Grace Gems for MAY 2009

One wrong step—and down we go!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life!" Matthew 7:14

In some sense, the path to heaven is very safe—but in other respects, there is no road so dangerous! It is beset with difficulties. One wrong step—and down we go! And how easy it is to take that treacherous step—if grace is absent!

What a slippery path is that—which some of us have to tread! How many times have we to exclaim with the Psalmist, "But as for me, my feet were slipping—and I was almost gone!"

If we were strong, sure-footed mountaineers, this would not matter so much; but in ourselves, how weak we are!

Even in the best roads—we soon falter!

In the smoothest paths—we quickly stumble!

These feeble knees of ours—can scarcely support our tottering weight!

A straw may trip us up—and a pebble can wound us!

We are mere infants, tremblingly taking our first steps in the walk of faith. Our heavenly Father holds us by the arms—or we would soon tumble down!

Oh, if we are kept from falling, how must we bless the patience, power and wisdom of God—who watches over us moment by moment—and day by day! Think—
  how prone we are to sin,
  how apt to choose dangerous paths,
  how strong our tendency to cast ourselves down
—and these reflections will make us sing more sweetly than we have ever done, "Glory to Him, who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy!" Jude 24

We have many foes—who try to push us down, and destroy us!

The road is rough—and we are weak!

But in addition to this, enemies lurk in ambush, who rush out when we least expect them, and labor to trip us up, or hurl us down the nearest deadly precipice!

Only an Almighty arm can preserve us from these unseen foes, who are seeking to destroy us at every step! Such an arm is engaged for our defense. He is faithful, who has promised, and He is able to keep us from falling, so that with a deep sense of our utter weakness, we may cherish a firm belief in our perfect safety!

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That unclean donkey is yourself!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"You must redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb. But if you do not redeem it—you must kill the donkey by breaking its neck!" Exodus 34:20

Every firstborn creature must be the Lord's—but since the donkey was unclean, it could not be presented in sacrifice to Him. What then? Should it be allowed to go free from the universal law? By no means! God admits of no exceptions. The donkey is His due—but He will not accept it; He will not abate the claim—but yet He cannot be pleased with the unclean victim. No way of escape remained, but redemption—the donkey must be saved by the substitution of a lamb in its place; or if not redeemed, it must die!

My soul, here is a lesson for you! That unclean donkey is yourself! You are justly the property of the Lord who made you and preserves you—but you are so sinful that God will not, cannot, accept you! It has come to this—the Lamb of God must stand in your stead—or you must die eternally! Let all the world know of your gratitude to that spotless Lamb who has died for you, and so redeemed you from the fatal curse of the law!

Must it not sometimes have been a question with the Israelite, as to which should die—the donkey or the lamb? Would not the man pause to estimate and compare the values of these animals? Assuredly there was no comparison between the value of a sinful man—and the spotless Lord Jesus! Yet the Lamb dies—and man the donkey is spared! My soul, admire the boundless love of God to you! Vile worms are bought—with the blood of the holy Lamb of God! Dust and ashes are redeemed—with a price far above silver and gold! What a doom would have been mine—had not plenteous redemption been found!

The breaking of the neck of the donkey was but a momentary penalty. But who shall measure the eternal wrath to come—to which no limit can be imagined! Inestimably dear is the glorious Lamb—who has redeemed me from such a doom!

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Little did she know, that amid the sheaves—she would find a husband!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Ruth left and entered the field to gather grain behind the harvesters. She happened to be in the portion of land belonging to Boaz, who was from Elimelech's family." Ruth 2:3

"She happened." Yes, it seemed nothing but an accident—but how divinely was it overruled! Ruth had gone forth with her mother-in-law's blessing, under the care of her God—to humble but honorable toil; and the providence of God was guiding her every step! Little did she know, that amid the sheaves—she would find a husband; and that he would make her the joint owner of all those broad acres; and that she, a destitute foreigner, would become an ancestor of the great Messiah!

God is very good to those who trust in Him, and often surprises them with unlooked for blessings. Little do we know what may happen to us in the future; but this sweet fact should cheer us—that nothing which is really good for us—shall be withheld from us!

The word "chance" is banished from the Christian's vocabulary—for we see the hand of God in everything. The seemingly trivial events of today or tomorrow, may involve consequences of the highest importance. Take comfort—our Lord deals as graciously with all His servants—as He did with Ruth!

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Have you seen Jesus lately?

