The Evening Sacrifice
Or, A Help to Devotion
James Smith, 1859
"Abide with us — for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." Luke 24.29
The presence of Jesus is the life and the joy of the saints. When we enjoy it — we dread the thought of losing it; and when we have lost it — we cannot rest until we have regained it. That is a gloomy day, in which the presence of Jesus is not enjoyed; and that is a dreary night, when Jesus is absent from us.
Jesus had accompanied the two disciples to Emmaus; he now made as if he would leave them, and go farther; but they constrained him, saying, "Abide with us — for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent."
Reader! have you enjoyed the presence of Jesus today? Has he communed with your spirit, thereby strengthening your faith, exciting your hope, and deepening your comfort?
If so, I know that your prayer tonight will be, "Abide with me! Yes, precious Lord Jesus, we do beseech you to visit us, converse with us, open up the Scriptures to us, and abide with us. Let us feast our eyes on your glory — and our hearts on your grace. With you, we can feel at home — we can be happy anywhere. Without you, we cannot rest, we cannot feel satisfied, we cannot enjoy repose, let us have what we may. You have won our heart's love — you have made yourself the center and source of our comfort. Come, then, and abide with us this evening, and then a blessed evening it will be. Your presence will free us from all our cares, and raise us above all our troubles. Your presence will feast us, refresh us, and make us satisfied with our lot, be it what it may!"
"But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress — and he hears my voice!" Psalm 55:16-17
The well taught Christian carries everything to God — and in so doing, obtains relief, enjoys peace, and grows in grace. For all that we need, we should call upon God. And from all that we fear — we should flee unto God.
At the close of every day, it is our mercy to call upon the Lord
We must make confession of sin — and obtain pardon.
We must carry to him our burdens — and obtain relief.
We must tell out before him our needs — and obtain a supply.
Oh, how precious it is to go to the Lord at the close of each day, and tell him all that has vexed us, grieved us, cast us down, or disquieted our spirits!
And how blessed to go to him each morning, and seek grace to live holily and happily through the day!
Nor is it less blessed to have a few minutes with God at noon, breaking, as it were, the day in two, and keeping short accounts with God.
O for a spirit of habitual prayer, that at evening, and at morning, and at noon — we may pray, and cry aloud to God!
If we were more with the Lord in prayer, we would have . . .
more strength to carry our crosses,
more patience to bear our troubles,
and more comfort amidst life's sorrows.
Holy Spirit, take up your residence in my heart as a Spirit of prayer, and lead me daily, hourly, yes, very often — to the mercy-seat. Let me find the hours of prayer precious seasons. And especially at eventide, when worn and exhausted with the toils and troubles of the day, let me find sweet solace and refreshment in pouring out my soul unto God.
Precious Lord Jesus, draw our souls to you evening by evening, and lead us into the presence of your Father, that we may have sweet and hallowed fellowship with God! Let our devotions ascend as sweet incense to God.
"At midnight I rise to give you thanks." Psalm 119:62
"Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth." Psalm 31:5
If the Lord has gone to the expense of redeeming us — then we may well trust him to take care of us. If the blood of his Son was shed as our ransom-price, and if his almighty arm was made bare for our rescue from sin and its penalty — then we may well commit our souls, our all, into his keeping. "He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all — how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" What good can he withhold from us — who would not withhold his only-begotten and well-beloved Son?
Let us, therefore, morning by morning, and evening by evening, commit our souls, our selves, our all — into his hands, that we may be preserved from all evil, and be kept by his power unto eternal salvation. As our redeeming God, he will be faithful to his charge.
O you who have redeemed me from the curse, and brought me under your blessing — I surrender myself into your hands for this night. Preserve me from all evil; from destructive elements and extreme pains; from all moral evil and from all temporal danger. If wakeful, may I commune with you, and meditate on your truth; and if I sleep, may I be kept from distracting and distressing dreams. Take me and make me your charge. Take me and preserve me unto your kingdom and glory. Take me and use me for your honor and praise. Take body, soul, and spirit — sanctify me, and preserve me blameless unto the coming of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. O Lord, I cannot trust myself — I can trust no one but you: therefore, I commit myself and my all into your hands, and leave myself with you for life or for death, just as you please.
"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day!" 2 Timothy 1:12
"I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
David looked above circumstances — to his God. He may have to lie in the open field, or in the cleft of the rock, exposed to ravenous beasts, or to more ravenous men; but he would lie down in peace, and sleep — for he knew that safety is of the Lord. "He gives his beloved sleep."
How many this night will be kept awake, by pain, or by nervous fears, or watching by the bed-side of the sick or dying, or waiting for the return of absent relatives or friends! How much anxiety, and fear, and pain, will be experienced this night — by thousands of the Lord's people!
But as for me, favored by a gracious providence, comforted with the sense of the presence of my God, and persuaded of my saving interest in his precious promises — I will both lie down and sleep in peace, persuaded that my heavenly Father will watch beside my pillow, and keep me safe.
Omnipresent God, my soul confides in you! I lay me down tonight as in your presence, to sleep as beneath your eye. May my sleep be peaceful, and my repose refreshing and sweet. Let my exhausted energies be renewed. Let my person and property be kept safely. And in the morning, let me awake realizing your presence, assured of your love, and enjoying your paternal smile.
How many nights, have you kept me safely! With how many mercies, have you crowned my lot! For these favors I bless you, and praise your glorious name. And now, relying on the atoning blood of your Son Jesus, as savingly invested with his glorious righteousness, and as accepted in your presence through him — I enjoy peace. And with peace in my conscience, at peace with you and all your creatures, I lay me down and sleep.
