Grace Gems for OCTOBER 2010

Our clumsy hands!

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book — a Year's Daily Readings")

"I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted!" Job 42:2

We cannot do what we desire to do. Many of our purposes are thwarted. We desire to do good and beautiful things, and we try — but our actual achievements fall far below our desires. Our clumsy hands cannot fashion the loveliness which our hearts dream of. Our faltering weakness cannot do the brave things our souls aspire to do. No artist ever paints on his canvas — all the beauty of his ideal. No singer ever expresses — all the music which burns within him as he sings. No eloquent orator ever utters — all that he feels as he pleads for truth or for justice.

So in all our life — we do only a little of what we strive to do. We set out in the morning with purposes of usefulness, of true living, of gentle-heartedness, of patience, of victoriousness; but in the evening we find only little fragments of these good intentions actually wrought out!

But God's plans and intentions are all carried out! No power can withstand Him — or frustrate His will. It was in this thought, that Job found peace in his long, sore trial: all things were in God's hands, and nothing could hinder His designs of love! Our God is infinitely strong. In all earthly confusions, strifes, and troubles — His hand moves, bringing good out of evil for those who trust in Him. He executes all His purposes of good. He is never hindered in blessing His children.

"I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted!" Job 42:2

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God's threshing

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book — a Year's Daily Readings")

"You will have tribulation in this world." John 16:33

The word tribulation is very suggestive. It comes from a root which means 'a flail'. The thresher uses the flail to beat the wheat sheaves, that he may separate the golden wheat from the chaff and straw.

Tribulation is God's threshing — not to destroy us, but to get what is good, heavenly, and spiritual in us — separated from what is wrong, earthly, and fleshly. Nothing less than blows of pain will do this. The golden wheat of goodness in us, is so closely wrapped up in the strong chaff of sin — that only the heavy flail of suffering can produce the separation!

Many of us would never enter the gates of pearl — were it not for this unwelcome messenger, pain! "We must go through many troubles to enter the kingdom of God!" Acts 14:22

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Running here and there like ants on an anthill!

J. C. Ryle)

Oh, that men and women would learn to live with the awareness that one day they are going to die! Truly, it is waste of time to set our hearts on a dying world and its short-lived comforts and pleasures; and for the sake of momentary pleasures — to lose a glorious eternity in Heaven! Here we are striving, laboring, exhausting ourselves about little things, and running here and there like ants on an anthill! And yet after a few years, we will all be gone — and another generation will take our place. Let us live for eternity! Let us seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness that can never be taken from us!

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things! When Christ, who is your life, appears — then you also will appear with Him in glory!" Colossians 3:1-4

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That ruthless invader of all happiness!

John MacDuff, "Grapes of Eschol")

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. In My Father's house are many mansions! I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with Me — that you also may be where I am!" John 14:1-3

The verse speaks of PERMANENCY — they are "mansions." The word in the original is not a tent or temporary shelter — but a durable residence, never to be altered or demolished. "The tents of the East," says Professor Hackett, "seldom remain long in the same place. The traveler erects his temporary abode for the night, takes it down in the morning, and journeys onward. The shepherds of the country are also always moving from one place to another. The brook dries up on which they relied for water, or the grass required for the support of their flocks is consumed — and they wander on to a new station."

How strikingly illustrative is this of the Bible figure, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands!" 2 Corinthians 5. This mortal body, like the nomadic tent, is up-reared for a time — but, after serving its temporary purpose — it is, pin by pin, demolished, and the place that once knew it, knows it no more.

Not so the ever-enduring mansions of our Father's house! "A priceless inheritance — an inheritance that is reserved in heaven for you — pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4.  No failing of brooks there! No joys there will be withered and smitten like the grass of the wilderness. "The Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them to living fountains of waters!"

Ah! it is the saddest, the most humiliating feature of the joys of earth, that, however pure, noble, elevating they may be at the moment — there is no calculating on their permanency. The mind will, in spite of itself, be haunted with the dark possibility of that ruthless invader of all happiness coming and dashing the full cup in a thousand fragments on the ground!

But in Heaven, no shadow of vicissitude or change can ever enter to dim an ever-brightening future! Once within that heavenly fold — we are in the fold forever! On the lintels of the eternal mansion are inscribed the words, "You shall never leave it!" Our happiness and joy will be as immutable and stable — as God's everlasting love and power and faithfulness can make them!

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It shall be well with him!

John MacDuff, "The Christian's Pathway" 1858")

"Say to the righteous, that it shall be well with him!" Isaiah 3:10

The human family is divided into a great variety of social and artificial distinctions. But, in the sight of God — there are but two classes, into which the multifarious elements of universal humanity can be resolved. There are only the righteous — and the wicked. Concerning one of these classes — God proclaims that it shall be well with them; while to the other — He pronounces a solemn woe.

What makes the condition of a wicked man to be so fearful, is the solemn fact that God is against him! And what makes that of the righteous to be so blessed — is that God is for him!
All the divine attributes are arrayed against the impenitent sinner — but when he becomes a saint, they all join to take his part. Such being the case, having the eternal Jehovah in all his boundless perfections on his side, it cannot be otherwise than well with him.

It shall be well with the righteous, not merely in life — but in death. It is appointed, by the irrevocable decree of God — that all men must die. There is no discharge in that war — no release from that mortal struggle!
Wealth has no bribe which death will receive.
Wisdom has no art by which death can be avoided.
Power has no defense against death.
Beauty has no charm to death's eye.
The voice of eloquence is lost to death's ear.
Even religion has no security from death's stroke!
Here the mightiest conqueror is vanquished — and the proudest of monarchs finds himself a slave! From its ruthless grasp — no age, no condition can escape!

Those who are in the bloom and freshness of youth cannot escape — for "man, at his best estate, is altogether vanity!"

The great and prosperous cannot escape — for "the rich man also died — and was buried."

The wicked cannot escape — he is driven, yes, dragged away in his wickedness; the most fearful of all deaths is his — that of dying in his sins!

Neither can the righteous escape — he must go the way of all the earth, and become a tenant of the silent grave!

But, at that solemn season, it shall be well with him!
When the last sands of the numbered hour are running out;
when his earthly friends will be compelled to leave him;
when the cold dews of death will be standing in large drops upon his pallid brow;
when every nerve and vein may be racked and wrenched in fearful agonies by the irresistible power of the grim tyrant — even then it shall be well with him! The dying strife will soon be over, and through death's gloomy portals — he will enter upon that blessed state where all is peace and bliss forever!

"And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life!" Matthew 25:46

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Suppose your child was dying

(James Smith, "Our Father and Comforter")

Surely, if parents realized the value of their children's souls; if they had a vivid sight of the danger to which they are exposed; if they felt that they must be saved by the Lord Jesus — or perish for ever — then they would act very differently toward them!

Could a parent, if he believed the Scriptural representation of hell, as a place of torment; and saw that his child hung over that ever-burning lake as by a thread — and might, at any moment, by some accident, be plunged into the bottomless abyss; I say, if he saw and believed this — could he let his child go on, day after day, and month after month, without the tender expostulation, the affectionate appeal, and the heart-felt prayer with him? I think not!