(Charles Spurgeon)

"But they did not know who He was." Luke 24:16

The disciples ought to have recognized Jesus, they had heard His voice so often, and gazed upon that marred face so frequently, that it is amazing that they did not know Him. Yet is it not so with you also? Have you seen Jesus lately? You have been to His table—and you have not met Him there. You are in a dark trouble, and though He plainly says, "It is I—do not be afraid," yet you do not recognize Him. Alas! our eyes are blinded! We know His voice; we have looked into His face; we have leaned our head upon His bosom—and yet, though Christ is very near us, we are saying, "O that I knew where I might find Him!"

We should know Jesus, for we have the Scriptures to reflect His image. Yet how frequently we open that precious book—and have no glimpse of our Well-beloved! Dear child of God, are you in that state? Jesus walks through the glades of Scripture, and desires to commune with His people. Yet you are in the garden of Scripture—but cannot see Him, though He is always there!

Make it your prayer, "Lord, open my eyes—that I may see my Savior present with me!" It is a blessed thing to desire to see Him. But oh! it is better far to gaze upon Him! To those who seek Him—He is kind; but to those who find Him—He is precious beyond expression!

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Amidst all the changes of this troublous life

(Charles Spurgeon)

"I am the Lord—and I do not change!" Malachi 3:6

It is well for us that, amidst all the alterations and vicissitudes of life, that there is . . .
  One whom change cannot affect,
  One whose heart can never alter,
  One on whose brow mutability can make no furrows.

All other things have changed—all other things are changing. The sun itself grows dim with age. The world is waxing old—the heavens and earth must soon pass away and perish! There is One alone, who has immortality—of whose years there is no end, and in whose person there is no change.

The delight which the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he steps again upon the solid shore—is the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth, "I am the Lord—and I do not change!" The stability which the anchor gives the ship when it has at last obtained a hold-fast, is like that which the Christian's hope affords him when it fixes itself upon this glorious truth.

"With Him there is no variation!" Whatever His attributes were of old—they are now! His power, His wisdom, His justice, His truth, are alike unchanged.

He has ever been the refuge of His people, their stronghold in the day of trouble—and He is their sure Helper still.

He is unchanged in His love. He has loved His people with "an everlasting love!" He loves them now, as much as ever He did! And when all earthly things shall have melted in the last conflagration, His love will still wear the dew of its youth.

Precious is the assurance that our God never changes! The wheel of providence revolves—but its axle is eternal love!

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Holy shuddering!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Horror grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken Your law!" Psalm 119:53

My soul, do you feel this holy shuddering at the sins of others? If not, you lack inward holiness. David's cheeks were wet with rivers of waters, because of prevailing unholiness. Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains, that he might lament the iniquities of Israel. Lot, a righteous man, was distressed because of all the immorality and wickedness around him. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel's vision, were those who sighed and cried because of the abominations of Jerusalem.

It cannot but grieve gracious souls—to see what pains men take to go to Hell. They know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze!

Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates God's holy law, which is to every man's highest interest to keep. Sin pulls down the pillars of the society!

Sin in others horrifies a believer, because it puts him in mind of the vileness of his own heart. When he sees a heinous sinner, he cries, "He fell today—and, but for God's grace—I may fall tomorrow!"

Sin is horrible to a believer, because it crucified his Savior! He sees in every iniquity—the nails and the spear! How can a saved soul behold that cursed Christ-killing sin—without abhorrence?

Say, my heart—do you sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face. The good God deserves better treatment; the great God claims it; the just God will have it—or repay His adversary to his face!

An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin—and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is sin! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly!

My soul, never laugh at sin's fooleries—lest you come to smile at sin itself! Sin is your Lord's enemy, and your enemy—view it with detestation, for only so, can you evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.

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The diamonds of heaven!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Behold—he prays!" Acts 9:11

Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to pray—the Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed, but praying soul. Oftentimes a poor broken-hearted one bends his knee—but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears. Yet that groan has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music; that tear has been caught by God and treasured in the lachrymatory of heaven. "You put all my tears into Your bottle," implies that they are caught—as they flow!

The suppliant, who can only groan out his words, will be well understood by the Most High God. He may only look up with misty eye; but prayer is the falling of a tear! Tears are the diamonds of heaven! Sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah's court, and are numbered with the most sublime strains which reach the majesty on high!