"When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked — for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared!" Proverbs 3:24-26
"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said: Peace be with you!" John 20:19
Jesus made our peace by the blood of his cross, and now he speaks peace to us by his word and by his Spirit. He made a full atonement for our sins; and as believers in him, there is now no reason why God should punish us. Therefore . . .
our God is called the God of peace;
the gospel is called the good news of peace;
and Jesus is called the Prince of peace.
Having made our peace, he wishes us to be peaceful and happy. He met his disciples on the Lord's day evening, and standing in the midst, he said, "Peace be with you!" As he visited his people then — so he visits his people now. In the public means of grace, in the domestic circle, when gathered for devotional purposes, and in the closet — Jesus meets his people.
My soul, has Jesus visited you today? Have you felt him near to you? Has he imparted his holy peace to you? If so, bless his dear name. If not, lift up your heart now, and entreat this blessing.
O Jesus, you visited your disciples after your resurrection, and you visit your people still. Visit my poor soul this evening! Come, and whisper peace to my heart! Come, and soothe my troubled spirit. Come, and strengthen me with strength in my soul. O Jesus, I can find no substitute for you, or for your presence! Come near to me in mercy tonight. Manifest your love to me anew tonight — and let me rejoice in you tonight! Sun of my soul, shine upon me! Joy of my heart, be present with me, for your mercy's sake!
"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21
"May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice." Psalm 141:2
The incense was burnt and offered by the priest alone, in solemn silence, in the holy place — while the people were praying outside. It represented the merit of Jesus — rendering the prayers and praises of his people fragrant, pleasant, and acceptable to God. The evening sacrifice was a lamb, to make atonement and procure pardon for the daily sins of the people. Thus peace was preserved, and the sinful people were secure.
Blessed Lord, evening by evening would I come to you, and confess my guilt, disobedience, unbelief, and fears. Every evening would I come, and plead the slain Lamb — that my sins may be pardoned, my conscience cleansed, and my peace with you maintained. Help me to set forth my prayers before you as regularly, as punctually, and with solemn reverence — just as the priest of old presented the incense. And give me grace that I may exercise faith in Jesus, and have such confidence in you as to be assured of my pardon and acceptance with you, that I may enjoy liberty before you.
O that my poor prayers and praises may be associated with the blood of the Lamb, and be perfumed with the much incense of his merits! O that I may so believe, so worship, and so walk with you, as to lie down on my pillow at night at peace with You, and at peace with all mankind, and prepared either to awake in this world or another, just as it shall seem good to You! May my prayers be acceptable and prevalent, through the sacrifice and intercession of my Lord and Savior.
Precious Savior, I put my person and my prayers into your hand — perfume them with your merits, and so present them to your Father!
"Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne." Revelation 8:3
"I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave." Psalm 86:12-13
How much I have to be grateful for! I ought to be always praising and blessing the Lord. His mercy to me has been infinitely great, and his salvation is wonderful. By my own sin, by my own fault — my soul was ruined. I deserved, and was by the law doomed to the lowest Hell. And to the lowest Hell I must have sunk — but for the free grace and sovereign mercy of my God! At the expense of the blood of his Son, and by the out-stretched arm of his Spirit — he undertook to save me. And blessed be his name — I am saved, and saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.
Instead of the lowest Hell — I shall spend an eternity in the highest Heaven. Instead of being the companion and scorn of devils, and a fellow-sufferer with the vilest portion of God's creation — I shall dwell with God, and enjoy the society of saints and holy angels forever and ever.
Ever blessed Lord, I will praise you with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name for evermore. For your mercy towards me is infinitely great, and your delivering of me from the lowest Hell demands my deepest gratitude. O that I could praise you with every breath! O that every thought, word, and deed, were baptized in gratitude! O that by night and by day, at home and abroad, I could praise, bless, and adore your glorious name! Holy Spirit, work powerfully in my heart — give me a vivid sense of God's great love to me, and of the great salvation which he has wrought for me! O that I could praise and bless my God on earth, as the ransomed and glorified hosts do above!
O glorious thought! In a little time such will be my privilege, and my privilege forever!
"Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living!" Psalm 116:7-9
"I beseech You — show me Your glory!" Exodus 33:18
We should desire to know as much of God as possible. His essential glory cannot be seen by us, without inflicting injury upon us; therefore it is withheld from us. But his glory as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ, may be seen — and we are benefitted by the sight. Jesus revealed Jehovah; and in that revelation — we see that grace, mercy, and holiness, constitute his glory. It is his glory . . .
to show mercy to the miserable;
to shower down the richest blessings on the unworthy; and
to sanctify polluted creatures, making them like himself, that they may be happy as himself.
But nowhere is God's glory seen in so solemn and yet in so amiable a light — as in the cross of Jesus! There he appears inflexibly just, in that he punishes his beloved Son with the utmost rigor of the law, because the sins of his people were placed to his account. There he appears sovereignly gracious, in that he pardons, justifies, and places in his bosom — the vilest and unworthiest of mankind, for whom Jesus died.
O Lord, we beseech you — show us your glory! Send the Holy Spirit to unfold the great mystery of redemption to us! Let us see mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace embrace each other — in the wondrous transactions of Calvary! May we behold you as just — and yet the justifier of every one who believes in Jesus! May we so see your glory in the gospel — that all earthly glory may fade and die before our minds, and that we may be prepared to see and enjoy your glory in a brighter and better world! May your glory be our glory! in order to which — fill us with a love to justice and holiness, and enable us to exercise mercy and loving-kindness to all around us! O Savior, glorify yourself in me!
ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Ephesians 1:3
God's love to us is infinite. He considers nothing too good or too great, to confer upon His redeemed children. Having chosen us in his Son, that we may be holy and blameless before him — in love he blessed us with all spiritual blessings. He gave us grace in Jesus — grace before the foundation of the world — grace for all time — grace for all trials — grace to be given to us as our circumstances may require.
