Grace Gems for JUNE 2006

I am not what I once was

(John Newton)

I am not what I ought to be.
Ah, how imperfect and deficient.

I am not what I wish to be. I abhor what
is evil, and I would cleave to what is good.

I am not what I hope to be. Soon I shall put
off, with mortality—all sin and imperfection.

Though I am not what I ought to be, nor what
I wish to be, nor what I hope to be—I can truly
say that I am not what I once was—a slave
to sin and Satan. And I can heartily join with the
apostle and say that "by the grace of God I am
what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10



A sea of sweetness

(John Flavel, "Christ Altogether Lovely")

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved,
 and this is my Friend." Song of Songs 5:16

As if she had said, "Look on Him in what respect or
particular you wish; cast your eye upon this lovely One,
and view Him any way; consider His person, His offices,
His works, or any other thing belonging to Him. You will
find Him altogether lovely, there is nothing disagreeable
in Him, there is nothing lovely without Him."

Jesus Christ is the loveliest person souls can set their eyes
upon. He is the very essence of all delights and pleasures,
the very soul and substance of them! As all the rivers are
gathered into the ocean, which is the meeting-place of all
the waters in the world—so Christ is that ocean in which
all true delights and pleasures meet!

Christ infinitely transcends the most excellent and loveliest
of created things. The excellencies our altogether lovely
Christ are pure and unmixed. He is a sea of sweetness
without one drop of gall.

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved,
 and this is my Friend." Song of Songs 5:16



Soul-killing plots, devices, stratagems & machinations!

(Thomas Brooks "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices")

"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we
 are not ignorant of his devices." 2 Corinthians 2:11

Christ,
the Scripture,
your own hearts,
and Satan's devices,
are the four prime things that should be first and most
studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these,
they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter. It is my
work as a Christian, but much more as I am a Watchman,
to do my best to discover . . .
  the fullness of Christ,
  the emptiness of the creature,
  and the snares of the great deceiver.

Satan being fallen . . .
 from light to darkness,
 from felicity to misery,
 from heaven to hell,
 from an angel to a devil,
is so full of malice and envy that he will leave no means
unattempted, whereby he may make all others eternally
miserable with himself. He being shut out of heaven, and
shut up "under the chains of darkness until the judgment
of the great day," makes use of all his power and skill to
bring all people into the same condition and condemnation
with himself. Satan has cast such sinful seed into our souls,
that now he can no sooner tempt, but we are ready to
assent
; he can no sooner have a plot upon us, but he makes
a conquest of us. If he does but show men a little of the
beauty of the world, how ready are they to fall down and
worship him! Whatever sin the heart of man is most
prone to, that the devil will help forward!
Satan loves
to sail with the wind, and to suit men's temptations to
their conditions and inclinations.


From the power, malice and skill of Satan—proceeds all the
soul-killing plots, devices, stratagems and machinations,
which are in the world. A man may as well count the stars, and
number the sands of the sea, as reckon up all the devices of Satan!

"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we
 are not ignorant of his devices." 2 Corinthians 2:11



But God

(William Plumer, "Theology for the People")

No two things are more contrary to each other,
than the vileness of man and the purity of God.

Sin is hateful to God.
It has dug every grave.
It fills hell with groans.

"From the sole of your foot to the top of your
 head there is no soundness—only wounds
 and welts and open sores." Isaiah 1:6

The whole nature of man is affected by sin:
  the understanding is darkened;
  the will is corrupt;
  the conscience is defiled;
  the memory is polluted;
  the imagination is depraved;
  the throat is an open sepulcher;
  the tongue is deceitful;
  the mouth is full of cursing and bitterness;
  the feet are swift to shed blood;
  the eyes are full of adultery;
  the heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately wicked.

The whole head is sick,
the whole heart is faint!

Man is by nature ruined. He is lost. 
Men are . . .
  sinners,
  wicked,
  ungodly,
  unrighteous,
  corrupt,
  deceitful,
  vile,
  ungrateful,
  children of the devil,
  slaves of iniquity.

"But God, who is abundant in mercy, because
 of His great love that He had for us, made us
 alive with the Messiah even though we were
 dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved!
 He also raised us up with Him and seated us
 with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, so
 that in the coming ages He might display the
 immeasurable riches of His grace in His
 kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Eph. 2:4-7



His all-seeing eye

(William Plumer, "Theology for the People" 1875)

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.
 Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the
 eyes of Him to whom we must give account!"
    Hebrews 4:13


God is omniscient. His knowledge is infinite in
kind and extent. It is eternal. He knows all things
past, present, and future; all things that ever
have been, are, or ever shall be.

In heaven, earth, and hell, nothing is hid from
His all-seeing eye
. God knows the hearts of
all His creatures.

God also knows all things which ever could have
been, could now be, or could hereafter be on any
conceivable supposition. His knowledge embraces
all plans, all truths, all systems. God can neither
learn nor forget anything.


"His understanding is infinite!" Psalm 147:5



Weak and helpless and burdened

(John MacDuff, "Family Prayers" 1885)

We come, weak and helpless and burdened,
to that cross where alone there is shelter and peace
for the guilty. We take refuge anew at the foot of
Your cross, bringing our infinite unworthiness to
Your infinite merit and all-sufficiency. Wash us,
blessed Savior, in the fountain opened for sin and
for uncleanness. Receive us graciously. Love us
freely. Preserve against the world's snares, and
dangers, and temptations. May Your love exercise
a paramount influence over us.



