Friendly Words to Those Within and
to Those Without the Fold of Christ
George Everard, 1884
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing!" John 15:5
Not bearing evil fruit as a corrupt tree;
not covered with leaves, but having no fruit, as the barren fig-tree;
not bringing forth fruit unto himself, as Ephraim (Hosea 10:1);
not a bough with a handful of fruit or a single specimen, only enough to show the character of the tree.
No, not such should the Christian be — but as a branch laden with good fruit, weighed down with ripened clusters, sweetened by the glorious sunshine, and gladdening the heart of the Great Gardener, as He sees in it a rich reward for His toil and pains!
It is worth striving for. It is the noblest aim the Christian can cherish. Listen to the words of Christ, "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." John 15:8. That they should bear abundant fruit, is one great purpose of all God's dealings with His people. He wills not simply that they should be forgiven and saved, but that they should glorify Him by being fruitful in every good word and work. No created being can rise higher in aim and spirit than this. To bring glory to the name of Jehovah is the very highest object of angel and archangel before the throne.
To bring forth much fruit is, moreover, a sure pledge of discipleship. If the Christian does this there can be no room for doubt as to his hope in Christ. It will be manifest both to himself and to others that Christ is in him of a truth.
Nor should we forget that all true fruit is seed. In most cases the fruit but encloses and guards the seed which it carries within. This is true in the natural world, and it is no less so in the spiritual realm. That which we look at as fruit today, tomorrow will prove to be a seed of further fruit yet to be brought forth. Stephen's prayer for his enemies, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!" was the most precious fruit of Divine grace in the soul, reflecting the very spirit of His Master; but it became also a precious seed, bringing salvation to Saul of Tarsus and affording a blessed example to persecuted believers in all ages of the Church's history.
And there is still one further encouragement to Christians as to their fruitfulness. "Much fruit" brings much reward. A large and abundant recompense invariably follows. The soul is open to receive more of Heaven's richest treasures. It is gladdened by the ingathering of those who might otherwise have been left to perish. It has in the future the promise of a bright crown and of a more glorious inheritance!
Shall such then be our aim all through life? Shall it be our great desire to be like Joseph, "a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall;" to be such as Paul prayed that the Philippians might be, "filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God!" (Philippians 1:11)
It should be our effort day by day to bring to the Master, our basket of ripe fruit, and such as will glorify Him and receive His gracious approval. Shall we persevere in doing this through each successive month and year, so that when life closes we may praise Him for the grace that has made it blessed and useful indeed?
But how may this be? Bearing in mind the hindrances in the way, my own fickleness and proneness to turn aside, the temptations that surround me, the impediments in doing good which meet me at every turn — how may I still succeed in fulfilling the will of Christ, that I should bring forth much fruit?
I must ever remember that it is fruit which God seeks. It is fruit, and not merely toil or work in His service. There is something of a Divine perfection about fruit that is very different from that which comes merely of man's labor. It may be the peach with its exquisite bloom, or the cluster of grapes from the hothouse, or the bunch of berries from the garden. But it is God's own handiwork, and examined even beneath the microscope, it has a rare beauty and perfectness that is quite unlike the finest workmanship of man's hands. Thus is it with all true fruit in the kingdom of God. It is the outcome of the spiritual life which has been granted to the soul. It is the outgrowth of inward spiritual grace. It is an external manifestation of the Spirit of God abiding within.
Hence the main point always to keep steadfastly before me is the absolute necessity of a living union with Christ. It is the branch abiding in living union with the stem and root that alone can bring forth fruit. There is no possibility of any fruit at all without this.
One of the great leading truths of the Gospel is the word of the Savior, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5
Let there be the least separation between the branch and the stem, let it be but the hundredth part of an inch, and at once the sap ceases to flow into the branch — and there can be nothing but withering leaves, fading bloom, decay and death!
Let us each put to our own hearts the following questions:
Am I indeed and in truth one with Christ?
Am I knit to Him in heart and spirit and life?
Am I so joined to Him by a living faith, that I can say, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His?"
Am I exercising a soul-reliance upon Him?
Am I trusting Him for pardon, strength, peace, and grace day by day?
Am I clinging to Him with all "the five fingers of my faith?"
Am I . . .
walking in fellowship with Him,
conversing with Him by prayer,
hearkening to His voice,
delighting to be near Him,
happy when doing His will?
In fact, is Christ a reality to me — my Savior, a Friend, my Shepherd, my Refuge, my Everlasting Portion?
Here is the central point in true religion:
In Christ — or out of Christ?
One with Him — or a stranger to Him?
A Christian in His sight — or only such by outward profession?
The true value of ordinances depends entirely upon this. Very precious are they when they are the expression of a living faith which unites me to Him who was once crucified but is now exalted, as my living Head, to the Father's right hand. In this case, they strengthen faith, and draw the believer nearer and nearer to Him he loves.
But very perilous are they when men put them in the place of faith; when men strive to satisfy conscience by the external rite or service — when secretly they know they are living far from Him. It is one of the great dangers of the present day.
A young person seeks all her happiness in the world. The theater, the society of the light and frivolous, the world in its various forms, is her idol — and there is no room for God, no room for Christ, no room for true, earnest piety.
But conscience demands a salve. So certain religious services are attended, and often Holy Communion is received; but all the time the door is locked against the Savior, and spiritual worship is utterly disregarded.
If I would bear fruit, it must not be thus with me — my religion must go heart-deep. Christ must be all my salvation and all my desire.
"Lord, let me live in Christ by saving faith,
Let me be His for yes, in life or death;
Oh, be it mine, as time's swift chariot flies,
Clearer to read my title to the skies!
Fully to follow You, from grace to grace,
Until You have made me meet to see Your face."
In bearing fruit, the first essential is to be in living union with Christ. And from this, follows the second, which is the constant, daily, hourly abiding in this union.
I would urge this upon myself and upon every believer. I must abide in Christ. I must not begin with Christ — and then trust in good resolutions. I must not take Christ as my Righteousness and my Atoning sacrifice — and then hope to become holy or fruitful in my own strength. I must not aim at doing anything whatever by my own natural abilities.
In Christ I must begin,
in Christ I must continue,
in Christ I must complete all that I undertake.
On Him I must exercise entire, unlimited, perpetual dependence!
I must rely upon Him for daily mercy, daily grace, daily keeping, daily upholding, daily power to think and will and work as I ought in His service.
I suppose Paul was one of the greatest fruit-bearers, perhaps the greatest, that the Church of Christ has ever seen. And what was the secret of his abundant work and labor of love? He rested upon the word of promise, "My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). He drank in motive and zeal and perseverance in toil — from Christ Himself. "I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me!" (Galatians 2:20).
Here was the key-note of his whole life. From first to last, he lived on Christ by faith. He . . .
fed continually on the Living Bread,
drank evermore from the Living Fountain,
abode in the love of Christ, and
dwelt beneath the shadow of the Rock of Ages.
Nor can we otherwise be fruitful branches. We must ever by faith abide in Christ, and receive out of His fullness.
To maintain and strengthen this dependence, I must abide in Christ's Word. Each promise, each precept, each revelation of Himself or the Father, of sin or the world — I must reverently ponder.
I must abide in His love. I must not hide away from its bright beams in some dark chamber or cavern of world-hunting, or money-hunting, or pleasure-hunting. I must not let other things come in and make me forget that love which is the spring of all the peace that I enjoy. I must dwell upon it more and more until I can comprehend something of its height and depth and breadth and length!
I must keep Christ's sayings, and surrender my will entirely to His. He must be my Head of direction, as well as my Head of supply. I must obey Him implicitly, as well as trust Him to the uttermost. Anything of reserve or disobedience, or of rebellion against His will, or of grudging service — must interrupt the sweet harmony of faith and love, and hinder the closeness of fellowship with Him.
But while the main essential as to abundant fruitfulness is abiding in Christ, there are other PRACTICAL HINTS which ought to be remembered. Here is one.
The richest fruit is often found on low ground.The vines do not grow on the Alpine heights — but in the fruitful valleys of Italy that lie beneath.
In the fruitage of Christ's kingdom, the parallel is always true. You find the full supply, not on the hill-tops of pride and self-sufficiency, on the lofty summits of souls that glory in their own gifts or powers — but on such as have learned to be nothing and to glory only in the love and grace of the Redeemer. Where there is much humility — there will be much grace, and where there is much grace — there will be much fruit.
This fruit may be hidden from the eye of man. It may be a life of patient submission to the will of God in a very quiet sphere. It may be the meek endurance of pain during a long and wearisome illness. It may be a constant effort to do good in some difficult position, where few are the least aware of it. But wherever the Christian course is run in lowliness and humble dependence upon God — the Father's eye discerns the fruit, and He will not be slow to accept and own it.
This leads us to another point. The Christian must be well content to let the fruit he bears, be according to the will of God. I must not choose my own position, or murmur because my lot may be ordered of God very contrary to my own will. I might wish the fruit to be of a more showy kind. I might wish to occupy a prominent position, like a branch in a royal vinery or a wide-spreading mulberry-tree on a nobleman's lawn. I might wish to be a great preacher, or to build a Church, or to do something which would attract the world's attention. But God's will puts me aside — out of sight, as it were, in the back garden, in some quiet nook, unnoticed by the busy throng — and yet able there to be useful and to do something or be something which will not be without effect in the great battle between God and the devil.
If it is my supreme desire to he fruitful, I must not repine at the gardener's pruning-knife.The branch that bears fruit needs pruning, that it may bring forth more fruit. And very various in this respect may be the dealings of the gardener with the different trees, or branches, or fruit-producers in his garden. Unsparingly he may cut away the runners on his strawberry bed; or a whole armful of shoots he may cut away from the vine growing on the wall. While from other trees he may take away a portion of the new wood, or cut out a large branch to give air or room, or possibly dig around one of luxuriant growth and lop off some of its roots. But in wisdom and ripe experience, he deals with each as it needs.
So the great Gardener acts in His Church. The most precious of His trees and the most fruitful branches, often receive the most of His care, and the chastening may seem more frequent and severe. From some of His people, the little ones are taken away, and the domestic hearth left desolate — that out of the sore trial, the parents' hearts may learn more of Divine love.
With others, financial means are lessened, and losses in business come thickly — but the treasures in Heaven are rapidly increasing.
Then others know the burden of sorrow about an afflicted partner, or the anxiety to find work, or the lack of strength to do the work which lies ready at hand.
Ah, there is a great deal of root-pruning in the Lord's vineyard! Every fiber of the heart cries out in its misery and anguish — yet all the while He who wounds, waits to heal. Not joyous, but grievous is the trial: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:11. "He is the LORD — let Him do what is good in His eyes." 1 Samuel 3:18.
Would I be very fruitful? Then I must watch against the enemies that would rob me of the fruit!
If I forget to cover the peach-blossom, a frosty night may do mischief beyond remedy. The birds may nip off the young buds of the fruit-bushes. Insects may quietly mar and destroy the toil of many days. So that care and skill are needed to counteract these crafty little foes — or, in spite of all my pains, July and August may mourn instead of rejoice.
Just so in my service of Christ — there are perils round about me against which I need constantly to watch.
The chilling blast of a worldly spirit,
the frost of doubt and unbelief,
sloth and self-will,
selfishness and self-indulgence,
the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eye,
the pride of life,
fretfulness and murmuring under trials,
over-anxiety about the future,
irritability and hastiness of temper,
love of man's praise — or fear of his displeasure
— any or all of these may come like the birds and insects in the garden and may spoil my pleasant fruits!
"From the by-ways of temptation,
Keep us, Savior, lest we stray;
Oh preserve us from the evil
Ever lurking round our way!
Let our path grow brighter, clearer,
Until it ends in perfect day!"
I must aim at using well each instrumentality of fruit-bearing. Each ability, each talent, must be carefully employed in the Lord's service.
And here one great principle comes in. The secret and hidden fruits, the virtues and graces that have their seat in the heart — are far the most precious in the sight of God!
"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." When Christ speaks, in the Sermon on the Mount, of those fruits which bring with them such blessedness — how does He describe them? He refers mainly to those which have their root within. Blessed are "the poor in spirit," "the meek," "the pure in heart," "those who hunger and thirst after righteousness," etc.
And when Paul describes the fruit which marks the followers of Christ, it is mainly that which only the eye of God can fully discern. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23
Let these secret graces be most fervently sought and diligently cultivated. Let each believer long for the blessed Spirit, the Comforter, to work mightily within him, and to manifest His power in such a spirit of love, faith, meekness, holiness, patience and zeal — that he may be filled with all the fullness of God. For this let him wait and pray perpetually. Where this is granted, the fruit in God's sight will abound. Besides, all else will be sure to follow. No true fruit will be lacking, where the heart is as a garden watered by the Lord.
Then with this, every other gift is to be exercised. There is no doubt the inward and the outward life act and react one upon the other. Just as the trees are nourished in part by that which is taken in through the foliage — so the inner graces are strengthened by those good works which manifest them.
There must be the fruit of the eye. How mighty a power is this for strengthening and manifesting Divine grace! The books we read may greatly help us. Then the eye may convey a look of reproof that may check sin, or a look of kindness that may comfort one ready to faint. It may take in the need of a poor brother or sister, and thus a heavy burden may be removed.
There must be the fruit of the lips. Sweet in God's ear is the voice of prayer, praise, adoration, intercession. Precious in His sight is the faithful testimony borne to His truth, the pleading with sinners to turn from their evil ways, the tender considerateness which utters words of honey — healing balm, to soothe an anxious heart or guide a troubled one to Christ, the Fountain of life and peace.
There must be the fruit of the hand. It is no lost labor to perform deeds of self-denying toil, to work for those who cannot work for themselves, to ply the needle in making garments for the sick, to do a bit of household work to spare one whose health is weak.
Let the hand be stretched out in free, liberal, substantial gifts to the Lord's treasury. It was well said to some who were studying the anatomy of the hand, "The most beautiful hand, is the hand that gives." What endless good might be done, what waste places might be reclaimed both at home and abroad — if all Christians gave of their income a fair proportion of that which God has given them. Look down the lists of the annual report of any congregation — and what a slender, pitiful measure of help to Christian objects of the greatest importance is often rendered by those who could give ten times the amount without feeling it. Where the heart is warmed with the love of God and man — the hand and the purse will be open when the calls on every side are so great and urgent.
So too should every other power become fruitful in the Lord's service. There is none who need be idle. There is not a gift you possess, but may in some way be utilized in Christ's cause.
We need, too, more and more careful efforts to train the young of all classes in Divine truth. One of the most appalling calamities of the last few years was the trampling down of about two hundred little children in a public building at Sunderland. But to my mind there is something far worse even than this. It is the multitudes of little children in our land, who are in danger of being trampled down beneath the hoof of a cruel unbelief which will rob them of all the hope of a happy, holy, and useful life.
In our churches and in our mission rooms, in tents and in the open air, in workshops and by the wayside, by printed messages and by the spoken word, let us carry everywhere the Master's message, and while the door stands open, do our best to save the souls of our fellow-men.
Hence will arise fruit, the fruit of gathered sheaves, that we shall be able to bring to our Lord in the day of His appearing.
"Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit." But how has it been with you?
What fruit has there been in the years that have passed?
What victories over old sins and temptations?
What breathings of true prayer?
What growth in the Divine life?
What increase of faith, hope, and charity?
What gifts laid upon the Lord's altar, which have cost you some actual sacrifice?
What earnest intercessions on behalf of friends or neighbors?
What deeds of kindness and tramplings upon self-will and self-indulgence in your own home?
What acts of thoughtful benevolence done for the sick or sorrowful? What habits of evil broken off?
What new habits of good by grace formed?
What resolutions made and fulfilled?
What souls brought back to the fold of the good Shepherd?
Then what about the future? If this present year is your last for fruit-bearing on earth — will it bring its testimony on your behalf? Shall it be the best and holiest you have ever spent, because begun and continued in lowly dependence on the great Helper?
When the book of your life is closed, never to be reopened until the great white throne is set — what will be its witness as to your profession of being a follower of Christ?
Among all the pictures in the Royal Academy of 1883 there was one home-scene that spoke most to my heart. It was called "The Last Look." A widow with her five children were gathered around an open coffin. For the last time they were looking upon the face of the one so dear to them all. No more will that sorrowing widow look on her husband's face, no more will those little ones look upon a father's countenance — until that great day when the grave shall give up its dead.
But unless Christ comes soon, the same position will be yours and mine, before many months or years have come. And when it is, when those who have dearly loved you gather around your coffin to take their last look of you — what witness will your life have left behind? Among any who have spiritual discernment, will there be a blessed certainty that you had indeed truly followed the Master? Will the remembrance of your whole course, be fragrant with a thousand evidences of the reality of your faith and love? Shall you leave behind in many a heart, a life-long witness in the truths they have heard from your lips? Will the whole spirit of your daily walk, be remembered as an unmistakable proof that your life was hid with Christ in God? Shall you still live on in . . .
the good you have done,
the souls you have evangelized,
the prayers you have offered, and
the blessings you have scattered around you?
As in the sight of that open coffin in which lies your own frame when the pulse has ceased to beat, and "Finis!" is written upon all you have ever purposed or performed — be honest with yourself, and be honest with God. Am I . . .
living for self — or for God,
fruitful — or unfruitful,
a champion in the Lord's army — or a lukewarm follower,
a diligent worker — or a drone in the hive,
a little spring of living water — or a spot of barren sand?
What are you?
What will you be?
Settle the question now, and walk worthy of your Christian name.
"Lord, let me live for Christ, and to His praise,
Spend and be spent for Him through all my days;
Oh, let each power of body and of mind
Some sweet employment, in His service find.
Oh, to be given wholly unto Him
Whose life-blood flowed the guilty to redeem!
Bought with so costly, with so rich a price,
My all should be His willing sacrifice."
Mind Your Steps!
Oftentimes an Alpine climber meets with a fatal accident. It was so especially in the year 1882.
On the further side of Mont Blanc, a young Cambridge professor of high promise lost his footing, and both he and his guide lost their lives.
On another steep ascent, a tutor of Durham, with two guides, fell down a terrible precipice of some three thousand feet, and all three were found dead on the plain below.
In each case, and in others also, it would seem that a single false step was the cause of the disaster. One false step, and a precious life lost, and sorrow brought to a whole circle of friends and relations.
But more than this: one false step involved the loss of others. The drag on the guide in the first case, and on the two guides in the second case, proved too great a strain, linked together as they were, so that several homes were robbed of those dear to them.
In higher matters, in the moral and spiritual life of man — a false step is no less dangerous. It often leads to a fall from which there is no recovery. It often brings untold sorrow to those beloved. It often draws others into a similar peril, so that, through the sin of one, many perish.
Mind Your Steps is the message the thought brings home to us. And it is one which we have given to us very plainly in the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Apostle Paul speaks of six points in which the Christian is to take care how he walks.
He must walk in the path of good works (2:10).
He must walk worthy of his high calling (4:1).
He must walk in a separate course from the ungodly. He must not go with the crowd, but set his face in the very opposite direction. Like Christian in Vanity Fair, he must be ready to die rather than follow evil practices and customs (4:17).
He must walk "in love," even after the pattern of the Savior's self-sacrificing death (5:2).
He must walk as a child of light, hating the darkness, and reproving it by word and example (5:8).
Then there is one other feature of the Christian. He must "mind his steps." It is written, "Be very careful, then, how you walk — not as unwise but as wise" (5:15).