Do not think that your prayer, however weak or trembling—will be unregarded. Our God not only hears prayer—but also loves to hear it. "He does not forget the cry of the humble." True, He does not regard proud looks and lofty words. He has no concern for the pomp and pageantry of kings. He does not listen to the swell of martial music. He has no regard for the triumph and pride of man. But wherever there is . . .
  a heart full with godly sorrow,
  or a lip quivering with agony,
  or a deep groan,
  or a penitential sigh
—the heart of Jehovah is open! He marks that prayer down in the registry of His memory! He puts our prayers, like rose leaves—between the pages of His book of remembrance; and when the volume is opened at last, there shall be a precious fragrance springing up therefrom!

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Petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Be careful to devote yourself to good works." Titus 3:8

"Avoid foolish questions." Titus 3:9

Our days are few, and are far better spent in devoting ourselves to good works, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. Incessant discussion of subjects of no practical value, do a world of mischief. Our churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be said—neither party is any the wiser! Therefore, the discussion no more promotes knowledge, than love! It is foolish to sow in so barren a field.

Questions upon . . .
  points wherein Scripture is silent;
  mysteries which belong to God alone;
  prophecies of doubtful interpretation;
  modes of observing
mere human ceremonies
—are all foolish! Wise men will avoid them! Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questions—but to avoid them altogether! If we observe the apostle's precept to be careful to devote ourselves to good works—we shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable business—to take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings!

There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish—which we must not avoid—but fairly and honestly answer, such as these:
  Am I growing in grace and Christ-likeness?
  Does my life adorn the doctrine of my Savior?
  What more can I do for Jesus?
Such inquiries as these, urgently demand our attention!

If we have been at all given to arguing and disputing, let us now turn to a service so much more profitable. Let us endeavor to lead others, both by our precept and example, to "avoid foolish questions."

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We must be wedded to the Leah of real holiness

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Laban replied—It is not our custom here, to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one." Genesis 29:26

We do not excuse Laban for his dishonesty—but we desire to learn from the custom which he quoted as his excuse. There are some things which must be taken in order; and if we would win the second—we must secure the first. The second may be the more desirable in our eyes—but the rule of the heavenly country must stand—the elder must be married first.

For instance, many men desire the beautiful Rachel of joy and peace—but they must first be wedded to the bleary-eyed Leah of repentance. Everyone falls in love with happiness, and many would cheerfully serve twice seven years to enjoy it. But according to the rule of the Lord's kingdom—we must be wedded to the Leah of real holiness—before the Rachel of true happiness can be gained.

Heaven is not first—but second; and only by persevering to the end, can we enter into it.

The cross must be carried—before the crown can be worn!

We must follow our Lord in His sufferings—or we shall never rest with Him in glory.

Dear heart, are you so vain as to hope to break through this heavenly rule? Do you hope for reward without labor—or honor without toil? Dismiss the idle expectation! Be content to take the difficult things—for the sake of the sweet love of Jesus, which will recompense you for all. In such a spirit, laboring and suffering, you will find that bitters grow sweet—and that hard things grow easy. Like Jacob, your years of service will seem unto you but a few days—for the love which you have to Jesus. And when the dear hour of the wedding feast shall come—all your toils shall be as though they had never been! An hour with Jesus—will make amends for ages of pain and labor!

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This was his final verdict!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Behold, all is vanity!" Ecclesiastes 1:14

Nothing can fully satisfy a person—but the Lord's love and the Lord's own self. Christians have tried other pursuits—but they have been driven out of such fatal refuges.

Solomon, the wisest of men, was permitted to make experiments for us all; and to do for us—what we must not dare to do for ourselves. Here is his testimony in his own words, "So I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind! Nothing was gained under the sun!" "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!"

What! Is the whole of it meaningless? O favored monarch—is there nothing in all your wealth? Nothing in that wide dominion reaching from the river even to the sea? Nothing in your glorious palaces? Is there nothing—in all your music and dancing, and wine and luxury? "Nothing!" he says, "but a chasing after the wind!" This was his final verdict—after he had trodden the whole round of pleasure.

To embrace our Lord Jesus, to dwell in His love, and be fully assured of union with Him—this is all in all. Dear reader, you need not try other forms of pleasure in order to see whether they are better than Christ. If you roam the whole world—you will see no sights like a sight of the Savior's face! If you could have all the comforts of life—without the Savior, you would be most wretched. But if you possess Christ—though you should rot in a dungeon—you would find it a paradise! Though you should live in obscurity, or die with famine—yet you would be satisfied with the favor and goodness of the Lord!