Helpless, hopeless, friendless, portionless

(John MacDuff, "Family Prayers" 1885)

O Eternal, Everlasting God, Fountain of all happiness,
God of all grace—we desire to acknowledge anew with
grateful hearts, Your undeserved mercies. You have
made our cup to overflow with blessings. From the very
threshold of our being, You have been our Protector and
Guardian. You have shielded us from unknown dangers.
You have warded off unseen calamities. No earthly friend
could have loved us and cared for us, like You!

Helpless, hopeless, friendless, portionless
by nature, we
cast ourselves on Him who is help and hope and friend
and portion—to all who seek Him. We have no trust but in
His work. Sprinkle these polluted hearts with His pardoning,
peace-speaking blood. Hide us in the clefts of the smitten
Rock. Safely sheltered there, we can make the triumphant
challenge, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"

We mourn . . .
  our distance and estrangement from You,
  our guilty departures,
  our coldness and insensibility.
Let Your wondrous patience and kindness lead us to repentance.
Turn us, Lord, and we shall be turned! Draw us and we shall run
after You! May every thought, and affection, and feeling, and
temper—be brought into captivity to the obedience of Jesus. May
we love what He loves, and hate what He hates. May we know
the happiness of true holiness; and rejoice in doing Your holy will.



A new creature

(Horatius Bonar, "Christ and the New Creation")

"If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature:
 old things have passed away; behold, all things
 have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17

What condemnation do these words pronounce upon
the shallow, meager religion so common among
us—making us feel that hardly any description of its
professors could be more exaggerated or unreal,
than that of being "new creatures."

Take yon member of the church. He wears the
garb and bears the name of Christ. He is a fair
average specimen of a large class. He has the
profession of being a Christian; yet . . .
  he is fond of the world;
  he grasps at its gold;
  he loves its fashionable gaiety;
  he reads its novels;
  he frequents its haunts of amusement;
  he enjoys its company;
  he relishes its foolish talking and jesting.
Is he "a new creature" in Christ Jesus?

Is it possible that, with . . .
  so much worldliness,
  so much selfishness,
  so much self-indulgence,
  so much pleasing of the flesh,
he can have been "born again,"
whatever his profession may be?

"A new creature!" Then . . .
  old feelings,
  old habits,
  old tastes,
  old hopes,
  old joys,
  old sorrows,
  old haunts,
  old companionships
—all are gone! Old things have passed
away, all things have become new!

Formerly, I sought the things of this world.
So now, by the necessity of my new nature,
I seek the things above. Sin has become
hateful, holiness supremely attractive.

My vision has been purged, so that now I see
everything as with a new eye; the evil, with an
eye which loathes it; the holy, with an eye which
loves it. I approach everything with . . .
  new feelings,
  new tastes,
  new sympathies,
  new antipathies.
I behold everything in a new light, and from a new
point of view. Myself, this world, the world to come,
God, Christ, and the everlasting joys—all these are
to me now, what they have never been before! My
whole inner man has changed respecting them.
There has been a new creation! What, then, have I
to do with sin, with the flesh, with the vanities of so
vain a life, as the men of this world are leading?

Oh, the unimaginable blessedness of those on whom
this new creation has taken place! Oh, the unutterable,
the endless misery of those on whom no change has
passed—in whom old things still remain!



To the dust you will return!

(Horatius Bonar, "The Mortal and the Immortal")

"For the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23

"All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your
 dying day. Then you will return to the ground from
 which you came. For you were made from dust, and
 to the dust you will return." Genesis 3:19

Ours is a dying world.

We dwell in a world of death—in a land of graves.

Immortality has no place upon this earth.

That which is deathless is beyond these hills.

Mortality is here; immortality is yonder!

Mortality is below; immortality is above!

Earth is a vast grave-yard.


At every moment, one of the sons of Adam passes
from this life. At each swing of the pendulum is
the death-warrant of some child of time. "Death!
Death!" it says, unceasingly, as it oscillates to and fro.

The gate of death stands ever open—it has neither
locks nor bars.

The river of death flows sullenly past our dwellings.
We continually hear the splash and the cry of one, and
another, and another, as they are flung into the rushing
torrent—and carried down to the sea of eternity!


Earth is full of death-beds. The groan of pain is heard
everywhere—in cottage or castle—in prince's palace or
peasant's hut. The tear of parting is seen falling everywhere.
The rich and poor, good and evil, are called to weep over the
death of beloved kindred, husband or wife, or child, or friend.

Who can bind the strong man that he shall not lay his
hand upon us or our beloved ones?

Who can say to sickness—'You shall not touch my body!'
Or to pain—'You shall not come near me!'
Or to death—'You shall not enter my home!'

Who can light up the dimmed eye,
or re-color the faded cheek,
or re-invigorate the icy hand,
or bid the sealed lip open,
or the stiffened tongue speak once
more, the words of warm affection?

Who can enter the death-chamber, and speak,
"Little girl, I say to you, get up!"