No doubt faith is the great leverage in holy living. It is the only power by which we can please God. But Holy Scripture tells of another side of truth. Men are bidden . . .
to watch and pray always,
to deny themselves,
to take up their cross daily,
to put off the old man and to put on the new,
to "live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."
In fact, we seem to have a summary of almost half the Bible in the subject of this address. There is not a day, an hour, a moment, in a Christian's whole life, but he needs to "mind his steps."
Mind Your Steps!
Christian, think of these words before you go further on your way. It is no bondage, but safety, and peace, and comfort, and privilege, to pick your steps, and to walk warily and carefully. Had you done it sooner, you might have been much further on your way. And if you do it now . . .
with your hand in Christ's,
with the Spirit to teach and guide you,
with a loving Father close by to cheer and uphold you
— the rest of your life shall be with new blessing and increasing usefulness; and, at its close, you will be found on the King's highway of holiness, and have an abundant entrance into the King's Palace.
I am writing this address with a desire to help those who love and follow the Savior; but there is a preliminary word I wish to speak to all who may read it.
When the late Wilberforce was once asked the way to Heaven, by one who seemed to put the question rather lightly, he is said to have replied, "Take the first turn to the right, and then keep straight on." The advice is to the point. But have you taken "the turn to the right?" Do you know from experience the meaning of true conversion? Do you take the sinner's place, and put all your confidence in the sinner's Friend? Do you heartily renounce all past sins, and seek to walk in God's commandments?
Some years ago I met with the narrative of a Swedish sailor, telling how, in his case, this great change was brought about. It was at a time of much prayer, and when far away from land, crossing the Atlantic, the Holy Spirit convinced him of sin, and night and day he could get no rest. "I was ready to cry out," he said, "Who will deliver, who will help me? My heart sunk down in despair. Oh, what a miserable sinner I felt I was! My heart was sick and sore. I knew not what to do. I had no one to guide me, and what was to become of me? One night I was standing at the helm. I thought of Christ, and my heart turned to Him for help; and, with my very first thoughts of Him, He met me; and what words He spoke. "Come to Me, you weary, heavy-laden one — come to Me; I cast out none! I am meek and lowly in heart. Learn of Me. Take My yoke upon you — it is easy. Take My burden — My grace shall make it light."
There, at the helm, the Savior showed Himself to me. 'I love Him because He first loved me.' I cannot speak your language well, but Christ understands me, and I understand Him. And ever since I met Him at the helm, as the poor sinner's Friend, I live close to Him. I hear Him tell me to hold up my sails to the gales of His blessed Spirit, and He will waft me straight to Heaven."
Here is conversion — have you known its mighty power?
Have you seen something of the greatness of your sin?
Have you learned to despair of self-help?
Have you been taught by the Spirit to draw near to Jesus?
Have you fled to Him as your only refuge?
Have you learned to trust Him, and love Him, and serve Him?
If not, He calls you today. He invites you to come — even now — just as you are!
He is ready to save.
Mountains of guilt, He will remove.
Huge barriers of hindrance and difficulty, He can level to the ground.
Strong temptations, He will overcome.
Free forgiveness, complete righteousness, all-sufficient grace, He will bestow.
Will you hearken?
Will you believe?
Will you come near and take His free forgiveness?
Will you make Christ your All?
An epitaph I once saw in Essex tells the blessedness of thus coming:
"His trembling hand, the heavenly Hope embraced,
His feeble foot, upon the Rock was placed;
That Rock was Christ — the spirit's trust and stay,
When earth shall melt and Heaven shall pass away."
But when you have turned to the right, you must "keep straight on." When you have entered by the appointed gate, you must walk steadily in the narrow path. You must "mind your steps," if you desire a safe and prosperous journey.
Mind Your Steps! For you must ever remember the vast debt of obligation under which you lie. Think of what God has done for you.
Imagine a desolate orphan, without friends and without means, received into the home of a wealthy or noble family — educated with the other children, and treated as the rest — sharing the comfort, position, and property that belonged to them. What would be the spirit of such a one, if he had a spark of gratitude and right feeling? Would he not be most careful never to grieve his kind benefactor, nor by any means bring a stain or reproach on the family into which he had been introduced? Now, if you are a Christian indeed, if you are a true-born child of God by faith in Christ — is not this your standing?
Once you were a stray one,
wandering on the world's highway,
orphaned and desolate as to the only true Home,
separated from the great Father of spirits —
but now you are brought near, put among the children, highly favored and accepted in the Beloved. You are loved, guarded, and cared for, and are one of the great household of faith. All things are yours, both in Heaven and in earth; for you are Christ's, and in Him an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. Should not this be a motive strong enough to engage you to the most careful and devoted service? Should you not walk ever before God, and aim to glorify Him in the minutest events of your daily life?
Mind Your Steps! For evil is always near! You have still the old nature cleaving to you. There is sin in you, and around you on every side. Even among true Christians, there is continual danger from the selfishness or unruly temper of one or another. And among those who are yet of the world, there is still greater peril. Even when engaged in the holiest duties — in prayer, in public worship, at the Holy Communion — wicked and vain thoughts are apt to come in and mar all your service. Besides, there is a strong enemy who waylays you when you least expect it, and in most unlooked-for disguises.
A story is told of the American War, which may illustrate this. At one of the outposts the sentinel was found stabbed, and lying in his blood. Two or three of the most trusty men were on duty successively to the same spot, with special directions to be always on their guard. But the same fate befell them. At length an officer requested to be allowed to take the post. In the dead of the night he noticed a wild hog, as he imagined, rooting about. He carefully watched it, and noticed that wherever he went it always made its way nearer to him. At length he fired; and an Indian leaped up with a yell of distress, and fell at his feet dead! By means of this strange disguise, night after night he had fallen upon the soldier who was on the watch. It is thus that the adversary succeeds. He hides himself, and comes in a form in which you do not recognize him. It may be concealed beneath some base or low desire, or in the guise of an angel of light he strives to inflict some fatal soul-wound.
He comes to lead you to the commission of some breach of God's law, or to neglect some plain duty; or it may be he beguiles you to accept some perilous error, or to question some necessary and precious truth — therefore, you need to be on your guard. Keep a constant look-out. Welcome no intruder who comes with doubtful intent. Maintain a tender conscience. Resist every approach of temptation.
"Gird your heavenly armor on,
Wear it ever night and day;
Ambushed lies the evil one:
Watch and pray!"
Mind Your Steps! For every false step makes your own path more difficult. One mistake, one error, one fault or sin, often leads to a second one — and perhaps a long succession of the same evils, growing worse at every step. You may be caught in a net of your own weaving, or be fast bound with a chain of your own forging. You may place stumbling-blocks in your own path, over which you cannot but fall.
You accept some teaching or doctrine which is unscriptural, through the earnestness of a preacher whom you hear. You take a situation in a shop or a family without knowing the morals or Christian character of those you will be under. To pass the time you take up a novel in which poison lurks in every page! In some such way as this you may be hindered in the heavenly race, or possibly drawn into sin which once you utterly abhorred.
I have known this to be the case repeatedly. Even theft, forgery — nay, suicide and murder — have often occurred as the outcome of far lesser evils, and in those moreover who have long professed to be the followers of Christ.
Eagerness to get rich,
an hour at the billiard-table,
an unchaste thought permitted and nourished,
an unruly temper,
a spark of jealousy or unjust suspicion fanned into a flame,
an unguarded use of alcohol —
something of this sort has been the death of all vital religion, and has been the first downward step to a fathomless abyss of misery and distress! Therefore, mind your steps! Nip the evil in the bud. As soon as you discover it, turn your foot in another direction. Be wise in time! Don't wait until the harm has reached a crisis.
Mind Your Steps! For many eyes are upon you.
The eye of the Adversary is ever upon you, searching out some weak point in the armor, spying out a slip or a fall that he may trouble your peace and make a wide breach between you and God. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your Adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour!" 1 Peter 5:8
The eye of the infidel is upon you, that he may discover something in your conduct by which he may justify his own unbelief.
The eye of the worldling is upon you, that he may point to some flaw or fault and make out that Christians live no better lives than others.
The eye of your fellow-disciple is upon you, and your inconsistency may be a cause of much injury to him.
The eyes of those who live with you, of parents or children, of brothers or sisters, can easily discern where you fail; and your influence over them will depend mainly on your daily life in the home.
Neither forget that the eye of the King is upon you. He loves you and cares for you, and is very gentle and forbearing — yet it grieves Him when He detects in you any mark of insincerity or anything that brings a slur upon His name. He chides you for your forgetfulness. He says, "Is this your kindness to your Friend?" Thus would He reprove you, and bring you to a better mind.
Yes, the eye of the King is upon you, and you know not the hour or the moment when He may appear in the clouds. Would you wish Him to find you sleeping at your post? Would you like Him to come while you were neglecting His work, or wasting your talents, or sitting down at ease among His enemies? Then, mind your steps. Walk before Him as you would desire to be found when the King shall come on His chariot-cloud.
Mind Your Steps! But HOW shall you do it? How may you avoid the stumbling blocks which lie on your path? How may you escape peril in slippery places, and make sure and steady progress in the way to Zion?
Be very careful as to the exercise of your faith.
Only by faith can you stand.
Only by faith can you overcome any temptation.
Only by faith can you go forward in peace and holiness.
Here, then, must be your first care. By all means seek abiding, increasing faith.
If, through any past failures, you stand in any doubt as to your acceptance and present standing in the favor of God, go back at once to the foundation of all peace. Humble yourself afresh, and then rely fully on the great atoning sacrifice which Christ made for sin. Through the blood and mediation of Christ, draw near to God, and believe assuredly that He welcomes and restores you.
Remember, too, that faith is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, therefore earnestly pray for it.
It is found in more knowledge of God, therefore study that Word, where such knowledge can be found.
It is strengthened by looking unto Jesus, therefore fix your eye steadfastly on Him.
Behold Him as the Good Shepherd, ever ready to restore and heal you, to lead you and to keep you from first to last.
Behold Him as your King, ruling in you and for you, putting all enemies under your feet and working all things after the counsel of His infinite wisdom.
Behold Him as your great Advocate, High-Priest, and Intercessor, pleading your cause before the Mercy-seat, making your feeblest petitions fragrant before the Father through His merit and all-powerful mediation.
Behold Him as God's Almoner — His merciful hands filled with precious gifts, delighting to bestow them even on rebels and enemies who only yield themselves to Him.
Beware lest anything dim your faith. Let no false view of truth come between. Let no consciousness of your own unworthiness hinder your full trust in Christ's salvation. Let no troubles, or cares, or losses, make you think hardly of Christ — but rather drive you closer to His heart of love. Let no temptations make you doubt Christ's ability and faithfulness in saving you.
Trust Him more and more.
Put your hand into His.
Nestle under His sheltering wing.
Depend upon His promise.
Wait upon Him continually.
"You will my every want supply,
Even to the end, Whatever befall;
Through life, in death, eternally,
You are my all."
Be careful to nourish a right aim and purpose in life. If you permit lower motives to come in and rule, you will easily turn aside into forbidden paths. But, by God's grace, keep your eye single. Make it your one great object to do God's will, and to do it faithfully. Put this above all else. Thank God . . .
if He gives you prosperity in temporal matters,
if He gives you comfort in your home,
if He grants you your heart's desire as to any lawful blessing.
But go back again and again to the great purpose of His calling.
You are to be about your Father's business.
You are to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.
You are to glorify Him in your body and in your spirit which are His.
You are to fight manfully against sin, the world, and the devil.
You are to let the love of Christ constrain you.
You are not to live for yourself, but for Him.
Be careful to guard against all occasions of sin and evil. There is no safety without setting a watch against all that is likely to prove an injury or a stumbling-block.
I read one day of the remarkable precautions which are taken to avoid danger in a gunpowder manufactory. The walls are all of stone, and no wood is allowed to be in the place. Anyone who walks through has to take off his shoes, lest the nails in them should strike a spark. Then, if he has any metal, or the like on him, he must leave it at the door. The danger is so great, that everything must be done to avoid any approach to it.
Oh that Christians would take heed in a similar way to keep from the peril of sin! Keep far away from any approach to temptation. You have gunpowder hearts — so ready to ignite from the least spark. A look, a word, an evil example, a sentence in a book, a suggestion from a bad companion — any of these may be the cause of a world of mischief.
Therefore, make it your firm resolve to keep out of harm's way. Beware of all places, and scenes, and people — that will turn you from the right course. Don't imagine you are strong enough to go, and get no harm. Better to keep far from the edge of the precipice. Better keep out of the lion's mouth! Better keep from the long grass where the cobra is coiled up! Stop while you can; you may go so far that it may be impossible to escape. "Avoid every kind of evil!" 1 Thessalonians 5:22
Be careful as to keeping up your seasons of devotion. Apostasy begins at the closet door. Those who leave off prayer, or get careless and remiss about it — will soon be left without shield or breastplate, at the mercy of a thousand enemies! Cleave to prayer, and wait upon God continually.
Do not forget the benefit of silent, humble breathings of prayer offered in Jesus' name throughout the day. One upward glance, one short petition, may save you from some great temptation, or help you in some important work.
Let a diligent study of your Bible go side by side with it. Prayer will throw light on the Scriptures — and the promises and examples of the Word will strengthen and encourage you in prayer. Make up your mind that prayer is the most important business of every day, and morning, noon, and night besiege the Mercy-seat for fresh help, and grace for yourself and others.
Nor should you be less careful about the public means of grace. They are great feeders of the divine life. Going to Church regularly, and going to the same Church — not wandering from place to place; sparing a week-day evening for the House of God; not failing to renew your covenant with Christ at His table at least every month; laying hold of any special opportunities, as a meeting, to forward God's work in the world — all these are precious aids to devotion, and will each in their place strengthen your heart in the fear and love of God.
Be careful to make the very best use of your time. Make the most of each passing day. Instead of trying to kill time — strive to make it so fruitful of good to yourself and others. Hours and moments are golden — yes, more valuable than pearls and diamonds — and to squander and waste them is folly beyond description! Until we reach eternity, we shall never know how much good has been obtained or wrought . . .
by a moment's earnest prayer,
by a passing opportunity seized,
by five minutes given to read a helpful book,
by a quarter of an hour given to visit some suffering saint.
How much Christ accomplished in the three years of His public ministry! He was always intent on the work He had to do, so that tens of thousands were taught and benefitted. And though we are so sinful, and our power so feeble in comparison — is not His life to be a pattern for ours?
Oh, do not waste life. Map it out prudently, and think well of the work to which you yourself are called.
No lost hours through late rising in the morning!
No mornings or evenings worse than lost in drinking in the poison or the vanity of a worthless novel!
No moments thrown away in idle gossip and foolish talking!
No, no — not for this was life given to us! Use it far better and more wisely. Remember that . . .
the time is short,
the work is great, and
the outcome is for eternity!
Soon will the great bell toll, which will usher you into a future state. Brother, sister, make, haste to do all the work allotted to you — to do it well, that the Master may be glorified, and your crown the brighter.
Be careful in the expenditure of money. You can never be reminded too often that you are only a steward of whatever you possess. The gold and the silver belong to the Lord Almighty, and He puts them into your hand to use according to His will.
What would you think of a steward, through whose hands ten or twenty thousand pounds were received yearly in rents — were he to go and expend it in waste and luxury, or to use it in speculation, or risk it in gambling?
And what must Christ think of you, if thousands of dollars a year are in your hands — if you spend it upon self and pleasure and the world — and neglect to honor Him with the first-fruits, and give but little for His cause and the interests of His kingdom? "Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise!" Ephesians 5:15
Be careful in the matter of common domestic duties. To most people, especially to ladies and young women and mothers of families, the daily home life is the chief part of the discipline which God appoints them. It is equally so to elderly people and invalids of both sexes.
To endure the rubs of home life patiently;
to avoid irritability and touchiness;
to exercise constant forbearance;
to be giving out hour by hour the oil of congenial kindness from a heart at peace with God and itself;
to keep to the Apostolic rule, "Do not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good;"
for all, both old and young, to fill well their own niche in the family, and each to bring a quota of happiness to all the rest —
this is the sort of religion that is worth possessing, and that will have a marvelous effect on all who enter the home.
Are you doing your part to bring about a spirit of this kind? Is love, gentleness, kindness, diligence, and willingness to lend a helping hand — that which you are ever aiming at? Are you a sunbeam or a dark cloud in the house? Are all in the family the better for your being one of them?
Lastly, I would say, be careful to guard well the various gates of access to the heart — and of egress into the world.
Guard well the eye. Keep it from vanity. Remember that one look cost Achan his life — and a lustful look embittered the whole of David's years. Let the eye look straight onward, and right upward to the throne.
Guard well the ear. Receive nothing that will pollute or defile you. Hearken to no voice of flattery or persuasion to evil. Welcome every message of the word of truth.
Guard well the memory and imagination. Let no vision or image tarry there, which will chain and enthrall the soul. If unclean birds fly over your head — do not let them settle in your hair.
Nor be less mindful . . .
to curb the tongue,
to guide the foot,
to use the hand according to God's holy will.
The words you utter,
the path you go,
the deeds you perform,
or the letters you write —
tell mightily on yourself and on others. And none should be permitted to act except under the control of the fear and love of God.
In all these points be circumspect. I know not where your danger mostly lies — but God knows — and you may know, if you desire. But, in everything, you need daily prayer and daily watchfulness. Above all, moment by moment, abide in Christ.
It was the saying of a godly woman: "A hundred times a day I pray myself out of my own keeping, into the keeping of Jesus." For, remember, that it is not your careful walking, but Christ's careful keeping — which will ensure your final victory.
Your enemies are legion,
your strength is nothing,
your resolutions soon fail,
your heart is easily beguiled and turned aside —
but the good Shepherd will keep His own redeemed people.
He will point out your danger — and enable you to flee from it.
He will uphold you in perilous places-and lift you up when you fall.
He will keep you from falling — and save you even to the uttermost!
Free, Yet in Bonds
A story has often been told of a colored woman, on board a steamer in some eastern country. She was a slave, and an Englishman was touched with her misery and degradation, and wished to have the joy of giving her freedom. Ignorant of his design, she heard him name the sum he was willing to give for her purchase, and she reproached him, as an Englishman, for buying a slave. But when she understood why he did so, she was filled with gratitude.
"I have bought you to set you free," said the Englishman.
"Then I am your slave forever!" was her prompt reply.
Thus was she made "free — yet in bonds." A new bondage took the place of the old. She willingly took upon herself the sweet bondage of gratitude and love and willing service, in place of the old burden which had lain so heavily upon her.
In the life of a Christian there is somewhat of a similar character. There is a twofold position. There is freedom — yet there are bonds. This thought is given us by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. He is speaking to a church where some were free, and others under the yoke of slavery. He reminds them of their position as the disciples of Christ, and shows how it lifts them up above the distinction that existed in their temporal condition. As in another place, he declares that in Christ there is no more "Jew nor Greek, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free;" so also in the chapter I refer to.
He dwells on the spirit in which the freed man and the slave are each to regard their lot. "He who is called in the Lord, being a servant (or slave), is the Lord's freeman (freed man). Likewise also, he who is called, being free, is the Lord's servant" (bond-servant) "You are bought with a price; be not the servants of men" (vers. 22-23).
As if he would say, "Learn to see your true position with respect to Christ, and care but little for that which regards man." If the burden of slavery rests upon you, then rejoice that in Christ you have a true, eternal freedom. If you are free from the yoke, remember that by your calling you must ever reckon yourself under the yoke of Christ. Bear in mind the vast ransom that has been paid for your redemption, and live worthily of Him who has so highly exalted you.