Alas! alas! We do not half believe . . .
  in the horrors of hell,
  in the danger of our children, and
  in the absolute necessity of faith in Christ, in order to for them to be saved — or we could never live as we do!

What anxiety is manifested about their health and their education; and what indifference about their never-dying souls! One feels at times ready to conclude that many professing Christian parents must be half infidels, or wholly insane — to act as they do!

Reader, suppose your child was dying. His pulses are faint and few. He breathes short and hard. You approach his bedside. You take his hand in yours. He asks, "Father, did you believe I was a sinner? Did you know that it was possible I might die young? Were you aware that, without faith in Christ — I must perish forever? Did you, father?"

"I did, my child."

"Then how could you be so cruel, so hard-hearted, as to treat me in the way you have? You never took me aside to talk to me seriously. You never endeavored to impress upon my mind the importance of spiritual things. You never earnestly warned me to flee from the wrath to come. You never lovingly invited me to the Lord Jesus Christ. You never prayed with me as if you believed I was in danger of going to hell, and could only be saved by the grace of God. You were very earnest about temporal things — but indifferent about spiritual realities. You knew that I was going to hell — and you did not try to prevent it. Now I am lost! Lost for ever — and you are the cause of it! Or, at least, you are accessory to my everlasting damnation!"

Or, suppose you were before the Great White Throne, and the Judge seated thereon, and you meet your children there. One of them points to you, and says, "There is my mother! She showed great concern about my body — but she never showed anxiety about my soul. She never knelt by my side in prayer. I never heard her plead with God for my soul, nor did she ever, in downright earnest, plead with me. I charge her, before the Judge of all — with cruelty to my soul; and throughout eternity I shall curse the day that ever I had such a parent! No name will excite my enmity, or draw forth my bitter reproaches, like the name of my mother! I am lost, lost forever — and my mother never heartily tried to prevent it!"

Parents, how could you bear this? Parents, parents! By all the tender ties that unite you to your children, I beseech you to seek, first, principally, and most earnestly — the conversion of your children!

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It is not easy to be a man!

(J. R. Miller, "
The Manliness of Jesus")

Christ is more than a teacher. A teacher shows us lofty qualities and attainments — and then leaves us in hopeless weakness in the dust. But Christ is Helper, Friend, Savior — as well as Teacher. He shows us what true manliness is — and then comes into our life and inspires us to strive after the things which He commends; and then breathes His life into us to help us to be what He teaches us to be.

It is not easy to be a man — a true, noble, Christlike man. It means continual struggle, for enemies of manliness meet us at every step! Every inch of the way must be won in battle. It means constant restraint and repression of sin — for the 'old man' in us must be subdued and kept under control. It means constant, painful discipline — for the powers of nature are evil and unruly, and hard to tame and control. It means unending toil and self-denial — for we must climb ever upward, and the way is steep and rugged, and SELF must be trampled to death under our feet as we rise to higher life! It is hard to be a true man — for all the odds seem against us. But Christ lives, and He is Helper, Friend, and Guide — to every man who truly receives Him as Lord and Master.

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A union which will last forever!

John MacDuff, "The Christian's Pathway" 1858")

"My Beloved is mine — and I am His!" Song of Songs 2:14

This is the language of the Christian in the book of Canticles. How great is the blessedness involved in such an assurance! My beloved Jesus is mine . . .
  in the dignity of His person;
in the suitability of His offices;
in the immensity of His love;
  in the efficacy of His atonement;
  in the riches of His abounding grace!
His righteousness is mine — to justify me,
His Spirit is mine — to sanctify me,
His power is mine — to defend me,
His wisdom is mine — to guide me, and
His Heaven is mine — to receive me!

And what does Christ say to the believer in return?

"I am yours — and all that I have is yours! I have boundless and unsearchable riches — and those riches are for you! I have happiness to bestow, such as the mind in its largest grasp has never been able to conceive — and that happiness is for you! I have crowns and scepters at My disposal — and all those honors are for you! Yes, to him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My glorious throne!"

The Christian's exaltation and bliss is not a matter of doubtful disputation. And what makes it so certain? It is the blessed truth that the union which exists between him and Christ — is an indissoluble union! All other relations, however close and endearing, must be broken. That union of husband and wife; and soul and body — has no power to resist the assault of death, the great destroyer.

All earthly ties must then be severed. But death, which breaks every other bond — only strengthens the bond between the Christian and Christ! Death, which quenches every other love — only kindles that of the believer for Jesus, into a purer and intenser flame! Death, which snatches every other object from our grasp — only brings us to the full enjoyment of Him, who is the fountain of life, the great center and source of all blessedness.

Christian, rejoice in your union with Jesus!
The changes of time cannot touch it!
The storms of life cannot injure it!
The sword of persecution cannot sever it!
The damps of death cannot affect it!
The malice of hell cannot move it!
It is a union which will last forever! It follows, therefore, that you, if a partaker of it — will be rich forever, safe forever, dignified forever, and blessed forever!

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He will not do it!

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book — a Year's Daily Readings")

"Cast your burden upon the Lord — and He shall sustain you!" Psalm 55:22

There are some mistaken notions current concerning the way in which God would help us. People think that whenever they have a little trouble, a bit of hard path to go over, a load to carry, a sorrow to endure — that all they have to do is to call upon God, and He will at once take away their sorrow, or free them from the trouble. But this is not the way that God helps us! His purpose of love concerning us is — not to make all things easy for us — but to make something of us!

When we ask God to save us from our trouble, to take the struggles out of our life, to make the paths mossy, to lift off every heavy load — He will not do it! It would be most unloving in Him to accommodate us. We must carry the burden ourselves! All God promises is, to sustain us — as we carry it! He wants us to learn life's lessons, and to do this — we must be left to work out the problems for ourselves.

There are rich blessings which can be gotten only in sorrow. It would be short-sighted love indeed — which would heed our cries, and spare us from sorrow — and thus deprive us of the wonderful blessings which can be gotten only in sorrow! God is too good to us to answer our prayers — which would save us from pain, cost, and sacrifice today — at the price of holier, better, truer life in the end. He would not rob us of the blessing that is in the burden — which we can get only by carrying it!

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Secret prayer

(Thomas Brooks, "A Word in Season to Suffering Saints")

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2

In all the ages of the world, the saints have kept up secret prayer. In spite of all opposers and persecutors, in prisons, in dungeons, in dens, in chains, on racks, in banishments, and in the very flames — the saints have still kept up this secret prayer.

A Christian can as well . . .
  hear without ears, and
  live without food, and
  fight without hands, and
  walk without feet —
as he is able to live without secret prayer!

Look! as secret meals make fat bodies — so secret prayers make fat souls!

Secret prayer is the life of our lives — the soul, the sweet, the heaven of all our earthly enjoyments. Of all the duties of piety, secret prayer is the most . . .
  soul-satisfying, and
  soul-encouraging duty.

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace — that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16

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The representative of Christ in this world

Theodore Cuyler, "Wayside Springs from the Fountain of Life" 1883)

"Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way." Titus 2:10

Christ enjoined upon every one of His disciples to study Him, to learn of Him, and to imitate His example. A true Christian is the representative of Christ in this world — the only embodiment of gospel teaching and influences, that is presented in human society. How vitally important is it, then, that those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians, should make our Christianity attractive! Multitudes of people know very little and think very little about the Lord Jesus; nearly all the ideas they get of His religion — is what they see in those who profess it!

