by James Smith, 1858
Every wise tradesman takes stock, to see how his affairs stand, and whether he prospers in business or not. Every good housekeeper examines her store-room, to see if the needs of the family are provided for or not. So every Christian should take stock, and examine his storeroom, to see how he is getting on, and what he needs.
I have been casting my eye within, and have been looking back a little way — and comparing myself with my rule and models, I find I am very deficient. I do not appear to be getting on very satisfactorily in my spiritual business; and as to my storeroom — the shelves and cupboards are very bare. Without looking very deeply into the concern, I can see quite enough, to make me cry out with the prophet; "My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!"
I am not going to draw up a whole catalogue of my needs — but from my conduct towards God and man, I see clearly, that there are a few things I especially need. I will just name a part of them, and if the reader finds himself in the same condition as I am myself — we can both go to the same source for a supply. Well, one of my most prominent needs is,
PENITENCE. I have not treated my fellow men as I should — but I have conducted myself a great deal worse in reference to God. If I look at poor, perishing sinners around me — how little sympathy have I manifested for them, though I knew their misery; and how few efforts have I put forth to save them, though I knew their danger. If I think of my gracious God and heavenly Father — what ingratitude I have shown him, and how much I have done to grieve him. My prayers — how dull, my praises — how lifeless, my confidence — how small, my love — how cold, my zeal — how feeble, and my walk with him — how fitful and irregular! I cannot look upon any part of my conduct, or at any of my graces with entire satisfaction.
I bless God that I am not what I once was — but, oh, how far I am from what I ought to be, and from what I wish to be! If any creature had need to lie low before God, mourn over his defects, and be sorry for his sin — I am the man. O Holy Spirit, fill my soul with contrition, compunction, and heartfelt grief for sin — that I may sorrow before God after a godly sort. I do, yes, deeply do I feel, that I need penitence. I need also,
PURITY. My affections are impure, my words are impure, my actions are impure, yes, my very devotions are impure! But nothing tries and torments me more, than the impurity of my thoughts and imaginations. One would almost think at times — that Satan kept carnival here. Old scenes, old sayings, and old songs; all of them more or less impure and defiling — come up into the mind, or are vividly portrayed on the imagination. Even when on my knees in private, or engaged in public religious services, these ugly things rise, work, harass, and torment me. I sigh, "O that I was holy!" I pray, "Lord, purify my heart, and thoroughly cleanse my entire nature!" And, I am sometimes almost ready to conclude that the more I thus sigh and pray — the more impure I am. Certainly, the more I see and feel my impurity. But then I feel more annoyed with it, and hate it more and more; which on sober reflection, leads me to conclude, that the Holy Spirit is really carrying on the work of sanctification in my heart. Yet, at times, I can hardly believe that any of the Lord's people are inwardly so impure as I am. Deeply, most deeply, do I feel that I need more purity. But I need also,
POWER. I have much to do — which requires strength. I have many enemies to conquer — which requires courage. I have many trials to pass through — which requires fortitude. Now by power, I mean strength, courage, and fortitude. I need power, for I feel myself to be weak, timid and wavering. Indeed at times I question if I was ever so weak as now, for I often appear to myself to get weaker and weaker!
I want to do something worthy of the Christian name — something that will bless humanity, and do good to my fellow Christians — something that will honor God, and exalt the Lord Jesus. But most of my time is taken up with trifles, and many fine opportunities are lost. Many a time have I determined to give up all attempts to act worthily, I so signally fail; but then I find something within me which seems to say, "Do a little, if you cannot do much. If you finally fail, fail attempting to do something!" Then I fall to work and try again — but, alas! I appear to myself to be just in the position of the church of old, when she said, "We have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind, we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth."
O that God would give me power to act for him, to act as Jesus acted, that I may do his will as expressed in his precepts, conquer all my foes, especially the world, the flesh, and the Devil; and endure all my afflictions and trials as a Christian should! I do, yes, I do indeed, need power! Once more I need,
PERSEVERANCE. I make so little progress. I loiter by the way so often. I neglect my work and lose my precious time. I deliberate — when I ought to act. I stand gaping about — when I ought like the racer, whose heart is set on gaining the prize, to be pressing with all possible energy and determination, towards the mark for the prize of the high calling, which is in Christ Jesus. I have lost much ground, for lack of steady perseverance. I have lost much time too, by looking about when I ought to have been diligently employed. I believe in the perseverance of the saints, and therefore have at times had to doubt my saintship, because I did not persevere. With my hand on the plough — I ought to push forward. With God on my side — I ought to be indomitable. With grace in my heart — I ought to make progress. O for persevering grace! May my motto be, "Onward And Upward!" And may I never fail nor be discouraged, until the goal is reached. If ever a man needed anything, I need plodding perseverance, for my character, station, work, profession, and calling all demand it.
But time would fail me, and I do not know that it would benefit anyone for me to go over all my needs, and therefore I shall bring my scribbling to a close. I feel it to be a mercy, that all I need — is treasured up in Jesus, and treasured up there for me! I rejoice that there is such a sweet passage in God's Word as this, "God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."
And I bless God, that, because Jesus is our High Priest, and is appearing before God for us, touched with a feeling of our infirmities, he has exhorted us saying, "Therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Let us not then sit down and pore over our deficiencies, nor despond because of our imperfections; but let a sense of our needs stir us up, to make immediate, energetic, and importunate application to the throne of grace, that we may obtain the sympathy of Jesus, and find the grace necessary to rectify all that is wrong, and to set all right within us.
Nor let us forget this fact — that a sense of our imperfections, faults, and follies, rightly used — will endear the Lord Jesus to us, and make the provisions of grace, and the promises of mercy, inexpressibly sweet.
The fullness of Jesus is set against our needs — that we may be supplied; and the perfect work of Jesus, is set against all our imperfections — that we may not be condemned. Let us then, learn to make use of Jesus daily; yes, hourly; and looking to him for all that we need, and looking away from everything in ourselves, to him — we shall live the life of faith, conquer all our fears, overcome all our foes, master all our difficulties, obtain a supply for all our needs — and at length enter into our Master's joy!