Who can look into the coffin, and say, "Young man, arise!"

Who can go into the tomb, and say, "Lazarus, come forth!"

The voice of death is heard everywhere. Not only from the
coffin, nor the funeral procession, nor the dark vault, nor
the heaving churchyard. Death springs up all around.

Each season speaks of death.
The dropping spring-blossom;
the scorched leaf of summer;
the ripe sheaf of autumn;
the chill winter cold—all tell of death.
The wild storm, with its thick clouds and hurrying shadows;
the sharp lightning, bent on smiting;
the dark torrent, ravaging field and valley;
the cold sea wave;
the crumbling rock;
the up-torn tree—all speak of death and corruption.

Earth numbers its grave-yards by hundreds of thousands; and
the sea covers the dust of uncounted millions, who, coffined
and uncoffined—have gone down into its unknown darkness.

Death reigns over earth and sea; city and village are his.

Into every house this last enemy has entered, in spite
of man's desperate efforts to keep him out. There is . . .
  no family without some empty seat or crib;
  no garden without some faded rose;
  no forest without some sere leaf;
  no tree without some shattered bough;
  no harp without some broken string.

There is no exemption from this necessity.
There is no discharge in this war.

The old man dies; but the young also.

The grey head and the golden head,
are laid in the same cold clay.

The wicked dies; so also does the godly. The common
earth from which they sprang, receives them both.

The fool dies; so also does the wise.

The poor man dies; so also does the rich.

"I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
 I will redeem them from death. Where, O death,
 are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your
 destruction?" Hosea 13:14

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of
 God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."
     Romans 6:23

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be
 no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the
 old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

No failing of eyesight;
no wrinkles on their brow;
no hollowness in their cheeks;
no grey hairs upon their heads;
no weariness of limbs;
no languor of spirit;
no drying up of their rivers of pleasure.



Sitting at the leper's table!

(Horatius Bonar, "Bethany and its Feast")

"Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon,
 a man who had leprosy." Matthew 26:6

To this home Jesus had been invited—and He goes.

It seems to have been his leprosy, which first brought
Simon to Christ—and Christ to him. His disease was his
link of connection with the Lord; and had it not been
for it, he might never have sought Him.

It is still so with us. Our sin, our moral leprosy—draws
us to Jesus. We go to Jesus, not about the good that is
in us—but the evil. Our sense of guilt draws us to Him as
the Pardoner; and our consciousness of sin constrains us
to deal with Him as the Healer and Renewer. And as we
began—so also do we go on. Sin brought us to Him—and
Him to us. Our sin keeps us constantly at His side.

Simon finds that he has much more to do with Jesus
than merely for the cure of his leprosy; therefore he
must have Him at his table. So is it with us. We begin
our relationship with Jesus by going to Him with our sins.
But we soon discover that it cannot be ended here. Our
relationship becomes a constant interchange of thought
and sympathy. We invite Him to our house—and He
comes. We ask Him to dine with us—and He comes.

How great the honor enjoyed by Simon, of entertaining
the Lord of glory; sitting at his own table, with Jesus at
his side as his guest! How marvelous the condescension
of Christ—in thus sitting at the leper's table!

Here, then, is the Savior that suits us—the healer of the
leper, and the guest of the healed one! We say to Jesus,
"Heal me"—and He heals! "Come in"—and He comes!
"Sit down at my table"—and He sits down immediately.

It is but little communion indeed, that we can taste here;
for the best of earthly feasts are but foretastes of the
marriage-supper. But the whole glad fullness we shall yet
enjoy, when we shall meet a long absent Lord, not at our
table—but at His own! That day shall be the day of the
Master's joy, as well as of ours—He feasting with us, and
we with Him! He enjoying our fellowship, and we His—
forevermore!


Jesus is . . .
  the infinity of all excellence,
  the vast treasure-house of all we can desire,
  the perfection of all perfection,
  the beauty of all beauty,
  the glory of all glory.

(Horatius Bonar, "The Divine Banquet")

 

Just give me Jesus!

(Anne Lotz)

He is enduringly strong.

He is entirely sincere.

He is eternally steadfast.

He is immortally gracious.

He is imperially powerful.

He is impartially merciful.

He is the greatest phenomena that has
  ever crossed the horizon of the globe.

He is God's Son.

He is the sinner's Savior.

He is the captive's ransom.

He is the breath of life.

He is the centerpiece of civilization.

He stands in the solitude of Himself.

He is august, and He is unique.

He is unparalleled, and He is unprecedented.

He is undisputed, and He is undefiled.

He is unsurpassed, and He is unshakable.

He is the loftiest idea in philosophy.

He is the highest personality in psychology.

He is the supreme subject in literature.

He is the fundamental doctrine of theology.

He is the corner-stone, the cap-stone,
  the stumbling-stone of all religion.

He is the miracle of the ages.

Just give me Jesus!

 


The most treacherous enemy

(Richard Baxter, "Self-Denial")

"People will be lovers of self." 2 Timothy 3:2

Self is the most treacherous enemy, and
the most insinuating deceiver in the world.
Of all other vices, it is both the hardest to
find out, and the hardest to cure.



The immeasurable riches of His grace

(Horatius Bonar, "The God of Grace")

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more
 abound!" Romans 5:20

The history of our world has been the story of
abounding sin—and far more abounding grace!