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A solemn sham and an impudent mockery!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Rend your heart—and not your garments." Joel 2:13

Garment-rending and other external signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested, and are frequently hypocritical. True repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Unsaved men will attend to the most multiplied and minute religious ceremonies and regulations—for such things are pleasing to their flesh. But true godliness is too humbling, too heart-searching, too spiritual for the tastes of carnal men! They prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. External religious rituals are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up. But they are ultimately delusive, for at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than religious ceremonies and rituals to lean upon.

Apart from vital godliness—all religion is utterly vain! When offered without a sincere heart, every form of religious worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of God!

Heart-rending is divinely wrought—and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form—but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of—but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating and sin-purging! But also, it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled souls are unable to receive! This heart-rending  distinctly belongs to the elect of God—and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts—but they are naturally as hard as marble! How then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary! A dying Savior's voice rent the rocks once—and it is just as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us effectually hear the death-cries of Jesus—and our hearts shall be rent!

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The coneys

(Charles Spurgeon)

"The coneys are but a feeble folk—yet they make their home in the rocky cliffs." Proverbs 30:26

Conscious of their own natural defenselessness, the coneys resort to clefts in the rocky cliffs, and are secure from their enemies.

My heart, be willing to gather a lesson from these feeble folk. You are as weak and as exposed to peril as the timid coneys—strive to be as wise as they are to seek a shelter. My best security is within the fortifications of an immutable Jehovah, where His unalterable promises stand like giant cliffs of rock. It will be well with you, my heart, if you can always hide yourself in the bulwarks of His glorious attributes, all of which are guarantees of safety for those who put their trust in Him.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, I have done so and have found myself like David in the cave of Adullam—safe from the cruelty of my enemy. I experience the blessedness of the man who puts his trust in the Lord—for long ago, when Satan and my sins pursued me—I fled to the cleft of the Rock—Christ Jesus! And in His riven side—I found a secure resting-place!

Dear heart, run to Him anew today, whatever your present grief may be! Jesus cares for you! Jesus will console and help you!

No monarch in his impregnable fortress, is more secure than the coney in his rocky shelter. The leader of a thousand armies is not one whit better protected—than the little dweller in the rocky cleft.

Just so, in Jesus—the weak are strong, and the defenseless are safe! They could not be more strong—if they were giants! They could not be more safe—if they were in heaven! Faith gives to men on earth—the protection of the God of heaven! More protection they cannot need, and need not wish.

The coneys cannot build a castle—but they avail themselves of what is there already. Just so, I cannot make a refuge for myself—but Jesus has provided it, His Father has given it, His Spirit has revealed it—and lo, I enter it and am safe from every foe!

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We may throw the dice!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"We may throw the dice—but the Lord determines how they fall." Proverbs 16:33

If the fall of the dice is under the Lord's control—then whose is the arrangement of our whole life? If the simple casting of the dice is guided by Him—how much more the events of our entire life—especially when we are told by our blessed Savior, "The very hairs of your head are all numbered! Not a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father!" It would bring a holy calm over your mind, dear friend, if you were always to remember this. It would so relieve your mind from worry—that you would be the better able to walk in patience, calmness, and cheerfulness, as a Christian should.

When a man is anxious—he cannot pray with faith, or serve his Master. When you worry and fret about your lot and circumstances, you are meddling with Christ's business, and neglecting your own! You have been attempting "providing" work—and forgetting that it is yours to "obey". Be wise and attend to the obeying—and let Christ manage the providing.

Come and survey your Father's storehouse, and ask whether He will let you starve—while He has laid up so great an abundance in His garner! Look at His heart of mercy—and ask if that heart can ever prove unkind! Look at His inscrutable wisdom—and ask if that wisdom can ever be at fault. Above all, look to Jesus Christ your Intercessor, and ask yourself, while He pleads, can your Father deal ungraciously with you? If He remembers even sparrows, will He forget one of His poor children?

"Cast your burden upon the Lord—and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." Psalm 55:22

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The cross is not made of soft feathers

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Take up the cross—and follow Me." Mark 10:21

You have not the liberty of making of your own cross; although unbelief is a master carpenter at cross-making. Neither are you permitted to choose your own cross; although self-will would gladly be lord and master. Your cross is prepared and appointed for you by divine love—and you are cheerfully to accept it. You are to take up the cross as your chosen portion, and not to stand caviling at it. Jesus bids you to submit your shoulder to His easy yoke. Do not . . .
at it in petulance, or
on it in vain-glory, or
  fall under it in despair, or
  run away
from it in fear.
Take it up like a true follower of Jesus.