An attractive Christian
is the one who hits the most nearly that golden mean between love on the one hand — and firmness on the other hand. He is strict — but not censorious. He is sound — and yet sweet and mellow, as one who dwells much in the sunshine of Christ's countenance. He never incurs contempt by compromising with wrong — nor does he provoke others to dislike of him by doing right in a very harsh or hateful or bigoted fashion.

Our Master is our model. What marvelous example of gentleness, forbearance, and unselfish love adorned His life! What He was — we, in our imperfect measure, should pray and strive after. Study Jesus, brethren. Get your souls saturated with His spirit. His grace imparted to you and His example imitated — can turn your deformity into beauty, and adorn your lives with those things which are true and honest and lovely.
We must make our daily religion more winsome!

"Leaving you an example — that you should follow in His steps. 1 Peter 2:21

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O the preciousness of this truth!

(Arthur Pink, "
The Sovereignty of God")

God is infinite in power, and therefore it is impossible for any to withstand His will, or resist the outworking of His decrees!!

Such a statement as that is well calculated to fill the lost sinner with alarm — but from the believer, it evokes nothing but praise.

Let us add a word, and see what a difference it makes — "My God is infinite in power, and therefore it is impossible for any to withstand His will, or resist the outworking of His decrees!!"

My God is infinite in power! Then "I will not fear what man can do unto me!"

My God is infinite in power!
Then "whenever I am afraid — I will trust in Him!"

My God is infinite in power! Then "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep — for You alone Lord, make me dwell in safety!" Psalm 4:8

"There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you!" Deuteronomy 33:26, 27

O the preciousness of this truth! Here I am — a poor, helpless, senseless 'sheep,' yet I am secure in the hand of Christ! And why am I secure there? None can pluck me thence — because the hand that holds me is that of the Son of God, and all power in heaven and earth is His!

I have no strength of my own — the world, the flesh, and the Devil, are arrayed against me — so I commit myself into the care and keeping of my Lord Jesus. And what is the ground of my confidence? How do I know that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him? I know it because He is God Almighty — the King of kings and Lord of lords!

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In affliction look to Jesus

(Octavius Winslow)

God's family is a sorrowing family
. "I have chosen you," He says, "in the furnace of affliction." The history of the church finds its fittest emblem in the burning, yet unconsumed bush, which Moses saw. Man is "born to sorrow;" but the believer is "appointed thereunto."
If he is a "chosen vessel" — it is in the "furnace of affliction."
If he is an adopted child of God — "chastening" is the mark.
If he is journeying to the heavenly kingdom — his path lies through "much tribulation."
But if his sufferings abound, much more so do His consolations. To be comforted by God, may well reconcile us to any sorrow with which it may please our heavenly Father to visit us with.

In each season of affliction, to whom can we more appropriately look — than to Jesus? He was preeminently the man of sorrows — and acquainted with grief.

If you would tell your grief to one who knew grief as none ever knew it;
if you would weep upon the bosom of one who wept as none ever wept;
if you would disclose your sorrow to one who sorrowed as none ever sorrowed;
if you would bare your wound to one who was wounded as none ever was wounded
 — then, in your affliction, turn from all creature sympathy and succor, and look to Jesus! You could not take . . .
  your trial,
  your affliction,
  and your sorrow . . .
    to a kinder nature,
    to a tenderer bosom,
    to a deeper love,
    to a more powerful arm,
    to a more sympathizing friend!
Go and breathe your sorrows into His heart — and He will comfort you!

Blessed sorrow
if, in the time of your bereavement, your grief, and your solitude — you are led to Jesus, making Him your Savior, your Friend, your Counselor and your Shield.

Blessed loss
, if it is compensated by a knowledge of God, if you find in Him a Father now, to whom you will transfer your ardent affections, upon whom you will repose your bleeding heart, and in whom you will trust.

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Run to your Father!

(James Smith, "Precious Things from the Everlasting Hills" 1853)

"This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven" Matthew 6:9

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

Beloved, we have a heavenly Father.
He has adopted us into His family.
He not only wears a father's name — but he has a father's heart.
He loves every believer with a father's love.
He watches over each of His children with a father's care.
Yes, we have a Father — and He is always near us.
His heart is ever disposed to do us good.
He will not withdraw His eye from us!
He bids us . . .
  to cast every care upon Him,
  to expect every blessing from Him, and
  to carry everything that troubles us, to Him.

Does providence frown on us, perplex, and trouble us? Let us not fret, complain, or forebode — but go and tell Father!

Does Satan tempt, suggest evil thoughts, or endeavor to mislead us? Let us not parley with him, be alarmed at him, or yield to him — but go at once and tell Father!

Everything, whether painful or pleasant — should lead us to our Father in heaven. He loves to listen to our broken prayers. He loves to sympathize with us. He never chides us for coming too often, or refuses to listen to us. Happy child, who has such a Father! And wise is that child — who carries everything to his Father — who tells Him all, keeping nothing from Him.  When we carry our cares or our troubles to Him, He says, "Leave them with Me. I will manage them. I will settle them."

Christian, run to your Father from every foe — and from every danger! Tell your Father everything that vexes, grieves, or troubles you. Trust your Father to manage all your affairs. Honor your Father, by consulting Him on all matters, by confiding to Him all your secrets, and by making His written Word your daily rule on all points.

"The righteous cry, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles." With childlike simplicity, filial confidence, and honest hearts — they go and tell their Father!

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Your severest sufferings

(John MacDuff, "The Mind of Jesus" 1870)

"Yet I want Your will to be done — not Mine!" Luke 22:42

Where was there ever resignation like this? The life of Jesus was one long martyrdom. From Bethlehem's manger to Calvary's cross, there was scarcely one break in the clouds; these gathered more darkly and ominously around Him — until they burst over His devoted head as He uttered His expiring cry! Yet throughout this pilgrimage of sorrow — no murmuring accent escaped His lips. The most suffering of all suffering lives — was one of uncomplaining submission.

"Yet I want Your will to be done — not Mine!" was the motto of this wondrous Being! When He came into the world He thus announced His advent, "Lo, I come, I delight to do Your will, O my God!" When He left it, we listen to the same prayer of blended agony and acquiescence, "O My Father, if it is possible — let this cup pass from Me! Yet I want Your will to be done — not Mine!"

Ah reader, what are your trials — compared to His! What are the ripples in your tide of woe — compared to the waves and billows which swept over Him! If He, the spotless Lamb of God, "murmured not," how can you murmur? His were the sufferings of a bosom never once darkened with the passing shadow of guilt or sin. Your severest sufferings are deserved — yes, infinitely less than you deserve! Are you tempted to indulge in hard suspicions, as to God's faithfulness and love, in appointing some peculiar trial? Ask yourself — Would Jesus have complained? Should I seek to pry into "the deep things of God," when He, in the spirit of a weaned child, was satisfied with the solution, "Even so, Father — for so it seems good in Your sight!"

"Even so, Father!" Afflicted one! "tossed with tempest, and not comforted," take that word on which Your adorable Redeemer pillowed His suffering head, "Father!" — and make it, as He did, the secret of your resignation. "My Father!" my covenant God! the God who spared not Jesus! It may well hush my every repining word.