In going to the throne of grace, therefore, we just go to receive what our heavenly Father has stored up in Jesus for us. What sweet encouragement is this! Well may the apostle say, "Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Blessed Lord, we thank you, we praise you, we bless your glorious name — that you have chosen us and put us into Christ, made provision for us in Christ, and will make us perfectly holy through Christ. Teach us to come with boldness and confidence to your throne, that we may obtain for our use, all that you have treasured up for us in Jesus. O give us more faith in Christ — more humility when at your throne — more zeal for your glory when in the world — more love to you and your people; and teach us to eat, drink, dress, and do everything to your glory!
O to be thoroughly Christ-like! O to reflect the glory of God on all around us! O to live and act as on the confines of eternity, as if always impressed with this fact, "I shall soon be in Heaven!" Gracious Savior, raise me above this world, fix my affections on yourself, fill me with your Spirit, and enable me to lie down tonight with the assurance that all spiritual blessings are mine!
"May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed." Psalm 72:17
OPEN MY EYES
"Open my eyes — that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." Psalm 119:18
God's book is a book of wonders! It is a wonderful record . . .
of God's power in creation,
of his wisdom in providence,
and of his grace in redemption.
It has the stamp of infinity upon it. We cannot penetrate its heights, fathom its depths, or traverse its lengths and breadths — but as we are taught of God. The Holy Spirit, who indited it and inspired holy men to write it, must unfold and reveal it — or we shall never . . .
see its glory,
be impressed with its majesty, or
rejoice in its divine communications.
Never let us read any portion of God's word without looking up for divine teaching. Never let us imagine that we know all that is contained in any one chapter, or any one verse of God's blessed book — for there is a fullness in the holy Scriptures not to be found anywhere else.
Oh, ever blessed Spirit of God, who has given us your holy word to instruct our intellects, sanctify our hearts, and regulate our lives — we beseech you . . .
to enlighten our minds to understand it,
to open our hearts to receive it,
to give us faith to believe it, and
to enable us to reduce it to practice in our every-day life!
O to understand the sublime doctrines, to believe the precious promises, and to practice the holy precepts of God's blessed word!
Lord, unveil to us the types, unfold to us the prophecies — and apply to our hearts, the consolatory portions of the sacred Scriptures. May we hide the word in our hearts, that we may not sin against you. And may we speak of the word with our lips, that we may edify and bless our friends. O to catch the meaning, taste the sweetness, and feel the power of God's holy truth! O Lord, open our eyes, and unfold the truth to us this night! O Lord, soften our hearts, and bring home your word with power!
"Then opened he their understanding — that they might understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
TO BE TAUGHT TO PRAY
"Lord, teach us to pray!" Luke 11:1
It is a humbling fact that of ourselves, we neither know how to pray nor what to pray for. It is a special mercy that the Holy Spirit is provided to help our infirmities, and to make intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.
Sometimes we have no proper sense of our needs. Sometimes we have no devotional feelings. And sometimes we have no words with which to express ourselves before God. Some of our severest conflicts, are upon our knees.
We want to pray — but cannot.
We are sighing for communion with God — but cannot enjoy it.
We want to pour out our whole souls to the Lord — but have not a word to say.
Never did the disciples more need the teaching of their Master — than we need the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, teach us to know ourselves — our needs, our transgressions, and our relationship to you. And then teach us to . . .
present ourselves to you,
confess our sins before you,
ask for a supply of our needs from you,
obtain the pardon of all we have done amiss,
and call you Abba, Father!
O teach us to pray this evening! O teach us to come before you, even to your seat — to draw near to you by the blood of Jesus, and find liberty in opening our heart to you. O to pray in faith, with fervor, according to your will, and as shall be acceptable in your sight!
Never allow us to be satisfied with a form, or merely to utter meaningless words before you — but let our whole hearts be engaged in the service — let us worship you in spirit and in truth. Let us pray in the Spirit, and with the understanding also.
Precious Lord Jesus, you are touched with a feeling of our infirmities, you know the hindrances which we meet with — therefore teach us to pray.
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8:26-27
"I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing!" 2 Samuel 24:10
Sin is folly — therefore God calls the sinner a fool. It is the greatest folly to give way to temptation and yield to sin; for it may injure others — it must injure ourselves. That which brings darkness on our minds, guilt on our consciences, and distress into our souls — must be injurious; and sin always does this!
But sin also dishonors God, grieves the Holy Spirit, and gives Satan an occasion against us.
Most holy and most merciful Father, give us a deep and growing hatred to all sin. Embitter sin to us, and thoroughly set our hearts against it. May we see that it was our sins which crucified your Son! May we look on him whom we have pierced — and mourn that we have wounded our loving Lord. O deliver us from the guilt of all our past sins, and blot them from the book of your remembrance — for we have done very foolishly. Our sins are very great, our iniquity is altogether inexcusable. We condemn ourselves; but, O Lord, do not condemn us! Let the precious blood of your beloved Son be heard for us in Heaven; and let that precious blood be heard by us speaking in our consciences — thus give us peace, comfort, and holiness. We admire your patience, forbearance, and long-suffering; we adore your holiness, justice, and forgiving love. Let us feel your pity, sympathy, and pardoning mercy — for your great name's sake. If any are suffering through our fault, on account of our folly — Lord comfort them, relieve them, and soon, very soon, set them free from their sufferings. And let it please you to set our hearts against sin, and make us wise to discover and avoid all temptations to sin. O to be cleansed from all sin — and to be filled with holiness and love!
"My soul cleaves unto the dust — quicken me according to your word!" Psalm 119:25
What powerful attractions the present world has! How prone we are . . .
to sink down to its level,
to become attached to its customs,
and to cleave to its vanities!