What was Abraham's history—but one of
abounding sin and super-abounding grace?

What was Rahab's history—but a history of
abounding sin and super-abounding grace?

What was David's history—but a history of
abounding sin and super-abounding grace?

What was Manasseh's history—but a history
of abounding sin and super-abounding grace?

What was the history of Saul of Tarsus, but one
of abounding sin and super-abounding grace, as
he himself declares, "The grace of our Lord was
poured out on me abundantly." 1 Timothy 1:14

What is all this world's long history—but a history
of abounding sin and super-abounding grace?

God not merely allowed sin to enter—but to spread;
not only to spread—but to increase in heinousness;
not only to increase in heinousness—but to vary itself,
and take every conceivable shape that man's wicked
heart could devise—all in order to demonstrate that
His resources of grace were adequate to meet it all.

Sin might widen its circle age after age—but grace
widened its circle and still went far beyond man's
transgression. For age after age sin ascended a higher
pinnacle of rebellious ungodliness; but grace ascended
along with it, and took its station far above it, like
a bright canopy of heavenly azure. Age after age
descended to lower and lower depths of hateful
pollution; grace went down along with it. And when
the soul found itself at the very bottom of the horrible
pit, and expected to meet nothing there but hell itself,
it found the hand of grace still beneath it, as mighty to
save, as willing to bless as ever. "So that in the coming
ages He might display the immeasurable riches of
His grace
, in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 2:7



Worldly men varnished over with religion

(Horatius Bonar, "Christ and the World")

"Having a form of godliness but denying its power."
    2 Timothy 3:5

There are many religious professors, whose object
seems to be, to get hold of both worlds. They want
as much of worldly comfort and pleasure as will
gratify their carnal tastes. Their life is a
compromise. Their object is . . .
  to balance between two adverse interests;
  to adjust the conflicting claims of this world
    and of the world to come;
  to please and to serve two masters;
  to gratify two tastes;
  to walk in two opposite ways at once;
  to secure the friendship of the world without
    losing the friendship of God.

These are, in fact, worldly men varnished over
with religion
—that is all. There are many of these
in our day, when religion is fashionable. They have
never broken with sin, nor crucified self, nor taken
up the cross. Their heart is not right with God.

Some of these are people who have been brought
up in worldliness, and who have, as they grew up,
added a little religion to their worldliness—to
make it respectable. They have merely 'religionized
the outer man'—leaving the inner man unmelted,
unbroken, and unrenewed. They have passed
through a certain religious process—but not
experienced the heavenly change, without
which they cannot enter the kingdom of God.
There has been . . .
  no broken-heartedness;
  no breaking off from sin;
  no surrender of the soul to God;
  no crucifixion of the old man;
  no resurrection to newness of life.

After a while, in such cases, a deep and fixed
'formalism' settles in. Earnestness has faded away,
and left nothing but its dregs. The soul has become
sapless and insensible. The edge of feeling, both
upon heart and conscience, has become blunted.
The 'routine of religion' is still gone through, and
the 'profession' still kept up; but all within is dried
up and withered . . .
  there is no enjoyment of spiritual things;
  the service of God is a burden;
  praise and prayer are irksome;
  sermons and sacraments are wearisome;
and the poor professor moves on in his heartless
career. Outwardly he is still religious—but at heart
he is unspiritual and worldly.

These are the 'ambiguous disciples' of our age,
who belong to Christ only in name. These are the
stony-ground or thorny-ground hearers. Such a
man's whole religious life is one grand delusion;
and every step he takes in it is a blunder, and a
stumble, and a snare. Let such a man know that,
in his present half-worldly, half-religious condition,
he has no real religion at all. It is a fabrication,
a delusion.

O worldly formalist, fling away your vain hopes!
Give up your fond idea of securing both earth and
heaven. Go straight to Calvary; there be crucified
to the world, and the world to you, by the cross of
Christ. Go straight to Him who died and rose again,
and drink into His love. One draught, no, one drop
of that love will forever quench your love of sin,
and be the death of that worldliness which
threatens to be your eternal ruin!



I fall at Your feet, my Jesus

(The diary of Ruth Bryan)

A poor, weak, guilty, hell-deserving creature—
I fall at Your feet, my Jesus
. You have redeemed
me by Your blood; I am Yours! Oh, use me for Your
glory! Reveal Yourself still more unto me. By faith
I would embrace You for more . . .
  gratitude,
  love,
  faith,
  submission,
  patience,
  courage,
  and all I need,
while in this dreary desert—which You alone
can cheer—for all must come from You.


The endless, blissful theme!

("The letters of Ruth Bryan"
August, 1857)

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved,
 and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

There are heights and depths in the love of Christ
of which the most favored have no conception. And
there are beauties and glories in His person which
none have yet beheld! Oh! I would have none rest
short of the revelation of His person.

His benefits indeed are all precious: His atoning
blood and sacrifice, His justifying righteousness, and
the effects flowing therefrom—pardon, justification,
peace in the conscience, etc., etc. But it is a further
and sweeter privilege to know and enjoy Himself!
Salvation is sweet—but the Savior crowns all!