Jesus was a cross-bearer; He leads the way in the path of sorrow. Surely you could not desire a better guide! And if He carried a cross—what nobler burden would you desire?

The Way of the Cross is the way of safety—do not fear to tread its thorny paths.

Beloved, the cross is not made of soft feathers, or lined with velvet—it is heavy and galling to disobedient shoulders! But it is not an iron cross, though your fears have painted it with iron colors! It is a wooden cross, and a man can carry it, for the Man of sorrows carried the load. Take up your cross, and by the power of the Spirit—you will soon be so in love with it, that like Moses, you would not exchange the reproach of Christ for all the treasures of Egypt!

Remember that the cross will soon be followed by the crown. The thought of the coming weight of glory—will greatly lighten the present heaviness of trouble. May the Lord help you to bow your heart in submission to the divine will—that you may go forth to this day's cross with the holy and submissive spirit which befits a follower of the Crucified.

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My Father,


My Father,
I desire to enter Your sacred presence in the name of Jesus. Where would I be, but for such a Savior! I have no plea of my own.

My best actions — how full of blemishes!

My purest aims and motives — how mingled with selfishness!

My best righteousness — how marred with imperfection and defilement!

My best thoughts — how sinful and unworthy!

My best prayers — how cold and languid, requiring themselves to be prayed for!

If You, O Lord, would mark iniquities — who could stand!

I know not what entanglements may hinder me in prosecuting my pilgrim way, what temptations may overtake me, what sorrows may darken me. Be about my path all the day long.

Strengthen me, good Lord, for the duties which are before me this day. I cannot forecast its perils and dangers and temptations. I implore the continuance of Your sovereign, sustaining, restraining grace — to keep me from falling. Hold me up — and then I shall be safe! Let me resume my pilgrim journey, leaning always on Your omnipotent arm.

May I know in my experience, that I can do all things, and endure all things, through Christ who strengthens me. When tempted to worldliness, or sloth, or self-indulgence — may I look to Jesus for strength. Conform me to His image; mold me into His holy example. In every difficult and perplexing path, may this be my guiding maxim and direction — "How would Jesus, my Lord and Master have acted in this situation?" And knowing His will, may I delight to do it.

May I ever exercise a jealous scrutiny over my thoughts and words and actions. Preserve me from . . .
  all pride and vain-glory;
  all selfishness and covetousness;
  all that would lead me to exalt myself;
  all guilty and unworthy compromises with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

May the consciousness of Your presence and favor — lessen my every cross and sweeten my every care. I anew commend myself to Your gracious keeping and guidance this day. Watch over me for good; and may every power of my body and every faculty of my mind, combine in devotion to Your service and glory. Wean me from all that is fleeting and perishable. Let it be my highest joy to follow You — and my deepest pain to grieve You.

Other refuges will fail, other props will be removed; may I find in You, an unfailing refuge and portion and friend! I go forth to the duties of a new morning, in simple dependence on Your grace and strength.

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A cup of love


My Father in heaven, draw near to me in Your infinite mercy. May all vain and wandering thoughts be silenced and repressed, as I now approach Your footstool. I adore You for the rich blessings that are treasured up in Christ. In Him I have . . .
  eternal life,
  a balm for every wound,
  a solace for every trial.

May I continually look to His sympathetic hand which dries all tears, and listen to His gracious voice which soothes all sorrows. May it be my habitual desire to follow in His footsteps and to reflect His image; to live and to walk so as to always do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

Gladden me this day with Your presence. Morning by morning, as I set out on my path of duty, may it be my increasing desire to attain a nearer and closer conformity to You and to Your holy will—to have more childlike tenderness of spirit, childlike obedience, childlike fear of grieving or offending a Father so full of pitying love and mercy.

I have to lament, heavenly Father—the proneness of my heart to depart from You—seeking my happiness too often in things which perish with the using. Break the world's alluring spell. Disenchant its delusive fascinations! Elevate my affections, purify my desires. May I seek to have the consciousness of Your pure, loving eye ever upon me, living under the supremacy of that elevating motive—to walk so as to please You.