Yet, at the best, it is but dust. There is nothing in the world to satisfy or suit an immortal mind.
Jesus died for us, to deliver us from this present evil world. The Holy Spirit urges us to rise above it, and offers us his divine and all-sufficient aid. He will not force, but only attract or draw. Alas! that we should . . .
slight his intimations,
disregard his exhortations,
and grieve his loving heart!
We are not of the world — and yet how worldly we are! We are born from above — but yet how earthly we remain! Our souls go out after things that are carnal, drossy, dusty, contemptible — to the neglect of things that are spiritual, pure, holy, and invaluable.
Heavenly Father, we confess our folly, we deplore our ingratitude, we condemn our conduct! We feel weak and feeble when we attempt to burst our bonds, and mount upwards to your throne. O quicken, quicken us! By the power of your Holy Spirit, and by bringing home your inspired word — quicken our poor, cold, lifeless souls!
Have you not promised to be as the dew unto your people, coming down graciously, gradually, and gently upon them — in order to revive their graces, quicken their devotions, and cause them to grow up into Christ? O come down upon our dry and thirsty souls as the dew, or fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants.
Quicken us — and so will we mount up to your throne, wait upon you in your ways, and do your righteous will. Quicken us — and so Jesus will be precious to us, and the work of the Lord will be pleasant to us.
"Behold, I have longed after your precepts — quicken me in your righteousness." Psalm 119:40
"No chastening 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
Afflictions are always painful — and days of affliction are often gloomy. But as we are training for eternity, as we are maturing for Heaven, and as afflictions are necessary discipline — we must be afflicted. If chastisement were not necessary — then our loving Father would never use the rod. But as every one of us needs correction — He chastens every son whom He receives. God's chastisements are intended for our instruction — they are designed to teach us . . .
the evil of sin,
our need of grace,
the holiness of God,
the preciousness of Jesus,
the emptiness of the world,
and the blessedness of Heaven.
These are lessons of the deepest importance to us — lessons that we are slow to learn; and therefore we must have line upon line, and stroke upon stroke.
Heavenly Father, help us to bow to Your sovereign will, to bear with patience every stroke of Your rod, and to learn the holy and important lessons which You intend to teach us. May we not only submit to Your discipline — but, seeing the love that ordains it, and the need there is for it — even acquiesce in it. Keep us from fretting at pain, repining at losses, or giving way to too much grief at bereavements — knowing that all these things come from You, and that You design them for our good. Help us to understand that every trial and every trouble is a blessing — and will end in eternal glory. Sweet thought!
O for grace to yield ourselves to You — and to acquiesce in all Your paternal dealings!
"Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty." Job 5:17
"The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Psalm 145:15-16
All our supplies come from God, therefore our dependence should be on Him, and our expectations from Him. Creatures act towards us in kindness and sympathy — according to His direction.
The eyes of all creation are upon the Lord, and all the tribes of His creatures are fed by His hand. How much more, then, should His children look to Him, seek from Him, and expect to be supplied by Him!
Whatever God does — He does wisely and seasonably; and whatever He gives — is in season. When our needs are felt, and our cry is heard — then our supply is certain. It is but for God to open His hand — and all that we need drops from His palm. When God's hand opens — our desires will soon be satisfied. Every temporal mercy, every spiritual gift, and all the supplies needed by our souls — lie in the hand of God for us. He loves us to fix our eyes on Him, to lift up our voice to Him, and seek every blessing from Him.
Merciful Lord, You have fed us this day. Your loving heart and open hand have supplied all our needs. We gratefully acknowledge Your wondrous goodness, and bless You for Your suitable supplies. And now, O Lord, close up the day with us in mercy — give us a sense of Your forgiving love, faith in Your protecting care, and an assurance of our part in Your covenant. Help us to cast every care on You, and to fall asleep tonight as on a parent's bosom. Let Your peace pervade us, and inspire us with strong confidence in Your providential protection.
"Behold, as the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress — so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till He shows us His mercy." Psalm 123:2
THE DIVINE PRESENCE
"Oh that I knew where I might find him! If only I could go to his dwelling!" Job 23:3
That the Lord sometimes hides himself from his children, both in providence and grace — cannot be denied. He is sometimes present to sanction and bless their efforts in temporal matters — and sometimes he leaves them to labor as in the very fire. He is sometimes present to quicken, enliven, and comfort them in grace — and sometimes there is no enjoyment of his presence, and then all is dull, cold, and dead. The earth does not more miss the shining of the sun — than the Lord's people miss the presence of their heavenly Father. They go to his word, to his throne, to his house, to his ordinances — but they cannot find him; and then they can only sigh out their desires before him.
Reader! have you enjoyed the presence of the Lord today? If you have not, and yet have the life of God in your soul, except you are in a backsliding state — then you are crying out tonight, "Oh that I knew where I might find him!"
Gracious Lord, let us find you in Jesus tonight. Let us find you in your blessed word. Let us find you on your throne of grace. Come, O come! and manifest yourself unto us. Let us . . .
realize your presence,
feel your love,
feed on your word, and
rejoice in your great salvation!
O come near unto us, lay your hand upon us, and pronounce your blessing over us! Let us feel that we are near to you; and enable us, we beseech you — to lay our case before you, plead with you, and prevail.
O for nearness to God! O for the sensible presence of our Father! O to lie down to rest tonight so satisfied of our interest in your love, and of our title to the heavenly mansions — that we may feel indifferent whether we awake in this world or in another!