So that here you have both sides of a Christian's life. From the words of Paul we gather that the slave is free, and that the freed man is in bonds; but both are true to each believer. He is "free — yet in bonds." Here is a subject worth our prayerful meditation. Keep both sides of the Christian life before you. If you are Christ's, rejoice in the liberty with which Christ has set you free. No less, be mindful of your vast responsibility to be His faithful and devoted servant or slave.
Christ calls you to a glorious liberty. He breaks your bonds, and frees you from every chain. Liberty! Ah, what crimes have been committed in your name! Liberty! What terrible license for evil has been covered by such a claim! Liberty! Yes, too often it has been liberty to overturn, uproot, slay, destroy. Liberty! But it has brought in the most intolerable bondage, and with its iron hoof has trampled down all that is fair and noble, pure and holy, all that is of God and Heaven!
Let England beware! There is a liberty which is tenfold more to be feared than the despotism of the worst monarch that ever reigned. Take heed of the liberty of lawlessness! May God protect our land from this, above all other evils!
But the liberty which Christ gives has no element of evil, but is good, and only good. How precious should it be to the Christian's heart when he remembers the price at which it has been purchased. I have read of one who, himself redeemed from slavery by his own efforts, commissioned another to endeavor to ransom his wife and children, hoping in time to pay back the sum required. But when he heard the price demanded, he exclaimed, "Too much, too much!" But the ransom was paid by his friend, though he could never look for it to be repaid him.
But think of the price for our ransom! Turn and see One fairer than the children of men. He has never done anything but good, and has wiped away the tear from ten thousand sorrowing ones. But see Him led away bound and fettered as a traitor or a thief! See Him in His bonds, standing as a prisoner at the bar of wicked and unscrupulous men. See Him loosed from the chains, but to receive the still more cruel fetters of the iron nails which held Him fast to the cross. All the shame, all the suffering that rough, hard men could inflict upon Him — all this, along with the agony of Gethsemane, and the desolation of the darkest hour of all, when Heaven itself seemed closed against Him — all this was the price of that glorious gift of freedom which He died to purchase for sinners. Surely, we are almost ready to cry, "Too much, too much!" to redeem the lost and guilty sons of earth.
But what a grand, glorious blessing is this freedom of the Gospel! How shall we look at it?
We shall regard it as sevenfold — branching out in all directions, and in each, telling of some unspeakable privilege that pertains to us, and bringing to us some new element of joy and gladness.
1. In Christ, there is freedom from the yoke of a burdensome ceremonial.In the school-days of the Church of God, such a ceremonial was needful and profitable. Children are taught by pictures. And in the system of the older dispensation, there needed instruction as to the very rudiments of divine truth. What was meant by sin, by atonement, by forgiveness, by close approach to the Most High; how God abhorred iniquity, and yet opened a door of hope to the sinner; how Redemption was to rest upon mediation, priesthood, and sacrifice — all this was taught by type and symbol, before it was possible for the full truth of the Gospel to be understood and received. But now the childhood of the Church has passed away — and with it the whole system of the Jewish ceremonial.
In these later days our great privilege is spiritual worship. A few simple forms and ceremonies we must have. The two sacraments are divinely appointed for our profit. The orderly performance of public worship is helpful and most necessary. But here we must rest. To multiply forms and ceremonies, is to impose new fetters on the Church of Christ. It is to hinder and impede the spirit's fellowship with the great Father above. It is to contradict the glorious Rubric of New Testament service, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:24
2. In Christ, there is freedom from the curse and condemnation of the law.The law brings to the sinner a message of heavy tidings. It tells him that "the wages of sin is death." It tells him that the least act of disobedience, though it be but a trivial offence in the sight of man, brings with it a sentence of condemnation. It proclaims a curse, even the wrath of God, and the righteous punishment which ensues, on every one who transgresses, in any particular, the least of His commandments. Nor can man by any works or efforts of his own break this terrible chain, or escape from the bitter consequences of his sin.
No repentance, no amendment of life, no alms-deeds or good works, can lift off the burden, or make peace between God and the soul.
But, thank God, when a man casts himself wholly upon God's mercy and accepts Christ as his Surety, and His sacrifice as the ground of his forgiveness — then the curse is rolled away and he is free. The law has no more claim upon him. Christ died once for all and paid the full penalty.
He was made sin, that we might be accounted righteous.
He was condemned, that we might be justified.
He was made a curse, that upon us might come the blessing.
Take an illustration. A man has been brought in guilty of some crime, and has been condemned to ten or twenty years of penal servitude. Suppose him to have passed through this season of exile — could he be condemned again for the same crime? Or suppose a criminal to have been sentenced to death, and after his execution he had been raised from the dead, as Lazarus — would it be just that he should again suffer and die? Would he not henceforth be free from the claim of the law?
Now, consider how it is with him who believes in Jesus. In the person of his Surety and Representative — he has endured all that the law demands.
For our sake Christ was an exile from His Father's house. For our sake He suffered and died the cruel death of the cross. Now He has risen again, and the law can no more condemn Him. I too in Him have died, and in Him have been raised to a new life, so that, as one with Him, I can never be condemned.
Here is a blessed, blood-bought freedom! No longer am I under the law, but under grace. Though sin has abounded — yet grace does much more abound.
Perfect deliverance from the law's penalty,
perfect remission of all guilt,
a perfect justification from every possible charge,
a sure and perfect acceptance before the throne of God —
all this is mine through the work of Christ upon the cross.
"Death and the curse were in our cup;
O Christ, 'twas full for Thee!
But You have drained the last dark drop —
'Tis empty now for me!
That bitter cup, Love drank it up —
Now blessing's draught for me."
3. In Christ, there is freedom from the burden of a guilty conscience.This is closely linked with the last thought, but yet there is a difference. A person may truly have come to Christ, and be free from the condemnation of the law — and yet, through imperfect knowledge, through weakness of faith, through failing to grasp the breadth and fullness of the promises, may walk in darkness, and be in bondage as to any sure sense of pardon and peace.
A schoolmaster had once a long illness, and, after his recovery, was greatly afraid of being unable to meet the bill for medical advice. When the bill came in, he was afraid to look at it for several days, but when he opened it, he found it cancelled. The thoughtful kindness of the doctor in this way saved the man all future anxiety.
This incident seems to me a parable of many faint-hearted Christians. They are in continual bondage because they do not look at the Divine signature, and the full discharge from all sin which is theirs in Christ. They have it by them, if they would only look at it; but they go mourning all their days, because they will not carefully examine the sweet promises which God has given them.
Have you, my brother or sister, come to your Savior? Have you confessed to Him your sin, desiring to conceal nothing from His searching eye? Have you taken the sinner's place, low before His cross, trusting alone to His precious blood? Then read, believe, rejoice! Here is the payment in full for the whole debt of ten thousand talents! "I have blotted out as a thick cloud your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins." "Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more." "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Son, daughter, "be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven!"
With such promises and assurances, why should you doubt? Why not glory in your full acceptance in Christ? When such liberty is yours, why dishonor your Savior by walking in bondage and in fear?
4. In Christ, there is freedom from the dominion of sin, and from all the power of the enemy.There is no more galling yoke to be found, than . . .
the thraldom of evil passions, tyrant lusts, sinful habits and customs,
uncontrolled tempers which burst forth like a hurricane,
temptations which hurry a man onward toward the precipice of utter ruin,
the dark trinity of "the world, the flesh, and the devil" —
all drawing a man along the pathway that leads to eternal death! Here is a foe that is terrible indeed!
But in Christ, there is freedom and deliverance from this misery also.
Satan is strong, for he is a roaring lion. But Christ is stronger, for He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah — yes, the almighty Shepherd, who can guard the weakest of His flock from the treachery and deceit of the evil one.
Sin is strong, and it has conquered and destroyed its myriads in every age; but Christ is stronger, for He is our Joshua, and He can put every enemy beneath our feet. If united to Christ by true faith, "sin shall not have dominion over you." Being no longer under the law, but under grace, Christ reigns in you by His Holy Spirit, and by the same Spirit can make you more than conqueror over every snare of the tempter.
Christian, remember always the secret of success in the sore conflict you have to wage. Let "the joy of the Lord" be "your strength." Apart from Christ, there is nothing but defeat. You may resolve to do better, you may strive against your besetting sin — but if it is in your own might, you will fail. But draw near to Christ, and keep Him in view continually. Hide deep in your heart His own word of promise, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Fly to Him as your stronghold, whenever danger is at hand. Make Him your shield, when the shafts of the wicked one are aimed for your destruction.
I often think of a lesson I learned one snowy day in Birmingham. A big lad was unmercifully snow-balling a smaller boy. But when the little fellow saw me coming, he got behind me and kept me on the slant between himself and his enemy, until he was able to escape from him.
Ah, here is a lesson for me, thought I. Let me ever make Christ my shield. Let me ever put Him between me and my temptations; between me and my cares, and fears, and perils — and He will answer for them. No evil can overcome His power; and when I thus trust in Him, no sin or evil can overcome me.
Thus will you find strength for victory. You will be delivered from the sin which once was too strong for you. More and more the Spirit of Christ shall fashion you in His image and likeness. More and more shall the evil nature be mortified and kept under control, and Christ Himself make your heart His dwelling-place.
5. In Christ, there is the freedom and liberty of a child in the Father's house.Here is one of the sweetest privileges of the Christian life. The Christian is a beloved child, and shares all the love and tenderness of a Father's heart. "You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
Go into that bright, pleasant home. See a company of happy little ones, here and there a face beaming with smiles and sunshine, one running in and climbing up the knee of father or mother — another receiving some special token of a parent's love — and all at perfect liberty in a home where true and genuine affection makes them one. There may not be many such homes, but, thank God, there are some, and wherever they exist there is deep joy and comfort unequaled in any other earthly sphere. And is not such a home a type of the great family of our Father in Heaven?
Strange mistakes are often made by the people of the world. They think of Christians as if they were of all men most miserable. But they are of all men most blessed. This one thought is a fountain of unfailing happiness!
"I am at home with God!
Once I was far off — but now I am near.
Once I was a stranger — but now His beloved child!
Once the thought of His presence was fear and dread — but now it is life, and joy, and peace.
He is my Father, and in this Name all heart-joys meet.
He knows me by name, and cares for me in all my cares.
He pities me, and in tender compassion marks each tear I shed, and each sorrow that weighs upon my heart.
He opens His hand, and each day gives me all that I need.
He bows down His ear and hearkens to each prayer I offer.
I have boldness and liberty to go at all times into His presence-chamber, and may tell Him every desire and ask of Him whatever is for my good.
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus!" Galatians 3:26
"He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ" Ephesians 1:5
"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
"My child," I heard my Father say,
"My child, look up and see
The love with which your Father's face
Is looking down on thee.
"My child, I know you by your name,
I own you as you art;
No guilt of yours, or grief or shame,
Can shut you from my heart.
"No earthly father pities so,
So tender none could be;
No mother o'er her babe has yearned
As I have yearned for thee."
"My Father, I can ask no more,
Since You on me have smiled;
My fears are still, my wants are met,
I know I am Your child!"
6. In Christ, there is freedom from the fear of death.In many cases this is a terrible bondage. It casts its dark shadow over the brightest scenes of life. And even where it is otherwise, until men have found the antidote, it is only because the future is put out of sight. The moment that danger or disease reminds men of its approach, peace is gone, and there is nothing but alarm and dread.
But Christ rids men of their enemy. He "delivers those who through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage." He takes away the terror of coming judgment, which is one great element in this fear. When sin is covered, and there is nothing but love between God and the soul — the worst dread vanishes forever. And for the rest, the sure hopes and promises of the Gospel come in to dispel the shadows that remain. Though to the last there may be in some cases a shrinking from the physical circumstances of the last great change, the bodily suffering, the parting from all we love, the thought of the gloomy grave — yet light bursts through the darkness.
By the telescope of faith the believer catches a glimpse of the home beyond. "To depart and be with Christ is far better!" He can rest on the words of the Master, "If a man keeps My words, he shall never see death." "I am the resurrection, and the life: he who believes on Me, though he dies — yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believes in Me, shall never die" (John 11:23-25.)
And all through the valley of the shadow of death, the presence of the Good Shepherd upholds the departing spirit. Thus death is slain, the grave is conquered, and even with his last breath the Christian may chant a song of triumph. "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." And this freedom and deliverance, to be enjoyed even now, has its perfection and completion in that which is yet to come.
There yet remains —
7. The glorious liberty of God's children at the manifestation of Christ and His Saints.(Romans 8:21.) Too often, while here below, Christians are clogged and fettered . . .
by infirmities of the flesh,
by the corruption that still cleaves to them,
by depressing circumstances in their home,
by the sad imperfections of Christ's Church,
by peculiarities of their natural temperament,
by fears, and cares, and anxieties.
Even when the spirit is set free by death — yet the body is still held in prison by the coffin and the grave. But at Christ's appearing, no vestige of these bonds and fetters shall remain!
Oh, the freedom of the risen saint, in the perfect likeness of his Redeemer! Oh, the joy of a life where love reigns without alloy in the soul, and where the body is fitted to fulfill, without weariness, the behests of the great King! Here will be perfection that now we can but faintly conceive!
Here is the sevenfold freedom of the child of God — but is it your own? What do you know . . .
of freedom from the law,
of freedom from a guilty conscience,
of freedom from the dominion of sin, and
of the liberty of a spirit that can delight in a Father's love?
What do you know of victory by faith over the fear of death, and of a joyful hope of full deliverance at Christ's coming?
Oh, come to Christ for this, rich benefit of redeeming love!
Christ is the true Liberator. He can set you free. You may be tied and bound by the chain of your sins. You may be the slave of drink, or doubt, or of an earthly mind, or of evil passions — but Jesus can save and deliver you. Seek Him in sincerity. Go to Him in humility and faith. Pray to Him with your whole heart, and make this your petition, "O Lord, bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your Name." Only do this, and He will not fail you. He will break your chains, and save you with an everlasting salvation.
But if you are Christ's, if He has set you free from the bondage of evil — then never forget the other side of the Christian life. Rejoice in your privileges, but do not forget your responsibilities. You are free — yet still in bonds. Love has fastened the chain around your heart, and you must never forget it, nor think to escape from it. If He has rid you from the cruel yoke of Satan — then He puts upon you His light yoke and easy burden, and bids you carry it after Him. If He has freed you from the slavery of sin — it is that you may be a servant of righteousness, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Delight in this service, and glory in it as that by which you may bring great honor to Him who has redeemed you.
I remember reading of a true-hearted missionary in China, and the way in which he regarded this service. The boys in the town where he labored used to mock him, and run after him, crying, "Jesus Christ's man! Jesus Christ's man!" "Yes," said the good missionary, "that is just what I am. I am Jesus Christ's man. I am a slave of Jesus, and I rejoice that I am!"
But HOW shall you carry out this service?
Remember on your knees, the high calling to which you are pledged. On your knees, place yourself in Christ's presence. There give yourself again and again to Him. Dedicate yourself afresh to Him, to do His bidding, and fulfill His will concerning you. Place yourself wholly at His disposal. Let there be no reserves. Time, influence, money, what gifts He has bestowed — yield them up to Him, and ask Him to guide you in the use of them. Then let there be continued prayer for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We want the bonds of Christ to be drawn closer and closer around the soul. We want to be bound hand and foot by the cords of His love, and to have a holy constraint in the inner man, so that we ever wish to have no will but His, and to have no life but His own life of grace, purity, and unselfish toil, wrought out in us, and through us.
For this, we must wait upon Him for His Spirit to work mightily in us. The Spirit will quicken our desires to serve Him. The Spirit will bestow wisdom, zeal, patience, perseverance. The Spirit will go before and prepare the hearts of those whom we wish to help. Only in the Spirit can any service be pleasing to the Lord, or of profit to those around us.
There are three graces of the Spirit that I would especially urge you to cultivate. These three points are so vastly important, that wherever they are found they will always make a servant of Christ eminently useful.
First, I would place a singleness of eye, a holy consistency, a transparent sincerity of aim and conduct. "Lord, give me a single eye!" was a continual prayer of a Sunday school teacher; and with his penknife he cut the words "a single eye" on the desk where he constantly sat through the week. Nourish this spirit, and . . .
it will make you careful as to the least detail of daily conduct,
you will never excuse yourself in the least sin,
truth and perfect integrity will mark both your words and actions,
you will be as careful to do right when alone, as among a crowd of observers.
Next, I would place a cheerful, congenial spirit. Be a Barnabas, a son of consolation, one whose very look and countenance tells of the sunshine that reigns within. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength. You may have cares and troubles, aches and pains, losses and disappointments (and what Christian has not?) but don't let them sour your spirit, or make you fretful, murmuring, and unhappy. In the power of faith rise above these crosses, and rejoice even in tribulation.
Let your children see something attractive in your happy smile, that they may be drawn to the Savior whom you love. Let your friends and neighbors see by your own demeanor, that religion is something worth having, and not be frightened at it because you are always in the dumps! I am persuaded few things are more important than this. A cheerful countenance, and a bright, hearty spirit, have been the magnet that has drawn many a one to Christ.
Last, but not least, I would place Love — true, genuine, unselfish, sincere love. We all of us want more of the love that comes down from Heaven, that burned so brightly in the breast of the Redeemer, and that ought to be the great mark of all His followers.
While John is the apostle of love — yet Paul no less tells its praises in one of the most wonderful chapters he ever wrote — 1 Corinthians 13. His whole life is an exhibition of self-sacrificing love, such as we can scarcely find elsewhere.
Had Christians more love — what fresh efforts would be made to reach the heathen abroad, and the perishing ones in our villages, towns, and cities at home! Had Christians more love — what thousands would flow into Christ's treasury, which are now under lock and key, or are spent upon luxury and self! Had Christians more love — what numbers of fresh visitors we would have in our churches, and fresh teachers in our Sunday-schools! What multitudes of sorrowful hearts might be relieved, the fatherless and the widow supported, the naked and destitute clothed and fed, burdens removed, and happiness and comfort increased a thousand-fold, if only Love more reigned within the heart!
But more especially would I remind you that the manifestation of true, sincere love, is one of the choicest means of drawing others to the knowledge of Christ.
Two lads were once talking together about those who taught them in the Sunday school.
"You should be in our class," said one, "our teacher knows such a lot."
"You should be in our class," said the other, "our teacher loves such a lot."
In which class do you think most children would prefer to be?
But let me add another example. A young Mohammedan was invited by a missionary to visit him at his own house, and converse with him on the subject of Christianity. He accepted the invitation and came. Just at the moment he came in, the missionary had discovered a case of gross neglect in his native servant. The man had been told to prepare the tent, and repair any defects, that, on the morrow, the missionary might set out on a journey to preach in the surrounding villages. But the servant had never touched it, and the journey had to be postponed. The young Mohammedan saw how matters stood, and expected the missionary to strike a blow, or at least administer a very rough rebuke. But when he noticed the quiet, gentle way in which he pointed out the evil of his conduct — the young man felt assured there was something very real in his religion, and was thus led to search the Scriptures, and become a follower of Christ.
After a time he fell back through the persistent opposition of his young wife. But a second time love came and touched his heart. Another missionary heard of his forsaking Christ's service, and called upon him. When he saw him he said not one reproachful word, but fell on his neck and wept. This led him to see how wrong he had been to yield, and more steadfastly than ever to give himself to the service of the Lord Jesus.