The sick child will take the bitterest medicine from a father's hand. "This cup which You, O God, give me to drink — shall I not drink it? Be it mine to lie passive in the arms of Your chastening love, exulting in the assurance that all Your appointments, though sovereign, are never arbitrary — but that there is a gracious 'need be' in them all."

Drinking deep of His sweet spirit of submission, you will be able thus to meet, yes, even to welcome, your sorest cross, saying, "Yes, Lord, all is well — just because it is Your blessed will. Take me, use me, chasten me — as seems good in Your sight. My will is resolved into Yours. This trial is dark; I cannot see the 'why and the wherefore' of it — yet I want Your will to be done — not mine! My gourd is withered; I cannot see the reason of so speedy a dissolution of my beloved earthly shelter; my sense and sight ask in vain why these leaves of earthly refreshment have been doomed so soon to droop in sadness and sorrow. But it is enough. 'The Lord prepared the worm!' I want Your will to be done — not mine!"

Oh, how does the stricken soul honor God by thus being silent in the midst of dark and perplexing dealings, recognizing in these, part of the needed discipline and training — for a sorrowless, sinless, deathless world; regarding every trial as a link in the chain — which draws it to heaven, where the whitest robes will be found to be those here baptized with suffering, and bathed in tears!

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Selfishness withers and dies beneath Calvary!

John MacDuff, "The Mind of Jesus" 1870)

"For even Christ did not please Himself." Romans 15:3

Too legibly, are the characters written on the fallen heart and a fallen world — "All seek their own!" Selfishness is the great law of our degenerated nature! When the love of God was dethroned from the soul — SELF vaulted into the vacant seat, and there, in some one of its ever-changing shapes, continues to reign.

Jesus stands out for our imitation, as a grand solitary exception in the midst of a world of selfishness. His entire life was one abnegation of self — a beautiful living embodiment of that love which "seeks not her own."

Ah, how different is the spirit of the world! With how many, is day after day only a new oblation to that idol SELF — pampering their own wishes; and envying and grieving at the good of a neighbor — thus engendering jealousy, discontent, peevishness, and every kindred unholy passion.

"But you have not so learned Christ!" Reader! have you been sitting at the feet of Him who "pleased not Himself?" Are you "dying daily;" dying to self — as well as to sin? Are you animated with this as the high end and aim of existence — to lay out your time, and talents, and opportunities — for God's glory and the good of your fellow-men; not seeking your own interests — but rather relinquishing these, if, by doing so, another will be made holier, and your Savior honored?

Christ's denial of self, had about it no repulsive austerity. And you can evince its holy influence and sway, by innumerable little offices of kindness and goodwill; taking a generous interest in the welfare of others, or engaging in schemes for the mitigation of human misery.

Avoid ostentation — which is only another repulsive form of self. Be eager to be in the shadows; sound no trumpet before you. The evangelist Matthew held a great banquet for Jesus at his house; but in his Gospel, he says not one word about it!

Seek to live more constantly and habitually under the constraining influence of the love of Jesus! Selfishness withers and dies beneath Calvary!

Ah, believer! if Christ had "pleased Himself," where would you have been this day?

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The Divine Philanthropist

John MacDuff, "The Mind of Jesus" 1870)

"He went around doing good." Acts 10:38

"Christ's great end," says Richard Baxter, "was to save men from their sins — but He also delighted to save them from their sorrows." His heart bled for human misery. Benevolence brought Him from heaven; and benevolence followed His steps wherever He went on earth. The journeys of the Divine Philanthropist were marked by tears of thankfulness, and breathings of grateful love. The helpless, the blind, the lame, the desolate — rejoiced at the sound of His footfall. Truly might it be said of Him, "I helped those without hope — and they blessed Me. And I caused the widows' hearts to sing for joy!" (Job 29:13)

All suffering hearts were a magnet to Jesus. It was not more His prerogative, than His happiness — to turn tears into smiles! One of the few pleasures which on earth gladdened the spirit of the "Man of sorrows" was the pleasure of doing good — soothing grief, and alleviating misery. Next to the joy of the widow of Nain when her son was restored — was the joy in the bosom of the Divine Restorer!

He often went out of His way to be kind. A journey was not grudged, even if one aching heart were to be soothed (Mark 5:1; John 4:4, 5). Nor were His kindnesses dispensed through the intervention of others. They were all personal acts. His own hand healed. His own voice spoke. His own footsteps lingered on the threshold of bereavement, or at the precincts of the tomb. Ah! had the princes of this world known the loving tenderness and unselfishness of that wondrous heart — "they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory!"

Reader! do you know anything of such active benevolence? Have you ever felt the luxury of doing good? Have you ever felt, that in making others happy — you make yourself so? Do you know anything of that great law of your being, enunciated by the Divine Patron and Pattern of Benevolence, "It is more blessed to give — than to receive?"

Has God enriched you with this world's goods? Seek to view yourself as a consecrated medium for dispensing them to others. Beware alike of miserly hoarding — and selfish extravagance! How sad the case of those whose lot God has made thus to abound with temporal mercies, who have gone to the grave unconscious of diminishing one drop of human misery, or making one of the world's myriad aching hearts happier! How the example of Jesus rebukes the cold and calculating kindnesses — the mite-like offerings of many even of His own people! "whose libation is not like His, from the brim of an overflowing cup — but from the bottom — from the dregs!"

You may have little to give. Your sphere and means may be alike limited. But remember that God is as much glorified by the trifle bestowed from the earnings of poverty — as by the splendid benefaction from the lap of plenty. "The Lord loves a cheerful giver!"

The nobler part of Christian benevolence is not vast donations, or munificent financial sacrifices. "He went about doing good." The merciful visit — the friendly word — the look of sympathy — the cup of cold water — the little unostentatious service — the giving without thought or hope of recompense — the kindly "considering of the poor" — anticipating their needs — considering their comforts — these are what God values and loves! They are "loans" to Himself — tributary streams to "the river of His pleasure". They will be acknowledged at last as such — "I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine — you did for Me!"

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The only suitable dress for a saved sinner!

John MacDuff, "The Footsteps of Jesus" 1856)

"Be clothed with humility." 1 Peter 5:5

"True humility," said one, "is a lovely ornament; it is the only suitable dress for a saved sinner!" O let us seek then to be clothed in this robe — that we may be brought to lie low at the footstool of our Maker and Redeemer.

In the saints of old, this grace of humility appeared with marked prominence — and they are patterns for our imitation.

There was Abraham, the father of the faithful and the friend of God. How great was his humility! how profound his self-abasement! "I have ventured to speak to the Lord — even though I am nothing but dust and ashes!" He was filled with a consciousness of his absolute nothingness in the presence of the Great Eternal.

There was David also, who speaks of himself as "a worm — and not a man!"

Job cried out, "Behold, I am vile!"

In the apostle Paul, again, what a striking exemplification have we of this grace of humility. If self-delight were ever allowable in any individual, it would be in him; for such a laborious, self-denying, unselfish character, has, doubtless, not yet appeared — the man Christ Jesus alone and always excepted.