"Truly you are a God who hides himself." Isaiah 45:15
"It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night!" Psalm 92:1-2
The faithfulness of God is the sheet-anchor of the believer's soul. But for this, he may founder in the storm, or be wrecked by the tempest. But since God is faithful to his character, faithful to his word, and faithful to his Son — the poor, weak, and tried Christian is safe. Let us, therefore, give thanks unto the Lord, and sing praises to the Most High God! Let us proclaim his loving-kindness in the morning, and rejoice in his faithfulness every night.
Hitherto the Lord has borne with us. He has kept his word, and he has been faithful to us — though we have been faithless to him. We are witnesses that God's word is true, and that God never fails those who put their trust in him.
Tonight, O Lord, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name! For your loving-kindness has been ever great towards us, and your faithfulness has been great unto the heavens. In faithfulness you have afflicted us — that we may be made partakers of your holiness. In faithfulness you have supplied us — and not one good thing has failed of all you have promised. In faithfulness you have stood by us in our conflicts — and have given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. In faithfulness you have answered our prayers, and in a thousand instances have given us the request of our lips.
And now, O our faithful, covenant-keeping God and Father, give us a stronger faith, that we may believe what you have said, expect what you have promised, and lovingly follow you wherever in your providence you shall lead us. O for grace to make us faithful unto death, that afterwards we may receive the crown of life!
A BOTTLE IN THE SMOKE
"I have become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget your statutes." Psalm 119:83
What poor, shriveled, discolored, and useless things we sometimes appear! As the bottle made of animal skin, which has been exposed to the smoke and action of the fire, is unsightly and useless — just so do we appear sometimes. What with the temptations of Satan, the influence of the present evil world, and the horrid corruptions of our hearts — we appear to ourselves to be viler than the earth, worthless and useless as the torn and shriveled bottle.
But at our worst, we cannot give up, we cannot forget God's word — there is still some portion to excite hope, to check fear, and to keep us back from despondency and despair.
Blessed word! but for you, we had long since given all up, and had gone back, to walk no more with Jesus. Most blessed Lord, you by your word have kept us, and by your Spirit have prevented our apostasy; and it is by having obtained help from you that we continue unto this day. Look upon us, then, in mercy now — as worthless as we are, as unsightly and polluted as we are; look upon us — and be gracious unto us, as you do unto those all who love your name.
O cleanse us from our pollutions, make us capable of receiving and retaining your grace, and fill us with your holy and ever blessed Spirit! We wish to be holy, we desire to be useful, we long to do something that will bring honor to your name. O that you would work in us by your Spirit, both to will and to do of your own good pleasure! O Lord, we put ourselves into your gracious hands. We lay ourselves at your feet. We give up ourselves to be entirely at your disposal. O be, be to us a God; and let us be to you a people — a people to show forth your praise!
DO NOT HIDE YOUR FACE
"Do not hide Your face from me. Do not turn Your servant away in anger. You have been my help — do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation." Psalm 27:9
There are sweet seasons — when the Lord lifts up the light of his countenance upon us; and there are dreary days — when the Lord hides his face from us. A sense of sin, especially of ingratitude, awakens fear, and often fills us with alarm; not lest we should be cast into Hell — but lest our heavenly Father should frown upon us, put us out of his presence, and refuse us the sweet enjoyment of his love. Have we seen our Father's face today? Have we been near the Lord, enjoying sweet communion with Him? Have we received help from the Lord, and been enabled to rejoice in his salvation? If not — are we happy? Can we be satisfied tonight?
Is filial fear working in our bosoms, and is this our evening prayer: Do not hide Your face from me, for I cannot be happy unless I enjoy your presence and your smile. Do not put your poor unworthy servant out of your presence, or out of your service — but let me be near you, and be employed by you. You have been my help in all my past troubles, trials, distresses — leave me not, nor let me leave you; but be present with me, imparting strength to me, and whispering loving words to my heart.
Forsake me not, O God of my salvation. You have said that you will not forsake your own people. Am I not one of them? Have you not called me out of the world, acknowledged me at your throne, and given me your good Spirit to instruct me? Yes, I am, I must be yours! Therefore you are my God, my Savior, without whom I can do nothing. Draw me near, and keep me near to your blessed self! And as you have been my help in the past — help me now, and help me until I arrive safely at my eternal home.
SEEK YOUR SERVANT
"I have gone astray like a lost sheep — seek your servant" Psalm 119:176
However far the Lord's people may wander from him, they cannot forget His word or His gracious dealings with them. They remember the years of His leading and sustaining.
Like sheep — every one of us have a propensity to wander. We need keeping every moment. If it were possible for the Lord to take his eye off us but for one moment — in that moment we would fall into mischief and misery, if not into Hell. But the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.
My soul, have you wandered from the Lord? Have you wandered from the green pastures of His Word? Have you wandered from the Church, which is His fold? Have you wandered from His throne of grace — from His nail-pierced side? If so, your graces will wither, your comforts will die, and your profession will become a mere form.
Cry to the great Shepherd, cry mightily to Jesus, "Seek your servant!" Blessed be His holy name — He will go out into the wilderness in search of even one lost sheep — nor will He return until He finds and restores it.
Jesus, Shepherd of my soul — seek me, and bring me back from all my wanderings. Let me feed and be bound with Your flock. Let me hear Your sweet voice calling me by name, and leading me home. May I never enjoy rest, but at your side; nor feel at home, but with your flock and family.
Tonight, O Savior, draw me near to Yourself; soothe my perturbed spirit with the communications of Your grace and truth; and let me lie down conscious of my saving interest in You, of Your love to me, and of my safety through You. Nearer to You, O Jesus — draw me still nearer to You!
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:27-28
HELP AND SALVATION
"Help me, O Lord my God! O save me according to Your mercy." Psalm 109:26
We not only need help every day — but every moment!
Our weakness is extreme.