"O Lord, who has taught us that all our doings without love are worth nothing, send Your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before You. Grant this for Your only Son, Jesus Christ's sake!"
"You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich — yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich."
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
"Come out from them and be separate" is a Christian duty, but we must not regard it as something painful, forced, and unnatural. Rather is it to be regarded as a joyful, gladsome privilege. We must not look at it is a hard command, but as necessarily linked with the exceeding height of favor and honor to which we are raised.
An illustration which I have heard, applied in somewhat a different way, may make my meaning clear.
A young lady, remarkable for her beauty and accomplishments, is the life of the fashionable circle in which she moves. With all her heart she throws herself into the usual amusements of such society. She loves the world — and the world loves her. But a new affection springs up. She gives her heart to one who in many respects is worthy of it, and now, with the object of her choice, she is willing to go anywhere. With scarcely a pang of regret she leaves behind her scenes and pleasures which once were her all, and with the one she now loves dearest in the world, in some distant land, perhaps in some lonely out-station in India, she is far happier than ever she was before. She has "come out," but does she regret it? She is separate from all the pursuits of days past, but is she a loser? Nay, she is more than content with the one as exchange for the many she has left behind.
And is it not so with the Christian? If only Christ is realized as the Bridegroom of the soul — is it not a joy to forsake all for His sake? If the King is willing to take you for His own — will not the loyal heart desire to renounce all else that may come between? "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget also your own people and your father's house; so shall the King greatly desire your beauty; for He is your Lord God, and worship you Him" (Psalm 45:10, 11).
There must be separation between the Church and the world. There must be a line drawn between those who are the true body of Christ, the blessed company of all faithful people, and those that are content to be outside His fold, and are yet living without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world.
Very startling is the thrice-repeated description of believers given by Christ shortly before His death. It ought to be carefully pondered. It ought to be deeply engraved on the hearts of Christ's true disciples: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19).
We have the same thought twice brought out in the great prayer of intercession, given us in John 17:14-16, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Thus do we find our Lord three times, in the most emphatic language, at the most solemn crisis of His sojourn below, declare plainly the separation between His own people and the world that lies in the Wicked One.
But let us inquire, What are the grounds of this separation? Why is there such a distinction in the sight of God — and why ought it to be manifested in the daily life of the Christian?
For one thing, it should be remembered that all true believers are given by the Father to the Son, as the fruit of His merit and sufferings. You have this frequently brought out in John's Gospel. "All whom the Father gives Me, shall come to Me" (John 6:37). "That He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him." "I have manifested Your Name to those whom You gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to me" (John 17:2, 6. See also verse 9, 11, 12, 24).
Here, it seems to me, is one firm basis of separation. In a very special way, believers are given to Christ by the Father. If you had in your home various precious articles of gold, silver, and jewelry, but one case of rare and precious jewels, bequeathed to you by a parent whose memory you revered more than that of anyone you had ever known — would not that case of jewels have a very peculiar value in your sight? Would you not guard it with special care, and esteem it as worth more than all beside?
Is it not so with Christ and His Church? When He looks down from Heaven upon a congregation, we may fully believe that every one of them is the object of His tender compassion. He who wept over Jerusalem still has pity for sinners who have no pity on themselves. But does not His heart rest in His own redeemed people? Are they not His inheritance, His special treasure, His jewels? Does He not see in them, the tokens of a Father's love? Are they not the purchase of His blood and the fruits of His bitter suffering and death? Thus they stand in His sight on a different footing from the children of the world. They are now His chosen portion, for whom He died, and for whom He ever pleads with the Father.
But take another ground of separation. Believers are united to Christ in a firm, abiding, real, though mysterious union. "That the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them." "Abide in Me and I in you." "He who abides in Me and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit." It is thus the Savior speaks of His people.
A mighty though invisible link knits together the Redeemer and the redeemed. They are living stones resting on the chief Corner-stone, living branches in the living Vine-stem, the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot, in His mystical body, the bride, the spouse, united to the Heavenly Bridegroom.
It does not ensure salvation to you or me, that, far above the stars, exalted to the right hand of the Father, is a great glorious Savior reigning evermore, until He has put all enemies under His feet. But the question is, Am I His? Am I one with Him? Am I so joined to Him that one spirit, one life, is in me as in Himself? Do I share all that is in Him, because I am one with Him in an everlasting union by faith in His Name? Is not here, in this most wonderful but most blessed union — the secret of our joy, our hope, our strength? In myself I am guilty and condemned for manifold breaches of God's law — but in Him I stand clear of all condemnation; I have a righteousness without a flaw, for He Himself is my righteousness, and in Him I have paid to the last farthing the penalty of all my guilt.
In myself I am altogether powerless for good — but in Him I have invincible strength to overcome all sin, and strength to perform all God's holy will.
In myself I am poor, and blind, and miserable — but in Him I am rich and blessed for evermore. In Him I have wisdom, and joy, and victory, and life eternal; for all are His, and in Him all are mine.
And do we not see here the separation between those who belong to Christ and others?
If I have but a natural, common life, like that of others — then shall I be of the world, and in the world, and like the world. But if Christ is my life, if there is in me an unseen but most true union with Him — then must I be like Him. The branch must be as the stem; the member must be as the Head; the bride as the Bridegroom. Therefore, as Christ was ever "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," ever mingling with them, to teach and to save them, and yet ever in spirit and in life, far, far above them — so in a measure must it be with me.
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." One with Christ, they rise above the world around, even as He.
But I may add a third ground of separation. Christians are partakers of a new and heavenly birth. They have been born again, through the incorruptible seed of the word, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus there is a great change. They have a new and spiritual nature; they become new creatures in Christ; old things pass away — and all things become new.
Not only so, but those who are thus renewed become temples of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit first regenerates the soul, and then makes it His abode. "Don't you know that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have of God; and you are not your own?"
Here again, we find very clearly the principle of separation. There must be a separation between those who are "born of the Spirit," and those "born after the flesh." The latter are of earth, and mind earthly things; the former are citizens of the new Jerusalem, and where their treasure is, there will their hearts be also.
Take, moreover, the idea of a temple. At once there arises in the mind the thought of a building separated from all common uses, from the traffic and business of the world — and set apart for the worship of the Most High. It is regarded as the dwelling place of the King of kings. As it seems to me, herein lies the deepest root of this separation.
The soul of the believer is God's special dwelling-place. He dwells and abides there, as in a sacred shrine, by His own blessed Spirit.
A remarkable saying of Moses bears upon it. He was pleading for God to abide with Israel. "Then Moses said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people, unless You go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" Exodus 33:15-16
Hence there must be separation. God is for His people, their Protector, their Guardian, their Keeper, their King. God is with His people, overshadowing them with His presence, as the fiery pillar over Israel in the wilderness. Still more — God is in them, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make their abode in all who are in Christ. And, on the other hand, still is it true that the world is at enmity with God, men for the most part forgetting Him, despising His law, rejecting His Son, vexing and quenching His Spirit, living after the flesh and swayed by the Prince of Evil. "What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion has light with darkness?"
It is here that some would join issue with us — another and an opposite view of the matter has been put forth with considerable power and eloquence, and one which has a great attraction for many minds. Such people as I refer to would speak somewhat in this way: "Be wide and broad in your sympathies. In this Christian land, you may almost reckon the Church as synonymous with the world. Since a large proportion of people are baptized and bear the Name of Christ — accept them as such. If they are yet very low in their spiritual condition, go forth and mingle with them and endeavor to raise them to a higher level. Instead of standing aloof, go from time to time to the theater. By your presence and influence, try to reform it, and bring in a better element. In the same spirit, do not shrink from other similar amusements. Go to a ball whenever you feel disposed, and you will be doing good by so acting. The little leaven will leaven the whole lump. Let a spirit like this guide your conduct, and beware of everything that seems narrow and exclusive."
Views of this kind are very widely spread. They are upheld by very clever arguments, and much philanthropy, benevolence, and charity is claimed by their advocates. But are they correct? Will they bear investigation? I think not.
It is a fatal mistake to confound those who profess Christ's Name — with those who truly love Him. There are still tares and wheat, good fish and bad, in the Church of Christ. The true flock of Christ is still a little flock. The narrow way has but comparatively few walking in it — while the broad road is thronged with travelers. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven!" Matthew 7:21
Where is the congregation where the larger proportion are communicants? And, even among communicants, are there not many lacking in genuine faith, love, and zeal?
But I would add to this: Is not the effect of all such conformity on the wrong side? Is this the way to leaven the whole lump? Is it not rather to put a hindrance in the way of the Gospel?
If gold and lead are put into the same pocket, the gold will not brighten the lead — but the lead will dull the gold. The lead will still be lead, but the gold will lose its brightness. Is it not thus with the Christian and the world?
You will not improve the world by going down to its level — but the world will injure you. You will lose your power for usefulness. Samson will be shorn of his locks. The salt will lose its savor. The light will grow dim in the foul atmosphere around.
It is no uncommon thing for a young lady to taste something of a Savior's love, and to see the value of a good hope. But then comes the trial. She has a warm, kindly heart. She has a large circle of acquaintances, and perhaps Christmas is coming on. What is to be done? How can she refuse the many invitations to the dance, and the like, which she receives? Can she stay at home while others go to the pantomime or to the evening gaiety, which will last far into the morning? Perhaps she yields. Then follows a sad story of a troubled conscience, and a sense of decline in higher things; and, perhaps, at last all Christian hope and peace is gone, and she goes back to the world and tries to satisfy herself with the wretched husks that it has to give. So that, instead of her becoming a blessing to the world — the world gets the upper hand, and robs her of the blessed hope she might otherwise enjoy.
That something of this kind is the practical result in very many cases I have no doubt whatever. Therefore, for the very purpose of doing good to those who stand on a lower level, I would say: Maintain your separation. Go down to the world's level — and you lose your power to benefit it. Catch the world's spirit — and you cannot possibly raise others to the true standard of a Christian life.
For the world's sake, Christian, come out plainly on the Lord's side. Stand fast and firm on the platform of true discipleship, and you will be able to stretch out a helping hand, and raise up those who have not yet reached it. For the world's sake. be very circumspect. Go to no doubtful amusements, but keep close to your Master's side; and then, in fellowship with Him, and in His strength, go forth and bear a bold and faithful witness for His Name.
One of the greatest evils that can possibly befall the Church is for Christians to lose their distinctiveness, to become half and half — lukewarm, to let a spirit of compromise in matters of vital importance mar the reality and value of their profession.
In the days of Queen Mary and preceding sovereigns, a vast quantity of coin had been forced into circulation in which there was far more alloy than pure silver. Though it answered a purpose for a time — yet in the end it disturbed the commerce of the whole country, and threatened to bring about the ruin of all trade and business. Until it was withdrawn in the days of Elizabeth, there was increasing evil, and it was one of the wisest acts of her reign to restore the currency to its former value.
Ah, what vast quantities of alloy are found in Christ's Church! There are men of double mind — half for the world, and half for God. There are families which keep up the forms of religion — and yet the world's standard and the world's principles and motives weigh far more with them than those of Christ. Even those who are called to be standard-bearers often allow so much in themselves or in their homes that deteriorates their character and lessens their influence for good, that it is not easy to say whether indeed they are of Christ, or the world.
Oh, that the Spirit of Christ would descend among us, and cleanse and purify the Church, working mightily in the midst of us, casting out the alloy, making His servants unreservedly His, "out and out for Jesus" at all times, in all companies, under all circumstances — so that the world may know that "they have been with Jesus!"
In carrying out the principle of separation from the world, there is great need of wisdom. We need wisdom from above, lest avoiding one evil, we fall into another. It would be comparatively easy to cut the knot of every difficult question as to our conduct, by taking an extreme course either way, without regard to conflicting duties.
But under many circumstances, where no positive line is laid down in Holy Scripture, it is not easy to know what we ought to do. When a parent claims obedience, and yet the path marked out seems injurious to the soul; when certain dealings in business have an appearance, at least, of lack of straightforwardness, and yet any other course seems utterly ruinous; when it would seem needful to go where a plain witness for truth is demanded, as to a Church Congress, and yet you are compelled to hear much that pains and distresses you — under these and similar circumstances there needs courage to keep a good conscience, a single eye, and, at the same time, there needs wisdom sought in earnest prayer that you may ascertain the will of God, and then resolutely follow it.
"Grant unto Your people that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do — and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same."
It is only thus, I believe, putting every difficult matter into God's hands, and asking Him plainly to order and direct it, that we can possibly avoid the mistakes which we should otherwise commit.
I remember hearing of a young lady who had received a ticket for the ball from a favorite brother. Before it took place her heart had been drawn to the Savior through Mission services which she had attended, and she felt altogether indisposed to go to scenes of gaiety and dissipation. But there was the ticket, and what could she do? She could not bear the thought of wounding her brother's feelings — and yet she felt she could not go to the ball. So she earnestly prayed that God would show her the way to act. After some days of anxiety her brother saw she was in trouble. Discovering the cause, he removed all discomfort by saying a kind word to her, and giving the ticket to a cousin, who was quite willing to go.
In the same way you may be sure a door of escape will be found. Only pray in faith; only watch the guiding hand of God; only be willing to give up your own will and your own way, ever looking at duty on its various sides — regarding a parent's positive command, for example, as paramount, except when in direct opposition to the word of God — and then you may rest satisfied that you will not be left in the dark, but clearly directed in the path you ought to take. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your steps" (Psalm 37; Proverbs 3.)
One point, I have often felt, is of immense importance to be remembered by those who wish to carry out aright, the duty of separation from the world.
Be very careful to avoid everything that savors of hardship and austerity toward those who do not exactly see with you. Take the course which Scripture and conscience indicate — but be most considerate for the feelings of others. Be congenial, be kindly, be courteous. Ever hope the best of those around you. Think of the temptations of young people, and do not repel them by hasty judgments, and bitter words about amusements in which they do not see the harm that you do. Lovingly draw them away from such things if you can, but remember, it has been said, "A drop of honey will catch more flies than a quart of vinegar."
In dealing with them, cultivate a spirit and demeanor that seems to say, "I am far happier in the service of Christ. than you can ever be in the service of the world. I have a joy and a peace in Him. that I would not exchange for anything this life has to offer me. I cannot come down to your level, but won't you come up to mine? Shall we not share together the good things which God has provided to them that love Him?" "Come with us, and we will do you good."
Another point I would suggest is, that separation from the world should be seen very especially in the common duties and transactions of everyday life.
If you are a Christian indeed, you the Spirit of Christ in you must overcome the spirit of the world. In matters that concern your pocket, your pleasure, your business, your profession, your house, and your family — you must follow the mind and spirit of Christ Himself. Here is the pattern He has left us to follow: "You are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." All separation is to be upon this principle. I must endeavor to act as Christ Himself would act.
This will affect a thousand matters of the greatest importance, as to our influence and power for good. If you make up your mind that you must not copy the world, but Christ, in everything — it will have an effect on the whole tenor of your life. In many matters you will not act so as only to keep within the strict letter of the law, but as in the sight of God.
Consider the way in which large sums of money are spent in luxury, in expensive dress, in adorning the house, in large and magnificent entertainments — and yet a few pence finds its way into the Lord's treasury — where fifty pounds would scarcely be felt. To ask such people for a donation is one of the most painful duties, and very often unsuccessful — and yet, in the house there is a profession of religion, and family prayer is regularly engaged in. What is all this but the spirit of the world eating out the very heart and life of true godliness?
I would add that in the matter of friendships, of recreations, of converse in social life, the Christian needs to be very watchful, if he would follow the Savior.
When the Marquis of Wellesley went as Viceroy to India, we are told in the pages of Alison that he was so set upon advancing and consolidating the English dominion in the country, that he would not choose as an intimate friend anyone who was not heart and soul with him in this object.
Should not the Christian exhibit the same spirit with reference to the Kingdom of our Lord? Ought not every one of Christ's true followers to endeavor most earnestly to advance His Kingdom in the world? And in the most intimate friendships of life, especially in that tie which is the closest of all, ought there not always to be that hearty oneness of disposition in this respect, that will unite both in striving together to promote the glory of their common 'Savior?
Nor should Christians be less careful as to the scenes of recreation which they frequent. As we find them at the present day, the Theater, the Ball-room, and the Race-course — are hot-beds of evil and ungodliness. They are most injurious to the cultivation of pure and undefiled religion. I will not judge of those who frequent such scenes, but to my mind they are perilous in the extreme, and are calculated to quench in the soul every good and holy purpose and desire.
Another practical point as to separation from the world, is the exceeding care that a Christian should exercise, so as not to catch the prevailing tone with respect to religious truth. A great deal that is taught just now, and favored in high quarters, is neither according to the mind of Christ, nor the teaching of His word.
It is essentially of the world, and is so eagerly received, because it pleases the world, and suits the taste of the natural heart.
The low estimate of sin's malignity, the laxity of view with respect to future judgment, and the eternal condemnation of those who reject Christ's salvation — all this is of the world, and is contrary to every page of Holy Writ. The servant of Christ must not yield to it. It may bring reproach; you may be called narrow-minded, and the like — but hold fast the faithful Word, and whatever is found therein. Never be ashamed to own your belief that God is wiser than man, and that every threatening, as well as every promise that He has given, will be fulfilled in its season.
I will leave this subject with three guiding thoughts. They may assist you in coming out boldly on the Lord's side, and bearing a faithful witness for Him.
1. Let the love of Christ be supreme. Let no lower motive satisfy you. Be not content with a mere negative religion. "I see no harm in this or that," say many. But can you do it in the love of Christ? Are you living for self — or for Him? Are you pleasing the world — or pleasing the Master? Are you so acting that with a good conscience you can ask Him to go with you and bless and prosper you in all you do?
Do not I love You, O my Lord?
Behold my heart and see;
And cast each hated idol down
That dares to rival Thee!
2. Make it your one aim to rise higher and higher. Rest not where you are, but press forward. Walk more closely with God day by day. Seek to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. Strive to be more like your Savior in your whole spirit and conduct. Then consider what will hinder you and what will help you in this course, and avoid every stumbling-block, and avail yourself of every aid to progress.
The word of the Apostle Paul gives great guidance here: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and proper and acceptable will of God," Romans 12:2.
"Do not be conformed to this world."
Do not follow its evil customs.
Do not receive its unscriptural teachings.
Do not court its favor, love its praise, or dread its frown.
"Don't you know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?"
"But be transformed by the renewing of your mind." "Transformed" is the same word translated "transfigured," when we read of Christ on the Mount. As the whole body, countenance, clothing of Christ was transfigured, changed by a light from above, by a heavenly radiance reflected from the better world — so let it be with the Christian in the inner man! By the daily renewing of the Holy Spirit, sought in prayer and cherished by holy watchfulness, catch more and more the light of Heaven, to reveal to you more of the Savior's glory, that His glorious beauty and likeness may be manifested in you. "We beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transfigured unto the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Cherish this thought. Whatever hinders this renewing, this transformation unto the image of Christ — whatever chains you down to earth, and keeps you on the same level with the children of this world — this, whatever it may be, is most assuredly your deadliest enemy.
3. Remember that all you are and all you have, every talent, every gift, every power, must be joyfully consecrated to the Lord's service, and laid out to the very best advantage.
"Occupy until I come" is one of the leading precepts of the Gospel. For what are you to live? For self-advancement? For your own ease and comfort? For laying up a store of wealth for your children when you have passed away? Or is it to spend every day of your life, and to order your affairs so as to glorify Christ, and lay out all that He has given you as He would have you? Decide this plainly, and it will settle many a doubtful question. Living for Him, He will never fail you, and will at last give you the glad welcome, "Well done, good and faithful servant — enter into the joy of your Lord!"
