do without hearing, for that is the part of a soul which goes only in its own strength. First let me get away for myself to the mountains of spices that my heart may drink in the sweet fragrances of the better country. And then, when all my garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia let me go and woo the dwellers in the desolation of the wilderness into the garden of the Lord.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!" Revelation 1:18
I would, like John in Patmos, have communion with the living Christ. It is not only what He did for me it is what He does. It is not only what He was it is what He is. My Christian grammar cannot dispense with the present tenses of the life of Jesus.
Does He not live for me in the New Testament? When I open the Book, I am not merely studying a printed page; I am touching and talking with my Lord.
To my guiltiness He speaks pardon,
to my ignorance He speaks instruction,
to my weakness He speaks strength,
to my loneliness He speaks company and comfort.
Does He not live for me in the New Heart? If "the jewels of the Urim and Thummim all are dim," if Bethel's ladder is fallen, and the Burning Bush is quenched I have a more intimate Guide, Teacher, Friend. Jesus dwells within me by His Holy Spirit. Inhabiting and possessing and governing my soul . . .
He weans me from sin;
He makes me pure;
He creates me anew.
Does He not live for me in the New Jerusalem? He is on the throne . . .
to remember me,
to intercede for me,
to send me from His overflowing treasury every good gift and every perfect blessing.
He is in the Father's house, to prepare a place for me, that where He is, I may be also . . .
to look up into His eyes,
to grasp His hand,
to weep and sing my gratitude at His feet.
I am glad that Jesus died. I am glad, too, that, having once died, He has risen again, and is alive for evermore!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"My salvation comes from Him!" Psalm 62:1
I see many wonders in God's salvation.
There is the wonder of its origin. From HIM it takes its rise and source oh pregnant pronoun!
From the King against whom I have revolted.
From the Friend whose wishes I have opposed.
From the thrice-holy One, to whom the smallest of my sins is absolutely hateful.
From the Father on whom I have turned my back.
It is He who approaches me with the white flag of peace.
It is He who sacrifices Himself to accomplish my deliverance!
And there is the wonder of its continuousness. It keeps coming it does not cease. It flows, and deepens, and broadens. God does not weary, though there are ten thousand reasons why He should. The Savior does not lose His sympathy and grace. The Holy Spirit goes on performing His good work. Saving grace is as steadfast as the sunrise. It is as many-sided as the ocean with its moods and waves.
And there is the wonder of its object. It is MY salvation mine, incredible as that may seem. It is a miracle to me that my past guilt should be pardoned such a terrible criminality there was in my heart. It is a miracle to me that my present imperfections should be borne with and overcome. Such a forbearing, conquering patience I need for I am the chief of sinners!
And there is the wonder of its abundance. It is SALVATION which comes to me. And salvation is a palace with many rooms in it. It is a landscape in which many different elements of beauty are found mountain, and river, and lush pasture-ground, and darker forest, and the silver streak of the sea.
I think of salvation from the divine side and how much it cost God!
I think of salvation from the human side and how much it brings to me!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"First let the children eat all they want," He told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs!" Mark 7:27-28
If the Syrophenician mother had great difficulties she had rich encouragements too.
There were the home-love and the home-sorrow urging her forward. Her daughter, as dear to her as her own soul nay, far more precious than anything she called her own her life, her home, her hope were in the sorest distress.
Just so, is not trouble thrice blessed to me if it compels me to lay fast hold on Jesus? As grievous as troubles may be they are doing a gracious work when they drive me to His blessed feet!
There were hopes kindled by Christ's looks and tones, even when He seemed most opposed to her. He spoke of dogs, and it sounds a harsh and untender saying. Yes, but it was of the little pet dogs of the household and not of the gaunt and homeless dogs of the street.
Behind the apparent unwillingness to yield to my cry what love for me throbs and burns in His boundlessly compassionate heart!
And there was the inward working of the Spirit of grace and supplication, enabling her to endure to the end.
I too may have that helpful, patient, inspiring, quickening Holy Spirit. Unseen and noiseless, He fulfills His work in me lifting me above every hindrance, keeping me at the throne of grace until the King, yielding to the persistency He has been feeding all the while, shall say: "Be it unto you even as you will."
Thus my prayers become effectual and fervent.
With my urgent need behind,
with my tender Savior above,
with my Paraclete and "taintless Pleader" within
I carry away as a conqueror, the benefactions of my Lord!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May those who love you be secure." Psalm 122:6
Why was Jerusalem so dear to the godly Jew?
Because of the beauty of its situation, and the stately majesty of its buildings. Because in it he found the beating and pulsing center of the national and religious life of Israel. Because it was a place dedicated to an unworldly and spiritual life. Because it had passed through the fire and the flood of sorrow. These were some of the reasons which made the old city among the hills of Judah a place honored and beloved.
Just so, should I not hold in high esteem the Church of Jesus Christ, the spiritual Jerusalem, for reasons close akin?
It is beautiful with the presence and the glory of God the Holy Spirit, and it is filled with the fair temples of living souls, which He is building up from day to day. It is the center from which love and hope and inspiration and power go out to the world. Take away the great Christian names from the centuries Augustine and Anselm and Luther and Calvin and Wesley and Whitfield and how little is left! When the church is true to its mission, it stands forth distinct and separate from the fashion and feverishness and folly of society around it. And it has been baptized in tears and blood.
"Oh, when I get there," cried David Brainerd, twelve days before he went to be with Christ, "How will God's dear Church on earth be upon my mind!" Let me be glad that I stand within the gates of the Holy City. Let me pray for its prosperity and increase. Let me live and die for its King. I ought not only to be concerned for the welfare of my individual soul; I ought to be the enthusiastic lover and soldier of God's commonwealth!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"In keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him!" 2 Peter 3:13-14
Let the prospect of my Lord's return stir me to diligence, that I may be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him when He comes!
I call myself a disciple a learner of Christ's truth and will. When he comes, He must not discover me . . .
lacking in heavenly wisdom,
ignorant of His words and ways,
a babe who should have been a full-grown man.
I call myself a saint separated from sin, consecrated for His service. He will inquire into the holiness of my life, and into the simplicity of my obedience. When he comes, I must not hang my head in self-reproach and shame, when He asks those questions of my secret soul.
I call myself a brother the kinsman and friend of all His little ones. When He says, "What have you done for the least of these?" how shall I meet His gaze and answer His appeal? Will it be with joy or with grief? Will the eyes and prayers of those I have helped, follow me to His throne?
I call myself a believer that is my often reiterated confession of personal trust. When His eyes search me through and through, will it be found to be a true confession?
Many will be put to shame in the reckoning day. O my Lord, merciful Redeemer, as well as righteous Judge let it not be so with me!
"And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming!" 1 John 2:28
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32
It is triumphant language, and irrefutable logic. If did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for me then I should have the victorious certainty that He will freely give me all necessary things beside.
Christ's death is the supreme token of His love and He will not withhold from me any lesser token. Having bestowed on me His very kingliest and divinest blessing, His unspeakable gift it will be strange indeed if He should deny me blessings which are smaller and less costly. That cannot be!
This love-gift plunged Him into deepest anguish and He will not keep from me proofs of His mindfulness and grace which will bring Him no pain at all. God can never suffer again as He suffered when Jesus died in the cheerlessness and shame of the cross. It is easy, it is joyous, for Him to enrich me with all other spiritual blessings.
This bestowment of His mercy was the beginning of my redemption and He will not deprive me of anything needed to make that redemption perfect and complete. For, though man often commences what he does not finish, perhaps through lack of power, perhaps through loss of will God never does. He is sure to consummate His good work.
This gift of Christ includes every other gift! They are all wrapped up in it, as the flower is in the bud, as the fruit is in the blossom. When He is mine they are mine unquestionably and inalienably mine!
"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door." Acts 12:13
I like this sweet Judaean Rose the maiden whose name was Rhoda. She has "an Oriental fragrance" about her.
Rhoda says to me: "Anybody can be the friend of Jesus. It does not matter how young you are no, nor how poor and lowly you are. I was only a girl, and, more than that, I was only a slave-girl. Yet He had a place for me, so simple and lowly in His home and His heart. Ah, He despises none; He casts out none; He waits for you."
And Rhoda says to me: "You can please Him in the common everyday tasks. It was my work to answer the door, nothing sublimer or loftier than that; and I left off praying to go and do it. And my answering the door was as pleasing to Him as my praying was. Just so, remember that you can honor Him in the most trivial and ordinary affairs of the quietest and lowliest life."
And again Rhoda says to me: "See that you have a trust in Him which nothing will shake. The brethren would not believe me when I told them that Peter was safe outside; but I I confidently affirmed that it was even so. You do the same. If you cannot argue with people then bid them go down to the door and see for themselves. For One better than Peter is waiting to enter there. Behold, Jesus cries, I stand and knock. If any man opens the door, I will come in."
Indeed, I thank the damsel Rhoda for her wholesome and uplifting lessons.
Peter is one of the great mountains in the kingdom of the Bible.
Rhoda is a wild flower in the hedge by the roadside.
Both mountain and flower have their message for me and I can part with neither.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Abstain from all appearance of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22
The wise apostle says to me, "Abstain from all appearance of evil."
It is best for myself. My own heart and life are damaged, some bloom is rubbed off my religion, some delicacy and sensibility are lost if I linger within sight and sound of sin, or have the remotest traffic with the wicked thing, or so much as walk in the counsel of the ungodly.
Let me keep the ability to blush. Let me respect the alarm of the conscience. These things are the munitions of rocks to me, better than walls of granite or gates of brass.
It is best for others. Perhaps I may approach the verge of the precipice, and yet be able to draw back unharmed. But there are neighbors and brethren of mine who cannot. If they venture near they will be sucked insensibly and irresistibly into the abyss! I must not lead them into danger. I must protect them, so far as I can, from the evil that is in the world. I am to be their healer and not their tempter!
It is the best for the cause of Christ. His kingdom needs for its prosperity, that His servants and soldiers shall be absolutely intolerant of sin. Theirs must be the sanctity . . .
which never compromises,
which keeps its garments unspotted,
which impresses and overawes the world with the sense of something unearthly and divine. This is the Master's ideal for His people.
There was an old asceticism which was extravagant and foolish; but yet I have need of Christian self-denial in my life. I must practice habitually, the total abstinence which the gospel requires.
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God!" Hebrews 12:1-2
In running the race it is an impulse to me, a strong and sovereign encouragement, that I am compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses
"Saints of the early dawn of Christ,
Saints of imperial Rome,
Saints of the cloistered Middle Age,
Saints of the modern home."
But Jesus is first, midst, last.
First; for I start from Him . . .
His cross seen and rejoiced in,
His pardon welcomed,
His righteousness received,
His love tasted,
His rule and government embraced.
He is Author and Beginner of my faith, and until I know His grace, it is impossible for me to run.
Midst, too; for I must be like Him all along . . .
laying every weight aside,
taking the Father's chastisement without murmur,
resisting unto blood if need be,
resolved at all hazards that God shall be glorified.
And last, as well; for it is to Christ that I speed. When the course is finished, I shall see His face, and bear His likeness, and share His throne, and serve Him in His temple! He is . . .
the Finisher and Perfecter of my faith;
the Consummation as well as the Commencement;
the Omega no less than the Alpha.
For me, from starting-point to goal, I must fix my eyes upon Jesus. Every day I find new aspects in Him, I enter chambers that were sealed before, I discover that I am the inhabitant of a universe whose boundaries are continually receding and traveling farther away.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in Heaven." Matthew 10:32-33
I ask grace to confess my Master: frank and open confession will ratify and deepen my own piety. When I tell forth the truth that is in me that truth becomes clearer, more vivid, more noble and wondrous and regal, to my own mind. When I avow and defend my Lord He assumes larger proportions in my thoughts, He is dearer and more precious to my heart. It is best for myself to be outspoken and brave. It is a great means of spiritual safety. It is a mighty instrument of growth.
I ask grace to confess my Master: unfaltering and fearless confession will move and conquer others. Let me sound out my convictions as with trumpet tones. Let me fight against sin and give no quarter. Let me make my boast of Jesus impugn my Savior whoever wills. Some will scorn and hate me for it. Some will mock and ridicule me. But some will be touched, melted, gained, as they never would be by silence and acquiescence. This is how the kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy goes from strength to strength.
I ask grace to confess my Master: decided and courageous confession pleases Him and wins His approbation. What does He say? "I will also acknowledge him before my Father in Heaven." How overflowing the recompense, how royal the reward for my poor words and deeds! To have Jesus speak well of me shall I not go through fire and water if this be the goal? Shall I not make light of obstacles, and laugh at impossibilities, and ride dauntless up to every Dark Tower?
So I will not hide His love within my heart!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest." Isaiah 9:3
It is harvest joy which Jesus brings.
The joy in harvest is the crowning of faith. The gardener has long patience, and now at length he reaps his ample reward. Many there were who waited long ago, and at last the Son of God bowed the heavens. And I too, when I look for Him, am not disappointed. I tarry His leisure; and, when He comes in grace and mercy and peace, one moment's fellowship with Him overpays every delay.
The joy in harvest is the exceeding of hope. The farmer's largest anticipations are surpassed by the liberal reality. And is not Jesus always vaster than men's hopes? Does He not travel beyond my most golden imaginations and dreams? I live the whole year round in wheatfields and orchards and vineyards. "My soul," as Pierre Siguier said, "is like a garden, full of shelter and of fountains."
The joy in harvest is the securing of plenty. Now there is food in men's homes: now there is gladness in their hearts. And Christ feeds all my hunger and assuages all my thirst. Pardon, sanctification, power, peace, the glorious assurance that the everlasting future is mine He gives these noblest treasures without stint. There is not a trace of penuriousness in Him.
The joy in harvest is the work of God. It is His sunshine and rain, His vigilance and omnipotence and love, that have sent this overflowing gladness to the needy earth. And so it is with my Lord Jesus Christ. I could not merit Him. I could not win Him. From Heaven He comes undeservedly, without money and without price. God opens His hand and supplies all my need.
This day and every day I will rejoice in Him.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"As they led Him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus." Luke 23:26
God meets me at unexpected turnings of my path just as Jesus met Simon of Cyrene. When I am walking along the highway. When I am doing my common everyday work. When I am sitting by myself alone behold, He is there, offering Himself to me, calling me to His side, changing the whole tenor of my history. I encounter a friend and God begins to talk with me through my friend's lips. I open a book and suddenly I find myself arraigned before His throne and looking up into His face. He is not far off from me.
God makes me a partaker in the afflictions of Christ just as Simon was compelled to carry the shameful cross. In some way or other, suffering is the essential ingredient of every Christian life, and I must walk with my Savior a mile or two along His Sorrowful Way. But bitter things are altogether sweet when Jesus is present. He had His country-house in the Valley of Humiliation long ago, and, as I go down into it, I shall discover His footprints there, and the herb called Heart's Ease which He has planted for me.
God changes my repulsion into obedience just as He lifted Simon out of a constrained service into a ready porterage of the accursed Tree. In the lowly Valley, where there is at most "that rare and happy temperament a pleasant seriousness," I learn to say, with Mercy the Pilgrim, "I am as well in this Valley as I have been in any part of my journey; the place methinks suits with my spirit." By and by, if not at once, I shall prefer the reproach of Christ before the treasures of the world.
O happy Simon of Cyrene!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Sin's deceitfulness!" Hebrews 3:13
Lord, open the eyes of my mind and heart, that I may see the shame of evil How sin . . .
degrades and abases me,
robs me of my crown,
sinks me lower than the brute!
Show me . . .
the real character of sin,
the rebellion of it,
the anarchy it brings,
the debt in which it plunges me,
the prison to which it consigns my soul
that I may abhor it and repent in dust and ashes.
Help me to understand the cunning of evil How subtle it is, like the serpent long ago; how specious and plausible its excuses; how lovely its dress. Give me understanding, that I may unmask Satan's wiles. May I see the tempter who comes as a son of light, and surely I shall repel him then.
Help me to understand the outcome of evil How the end is midnight, despair, the worm that never dies and the fire that is never quenched! As far as I can comprehend such anguish, let me look on it. The terrors of the Lord may persuade me to have nothing to do with the wicked thing.
And oh, my Lord, help me to understand the Deliverer from evil . . .
the gracious thoughts of the Father,
the redeeming blood and interceding power of the Son,
the strength and patience and purity of the Holy Spirit.
Satan conceals his dark purposes under fair pretenses, as the Greek assassins sometimes hid their swords in the greenery of myrtle branches. I pray that I may not be ignorant of his deceitful devices. I pray that mine may be the knowledge that saves from sin and misery.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:26
Let me not worry the birds and lilies teach me better. God spreads a table for the sparrows, and clothes the wayside anemones with their exquisite beauty. And I am dearer to Him by far. I, who am made in His image, and for whom His Son has died, and whom He means to dwell beside Him in His heaven I occupy a larger place in His heart of hearts.
Let me not worry it serves no good purpose to fret and worry. I cannot, with all my solicitude, add a cubit either to my stature or to my age. Anxiousness will only plunge me into mental distress and annoyance and sorrow, without bringing me any compensating advantage whatever. It knows how to wound; but ah! it does not know how to heal.
Let me not worry a child should have more confidence in his Father's wisdom and watchfulness and love. It may be excusable for worldly men and women to worry but not a son in the royal and wealthy family of the King of kings. There is no justification for him if he goes worried and burdened during the day, and lies down to hours of sleeplessness at night.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry!" Matthew 6:25
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and searched the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11
Let me copy the good example of these young disciples in Berea.