I must cease, though I seem to have said nothing
of the endless, blissful theme—the love and
loveliness of our dear Redeemer, the Redeemer
of worms!

May He favor you with His precious presence!

"May you experience the love of Christ, though
 it is so great you will never fully understand it!"
    Ephesians 3:19



From head to toe

(Horatius Bonar, "Consecration by Blood", 1867)

"And he brought the other ram, the ram of consecration:
 and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of
 the ram. And he slew it; and Moses took of the blood of it,
 and put it upon the tip of Aaron's right ear, and upon the
 thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his
 right foot." Leviticus 8:22-23

The tip of the right ear was the first place the blood was to
be sprinkled, denoting that his hearing was now set apart for
God, and that he was to be ever in the attitude of one listening
to God alone—hearing no words but His, heeding no instructions
but His. Our ears are thus set apart to God. And if so, how wide
open should they be to hear His voice; how thoroughly closed
against all sinful sounds.

The thumb of the right hand was the next place sprinkled,
indicating the consecration of all bodily skill, and energy,
and power, to the service of Jehovah.

The great toe of the right foot was the third place touched
with blood, signifying that his feet were to be ever ready for
priestly service, that his limbs were to be employed for God,
and their strength or swiftness solely dedicated to bearing His
burdens or running His errands. Our feet are set apart for Him;
let us run the errands of no other master, nor use our limbs in
the service of the flesh, or the world, or the devil.

The whole man, in all its faculties and powers of soul and body,
was to be thus set apart for God. Our ears, our hands, our
feet
, are thus wholly His; not our own, not the world's, not
Satan's. As those who have died and risen with Christ, we hear
Him always, and listen for His words and commands, ready to
put forth hands and feet, every power and faculty of soul and
body—in His service, to whom we are thus solemnly set apart.

The whole man, from head to toe, becomes a sacred thing,
dedicated to the service of the living God. As God's consecrated
priests, His true Aarons, His true Levites, His true Israel—whether
we eat or drink, or whatever we do, let us do all to the glory of God.

Follow the Master fully.

Give Him no divided heart.

Serve Him wholly.

Give Him no half service.


A Christian and yet a worldling?

(Horatius Bonar, "The Risen Christ and the Things Above")

Go on in your worldliness; fling yourselves headlong into
the torrent of earth's vanities; but know that the end of
these things is death! "Do not love the world or the things
that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love
for the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15) "You adulterers!
Don't you realize that friendship with this world makes you
an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy
this world, you can't be a friend of God." (James 4:4)

The point is settled. The Christian cannot take part with
the world in its follies, and gaieties, and sins!

What! A Christian and yet a worldling—singing its
idle songs, hurrying through its mazy dance, partaking
in its mirth and revelry! Impossible!

We have ceased to be citizens of earth's polluted cities;
we are citizens of heaven! We have a home—but not in
the palaces or haunts of the world. We have a house
not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await
 a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ!" (
Phil. 3:20)


The sooner we reach this conclusion

(William S. Plumer, "A Treatise on Providence")

"Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless!
 Everything is meaningless!"
Ecclesiastes 1:2


How vain are all merely earthly possessions!

How unstable is popular favor!

How uncertain are riches!

How soon our pleasures may be followed by pains!

When parents rejoice at the birth of a child, they
know not how soon they may weep over his dead
body, without an assurance that his soul is saved.

Solomon thoroughly tried the world. His sober inspired
judgment was that all was utterly meaningless! The
sooner we reach this conclusion
ourselves—the
wiser shall we be!

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the
 matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this
 is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed
 into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it
 is good or evil."
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14


Man acting as a devil!

(Horatius Bonar, "The Surety's Cross")

In the cross, we see what is in man. In the cross, man
has spoken out. He has exhibited himself, and made
unconscious confession of his feelings, especially in
reference to God—to His Being, His authority, His
character, His law, His love. It was man who erected
the cross, and nailed the Son of God to it! Permitted
by God to give vent to the feelings of his heart, and
placed in circumstances the least likely to call forth
anything but love—he thus expressed the feelings of
his heart in hatred to God and to His incarnate Son!

Reckoning the death of the cross, the worst of all deaths
—man deems it the fittest for the Son of God! Thus, the
enmity of the natural heart speaks out, and man not only
confesses publicly that he is a hater of God—but he takes
pains to show the intensity of his hatred! More—he glories
in his shame, crying aloud, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

The cross thus interprets what is in man's heart. The
cross rips the mask of pretended religion from his face;
and exhibits man overflowing with the malignity of hell!

You say, "I don't hate God! I may be indifferent to Him.
He may not be in all my thoughts; but I don't hate Him!"

Then, what does that cross mean? 

Love, hatred, indifference—which? Does love demand
the death of the loved One? Does indifference crucify
its objects? Look at your hands! Are they not red with
blood? Whose blood is that? The blood of God's own
Son! No—neither love nor indifference shed His blood.
It was hatred that did it! Enmity—the enmity of the
carnal heart!

You say that I have no right to judge you. I am not
judging you. It is yon cross which judges you, and I
am asking you to judge yourselves by it. It is yon
cross that interprets your purposes, and reveals the
thoughts and intents of your heart!

Oh, what a revelation! Man hating God—and hating
most, when God is loving most! Man acting as a
devil
—and taking the devil's side against God!