Ah! my eyes can see new beauty,
As the Savior stands revealed,
And His heart that once was riven,
Melts my heart that once was sealed;
And my wounds of sin and sorrow,
By His wounded side are healed.
He is chief among ten thousand,
None His Kingship dare contend;
He is peerless, He is matchless,
His perfections have no end;
He is altogether lovely,
My Beloved and my Friend!
Yet the world refused to own Him,
Nothing of His beauty guessed;
Heeded not His tender pity,
Spurned Him when He would have blessed;
Crucified the Lord of Glory,
When He came to bring it rest.
So the world no longer charms me
With its baubles and its toys;
I can leave them all forgotten,
As I drink of deeper joys;
Jesus crucified and risen
All their witching spells destroys.
I have found a new ambition,
One to live for, One to please,
Motive-power all toil ennobling,
Love that from self-seeking frees;
Service that is never irksome,
Labor which is truest ease.
So I walk a pilgrim-stranger
Through the world that loved Him not;
If it hates me like my Master,
Need I murmur at my lot,
While I know my humblest service
Never will be by Him forgot.
And He loves me, this sweet Savior,
With a changeless love and true;
Saves me, keeps me, guards me, guides me,
All the desert journey through;
And the fellowship of Heaven
Gilds my way with beauty new!
G. M. Taylor
A Christian's Prayer in Six Words
"Lord Jesus, glorify Yourself in me!"
This petition seems to me the very greatest, with respect to one's self, which it is possible for any one to offer. To ask for earthly gifts or benefits is right and good, if the request is offered in submission to God's will. To ask for spiritual grace or help is still better, and we know that such desires are especially pleasing to God. But in asking that Christ may be glorified in us, we include both of these — and yet the petition goes far beyond them.
If I offer in faith this prayer, "Lord Jesus, glorify Yourself in me," I plead for all temporal supplies that will enable me to glorify Christ in holy, happy service. Moreover, I plead for deliverance from all forms of evil and temptation — and for the bestowment of every grace in which God delights.
But I rise higher than this. Self is cast down — and Christ is exalted! The honor and glory is for Him alone. I seek that I may share with angels and archangels, the privilege of bringing some tribute of praise to His footstool. Whatever by grace I am, whatever by grace I may be enabled to do — here I pray that it may redound to His glory and be as a crown upon His head.
And, in seeking this, I go farther still. I am seeking to give honor to the Eternal Father. For he who glorifies the Son, glorifies the Father also; and "he who does not honor the Son — does not honor the Father who sent Him."
"Lord Jesus, glorify Yourself in me!" I value this prayer, because it is the echo of the Christian's heart to the words of our Lord on the night before His death. He had prayed to His Father, "Father, glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You!"
And this prayer was fulfilled. It was fulfilled in His death when He bruised the serpent's head. It was fulfilled at His glorious resurrection when He triumphed openly over all His enemies. It was fulfilled when He ascended to the right hand of God, and the gates of the Celestial Kingdom received Him back to rule in the Father's name. It was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, and thus gave evidence of His exaltation.
But it has been fulfilled ever since, and is being fulfilled today in His people. He could say, as in verse 10, "All mine are Yours, and Yours are mine, and I am glorified in them." Thus Paul prays for the Thessalonians, ad Epistle, chapter 1:12 verse, "That the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in them, and they in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Therefore, as a closing thought for the readers of this little book, I would invite you to offer this prayer. It will bring you the very richest blessings. It will enable you to fulfill the Master's own desire and purpose for you. It will embrace every other petition that would be profitable for you. Let this be a key-note for the various changes that life may bring.
Whether in the sunshine or the shade;
whether rejoicing or sorrowing;
whether living or dying —
still pray, and pray in faith, "Lord Jesus glorify Yourself in me!"
To enable you to offer this prayer more intelligently and more earnestly, let me endeavor to point out in what way Christ is glorified in His people, and may be glorified in you.
1. Christ is glorified in the conversion and salvation of His people.
Far away over mountain and hill, do we mark the Good Shepherd fetching home His lost ones.
No sacrifice is too great.
No toil is too hard.
No suffering is too much.
And when the lost sheep is found, and the wanderer reclaimed, then does He rejoice in the fruit of His agonies and death. He sees "of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied." Then His marvelous compassion, His abounding grace, His almightiness to save is manifested in the eyes of saints and angels. Then Christ is glorified as a Savior, whose promise is faithful, and whose precious blood can cleanse the vilest sinner.
Was He not glorified when the dying malefactor was rescued from the very jaws of destruction?
Was He not glorified when Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle?
Was He not glorified when the Philippian Jailer was melted to contrition and brought to believe in Him?
And again and again is He glorified now in the turning of sinners from their evil way, and in the glorious salvation which He bestows. Let me mention but one case: A young naval officer was entering a first-class railway carriage. A tract was put into his hands; but, after a glance at its contents, he tore it in pieces and trampled it under his feet. But it did its work. His eye had caught one word — Sin, and this seemed to reprove him.
When the engine began to move, the hissing noise of the steam appeared to his conscience to be still sounding, "Sin!" "Sin!" "Sin!" At last he spoke to himself. "Sin! Sin! have I not had enough of it? Has it not ruined my constitution, and brought upon me great suffering and pain?" That very day saw the beginning of a new life. He received Christ, and at once began to work for Him. With great zeal and earnestness for some months, he witnessed bravely for the Savior whom he loved; and even when he could no longer speak for Christ, he gave away Christian books and tracts, in the hope of leading others to His footstool.
In this case too was Christ glorified in the salvation of a precious soul. And here let me put a question to the reader.
Have you in this way glorified Christ? I know not who you may be, into whose hands this book has fallen; you may dwell in town or country; you may be a busy active man of business; or you may have your sphere of work within some quiet home, but I ask you: has your conversion brought honor to Christ? Have you been brought back to the fold by the Good Shepherd? Have you learned to know your sin, and have you brought that sin for pardon to the Savior?
Are you in Christ — or out of Christ?
Are you guided by the Spirit — or by the flesh?
Are you a child of this world — or a true-born child of God?
If as yet you are far from peace, far from Christ, far from God — I ask you to consider your position, and to see your danger. You know not what changes may soon be coming to you. Even now you may be standing on the very brink of the grave — and you all unprepared to meet it!
A beautiful story is told in history of the Duke of Argyll, and the quiet peace he enjoyed in anticipation of death. A privy councilor came in to see him in his cell, and found him sleeping in his irons, the peaceful sleep of infancy. The conscience of the man smote him, for he had been seduced by bribes to oppress Christ's people. In an agony of remorse and shame he flung himself on his couch. A friend asked him, "What has disturbed you?" "I have been in Argyll's prison," he replied. "I have seen him within an hour of eternity, sleeping as peacefully as ever man did. But what of me!"
Suppose you were "within an hour of eternity," where is your peace? What would be your thought?
Why, then, not seek peace and life and salvation now — this very day — this very moment? Why not humbly offer this prayer as a sinner, if you cannot as a Christian?
"Lord Jesus, glorify Yourself in me! Glorify Your name as Savior, in saving me from the guilt and power of old sins. Magnify the riches of Your grace in the forgiveness of all that is past, and in raising me to a new and holy life!"
Not in vain shall you thus seek Christ. He will pardon. He will cleanse. He will save you to the uttermost, and thus manifest His own glory in your everlasting salvation.
2. Christ is glorified when His people bear His image in the world.Christ, in His risen, glorified body, is at the Father's right hand. He is no longer here on earth, as once He was, mingling with sinners, and yet pure from the least taint of evil. But He is exalted far above all principalities and powers, fulfilling His mediatorial office, and awaiting the day when all His enemies shall be put under His feet. But He has left you and me, if we are indeed His people, to live, and walk, and act as His representatives here below.
We are to let His beauty be seen upon us. We are to let the power of His Spirit so work in us, that in the eyes of the world around may be manifested some rays of His glorious holiness. We are to go forth clothed in His meekness, His purity, His love, His heavenliness, His unselfishness — that sinners about us may gain some faint idea of His grace through His likeness seen in us.
Thus Christ is glorified in His Church. When, from beneath the humble garb of some lowly disciple, there shines forth something of Christ, something of what He was here on earth — here is a sermon which none can dispute, here is an appeal to the human conscience, more eloquent than the most powerful address ever made from the pulpit. Christian, do you thus glorify Christ day by day? Does your life speak so distinctly and plainly for Christ that men cannot fail to hear? Does your temper, your tone of thought and speech, bear witness that you walk continually before God?
Do you carry Christ with you, wherever you go? Do men take knowledge of you, that you have been with Him and that He is with you? Is there transparent sincerity in what you say, and unsullied integrity in all your actions? Is there the spirit of constant self-sacrifice — trampling SELF under foot, and spending time and money and life for the welfare of others? Is there a deep hatred of sin as sin, and a desire to do the will of God under all circumstances? Is there a fixed determination rather to die, than willfully to break a single command, or cast a shadow of dishonor on the name of Him who loved you? "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
You may have seen a beautiful picture which was in the Royal Academy a few years ago. It is called, "Diana — or Christ." It is a Christian maiden who will not dishonor her Savior. "Let her but cast a few grains of incense on the shrine of Diana — and she shall be free."
Nay, not one grain will she cast. Her steadfastness draws a tear from many an eye. Even the young women who are votaries of the goddess cannot but weep. But she is "faithful unto death." She can die — but she cannot, and she will not, bring reproach on Him who bought her.
Is there with you something of this spirit? Do you desire to have far more of it? Do you "long to be like Jesus," and every moment to live devotedly and wholly in His service?
Then for this purpose plead with Him this prayer, "Lord Jesus, glorify Yourself in me!"
3. Christ is glorified in His people when they manifest unswerving loyalty to His truth.
The glory of Christ is bound up in the truth which He proclaimed. He came to "bear witness of the truth." His whole life and teaching was to set forth the truth. Yes, more, the very essence of truth is Christ Himself, in all His work and offices.
Hence in any way to change that which He taught, to add to it some new doctrine, or to cut out some element of His teaching — is to dishonor Him in His great office of Prophet of His Church, and to cast a slur upon His infinite wisdom.
Or look at it in another light. He is the Divine Physician, and the truths revealed in Holy Scripture are the unfailing remedies for the wounds and diseases of our sinful humanity.
The doctrine of the Fall and of man's exceeding depravity,
the solemn penalty of eternal death decreed for the breach of God's holy Law,
the boundless grace which brings a free pardon in Christ's blood to the greatest offender,
the need of the Holy Spirit to renew the soul in His image,
a life of good works the fruit of a living faith —
these are the truths which God employs for the recovery and salvation of the sinner.
But you must not tamper with this healing balm. You must not add a new element, or imagine that you can well dispense with one or other of these truths. You must not cut out the severity of Divine judgment against sin, or tone down the awful denunciations of the Word — by some strained and novel interpretation. You must not add a new element by turning the ambassador of Christ into a sacrificing priest, or block up the way to the Mercy-Seat by instructing men that they must confess their sins to a fellow-mortal, or change the purpose of the sacraments by making them anything else than precious means of grace, and as such only helpful and profitable when used aright and in the spirit of true faith.
In every way be thoroughly loyal to God's truth. Be not moved by the shifting winds of human opinion. Be not drawn aside by loud pretensions of superior Churchmanship. Cleave to the Word in all the breadth of the truths which it proclaims. Accept nothing which is not therein revealed or may be proved thereby. Be a standard-bearer in the army of Christ — and let that standard be an open Bible. So will you glorify Christ and obey His precept, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me!" John 5:39
4. Christ is glorified in the believing prayers and intercessions of His people.
Every petition that is offered in His name, every true approach to the throne of grace through His mediation, every act of heartfelt praise presented through Him to the Father — brings glory and honor to Him as our Great High Priest.
O that we knew more the value of prayer! Day by day we may hear a voice, "Ask what I shall give you." A merciful Father is ever stretching out to us hands full of precious gifts, and we have but to stretch out the hand of faith to receive them. Christ delights to present our humble desires and petitions, and by His own worthiness to ensure a gracious answer.
Then let the Christian glorify Christ by the reality, the earnestness, and the frequency of his prayers. Be often a beggar at Heaven's gate. Often climb Mount Olivet and breathe your longings there. In times of trouble get to the Lord right humbly and trustfully, and soon your sighs shall be turned into songs of joy. In times of temptation flee to the Lord in prayer, and He will be your sure refuge. In times of hard toil and multiplied duties mingle your work with prayer, and it shall be sweetened by some blessed token of God's presence. And in each and all of these seasons might you not find comfort and help in the prayer which is at the heading of this address? "Lord Jesus, glorify Yourself in me!" Surely this will adapt itself to each varying circumstance, for what but blessing can come to you from anything, if in it Christ be glorified?
And may not this prayer suggest the very highest form of intercession on behalf of those you love, or those for whom you desire to pray? Substitute for the last word of the petition, the name of parent or child, husband or wife, friend or neighbor — and you ask for them the very greatest benefit it is possible to conceive. For if Christ glorifies Himself in them, if He glorifies in them His present mercy, grace, love, and power — what present and eternal gladness must assuredly be theirs!
5. Christ is glorified in the souls you lead to His footstool.
Remember that every soul saved by Christ is a jewel of priceless worth, taken out of the mire of sin and ignorance, and fixed in the Redeemer's crown, to shine brightly there for evermore! Every soul saved is a kingdom rescued from rebellion and anarchy, and established in peace and security under the sway of the great King. Therefore, if you would glorify Christ, yield yourself up to Him to go forth on His errands, to carry His messages to the lost and perishing — and by kindness, by persevering effort, by earnest prayer, endeavor to fetch home to His fold those that are gone astray.
Go and read the Word of God to some child of sorrow, or to someone laid low on a sick-bed, and the Spirit will go forth with you and touch the conscience and teach that tried one to find rest in Jesus.
Get five minutes' quiet talk with a working man coming home from his daily toil, and who can tell but you may drop the right word which may be to him a seed of eternal life?
Strive to find out those you mingle with in society where there is a sense of need and unrest, and lend the Christian book, or strive to gain their ear for the sweet message of forgiveness and complete salvation in Christ.
Be as an elder brother or sister among the young ones. Show them what a bright and happy service is that of the Lord Jesus. Try to encourage the least beginning of better things, and point out the steps by which they may rise above the temptations that surround them.
It will not be lost labor. If only you look for Christ to guide and direct you, there will be some result for each effort, and perhaps when you speak the least, God will most bless your desire to do good.
A few months ago I heard an instance of this. A chaplain was going his rounds in the jail at Chatham. In one cell he saw a man who was a pitiable object. He had often been in prison for his crimes, and he determined that he would not perform the ordinary prison labors. So he managed to wound and injure himself that he was scarcely able to stand. The chaplain, when he saw him, only said, "Poor fellow," and dropped a tear — but this was to him the most powerful sermon he ever heard. It led him to think there must be something good in religion, and he began to read the Bible, which was lying on the shelf. Before long he began earnestly to pray; and when he left the prison, he proved the reality of his repentance by doing what he could for his aged mother, whom before he had treated with unkindness and neglect.
Will you not, then, endeavor to honor Christ by daily efforts to win others for Him?
"Lord, strengthen me, that while I stand
Firm on the rock and strong in Thee,
I may stretch out a helping hand
To strugglers with the stormy sea,
O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
The precious things You do impart,
And wing my words that they may reach
The hidden depths of many a heart!"
I remember a monument erected to the learned and judicious Hooker in the church where he used to preach, by one whom he had led to Christ, and upon it the words of Paul, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel." May it not be in the Great Day that that one soul brought to the fold of the Good Shepherd may be seen to be as great a cause of rejoicing as the able works he wrote, and which have been from year to year studied by successive generations at the universities?
And let me add here: it glorifies Christ greatly when parents seek for their children the kingdom of God and His righteousness, in preference to earthly gain or high position, or any of those things which most men make their idols.
Some time ago I heard of a remark made by an officer in the army before his death. "I want you," said he, "to seek no worldly advantages for my daughters. I want them to know the Lord, and to meet me in Heaven."
Let me also add another remark. Greatly is Christ glorified, when His people watch over the weak ones for Him, and nourish and cherish them, so that they may not fail.
A young bird lay on the ground, apparently quite unable to fly. A young girl gave it a few crumbs, and put it in a safe warm corner in the garden. The next morning she gave it a few more crumbs, and took it up in her hand, and then threw it up a short distance. The little creature, refreshed and strengthened by the care it had received, spread its wings and flew away, quite happy and strong.
And what may not a little Christian care and kindness do for some weak one who may be ready to perish?
All such thoughtful considerateness is very pleasing to the Savior, and not a cup of cold water or a few crumbs of the bread of life thus bestowed, shall ever lose their reward. "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
6. Christ is glorified when His people glory in Him, and in Him alone.
It is written, "Of Him (that is, God) are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31).
There is nothing in the world in which we can glory. Its possessions, its pleasures, its pomp and show, its praise and flattery — what are they? They are like the soap-bubbles which little children blow, glittering for a moment with blue and golden rays, and then bursting, and they are gone! "The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever!" 1 John 2:17
There is nothing in SELF in which we can glory. "What do you have, that you did not receive?" In self there is nothing but darkness, hardness, weakness, poverty, misery, sin. No single good thing ever did come, or ever could come from sinful man. Try to bring anything of yourself as a ground of acceptance with God, and you must invariably fail. Of yourself you cannot . . .
think a right thought,
cherish a right feeling,
utter a right word, or
do the least action pleasing to God.
Never, never look to self for anything. Never despair because you find your own resources utterly in vain. God knew it beforehand, and He tells you so repeatedly in His Word.
But in Christ alone you may glory. He is the grand reservoir of all spiritual grace and blessing! "It has pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell."
In Him, there is pardon and peace through the blood of His Cross.
In Him, there is unfailing power to lift you above temptation, and to enable you to walk with God.
In Him, there is light and wisdom, guidance and direction, for every step of the journey.
In Him, there is a calm rest, a spring of deepest consolation for all the changes of our mortal life.
"Thus says the LORD: 'Let not a wise man glory of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not a rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glory, glory in this — that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things!' declares the LORD." Jeremiah 9:23-24
Glory in Christ, and in Him alone.
Glory in Him as your Faithful Shepherd, who will care for you, and guard you, and restore you, and keep you even to the end.
Glory in Him as your Unfailing Physician, who will heal your wounds, and bind up the bleeding, broken heart.
Glory in Him as your Great High Priest, who will ever plead your cause before the Throne of grace.
Glory in Him as your Omnipotent King, who reigns over the events of Providence, and will make all things work together for your good.
Glory in Him as your Mighty Redeemer, who will deliver you from every enemy, and make you conqueror over all.
Glory in Him as your Everlasting Portion, remembering that when all else shall take wings and flee away — when the home is broken up, and dear ones die, and means grow less, and health decays, and opportunities for doing Christ's work pass by, yes, when everything on earth fails you — He will be your everlasting treasure, and your unchangeable Friend!
And let this glorying be seen by your entire resignation to His will, and by choosing His path rather than your own.
"Not I, but Christ!" Lord, choose for me,
And make me love what pleases Thee.
"Not I, but Christ!" His will be done,
And mine with His be merged in one.
Myself no longer would I see,
But Jesus crucified for me.