The food of my secret life is the Word of God the wholesome and health-giving Word read with diligence and delight; its meaning inquired into; its precepts and promises committed to memory; its revelation of truth and duty and divine help brooded over, and pondered, and taken home, and made the bone and sinew and fibre of my spiritual being. I must walk and talk with God, up and down the holy Scriptures, until its wonders and glories fill my soul.
Wandering thoughts may be too often a synonym for intellectual indolence for a state of mind in which I allow the reins of thought to fall from my nerveless hands, and in which my imagination carries me wherever she will, uncurbed, unrestrained. If my meditation is of the right sort, it will be widely different. It will be active as well as passive. It will be vitalizing, concentrated, intense.
First, I must make a silence in my heart. I must command the thousand distracting voices which call to me from without and within, to hold their peace. Then I must wait upon God, hearkening to what He says to me, receiving His word with attention and meekness and love. And I must turn it over, and reflect upon it, and look at it from every side until I comprehend its significance for myself. There is perseverance here. There is sustained exertion.
This is what it means to search the Scriptures.
"Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I am the Bread of Life!" John 6:48
I am the Bread of Life, says Jesus to my soul. And there is no Bread like that!
For it satisfies the hunger of the heart. It goes deeper far than my bodily needs. It feeds the spirit within me so big and elastic that the whole world cannot fill it, so hungry and restless and baffled and frustrated. This Bread is truth, salvation, grace, pardon, holiness, power all that without which my innermost self is unable to live.
And it never loses its relish. It does not become stale, tasteless, insipid. The Christ of my childhood, is not a poorer and less longed-for Christ in my old age; He is a larger and more wonderful Christ. There are depths in Him to be sounded yet, there are heights to be scaled, there are treasures to be claimed!
And it imparts an undecaying life. The fathers who ate the manna in the wilderness are dead; their bones lie white and bleached along the desert sands all the way from Sinai to Kadesh. But if I eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus, I partake in the eternity of Jesus. Death has no power over me. It only pushes aside the curtain, and from the Holy Place I enter the Most Holy, where my High Priest is.
And it is to be had without cost. Ah, sometimes, in cruel days of famine, there are crowds of perishing men who cannot purchase the bread that will keep the wolf from their doors and the icy chill of death from their hearts. But I need only stretch forth an empty hand, and the fullness of Christ is mine!
O blessed Bread of Life!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The men replied: We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." Acts 10:22
It is pleasant to think of God's preparation of human hearts for Christ and His salvation and His love. He made the soul of Cornelius ready beforehand, for the divine blessing He was providing for it.
I see it today in the enterprise of Foreign Missions. Wherever the envoys of the Cross and the Crucified may go, they meet those who are open to the good news and who welcome its message with avidity. For the heavenly Gardener has been at work, cultivating the sterile soil, that in due season it may receive the incorruptible seed of the Word.
I see it today in the spiritual history of souls round about me. Many of them are just waiting the decisive moment, the favoring breeze, the touch of the renewing Spirit. Whenever it comes, they enter at once into life. It is because God has been busy with them underneath the surface, and they only respond to Him.
And I see it today, I trust, in my own innermost experience. Do I not know how He loved me and set His heart upon me, long before I cared for Him? I sought Him; yes but He my Savior, my Good Shepherd sought me first. And my seeking was but the issue of His prompting and His call.
There is life in the dry branches and the frozen ground, before there are daisies in the field and pink and white blossoms of the hawthorn lighting up the hedgerows. Thus it is with my God. I do not know when His love began. I do not know by what divers portions and in what divers manners He has kept calling, calling to me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Jonathan had a son who was lame in both feet . . . He fell and became crippled. His name was Mephibosheth." 2 Samuel 4:4
"Don't be afraid," David said to Mephibosheth, "for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan." 2 Samuel 9:7
Bless the Lord, O my soul the Lord your King deals with you as David dealt with Mephibosheth.
He finds you fallen from your high estate. Meant to be a prince you have become a beggar you are changed into a poor and banished man. Moreover, you are repulsive and unlovely, lame in your feet, so that you cannot run your Father's errands nor do His will. And, today, you are in the far country, on the other side of Jordan, no longer a citizen of the land of promise but a dweller among the heathen.
But there is One whose name pleads for you, as the name of Jonathan made intercession for the exiled prince. It is Jesus, the Father's Well-beloved. For His sake, God's thoughts towards you are thoughts of peace. For His sake, the distance and the disease and the degradation may be ended and from the misery and solitude you may come home.
So, my soul, God's palace is prepared for you. God's feast of fat things is the table spread for your hunger and thirst. "Eat, My friend; drink, yes, drink abundantly, My beloved!"
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"Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me." Luke 7:23
It is sometimes very difficult not to be offended in Jesus Christ.
The offence may be circumstantial. I find myself in a prison-house a narrow sphere, a sick chamber, an unpopular position when I had hoped for wide and great opportunities. Yes but He knows what is best for me. My environment is of His determining. He means it to intensify my faith, to draw me into nearer communion with Himself, and to ripen my graces. In the dungeon my soul should prosper.
The offence may be mental. I am haunted by doubts, perplexities, questions, which I cannot solve. I had hoped that, when I gave myself to Him, my sky would always be clear; but often it is overspread by mist and cloud. Yet let me believe that, if difficulties remain, it is that I may learn to trust Him all the more implicitly to trust and not to be afraid. Yes, and by my mental conflicts I am trained to be a tutor to other storm-driven men.
The offence may be spiritual. Temptation and sin continue to dog my steps. I had imagined that it would be otherwise, and that in His fold I should never feel the biting winds at all. But it is best as it is. His grace is magnified. My own character is matured. His Heaven is sweeter at the end of the day. There I shall look back on the turnings and trials of the way, and I shall sing the praises of my Guide.
So, let come what will come, His will is welcome; and I shall refuse to be offended in my loving Lord.
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"Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true." John 10:41
A very enviable testimony is this which is borne about John the Baptist, after he has himself gone home to God, from the darkness and heartache of prison. He did no miracle but all that he spoke of this Man were true. I can covet no brighter garland.
I can do no miracle How true it is! Heavenly light, spiritual strength, rest after weariness, life after death, the joy which is unspeakable and full of glory they are not mine to give. Very circumscribed my powers are, very meager my knowledge; my voice is unable to penetrate the deep places of the soul; my touch cannot impart health and blessedness and the new day. I must be content to fill a little space, and to be included among God's unnumbered rank and file.
But I can point men and women and children to Jesus the Christ; and all things, the vastest things, the profoundest things, the sublimest things, which I say about Him will fall behind and beneath the glorious truth. It is an untold blessedness to be just a herald of the King of grace. And when He comes to them, when they come to Him they will discover that there is none like Him in earth or Heaven. They will confess, "The half was not told us!"
Yet, perhaps, in that hour of revelation, of emancipation, of transfiguration they will remember me who guided them to Him. And they will thank God for me; and always, in their thought, through time and through eternity, I shall somehow be linked with Him who is all their Salvation and all their Desire. Then my cup will run over!
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"For He is faithful who promised." Hebrews 10:23
"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ!" 2 Corinthians 1:20
The promises of God are sure and infallible; not Yes and then Nay one thing today and an opposite thing tomorrow; but always Yes. And the Yes of Heaven is Yes indeed it cannot direct astray or disappoint!
His very Names are promises:
El Shaddai (The Lord God Almighty)
Jehovah-Rophi (The God who heals you)
Jehovah-Tsidkenu (The Lord our Righteousness)
Jehovah Nissi (The Lord my Banner)
Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will Provide)
Jehovah-Raah (The Lord my Shepherd)
Jehovah Shammah (The Lord is there)
Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord who sanctifies you)
Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is peace)
Father, Savior, Shepherd, Husband
what precious promises each name contains!
His Dealings in History are promises. Sooner or later He has overthrown the evil; sooner or later He has diademed the right. He has satisfied the poor with good things, while He has sent the rich empty away. It calls loud to me to hope. It says, "What He was to others yesterday He will be to you today."
The Doctrines of His Book are promises.
Justification: that is an assurance of a spotless righteousness.
Sanctification: that is an assurance of progressive holiness.
Glorification: that is an assurance of holiness without flaw.
And so with all the rest. Every truth of the Bible is a well in the wilderness and the well is deep!
And, in addition, there are those distinct and gracious Love-words which I call the promises. They light up the pages of Scripture as the stars light up the nightly sky a countless host, an exceeding great army! If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.
Truly, with such a God, and with Him all my own I shall lack no good thing. Let me say good-bye to my faint-heartedness. I am impotent in myself but the fountains of my refreshment are in His great heart, and they are fountains of a perpetual youth.
"He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises!" 2 Peter 1:4
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"So Elijah got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God." 1 Kings 19:8
Is it not wonderful that, both to Moses and to Elijah, Sinai, the mount of blackness and darkness and tempest, should be the scene where God's tenderness and love are most graciously revealed?
Moses is placed in a cleft of the rock, and the Lord passes by, and proclaims His goodness there on the very hillside which had blazed with His lightnings and echoed and reverberated with His thunders.
Elijah makes his way to the weird and gloomy spot, expecting wishing too, for he would gladly see a sudden judgment sweep the transgressors from the land that God will speak to him in the strong wind and the earthquake and the fire; and, instead, God speaks in the voice, very still and very small, of His gentleness and His mercy.
Thus it may be in my own spiritual history. It may be at Sinai that I am reminded of Calvary and the saving love of God in Christ. Often it is when it is trembling before the Mount which burns with fire that the soul catches its first sight of the Mount that is stained with ruddy blood the precious blood shed for its redemption. The stern, inexorable, angry law, with its threatenings and alarms, has been in numberless instances a tutor to lead the heart to Jesus. I look for the storm-cloud and I see the rainbow. I anticipate the word of doom and I hear the word of love, "Go in peace; your sins, which are many, are forgiven you!" When the night is darkest, the day is born. When things are at their worst with me, behold, God is my Salvation.
And thus the winter is past; the sorrow and sighing flee away.
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"Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones" Matthew 18:10
The little one may be a weak and backward disciple. He tries me sorely by his ignorance, his error, his despondencies and misgivings. But the travel-stained feet of Christ are members of His body, no less than the busy hands and the thinking brain. Let me not hold in contempt these dusty and way-worn feet. Let me bathe them tenderly in the refreshing waters of love.
The little one may be a sinful and outcast soul. Ah well but this soul, covered over with earthliness, sunk in degradation, may be one of the diamonds and rubies of the King of kings. If I will take pains with it, if I will set myself to burnish and brighten it it may flash and sparkle in the diadem that adorns the Lord's brow forever and ever. And then I shall have gladdened two hearts eternally the human heart I have helped to bring to Jesus, and the divine heart of my Savior Christ.
Therefore let me beware lest I despise one of God's little ones. I cannot estimate the value He attaches to them, the love He cherishes for them, the future He descries in them.
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"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
As, for instance, when you open His Word. Then say, Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears. Bow your heart to understand; set your mind to consider; subdue your will to obey. And the Spirit of the Lord will talk with you through the sacred page, and will lead you into untrodden territories of truth and grace.
And when you kneel to pray. Then, instead of formalism and routine, let there be adoration, confession, trust, hope. And you will rise from your knees, having indeed seen the vision of Christ.
And when you go into the world. Duties will demand much of you; perplexities will arise; temptations will assail your constancy. Then lift up your soul to the hills of Heaven. And you shall have help, guiding, calmness, victory. Nothing will find you unprepared and at a loss. Nothing will by any means hurt you.
And when sorrow darkens your lot, and death comes near. Then consult your Lord; be much with Him; let Him know all your need. And you shall be cleansed by the fires. And through the valley, you shall find a straight path to the Father's house.
"I forgot," Matthew Henry confesses, "to ask special help on the day's work, and so the chariot wheels drove heavily." In all your ways acknowledge Him this is the one secret of triumph.
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"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" Romans 5:8
The love of God is the best love of all.
It sends me the richest gift. What is it that He bestows?
Not gold and gems.
Not houses and lands.
Not a world with its wealth.
Not an angel's clear shining wisdom and burning compassion.
It is something immeasurably better. It is Jesus Christ! It is His own Equal and Fellow, very God of very God. It is the Son of His heart.
And this love suffers the keenest pain for me. I cannot separate the incarnation from the crucifixion, Bethlehem from Calvary; the village inn, is but a stage on the way to the hill of reproach. Jesus took my nature, in order that He might ransom my soul. He was born, that He might die. And for His Father, witnessing it all, approving of it all, following every step of that awful descent on to its tragic close what a sorrow of sorrows there was here!
And this love blesses me, the most unworthy. Men love the lovable. But God commends His love toward me, in that, while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. Nothing sweet and gracious was there about me I was a prodigal and an enemy. It was then, while I was yet a great way off, that the Father ran, and fell on my neck, and kissed me! Unbidden, unasked, uncompelled He opened to me His deepest heart.
Oh, how He loves! And, having once set His affection on me, He will never withdraw His grace. Space is against my earthly loves space can sever and part. Time is against my human loves time can canker and chill. But God loves me to the end, and through the end, and forever and ever!
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"My soul desired the first-ripe fruit." Micah 7:1
"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:8
You desire to have fruit from me, good Gardener. Not certainly the weeds of actual and hideous sin. Not the barrenness and emptiness of a life indifferent to You. Not the works of the flesh, nor yet the works of the soul, wrought in irksomeness and pride. Not only the flowers of natural disposition and grace. No but fruit of Your creating, fruit that comes spontaneously from the new heart, fruit of Canaan and not of Egypt.
But this is not all. You desire the first-ripe fruit. The fig in its sweetness. The apple when its juices are fullest and richest. The barley and wheat with ears compact and overflowing.
I notice how easily the ripe fruit can be distinguished from the leaves that are about it, and You tell me that there must be no doubt about my devotion. Make me franker, more decided, more single-hearted. I notice how the ripe fruit brims over with luscious delight and You tell me that I must be full of mercy and goodness and gentleness and patience. I notice how the ripe fruit hangs its head and You tell me that I should be clothed with humility; teach me here, as well as there, to cast my crown before Your throne. And I notice how the ripe fruit takes on the color of the sun which ripens it, and You tell me that I must grow up into the perfection of Christ; give me, my God, more of this Sunlight which never was on sea or land.
I would not altogether disappoint the heavenly Gardener who
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Your daughter is dead!" Luke 8:49
How am I better than the little daughter of Jairus lying cold and voiceless and still in her white death-robe?
Like the motionless body that could not move a finger nor raise an eyelid now I am incapable of vital spiritual action. I am not living for the glory of God and for the real advantage of men. "The door of death is made of gold," ah but not of the soul's death that is an inexorable, imprisoning, iron door.
Like the tomb which would soon have imprisoned the decaying and wasting form I am buried deep in bewilderment and darkness. The grave is not fuller of dusk and gloom, than the eyeless, dead spirit is within me.
Like the unconscious clay which felt no sympathy with the weeping father and mother, and little knew what sorrow its deadness caused I do not dream of the Father of spirits who is bending over me in pity and who grieves that I should be lost.
But Jesus comes and speaks the word.
Through a verse of the Bible, or through an awakening providence, or through what seems a trivial enough incident, or through the counsel of a friend He arrests the steadfast and pitiless march of death. "Young man, arise!" "Lazarus, come forth!" And I begin to live. My sin is felt. And by and by holiness is seen to be surpassingly beautiful. And by and by I pray, and I look in daily trust to my Savior, and I confess Him before men. There is a new creation old things are passed away.
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"If You will, You can make me clean!" Mark 1:40
The leper of those far-off days in Galilee might be forgiven for wondering whether Christ would really be willing to forgive him. It was probably the first time that such a suppliant had drawn near to Jesus. It was a new thing in Israel that any Rabbi should hold kindly fellowship with these miserable and unclean men. They had their home outside the camp and the congregation. By compulsion of society they were separatists and solitaries. Yes, it might well be a question whether Christ would have anything to do with a sufferer so uninviting and so loathsome.
But as for me, I ought never to say, "If You will." There should not be a vestige of doubt or hesitation on my part. I have the history of nineteen centuries behind me. I have the experience of a great multitude which cannot be numbered, to bid me be of good courage. East or west, yesterday or today, when did Christ ever refuse a leper in his pitiful case, in his despair of all other support and salvation? For pardon, for holiness, for comfort, for grace let me come boldly to His throne and to Himself. Heaven and earth will pass away, He will contradict His own nature, He will belie His name before He deals untenderly with me. He wills; He can make me clean.
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"I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear comes!" Proverbs 1:26
Sometimes Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs makes me think of my Lord Jesus Christ. It is a portrait, drawn before Bethlehem and Nazareth and Golgotha and Olivet, of my Savior, my Teacher, my King the Wisdom of God.
Yet I must be very careful how I apply certain of these Old Testament verses to Him. Not all of them, surely, are meant for One so rich in mercy! Not all of them delineate the features of my Good Shepherd, who seeks me over moor and fen and crag and torrent until He finds me, and can bring me home rejoicing.
Will Jesus ever laugh in the day of anyone's calamity? Will He ever mock in the hour of anyone's fear, when the whirlwind of distress and anguish overwhelms the soul? Will there be victory, gladness for His heart, in the rout and ruin of His enemies at last? No, no; it will be the sharpest and sorrowfullest of pains to Him to say, "Depart from Me!"