The cross, then, was the public declaration of man's
hatred of God, man's rejection of His Son, and man's
avowal of his belief that he needs no Savior!

"What do you think of Christ?" was God's question.
Man's answer was, "Crucify Him!"

O what must man be—when he can hate, condemn,
mock, scourge, spit upon, crucify, the Lamb of God;
when coming to him clothed in love, and with the
garments of salvation?

And what must sin be—when, in order to expiate it,
the Lord of glory must die upon the tree—an outcast,
a criminal, a curse!


Time for taunt, and insult, and cruelty!

(Horatius Bonar, "The Surety's Thirst")

"The soldiers mocked Him, too, by offering
 Him a drink of sour wine." Luke 23:36

This is the last venting of man's enmity against God;
the last drop of the old serpent's venom poured upon
the holy Jesus! "This is the heir; come, let us kill Him!"
Man has got God into his power; he has got the
Son of God hanging helplessly on a tree; and his enmity
to God now gives full vent! He can mock God safely
now. Thus man's hatred of God comes out in all its
bitterness; and it does so, just at the very point where
God's love was coming out in its fullness. Never did love
and hatred, kindness and enmity—so meet together.
Never was love so requited, and kindness so mocked,
as here.

That very thing, which ought to have softened them,
and drawn out their profoundest sympathies—is that
which calls forth insult, which extinguishes pity, which
steels them against the Sufferer's cry, which rouses all
hell in their bosoms! Towards God they are as devils!

Now is their time for taunt, and insult, and cruelty!
So long as Jesus is going about, doing miracles, they are
afraid to touch Him. But now, when He is dying on a cross,
they may hate and mock Him as they please! Now, when
the lion of the tribe of Judah is in chains, and expiring of
His wounds—they may trample on Him at will.

O man, such is your heart! Such is the extent of
your enmity to the God in whom you live, and move,
and have your being!

Herein is love; not man loving God, but God loving man;
so loving man as to persist in His great work of grace,
notwithstanding man's utmost hatred and rejection! Here
is God's provision, not only for man's pardon—but for his
fullest joy. The Surety thirsted that we might not thirst!
He drank of the vinegar—that we might not drink it!
He drained the cup of wrath—that we might never taste it!
He was wounded that—we might be healed! What love!
The love of the Just to the unjust;
the love of the Holy to the unholy;
the love of the Heavenly to the earthly;
the love of the Creator to the creature;
the love of Jesus—infinite and divine!


God's chain and God's plan

(William S. Plumer, "A Treatise on Providence")

God's ways are unsearchable.

God's judgments are past finding out.

God's compassions are infinite.

God's power is almighty.

God's wisdom is unerring.

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


Providences are long chains with many links in them.
If one link were missing, the event would fail. But it
is God's chain and God's plan. The thing is fixed.
The outcome is not doubtful.

"My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
 What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have
 planned, that will I do."
Isaiah 46:10-11


"The plan of Him who works out everything in conformity
 with the purpose of His will." Ephesians 1:11

"This is the plan determined for the whole world."
   
Isaiah 14:26



Having nothing—possessing everything

(William S. Plumer)

"Known—yet regarded as unknown;
 dying—and yet we live on;
 beaten—and yet not killed;
 sorrowful—yet always rejoicing;
 poor—yet making many rich;
 having nothing—and yet possessing everything."
    2 Corinthians 6:9-10

The Christian is a paradox. Because he has Christ, he
has the unsearchable riches of Christ. Believers . . .
  have full and free forgiveness of all their sins;
  are fully accepted in the Beloved;
  are clothed in Christ's spotless righteousness;
  are adopted into the family of God;
  have a perfect title to heaven through Christ;
  have God for their Father,
  have Christ for their Savior,
  have the Holy Spirit for their Comforter,
  have heaven for their home;
  shall be like Christ and with Christ forever;
  shall inherit all things;
  are sure of ultimate victory over . . .
    sins,
    the world,
    the flesh,
    the devil,    
    all sorrow,
    death,
    hell.


When God thwarts, afflicts, and mortifies us

(William S. Plumer, "A Treatise on Providence" 1865)

Men are so ignorant of their own hearts that they are incapable
of determining what is best for them. Even regenerate men are
but partially sanctified and enlightened. But God searches the
heart. He understands our whole case. He knows what is most
for our good. He sees our strong corruptions and sad deficiencies.
When, in mercy to His child, He comes to heal his spiritual maladies,
He does not take counsel with human reasoning or desires. It is right,
it is best that He should act according to the wisdom which is infallible.
He employs the requisite remedies. Often they are distasteful to flesh
and blood. Sometimes they are frightful to contemplate, and terrible
to endure.

Then man, in his ignorance, too often says, "If God loved me—He
would not give me so bitter a cup to drink!" But this is man's folly.
Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Shall human weakness
control divine power? Shall finite knowledge prescribe to omniscience?
It is the height of wickedness for a worm of the dust—to revise the
decisions, or pre-judge the justice of the Almighty. We would expect
that God would deal with us in an incomprehensible way—if we did but
remember how base, sordid, and narrow are our views and plans; and
how holy, glorious, and eternal are His purposes and designs.