But what were his views and feelings in reference to himself? On one occasion we hear him saying that he was not worthy to be called an apostle. At another time he says, "I am less than the least of all God's people!" And when penning one of his last epistles, he designates himself the very chief of sinners! He was brought to know himself — a knowledge in which all wisdom centers. If we knew ourselves as he did — pride and self-delight would find no room within us!

But, above all, let us consider Him who said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me — for I am gentle and humble in heart." The heaven of heavens could not contain Him; all the fullness of the Eternal Godhead dwelt in Him; devils trembled at His rebuke, and flew from His presence to the abodes of misery; yet how gentle, how humble He was! Reader, aspire after conformity to Christ — in His humility.

Against the proud — God's displeasure has been manifested in all ages.

Think of Pharaoh. The language of that proud monarch was, "Who is the Lord — that I should obey Him?" But the Divine Majesty could not bear to be thus insulted; hence the puny worm with all his legions were destroyed — they sank as lead in the mighty waters!

Think of Nebuchadnezzar. Hear his boasting exclamation, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built, by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" But God resisted him, and he was turned from the society of men — to eat grass with the beasts of the field!

Think of Herod. With what delight did he receive the applause of the people, when they cried, "It is the voice of a god, and not the voice of man!" But the angel of the Lord smote him — and he was eaten with worms!

While, however, God resists the proud — He has promised to give grace unto the humble. The humble are the objects of His special regard. "For thus says the high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place" — that is one of the palaces of the Great King, where the throne of His glory is erected — where the countless armies of cherubim and seraphim are stationed, and where perfected saints reside. But He has another place of habitation: "with him also, who is humble and contrite in spirit!"

O Lord, subdue the pride of my heart; and help me to manifest, by my whole demeanor — that humility of spirit which is in Your sight of great price!

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Could we look into the lake of fire!

John MacDuff, "The Footsteps of Jesus" 1856. This one is longer — but it is choice! Please forward it to those who are going through times of affliction.)

"Why should any living man complain?" Lamentations 3:39

Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards. We are not therefore to think that any strange thing has happened to us — if sorrow, in any of its multifarious forms, befalls us here on earth.

"If you endure chastening," says the apostle, "God deals with you as with sons." But HOW should we endure it?

It should be done in an inquiring spirit. We ought to be anxious to know the cause of the painful visitation. With the patriarch of old, our language should be, "Show me why You contend with me?"

It should be done also in a prayerful spirit — "Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray."

And it should be done especially in a submissive spirit. We should not merely feel the 'chastening rod' — but kiss it! Instead of cherishing any feelings of murmuring and rebellion under the afflictive dispensations of God's providence — we should humble ourselves under His mighty hand, that He may exalt us in due time. And how many considerations are there, which should induce and promote such a submissive spirit towards affliction!

1. If we compare our sufferingswith our deserts — shall we not find abundant reason to banish every complaint, and hush every murmur into silence?

Should we complain of our light and momentary trouble — when we deserve to be tormented in hell forever?

Should we complain of the chastisements of a gracious Father — when we have rendered ourselves obnoxious to the sentence of a holy and angry Judge?

Should we complain that God sits by us as a refiner to purify us — when He might be a consuming fire to destroy us?

Should we complain that we have to pass under the rod of His love — when we might have been set up as a "mark for the arrows of His indignation, and His terrors be arrayed against us?"

Could we look into the lake of fire, and have a sight of the wretched beings who are there writhing in deathless agonies — we would then thank God for the most miserable condition on earth — if it were only sweetened with the hope of escaping that place of eternal torment!

2. Let us think, again, of the many mercies of which we have been, and still continue to be, the subjects. "And shall we receive good at the hand of God — and shall we not receive evil?" Should we not receive our afflictions from the Divine hand with similar feelings? Should we forget our blessings — which are so many; and dwell upon our crosses — which are so few?

3. It would be well also for us to compare our sufferings — with what others have had to endure. The people of God have been, in all ages, a suffering people; and many of them could say with special emphasis, "I am the man who has seen affliction!"

Look at the godly man, Job. In a single day he was cast down from the highest pinnacle of prosperity — to the lowest depths of adversity! In the morning — he was the richest man in all the East — and with patriarchal dignity he looked around upon the joyous circle of seven sons and three daughters. But in the evening — he found himself without flock, or herd, or child!

O what are our troubles — compared with his? And did he murmur? No, he adored the hand that smote him! Prostrate in the dust he exclaimed, "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had — and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!"

But let us turn from the servant — to the Master, and consider Him. What was His condition during His earthly sojourn? He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; notwithstanding His infinite dignity and unsullied purity! Our sufferings are only partial — but He suffered in every way. Ours are only occasional — but His sufferings were uninterrupted — they accompanied Him from the manger to the cross! What He endured, especially during the closing scenes of His memorable career, passes all comprehension! Hear His heart-rending cry, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death!" "And being in an agony — He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

O shall we compare our sufferings — with His? To do so would be to weigh a mote against a mountain! If we desire to bear our trials with submission — let us think much, then, of what the Savior endured for us!
Would you, Christian, wish to fare better than Him?

Jesus Christ was a man of sorrows — and are you not to even taste the bitter cup?
He was acquainted with grief — and would you be a stranger to it?
Would you have nothing but ease — where He had nothing but trouble?
Would you have nothing but honor — where He had nothing but disgrace?
Would you reign with Him hereafter — and not suffer with Him here?
O say, then, with Him, "The cup which My Father has given Me — shall I not drink it?" And as you drink your cup — O, think of His! Well may we say —

"How bitter that cup, no heart can conceive,
 Which He drank quite up, that sinners might live;
 His way was much rougher and darker than mine,
 Did Jesus thus suffer — and shall I repine?"

"Now let our pains be all forgot,
 Our hearts no more repine;
 Our sufferings are not worth a thought,
 When, Lord, compared with Thine!"

4. Another consideration that should produce a spirit of submission is — that our sorrows are not to last forever. Your deliverance from sorrow is as sure as the purpose, the promise, the covenant, the oath of God can render it! And not merely is it certain — but it is near! A few weeks, or months, or years more — and all will be peace and quietness and bliss forever!

5. And, it must be added Christian, that your end will be unspeakably glorious. "God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever!" There will be no shattered frame — no emaciated countenance — no furrowed cheek — no faltering voice, in those blessed regions! There every eye shall sparkle with delight — every countenance will beam with ineffable satisfaction — every pulse will beat high with immortality — and every frame will be able to sustain without weariness, an eternal weight of glory!

O child of sorrow — think of these things! Be anxious to feel their hallowing influence, that resignation may have her perfect work, and that no murmuring spirit may be indulged in, even for a moment!

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The gods of the unregenerate soul

John MacDuff, "The Christian's Pathway" 1858")

heir heart went after their idols!" Ezekiel 20:16

"These men have set up idols in their heart!" Ezekiel 14:3

The world, self, and sin — these are the gods of the unregenerate soul.

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

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The secret of being content!

(John MacDuff, "

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed — or hungry, whether living in plenty — or in need." Philippians 4:11-13

It is from the state of our minds that contentment arises — and not from the amount of our possessions. If we are not content with those things which we have — we are not likely to be content, if we succeeded in attaining all that we desire. The possession of all the good we may think it desirable or even possible to attain — would still leave an aching void; there would still be "a cruel something" unpossessed. But when the mind and the present condition are brought to meet — then, and then only, will true contentment be found! If our heart is brought to our condition — then our condition will then be according to our heart.