We must reap as we sow; and the reaping will be terrible for those among us who persist in sowing to the flesh. But it will be terrible for Christ, too terrible beyond the power of my thought to conceive, beyond all the skill of my imagination to portray.
For His sake as well as for my own, that I may spare Him agony as well as save my life from death, let me turn to Him now. He is Love even more than He is Wisdom. He spoke the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He forgave Zacchaeus, and the woman of the city, and the robber on the Tree. He will in no wise cast me out.
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"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." John 16:7
It is expedient for me, it is my great gain and blessedness, that my Lord has gone away, as hard as I find it to credit the surprising truth.
Three benefits, the Heidelberg Catechism assures me, I receive from Christ's Ascension
1. "That He is my Advocate in the presence of His Father." Such a Friend I have in the court of the King of kings an Intercessor who ever lives, a Petitioner who never fails.
"Day and night our Jesus makes no pause,
Pleads His own fulfillment of all laws,
Veils with His perfections mortal flaws,
Clears the culprit, pleads the desperate cause,
Plucks the dead from death's devouring jaws,
And the worm that gnaws."
2. "That I have my own flesh in Heaven, as a sure pledge that He, who is the Head, will also take me, one of His members, up to Himself." This is another good treasure and blessing. We two are so joined that, where He is today, I shall be tomorrow with Him.
3. "That He sends me His Spirit, by whose power I seek those things which are above." This is the third beatitude which the Ascension brings me. He has received gifts for me, and, most of all, the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit. He sheds Him down on me; and then I, who am feeble, become as David, and can do valiantly.
Thus it is indeed best for me that the clouds have received my Redeemer, and are keeping Him until the time of the restitution of all things. I need the Christ of the glory as well as the Christ of the humiliation.
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"Shamgar struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel." Judges 3:31
Shamgar did not dream, when he drove his oxen out in the morning, that before the evening he would accomplish a signal deliverance for his land. But the call came, and he obeyed at once.
Just so, may I serve my God in the common working day. I need not be a white-robed priest ministering at the altar. In the street, in the shop, in the field, in the home I can show the shining light of holiness. I can speak warning or comfort to those beside me. I can help the Lord against the mighty.
And I may serve my God with very unlikely instruments. In Bunyan's 'Palace Beautiful', which stands close beside the King's highway, they kept "the oxgoad with which Shamgar slew six hundred men." They encouraged desponding pilgrims by the sight of the trophy.
Just so, if I am lying in the hand of Jesus I who have no genius, no brilliance, no gifts of speech there is no predicting what He will achieve by me. He chooses foolish things to confound the wise.
I cannot serve my God too vigorously and enthusiastically. Shamgar's blood leaped in him with indignation, and he struck for Israel's honor and for Jehovah's glory. I sometimes think that, unless a man has been duly trained and conforms to recognized custom, he has no right to fight the battle. But Christ yearns for a soul which will forget its decorum, in its whole-hearted devotion to Him. Let that soul be mine. I would a Shamgar for God!
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"He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed." Luke 20:11
God sends to me servant after servant, for His truth is many-sided and His patience is infinite.
Now it is Isaiah, with his great language and his clear accents and his evangelical poetry. He speaks to me of my Redeemer whose name is Wonderful, and of the wells of salvation from which I may draw water with joy.
Or it is Jeremiah, with his droppings of warm tears Jeremiah who weeps for my hurt and captivity, and bids me have recourse to the Balm in Gilead and the Physician there.
Or it is Hosea, with his revelation of the love of God; or Amos, with his sterner message of the divine righteousness even for me.
I ought surely to hearken to servants so conversant with the thoughts of their Lord and so filled with His Spirit. But not content with these, God sends to me, last of all, His beloved Son! "It may be," He says, with such yearning pathos, "it may be that he will reverence Him when he sees Him!"
Jesus descending for me to the crude cradle in the manger;
Jesus coming not to be ministered, unto but to minister;
Jesus teaching me about the Father;
Jesus offering Himself, the atoning sacrifice for my sins;
Jesus living again, to be my Advocate and Friend on high;
Jesus returning once more to receive me to Himself!
There is none like Him even in that goodly fellowship of the prophets.
He is God's last Word to me, and God's best Word.
He is my Teacher, Priest, Sovereign, Brother!
If I refuse Him, I break to pieces my own soul. For there is salvation in no other.
"Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.' But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him!" Luke 20:13-15
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"And while they were eating, Jesus said: I tell you the truth, one of you will betray Me.
And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him: Lord, is it I?" Matthew 26:21-22
The true heart will not accuse a brother, as readily as it will suspect itself. It thinks no evil of its neighbors and friends. It hopes all things and believes all things. And I would cherish and manifest this large and hopeful charity. I would beware of the cynicism which fixes all doubt upon others. Week in and week out, I would esteem others better than myself.
The true heart is conscious of its own weaknesses and perils. Long after it has been redeemed and renewed, it knows that infinite capacities of shameful evil lurk within it. It feels that the thinnest partitions separate it from hateful sin. Just so, would I be conscious of my proneness to fall, and would live in holy fear, and would take the humblest place a place too high and too honorable for me.
The true heart invites the scrutiny and verdict of its all-seeing Lord. It lifts itself into the light of His unerring gaze. It rests satisfied with the judgment of no lower and more fallible tribunal. To Him, who reads my secret soul like the page of an open book, would I make my appeal. To Him would I direct my prayer: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way." Psalm 139:23-24
Even if it lacks full knowledge, even if it makes many mistakes Lord, let my heart be true to You, as the needle to the pole. You will own and bless much love and little light more than much light and little love. I would make sure that I love much.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to Heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!" Genesis 28:12
"In the days of Jacob," William Hazlitt writes wistfully and poignantly, "there was a ladder between Heaven and earth; but now the heavens are gone farther off and have become unreachable."
Let me rejoice that for the believing heart, the very reverse is the case. The heavens have drawn nearer. They have become familiar and accessible. Is not Jesus the blessed Reality of which Jacob's rocky ladder was only the symbol? He assures me, "I tell you the truth, you shall see Heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man!" John 1:51
Jesus brings the Almighty Father near to me as the Bethel ladder did for the patriarch. In Him, the everlasting God clothes Himself in my nature and carries my infirmities. He proclaims the forgiveness of all my sin, as the divine Voice did for the guilty fugitive; for this end He was born, and died, and rose again. He transfigures my weary and wilderness life through Him a living pathway is open to me at every moment into the Holiest of all. He alters the aspect of the world, as He did for Jacob, who could see now in the darkest places, the staircase climbing to the sky! I believe in Christ, and I know that there is hope and healing for all redeemed men.
My heavens are not unreachable; they are my Father's house, and Jesus draws Him and them close to me. Through my Savior His angels descend, and His grace, and His light, and His power. Through my Savior my prayers ascend, and my faith, and my hope, and my songs of praise. Through Him I myself shall ascend one day!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet" John 13:10
Every disciple of Christ walks through the hot and dusty ways of this world. I spend my Christian life in hostile surroundings. When saved, I do not go at once to be with my Lord in heavenly glory. He leaves me here on earth for my own discipline, and for the benefit of others around me. So I wrestle on against storm and wind and tide!
Every disciple contracts defilement in his walk through the world. I am readily beguiled. My firmest purposes are shaken. Along the road, there are innumerable obstacles and relentless enemies. Night after night my feet are begrimed and soiled! Am I to despair then?
No, for Christ will cleanse His disciples. I have been bathed in the morning of my new life I have passed through the great spiritual change I have been forgiven.
But I need still to have my feet washed. And when I come in at night from the fierce sun, and the dusty highway, and the jostling crowd, with mind chafed and disturbed He waits to lead me into His secret place and to refresh and heal me.
Ah, I scarcely can tell which I should admire most:
Jesus' passion for me or His patience with me;
His suffering for me or His longsuffering with me!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh!" Galatians 5:16
Life in the Holy Spirit is a Walk. Patient, steadfast, plodding, through grey days and golden days; amid the snow of January and the sun of June and the dull dark fogs of the waning year. He, He alone enables me to persevere to the end. It is a glorious and divine achievement. It is a grander thing to walk resolutely and untiringly onward than to mount up with the wings of an eagle.
Life in the Holy Spirit is a Harvest. Blessed be His mighty grace, from my wilderness heart, where the works of the flesh grew as unsightly and poisonous weeds He brings forth the sweet and wholesome fruits of the heavenly country. I have only to trust Him simply and daily, and the desert that is in me will rejoice and blossom!
But Life in the Holy Spirit is a Crucifixion also. He nails me on a cross not a vicarious cross, like my redeeming Savior's but one that is sore and sharp to my natural mind. My flesh, my old darling sins, my pride, my wilfulness, my former self He pierces and kills them all; until I bear branded on my body the very Stigmata of Jesus.
Shall I have Him, when He will cost me so much? Yes, I long for Him, more and more. There are sufferers who fare better than all the children of pleasure and mirth; and I shall enroll myself among them!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"So he made two doors of olive wood." 1 Kings 6:32
The very doors of the Temple so beautiful, so rich showed that the house was the house of God. They far outrivalled all common doors.
It is a lesson to me about what I may call the approaches, the portals, to the palace and temple of my soul. They should reveal the Lord who dwells within. Nothing about the Christian ought to be secular, profane, unconsecrated. His thresholds and gateways no less than his innermost shrines should be holy ground, rare, unearthly, strange.
There are looks on my face, which will tell whether I belong to God. The skin of my face should shine, with gladness, with sweetness, with saintliness, with the joy of that unearthly and peerless communion with God.
There are words of my lips, which will reveal whether the King has His residence in me. Is it easy, natural, delightful for me to speak of Him? My tongue like the pen of a ready writer, when He is my theme.
There are traits in my daily life which will disclose whether my Lord's authority over me is supreme and masterful. My unworldliness, my honor and chivalry, my graciousness and love these will soon publish the marvelous and joyous fact.
There may be a beauty of holiness in the air of a room, in the serving of a meal, in the tone and material of the very clothes I wear. Bushnell has said, "It is possible to dress in the Spirit." Indeed it is possible to do all things in the Spirit.
Still, as of old, the doors of the sanctuary must be of olive wood, adorned with carvings of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all." Acts 20:36
On the shore at Miletus, Paul kneeled down and prayed with the elders of the Ephesian Church. God answered his prayer exceeding abundantly.
Church history tells us that John spent the closing years of his life in Ephesus. When the grievous wolves entered in among the flock Arians, who would have robbed the Lord of His divine glories and supernatural crown; Ebionites, who extolled the life of asceticism and renunciation; Gnostics, who mingled the simplicity of the gospel with wild fables of their own he, the Apostle of Love and the Apostle of Fire, was there, to deliver the sheep from their fangs. The prayer on the beach was not in vain. It had an overbrimming and munificent response.
So let me learn that it is no profitless thing for me to cry unto the God of my life. For myself, for others, for the world, for the Church, threatened by crafty and deadly foes, let me lift up holy hands without anger or doubting. There is One who hears and who will make reply. Not one petition escapes His ear, or eludes His memory, or is too high for His omnipotent grace.
And let me rest assured that there will be no cessation in the onward progress of Christ's kingdom. If Paul goes John will come in his place. The Master, who is with us all the days, watches over the welfare of His little flock. He will guard it from the hazard of the night and the pitilessness of the storm. No ravenous beast will break in upon the security and sanctity of the fold. No frail and trembling lamb will be missing when the evening brings all home!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine . . .
The Son of Man came eating and drinking . . ." Luke 7:33-34
There is need both for John the Baptist and for the Christ.
There is room for divine severity and for diviner goodness.
Judgment has its place and mercy has its higher and queenlier place.
Sometimes it will be well for me to go out to the deserts and listen to John.
He will deepen and intensify my views of sin.
He will shatter my plausible excuses and my easy-going piety.
He will summon me to godly sorrow.
He will bid me dig deep and lay the foundations well.
I am too apt to take for granted that all is as it ought to be.
I am too apt to love religion only when she walks in silver slippers, and on the sunny side of the street.
But sometimes it will be better for me to eat and drink with Jesus. He will assure me of forgiveness, although my transgressions are countless in their number, and crimson in their stain. He will give me a deeper and deeper insight into the marvelous love of God. He will teach me to sympathize with His own gracious purpose of seeking and saving the lost. He will inspire me with hopefulness for the chief and worst of sinners. And I need His message, for there are many midnight hours in my history when I despair both of myself and of others.
Let me not condemn John because he blows a dolorous blast nor Jesus because His is the silver trumpet of God's good and rich Evangel. My soul requires the pealing thunder of the Forerunner but then too the infinite sweetness of the Savior's voice.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12
"Put on a heart of compassion," says the wise apostle.
Some elect and gracious souls seem, indeed, to have this compassionate heart from the very outset of their lives. Love is their vital breath and their native air. It comes to them naturally and spontaneously . . .
as the birds pipe and sing simply because they must,
as the flower unfolds and cannot help itself,
as the fountain bubbles up irresistibly to the surface.
But how good it is for me, who have no inborn faculty of loving, that I may put on a heart of compassion!
I can do it by asking God, day after day, to take out of me my selfish, censorious, critical, untender, evil heart!
I can do it by perpetually recollecting Christ, who went about ever doing good, and who has left me an example that I should follow in His steps.
I can do it by claiming, morning by morning, the grace of the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
I can do it by the endeavor to put myself in the place of others, and to comprehend their difficulties and temptations.
I can do it by watching always for opportunities of lifting the bruised reed and of fanning the smoking flax.
I can do it, as Robert Levett with his single talent did, by "little unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
Thus the heart of compassion may grow and thrive, even within me! Thus my harsh and proud and critical spirit may spread its black wings and fly away from me, never to return again!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The LORD will write in the register of the peoples: This one was born in Zion!" Psalm 87:6
This is God's great census. My sympathies are comparatively narrow in their range. They scarcely extend beyond my family, my friends, my country. But His compassions take in lost men the world over. His wisdom knows what key will fit the door of every human soul. His power is not dismayed by the problems that fill me with fear. His chariot rides conquering through Egypt, and Babylon, and Philistia, and Tyre, and Ethiopia.
But it is a spiritual birthright which alone will satisfy Him. I must be born there, not enrolled merely in His world-wide family but begotten into its ranks. So then I am undone and dead until He interposes; and He must re-mold, re-fashion, re-make me. It humbles my pride, for I congratulate myself on the dignity of my nature. But let me take God's estimate. And let me receive God's regeneration.
And it is an individual experience which He demands. This man, He says, using the singular number. One by one, the vast muster-roll is written and completed. One by one, men are forgiven, enlightened, purified, saved. Ah, those separate entries in God's long list of His sons and citizens is mine among them? Have I crossed His threshold? I cannot enter with the crowd. I must go in alone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." Leviticus 19:2
It is an arduous commandment.
The fiery darts of sinful thoughts fall on me like showers of poisoned arrows; and as sure as they find lodgment in my heart, they destroy its likeness to God. The tides of worldliness threaten to engulf me; and when I permit them to rush in, I am no longer separate and spiritual. The temptation to discouragement often gets the better of me; and if I allow it to do so, how can I bear the image of the ever-blessed Father? The inclination to sloth besets me; and, through my remissness, I do not climb the difficult hill to the Celestial City. Yes, the work is great indeed.
But yet it is an attainable commandment.
"Be holy, for I am holy," my Lord says to me; and the logic is good, and I can allege nothing against it. He is my Proprietor and my King; and He has a right to dictate the conditions of my life. He is the Altogether Lovely, without spot or wrinkle; and when He asks me to be like Himself, He asks me to resemble what is most worthy of my reverence. Moreover, He has Himself reached the sublime standard in my nature, a Wayfarer exposed to the unkindly winds which beat on me. And, best of all, He gives me His grace, and puts in me His energy. And then nothing is impossible.
I shall be holy, for the Lord my God is holy. It is a costly vow; but it is not an impracticable vow.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"While he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him!" Luke 15:20
It is always God's manner. He responds to my first approaches. He sees the sunrise in my soul, the new day stirring there while the skies are still a canopy of black, and the night winds are cold, and the birds are not singing yet in the fresh morning air.
It is because He knows the sorrows of my past.
The stings of conscience,
the upbraidings of memory,
the weariness and emptiness of heart,
the mighty famine which swept down on me in the far country
He is aware of them all, for He sent them Himself, to drive me to Him!
And it is because He knows the difficulties of my present. Ah, the home-coming is hard for a prodigal son I am full of questions and fears. The elder brethren, the faithful servants in the house, the Church and the Christian society those who have never fallen as I have done are they not likely to judge me sorely? So God Himself comes out to take my part!
And it is because He knows the possibilities of my future. He is going to change the broken column, into a pillar in His temple. He is going to make the dying brand, a torch flashing forth His truth and light and love!
Out of the refuse of our mines, we extract the most valuable acids and the most exquisite dyes. This is an emblem of what my heavenly Father will do with me. That is why He is so tenderly and so passionately eager to have me back again; that is why He runs to meet me, falls on my neck, and kisses me!
Let me search all the world, no earthly father loves like Him!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The one who endures to the end will be saved!" Matthew 24:13
Endurance is the quality of the runner, who allows nothing to turn him aside. The Greek athlete had ten months of self-denial and exercise, before there was even a chance for him to succeed; and then, at the end, there was the short and intense forth-putting of tremendous effort. I must show his self-denial and his whole-heartedness in the Christian race. I must "run in such a way as to get the prize!" 1 Corinthians 9:24
Endurance is the quality of the soldier, who fights and does not flinch nor yield. My wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and against the powers. Ah, my soul, these are not adversaries to be conquered and put to flight in a day! It means a long warfare. It means an unflagging resolution. Have I counted the cost?