We are quite prone to magnify both the good and evil things of time
—to the disparagement of those of eternity. But when God thwarts,
afflicts, and mortifies us
—He makes us look at the things which are
unseen and eternal. If He racks this body with pain—it is that we may
think of our house, not made with hands, eternal, and in the heavens.
The shaking of this clay tabernacle forces upon us the recollection that
this present world is not our rest—and that we ought to be seeking a
heavenly country. If the godliest man on earth had his own way without
divine guidance—he would soon be in full march towards destruction!

How kind is God in wisely and mercifully deciding so many things
for us! God very mercifully marks out our course for us. God is
governor. We are servants. To us belong obedience, submission,
acquiescence. It is not ours . . .
  to guide,
  to decide what is best,
  to rule the world,
  to shape the course of events.

"But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say
 to him who formed it—Why did you make me like this?" Romans 9:20


Such a God should be derided!

(William S. Plumer, "A Treatise on Providence" 1865)

The unrenewed heart is atheistic in its inclinations.

"They say—The Lord doesn't see it. The God of Jacob
 doesn't pay attention." Psalm 94:7

"The wicked say to themselves—'God isn't watching!
 He will never notice!' Arise, O Lord! Punish the wicked,
 O God!" Psalm 10:11-12

Nothing more derogatory to the character of God can
possibly be said, than that He does not rule the world.

God reigns is a logical conclusion from God is. To deny
God's providence is as atheistic as to deny His existence!
A God, who neither sees, nor hears, nor knows, nor cares,
nor helps, nor saves—is a vanity, and can never claim
homage from intelligent men. Such a God should be
derided
—not worshiped! He might suit the mythology
of Paganism, or meet the demands of an infidel heart
—but could never command the allegiance, or win the
confidence of an enlightened and pious man!

The world may as well be without a God—as have one
who is incompetent to rule it, or, who, wrapping Himself
in a mantle of careless indifference, abandons creation
to the governance of puny mortals, to the rule of devils,
or to the sway of a blind chance! Such conduct may well
comport with the character of false gods—but is wholly
abhorrent to the nature of Jehovah! God's tender mercies
are over all His works. His kingdom rules over all!

"Our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases!"
    Psalm 115:3

"For I know that the Lord is great; our Lord is greater than
 all gods. The Lord does whatever He pleases in heaven and
 on earth, in the seas and all the depths!" Psalm 135:5-6

"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!"

    Revelation 19:6

He leads me

(William S. Plumer)

"The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
 He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads
 me
beside quiet waters." Psalm 23:1-2

He leads me. I certainly need someone to lead me.
I am so poor, so blind, so weak, so foolish that, if left
to myself, I would fatally err. Lord, never leave me nor
forsake me, lest I be undone. 

My Shepherd leads me gently and wisely. He makes no
mistakes. He knows the way I ought to go. He knows
how much sweet and how much bitter, are best for me.
He understands me fully. Oh, how He mingles mercy
with judgment!

True, He leads me often in a mysterious way. I see
not the end from the beginning. I cannot see afar off.
His footsteps are in the sea; clouds and thick darkness
surround Him. He gives account of none of His matters.
His judgments are a great deep. But He never does
wrong. He leads me in the paths of righteousness.

He leads me always—in prosperity and in adversity;
in joy and in sorrow. If He left me even for an hour I
would be undone. When I sleep, You, Lord, keep vigil
over me. When I awake, I am still with You. On the
land and on the sea, I am kept by Your mighty power.

He leads me—and I will follow Him. I will put my hand
in His—and go wherever His prudence shall direct.

"Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight
 path." Psalm 27:11

"From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my
 heart grows faint; lead me to the Rock that is higher
 than I." Psalm 61:2


The pasture of worms!

(William Bates)

Women, by men's idolizing them—are vainly proud
of their beauty, and more concerned lest their faces
be deformed, than their souls!

What is the body—but a mixture of earth and water?

What is beauty—but a superficial appearance—a
flower blasted by a thousand accidents? How soon
are the colors and charms of the face vanished? The
most beautiful are no less mortal than others—they
must shortly be the prey of death—and the pasture of
worms!
Can such a fading toy inspire pride into them?

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman
 who fears the Lord will be praised." Proverbs 31:30


I need just such a friend

(William S. Plumer)

Jesus knows all my wants and weaknesses; all
my sin and misery. He knows the malice of my
enemies, and the foolishness of my heart. He has
power to subdue my whole nature to Himself, and
to defeat the wiles and machinations of my foes.

His grace is all-sufficient.

His love is infinite.

His wisdom cannot be defeated.

His power cannot be resisted.

He has all power and strength—and I am very weak. He
has all the knowledge to understand my whole case, and
all the wisdom necessary to direct everything concerning
me. He makes no mistakes. He is never deceived. He is never
outsmarted. He knows all things. He knows my weaknesses.
He knows my sorrows. He knows my heart. His wisdom never
fails. He is never confounded or perplexed. He has as much
mercy and kindness as I need. His loving-kindness is so
great that we cannot fathom its top or the bottom—the
length or the breadth of it. The ocean of the Divine
love is boundless and inexhaustible!
It is infinite!

I have no sorrow to which He is a stranger.

He sympathizes with me in all my sufferings
and temptations.