His eye to guide, His voice to cheer,
His mighty arm forever near.
"Not I, but Christ!" Lord, let this be
A motto throughout life for me!
It was only the word of a little child, a pleasant loving little fellow not eighteen months old; but out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, we may learn lessons of heavenly wisdom. So it was here. The little fellow was standing by his mother's side after dinner, and he wanted a place on his mother's knee, and this was the way in which he asked for it. "Up high! Up high!" And a mother's heart could easily interpret the wish of her little one, and soon fulfilled it, and the child was happy in the place he loved so well.
But his word shall not be lost. It shall give a title to this gathering of words and thoughts which have been sent forth from year to year, and shall suggest a few additional thoughts that may strengthen some pilgrim on life's journey.
Friend, "up high!" though you may have fallen very low. Thank God, this is the great aim of the gospel. It is to lift up those that have fallen, and to raise up such as are bowed down. You may have fallen so deeply, that you may reckon yourself the very worst, and withal the one who can never possibly be restored. It may seem so to you, but the things which are impossible with man, are possible with God. There is an arm that can reach you! There is One who can take you out of the mire, and set your feet upon a high rock.
I remember a woman who had become the slave alcohol. But there was one who prayed much and frequently for her. So when I spoke to the woman, I did not despair; she received my visit kindly and thanked me. She could see I cared for her; for I did not speak harshly to her — but I told her that I feared she had a great difficulty and wished to help her if I could. I shall never forget her next words. She was a tall, gaunt woman, and she stretched out her long brawny arm and her almost skeleton fingers, and pointing downwards she exclaimed, "I'm down there!"
"Well, if you are," I said, "there is One who goes down there to seek you and to save you and to lift you up, for He is able to save to the uttermost! His arm is long enough to reach even you, however deep down in the pit you may be at this moment."
I am not without hope that the woman was enabled to forsake her sin. I know she battled with it; and when some months afterwards she passed to her final account, I had some reason to hope that she died truly penitent for her sin, and trusting only in her Savior. But be assured this hope is for you.
There is an eye of mercy upon you;
there is a heart of mercy toward you;
there is an arm of mercy near to pluck you as a brand from the burning, to wrap you with garments of righteousness and salvation, and to subdue your iniquities. Ah, there is an arm that can bring you out of the very depths of misery and sin, and can give you a place among the saints of the Most High.
"Up high, up high!" But HOW? How shall you rise to peace and holiness?
First of all, stoop low — take the lowest place. The grand rule of Christ is never to be forgotten: "Every one who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
Lift up yourself in pride if you will, glory in self, glory in your own wisdom, goodness, power, wealth, success, or what not. Yet be assured, that though you exalt yourself above the stars, and make yourself as God — yet there is One who shall pluck you thence, and your glory shall be your shame.
But cast yourself down at the footstool of God's throne. Own your spiritual poverty, your weakness, your sin. Be as a little child, attribute nothing to yourself but that which is amiss. Be lowly, poor in spirit, emptied of all your boasted merit and worthiness. Then shall the Lord delight to raise you up. He shall fulfill to you His promise to dwell with the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. He shall exalt you in comfort, in holiness, in blessing, or usefulness. He shall make you to "shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever."
"Up high! up high!" Remember the child. He loved a mother's knee. You too shall be as a little child on a parent's knee. You shall abide very near to your Father in Heaven. You shall look up to Him and cry, "Abba, Father!" My Father and my God. Reconciled through the precious blood, justified freely in Christ — you shall daily taste the comfort of a Father's loving care. You shall know that He is ever with you to guide you, to teach you, and to supply your every need. To live thus is to live "up high" — as high as it is possible on earth. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." Oh, what a lift is this! For a sinful man to be brought close to God, to be brought to see him face to face, to speak with Him, and to hear His voice!
"So near, so very near to God,
I cannot nearer be;
For in the person of His Son
I am as near as He."
Up high! up high! Look up and see Jesus at the right hand of God. Let your eye be ever fixed on Him — and He shall draw you by the mighty attraction of His grace and love. You shall thus rise higher and higher — while ever beholding more and more your own failings and shortcomings. You shall grow in knowledge and in grace, in holiness and peace, and in every Christian virtue.
While ever conscious of your exceeding sinfulness, do not brood over your mistakes, your lack of contrition, of faith, of love — but meditate on Him who is the fountain of life and the treasure-house of all spiritual blessings. Remember the superabundance of all good to be found in Him, and freely to be dispensed to you according as you look up to Him. When He was on earth, there was an overflowing of healing virtue, of provision for the hungry, of wine at the marriage feast. And is there less now that all power is in His hand as He sits on His heavenly throne?
Then be ever looking unto Him, and opening your mouth wide to Him, that He may fill it. Thus lifted above yourself, you shall walk upon the high places of the earth until you are with Him for evermore in His glorious kingdom.
"Closer, dear Lord, to Thee,
Closer to Thee,
In sweet communion drawn,
Oh, let me be.
Earth's joys forgotten quite
While dwelling in the light,
Closer, dear Lord, to Thee
Closer to Thee.
Oh, let no cloud of sin
'Twixt me and Thee,
Anything of Your brightness hide,
But let me be,
Now on the mount's blessed height,
Gazing on glory bright
Until faith be lost in sight,
Closer to Thee.
So shall my walk below
Until the glad moment come
When I shall see,
Not through a darkening glass
Glimpses of glory pass,
But view You face to face,
Closer to Thee."
Can You Say, "My"?
A true story of Christian effort is connected with this question. Some years ago, a lady was put into a pew occupied by a very godly London tradesman, who was ever seeking means to win souls for Christ. When the hymn was given out, he handed her a book. The hymn was that of Dr. Watts:
"My God, the spring of all my joys,
The life of my delights,
The glory of my brightest days,
And comfort of my nights."
As he passed the book where he had found the hymn, he underlined with his pencil the word "My," and very quietly said, "Can you say that?"
The question led to some conversation as they were leaving the church. It had not been asked in vain. It led to a train of thought in the lady, through which she became much more earnest and decided for Christ than previously. But the good did not stop here. The lady's husband was an officer, and, through providential circumstances, they were at that time very straitened in means. From an invitation given that morning to the lady, her husband called during the week at the office of the tradesman, and the gift of a five-pound note was thankfully received. After this, an earnest word was spoken to the officer, who, up to that time, had been living without God.
Years passed away, and the circumstances above had been almost forgotten, when an urgent message was brought to the tradesman to visit a dying officer. It proved to he the very same one to whom he had previously shown kindness. The tall, handsome officer, was now stretched upon his sick-bed, in the last stage of a painful disease. An inquiry was at once put to him as to his hope in Christ. It brought a clear and decisive answer. Death had no terrors, for he had sure peace and confidence through the Savior's blood.
"Where did you learn this blessed truth?" he was asked.
"In your counting-house," was the reply.
The old promise had found another fulfillment. The bread cast upon the waters, had been found after many days. Christian kindness and a faithful word, had brought a soul to God. And now the officer, who had formerly been an utter stranger to the peace of the gospel, had found a Savior's mercy, and died rejoicing in the Lord.
But let me come back to the question. It touched the heart of one, and then incidentally became the means of blessing to the husband; and, perhaps, through the teaching of God's Holy Spirit, it may be a word in season to you.
Can You Say, "My"?
You read in Holy Scripture of glorious things that belong in sure possession to the people of God. They have a rich inheritance in the peace which Christ gives. They have an unfailing portion in the exceeding great and precious promises which are made to them, by virtue of their union with Him. They have a clear title to a home and an inheritance beyond the skies, which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away. But can you say, "All this is mine"?
Look at that magnificent estate, with its varying landscape, its sturdy oaks, its shaded avenues, its fair mansions, its gardens and green-houses filled with fruits and flowers brought from many a climate. But is it your own, or the property of a stranger? Have you the title-deeds? Have you the right of access and the use of all that valuable property? All hangs upon this. With far different feelings do you regard it, if you can claim it all as your very own.
Then ask yourself as to the inheritance of God's promises now, and the glory and the kingdom that is yet to be made manifest. Can you say "My"? Is it my portion, my hope, my home?
Or take another illustration. In the town or neighborhood where you live, it may be, there is one whose worth is appreciated by all who know him. His life is a very pattern of genuine integrity and benevolence. At home and abroad, he is beloved wherever his character is known. He is accessible to the very poorest who need his aid, and his abundant wealth and wise counsel are freely given for the relief of misery and need and sorrow.
But do you know him? Is he a near relation, a brother, a father? Is he a friend with whom you are intimate?
Far, far greater is the pleasure you have in seeing him, if there is a close link between you; if you can say, He is my friend, my brother, my father, the one who loves me, and whom I love best in all the world.
Apply this to higher matters.
Where is one like the God of love, the God of all comfort, the Father of mercies — whose righteousness is like the strong mountains, whose loving-kindness is higher than the heavens, who is just and faithful and true in all His ways?
Where is one like the Lord Jesus, the loving Redeemer, the Friend of sinners, the Brother born for adversity — whose heart is a fount of sympathy, and whose life was spent in doing good?
But can you look up to the heavens and say, "This God is my God, my Father, my Guide, my Rock?"
Can you claim Christ as one to whom you are bound in the bonds of eternal love? A child in a national school was once told to write out what she could, about the life of Christ. She did not seem able to write out much of His history, but she wrote down the words, "He is my very own Savior."
She was able to say "My," and thus, though young, she tasted that the Lord was gracious.
Can you say, He is my Savior and my Friend? Can you say, "I know that my Redeemer lives"?
Perhaps nowhere do we see the value of this short pronoun "My" more than in the Book of Psalms.
David seems, so to speak, to revel in the joy of appropriation. He delights to repeat again and again the glad thought, that he could go to God as his own God. "This God is our God forever and ever." "God, even our own God, shall give us His blessing."
More than forty times do we find him using this expressive "My" with regard to the God he loved.
Take, as an example, his words in Psalm 18, "I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."
But there is one other passage in which this little word "My" is used, which, as it seems to me, brings to many a soul unutterable joy and peace.
It is a passage full of the marrow of gospel truth, and brings near to the trembling, troubled spirit the sweetest consolations of the Savior's love. It is one of the scriptures we learn in our childhood, and yet it never seems more precious to a Christian than when he draws near to life's close. It sounds in the heart like the everlasting chimes of the temple above — and yet soothes every fear and scatters every doubt that weighs upon the mind here below.
But pause a moment. Before I quote it, I would present a contrast. Passing through the busy throng of men, and catching up the spirit that is abroad, not seldom we hear a voice that speaks this way: "No longer do I believe as once I did. To me everything has become shadowy and uncertain. You tell me of God, but I know not if there be a God, for how can I believe what I have never seen? You tell me of a Savior, but Jesus of Nazareth died centuries ago, and I do not believe in His resurrection. You tell me of prayer, but to me it is only an empty name. There is none to hear or regard, at least, we can never tell that prayer goes beyond the place where it is uttered. All I know, is that I see. Life, its advantages, its wealth, its pleasures — these I can see and realize. All beyond is to me a dream. I will make the most of the present, and leave the future until I know what it will bring."
Ah, terrible thought! Here is desolation indeed! To know no God, no Father in Heaven, no Savior, no Mercy-seat, no Home beyond the grave — alas for those who have thus made shipwreck of their faith! This world, full of change, sorrow, and suffering, cares and fears, sighs and tears, open graves and mourning households, round about us on every side! And we ourselves carried forward irresistibly by the rapid stream of time! And to have no stay, no staff of promise, no resting-place, no bright star of hope to cheer the darkness — who can bear the thought? Believe it! If by unbelief you are separated from the Father and the Son, the hour must come when your spirit shall feel itself fatherless, friendless, hopeless, and none shall fill that awful void!
But, thank God, there is another voice. It carries with it its own testimony, for it is the voice of eternal truth, and it brings to the hearts of men true rest and gladness, and a song and a hope that fails never. All through the past centuries has it been sounding wherever man has been taught of God. It is sounding today in ten thousand humble, trustful souls. Hearken to its sweet melody, and, through the Spirit, may it awaken an echo and a response within:
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever!" Psalm 23
Oh, the everlasting consolation that is the portion of those who can catch this strain of celestial music! Oh, the untold bliss wrapped up in the thought of the shepherd-care of the Lord Jesus, and of a love ever unfolding some new joy both here and hereafter!
Let us think of it. It will strengthen our faith if we be His. It may show us our unspeakable loss, if we forsake His fold.
The Lord is my Shepherd. Then has He loved me with an everlasting love, and that love will endure evermore. Those wondrous fires in the sun, of which astronomy tells us — burning on with such intensity these thousands of years, and still to this day there is no cessation and no diminution of the heat they give — are they not an emblem of His love, which never grows cold, and which will still abide when yon blazing orb shall forever have ceased to shine?
The Lord is my Shepherd. Then the infinite benefits of His sacrifice and death are all my own. The good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep, and now He cleanses every one of them in the blood He shed. By virtue of His death He bestows pardon and peace, life and hope, and full salvation — and all are mine, for He is mine, and I am His.
The Lord is my Shepherd. Then may I praise Him that He has sought and found the wanderer. Once I was far astray. I cared neither for the Shepherd nor His fold. But He tracked my steps over the barren mountain and the dreary waste, and laid me on His shoulder, and brought me to His fold rejoicing.
The Lord is my Shepherd. Then He will provide for my every need. I shall not lack. "Green pastures" and "still waters" there are to which he will lead. What is truly good for the present, what is eternally good and will minister to my salvation and preparation for His kingdom — He will not fail to bestow. Two ministering angels shall follow me all my days, "goodness" to supply every need, and "mercy" to comfort in every woe, and cover every sin. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
The Lord is my Shepherd. Then will He lead me and guide me. He will give me counsel through His Word and by His Spirit. He will direct me by His providence. He will fetch me back when I turn aside, and will lead me forth in the right way — even "in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake."
The Lord is my Shepherd. Then will He be ever with me. The Shepherd abides with His flock by night and by day, and especially in the dark hours of the night when danger is at hand. Thus my Shepherd is ever near, close by to support and to help me. He knows my sorrows, my fears, my difficulties, and He will bring me through them all. When the end is near, and life is over, still I need not be afraid.
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil — for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff comfort me."
The Lord is my Shepherd. Then I will think of His blessed fold above. The flock He has tended here — shall see His face, and adore Him with songs of praise for evermore. My happiness begins here — but there the cup will be full. As once an old Christian put it to me: "I have two heavens — Christ with me on my bed of suffering; Christ waiting for me in His kingdom above."
Yes! our Shepherd leads with gentle hand,
Through the dark pilgrim land,
His flock, so dearly bought,
So long and fondly sought.
When in clouds and mist the weak ones stray,
He shows again the way,
And points to them afar
A bright and guiding star.
Tenderly He watches from on high
With an unwearied eye;
He comforts and sustains,
In all their fears and pains.
Through the parched dreary desert He will guide
To the green mountain-side,
Through the dark stormy night,
To a calm land of light.
Yes! His 'little flock' are never forgot,
His mercy changes not;
Our home is safe above
Within His arms of love.
But we come back to the old question — Can you say "My"? All this blessedness, all this hope and joy, rests upon this one thing. There must be the appropriating faith. There must be the personal grasp of the benefit. The Psalmist says not, "The Lord is a Shepherd," or "The Lord is the Shepherd," but the whole help, grace, and consolation which the Psalm brings rest on the word "My". "The Lord is my Shepherd." Nothing less than this brings the comfort near to any soul.
Is He indeed your Shepherd? You have gone astray into devious paths, but have you come back to the good Shepherd? Have you returned to Him as the Shepherd of your soul? Have you humbly acknowledged your backslidings and transgressions, and committed your soul to His shepherd-care? Day by day is this the yearning desire of your heart, "Lord Jesus, I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost. Oh, seek Your servant, keep Your servant — that I never more leave You."
Do you know Him as one who is more precious to you than any earthly friend? Do you go to His door? Do you knock at His mercy-gate? Do you tell Him your sins and your sorrows? Do you find a pleasure in fellowship and communion with Him?
All other knowledge is in vain to give true peace. All else is in vain to sanctify and to save the soul. "This is life eternal — to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
Do you know Him indeed?
It is said of Christ's sheep, that they are all marked in the ear and in the foot. They hear His voice and follow His footsteps. Have you these marks?
Do you hear His voice? He speaks through His Word. He speaks through His ministers. He speaks through the orderings of His providence. He speaks through the conscience, and through the secret whisperings of His Spirit. Do you listen? Do you hearken to the least intimations of His will? Like Mary at Bethany — do you sit daily at His footstool, and search into His Word, and pray for the teaching of His Spirit?
Again, do you follow His steps? In meekness and lowliness, in obedience and submission to a Father's will, in zeal for His glory, and in active efforts to win back the souls of the perishing — do you copy His holy example? Do you follow Him to the temple courts, to the home of sorrow, to Gethsemane and Calvary? Do you often frequent the garden of prayer? Do you take up your cross, and deny yourself for His sake? Through His Spirit, do you walk, even as He walked? In this way you may discover whether Christ is indeed your own, whether you are one of His little flock, and whether in the depth of your heart you can say, "The Lord is my Shepherd."
In the crisis of men's history, in the hour when a vast eternity lies before them in all its appalling reality — what a contrast is there between those who know the Savior, and those who know Him not.
A short time ago I was reading a narrative of the Peninsular war. A dying soldier was carried from the battlefield, and was laid under a tree, while his comrades went back to fight. An officer rode past the spot, and pulled up when he saw the man bleeding to death.
"Is there no message I can carry to your wife or children at home?" he asked.
"Yes — knapsack — book," the dying man just gasped. "Read John 14, 27th verse."
With difficulty the officer found the verse, for he was not one accustomed to read the Scriptures. At length he read it, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you — not as the world gives, give I unto you."
A radiant smile was seen on the soldier's face. "There, that is what I want. I have peace, I am going home. My Savior is waiting for me!"
Astonished at words he could not understand, the officer threw down the Bible, got into his saddle, and rushed back into the thick of the battle.
An hour afterwards, the officer was carried off the field of battle himself, mortally wounded. He never spoke until he was carried past the tree where the soldier was now lying dead. He recalled the words the soldier had spoken. Passing his hand over his forehead, he exclaimed, "I have no Bible, I have no peace, I have no Savior waiting for me!"
This book may fall into the hands of someone who is yet without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world. And yet Christ is inviting you to come to Him. By this message He calls to you to come and find all the joy of His salvation. He is still, as the Good Shepherd, seeking you, and ready to bear you on His shoulder to the fold. The old promise stands good to this very hour, "Him that comes unto Me, I will never cast out."
Will you not come to Him? Will you not turn your face toward the fold and ask Him to restore you? Will you not come now, come today, come this very hour, without one moment's delay?
Is it not better to be on the safe side? Is it not wise to be prepared for whatever may lie before you? Can it bring anything but the truest peace, and everlasting security from this day — to have Christ as your Shepherd and your Friend?
But why such urgency? Why such cause of haste? I will give you seven short reasons why I would counsel you to come to Christ without delay, and thus to ensure all the benefits of His salvation.
I. You have a PRECIOUS JEWEL that you may lose, and if you do — you are undone forever!
"What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
2. You carry a HEAVY BURDEN. It will surely sink you to perdition if it is not speedily removed!
"My iniquities have gone over my head — as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me."
3. You suffer from a FATAL DISEASE. Who can heal you, but the good Physician?
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked — who can know it?"