The consideration that our earthly lot is appointed by God — that it is He who fixes the bounds of our habitation — is eminently calculated to promote contentment. We are to remember that He is not merely the Creator — but the Governor of the world; and that every circumstance which transpires in our life, is under His superintendence and control. And hence we find the people of God, in every age, passing by merely second causes — until they came to the First Great Cause of all. They heard His voice, and saw His hand — in whatever befell them.

There are some who think that it is beneath the notice of God to regard such trivial events as those which make up our common everyday history. But in God's estimation, the distinctions of great and small, of vast and minute — are altogether unknown. It is not a greater act of condescension in God to number the hairs of our head — than it is for Him to number the stars of heaven; the one being as near to His immensity as the other. Such is His infinite greatness, that in comparison with it — the mightiest world is on a level with the smallest atom!

This doctrine is clearly taught in the volume of inspiration. He who rules in the armies of heaven — who commissions angels and flaming seraphs that stand before His throne, saying to one, "Come!" and he comes, and to another, "Go!" and he goes; who wheels the innumerable worlds which are scattered through the immensity of space in their appointed courses — this great, adorable, incomprehensible Being, regards with tender compassion the poor little sparrow which falls unheeded to the ground, and clothes the lowliest flower with its tints of beauty! Of His care, we are warranted in saying that nothing is too great to be above it — and that nothing, on the other hand, is too minute to be beneath it!

Were the doctrine of "chance" a doctrine of God's Word, there might then be some reason for our murmuring. But if it is He who makes poor — and who makes rich; who brings low — and lifts up; if whatever befalls us is by His appointment or permission, whom we profess to love and honor — then, surely, contentment with our lot must be a reasonable duty indeed!

"In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." Job 1:22. Job saw the hand of God in all that took place! It was not to the invasion of the Sabeans and Chaldeans — that he traced the loss of his property. It was not to the fury of "mother nature" — that he traced the death of his children. No! He looked farther and higher! Prostrate in adoration at the Divine footstool, he exclaimed, "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had — and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!"

Now, how important it is, that the same mind which was in Job — should be in us also. To murmur under the Divine dispensations — to be dissatisfied with the lot which has been appointed to us — to be always complaining of one circumstance or another — what is this, in effect — but to charge God with wrongdoing? It is practically to attribute folly to Him who is the only wise God, and whose knowledge and understanding are infinite! O let us beware then of a discontented spirit — remembering that God orders all our affairs!

Whatever He gives us — let us thankfully receive it.

Whatever He denies us — let us be satisfied without it.

Whatever He takes from us — let us uncomplainingly part with it.

Whatever trial He lays on us — let us endeavor patiently to bear it.

Yes, our lot in life, with all its attendant circumstances, is chosen by God! Let the sun of prosperity shine — or let the clouds of adversity lower; let our path be smooth — or let it be rugged; we should be disposed to say, "
It is the Lord's will — let Him do what He thinks best!" We may be often afflicted, being called to eat the bread of trouble, and drink the waters of affliction — but let us not rest until we can utter these words. We may not be able now to see how it is good; but let us think of the wisdom and love of Him who placed us there — and can we doubt it, whether we understand it or not? He is too wise to err — and too good to be unkind!

"Good when He gives, supremely good,
 Nor less when He denies!
 Even crosses from His sovereign hand
 Are blessings in disguise!"

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Is this all?

(John MacDuff, "

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ — set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above — not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2

The history of six thousand years has given indisputable evidence of the insufficiency of all earthly objects to yield true and satisfying enjoyment.
Man has needs — which no earthly riches can supply;
he has soul diseases — which no human skill can cure;
he has fears — which no mortal courage can quell;
he has debts — which no finite resources can discharge; and
he has miseries — which no earth-born sagacity can console.

In earthly things, to whatever extent they may be possessed, there is a lack of adaptation to yield real happiness. It is recorded of Caesar, that he exclaimed, when in possession of universal empire, "Is this all?" His expectations of happiness were not answered by the attainment of worldly things.

Reader, have you not often felt something similar to this? You may have set your heart upon some distant object; and oh! what sacrifices you made for its attainment! What self-denial did you undergo! At length, perhaps, the desire of your heart was granted you. But was it what you expected? Were you not, on the contrary, led to exclaim, in the language of the disappointed emperor, "Is this all?"

It is an absolute certainty, that the things of earth cannot satisfy the cravings of our immortal nature. Wealth, fame, learning, pleasure, domestic happiness — none of these things can do it. "Whoever drinks of these waters shall thirst again," as the Savior declared to the Samaritan woman; "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst — but it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life!"

But the things of earth, besides being unsatisfying in their nature — are, at best, transitory in their duration.

What are RICHES? 'Uncertain' is the epithet which the pen of inspiration employs in describing them. (1 Timothy 6:16) "Will you set your eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven!" (Proverbs 23:5)

What is PLEASURE? Something that is only for a season.

What is WISDOM? More precious than rubies, if it is the wisdom which comes from above; but if it the wisdom of this world — it also is vanity, and will soon pass away.

What is FAME? Often a bubble, no sooner blown — than it bursts!

Yes, the earth itself is only temporary!

A Roman general, on one occasion, when elated by the splendors of a triumphal entrance into the imperial city, which had been awarded to him in honor of the victories he had won, exclaimed, "Ah, that it would continue!" But, alas! it did not continue. All the glittering pomp soon vanished! It floated away like a fleeting dream. And so with all earthly bliss — it will not, and cannot, continue. Had earthly things a character of abiding permanence belonging to them, men might with some semblance of reason, make them the fit objects of their desires and pursuits. Such a character, however, they do not possess. "The world with its lust is passing away!" "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?"

But, O blessed heavenly world!
This fullness of joy;
this unclouded vision of God and the Lamb;
this sweet fellowship with saints and angels;
this day without a night;
this sky without a cloud;
this sea without a ruffle;
these ravishing melodies;
this seraphic transport and exulting joy
 — they will continue — and that forever!
"We have a priceless inheritance — pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" (1 Peter 1:4)

"O what folly, O what madness!
 That my thoughts should go astray,
 After toys and empty pleasures —
 Pleasures only of a day!

 This vain world, with all its trifles,
 Soon, alas! will be no more;
 There's no object worth admiring,
 But the God whom I adore!"

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You have allowed the key to rust!

John MacDuff, "The Mind of Jesus" 1870)

"He continued all night in prayer to God." Luke 6:12

Jesus was emphatically "a man of prayer". The Spirit was "poured upon Him without measure" — yet He prayed! He was incarnate wisdom, "needing not that any should teach Him" — yet He prayed! He was infinite in His power, and boundless in His resources — yet He prayed! How deeply sacred are His prayerful memories that hover around the solitudes of Olivet and the shores of Tiberias! He seemed often to turn night into day — to redeem moments for prayer, rather than lose the blessed privilege.

All His public acts were consecrated by prayer — His baptism, His transfiguration, His miracles, His agony, His death. He breathed away His life in prayer. "His last breath," says Philip Henry, "was praying breath."