Endurance is the quality of the worker, who refuses to forsake his post. There are joys in my labor such as are to be found nowhere else; but there are troublesome days too, and keen disappointments. The ground seems unproductive, and the skies unfavorable. I had hoped to have my harvests stored and safe before now but how lean and empty is my treasure-trove! Yes, but I am here to do the will of God, and I must not abandon His trust.
Endurance is the quality of the suppliant, who clings about the feet of God and will not let Him go. I have to pray always, for myself, for others, for the cause of my Lord, for the poor and dying world. True prayer is no child's play! It demands importunity, continuance, insistence. I must set myself on my watch-tower. I must take no rest, and give Him no rest.
"The one who endures to the end will be saved!" Grant me, O Lord, this endurance and this faith.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever!" 1 Peter 1:24-25
The word of the Lord endures forever!
My beliefs about many things change, and it is well sometimes that they should. But not those great and vivifying beliefs to which the gospel introduces me beliefs which tell me . . .
of the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ,
of His redeeming blood,
of His undecaying love,
of Himself my Brother and my God.
My friends alter and pass away. But not the Friend of friends to whom the Book leads me Jesus my Shepherd, my Master, my Dearest and Best. Lo, He is with me all the days, even to the end of the age, and then throughout the limitless eternity on the farther side of death!
My moods toward Him are fitful and fickle. My love is warm today and cold tomorrow. But His mood toward me, as His musical and tender message assures me ah, it is a constant thing, a mood of grace unutterable, of affection without conclusion and without alloy.
My world passes away. But that world of unseen and spiritual realities of which, through this incorruptible seed, He has made me a child: there is no night there, there is no rust in its gold nor canker in its array. Its foundations stand sure. It is an unbeginning, unending, boundless, shoreless world!
I am glad glad that the word of my Lord endures forever. My green fields grow brown and fruitless, my summer roses die; but falling leaves and revolving seasons only draw me nearer to my center of rest!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"When they persecute you" Matthew 10:23
Persecution is evidently an indispensable mark of discipleship.
Christians are sheep in the midst of wolves! "In their synagogues they will scourge you!" "You shall be hated of all men for My name's sake!" How the prophecies of persecution follow one another in quick succession! How sure the Master is that, like Himself, I shall make the acquaintance of the Valley of Humiliation and the Valley of the Shadow of Death!
Persecution has certainly changed its dress in these last days. The lions no longer tear the Christian limb from limb in the Roman Coliseum. The fires no longer burn martyrs in Smithfield.
But, today as of old, if I will live godly, then I must suffer. I cannot be a whole-hearted disciple, in my home, in my business, everywhere without awakening opposition. If my religion never brings me persecution, I may well question whether it is very true or very deep. If it is so unmistakable that it does expose me sometimes to ridicule and resentment, I should bless God for that.
It is still along the Way of the Cross that the Christian pilgrim walks to the Celestial City.
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted!" 2 Timothy 3:12
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!" Psalm 32:1
The hour of forgiveness it is the hour of blessedness. To have my transgression, my personal rebellion against the living God, pardoned, and its heavy burden lifted away; to have my sin, my miserable failure to glorify Him, covered, and its shame hidden under Christ's white and stainless clothing; to have my iniquity, my impurity of thought and life, its debt and liability reckoned to Another and not to me "Well may this glowing heart rejoice."
The hour before forgiveness it is the hour of confession. He who covers his sin shall not prosper. No, no; so long as I did that, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. I had neither joy nor love nor light. So, just as I was, I went and acknowledged my transgressions to the Lord, my separate acts of disobedience, and the hideous root of heart-alienation out of which they sprang. I bade Him see and consider the whole black indictment I kept nothing back. Then, I thank His precious name, He forgave the iniquity of my sin.
And the hour after forgiveness it is the hour of manifold goodness and mercy.
Now that I am a child in my Father's home, protection is mine. He will preserve me from trouble, and will compass me about with songs of deliverance.
Instruction also is mine. He will counsel me with His eye upon me.
And ecstasy and rapture are sometimes mine. I shall shout for joy. I have found the Fountain of Youth. I have entered the City of Gold. I have reached the Happy Isles. I am at rest on the father-heart of God.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Jesus wept!" John 11:35
I thank the Evangelist for a sentence so brief and so full.
I feel the alluring power of Christ's tears. When my heart is overwhelmed, when my sins testify against me, when I am afraid of the frown of high and holy Heaven here is a loving and pitiful God, standing with me where I stand, weeping with me when I weep. I should not flee from Him. I should be drawn towards Him.
I am glad, too, for the wide range of Christ's tears. At Bethany He wept for a beloved friend's death; and on Olivet, I remember, He wept for a great city doomed to death. He bends over me, forlorn, heartbroken, stricken, in measureless grace. I praise Him that His tenderness is both individual and universal.
And I think of the source and origin of His tears. Standing by the grave of Lazarus He mourned for my sorrows, my desolating bereavements, the orphanhood of my life when my dear ones are snatched away. Sitting on the hillside near Jerusalem He mourned for my sins.
And then I rejoice in the outcome of the Savior's tears. They did not drain the force out of His soul. They roused and quickened Him. The new life of Lazarus was the result in the one case, the atoning death of the cross in the other.
Oh blessed tears!
Oh happy weeping!
Oh sorrow effectual and fruit-bearing!
God may my own tears may be such as these!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth!" 1 Corinthians 5:7-8
Every day let me keep my Passover to the Lord. Not in the sanctuary courts alone, when the bread and wine pass from worshiper to worshiper but in the home and the workshop and the world.
Let me begin by putting away the leaven of malice and wickedness from the house of my heart. I shall do well to search for the old evil leaven, as the Jew did with lighted candles.
And let me eat the bitter herbs of penitence and godly sorrow for my past foolishness and evil. It is fitting that I should humble myself. There is too much reason why I should blush to lift up my face to my heavenly Father. The lowest place is all too lofty for me.
But let me rejoice that the ruddy life-blood of Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb without blemish and without spot, has been shed for the full and free and present and abiding remission of all my sin! Behind it and behind Him, there is safe shelter and unassailable security.
And so let me sing, morning by morning and night by night, my Hallel, my loud and joyous Passover Psalm: "You are my God, and I will give thanks unto You! You are my God, I will exalt You!"
This should be the daily rule and precept of the Christian life.
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"Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" Luke 2:49
Jesus fulfilled His ideal. For, by and by, when He came to where the Cross stood, He could say it is finished the business of My Father in Heaven.
First, He waited. For a large proportion of the twenty-one years that lay between His first Passover in the Temple, and His last Passover on the shameful hill He was satisfied to live in quietness and silence. Let me be well content to wait until God has made me ready to toil and fight for Him. There is nothing more difficult. There is nothing more fruitful.
But then He worked. He often had no time to eat. He felt that the night was coming soon, and He occupied the day with labor. And I should task my utmost capacity, I should employ my every minute, in serving God and man. After waiting, working ought to follow. And so I shall resemble Christ.
He prayed too. Without prayer, work is dull and dreary, plodding and mechanical; and therefore, if He were busy all day, He devoted the hours of the darkness to close and blessed fellowship with His Father. And I must ask and receive; I must seek and find. I need to pray infinitely more than my Master did.
And He suffered. What a fire He passed through! What swellings of Jordan He forded with bare and bleeding feet! The principle holds good for me. Suffering in some shape or form is an essential part of my experience, a fundamental ingredient in my life. Thus only am I perfected.
Waiting, working, praying, suffering it is my Fathers business.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I will bring this third part through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold." Zechariah 13:9
I gather from this verse, that though the days are ever so evil, God will have His chosen ones. There always is the third part, which He guards to be a praise to Himself. There always are the few in Sardis, who walk with Christ in white. I trust that I belong to the little flock.
I learn also that, though the members of His Church are insignificant, they are very precious. He compares them not to dull lead but to silver and gold. He has Himself clothed them with their attractiveness. My Lord, I draw my silvery sheen and golden brightness from You alone.
But I see that, as beloved as His people are, it is His purpose to refine them. The jeweler uses every method to beautify the metals which he prizes most. If the citizens of the world escape the sharpness of discipline the citizens of the heavenly Kingdom cannot. He chastens me, because He loves me.
And I find, too, that the sorrow may be very severe. He brings His children through the fire the quivering and scorching fire! "I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10
"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:11. Oh that blessed Afterward! The fire purifies the dross from me; it kindles a new glow of life.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." Galatians 5:17
The Spirit and the flesh are two opposites; and each is bent on undermining the ascendancy of the other. Sin reigning within me, or the Holy Spirit reigning it must be one of the two; it cannot be both.
If the flesh is supreme, its dominion will be a despotism. I shall find it a pitiless master, and all that I produce in obedience to it will be sin. It is a process distasteful, irksome, dreary. There is no joy, no pleasure. I imagined that sin would be my friend, and I discover that it is my gawler!
But if the Spirit controls me, how different is His masterhood! He will be a tender Gardener far more than an autocratic prince; and what comes from me now will be fruit. It will be a spontaneous harvest. I shall bring forth my grapes, my olives, my pomegranates, without effort and with joy. I cannot help myself; my second and heavenly nature must have outlet. From within, most gently and yet most royally, the Lord the Spirit will dominate me; and it will be nothing but gladness to submit to Him.
Surely I shall not hesitate which Master to choose. With the one is bondage, with the other is liberty.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Men ought always to pray and not to faint." Luke 18:1
Always it was the Master's word. Always, morning and noon and night, Christians ought to pray and not to faint. It is the only word which befits one . . .
endowed with a nature like mine,
dwelling in a world like mine,
dogged by enemies like mine.
There are the constantly recurring temptations of my life. I am beset by perils, more fatal because they approach me unseen and unheard. I spend my days in the midst of incitements to sin. My adversary the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour. Yes, my prayer should be unbroken.
There are the solemn crises of my life. At any instant the ordinary and monotonous routine may be interrupted, and I may find myself face to face with emergency with a duty, an experience, a sacrifice, such as I never encountered before. I shall do valiantly in the hour of testing only if I breathe the atmosphere of prayer. Otherwise the crisis will reveal an ignoble and panic-smitten knight.
There are the little cares of my life it is full of distractions, of worries, which may draw me away from God. Pascal lamented that in certain moods, he could not endure the lighting of a fly on his face, without irritation. But if I make my history a continuous prayer, I shall cease to be troubled or agitated. Then, as one has said, "my voice will be as sweet as the murmur of a brook."
So Christ's Always is the only right word. As I would consult my own welfare, I dare not exchange it for any other I must not weaken its binding force and its universal scope.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I will walk humbly all my years." Isaiah 38:15
Thus said King Hezekiah and I would say it too.
There are humbling memories which rise within my heart. I am filled with recollections which bow me down. Have I not broken all God's commandments? Have I not raised the shameful cross for His Son? Since He lifted me into spiritual life have I not been disobedient a thousand times over? Yes, I shall walk humbly, remembering my past.
There is a watchful attitude which befits my heart. I am like a little child, walking through a forest where the wild beasts have their home, and where there are hazards to be encountered at every step. I have need to be on the alert. I have need to rest on Him whose grace is sufficient. At any moment I may be trapped and overcome. Surely I shall walk humbly.
There is a prevailing seriousness which should rule my heart. Life for me is a momentous thing, not to be trifled with, to be used wisely and well. I am living . . .
to glorify God,
to be holy as He is holy,
to be zealous of good works.
I cannot be as mirthful and unburdened by thought as those who stand outside His kingdom. I must walk humbly, recognizing His lordship over every aspect of my life.
There are important activities which should occupy my heart. I would make no display I would do my work without ostentatious or pretense.
Let me walk humbly all my years.
Half-hidden violets may bless very many!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city!" Joshua 6:20
I find three marvels in this history.
There is the strangeness of the siege. For seven days God's people marched round Jericho in unbroken stillness. They lifted against it no sword or spear, battle-axe or bow. It brings me a double lesson the lesson that my God is unwilling to inflict on sinners the stroke which means death, and the lesson that He tests the faith of His children. Let me master it. He bids judgment to linger, that I may turn to Him. He bids my soul trust Him to the uttermost.
Then there is the strangeness of the victory. What trophies of a tangible sort did the conquerors gain? Absolutely none. The silver and gold, the flocks and herds, were destroyed. And did God win nothing for His own? He won a sinful woman's heart. Rahab delivered from death, it was God's prize that day. I thank Him for the story. It tells me how inestimable my sin-paralyzed soul is to Him. It tells me to what royal uses He may turn it; for did not Rahab become the ancestress of Jesus Himself?
And there is the strangeness of the prohibition which followed the triumph Jericho is never to be rebuilt. And why is that? To remind outsiders of the mighty power of God; yes, and to remind Israel where its true strength lies. If He has humbled the fortress of my unbelief and pride, I am a sermon to others of what He can do. If I am His child, I need no bulwarks but His eye and heart and hand.
So these mysteries, like other divine mysteries, are full of blessing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters" Luke 22:10
Happy indeed was the householder in whose guest chamber the Lord sat down to the Holy Supper.
His name is quite unknown but it is an anonymity in which I may well rejoice, and which is fraught with overflowing comfort for me. It tells me that among the disciples of whom the outside world hears nothing at all, there are those who are very dear to the great Captain of salvation. It assures me that I may fill a little space little and unromantic so as to glorify Him.
And as this man went about the commonest duties, the King of kings met with him and became his Guest. He was bearing a pitcher of water into his house, when the ambassadors of Christ found him out. It is a token to me that the whole of my life may be made sacred. It is a proof that in my ordinary everyday work I may hold fellowship with my Savior. The blue sky bends over the quiet mountain tarn no less lovingly than over the wide expanse of the sea; and God is as near me in my small and unseen tasks as in my thrilling and absorbing experiences.
But he had prepared himself, too, against the approach of the Lord. The large upper room, was furnished and ready. He was not taken at unawares. So may I have a heart into which Jesus may enter at any moment a heart prayerful, expectant, cleansed, pure a heart which will not be ashamed before Him even when He comes in the clouds at last
I love this nameless householder of Jerusalem.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"They saw God and they ate and drank." Exodus 24:11
There are many who do not see God and yet eat and drink.
They pass through their daily life, enjoying without intermission the good and perfect gifts of the Father in Heaven; and they never once recognize the Heart that plans their welfare, and the Hand that leads them on. Theirs is a shallow nature, without serious thoughts about anything. Theirs is a preoccupied mind, absorbed in earthly things. I would be saved from their indifference and ingratitude.
But, on the other hand, there are many who see God and yet do not eat and drink. The sight overpowers them. It renders their life joyless and sad. They have no spirit for duty. They have no delight in friendship and love. They have no appetite for their daily bread. They can only think of Him who is a consuming Fire. They can only tremble and be abashed before Him. I would be saved from their despondency. I would take note not simply of the throne but of the rainbow round about the throne.
There are many who see God and eat and drink. Theirs is the truest blessedness. They remember Him perpetually, and yet they are free from all slavish and inordinate fear of Him. Their communion with Him is quiet and collected and familiar and trustful. It transfigures the lowliest acts. It strengthens them for work. It rids them of worldliness and selfishness and sin. It keeps them from being swallowed up by sorrow. To them every spot is a sanctuary, and every meal is a sacrament.
I would be ranked in this last class last and best.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"You have robbed Me!" Malachi 3:8
Can it be that I have robbed God? Ah yes, often and sadly.
For let me consider: I have robbed Him of thought. In the inn of my heart, there have been many visitants coming and going but there has been little room in all the inn for the Lord Jesus Christ. How seldom have I set myself to ponder the great things, the heavenly things, the everlasting things!
And I have robbed Him of speech. What is my chief concern, and my neighbor's too, is not, except at the rarest moments, my conversation. I am ashamed and afraid to talk of any theme that will carry us into the realm of personal religion, that will transport us to the eternal world, that will bring us face to face with our Father and our King.
And I have robbed Him of service. I have stood all day idle in the market-place; though He has appealed to me . . .
by the immeasurable debt I owe,
and by the shortness of the time,
and by the needs of men,
and by the coming of the reckoning-day,
and by the sweetness and liberty of all toil that is fulfilled for His dear sake.
Most mournful and most inexcusable of all, I have robbed Him of love . . .
the warm love of gratitude for His salvation,
the adoring and worshiping love of delight in His perfections,
the filial love of sympathy with His purposes,
the self-forgetful love of sacrifice for His cause.
How cold I have been to Him, how forgetful, how thankless!
My Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in Your sight. I abhor myself; I repent in dust and ashes. I have made Your House a den of thieves!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"As slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." Ephesians 6:6
Let me crave the blessed life of Christ's slave, doing the will of God from the heart.
Here is the strenuous activity which should mark my history. I must DO God's will not simply approve it and ponder it and meditate upon it. I must do it not simply embrace it. I must submit to it when it comes to me in the shape of a cross to carry, and a loss to sustain. Jesus was always teaching, comforting, feeding, healing and Jesus is my Pattern. Every hour I must bear fruit.
Here, also, is the heavenly ownership which should control my life-history. I do not live for my own will. Neither do I live to do the will of others. Whether I live I live unto my Master; whether I die I die unto my Master. I am the slave of Jesus Christ. I am led captive by the Spirit. What a simplicity this gives my experience, binding all my duties by a golden chain! And what a blessedness transfiguring everything!