"Lust when it has conceived brings forth sin, and sin when it is finished brings forth death."
4. There lies before you a PERILOUS JOURNEY — and enemies surround you on every side. You need a Protector and a Guide!
"Pilgrims and strangers upon earth."
"Your Adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour."
5. DARK CLOUDS are on the horizon. You need a Shelter and a Hiding-place!
"Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward."
"Man that is born of woman, is of few days and full of trouble."
6. A DEEP RIVER is to be crossed. You shall you need a friendly hand!
"How will you do in the swellings of Jordan?"
"There is but a step between me and death."
7. A DAY OF JUDGMENT is coming on, and you shall need an Advocate!
"It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment!"
"We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ."
And if you never come to Christ, what a double condemnation will be yours! Think of the times you have been in the house of God. Think of the sermons you have heard, the hymns you have sung, the prayers offered in your presence. Think of the various Ministers and Pastors who have pleaded with you in Christ's Name. Think of the times without number you have read and heard the Word of God. And shall it all be in vain? Shall all these rise up hereafter to condemn you? Shall every clergyman who has brought you a message from God, be a witness against you? Shall every Christian book and tract you have had in your hand, be remembered to add to your remorse?
Oh, sad and bitter cry! The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved! Once everything promised fair for my salvation. I had many opportunities and great privileges. I mingled with the Lord's own people, and I was often almost persuaded to give myself to Him. But now, all is over. The time has passed by. The door is shut. I must hear now the awful word of the Judge, whose love I have slighted and refused, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!"
But the Savior lingers still. For you who read these words — the harvest is not past, nor the summer ended, nor the door closed. All is favorable, if only now you will return. Then once more I bid you to come. Whoever you are, whatever you are — come to your Savior. O Holy Spirit, be our Teacher. Awaken every unsaved soul! Turn the heart of each reader who is yet a stranger to God. Bring each one back to the one great Shepherd, that each may say in humble faith, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want!"
From all your crooked ways;
Jesus will save the lost,
The fallen He can raise.
Look to Him, who beckons thee,
From the Cross so lovingly.
See His gracious arms extended,
Fear not to seek shelter there,
Where no grief is unbefriended,
Where no sinner need despair.
To your long-suffering Lord;
Fear not to seek His grace,
To trust His faithful word;
Yield to Him your weary heart,
He can heal its keenest smart.
He can soothe the deepest sorrow,
Wash the blackest guilt away;
Then delay not until tomorrow,
Seek His offered gifts today.
From all your wanderings, home!
From vanity and toil —
To rest and substance come.
Come to truth, from error's night,
Come from darkness, unto light,
Come from death, to life undying,
From a fallen earth, to Heaven;
Now the accepted time is flying,
Haste to take what God has given."
Do it Now!
Yes, this very day. Not by-and-by, not next month, not next week, not even tomorrow — but now, today; before the sands of time have run any longer, do it now.
But WHAT shall I do? What is it about which I must be in such haste?
Wait a while, and I will tell you. But first you may like to know where this motto came from. I only met with it lately, and its history makes it the more valuable, excellent as it is in itself.
A short time ago in Bombay there was a faithful and devoted American missionary. His father and his wife's father were missionaries before him; and at that time to which I refer, husband and wife were hard at work from morning to night, among Jews as well as heathen, making it their food and drink to do the Master's will. A friend who saw their work noticed two mottoes on the walls of their sitting room, both of which they were living: out day by day. "Simply to your cross I cling!" was one; and this that I have chosen as a message for this chapter was the other, "Do it now!"
"Do it now." I like this motto, because it has such a practical ring about it. What is to be done, must be done at once — or it will never be done at all. "I expect to pass through this world but once; if therefore there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, to any fellow human being — let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
"Do it now."
"But what does this mean for me?" "What must I do?"
This depends upon another question. What have you done hitherto? What have you been? What is your present position? Are you on the Lord's side — or are you far from Him? Are you on the way to Zion — or is your back turned on the better land, and your face toward sin and the world?
I must have a few words with those who are on the wrong tack. It is quite possible that some who may take up this little book may be treading very dangerous paths. A few months ago a large illustrated bill was on our walls. It announced a certain play to be performed at the theater, and was headed, "The Road to Ruin!" Right in the foreground was a deep, black pit. "Ruin" was written upon it. Just above was a coach with four horses rushing down a steep hill. The name of the coach was "Destruction." The two lamps were "Passion" and "Prodigality." "Virtue "and "Prudence" lie prostrate in the path, and "Wisdom" cries in vain of impending danger.
I will not stay to prove that in too many cases the theater itself is the road to ruin, though I believe most assuredly this to be the case. But in any case, the history of many, especially in early life, is precisely that set before us in this picture. Mainly through drink, gambling, immorality, or pursuit of pleasure, thousands hurry along swiftly the downward course. All thought of right and wrong, of regard for the good of man or the will of God, is cast to the winds. Every consideration as to the comfort and peace of future years, as to the welfare of parent or wife or child — is lost in the desire for self-indulgence. Youth must have its fling. Shillings and sovereigns and banknotes must be cast into the yawning gulf of waste and luxury. Even honesty, truth, and a good name must yield in the struggle. No entreaties of those who were once most loved, will stay the prodigal's footstep. No voice from above, no call of a merciful Redeemer, can arrest him for a moment.
If any such should read these words, once more I would appeal to you before it is too late. There are yet a few steps, perhaps but a very few — before the gulf of eternal perdition is reached. But stop! Think! Turn, turn from this perilous road. Consider your ways. See where are you going! Is it to a prison? A workhouse? An insane asylum? The grave? Hell? Ah, brother, sister, why so fast? Why so bent on binding yourself fast with the chains of misery, corruption, remorse? Turn back at once. Make haste. Not one step more. "Do It Now." Awake to righteousness.
Cast off the works of darkness. Fly for help, salvation, and pardon, to the mighty Redeemer. Fall on your knees. No more parleying with the tempter.
Come now to Jesus. Trust your soul to Him. He can save, and save to the uttermost, all who come to God by Him.
But there are others who are going to the same end, but by a quieter road.
On London Bridge you find three roads going in the same direction. There is the quick traffic, and the slow traffic, and the foot-passengers. They are all going the same way, but at various speeds.
It is just so in the broad path to destruction. There is the "quick traffic" — open sinners, gross offenders, those who glory in their shame — the intemperate, the profligate, the harlot, the fraudulent, and many others.
But there are those who despise such — and yet are as far from Heaven. "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes — and yet is not washed from their filthiness." "There is a way that seems right unto a man — but the end thereof are the ways of death."
What shall I say of one who is found Sunday after Sunday in his pew at church, but has a stiff knee, never bending it in prayer in his own chamber?
What shall I say of one who acts only from worldly motives, and never strives to please or glorify God?
What shall I say of the one who is swayed by pride and self-conceit, and knows nothing of the meekness and humility of Christ? Or of the one whose sole aim is to accumulate wealth? Or of the one who is kind and amiable, but knows nothing of Christ's love? Or of the one whose religion is all trusting in self, and where there is no true contrition or reliance on the precious blood of Christ?
The Word of God gives no uncertain sound as to such. "You must be born again!" "If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall never enter the kingdom of Heaven." "No covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ."
Believe me, if you are such as I have described, you have no part or lot in Christ's salvation. You may be very religious in your own way; you may try to salve conscience, by performing certain parts of your duty, in the hope that this will make up for your neglect of the rest — but it will come to nothing. You will stand on the same platform as the men and women whom you scorn for their ungodliness. Unless you are . . .
renewed by Christ's Spirit,
washed in His blood,
walking in His footsteps,
and living for His glory —
you will be found without the wedding garment, and be cast into outer darkness!
Therefore, I have a call for you. Come down from your pedestal of self-satisfaction. Open your eyes to see your sins. Look into your own heart, and search out the traitors that are lurking there. Let the Pharisee become the publican — and the Laodicean acknowledge that he is "wretched and poor, and blind and naked." Come and take your place at the Savior's footstool, side by side with those who have been once the most abandoned and depraved. And do it now.
The final judgment is near at hand. The day of grace is only for a short season. Soon the curtain will drop. Life's stage you will tread no more. On what you are now as in the sight of God — will depend what you will abide forever in the great eternity before you.
Come one, come all, and partake of God's favor and peace, which is offered you in Christ. Whatever you have been, moral or immoral, a Nicodemus or a Zaccheus, a Nathanael or a Matthew — come humbly to the great Messiah, and receive all the hopes and consolations of His gospel.
I have thought of something like a contrast to "The Road to Ruin." I will call it "The Road to Glory."
I see a coach mounting a hill. Straight in front lie the gates of the Celestial City. Among the passengers, bright hope glistens in every eye, as one after another the milestones are left behind. The two lamps are God's Word and a Single Eye. Steadfast Faith is the driver, and Watchfulness the guard. Virtue and Prudence stand by, and Wisdom speaks in words of encouragement — "Go forward. A welcome awaits you in the City." The coach is named "The Glorious Gospel," and all its passengers are carried safely to their journey's end.
Have you taken your place? Are you thus on your way to the "city which has foundations?" If not, why do you delay? Why not today make sure of your seat, and press onward to the goal?
"Do it now." Forsake the evil and embrace the good. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," and confess Him by lip and life. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." "All things are now ready."
The Father is ready to welcome you with open arms.
The Savior is ready to cleanse you from all guilt.
The Spirit is ready to renew and sanctify you.
The angels are ready to rejoice over you.
Believers are ready to mingle their songs with the angels for another wanderer brought home. Do not lose the golden opportunity. Do not hang back, when life and joy are within your reach.
"Come, then, whoever will,
Come while 'tis called Today;
Seek the Savior's cleansing blood —
Repent, believe, obey."
"Do it now." This motto has its message for the child of God.
You remember Abraham. To him was given about the hardest command it is possible to conceive. He was bidden to take his son, his only son Isaac, and offer him up for a sacrifice on a mountain that God would tell him of. In this case the spirit of this motto was carried out. He said nothing to Sarah or to anyone, but at once set out to do as God bade him. He rose up early in the morning. He never wavered or delayed, but went straight on to do God's will, until the angel called to him a second time, and bade him stay his hand.
You remember, too, Matthew at the receipt of custom. Christ called him. He said, "Follow Me." So Matthew left his money-bags and his books, and immediately followed the Savior.
It is no less the Christian's duty now to obey cheerfully, readily, and without delay.
whatever precept He gives,
whatever duty He lays upon your conscience,
whatever self-denial you may be called upon to exercise
— do not wait and consider, do not delay until some future time, but go and fulfill God's will. "Do it now." As swift as Gabriel before the throne, with zeal, alacrity, and full purpose of heart — hearken to the loving voice that calls you forth to serve the great King.
There may be deeds of kindness, purposes of good, that you have determined in some way to perform hereafter — but possibly there is a better way of doing them. A lady of small means, but of hearty interest in the spread of Christ's kingdom, put into my charge a ten-pound note, wishing me to give it anonymously for the Church Missionary Society. She had intended to leave it in her will, but she thought it best to "Do it now." She would have the comfort while she lived, that this money was being used for the Master's glory.
Here is an excellent way of carrying out this motto. Possibly you have some considerable property. You intend to leave a hundred or a thousand pounds, or even more, to some of our excellent societies. But why not "do it now!" It may diminish your income by some trifling amount, but it will be bearing capital interest. It will be doing good, so that you yourself may rejoice in its blessed fruits. You may follow the work with your prayers, so that it may be doubly owned and prospered of God. If only a few of God's servants who have wealth committed to their charge would act in this way, what good work might result! What pastors might be sent to overgrown parishes; what mission rooms and churches might be built; what Christian schools might be inaugurated, where many of our middle-class children might be taught the pure truth of the Gospel, and be saved from the Jesuit and semi-Romish institutions that are filling our land. I am sure it is a good hint. Is there any reader that might follow it? Only "Whatever you do, do quickly." "Do it now."
"Do it now." One special duty I would first speak of.
A few years ago a young man was shown into my study. He had come for a few words of counsel. "Today is my birthday," he said, "and I want to give myself afresh to God. Will you give me a little help?" I did what I could. I pointed out to him a few passages of Scripture. I reminded him that the free forgiveness of sin was the great preliminary to all fruitful service, and that the Holy Spirit alone could supply the strength he needed. I knelt and prayed with him that God would make it the holiest and happiest and most useful year he had ever spent.
Now it seems to me that again and again, that special seasons of the kind speak to us: It may be a birthday or a New Year's Day or the anniversary of some special day of blessing. Such seasons return and call for fresh, unreserved surrender to the Lord's service.
Think of the mercies of the past;
think of the opportunities for gaining good granted to you;
think of the promise of all-sufficient grace which is given you in Christ;
think of the uncertainty that hangs over the future.
Then go into the Lord's presence, yield up yourself, body and soul, to glorify Him. Ask Him to use in His service, whatever abilities or talents He has bestowed upon you. Give all to Him, who gave all to you. Keep back not one whit, but rejoice in laying at His feet the least and the greatest gift in your possession. And "do it now." At this very time, let your steadfast purpose be recorded in Heaven, that you desire with your whole heart to give yourself and your life to God.
"O Lord, Your heavenly grace impart,
And fix my frail, inconstant heart;
Henceforth my chief desire shall be
To dedicate myself to Thee,
To Thee, my God, to Thee.
Renouncing every worldly thing,
Safe 'neath the covert of Your wing,
My sweetest thought henceforth shall be
That all I want I find in Thee,
In Thee, my God, in Thee."
But after this self-surrender, the motto still may follow you. All through the year, every day, every hour, every moment, there still comes the message, "Do it now." The living sacrifice has to be daily renewed, and to be daily manifested in every part of our Christian life.
A thousand temptations are sure to meet us, and each bids us to withhold some tribute we owe to our King.
Common everyday duties will strive to hinder us in prayer,
the opposition or unreasonableness of those about us will try the temper,
the desire for some earthly thing will come to draw the heart from God,
trials and sorrows will be ready to close our lips in praise —
but amidst all we must hear and obey the voice of the Good Shepherd. Whatever He commands, hearken and keep it. "Whatever He says unto you, do it." And "do it now."
"Pray without ceasing."
"Search the Scriptures."
"In everything give thanks."
"Walk worthy of the calling with which you are called."
"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven."
"Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble."
"Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
"Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds."
"Be followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us."
"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
You need continually to be mindful of such precepts as these. Get them engraved on your heart by the Spirit. See how perfectly Christ exemplified every virtue which they demand. And then, as one or another comes home to you, as the necessities of life suggest — be ever ready to fulfill it. Or if you feel it far beyond you, if the strain for the moment seems too great — look down and look up. Look down in consciousness of your own utter inability — but look upward in full reliance upon the strength of Jesus.
"I think I know what is the meaning of that verse, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,'" said a little girl very dear to me, who had learned to love the Savior, and who shortly afterwards was called to her eternal home. "So many things come in the day which I feel I cannot do right, and then I say, 'Lord, help me,' and then I can do them better."
Thus each day, depend on Jesus for each day's special need. Live day by day. Whatever is your present duty, do it, and do it now, and leave the morrow in the hand of God. It was Luther's saying —
"Mortals, cease from care and sorrow,
God provides for the morrow."
"Do it now." There are two further applications of this motto I desire to make before I leave it.
Possibly some reader may have had at times a gentle twinge of conscience as to some matter which you have been putting off to a more convenient season. It ought to be done, but it goes against the grain. It involves special self-denial. It requires more sustained effort than you like to make. It may be commencing family prayer. It may be arranging to come to a week-day service, or offering your help for some church work. It may be reproving some sin which often comes before you, or looking after a child for which in some way you are responsible, or joining the temperance army, or paying off a debt of long standing, or making special intercession for some relative or friend whom you fear is yet far from God.
Had you not better face the difficulty at once, and have courage enough to confess your neglect, and do the bit of work — whatever it may be? If you do not, may it not come back, and bring sad remorse to you — when the door is shut, or perhaps when you lie on your death-bed? Is it not wiser, friend, to hearken to the still, small voice which gently calls you to the path of duty, than at last to hear an accusation of guilt and neglect which may be as a voice of thunder, and which you cannot silence? Brother, sister, "do it now." Search out forgotten and neglected duties. Seek to know the uttermost of what your Father would have you do, and then to the best of your power, go forth and fulfill it.
"Do it now." Son, daughter, "go, work today in My vineyard." The call is urgent. In the world at this moment there are upwards of fourteen hundred million souls; and what is their condition? Above one thousand million of these are heathens and Mohammedans, and only about two thousand five hundred missionaries to teach them the way of life. Thus there is but one missionary on an average, to nearly half-a-million of people, and there are hundreds of millions who have yet scarcely heard of Christ.
And in Britain and in other professing Christian countries, how few are those who are faithful to the name they bear. The followers of Christ are but a little flock. Infidelity, superstition, sin, formality, worldliness, novel-reading, self-righteousness, the love of money or of pleasure — bear sway over the hearts of a vast proportion, so that loyalty to Christ and compassion for men's souls ought to stir up every believer to work and prayer.
Oh, that each reader who loves the Master and values His salvation would be a diligent, earnest laborer in gathering in those who have gone astray, and in forwarding by all means the kingdom of our God! Shrink not from toil or conflict, from reproach and opposition. "Those who are with us, are more than those who are against us." What a vast amount of good might be done, if Christian ladies would spend less time in fancy-work, and busy idleness, and light reading — and give more thought and time to visit the homes of the poor, and strive to bring the lost sheep into the fold!
A few years ago a lady was thinking over a sphere of work that opened out before her. But the difficulties were too great. She knew not how to face them. Meanwhile she had a dream.
Before her lay a vast field of ripened grain. At her feet was a sickle, and she heard a voice calling to her, "Take up and reap! Take up and reap!" But in her dream she answered, "Nay, Lord, I cannot. The work is too great. It is beyond my strength." And a voice replied, "Go forth, and other reapers will I send." So she awoke, and hesitated no longer. In the name of Christ she began to work among the Communists of Belleville. Many a friend did the Lord raise up to help her, and not a few precious sheaves has she gathered for the garner of her Lord.
The call today is for you who read these words. The sickle is put within your reach. The voice speaks to you, "Take up and reap." Do what lies in you, to spread abroad the name of Christ. In His strength, bear a faithful witness for Him. At home or abroad, in public or private, with one gift or with many — go and do something to save a lost one. Go and visit a sick neighbor, read to him the Word of Life, or repeat to him the last message you heard from the pulpit. Go and take under your charge a little knot of half-a-dozen or more houses; lend them Christian books or papers, and by kindness seek to draw them to the Good Shepherd.
Go and gather a few poor children, and in your own home or the Sunday school, tell them of Jesus. Be a mother to some motherless girl, or strive to bring back some prodigal lad. Try to get near some weary, unsatisfied heart in your own rank of life, and let not the fear of man hinder a plain, earnest word for Jesus. The rich have souls as well as the poor, though I fear too seldom the servant of Christ has courage to deal faithfully with them as he should.
In one or two of these ways, find your own niche, and fill it well.
And there is one other way in which you may no less forward the good work. Can you not go and refresh those who are bearing the burden and heat of the day? Often in a busy harvest-time, you see little children bring food and refreshment to their fathers, wearied by hard toil and labor.
They are too weak to thrust in the sickle and carry the sheaf, but in this way they can help those that do. Thus may you act. You may not be able to do much personally. Home duties may absolutely prevent it. But may you not cheer and encourage the heart of your pastor, or of a visitor or Sunday-school teacher, by your genuine sympathy, by your prayers and intercessions, by your readiness to give the money that is needful, as far as you have it in your power? May you not deny yourself to give a weekly offering for missionary work? At least, "do something for somebody," and "do it now." While you tarry, the door may be shut, the opportunity may be gone.