How sweet to think, in holding communion with God — that Jesus drank of this very brook! He consecrated the bended knee and the silent chamber. He refreshed His fainting spirit at the same great Fountain-head from which it is life for us to draw, and death to forsake.

Reader! do you complain of your languid spirit, your drooping faith, your fitful affections, your lukewarm love? May you not trace much of what you deplore — to an unfrequented prayer chamber? The treasures are locked up from you — because you have allowed the key to rust! Your hands hang down — because they have ceased to be uplifted in prayer. Without prayer! This is . . .
  the pilgrim without a staff;
  the seaman without a compass;
  the soldier going unarmed to battle!

Beware of encouraging what indisposes to prayer — of going to the audience-chamber of God with soiled garments, the din of the world following you, its distracting thoughts hovering unforbidden over your spirit. Can you wonder that the living water refuses to flow through obstructed channels, or the heavenly light to pierce murky vapors?

Among men, fellowship with lofty minds — imparts a certain nobility to the character. Just so, in a far higher sense, by communion with God — you will be transformed into His image, and get assimilated to His likeness! Make every event in life — a reason for fresh going to Him. If difficulties in duty — bring them to the test of prayer. If bowed down with anticipated trial — remember Christ's preparation, "Sit here while I go and pray yonder."

Let prayer consecrate everything — your time, your talents, your pursuits, your engagements, your joys, your sorrows, your crosses, your losses! By prayer . . .
  rough paths will be made smooth,
  trials are disarmed of their bitterness,
  enjoyments are hallowed and refined,
  the bread of the world turned into angels' food!

"It is in the prayer-closet," says Payson, "where the battle is lost or won!"

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You say you want to be like Christ

(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book — a Year's Daily Readings" 1895)

"The Son of Man did not come to be served — but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many!" Matthew 20:28

The art of photography is now so perfect, that the whole picture of a large newspaper can be taken in miniature so small, as to be carried in a little pendant — and yet every letter and point be perfect.

Just so, the whole life of Christ is photographed in one little phrase, "not to be served — but to serve."

He came not to be served; if this had been His aim — He would never have left heaven's glory, where He lacked nothing, where angels praised Him and ministered unto Him. He came to serve. He went about doing good. He altogether forgot Himself. He served all He met — who would receive His service. At last He gave His life in uttermost service — giving it as a sin-atoning sacrifice for others. He came not to be served — but to serve.

You say you want to be like Christ. You ask Him to print His own image on your heart. Here, then is the image! It is no vague dream of perfection that we are to think of — when we ask to be made like Christ. The Catholic monks thought that they were becoming like Christ — when they went into the wilderness, away from men, to live in cold cells. But that is not the what this picture suggests. "To serve" — that is the Christlike thing! Instead of fleeing away from the world — we are to live among men, to serve them, to seek to bless them, to do them good, to give our life for them!

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What a happy world would this be!

(John MacDuff, "THE PRECEPTS OF JESUS" 1858)

"Do unto others — what you would like them to do unto you!" Matthew 6:12

What a happy world would this be
if the above command, or the parallel one of, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," were universally acted upon!

There would be then no wars, no antipathies, no rivalries among nations. There would be no jealousies or bitter contentions among neighbors and families. There would be no haughtiness or oppression in the rich — and no envy or discontent in the poor. No heart would burn with anger, no breast rankle with revenge. Every species of violence, fraud, deceit, and treachery would be forever abolished!

Such would be the effects produced — were this precept embodied in the hearts and lives of men.

Let us guard, then, against every violation of this simple but sublime law. Let us seek, especially, to mortify that selfishness to which we are so prone; and, after the example of the Great Master, "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. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus!"

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When you see a dog following two men

John MacDuff)

"You cannot serve both God — and mammon." Matthew 6:24

Of the enemies of the cross of Christ, the apostle declares that they "mind earthly things." They are only concerned about increasing their stores, and thus be able to say with the rich man of whom the Savior speaks, that they have much goods laid up for many years; on the strength of which they intend to take their ease, and eat, drink, and be merry. All their thoughts are of the earth, earthy. The things of time and sense — they regard as first and last, middle and end.

It is impossible for the mind to be governed at the same time by two opposite principles. The love of the world — and the love of God — are diametrically opposed to each other. "If any man loves the world — the love of the Father is not in him." "Don't you know that the friendship of the world — is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world — is the enemy of God." "You cannot serve both God — and mammon."

To borrow a quaint illustration from one of our old writers, "When you see a dog following two men — so long as they walk together, you do not know to which of them the dog belongs. But let them come to a parting road and there separate from each other — then it will soon be seen who is the owner, for the dog will follow his master wherever he goes."

Just so, an individual may pursue the world, and retain a Christian profession at the same time — and it is often difficult to ascertain whether God or the world possesses his affections. But by and bye he comes to a parting road, when God calls him one way, and the world another way — and then he will show to whom he really belongs. If God is his master — then he will follow and obey God. But if the world is his master — then he will follow after it!

O my soul, how are you affected by the respective claims of the things of time — and those of eternity? After a few more rising and setting suns, it will be a matter of total indifference to you — whether you have been rich or poor, successful in your business or unsuccessful. But it will be of unspeakable consequence — whether you have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before you in the gospel.

Listen, then, to the words of the Lord Jesus, "Do not labor for food that spoils — but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!"

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How long will you love vanity?

(James Smith, "Rills from the Rock of Ages", 1860)

"How long will you love vanity?" Psalm 4:2

The Lord is often represented in His word as expostulating with us. He manifests the deepest interest, shows intense pity, and uses many means to draw us back from the vortex of ruin.

But man, thoughtless man, silly man — rushes on his way, trifles with his soul, and plays on the brink of the most dreadful precipice! He is in love with his sin — and therefore in love with his own destruction! But God does not abandon him to despair — but touchingly, tenderly, lovingly — He expostulates with him and asks, "How long will you love vanity?"

Man by nature sets his heart upon what is vain and worthless — that which is not suited to, or required by, his immortal nature. Vanity represents that which is light, changeable, and of brief duration. Man displays his love of vanity . . .
  by preferring human friendship — to God's friendship,
  by thinking much more of the creature — than the Creator;
  by preferring earthly riches — to heavenly felicities;
  by preferring carnal pleasures — to spiritual delights!

Nor only so — but he manifests his foolishness by indulging in sin — the worst of vanities!

Look at the profane swearer, the drunkard, the glutton, the proud, the lover of pleasure. They are in love with vanity! They imagine that they shall have pleasure and enjoy happiness — but they never ponder the questions, "What shall it profit a man — if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

God asks the lover of vanity, "How Long!" "How long will you love vanity?" You have been doing so for years. Some for twenty, some for forty, and some for sixty years! You have manifested love to vanity — though warned, though convinced you were doing wrong, though you have often promised to reform. You are still loving vanity . . .
  though mortality is at work within you,
  though death is very near to you,
  though eternity is within a step of you,
  though hell is ready to receive you!

You persevere in loving vanity . . .
  while a pardon is presented to you,
  while peace with God may be enjoyed by you,
  while holiness may be obtained by you, and 
  while heaven is within your reach!