Our foes are numerous and mighty.
Our duties are difficult and arduous.
Our dangers are great and imminent.
How, then, shall we be able to stand, to conquer, to overcome?
Our God has said, "I will strengthen you — yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness!" Blessed be His holy name — He is as good as His Word!
He has helped us in every need.
He has helped us out of every difficulty.
He has helped us all through our journey until this day.
And tonight he is as ready to help us as he ever was.
His ear is open.
His heart throbs with infinite love to us.
His throne of grace is accessible.
His mercy is rich and free!
With such thoughts as these in our minds, O Lord, we approach You tonight, confessing to Your honor — that you ever have helped us; and now beseeching You to help us quite through the rough journey of life. Help us, O our God . . .
to conquer our inbred lusts;
to overcome and crucify the old man;
to mortify the flesh with its vile affections;
to overcome this present evil world;
and to tread Satan under our feet.
Help us, as Your chosen people, holy and dearly loved by You — to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; and, above all, love, which is the bond of perfectness. Save, O save us, from all pride, self-sufficiency, high-mindedness, and worldly wisdom.
Make us humble, meek, and deeply spiritual.
Fill us with the spirit of Jesus.
Produce in us the temper of Jesus.
Enable us exactly to copy the example of Jesus.
O make us Christ-like and holy!
"Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love; turn unto me according to the multitude of your tender mercies." Psalm 69:16
LIGHT AND TRUTH
"O send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me." Psalm 43:3
We need the light of God's truth in our hand — and the light of God's Spirit in our hearts. We have the one in the inspired word — and we must seek the other at the Lord's throne. Let us pray that God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness — would shine into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
By nature we are in the dark; education brings us into the twilight; but only the Word and Spirit of God can bring us into the clear light. God's Spirit and truth will lead us to the law — and convince us of our sin; and then to the gospel — and show us the Savior. Thus enlightened, we shall discover the pollution and corruption of our hearts, and apply to the open fountain, where we shall wash and be clean.
Blessed Lord, send your word and Spirit into my heart, that I may clearly see my danger and my remedy — that I may behold the beauty of Jesus, and see your glory shining in his person. O for light into God's word! O for light to read God's heart! O that the Holy Spirit would lead me to Jesus daily, and teach me to make use of Jesus — against sin, against Satan, and against the world! O that he would lead me into close, intimate, and heart-affecting communion with God!
And, Lord, let it please you to send out your light and your truth into the world; especially into the dark, benighted, and heathen parts of the world. O Lord, remember the covenant; for the dark places of the earth are still the habitations of cruelty! O send out your light and your truth to lead papists and pagans to Jesus; and may your own word he soon verified, that the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea!
"God shall send forth His mercy and His truth." Psalm 57:3
"And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there." Matthew 14:23
The Lord Jesus was much with God in private. He loved to be alone with God; therefore, after the toils of the day, spent in traveling and preaching — he sought out some solitary place, and there prayed.
Blessed Jesus, what an example you have set us! O give us grace to follow it! May we be often found alone with God! Let not a neglected closet witness against us. Let not private prayer be a task and a burden, but let it be our delight. Meet us when alone. Speak to our hearts when alone. Open your loving heart to us when alone. Let us have much communion with the Father, and with your most blessed self. May we never fear solitude, or feel lonely when left by ourselves; but may we seize every opportunity for pouring out our hearts before the Lord.
We lament that we have neglected private prayer so much — that we have attended to it so often as a mere duty — that it has at times been irksome to us. O revive, revive your work within us! Give us deep spirituality, that we may worship God in spirit and in truth. Like Enoch, may we walk with God, and feel such peace, pleasure, and holy joy in his company — that we may value it above everything beside.
O Jesus, breathe your own loving spirit into us — -make us like-minded with your blessed self; and then regularly as the evening comes, we shall seek the place of prayer, and be found there alone! Gracious Savior, if we desire one thing more than another, it is to be made just like you, and especially in reference to communion with God. Holy Spirit, make us prayerful — keep us in close fellowship with our God!
"He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone." John 6:15
"You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy!" Psalm 65:8
God does this in nature, and it is not always easy to say which is more welcome — the morning light, or the evening shade; the one calling us to activity, the other inviting us to repose. Of old, both morning and evening afforded cause for joy, because the lamb offered in sacrifice spoke of pardon, proclaimed peace, and called for praise. So now, the precious blood of the Lamb of God, ever fresh and ever fragrant . . .
calls for renewed exercises of faith,
publishes anew God's infinite love,
proclaims pardon and peace,
and bids us rejoice.
Beloved, let us, morning by morning, and evening by evening, direct our minds anew to the precious blood of Jesus — and endeavor by simple faith to see all our sins put away, and our perfect and everlasting reconciliation effected. This will not only afford us cause for joy and rejoicing, but will fill our hearts with gladness and our mouths with praise.
Precious Savior, we bless you this evening, and rejoice in your dear name, that you have exempted us from so many evils, and supplied us with so many blessings. We rejoice in what you are to us, in what you have done for us, and in what you are doing for us now. For no doubt but at this moment you are representing us before your Father's throne, and are making intercession for us. We can rejoice in you when we can rejoice in nothing beside; and it is your glorious person, precious blood, and everlasting righteousness — which make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy! O what dreary mornings and what gloomy evenings we would have, but for you! No cheering light of hope, no repose or hallowed peace, could we enjoy — but for you. Now, as interested in you, we can rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
"The day is Yours, and Yours also the night; You established the sun and moon." Psalm 74:16
"You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your Word." Psalm 119:65
It is better to be the Lord's servants — than one of the world's princes; for all the Lord's servants are his sons, his heirs, and the objects of his highest love. Therefore he has said, "Say to the righteous, that it shall be well with him." However it may be with the world — it shall be well with him. In whatever circumstances he may be placed — it shall be well with him. His best interests are secured, his needs are all provided for, and all things work together for his good.