Here, moreover, is the hidden spring from which my history should proceed "doing the will of God from the heart." My doing is not a burden or a fatigue. It is not a mechanical task, in which I take little delight. It is a matter of interest and affection. It is not a sigh but a psalm. It flows from my heart. I set myself to the will of God as readily as any singing bird!
Happy slave! He walks at liberty.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak." Judges 1:20
I cannot have Joshua's foremost place; but at least I covet the character of Caleb.
His faith was unfaltering. It knew how to dare for God, as when he told the truth about the good land, though they were ready to stone him. It knew how to wait patiently on God, as when he tarried through thirty-eight years for Hebron. My Lord, this is the faith I desire strong to stand forth with its trumpet testimony on Your behalf; strong to endure until it pleases You to carry out Your pledges of love.
His consecration was thorough. I read Your verdict on him:
"He has followed Me faithfully."
And again, "He has followed Me wholly."
And yet again, "He has followed Me fully."
"Faithfully," "wholly," "fully" how I aspire to the magnificent adverbs! I make too many compromises. I adopt the world's rules, and like its amusements too well, and lower my colors in its society, and suit my very religion to its taste. This morning, my Lord, I pray for whole-heartedness!
His life was woven of one piece throughout. It is a fine picture, the old man claiming his inheritance and expelling the giants. Beginning well, Caleb continued and ended well.
My Lord, give me this life one which starts in youth with You; one which, amid the burdens of manhood, knows Whom it has believed; one which, when "the dark hair is turning to grey," brings forth fruit in its age the old age when others fail.
"Half-way converts," Samuel Rutherford warns me, "make half-way Christians." Therefore, first of all, I shall make sure that I am Yours.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"When a certain immoral woman from that city heard He was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind Him at His feet, weeping. Her tears fell on His feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing His feet and putting perfume on them!" Luke 7:37-38
The truest purity is not afraid to come into contact with the vilest sinner. The holy Savior and the sinful woman are separated by no impassable gulf; though she is sunk in evil and He is the holy one. He may draw near to her, and He will . . .
catch no infection,
breathe no poisonous air,
sustain not the slightest injury.
Lord, make me so white and clean, that I shall be able to move among the unholy and yet my imagination and heart and life remain untarnished! Clothe me in the armor of a Christlike saintliness, that I may walk safely in the enemy's territory and the plague-stricken land without stain.
And the vile sinner is not afraid to come into contact with the truest purity. The sinful woman shrank from Simon the Pharisee but not from Jesus the Son of God; the one was a moralist and legalist the Other was a Redeemer and Friend.
It will be a sad and condemning sign of my Christianity, if it drives the transgressor away, instead of alluring him to my feet, and, through me, to diviner Feet than mine the blessed pierced Feet of the Savior of the lost!
I would be a saint, and yet a saint around whom the wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked will gather.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Lying lips are abomination to the Lord!" Proverbs 12:22
My Lord, in Your great mercy and by Your Holy Spirit's power, keep me from every form of lying!
There is the deceit of professing to be what I am NOT. There are too many, pagans in reality, who are masquerading in the fair dress of Christianity. They have been baptized, they call themselves by the name of Jesus, they sit down at the holy Table of the Lord but they are as far from Christ as east is from west. Let me not resemble these!
There is the deceit of professing to be MORE than I am. That is a peril which besets many a genuine child of God. The peril . . .
of avowing what he does not deeply feel,
of uttering noble words which outrun his heart's experience,
of claiming credit for a knowledge and a love profounder than he has.
Let me beware of the subtle perils of exaggeration!
From all hypocrisy preserve me, my God. "I believe he would have gone to the stake rather than tell a lie," one writes of Joseph Thomson. It is a shining tribute which I desire with my whole heart.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life!" John 3:16
God's call is very wide. Whoever, He says. I bless Him for a word so catholic and universal. Most certainly it embraces me within its scope and sweep. Beyond all contradiction it justifies me in claiming Christ, and Christ's gospel, and Christ's redemption, as my very own.
God's plan is very simple. Whoever believes in Him, I read. So unfettered with conditions, so free from all hampering and disheartening provisos, it is. There are no penances, no pilgrimages, no labors, no tears, demanded of me. Only, as that beautiful Catechism says, "a hearty trust that to me, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given."
God's deliverance is very sweet. Shall not perish, He declares. The condemnation is revoked. The curse is obliterated. The enemy is vanquished. The dark future, lowering like a heavy thundercloud in front of me lo, it is changed into brightness and blessing.
God's love is very regal and divine. But shall have eternal life, He goes on. What a blessing it is! Life over which the shadow of death and separation will never fall. Life "without a surge of worry, without a shade of care." Life in which there is no sin. Life in the Spirit, with Christ, at home in the Father's house! The life that knows no ending. The life which in its fullness and richness my heart meanwhile cannot conceive.
Great is His goodness, and great His mercy!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." Acts 28:20
"I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ" Ephesians 3:1
Bound yet with a heart set free so it may be with me. Circumstances may trammel and restrict me; but if I have been freed from the fetters of guilt and the burden of sin, through what Christ has done and is doing and will continue to do for me I am a partaker of glorious liberty.
Bound yet with a mind enriched and satisfied so it may be with me. Prison walls may shut me in; but if the treasures of God's Word, and the teachings of the Holy Spirit, and the thoughts which wander through eternity, are mine then I walk in a spacious room.
Bound yet with love and lips unfettered and at the Master's use so it may be with me. In my sick-chamber, in my narrow place, there are letters I can write, there are words I can speak, whose influence may reach far and live long. Am I not a freeman? Am I not a worker together with God?
Bound yet with an imagination lighted up with the brightest hopes so it may be with me. The sky in the West is rosy red. The crown of righteousness is waiting me. The towers of the New Jerusalem loom through the mists. Who is so happy as I?
This is indeed the blessed imprisonment. "The heart," Luther said, when he was speaking of the seal he had chosen as his symbol, "is placed in a white rose, to indicate the joy and peace and consolation which faith brings. But the rose is white and not red, for the joy and peace are not those of the world but of spirits."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Have You not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?" Job 1:10
Yes, this is what God has done for me. He has made a whole labyrinth of hedges about me, to shut out what will harm.
His providence is a hedge. The events of my history, are of His preparing. By prosperity, by delay, by heartbreak He would warn me against sin and temptation, and encourage me to new grace.
A Christian friend is a hedge. I cannot give way to evil when he is near. He is a conscience which reproves me. I am ashamed when I compare my soiled life with his sincerity.
The Bible is a hedge. It reveals the plague of my heart. It makes me pure, in proportion as I listen to its voice. It transforms my soul.
The calls of the Spirit are God's hedges. Often I have heard His message, alarming like the wind of winter, or gentle like a mother awakening her child. He summons me to purity, to service, to assurance and joy.
But His grace in Christ is the best of His hedges. I see the "place somewhat ascending where stands a Cross, and, a little below, a Sepulcher." If I remember it I can never permit myself to transgress.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
Faith beholds invisible realities! It is the conviction of things not seen. It brings the great realities of the spiritual world within my reach:
God, in His glory;
Christ, in His beauty and love;
sin, in its deformity;
holiness, in its excellence;
the solemn judgment to come;
eternity, so blessed or so sad.
Faith gives me a firm persuasion of these unseen realities.
It invests them with a transforming influence over my heart.
I look out, with the eye of faith, and I find myself in their midst.
And faith grasps the unattained! It is the assurance of things hoped for. It changes the blessings I desire, from shadows into realities. It sets them before me so clearly that, though they are still in the future, they seem to be present to me. Increase of grace, perseverance to the end, an unstinged death, a glorious resurrection there is the inheritance which faith makes mine. I am as certain that I shall be dowered with it, in its breadth and length and depth and height, as though already I had taken possession of it!
And faith confers an honorable degree! Therein the men of old gained approval. It enabled them to adventure and to endure. It was the shield with which they conquered. It is the diadem which sparkles on their brows. From Abel to Samuel and David and the Prophets it was faith which established and strengthened and perfected them. Without it they would have been as weak as other men; with it, they "conquered kingdoms, gained what was promised; shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword!" Let me covet like precious faith.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"He was not that Light but was sent to bear witness of that Light." John 1:8
It is an apt description, not of the Lord's forerunner only but of the Lord's followers too.
Here is the limitation of my sphere and work. I am not that Light, transcendent, surpassing, supreme. Jesus is the one Sun of Righteousness solitary, unapproachable and at the best I am but a dim reflection of Him.
He is the only Light of Knowledge, shining into the darkness of my sin-soiled and doubt-haunted heart, and able to change the midnight into "glad confident morning" for those over whom I yearn.
He is the only Light of Purity, from whom holiness streams and radiates as well as pardon. I find the secret of sanctification, in opening all the avenues of my being to Him.
He is the only Light of Blessedness and Joy. When He comes, sorrow with its shadow and gloom flees away. Where He dwells, there is always a Sabbath in the soul, a day of rest which never draws to evening and night.
But here, also, is the dignity and the honor of my sphere and work. I am sent to bear witness of that Light. Like John, I can testify of Jesus . . .
by brave speech,
by lofty living,
by humble self-forgetfulness, and
by patient endurance of sorrow and shame.
So I shall carry to the world a good report of my Master. So I shall incline others to seek Him out. So even His glorious name, may gain a new luster from me and may achieve new victories.
I am not the Light itself but the lamp, the torch kindled at it and flashing it abroad. On, it is a noble and desirable calling!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But Ruth clung to Naomi." Ruth 1:14
"Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God!" Ruth 1:16
Let me be steadfastly minded, as Ruth was, to go with the people of God.
What the world greatly needs is a Christian . . .
whose mind is made up,
whose life is rock-firm and decided,
who is not ashamed to confess his Lord.
There is so much religion that is . . .
indefinite, neutral, inefficient,
hardly distinguishable from the thoughts and ways of the worldly majority,
wielding scarcely any spiritual influence and power.
So long as there are reservations, qualifying clauses, unhallowed regions in my time and thought so long shall I be spiritually ineffective. Either all in all or not at all! That is how it must be between me and my divine King.
Naturalists tell us about the protective coloring in the animal kingdom how animals and birds and insects take on the hues and tints of their surroundings, and thus escape notice and danger. Is there not too much of this protective coloring in the kingdom of our God and His Christ?
A little more singularity,
a little more fearlessness,
a little more abandon,
is much to be desired.
It would save me from many a risk and fall.
It would impress men and women with the reality of my religion.
Henceforward, like Ruth the Moabite girl . . .
I would set my face steadfastly to follow the Lord fully,
I would not turn aside,
I would not look back,
I would always glorify my blessed Master.
The world laughs at the single-minded, whole-hearted men, and does not like their earnestness. But they are the world's benefactors, for all its scorn.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven." Matthew 6:1
How readily that which is good, may be degraded into that which is evil! The perversion of the best, is the worst. Giving is gracious, and yet I need to watch and pray lest it should be a display of pride.
For example, it may be a work and not a fruit. I may foolishly imagine that by it I can win the favor of God and can commend myself to Him. Whereas His favor comes to me freely through Jesus Christ alone; and the giving should follow spontaneously, naturally, easily. It is consequence and not cause. It is the acknowledgment of a debt and not the payment of a price.
Or it may be a soul-deadening. Because I am kindly and open-handed, my conscience may be rocked to sleep and may suppose that all is well with me here and hereafter. Whereas all giving should but rouse me to think of Him who gave Himself, without whom I am lost and dead. Not a penny I part with but may remind me of One who parted with the silver of His body and the gold of His soul, for my redemption.
Or it may be an incentive to boasting and not a lesson in humility. I may glory in it, and be proud, and publish abroad my goodness. Whereas I ought to remember that I have nothing which I have not received, and that all my grace is yet imperfect and poor. I am but learning the rudiments of Christ's love. I have not mastered the alphabet of His great liberality.
So, when I give alms, I will beg my Lord to prevent my left hand from knowing what my right hand does.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"David said to Solomon: My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God." 1 Chronicles 22:7
It was in my heart, said King David; but to the desire of the king's heart, God seemed to answer No. Again and again this story of the child's longing and of the Father's refusing, has been repeated.
It was in the heart of Trophimus to publish the gospel; but Paul had to leave him at Miletus sick. It was in the heart of the Macedonians to give a great deal for the poor Jewish saints; but their own poverty restricted their offerings and kept them small. It was in the heart of John to preach and labor in the busy streets of Ephesus; but Christ imprisoned him on the rough and barren rock in the moaning sea.
On the longing of my heart to serve Him, God may place His distinct and insurmountable veto.
Ah well but the heart's wish and prayer reveal of what spirit I am, and prove me to be His child. And they are pleasing to Him, even if He forbids me to realize them now; He accepts my sincere desires, He hears and remembers my songs which "left the ground to lose themselves in the sky." And they will assuredly have their fulfillment, if not at my hands, at someone else's; if not today, then some other day. By and by His battles will be gained. By and by His Temples will be built.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised!" Job 1:21
"I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me!" Ruth 1:21
"I have become mute, I do not open my mouth because it is You who have done it!" Psalm 39:9
Everything is all right it is all as it ought to be.
God has decided for me, and He makes no mistakes!
In His great future His, which He keeps for me I shall have ample time to learn that my disappointments were assuredly His appointments!
"He has done all things well!" Mark 7:37
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." Acts 16:31
It seems artless simplicity itself. There is no elaborate code of rules to be complied with. There are no troublesome fees to be paid. There is no long novitiate which I must pass through.
Only, I must throw my heart into my believing. My faith must be linked with ardent love for the Son of God who gave Himself for me.
And I must throw my mind into my believing. Some knowledge and apprehension I must have of Christ's work for me, Christ's obedience and sacrifice in my stead, Christ's righteousness provided for my doomed and derelict soul. And I must throw my strength into my believing. My will must be fully surrendered. I must have no concealments and no conditions. "Yours am I, Jesus, and on Your side" must be my irrevocable vow and my perpetual consecration.
Then shall I be blessed more than tongue can tell. Saved, the text says. And salvation is one of God's biggest and noblest words. There is safety embraced in its scope and sweep safety and pardon for all the guilty past. But there is far more: there are peace, and holiness, and character, and usefulness, and hope, and the shining walls and battlements of Heaven in the distance. Truly my Lord gives munificently. He heaps bounty upon bounty, grace upon grace. There is no niggardliness with Him. When life ends here, I shall only have touched the outermost fringe of salvation! Through all eternity I shall be exploring its continents, and sailing its oceans, and penetrating farther and deeper into its undiscoverable secret.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The people who know their God shall be strong and do exploits." Daniel 11:32
I have great need of more valor and vigor in my Christianity. "Every morning brings a noble opportunity," but every opportunity does not bring out "a noble knight."
I am tempted to keep back part of the truth. Its side of grace, of sweetness, of love unutterable; its precious promises and winning invitations it is easy for me to dwell on these. But I do not insist on the wholesome severities of the Bible. I shrink from saying, "Our God is a consuming fire!"
I am tempted to be silent in certain companies. To those who share my faith, it is pleasant to speak of the things which concern the King their King and mine. But among the men of the world, and the clever and witty people who laugh at religion, and the possessors of wealth and influence I am in danger of lowering my flag and hiding my allegiance.
I am tempted to be lenient towards some sins. Society has a thousand excuses for what is false. In trade, in literature, in politics, a veil is thrown over things repugnant to my Lord. It is as if leprosy should be clothed in a marriage dress. And then it is hard for me to put the slug-horn to my lips and to blow "a dolorous blast."
I need more iron in my blood, more courage in my piety, more of the bracing north wind in my godliness as well as the soft south wind. "If I go forward I die," it is the song of the Ashanti warriors as they rush into battle "if I go backward I die; better go forward and die." Yes, yes; better go forward and die!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And these signs shall follow those who believe." Mark 16:17
I fear that I neither expect great things from God nor attempt great things for Him. I am "altered and worn and weak and full of tears," when I should be more than a conqueror through Him who loved and loves me.
In His Name I should cast out demons the demons of sin, of selfishness, of pride, of worldliness from my own heart. Jesus in me, ought to bruise Satan under His feet today.
And in His Name I should speak with new tongues voices of testimony, whispers of comfort, messages of instruction, accents of warning, assurances of hope. Jesus in me, ought to publish His good tidings still.
And in His Name I should take up serpents, and, if I drink any deadly thing, it ought not to hurt me. For Christ's servant is undying until his work is done. Christ's soldier is the "happy warrior" who moves through fear and pain, and receives no harm thereby.
And in His Name I should lay hands on the sick, and they should recover. Those quiet, cooling, rest-giving, healing hands How I covet them as mine! But, instead, my touch is feverish, and I only inflame and intensify the malady I seek to cure.
Today I shall ask a simpler faith in Jesus the faith which makes His Presence and His Spirit the most real of all realities; the faith which these signs are sure to follow.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces much fruit!" John 12:24
Out in the fields, Christ finds for me the pattern of the highest consecration. Except a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone.
Of Himself He speaks. He is the kernel soon to be buried in the earth. For Him there is no highway to glory, no path to harvest and power, no gate into vitalizing and quickening energy but the gate and the path and the highway of death! So Jesus dedicates Himself to the mournful cross and the gloomy sepulcher.
But to me He speaks also. I must learn to die daily. I must be crucified, not only in what is sinful but in desires and habits which seem harmless and innocent. If I would bless men I must enter Gethsemane with its shadows, and must climb Golgotha with its reproach. If I would fill the world with the fragrance of the precious ointment I must be content to be a shattered alabaster vial.