Some years ago, a tribe of Indians sent a request for a teacher to come and instruct them in Christian truth. But means were so straitened, and the laborers so few, that the missionary was obliged to refuse. For six years they sent, but the only reply that could be given was that British Christians had not given them men enough, or money enough, to enable them to break fresh ground. The seventh year a teacher was sent, but in vain. The tribe received him coldly. They no longer believed the white man's religion was true — or he would have come before. Moreover, they were just off to a war which had broken out, and they had no time to give to instruction.
Alas, for lost opportunities! Alas, for the many who live and die without ever hearing of Christ! Alas, for the guilt of British Christians in possessing the good news, but withholding the means to send it over the wide world!
Christians! be up and doing. Time is short. Your own life is advancing. The Master's chariot is at the door. "Go, then and preach the gospel." "Do it now."
I am not unmindful that there are difficulties. The devil is neither dead nor asleep — and he knows how to hinder God's servants. But you need not be discouraged. Christ promises to you the mighty aid of His Holy Spirit. The Spirit will fit you for the work. The Spirit will prepare the ground. The Spirit will follow your words with blessing. Moreover there shall be a marvelous recompense at Christ's appearing. Even the work that has seemed to prosper least, shall be abundantly rewarded if only done for Christ in faith and love.
Whatever be the toil or self-denial involved, whatever the loss or reproach incurred — Christ knows, Christ accepts, and He gives an infinite reward far beyond all our thought.
It was a sorrowful picture. It told a tale of sad distress, of such misery as is for the most part the fruit of idle or intemperate habits. A tramp, with wife and children, is lingering by the roadside. The husband stands irresolute, with a hopeless, care-nothing look — and the wife, with her four or five little ones, wearied with perpetual journeyings, desolate in heart, and longing for rest and quiet, looks up and asks, "Where next?"
In many ways it is worth while to think of this question. True, our future path is mercifully hidden from us. We have not trodden it heretofore, and it may be quite diverse from any that has preceded it.
"Where Next?" we may ask, but there is no reply. The path may lead up the hill of comfort and prosperity — or into the valley of sore trouble and distress. It may lead on through the sunshine of love and blessing — or into the dark shade of loneliness, persecution, or neglect. It may usher us into a bright home, where smiling faces greet us with loving tokens of affection — or into the house of mourning, the chamber of sickness, or into the presence of the last enemy, death. We cannot tell. Thank God it is so. Only let us stand on sure ground. Only let us be ready for the best or the worst, and then nothing shall harm us.
I am reminded, as I write, of one who has been called up higher. When the year 1883 began he was in perfect health, and so apparently continued for several months. But the token for departure came suddenly. Only half an hour elapsed between the first symptom of sickness — and the home-call. But a life of happy trust in Jesus, and of devoted work in His service, closed in joyful hope. "So glad to be at home!"
"Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast."
And the spirit fled to be with Him whom it had so long and faithfully served.
But though in one sense we cannot tell "Where next?" yet in another the future lies very much, under God, in our own hands. Holy Scripture gives plain directions where we are to place the foot next, where we are to steer our bark over life's troubled waves.
A ship was nearing Quebec harbor, but encompassed by a thick fog. A pilot was on board, but he did not dare to move the ship. But the captain remembered that the mast was high, and went aloft, and found he could see right over the fog. So he called the pilot up to him, and they stood together on the little platform, and, calling to the man at the wheel below, were able to direct the ship through the mist and fog, and bring her safely into the harbor.
We, too, may be surrounded by doubt and uncertainty. But God speaks to us from above by His Word. He will direct us aright, and if only we will follow as He commands, we cannot go astray.
I would like, first of all, to speak a word to anyone who has as yet been living without God. Though you may be free from open vice, though you may have a form of godliness — you are not at peace with God. You have no comfort in God's love. You have no assurance of sin forgiven. You know nothing of the light and power of the Holy Spirit. In some shape, the world has been supreme, and you would be afraid to die and to appear before God's judgment.
I would ask, "Where Next?" Are you not something like the man in the picture of whom I have spoken? You are restless and unsettled. You are a wanderer on the face of the earth. You go from scene to scene, from one object of desire to another, to hew out another broken cistern, when a previous one fails you. Why is it? Is it not because you have no true home in God? You have forsaken Him, and elsewhere all is unrest and change. Now where will you turn next? Will you go forth to meet the perils and uncertainties of life, afar from the shelter of His presence? Will you plunge into yet greater depths of sin and evil? Will you go into some more distant province of the far country, life advancing, conscience hardening, habits of carelessness strengthening, and Christ Himself becoming more and more a name, a mere shadow?
Think of the end of such a course. Suppose the younger son had resisted the inner voice that called him home. Suppose that he had trampled under foot the suggestion to return, and had gone farther away, hiring himself out to some other citizen of the land — his story would have had a very different ending.
There is a limit to God's compassion. It has been said that in our day the book of wrath has been closed, and the book of mercy alone remains open. But our God is ever the same. And His "goodness and severity" run side by side — -goodness beyond comparison, to all who receive it; but severity, and that terrible and without remedy, to those who neglect His mercy.
I remember a sorrowful sight, years ago, in a little Suffolk village. A man of worthless character could not, or would not, pay his rent. At last the landlord would bear the loss no longer. I imagine some of his furniture had been taken for the rent, but the rest was piled up in the middle of the street, for the man and his family had no other shelter to which to go.
Ah, think of a homeless soul! He must leave this world, but he has no hope for a better home. Poor, miserable, bankrupt, no refuge, no hiding place — he is exposed to those storms of wrath and judgment, which, by his own willful neglect and unbelief, he has brought down upon his own head.
"Where Next?" Let there be a better answer than this. "Draw near to God — and He will draw near to you." Yes, back to your Father's house, with all its light and love, with all its rich provision and kindly welcome and goodly clothing, with all its abounding joys and the hopes which arise — and that everlasting life which is the heritage of those who dwell there.
Make haste, my friend, before another day passes. The door is open. The Father is waiting. The feast is ready. Your place is vacant. Come in, come in! Fear not to enter. Former sins shall no more be remembered. The Spirit shall strengthen your desires, deepen your repentance, and quicken your faith. "Though your sins be as scarlet — they shall be made white as snow; though they be as the mighty mountain — they shall be as a plain; though they press on your conscience, and surround you on every side — yet they shall be cast into the depths of the sea, or put far from you as the east is from the west."
Blessed be God for the multitudes who have of late found out the truth of this! Blessed be God for those who have been among drunkards, revilers, thieves, harlots — but are now found among the children of God! Blessed be God for the peace that has made many a desert home and many a desert heart — to bloom and blossom as the rose!
For eight years a working man would leave his wife each Sunday night at the door of the church, and go to the public-house to sing songs, for which he was treated with drink. One day he went out on the annual holiday with his fellow-workmen. In a fit of passion he uttered a fearful oath. Strange to say, the remembrance of that oath was the first step on the road to a new life. He was not without a conscience, and he had not been without warning; for a Christian master had often spoken to him about his life, and this had not been without its effect. Now "that oath" was like a dart, ever troubling him. He went to the races — but he could not enjoy them, for he could think of nothing but "that oath."
He now went to church, but it only made matters worse. Not one sin, but all the sins of his life, came back to him, and proved a burden too heavy to bear. He knelt down in prayer, but his soul was as dark as the room in which he prayed.
But gospel light broke through at last. Crossing the race-course one day, a text learned in Sunday school flashed across his memory, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief!" (1 Timothy 1:15). "If Christ came to save sinners, if He died to save sinners — He will save me, for I am a sinner and nothing else!" So he thought, and he so rejoiced, and he went to the workshop and told the men that Jesus had saved him; and from that day he was not ashamed to confess Christ, and to use his voice in singing the praises of the Savior.
"Come home, come home,
From the sorrow and blame,
From the sin and the shame,
And the tempter that smiled;
O prodigal child,
Come home, oh, come home"
Here is the answer to the question, "Where Next?" Come home! Come home! Spend no more days in a fruitless search for peace below. Make no more vain attempts to do without God. Do not risk another year or another day outside the stronghold of divine love. Turn now and be saved. Fall on your knees and pray. Be humbled for sin. Accept the message of salvation, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
But these words may be read by many who have come home, and have sat down at their Father's table, and are now rejoicing in the light of His countenance, and in the benefits which He is ever pouring upon them. With you does the question arise, "Where Next?" I have a plain answer.
To greater heights of holiness,
to further steps on the heavenly course,
to more life and power and peace and love,
to more knowledge and understanding in the way of godliness
— so that you may better glorify your Father in Heaven, and be more filled with all the fullness of God.
However little you may have attained hitherto, cherish a lofty ideal of the Christian life. Let there be a spirit of sincere thankfulness for your standing in Christ. Let there be no manner of doubt cherished in your mind that, by virtue of Christ's work, and through your union with Him by faith — you are now a beloved child, free from all charge of guilt, and on your wav to the celestial city.
But let this only be as vantage-ground for higher ascents, for nobler aims, and a standard of life and character far, far beyond anything yet reached. As the Alpine climber rejoices in the rest and refreshment of a level place along the way, but only uses it to help him onward toward the mountain summit — so let the privileges already enjoyed nerve and stimulate you to attempt greater things than yet you have known. Always be satisfied with Christ and your standing in Him, but never be satisfied with yourself. Cherish at all times a holy discontent with your own attainments. Never think or say, "Enough."
Look at the saints of God who have gone before you, alike those of Bible times and those of later days, and see what traces of humility, self-sacrifice, joyfulness in service and suffering, triumphant faith in God, and life-long consecration to His work, were found in them — and consider how far you lag behind.
Look, above all things, at your Great Pattern, and learn how infinitely His spirit and motive and aim and life overtop your own, even upon the very best day or hour you have ever spent. "Higher and higher!" must be your one thought and purpose. The moment you stop, you begin to go back. Our only safety is to go onward and forward and upward — and never to look back until we have reached the elevated goal.
But HOW shall you do this?
First take a survey of the exceeding great power which God manifested towards His people. The Apostle Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, delights to extol the power which first raises them from the grave of sin, and henceforth works in them mightily to an ever higher and more Christ-like life. It is the same almighty power which raised Christ Himself from the dead. It finds a man dead to God, and all that is holy and good, carried away by a threefold current — the course of this world, the power of the evil one, the sinful desire of the flesh (Ephesians 2:1-3) — three, and yet one — toward the dark abyss of wrath and woe.
And what does it do for him? It gives him a true life, and then lifts him right above the force of this triple current, even to a place beside Christ on His throne! In heart and mind, by faith he thus ascends, and with Christ may continually dwell, even now, as he expects hereafter to do in a still more blessed sense, when, clothed in his glorified body, he beholds Him face to face (Ephesians 2:6, 7). This power goes on working in him and with him. The Apostle tells of "the effectual working of this power" (Ephesians 3:7) in himself for the ministry of the Word; then he prays for the Ephesians that they may be "strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man," then in the doxology he anticipates God's working "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us!"
We can never rise too high in our expectations of the blessed effects of His power.
It can lift a man safely over the greatest temptations.
It can make him strong in every possible grace and virtue.
It can make him a mighty instrument for the fulfillment of God's purposes.
It can make him triumph over the greatest sorrows and afflictions "unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11).
But it is doubly encouraging for a believer to look at His power, if he surveys at the same time the exceeding greatness of the love by which it is directed. In fact, all through this Epistle to the Ephesians, the mighty power and marvelous love of God to His people run side by side. Trace them out by careful study. It is through "the great love with which He loved" them, that they are quickened to a new life (Ephesians 2:4, 5). Words seem almost to fail the Apostle as he dwells on the dimensions of the love of Christ (3:18, 19). He reminds the Ephesians that they are "beloved children" — and then twice in the same chapter touches on Christ's love in giving Himself for His Church (verses 2, 25).
What a consolation is here! See here linked together, infinite power and infinite love — and both going hand in hand to fill our empty vessels with grace, power, and life.
We might look at God's infinite power, and if we knew nothing of His love, it might be our exceeding fear. We might look at love, however great, and if there were no power behind it, might expect little or nothing of advantage from it. But see them in harmony, working together for our present and future welfare, and we may rejoice in the glad certainty of blessed results.
In manifold cares, anxieties, needs, sorrows, sufferings, losses, disappointments, fears — let us speak to our own hearts, and never give way to doubt and unbelief. "Why are you cast down, O my soul?" If God is for you — then who can be against you? If He loves you with such a boundless love — will He forget you, will He leave you, will He withhold from you needful grace and needful gifts? If He is almighty to keep you — shall Satan, or the world, or tribulation, or death ever harm you? "Hope you in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God."
Especially in this matter of increasing life and holiness, let this thought of power and love combined strengthen our faith and stir up our liveliest expectations of success. And I believe it is on this point, that very much of our present experience of this power depends. You must expect much, if you would receive much. You must let the heart expand with fervent desires, if you would obtain all that God loves to give.
Take an illustration. A vessel has been becalmed in the midst of the ocean, and the sailors have grown listless, and perchance are almost asleep on the deck of the ship. But there are plain indications of a favoring breeze. The water at a distance is in motion, and the sailors know well the reason. At once all the crew are alive and active. They spread every yard of canvas — mainsail and topsail, and any other lesser sail, all are opened out, and the cheering wind soon comes and sends them quickly forward over the trackless deep.
Something like this is your duty and your privilege. The Word of God tells of the power God is ready to put forth on your behalf. He tells you of His mighty Spirit coming with resistless energy, to forward you on your Heavenward way. But look for the gift. Wait for the gift. Long for the gift. Ask for the gift. It is ready to be given, but you must be in the attitude to receive it. "Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?" "As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul after You, O God," "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it!" "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." "He has filled the hungry with good things, but the rich He has sent empty away."
Would you receive much of this mighty power of the Spirit of God? I bid you remember to be frequent, expectant, and persistent in your petitions for this precious blessing. Be definite and distinct in asking, through your great ascended Mediator, the presence of the Comforter to dwell in you and work in you more and more mightily. Ask through Him, life to be imparted more abundantly. Ask through Him, the renewing, maintaining, increasing of the life already given. You cannot fail in your petition for this. For the glory of His Son, for the glory of His own name, He will grant you a large and abundant answer.
Another point is important as to the reception of this power from above. It is always bestowed in connection with an increasing knowledge of Christ Himself. The Spirit bears witness of Christ, and strengthens the soul by revealing more of Him. Hence in Philippians 3:10 we find the Apostle joining these two together, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection." Hence the importance of searching more in the Word for the knowledge of Christ. "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!" 2 Peter 3:18. "May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." 2 Peter 1:2. Hence the importance of searching more in the Word, for the knowledge of Christ.
Learn to know Him more in the beauty of His holy, spotless life of obedience and self-sacrifice.
Learn to know Him in the greatness of His humiliation and sufferings.
Learn to know Him in the unspeakable benefits of His Cross.
Learn to know Him as a justifying Redeemer, clothing His people with His spotless robe of merit and righteousness.
Learn to know Him as a living Redeemer, the living One, who can never die.
Learn to know Him as the ascended, exalted, glorified Redeemer, the great Head of His Church, and the great Advocate and High Priest of all who draw near to the Father through Him.
Learn to know Him as a conquering Redeemer, who overcame sin, and the world, and death, and all the powers of darkness — and who will no less overcome them in each of His own little flock.
Learn to know him as the Coming One, as He who shall come to reign over earth and Heaven!
Through this knowledge of Christ, the Spirit brings increasing power. If in secular matters the axiom is true, "Knowledge is power" — then it is still more so as to the highest knowledge. To know Christ experimentally in all His offices and work and character, is to gain a mighty leverage for holy living — and to grow in faith and love and every grace.
Nor must we forget a further point. Power in the spiritual life, is increased by use and exercise. As the bodily frame grows strong and vigorous by the active employment of whatever strength we possess — so does God give to the soul more strength for service while we use well that we already possess. "To him that has — shall more be given," is the invariable rule in the kingdom of God.
Take the Christian who begins his course with the deep conviction that it is his bounden duty to work in Christ's vineyard and to fill well some niche in the Church. Let him go forth day by day prepared to use every opportunity of saving a soul, or doing some act of kindness for Christ's sake. The religion of such a one will thrive and grow — while a brother Christian who works hard, but only in his business, will be starved and dwarfed and stunted in soul for lack of that active exertion which is so needful to the right development of the Christian life.
Yes, and often the life which is well near extinguished, has been restored and revived by some effort to benefit another. Most of us will remember the incident of the traveler in the Alps, himself almost ready to sink down into a fatal sleep from the effects of the bitter cold, restored to full vigor by the pains he took to bring back to consciousness one whom he found sleeping in the snow.
If you would grow in power and spiritual life, be sure you are zealous in good works. Putting no confidence in anything you do — yet go forth and do all to which Christ calls you. In season and out of season, in all places and in all companies, traveling and resting, on Sundays and week-days — have an eye to see the work you may do for Christ, and the heart boldly and fearlessly to fulfill it.
"Where next?" If you strive to advance and grow in the Divine life, what is there yet to follow? We can only answer this in the spirit of faith. With most of us, or all of us — it may soon be our narrow bed in the cemetery. So nature speaks. But faith whispers another end.
It tells of angels waiting to receive the departing spirit;
it tells of a flight to a calm rest in the Savior's bosom;
it tells of a bright city and undefiled inheritance;
it tells of a lifting up to meet the Lord in the air, and then of a life beyond, whose joys can never be counted nor its years numbered. "O Lord, increase my faith!" Give me the sweet assurance that You are my eternal home, and that my eyes shall behold the King in His beauty!
Meanwhile depend on God in every change. Full of infirmity and sin as you are — you are accepted in the Beloved, and very dear to God. Be not dismayed at anything that may happen to you. It is only God's messenger, and can do you no harm. In your darkest days a light shall shine, and then by-and-by the light of eternal day.
"Our happiness does not depend on outward circumstances, but on the mercy of God. I have been in depths of distress more than perhaps I ever was before in my life, but my most tried days have been my happiest. I do not need to go into particulars; suffice it to say that once during the year I was in deep trouble, and made to feel my weakness more than ever I did before, and had very important duties dependent on me at the time, which I could not perform — and yet that was the very happiest day in the whole year to me. I record this to cheer my brethren in Christ, and encourage them to face trials with hope. And they will be all the more encouraged to do this when I tell them that my peace and childlike rest arose from a view I had of the meaning of these words, that Christ is 'the brightness of the Father's glory,' and that He 'upholds all things by the word of His power.' In fact, I felt that He upheld me, and I could afford to treat all difficulties with indifference, casting all my care upon Him, for I felt that He cared for me. I cannot always feel like that. Nevertheless it was a safe and happy refuge for my weary soul."
Thus wrote one to his flock at the commencement of 1882, and but a short time ago he was called to his rest, after twenty-six years of faithful ministry. He was known to me at the University as a true follower of Christ, and ever since he has been doing the Master's work. May each of us be found at our post when the Lord calls! May we taste the same consolation in our day of trial, and be ready to go up higher when our day's work is done!
"Lord, be Your Word my rule,
Therein may I rejoice;
Your glory, be my aim,
Your holy will, my choice.
Your promises, my hope,
Your providence, my guard,
Your arm, my strong support,
Yourself, my sure reward."