We have been sorely tried,
our troubles have been great and numerous,
our foes have been many and cruel,
our sufferings have sometimes been great and various;
and yet, upon a calm review of the whole, and comparing what the Lord has done with what he has said in his word, we can honestly and heartily say, "You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your Word."
Yes, blessed Lord, to your honor we make this acknowledgment, and pray that your dealings in the past may give us confidence and courage in reference to the future. For what you have been — you will be; and as you have done — you will do. Our prayer, therefore, is, "Deal well with your servants, O Lord, that we may live, and keep your word."
In all our afflictions, in all our bereavements, in all our sadness, and in all our sorrows — deal well with us. Give us . . .
strength to bear,
patience to endure,
wisdom to manage, and
grace to turn all our troubles to good account.
And when we come into our last conflict with our last foe, then, O then, deal well with us, by shining upon our souls, brightening our evidences, supporting our minds, and enabling us to bear a last, loving, and useful testimony for you.
"Your right hand has held me up. Your gentleness has made me great!" Psalm 18:35
"O Lord, I beseech You, deliver my soul!" Psalm 116:4
David was in deep distress, in sore trouble, and his spirit was overwhelmed. No one could deliver him but God — and it was his mercy to have access to God through his beloved Son.
Such is our mercy as well. In all times of trial, in all seasons of distress, in all our days of darkness — we may go to the Lord, and seek deliverance from him. He is the great "deliverer," and he takes pleasure in delivering his people, who put their trust in him. He delivers in six troubles, and in seven he will not forsake us. His mercy, like his nature, is infinite; and he delights to display it in the experience of his poor, tried, and troubled people.
Beloved, are you in any difficulty, or perplexity, or trouble this evening? If so, do as the Psalmist did — carry it to the Lord. Make his prayer your own; and if it is presented with faith and fervor — then his deliverance will be yours as well.
Heavenly Father, let it please you to deliver us this night from all slavish fear, from all hard thoughts of you, and from all the power of unbelief. Deliver us from the craft, subtlety, and power of Satan, and from all the evil that is in the present world. Deliver us from our own evil hearts, and from all the dangers and difficulties by which we are surrounded. Deliver us from the plague of the heart, the powerful corruptions that work within, and the snares and traps that are set for us without. Deliver us from all evil, invest us with all good, and prepare us for eternal glory. May we this night realize that we are delivered from the guilt, power, and consequences of sin — and lie down persuaded that you will deliver us from every evil, and preserve us unto your heavenly kingdom. O deliver us, until deliverance is no longer needed!
"The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and my distress, and take away all my sins. See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you!" Psalm 25:17-20
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Psalm 90:12
Are not our days few? Are not these few days introductory to eternity? We must be saved or lost forever, now. Then true wisdom consists in seeking first, and securing beyond the possibility of a failure — our eternal salvation. To be saved, is to be created anew in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit; to be united to the person of Christ; and to be reconciled to God. Then all our sins are pardoned, our persons are justified, and we are under the special protection of the Almighty.
Not one day should we let pass, not one moment should we rest, until we are saved. Our one object should be, to make our and our calling and election sure.
Then, though our "days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle," though they be "few and evil" — we need not be distressed, for an eternity of joy awaits us.
Gracious Lord, teach us by your wise Spirit to improve our few fleeting days. As they glide past us with great rapidity — may we improve them to your glory and our own spiritual advantage. Every day may we do something that shall count for eternity; may we spread your truth, believe your promises, observe your precepts, and labor to bring sinners to Jesus. O make us wise to win souls! I regret that I have spoken so little of Jesus today, that I have brought so little honor to your holy name, that I have done so little good to my fellow-men. O for more of that wisdom which comes from above, and which leads its possessors to act in all things as for eternity! Lord, I come to you for wisdom tonight, knowing that you give it to all who ask, liberally, and without upbraiding. O give it to me, that I may wisely number my days, and employ my time and talents for you!
"Behold, the fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding." Job 28:28
A SWEET VIEW
"You, O Lord, are good, and ready to forgive — and abundant in mercy to all who call upon You." Psalm 86:5
What a beautiful representation of God is this! How comforting, at the close of another day's cares and troubles, sorrows and sins — to be reminded that our "God is good," and especially that He is "ready to forgive" — ready to pardon all the faults and follies of this day — ready to pass them by, and still treat me as His beloved child!
He only requires me to confess and be sorry for my sins — and in a moment, all is forgiven, all is forgotten, and forgotten forever!
Then He is "abundant in mercy." The fountain of His mercy has not yet run dry. Run dry! It is not in the least diminished! His mercy is a boundless, fathomless, endless ocean!
God has plenty of mercy for miserable sinners . . .
mercy to pardon them,
mercy to purify them,
mercy to comfort them,
mercy to save them —
mercy for all who call upon Him!
O my soul, take home tonight this lovely representation of your God, and believing that He is good, ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy — go to Him, call upon Him, and plead with Him. Then you may obtain mercy, and find grace to help you in every time of need.
Good and gracious God, I adore You for Your goodness; I bless You that You are ready to forgive; I rejoice that You are abundant in mercy. And now, O Lord, glorify Your mercy in me; show Your readiness to forgive, in me! Let my heart be eased of every sorrow — and let my conscience be cleansed from every sin! Let me lie down to rest tonight guiltless, rejoicing in the glorious fact that You have blotted out my sins as a cloud, and my transgressions as a thick cloud, and are now at eternal peace with me!