Yes, though the knife is sharp,
though the fire burns,
though the draught is bitter
let me be of good comfort. Christ's Calvary has budded into wondrous fertility; His death has given life to a great multitude which no man can number. When I drink of His cup of suffering, He makes me fruitful. There is a winning power about disciples who have fallen into the ground, and died, and risen again. It is the humblest, who are strongest. It is those who most deny themselves, who are crowned most with influence. Flowers out of frost, and plenty out of pain this is His rule for me, no less than for Himself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The older brother became angry and refused to go in!" Luke 15:28
May God deliver me from the religion of the older brother!
It is outward. It renders external service, while the heart within is unforgiven. "Holy intention," says Jeremy Taylor of the saintly life, "is to the action of a man, that which the soul is to the body, or the root to the tree, or the fountain to the river." Without it, all my obedience is vain.
It is self-seeking, too. The older brother thanks God that he is no profligate he magnifies and lauds and congratulates himself. And what about my own self-estimate? Has self been deposed in me? Is Christ my Sun of Righteousness whom I rejoice to obey?
And it is harsh. It feels nothing of God's joy over the finding of lost sinners. It is as cold as the polar ice to a returning sinner. The spirit of criticism, of suspicion, of doubt disfigures it day and night. There is no slightest tincture of Jesus Christ in it Jesus Christ, whom love brought from the highest Heaven to save us who were far away.
My Lord, keep me from this evil heart! Give me the soul that is right with You at its innermost center and core. Give me the humility that makes confession, "I am not worthy to be called Your son!" Give me the love that is "a spark, O Jesus, from Your fire, a drop from Your abyss!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For we are laborers together with God." 1 Corinthians 3:9
How hallowing and fructifying is the marvelous truth!
Here is the secret of humility. Alike in the development of my own inner life and in my ministry for others, I would be destitute of prosperity and progress if it were not that God is working in me to will and to do of His good pleasure. So let me bid farewell to every shred and vestige of pride. If it were not for my divine Ally, I should be shamed and driven in dishonor from the field.
And here is the secret of success. When He puts His fire fire of the Holy Spirit, fire that consumes my evil, fire of His love shed abroad in me into the secret places of my nature, there spring up the beauteous graces of the King's garden. When I wait on Him in prayer and expectation, I prevail with men. They always win who side with God rather let me reverse it, and say, with whom God sides.
And here is the secret of peace. I harass myself about my growth in grace. I am sorely cast down because my efforts in the Church and the world seem purposeless. My soul, you should not be so careful and troubled. There is One who has joined Himself with you, and He will make you perfect, and He will gather fruitage from all you do for Him. Let a great calm and a confident hope inhabit you henceforward.
The Wonderful, the Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace He is with me, in my frailty, my poverty, my emptiness. And why should I despair?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17
Between friends there will be constant helpfulness and unstinted service.
How much Jonathan did for David, planning and carrying out all sorts of expedients! How much Jesus did for the Twelve! How much Paul did for his friends, and how they repaid him to the uttermost! "Phoebe has been a great help to many people, including me." "Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker, and fellow soldier, and minister to my need."
There are a host of ways in which I can declare my friendliness to my friend. A grasp of the hand will do it, or a trembling word of sympathy, or a little love-gift. I can hasten to take his part when others misunderstand him. I can face real inconveniences, and make real sacrifices, for his sake. I can pray for him, personally, fervently, perseveringly, pleadingly. I can commend Christ to him, and can draw him nearer the country of light and love.
Let me see that my affection is not a mere emotion of my heart. It should shine from my eyes. It should set my hands and feet to work. It should prompt my lips to utter healing and helpful words. It should send me to the throne of grace with cries to God that He will keep the life which is so dear to me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?" Matthew 22:12
The wedding-garment that is the one thing needful.
Not social position. There is many a house on earth into which I have no right of entrance I have no rank sufficiently high. The lords and ladies ride by me in jewels and furs while I may stalk gauntly and pensively along the city streets. But God is not led captive by the gold ring and the purple robe.
Not intellectual distinction. The princes in philosophy, the wise and the prudent, perhaps hold me in scorn so ignorant I am, and uncultured, and commonplace. But if "the educated" pass me unnoticed, not so Jesus Christ. His marriage-feast is not gotten ready for scholars and savants; and, when these come to it, they come as little children, with humble wills and teachable souls and contrite spirits.
Not ecclesiastical approbation. It is good to be within the Church, and to be held in esteem by its members. But the men who stand high in the Lord's house, have sometimes dealt harshly with the Lord's little ones. I may be of no account in His earthly church and yet may be cherished in His secret heart. Not everyone who worships Him outwardly, is of His spiritual kin.
But the wedding-garment there is the essential thing. Christ's righteousness received by me to make me white and royal in the sight of God. Christ's holiness dwelling within me to change me into the same image from glory to glory. I cannot come in to our King's marriage festival, without the King's forgiving grace and something of the King's unearthly beauty.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" Luke 7:9
So great faith I give thanks that the generation of masterful believers is not yet extinct.
When I ask them about their own souls' life and blessedness, they return me an emphatic reply. It is not that they are only half alive to their personal sinfulness and ill-desert; it is that they set its proper value on the surpassingly marvelous work of Christ their Savior. They keep contemplating Him, and the mists and shadows roll away.
When I question them about the sublime truths and the arduous requirements of the Word of God, I get a quiet response. Not that they comprehend everything but they receive willingly what their Lord reveals. Not that they can fulfill anything but they welcome the Holy Spirit who works in them to will and to do.
When I consult them about the rough places of providence, the winter in their life they do not attempt to unravel all the problem but they have their own peace-bringing creed:
that pain has its sweet and cleansing uses,
that affliction is an invisible cord drawing the earth-bound heart to God,
that the soul is shaped into nobleness, on the anvil of grief.
These men and women walk at liberty. I ask for my own their thriving and abounding faith. For I am too easily depressed; I am too quickly overturned and put to shame. Let the wind rise, and my heart sinks.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king: Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you!" 2 Chronicles 19:2
Even when my heart is right with God, there may be carelessness and error in my life. The saint may help the wicked, and sometimes may seem to love those who hate the Lord.
I may be overfond of their society. I may find in it a charm, a verve and vivacity, a brilliance, which I do not discover in the conversation and company of the saints. It has a subtle and powerful attractiveness for me and I succumb often to its witchery.
I may be dazzled by their treasures. The sheen and sparkle of worldly wealth blind me to the profounder worth of those impalpable riches which moth and rust cannot corrupt. It is possible, it is easy, to become poorer spiritually while I become prosperous materially.
I may be infected with their unbelief. Nothing is commoner than for the Christian to make compromises with the culture of his time. And then the great verities which he should see in the clearest light, loom through mist and haze.
I may be led captive by their sins. Instead of sounding forth undauntedly my testimony against the evils of my generation, I may be silent; yes, and the poisonous and malarial air may touch me with its fatal contagion, until my life is flaccid and my lips are mute.
Let me be on my guard. And let me pray God to garrison me with His strength and purity, "lest the god of this world blinds me, lest he speak fair of me." For there are no transgressions so inexcusable, and none so disastrous, as the transgressions of His own people. The child's sin, is worse than the stranger's.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Judas, one of the twelve disciples" Matthew 26:47
Strange that there should be a Judas among the twelve chosen friends of Jesus! My questioning mind finds inscrutable mysteries here; but my heart may read solemn and practical truths.
It teaches me that a man's gift, may be a man's temptation. Judas had the business faculty, the commercial instinct, the capacity for management, as his simpler comrades had not. But his carefulness degenerated into covetousness, until for thirty pieces of silver he sold his Lord. Ah, let me watch lest my very endowments and abilities should prove my undoing. Where I imagine myself strongest the enemy may vanquish me.
It teaches me that a man's external nearness to Christ, may be inward distance and alienation. None could be closer than Judas, none more honored than he; and yet this was the outcome of it all this black treachery, this consummate sin! I too am reckoned among Christians. I have had my experiences. I have made my promises. I have rendered my service. But what if I have only a name to live, while I am dead?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning." Job 42:12
Through his griefs, Job came to his heritage.
For example, God had foreseen his disease and loneliness He had arranged and controlled them. No chance, or accident, or fate sends me the storm. It comes from Christ's Father and mine.
And he was tried, that his godliness might be confirmed. Are not my troubles intended to deepen my character, and to robe me in graces I had little of before? I come to my glory through eclipses, tears, death. My ripest fruit grows against the roughest wall.
And Job's afflictions left him with higher conceptions of God, and with lowlier thoughts of himself. "Now," he cried, "my eye sees You; therefore I abhor myself!" And if, through pain and loss, I feel God so near in His majesty that I bend low before Him and pray, "May Your will be done," I gain very much.
It was another element in his reward that he was a partaker in the sufferings of Christ. God's son with many shortcomings was the forerunner of God's perfect Son. Shall my Master sink beneath His crushing load, while I am carried to Heaven on a bed of down? Nay, I will bear His reproach.
Yes, and God gave Job glimpses of the future glory. In those wearisome days and nights, he penetrated within the veil; he knew that his Redeemer lives. Just so, there is nothing like suffering to quicken my anticipations of the heavenly rest. I sorrow, and I hope.
Surely the latter end of Job was more blessed than the beginning.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline!" Jeremiah 32:33
Perhaps I too am guilty of this perversity.
Suppose that I lift and drink the cup of pleasure I am turning my back on Him. I am preferring the "voluptuous garden roses" of this world to the "pure lilies of eternal peace." I am the boy Passion who will have his good things now and not the boy Patience who tarries for Heaven.
Suppose that I exalt unduly my human loves I am turning my back on Him. Mine is an affectionate nature, and indeed I do well to rejoice in the friends whose adoption I have tried. But I need the heavenly Father. I need the merciful and faithful High Priest. I need the abiding Holy Spirit.
Suppose that I am dazzled by the glitter of learning I am turning my back on Him. It is right that I should reach out after truth that lies beyond me yet. It is right that I should be teachable to the end. I thank God for all the pathways He opens into wholesome and inspiring culture. But I am groping in the gloom, until Jesus is my Sun.
Suppose that I feed myself on theological speculation I am turning my back on Him. Theories about God will never save and sanctify me. There is no elixir of eternal life here. I must have God Himself. I must have Jesus, in His Person, His Cross, His Throne, His Spirit. You, O Christ, are all I want!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Then Jesus came to them and said: All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me!" Matthew 28:18
For Jesus, to die was gain in the richest degree to die, and to rise again from His death. He took up once more all that He had surrendered when He came to our far-off world. Yes, and since Bethlehem and Olivet and Calvary He is rewarded with a dominion which is larger still.
Today He has a new authority to forgive my sin. Since He bore the cross for me, since He poured out from the white marble of His body, and the precious ointment of His blood He has a right to speak the sentence of pardon which none can gainsay.
Today He has a new fullness of the Spirit to impart to my soul. By His sorrow and shame, by His crucifixion and ascension He opened the way for the coming of the Teacher, the Sanctifier, the Comforter. The Holy Spirit is given since Jesus was glorified.
Today He has a new title to my love. Ah, mine must be a heart of adamant, if I can refrain from loving Him who suffered in my place, and who appears in glory as my Intercessor. None on earth, and none in Heaven, should equal Him.
Today He has a new scepter to which I bend. It is the scepter of One who is not God only but Man too. It is the government of my Kinsman-Redeemer. I see in it the pledge of my own kinghood by and by.
Thus death has given my Savior a fresh empire and a better sovereignty. Lord of lords as He was in the everlasting years, on His head are many crowns today which did not sparkle there in that unruffled and passionless eternity of the past.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"When Israel was a child, I loved him." Hosea 11:1
Is it not very touching to see how God recalls the promise of the days when I knew Him first? He travels across the great wilderness of my neglect, until He comes to the oasis of my early love; on that He fixes His thought with a wistful intensity.
Indeed, I can scarcely marvel at it. For my spiritual youth realized His highest plans.
He chose me before the foundation of the world,
He redeemed me by the passion of His Son,
He sent His Spirit to me, that I might be holy.
It looked as if His high purpose was fulfilled in those morning hours, in those spring days, of my career. He rejoiced. He remembers it still, though in my heart there are no longer birds and sunshine but bleak winds of autumn and the threat of snow.
Let it kindle my penitence that God thinks so longingly of my better moments. "You did run well," He says, with one of His truest servants, "who hindered you?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her: Weep not." Luke 7:13
It is the Master of life and death who speaks in the great imperative, Weep not. Not that He would have me manifest my religion, in the dryness of my eyes. He is no Stoic philosopher.
But His gospel has changed the character of death, to the believing and holy dead themselves. It has made it . . .
a going home to God,
a discharge from the weary fight,
They know where death leads them; not to the phantom-like existence of Sheol but to the Father's house of many mansions! To die is gain, pure and vast!
And His gospel has brought many consolations to us who remain. It assures me that the departure of those I love is meant . . .
to loosen my hold on the earth,
to endear Christ and to enrich Heaven,
to stir me to swifter labor in the shortening days,
to mellow my heart into tenderness for others who suffer.
The rod of Jesus, like the rod of Jonathan, is dipped in honey! Like the rod of Aaron, it is beautified with blossom and fruit. With me too, it is well.
And His gospel predicts the future, in which there will be no more separation. He will give me back "my unforgotten dearest dead," if they and I alike belong to Him. The King of Terrors will hold dominion over mine and me no more. In the lovely day-dawn of eternity, the sea crossed, the danger past I shall see my adversary death, slain on the shore!
Certainly Christ has right to speak the imperial word, Weep not!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show you." Acts 26:16
A servant and a spokesman, Jesus made Paul. I am intended, my Lord has appointed me, to wear the twofold title.
Servant I am to be. Servant shackled by the unbreakable chains of gratitude to the Master who has redeemed me with His tears and blood. Servant smitten with a passion of longing to resemble the Master in His blamelessness and beauty. Servant who hears morning by morning the royal voice of the Master, clear, authoritative, absolute as no other voice in all the world, sending him forth to duty and delight. Servant who shares the very pulsing life and Holy Spirit of the Master Himself. Servant and friend at one and the same time slave and brother.
Spokesman I am to be. There are hidden things indeed which I cannot reveal, intimacies of communion, moments on the Mount with Christ about which, in their mystery and miracle, I can say little to anyone. My gracious King has His secrets for me, with which no stranger is allowed to intermeddle. But I shall be sadly lacking in loyalty to Jesus and in love for souls, if I do not tell some of the great things He has done for me. I must ask deliverance from the false modesty and the unworthy pride which keep me mute.
Servant and witness far above riches, honors, triumphs, these names raise me. There are no names so much to be desired.
Their lowliness is better than the world's loftiness,
their subordination is better than the world's originality,
their self-crucifixion is better than the world's self-pleasing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the Bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut!
Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'
But He replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you!'" Matthew 25:10-12
Some were outside the gate. I scarcely venture to think what the exclusion involved for them. I cannot portray it. This is one of those cases in which speech is not expressive enough. It meant banishment from the life and light and love within poor outcasts they are, and exiles from God. It meant misery and defilement and despair are they not in the fetters and dungeons of eternal sin? It meant a fathomless and measureless sorrow! There is a ring of finality, of hopelessness, in the sound of the door as it is closed and fastened and barred.
But some were inside the gate. Here again I am unable to describe such delight, such pleasure! For those within, it was as blessed, as for the others it was dreadful, that the gate was shut.
It meant safety within the walls and towers of the New Jerusalem the enemy does not hurt or annoy.
It meant holiness when the key is turned in the door, my besetting sins will be left outside forever.
It meant the incorruptible inheritance and the crown of glory they shall never leave the Celestial City!
It meant the noblest and completest consecration God is better served by the lowest in Heaven, than by the highest on earth.
And the door was shut! For me, the one crucial and momentous question is, "On which side of the door shall I stand?" Surely not in the desolation without. Surely through the overflowing and triumphant grace of my Lord in the gladness within!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"The rich are not to give more than a half-shekel, and the poor are not to give less, when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your souls." Exodus 30:15
My soul needs to bring atonement money when it comes into the audience-chamber of the Lord. Without the peace-offering, it dare not venture before the Face of God.
Once, when Jesus paid these temple tax, He paid them both for Himself and for Peter. He sent to the rulers of God's house, not the half-shekel which the Law demanded but a whole shekel. "Take that," He said, "and give it to them for Me and for you." It is a story full of comfort for my heart in its spiritual pennilessness. It is a parable of my salvation!
Jesus, who has no sin of His own to be cleansed away, has yet come for me and for my redemption. As my Kinsman and Redeemer, He pays the atonement money pays it in the coin of heaven the silver and gold of His body and soul. There is such merit in Him, such completeness, such grace, that for His sake I am welcomed by the holy, holy, holy King.
In the Lord my Righteousness, I have everything I need for my pardon.
In the Lord my Sanctification, I have everything I need for my holiness.
In the Lord the Perfecter of my faith, I have everything I need for my future. He undoes all the fetters. He opens all the doors. He remits all the debts.
Nothing not even the temple half-shekel in my hands I bring. Jesus paid the whole shekel for me!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell." Colossians 1:19
All the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ!
Let me think of His Person. The majesty, the strength, the purity of the Godhead are His. And, in unbreakable union with them the sympathy, the compassion, the pitifulness of the noblest manhood. He is my Sovereign and my Brother!
Let me think of His Redemption. There is no inferiority about it, there is no defect.