I need just such a friend.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with
 confidence, so that we may receive mercy and
 find grace to help us in our time of need."
    Hebrews 4:16


Prayer for a time of bereavement

(John MacDuff, "Family Prayers" 1885)

The desire of our eyes has been taken away by a stroke! The shadows of death have unexpectedly fallen around us! Oh forbid that we should rebel under the rod, and refuse to be comforted. Let us glorify You "in the fires!" Let us feel that if we are Your children, there is not a drop of wrath, in that cup of sorrow; but all is love, infinite love! We would see no hand but Yours. You gave us our blessings—and You have a supreme and inalienable right to take them away! "Even so, Father, for it seems good in Your sight."

O Lord God Almighty, though Your way may sometimes seem to be in the sea, and Your path in the deep waters, and Your judgments unsearchable—yet nothing can happen by accident or chance. All is the unerring dictate of Your infinite wisdom and unchanging faithfulness and love. "This also comes from the Lord Almighty," who is ever "excellent in working." Often we cannot discern, through our tears, the rectitude and love of Your afflictive dispensations. Often are we led to say, with trembling hearts, "Truly, You are a God who hides Yourself." But all is well. We could not wish our concerns in better hands, than in Yours.

You cannot send one trial that is unnecessary, or light one spark in the furnace that might be spared. We will be silent, we will not open our mouths, because You are the one who has done this! Man may err, and has often erred. But, O unerring God—the Judge of all the earth must do right! We would seek to lie submissive at Your feet, and say in unmurmuring resignation, "May Your will be done."

Our earnest prayer, blessed God, is, that this severe trial may be sanctified to us all. We have need of such a blow—to remind us that this earth is not our rest. We were leaning on the creature—we were disowning and undeifying the Great Creator. You would not leave us to ourselves, to settle on our lees. You saw the need of Fatherly chastisement, to bring back our alien and truant hearts to Yourself. Oh, may we listen to our Father's voice. May we feel it to be a loud voice, and yet full of gentle tenderness. May it rouse within each of us the question, "What will You have me to do?" May we "arise and call upon our God!" Thus may this very affliction, which, for the present, seems not to be joyous but grievous, nevertheless afterward yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Let us hear Jesus' voice of encouragement and love, sounding amid the stillness of the death-chamber, and from the depths of the sepulcher, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave!"

O Helper of the helpless, Comforter of all who are cast down, better and dearer than the dearest and best of earthly relatives—give us that grace which You have promised specially in seasons of weakness. May we realize the truth of Your own precious promise, "As your day—so shall your strength be."

May this thought reconcile us to bear all and suffer all—that we shall soon be done with this present evil world—and be with our God, and that forever and ever! Hide us meanwhile, in the clefts of the Smitten Rock, until this and all other of earth's calamities are over and past. May we trust Your heart—where we cannot trace Your hand! We wait patiently for the great day of disclosures, when all shall be revealed; and all be found redounding to the praise and the glory of Your great name!

Hear us, blessed God. All that we ask, is for the sake of Your dear Son—our only Lord and Savior.  Amen.


God's mercy

(Nevins)

There is something very special in the manner in which the doctrine of God's mercy is taught in Scripture.

Observe that several words, nearly synonymous, are used to teach us the doctrine—such as merciful, gracious, long-suffering, pitiful, slow to anger. And not satisfied with the positive—the inspired writers use the superlative—very pitiful and very gracious!

Not content with the singular, 'mercy'—they adopt and employ the plural form—'mercies'. They speak of the mercies of God. Nor are they content with a simple plural—but they speak of these mercies as manifold. Yes, they speak of the multitude of His mercies. And to denote that there is nothing uncertain about these mercies, they speak of them as sure mercies. They also speak of them not only as many, but great! Yes—and great above the heavens! And they speak of the greatness of His mercies, in magnitude equal to what they are in multitude—many and great and sure mercies! Think of that!

They are not mere mercies—but tender mercies, and these mercies they speak of as original with God. They speak of Him as the Father of mercies! They take care to tell us that mercy is not accidental to God—but essential; they speak of it as belonging to him. Daniel goes further still. He says—"To the Lord our God belong mercies"—and 'forgiveness'? No! but 'forgivenesses'! You may say that is not proper grammar—but it is glorious doctrine!

There is another set of phrases they use—they speak of God as rich in mercy, plenteous in mercy, and full of compassion. They speak of His abundant mercy, of the earth as full of His mercy, to denote its amplitude. And in respect of its continuance, they say that His compassions fail not. In Psalm 136, twenty-six times it is said, "His mercy endures forever!"

There is still another phraseology used by the sacred writers. They speak of God's kindness, His great kindness, His marvelous kindness, His everlasting kindness. But they are not satisfied to speak of it as simple kindness; they call it merciful kindness, and speak of it as great towards us. They call it loving-kindness, also. And we read of God's marvelous and excellent loving-kindness, with which it is said also that He crowns us! Here, too, they use the plural form, loving-kindnesses; and they speak of the multitude of His loving-kindnesses.

We also find the sacred writers speaking of the mercy of God compared to certain human traits. For example, to a father's pity—which it is said to be like; and to a brother's friendship—than which it is closer; and to a mother's love—which it is said to exceed!

What more could they say?