"The LORD will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the works of Your hands." Psalm 138:8
"Remember the former things, those of long ago. I am God, and there is no other. I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please!" Isaiah 46:9-10
Thus the Lord speaks — and thus the Lord acts. "He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong — upright and just is He!" Deuteronomy 32:4
What He has purposed in eternity past — He works in time. Then the plan was drawn, and then the provision was made. God's purposes cannot fail, nor shall his work ever be left unfinished. What he has promised to us — he will give to us; and the work he has commenced in us — he will complete. Whatever concerns our salvation — he will perfect, according as it is written, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified!" Romans 8:28-30
This is God's plan — commenced, carried on, and completed by himself — to the praise of the glory of his grace.
O Lord, have you not begun a work of grace in my heart? I believe you have.
Will you not carry on that work until it is crowned with glory? I believe you will.
Is not your mercy unchangeable, from everlasting to everlasting? It is.
And is not that mercy fixed on me? I trust it is.
Gracious, gracious God, carry on your work in my soul, I pray you; deepen my sanctification; subdue my corruptions; and bring every thought into subjection to the obedience of Christ. I have confidence in your love, in your mercy, and in your truth — strengthen and increase that confidence, I pray you.
"Your way is in the sea — and Your path in the great waters. Your footsteps may not be known." Psalm 77:19
The providences of God are often dark and mysterious. It is not easy to ascertain why the Lord acts as He does — or to find out the precise object He has in view. He carries on His work according to His eternal and pre-ordained plan — and He accomplishes His purposes often by the most unlikely means. He works all things after the counsel of His own will — and He works leisurely, having no cause to hurry. We are naturally hasty, and want to know what God means at once. But He says, "Be still. Wait. Watch. Let patience have her perfect work."
We may not be able to account for our trials, troubles, losses, and crosses — but all will be made plain by-and-by. "Jesus said to him: You do not understand now what I am doing — but you will understand later on." John 13:7
We now know in part — but we shall soon know even as also we are known. And until then, we may well be patient — assured that God is acting wisely, lovingly, and is consulting our good in all that He does.
O wonder-working God, Your dealings with us are often dark, and difficult to be understood! Give us faith to believe Your promises — when we cannot understand Your providences. Let us be assured of Your love to us — when we cannot ascertain the design of Your dealings with us. Preserve us from a repining, complaining, and unbelieving spirit — and grant us grace that we may rest satisfied that You are acting rightly. May we learn, in whatever state we are — therewith to be content. With patience may we do and suffer Your will at present — being fully assured that all will be explained and opened up to us at length. O to be enabled . . .
to rest on Your covenant love,
to trust Your faithful promises, and
to commit all of our ways unto You!
"All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth — to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies!" Psalm 25:10
"You, O Lord, will bless the righteous. With favor will you compass him as with a shield." Psalm 5:12
And who are the righteous? Not the perfect — for there are none righteous, no not one. The righteous are those who, believing in Jesus, have his obedience placed to their account, and are justified in his name. For every believer — Jesus lived and obeyed the law. For every believer — Jesus died and paid the penalty of the law. For every believer — Jesus is gone into Heaven to plead his perfect work and precious blood. As one with Christ — as interested in all that was done by Christ — as pleaded for by Christ — we are righteous before God.
God treats us as righteous, and his grace or favor is like a shield, to ward off the arrows of the enemy, to protect and keep us safe.
My soul, are you in Christ? Is the glorious righteousness of Jesus yours? Are you relying on the life and death of Jesus alone for acceptance and eternal life? If so, you are safe. Your God has given you the shield of his salvation, and his grace will be your constant guard.
Precious Lord Jesus, I bless you for your life and death. I praise you for your glorious righteousness, without which I must appear naked before God, to my everlasting confusion and condemnation.
Holy Father, I bless you, I praise you for your grace — that grace which has distinguished me in times past, which is my comfort tonight, and which will preserve me to your kingdom and glory. I am compassed with your favor! Oh, what a privilege! Compassed with your favor as with a shield! Oh, what security! Bless me, O my heavenly Father — bless me with a grateful heart, with a confiding spirit, with a soul set upon your glory, and the extension of your blessed and beloved cause! O that I could praise and adore you as I would!
"For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." Romans 14:7-8
GUIDE AND GUARD
"Nevertheless I am continually with You — You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel — and afterward receive me to glory!" Psalm 73:23-24
Continually with the Lord! O what a privilege!
Held fast by my right hand! O what a blessing!
Yet, this privilege and this blessing, have all the saints.
Tonight, while I sleep — tonight, while all is dark about me — tonight, while dangers may fly thick around me — my God will be with me, and I shall be with my God. Never did a tender mother watch beside the couch of her sick and dying child with such love, solicitude, and tenderness — as my God will watch by my bedside tonight. Never did a kind father hold the right hand of his timid or feeble son with such care and sympathy — as my God holds me by my right hand. Well, therefore, may I . . .
give myself up to His guidance,
feel safe in His keeping, and
anticipate my entrance into His glory.
Blessed Lord, I love you, I adore you tonight for Your constant presence with me, and Your watchful care over me. You hold my right hand at this moment — O help me to realize it! And teach me by Your persuasive influence, to yield myself constantly to you.
Here, Lord, I put myself into Your hand anew. I no longer wish to choose my own way, but with all my heart say, "You will guide me with Your counsel — and afterward receive me to glory!"
O my Father, guide me through all the trials and temptations that lie in my path. Guide me through all the snares and dangers found in my way. Guide me into truth and holiness, and fill me with Your joy and peace. Guide, O guide me every step of my journey — and safely across the Jordan of death. Then receive me into Your glorious presence, where I shall see Jesus, and enjoy Your love, and rejoice in Your favor forever!
"I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I shall never be moved." Psalm 16:8