The obedience He rendered,
the sacrifice He offered,
the righteousness He prepared,
the grace He bestows
they are without spot and without limitation. I unite myself with Him and a flawless perfection is mine!
Let me think of His Promises.
My temporal perplexities,
my spiritual poverty,
the crook in my own lot,
the cross which comes to me daily,
my present difficulties,
my future misgivings
there is some great promise of His to meet every one of them.
Let me think of His Kinghood. His rule penetrates to the deepest part of my being. It extends over every event in history. Heaven and earth and Hell, are fully subjected to Him. He makes all things all things, and see that you weaken not the glorious universal work together for my good.
What an enriching fullness is this!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" John 4:29
Theology is not the paramount matter in the hour of conversion.
No, no; there is nothing I can think of in this revealing and humbling and transfiguring season but the truth which has found me out, and the Savior who has been reading me like the page of an open book. My conscience is roused into a strange alertness. My sin is confronting me. My heart bleeds and yet rejoices bleeds of its wound, rejoices for its cure. And Jesus, for the first time, has shown His melting, conquering, filling, reviving grace to me.
It is little wonder that He absorbs my thought.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8
There was a transforming vision behind Isaiah's vow. He had seen the majesty of God. He had seen the filthiness of his own nature. He had seen the cleansing mercy of Heaven. And it was this which prompted his dedication. Am I conversant with his threefold vision? I must not attempt to speak and labor for God until I have it. From the secret place I must come out to serve.
There was an unqualified gift wrapped up in Isaiah's vow. He presented himself, purged, ennobled, to the Lord his Savior. A living sacrifice it was that which he laid at the feet of God. Just so, my whole history should be proof that I am separated unto the gospel and kingdom of Christ. My body and my spirit, my time and my tastes, my pleasures and my pursuits, are His.
"God knows," cried John Livingstone, "that I would rather serve Him on earth, and then endure the torments of the lost than live a life of sin on earth, and then have forever the bliss of the ransomed."
There was an unconditional ministry in front of Isaiah's vow. Send me, he said. He could not sit still any longer. And for years he toiled untiringly on. There is work opening out to me on every hand, work summoning me hour after hour. It is guilt to stand idle in the market-place. It is treason to refrain from glorifying my Master. My Lord wants reapers; let me mount up before night falls and says, "Too late!"
Having gone in, to the heart of the Father, to the salvation of the Son, to the grace of the Holy Spirit let me go out too.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And Peter!" Mark 16:7
Infinite gentleness and overflowing grace are in this 'supplement' to the Savior's command.
It is the gospel for the sinner; it proclaims the abundance of Christ's pardon. Since Peter is forgiven, I with my crimson sins need not despair. There is no constraint with Jesus there is a boundlessness of mercy. The mountains of Ruwenzori are the source of the waters of Equatorial Africa; but the mists lift seldom, to show the traveler the radiant heights from which the rivers come. Christ is these glorious peaks. Oh that today the clouds may rise, and I may see rivers of healing flow to me!
And it is the gospel for the penitent; it proclaims the sweetness of Christ's consolation. Peter is heart-broken. If his sin is great his sorrow is great. He has bidden good-bye to peace. But that is why Jesus comforts him.
Just so, does my soul bleed because of my evil? There is no anguish so profound, so incommunicable. Bodily austerities are trifling. The sword, the rack, the faggot are not so serious. But Jesus sends for me; I am the sick one whom He comes to cure.
And it is the gospel for the servant; it proclaims the efficacy of Christ's restoration. He is looking forward to Peter's fruitful future, and is training him for it. Ever afterward, this man was girt about with humility. Ever afterward, he was molded to his Master's will.
Just so, it is the experience of His restoring, consoling, conquering grace, which binds me to Him, which gives wisdom to my words about Him, which shoes my feet with the sandals of alacrity in His work. He has loosed my bonds!
"And Peter!" I shall say it to my heart again and again.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"His kingdom rules over ALL!" Psalm 103:19
"Over all!" Hearken to the victorious music of God's ALL and your sighing will flee away.
Over all the needs of the body. He will not allow you to lack. Behind the appearance of things, He is at work. I see Him, one grey morning in Galilee, bringing the fish to the disheartened men. This morning, He is still the same.
Over all hindrances, too, in doing His work. He will not allow you to be hampered by the narrowness of your sphere, and the limitations of your knowledge, and the smallness of your means. I see Him, in Jerusalem, opening the iron gate that His disciple may go free. He is as mighty yet.
Over all the tempests in your life. There are . . .
storms of mental doubt,
and storms of practical perplexity,
and storms of affliction,
and storms of temptation.
But I see Him on the lake, calming the wild weather. Today blasts and billows, are just as obedient to His word.
Over all seasons of loneliness, also. You have to taste alienation and misunderstanding for His sake. You have sometimes to look out into a darkness where God Himself seems gone. But I see Him, in the upper room, showing Thomas His hands and His side. And thus He blesses you.
And over all the mystery of death. Death is a portion of His dominion, and there you are still within the borders of the pleasant land. I see Him, from Olivet, ascend to His Father and your Father. And He means you to share in His ascension.
in bright days and dark,
in summer and winter,
in life and death
bless the Lord, O my soul!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat!" Matthew 13:25
Through this messenger and that, this agency and that other the Son of Man is ever dropping the good seed into my heart. But, side by side with it, the enemy is seeking to sow his poisonous weeds. Let me beware. Let me watch and pray.
Perhaps they are weeds of Knowledge. My very acquaintance with the Word of Life may do me infinite hurt and harm. Perhaps I am satisfied with this intellectual understanding this mental familiarity and grasp. Ah, I need something better, deeper, more vital by far
the heart's grip of the truth,
the heart's submission to it,
the heart's childlike and restful faith in it.
Perhaps they are weeds of Pride. There are elements in the message which I resent. They gall and wound me. They are too humbling, too lowering to my dignity, too damaging to my self-respect.
That I should be ranked with the chief of sinners,
that I have no goodness of my own,
that I must lean wholly on Jesus Christ
it displeases me sorely.
Perhaps they are weeds of Procrastination. I am well aware of the significance of the Word of God. I feel its force and edge, its personal message, its inexpressible value. But, like the seeker in Rome long ago, I delay, "I, convinced by the truth, had nothing to answer but these dull and drowsy words, 'Afterwards,' 'Shortly,' 'Yet a little while."' Ah but God's adverbs are entirely different. They are "Now," "Today," "Immediately." Let me hear Him rather than His adversary and mine.
So many weeds.
So vigilant and unresting an enemy.
So frail and danger-surrounded a soul.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"My kingdom is not of this world!" John 18:36
Other skies bend over Christ's kingdom.
Other lights gleam about its gates and streets.
Other laws govern it.
Other potencies secure its prosperity and befriend its citizens.
The Author of this kingdom is God.
No human strength founded it and none maintains it.
No human hostility can overthrow it.
The powers that fight for its welfare are unseen, divine, almighty!
The virtue and the wisdom and the purity of God are in it.
The Nature of this kingdom is spiritual.
Its home and seat are in the soul.
It rules conscience, mind, heart, will.
Not outward, but inward this kingdom is.
The wealth and victory of the world are of no account to it.
But my heart, myself these are the treasures for which it yearns these the trophies which it covets.
The Weapon of this kingdom is love.
It cannot be propagated by war.
It does not rely . . .
on the influence of the intellect,
on the rhythm of poetry,
on the magic and glamour of eloquence.
It gains its end by the love of Christ, shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit.
It overcomes me by its gentleness.
It breaks and melts and enthralls me by its exceeding grace!
The Scope of this kingdom is universal and everlasting. There are no geographical limits which shut it in; it embraces all kindreds. There are no time barriers which stay its progress; it promises me and everyone who enters it, an eternity of blessedness, of holiness, of joy.
There is no kingdom to equal this!
Therefore, as the boy martyr cried,
"Welcome God and Father!
Welcome sweet Savior Jesus!
Welcome blessed Spirit of grace!
Welcome eternal life!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"O earth, earth, earth hear the word of the Lord!" Jeremiah 22:29
If I go down into hopeless captivity, it is not for lack of abundant expostulation.
There are voices of the Bible. The prophets still speak with me, and the evangelists, and the apostles. Now in admonition, and now in tenderest promise they entreat me to consider the things which pertain to my peace. When I open the Scriptures, I am in contact with a living person, and that person is God.
There are voices of providence. Little things that happen every day remind me of the hideousness of evil and the beauty of holiness. And sometimes a startling event, a piercing sorrow, a shattering bereavement rouses me from my sleep to feel the near and solemn and blessed presence of God. He lays His hand on me.
There are voices of friends. Had I not a mother who prayed for me, as Monica prayed for Augustine? Have I not a sister, a wife, a little child, "to cheer me on the tedious way, to fetch me when I go astray, to lift me when I totter down?" They are calling me home to the Father. They are the heralds of the King.
There are inner voices of conscience and heart.
The name of Christ,
the desire for pardon,
the passion for purity,
the longing for God
steal unbidden into my soul. It is like Jesus standing, in the Garden of the Sepulcher, behind Mary, and, though unseen, making His presence felt all the while.
Can I say "No" to all the voices of so loving a Lord? What more, what more, could He do for His vineyard? Why, when He looked that it should bring forth grapes did it bring forth wild grapes?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19
A fisher of men! This is what I would gladly be one who wins souls for Jesus! But have I counted the cost?
It involves sacrifice. Andrew and Peter, James and John, must leave their kindred and their trade. Just so, from my business, my books, my fireside, my tender human loves I need to be prepared to go, if I am to capture men and women for my Lord. The heavenly task must become my chief concern my ruling passion. It must govern me, occupy me, absorb me, to the subordination ay, sometimes to the exclusion of all other claims.
It involves fellowship. I shall never take prisoners the hearts that are round about me, unless I am maintaining a close personal fellowship with my Lord. I must renew my strength by continual contact with Him. I must walk with Him and talk with Him as His first disciples did. Then, invested with powers not my own, I can go and gain my erring brother but not otherwise. Their faces shine, their words win, their lives tell theirs only who come down from the Mount!
It involves pain. This labor of fishing for men, there is the sorest anguish in it. Many a time I shall be disappointed. Many a time I shall have to endure long delay. Many a time I shall be saddened by what I see and hear. "Oh, I am sick with the sins of these men! how can God bear it?" Henry Drummond cried one night when he came from a students' meeting.
Yes, let me count the cost; let me reckon deliberately the price I shall have to pay. But then let me throw my weakness on the strength of God!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down." Acts 27:22
The prisoner becomes the preacher; the captive is the captain of the laboring ship. It is a picture of how the child of God is kept in perfect peace when the rains descend and the fierce winds blow.
Paul remembers the Proprietorship, which is his safeguard and fortress. "God, whose I am," he says. He lies in the hollow of that great and tender Hand. He is covered by the shadow of those soft and brooding wings. And what harm can befall him there? The wild waves must overwhelm his omnipotent God before they will be able to submerge him!
Paul remembers the Obedience, which is his habit and delight. "God, whom I serve," he says too. It is his joy to do the will of the Father, and to finish His work. It is his convinced assurance that, while he is about this blessed will no real evil will come near. All the omnipotence of the King, whose tasks and enterprises are entrusted to him is on his side; and he is invincible until the King's pleasure is fulfilled.
Paul remembers the Vision, which is his solace and stay. "Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me!" he says. There are chariots of fire and horses of fire round about him. By faith he sees them he hears the rustle of their pinions. Their bright squadrons encircle his soul. Their invisible and most mighty hands hold him up!
Mine be the proprietorship, the obedience, the vision. Then I shall not only be glad of heart but I shall be able to comfort those who are in tribulation with the comforts with which I myself have been comforted of God.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil!" Isaiah 5:20
I am sometimes ready to call evil, good.
I veil my guilt. I deny my misery. I am skillful and prideful in doing so. Sin How many softening names I have for it which conceal its deformity! It is but an error, a mistake, inexperience, indecision. It is an element in my spiritual education; it is a stage in my upward progress. But I am reluctant to name it a malign force which asserts itself against God. I will not confess that . . .
my mind is dark,
and my will disobedient,
and my affections idolatrous.
What is bitter I describe as though it were sweet.
On the other hand, I am sometimes as ready to call good, evil.
The way of holiness,
the way which the saints have trod,
the way in which God's Son walked when He was on earth,
the way of the heavenly country into which there shall enter nothing that defiles
I speak of it as rough, thorny, undesirable. I will not see . . .
the freedom of it,
the peace of it,
the blessings which are mine when I am in it,
the King of it who supplies all my need out of His riches in glory.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." John 1:16
I receive, John tells me, grace upon grace.
John means grace in succession to grace. In the early hours of my friendship with my Savior I have a glowing love. But, as yet, I have little patience, little watchfulness, little power to resist temptation, little skill to endure trial. But these will all come to me one by one, the gifts of my Lord. In the new day, there are morning blessings, and noontide blessings, and evening blessings; and each arrives at its proper season.
And John means grace to be the complement and completion of grace. I am more disposed towards certain features of the Christian life than towards others. I may prefer . . .
tenderness before righteousness,
or justice before forgiveness,
or joy before seriousness,
or holy fear before glad assurance.
But, as I look to Jesus and follow Him, He fills up what is lacking in my character; He does not wish me to be one-sided and partial but full-orbed and full-grown.
And John means grace as the reward and coronation of grace. Everything of good I possess, every victory I win, is His bestowment. Yet he blesses it, He recompenses it as though it were my doing, and not His. He is well pleased with the feeble beginnings of the better life in me, and He gives me, in token of His approval, a stronger faith and a nobler soul. He diadems my feeble grace; and what is His garland? It is grace more mature, more perfect, more worthy!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side" Mark 16:5
I am fascinated by this young man's stainless robe.
Is not white the color of victory the conqueror's color? And my Savior brings me the mood of triumph. In Him I vanquish . . .
my past guilt,
my present temptation,
and my future alarms.
His might enables me to overcome.
Is not white the color of purity the priest's color? And my Lord makes me clean and bright. His Cross does it, and His Word, and His Spirit.
Is not white the color of joy the bride's color? And Jesus means me to have gladness, tranquility, the confidence that all is well. I have a new song in my mouth, a new rapture in my soul, a new home to which my face is set!
White light of day,
white summit of the Alp,
white brilliance of the diamond,
white petals of the flower,
white flakes of untrodden snow,
the white throne of judgment,
the white radiance of eternity,
the white robes of the angel
they are so many symbols of Christ's good gifts to me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?" Matthew 18:33
The unforgiving man is forgetful. He has lost sight of that great debt of ten thousand talents, which God has remitted. He is living in strange unmindfulness of it, in strange ingratitude for its canceling and removal. If it were in his thought at all, how could he be so harsh with his neighbor?
The unforgiving man is blind. He does not perceive those crowding and thronging multitudes of mercies which are being heaped on him every hour; "moments come quick but mercies are more fleet and free than they." If he understood these innumerable benefits, how could he be so cruel?
The unforgiving man is foolish. He is depriving himself of precious treasure that might easily be his the love of his brothers and sisters, their thankfulness, their prayers, their help. If he estimated this enriching blessing at its true value, he would never act as he does.
The unforgiving man is suicidal. He is shutting himself out from Heaven; for in its atmosphere the overbearing temper and the unrelenting heart cannot live. "In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you, unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
It is a doom, a poverty, a banishment, not to be contemplated with calmness. If he considered it, he would be quick to pardon and eager to love.
My Lord, keep me from the folly of the unforgiving man. Teach me to cover my neighbor's sin and thus I shall cover my own. After the pattern of Your great charity let me put away from me all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and railing, with all malice.
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"In His temple everything says: Glory!" Psalm 29:9
From the temple of His world, I hear the hymn ascend. The earth, with the life which peoples it; the sea, with the wonders it contains; the sky, with its stars and suns they speak the name of God, and declare His wisdom and His might. They bid me to believe in Him and bow before Him.
From the temple of His Church, I hear the psalm mount up. It has a deeper note in it now. It recalls a desperate peril. It celebrates a deliverance which none but He was able to bring about. It extols his many-sided salvation in Jesus Christ. Surely I am joining in the Hosanna and Hallelujah.
From the temple of His child, I hear the grave sweet melody proceed.
The body is devoted to Him.
The conscience speaks out His commandment.
The will bends itself to His service.
The memory recalls and relates His mercy.
The imagination looks forward to His fullness of joy.
The heart rests in His love.
Am I this worshiping child?
And from the temple of His Heaven, I hope to hear the music rise and surge and swell. For the best psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are kept for the future. Here, there is much to mar the harmony there, nothing will annoy. The sight of Christ will fill me with perfect holiness and perfect gladness in a moment!
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"We are . . .
hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Indeed, my Christian life is an enigma.
For I am in the world and yet my love and home are far away. I am no ascetic nor recluse; but my "heart and brain move there," only my "feet stay here."
And I am haunted by sin and nevertheless delivered from sin. It dogs my steps and dims my peace; but I am Christ's freeman still. In secret thought, in practice, in aspiration, I am among the saints.
And the smaller my burden grows the more I feel its pressure. My heart is advancing in grace, through God's communion with me. But my conscience is learning more sensitiveness. It condemns me oftener.
And I am weak and yet I am strong. Weak in my own helplessness, as apart from Him I can do nothing. But then, as I lean on Him, He endows me with a strength that will neither bend nor break.