How long will you love vanity?
Until some affliction unfits you to seek the world?
Until God's Spirit no longer strives with you?
Until Satan fills your heart?
Until God laughs at your calamity?
Until some sudden stroke takes you away to hell?

How long?

Let your past foolishness suffice, and now, while the door of mercy is open, enter!

Now, while the way of escape is clear — flee for your life!

No one ever came too soon — thousands have delayed too long! No one ever regretted that he was saved too early — millions have cursed their folly that they were not saved at all! Myriads wish that they had never been born — because they persevered in such folly. Beware then, beware — lest you rue your folly too late! Love vanity no longer!


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Jesus and the Sinner

(James Smith, "Rills from the Rock of Ages", 1860)

All that Jesus does for lost sinners — He does freely, out of pure pity, kindness, and love.

Yet we are always looking for something in ourselves — to encourage us! On the other hand, we tend to look at some sin committed by us — which discourages us. Whereas we should look only to Jesus. I want now, for a few minutes, to fix the eye of your mind on what Jesus does for sinners — how He acts toward them at the present day.

Jesus calls the sinner. He says, "Come unto Me. Come, just as you are. Come, this moment. Come, for all that you need. Come, for all that you desire. Come, and be saved. Come, and I will satisfy you. Come, and commit all your concerns to Me, and I will make all things that occur, work together for your good."

Jesus receives the sinner when he comes. He receives every sinner, however base, vile, or unworthy he may be! He receives the sinner graciously — pardoning every sin, forgiving and forgetting all that he has done amiss, and treating him with the utmost kindness.

Jesus cleanses the sinner. In the fountain of His precious blood, and in the laver of His holy Word — He cleanses him from guilt and pollution — fitting him for holy service on earth, and for holier service in heaven. Nor is there any getting rid of guilt — but by His blood; nor of impurity — but by His Spirit working with His Word!

Jesus clothes the sinner. Cleansed from guilt and filth — we are clothed in His garments of salvation, and are covered with His robe of righteousness. All that is necessary for our honorable appearance in heaven among the glorified — He undertakes to provide.

Those who trust in Him, are completely nourished by Him. Jesus feeds the sinner. His flesh and blood becomes our daily food. We can no more live and be healthy, without nourishing food for the body — than we can live and be happy, without sweet and frequent nourishment from Christ. There is in the renewed soul — a craving for Christ, and it is never satisfied — but as it realizes His presence, meditates on His Word, or is solaced with His love!

Jesus employs the sinner. Having called, received, cleansed, clothed, and nourished him — He sets him to WORK. He gives him a cross to carry, and a plot in his vineyard to cultivate. He sends him to speak to others of His grace, and to manifest to others His temper and disposition. He sends him to the poor widow's cottage, to the sick man's chamber, and to the ignorant soul's home — and says, "Feed them for Me; comfort them for Me; and teach them for Me!"

Jesus comforts the sinner. Yes, when he is depressed and discouraged, when he is low and cast down. He consoles by some special providence, by some seasonable portion of His Word, by the counsel of some friend, or by the sweet whispers of His Spirit.

Jesus assures the sinner. Assures him of His love to him, of a saving interest in His finished work, and of a title to heavenly mansions! When Jesus assures us — our doubts and fears depart, our unbelief is destroyed, and our souls are filled with peace and joy.

Jesus visits the sinner. He says, "I will come unto him." And He does come, and brings with Him — pleasant light, precious fruits, and joy and peace. He says, "I will come and sup with him — and he with Me." And He draws him out into such sweet, near and dear communion with Himself — that no costly meal, no delightful company — can be compared to it.

Jesus restores the sinner. For as astonishing as it may appear, it is nevertheless true — that we are prone to wander!
We leave light — for darkness!
We leave plenty — for poverty!
We leave joy — for sorrow!
We leave a paradise — for a desert!
And having wandered, we would never find our way back — if He did not come after us! But, blessed be His holy name — He does! And then He restores our souls, and again feeds us in green pastures, causing us to lie down beside the still waters!

Jesus reproves the sinner. However He may spare our persons — He never spares our sins! He visits our transgressions with the rod, and our iniquities with stripes! His reproofs are often sharp. Cutting convictions, heavy losses, severe trials, perplexing troubles, bodily sickness, and painful bereavements — are some of the RODS which He employs. But however numerous and heavy His strokes — they are lighter than our guilt, and fewer than our sins! He deals with us as with sons. He chastens us for our profit — and to make us partakers of His holiness!

Jesus glorifies the sinner. Glorifies him with Himself — and confers on him an eternal weight of glory! What it is to be glorified — we do not fully know. At the least, it is to be freed from all that is sinful, painful, and degrading — and to be invested with all that is bright, beautiful, and blessed. It is to be made as like Jesus as possible, and to be with Him where he is forever!

O wondrous grace, of a wondrous Savior!

Believer, this precious Savior is yours!

Will you not love Him then?

Will you not bear witness to the power and sweetness of His love, to the joy and happiness that are found in His ways?

Will you not observe His statutes and keep His laws?

Will you not come out of the world, which is peopled by His enemies — and be separated to Him? Can you mingle with the carnal, and frequent places of worldly amusement? Must you go to the world to be gratified and amused?

Beware how you wound your precious Savior's loving heart!

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The work of the Holy Spirit

(James Smith, "Rills from the Rock of Ages", 1860)

I love to meditate on the work of the Holy Spirit, to whom we are so much indebted, and from whom we receive such great and invaluable blessings. To Him, I feel that I am indebted, for every good thought, and for every good work. How wonderful His patience — that He should bear with me so long; and how wonderful His loving-kindness — that He should confer on me so much! O that I was more deeply sensible of my obligations!

It was the Holy Spirit who quickened me when I was dead in trespasses and sins — imparting a new life, infusing new thoughts, and producing new desires in my soul.

Having quickened me, He conquered me — subduing the enmity of my heart, the obstinacy of my will, the worldliness of my affections — and bringing every thought into subjection to the obedience of Christ.

Having quickened and conquered me, He comforted me, assuring me of a saving interest in — the love of God, the perfect work of Jesus, the precious promises of the Word, and the eternal rest which remains for the people of God.

Having quickened, conquered, and comforted me, He sanctified me — separating me from the world, and setting me apart for my Redeemer's glory and praise.

As my Sanctifier, He became my Guide — leading me into the truth, conducting me out of the paths of danger, and directing me into the everlasting way.

Not only my guide, but He became my Guard — preserving me from danger, protecting me from foes, and becoming a wall of fire round about me.

Whenever I wander — He reproves me; when I willfully go astray — He corrects me, and makes me smart for my folly.

The work He began so long ago — He carries on, nor will He withdraw His hand from it, until it is perfected, and I am fully fitted for glory.

Reader, what do you experimentally know of the work of the Holy Spirit?
Has He quickened you?
Has He conquered you?
Does He comfort you?
Are you sanctified by His presence, power, and operation in your heart?
Does He . . .
  guide you by His counsel,
  guard you by His power, and
  correct you for your follies?

The work of the Spirit within us — is as necessary as the work of Jesus for us! For if the atonement of Christ entitles us to glory — it is the work of the Holy Spirit that prepares us to possess and enjoy it. We must be washed, justified, and sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God — or we cannot be saved!