And what crushes others lifts me higher. The affliction, against which the worldling rebel gives . . .
a new edge to my holiness,
a new fervency to my prayers,
a new breadth to my sympathy,
a new brightness to my Heaven!
My Lord has been a long time with me but I scarcely know Him yet.
And I am satisfied and still I hunger.
And though I am glad to live I shall be gladder to die.
Life is Christ's fellowship and Christ's service.
Death is Christ's presence, Christ's throne, Christ's crown!
Beyond question, I am a wonder to others and to myself!
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"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:21
I am chargeable, the Master says, with a threefold disloyalty.
For my purposes are low. I lay up for myself treasure on earth. I am worldly in aim, and I measure everything from the worldly point of view. My heart is an earthly disposition, which gives its tinge and tone to all my universe.
And my heart is divided. I seek to serve two masters God and my own selfish interests. And that, of course, means that I am alienated from God, for He will not be content with a spasmodic and conventional allegiance. I must be . . .
His without these miserable reservations,
His so that Diabolus shall not have a corner in all the city of Mansoul.
And my trust is imperfect. I forget . . .
my Father's wisdom,
my Father's power,
my Father's love.
I do not learn the lesson of repose which wayside flowers and happy birds should teach my spirit. I do not cast all my care on Him who cares for me. I am fretful, distracted, anxious, worried. I have need that the Master should touch my hot hands, with healing from His own, that the fever may leave me and I may rest.
Ah, my Lord, so mighty and so merciful, rescue me from my besetting sins.
May the low purposes be sublimed and etherealized.
May the divided heart be united to fear Your name.
May the imperfect trust become full and perpetual.
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"Behold then the kindness and severity of God" Romans 11:22
With God there is sternness as well as mercy. I should be glad of it.
It tells me of the perfection of His character. God is Love yet not a love . . .
with which it is safe to trifle,
which is oblivious of moral distinctions,
which is so easy-going that it never flashes forth against wrong.
I have to do with a King who is ineffably just, stainlessly pure, immaculately holy.
It tells me of the righteousness of His government. Often I am perplexed as I look abroad. I travel back into history and its pages speak many a time of the triumph of evil. I cast my gaze over the world, and I see truth on the scaffold. But God reigns, and iniquity cannot always prosper. And am I prepared to welcome His scepter of equity, and to love Him for the severities of His discipline?
It tells me of the urgency of His claims. I cannot afford to take liberties with One like this. I ought not to cling to self and sin for one day more.
If there is an ensnaring companionship,
if there is an unworthy habit,
if there is a neglected duty,
if there is an unforsaken lust
I should seek it out, I should crucify it! My God desires truth in the inward parts, and He desires it now.
It is well that His Word should depict His hatreds, no less than His loves.
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"There will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents" Luke 15:7
The Father is glad. He sings over His wayward, beggared, self-impoverished child, "This, My son, was dead and is alive again. He was lost and now is found." May I satisfy the Father's soul by my return! It will be the realization of His eternal purpose. It will be the restoring of His banished child His banished, long absent child from His household, but never absent from His heart.
The Son is glad. He is the Good Shepherd who crossed the dark mountains and the deep waters. He grudges no pains to find His silly and perishing sheep. He carries it back to flock and fold. May I give this delight to Jesus! I would let Him see fruit from His own soul's bitter travail. I would show Him that His expenditure of love and sorrow, has not been vain.
The Holy Spirit is glad. Is not the Spirit like the woman, lighting the candle, and searching for her lost coin searching until once more it is hers? His love for me is wonderful, surpassing the love of women. May He find me! Then will His patience and all the ingenuities of His wisdom and grace have their fitting recompense.
There is joy in the presence and the heart of God when a beggar and slave is saved a soul forlorn and feeble and unworthy. Have His throbbing and triumphant bells pealed over my homecoming?
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"Jesus answered: You are right in saying I am a king." John 18:37
My Master has the wisdom of a true king. He has a rich skill in planning and governing. He is never taken at a loss. When I am admitted to His palace and stand among His nobles, there is none of my hard questions which He cannot unriddle. Whether I ask Him about God, or about sin, or about death and eternity He has the right word to speak.
My Master has the power of a true king. There is nothing He cannot do. I bring Him my heart, from which all brightness and restfulness have departed, and He changes its midnight into noonday, and says to it, "Peace, be still." I bring Him my life, which sin has wasted, and He transfigures it into the garden of the Lord. His miracles are as marvelous today, as they were in Galilee.
And my Master has the graciousness of a true king. He stoops to me in my beggary and destitution, my hours of temptation, my seasons of forlornness and despondency. When I venture on His love He does not cast me out. When I make appeal to His clemency He crowns me with His loving-kindnesses and tender mercies. He is the Good Shepherd as well as the Monarch of my soul.
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"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose." Isaiah 35:1
The desert blossoms, when Christ is in it.
There is a desert of separation from outward means of grace. I may be deprived of my Christian surroundings. I may have to travel far from the homeland and the sound of church bells. But Jesus is the same under every sky. He continues to dwell with me by faith. And then, the wilderness becomes a paradise.
There is a desert of trial.
Perhaps I lose my earthly substance.
Perhaps I lose my health.
Perhaps I lose my friend, the half of my own soul.
How desolating the affliction is! How orphaned I am! But Jesus blesses me. He makes the fruits of new grace to spring in the soil of my heart. He makes the morning star to shine in the darkness of my night.
There is a desert of apparent disaster to the cause of God. The Church has its periods of adversity when all things seem against it. It loses the favor of the world. It walks through the sleet and hail. But Jesus teaches it to be more serious then, more patient, more devout, stronger in faith, richer in feeling, purer in aim.
There is a desert of death. To go out from the world which I know, into the world which is mysterious and strange how I shrink from it! But Jesus shows me, by His written Word and His Holy Spirit and His own experience, that death is the road to glory and the path to fruitfulness. The solitary place shall be glad.
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"He was transfigured before them, and His face shone as the sun!" Matthew 17:2
The experience is for the servant as well as for the Master.
There is a Transfiguration of standing and position. Believing in my Savior, I have eternal life, and shall never come into the judgment. Once God's displeasure hung over me, like a brooding sky from which the lightning might flash at any moment. Now the cloud has passed, and the sun shines. When I am in Christ, God is my Father and my Friend.
There is a Transfiguration of character and life. The hour now is now is when the dead hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. Renewed by Him, enlivened, ennobled, I am separated by spiritual and eternal worlds from my former estate. Once I was darkness, now I am light in my Lord. Once I was God's enemy, now I am His happy child.
There is a Transfiguration of outlook and hope. The gloom lifts and vanishes from death, and from the world beyond death, when Christ is mine and I am His. Through His mercy and grace, I shall come forth to the resurrection of glory and joy. One happy day, I shall behold His face in righteousness; one last consummate morning, I shall be satisfied when I awake with His likeness. The undecaying inheritance is mine.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Slaughter the Passover Lamb!" Exodus 12:21
This was to be a Lamb without blemish it is the fitting emblem of my stainless Jesus. He is whiter than the new-fallen snow. He is brighter than the noonday sun. There is no spot in Him.
This was to be a Lamb slain it is the sad and glorious prophecy of my suffering Redeemer. He was Victim as well as Victor. He was Sacrifice as well as Priest. The pains of His body on the altar of the cross, and the sadder pains of His mind, and the far deeper pains of His soul how can I calculate them?
This was to be a Lamb of refuge it is the representation of my all-sufficient Savior. Behind His blood shed for me, I take my stand; and the destruction passes over, and all is well.
This was to be a Lamb to be received with bitter herbs it is the remembrancer of my Lord. I look on Him whom I have pierced, and I mourn for Him. It is with sorrow as well as with joy, that I welcome His salvation sorrow for my sin that cost Him so dear.
A Lamb to be eaten in haste again it is the type of Him whose I am. His flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed for what? For the pilgrim march. For the wilderness journey. For the long ascent to the City of God.
O wondrous Lamb!
One said to David Dickson on his deathbed, "What are you doing, brother?" He answered, "I am taking all my bad deeds and all my good deeds, and throwing them into one bundle, and fleeing from both to Christ!" It is what I would do.
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"Then He said to them all: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me!" Luke 9:23
This is one of the Master's hard sayings!
There is my proud religious self it has to be denied at the very outset. I have my own thoughts of how my salvation may be won, and my own objections to God's way of redeeming me. But He takes no account of my good works. He ranks me with the chief of sinners. How it humbles my pride!
There is my indulgent self it has to be denied every day, that I walk with Him. I crave comfort and ease and pleasure. And He commands me to undertake some trying duty or to make some painful sacrifice or to bear and forbear with men who provoke and wound me.
There is my planning and scheming self it has to be denied a hundred times over. In my Christian work I have my cherished ideas, my favorite methods, my arrangements which, I think, are sure to achieve success. And Christ will have none of them. He leads me in paths at which my heart rebels.
And there is my impatient self it has to be denied, I cannot tell how often. If I had my will, I would inaugurate the kingdom of God tomorrow. I would usher in Christ's reign of righteousness and peace. But Jesus says, "It is I, My child, who have to decide when the hour is ripe." But ah, Lord, how hard it is to wait!
It is no child's play, this daily self-denial. It is a perpetual crucifixion! Morning by morning I must brace myself to it . . .
by a new act of faith,
by earnest prayer,
by the fresh filling of the Spirit of God.
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"Faint yet pursuing." Judges 8:4
Exhausted with travel and abstinence, they refused to abandon their quest. This is the portrait of the good soldier of Jesus Christ.
I desire the concentration of this character. I would have a "chief end" which governs my thinking, my speaking, my doing. I oscillate, like the pendulum, between different sets of things. I drift, like the boat with no one at the helm to guide it into port. Henceforward let me have a purpose to be perfect as my Father is perfect. Let me have a goal the likeness of Jesus which lures me on.
I desire the courage of this character. Little Faith, whom the three rogues Faint-Heart and Mistrust and Guilt, rob and wound I resemble him too often. But I will covet now the name of Mr. Valiant or Mr. Standfast. O Lord, who gives power to the faint, and to those who have no might You give strength grant me a sustained bravery.
And I desire the perseverance of this character. At many a door I knock, and I find no sympathy. I ask for bread and I receive a stone. And my adversaries do not relax their vigilance. But forward my chariot must move. Upward my soul must press. I have food to eat that the world knows nothing of; and refreshment comes to me from unseen hands.
And at the end, what will there be? Rest? Yes, but far more than rest. Once the Captain of my salvation was faint and yet pursued; nothing could turn Him back. And today He has a Name which is above every name. In His honor and dominion, He will invite me to share.
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"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:30
Let me not grieve my Friend of friends. I cause Him sorrow if I yield consciously to sin; or if I fail to glorify Christ, whom He honors; or if I walk much in darkness and doubt.
Let me not grieve the blessed Spirit He does a great work for me. He "seals" me, Paul says.
There is the seal which accredits. It is hard for the world to recognize me as an ambassador of the King hard for myself sometimes. But He so cleanses me and comforts me, that my origin and mission have their attestation.
There is the seal which secures. It is as though a casket should be stamped with the royal signet, to declare that it holds what must not be lost.
There is the seal which dignifies. On the denarius the image of the Emperor is impressed. That, too, is why He abides with me in His divine power and His divine patience. It is that He may leave with me the King's likeness, the King's endowments, the King's perfection.
And there is the seal which predicts. Unto the day of redemption, He assures and keeps and purifies me. His presence renders the consummate day certain the day when I am haunted and pursued no more; the day when I stand faultless before the throne!
These are prevailing reasons why I must not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
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"The end of a matter is better than its beginning" Ecclesiastes 7:8
So the builder says. The mallet and the chisel can be laid aside now. The scaffolding is taken down. The rubbish is cleared away. Men look up at the perfected edifice.
My life is a building. Is its foundation Jesus Christ? And on this foundation have I been laying nothing flimsy and perishable? True thoughts, and holy deeds, and quiet labors of love. Not wood and hay and stubble but gold and silver and precious stones.
So the gardener says. Through spring and summer he waits; but autumn comes, and the reapers sing in the fields, and the wagons carry home the grain.
My life is a sowing. Is it a sowing to the Spirit? Trust and love and penitence and purity have I kept casting these seeds into the soil of my soul? Ah well, I may have no golden harvest in this life but in far-off worlds, among triumphant saints, in the presence of God, my reaping will come.
So the traveler says. He is home from sea and hill. The goal is better than the toilsome march the shore is better than the tossing billow.
My life is a pilgrimage. Is it the path which shines more and more unto the perfect day? The start was good, if it was Christ's redemption. The way is good, if it is the way of obedience and communion with Jesus. But the end is best. It is the city of the glorified saints. It is the King in His beauty.
There are endings which are hopeless as midnight. But, my soul, there are endings among the things which eye has not seen nor heart conceived but which God has prepared for them that love Him!
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"Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying: Thus far the LORD has helped us!" 1 Samuel 7:12
I can still gather lessons from Samuel's Ebenezer pillar. If I am God's child, what does it say to me the great stone between Mizpah and Shen?
1. Be mindful of the glorious past. He has done marvelous things for you. He saved you when you were on the verge of destruction. He sustains you, changing even burdens into wings which help you heavenward. O strong, sweet grace of God, with which He has saved and sustained you!
2. Be thankful in the brightened present. Where is your trophy, your pillar with its inscription, your monument? Your lips should be singing His praise. Your conversation should be recounting His mercies. Your life should be devoted to His service. Bless Him, and do not forget all His benefits.
3. Be hopeful for the unknown future. He will never fail you He will never forsake you. As a good man wrote three centuries ago: "Not if every grain of dust were an Ahithophel, and gave counsel against us; not if every sand on the shore were a Rabshakeh, and railed against us; not if every atom in the air were a Satan; not if every drop in the sea were an Abaddon, an Apollyon there will be no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
It is this threefold lesson which I read on Samuel's pillar. And every part of the legend is full of significance for me.
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"When I have a convenient season, I will call for you." Acts 24:25
There are two sworn enemies of my soul. Their names are Yesterday and Tomorrow.
Yesterday slays his thousands. What he seeks to do is to plunge me down into darkness and despair. "You have had your opportunities," he says, "such golden opportunities, such unnumbered and innumerable multitudes of them; and you have trampled them all under foot. There will be no more priceless opportunities for you. The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and you are not saved!"
Nay, but God's word is, Now; Today; Yet there is room. There is mercy still, and hope, and healing, and life everlasting for you.
Ah but Tomorrow slays his tens of thousands. He has recourse to just the opposite expedients from those of Yesterday. Brave vows and valiant promises that will never be fulfilled; good resolutions that may lull my conscience into sleep but that have no value of any substantial sort these are his deadly weapons. When I have a convenient season, he bids me say to the Savior and the Spirit of God, I will send for You. And how pitifully often the convenient season never dawns!
Behold, now is the acceptable time. Believe it, needy soul of mine, and, while Jesus of Nazareth passes by, make sure that you touch the hem of His garment. By and by, it may be quite too late. By and by, He may come no longer along the road where you dwell. Today the silver trumpets are ringing out their glad message for you, and the year of the Lord is only beginning the halcyon year when every debt is remitted and every slave goes free.
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"Yes, I am coming soon!" Revelation 22:20
Because Jesus comes, how unworldly I should be! It cannot be of much importance whether I am rich or poor here, whether I am strong or weak, whether my days on this side of the Advent are shorter or longer. I am in the world for the briefest season. It is but a place where I sojourn on the way to the City of God. It is not my goal. It is not my portion. It is not my heart's metropolis.
Because Jesus is on His way how holy I should be! His eyes will search and prove me. He will make inquiry into my unspoken thoughts. He will put my intentions into His scales. He will bring into the light of day the qualities and the principles of my soul. Let me remember that I have to deal with One who is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap.
Because soon I shall look Jesus in the face how busy I should be! I should be laboring for Him earnestly. I should redeem every opportunity. "Take my life, and let it be consecrated Lord, to Thee!" That should be my prayer: my life, in all its possibilities, in all its powers, in all that it is and has and can accomplish. I must beware of the ungirt loin and the unlit lamp.
Because I must meet Him so soon and so solemnly, what manner of person ought I to be in all holy living and godliness! It weakens my spiritual life immeasurably, that I think seldom and superficially of the Second Advent of my King. It is high time that I awoke out of sleep. When the sun rises and my Lord comes, I must not be ashamed before Him.
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"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Romans 8:35
The seasons change; the time is shortened; the end draws near. All the more, I rejoice in and repeat Paul's victorious challenge "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?"
Perhaps He will loosen His hand-grasp of me in the Valley of the Shadow of death when I go through the flood. Nay, death cannot separate me.
Perhaps my moods that vary from day to day, and my constantly recurring temptations, and my never-ending needs, will weary out His vast patience at length. Nay, life cannot separate me.
Perhaps the spirits of darkness with their deceits will snatch me from His keeping. Or else the sons of light with their nobler service will withdraw His regard from me. It is impossible. Angels and principalities and powers cannot separate me.
Perhaps the demands I make on Him, and will continue to make to my latest hour, must limit His kindness and revoke His promises. It is a vain fear. Things present and things to come cannot separate me.
Perhaps my foolish exaltations of myself and my faithless despondencies will send Him, disappointed, wearied, despairing, from my side. I need not be afraid. Height and depth cannot separate me!
Is there anything, then, in Heaven or earth or Hell, that will remove Him from me, and will banish me from His presence and grace? No, no, there is not any creature. God's love in Jesus Christ is always watchful and always sufficient. It is the same yesterday and today and forever!