Subdue my unmortified sin; quicken me in every good and holy way. Enthrone Yourself in my soul and life, as Lord of all; and bring me to live more constantly and habitually under the constraining influence of Your love.

Let it ever be to me, a gracious and consoling thought, that "the Lord reigns!" I am but clay in the hand of the almighty Potter! All that concerns me is directed and regulated by Your infinite wisdom and unchanging love. Neither is there anything arbitrary in Your dealings with me. I would lie passive at Your feet, saying, "Do to me and with me—as seems good in Your sight!"

I will be still, and know that you are my God. I flee to the sanctuary of Your covenant love, rejoicing in You as my Father, and in Christ as my Redeemer. May it ever be mine, to accept the cup of affliction which You put into my hand—as a cup of love, saying, "Not as I will, but as You will."

I look forward to that joyous time when, fully purified alike from sin and sorrow, I shall enter within the heavenly gates and stand faultless before Your throne!

I ask these and every other needed blessing, through the all-sufficient merits, and all-prevailing name of Jesus Christ, my only Lord and Savior.

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Father knows best!

My Father in heaven,
I approach the footstool of Your throne of grace, through the merits and mediation of Him whom You always hear. My best motives are mingled with selfishness; my best actions are marred with defilement. I feel the weakness of my faith, the coldness of my love, and the fitfulness of my holy desires. I cast myself anew on Him who has done all and suffered all and procured all for me!

I have continual need of Your grace, and of the influence of Your Holy Spirit. Protect and preserve me by Your mighty power. If at times I am prone to spiritual declension, reclaim my truant heart from its wanderings. Give me increasing tenderness of conscience, scrupulously avoiding anything that would compromise godly principle, or dim the sanctities of pure thought and holy deed. Enable me to cultivate those elevating virtues which make life truly beautiful. By simplicity of trust, consistency of obedience, and consecration of heart and life — may I ever seek to glorify Your holy name.

Hear and accept my penitential acknowledgment of sin and unworthiness, of weakness and infirmity, of defeat and failure. Grant me Your upholding, strengthening, sanctifying grace for this day. Let me exercise a habitual jealousy over my words and actions. Purify my motives, elevate my affections. Keep me from dishonoring Your Fatherly goodness, by doing what is inconsistent with Your will. Be . . .
  my Protector in danger,
  my Counselor in perplexity,
  my Light in darkness,
  my Comforter in sorrow,
  my Guide even unto death.

Bless Your children in affliction. May it be their joy and privilege to pour their sorrows into a Father's ear. Comfort them as a tender mother comforts her distressed child — and then they shall be truly comforted. Be the rest-giver and the rest-provider for Your weary and heavy-laden children.

Have mercy on the wide family of Your afflicted ones. May they take refuge in the very arms that are chastising them, feeling assured that their heavenly Father knows best, that they have need of all these things. May it be theirs to look beyond what is frail and fleeting and transitory — and anticipate the time when every tear-dimmed eye shall wake up amid the brightness and glory of an unsinning, unsorrowing, tearless world!

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The Holy Spirit is the Comforter—but Jesus is the Comfort!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"The Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit." John 14:26

This age is especially the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Jesus cheers us, not by His personal presence, as He shall do in glory—but by the indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Spirit, who is evermore the Comforter of His people. It is His office to console the hearts of God's people. He convinces of sin; He illuminates and instructs—but still the main part of His work lies . . .
  in comforting the hearts of the renewed,
  in confirming the weak, and
  lifting up all those who are bowed down.

He does this—by revealing Jesus to them! The Holy Spirit consoles—but Christ is the consolation. If we may use the figure, the Holy Spirit is the Physician—but Jesus is the medicine. The Holy Spirit heals the wound—but it is by applying the holy ointment of Christ's grace. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter—but Jesus is the Comfort!

Now, with such rich provision for his need, why should the Christian be sad and desponding? The Holy Spirit has graciously engaged to be your Comforter. Do you imagine, O weak and trembling believer, that He will be negligent of His sacred trust? Can you suppose that He has undertaken what He cannot or will not perform? If it is His special work to strengthen you, and to comfort you—do you suppose He has forgotten His business, or that He will fail in the loving office which He sustains towards you? No! Do not think so harshly of the tender and blessed Spirit, whose name is "the Comforter." He delights to give beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Trust in Him, and He will surely comfort you—until the house of mourning is closed forever—and the marriage feast has begun!

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It is radical, revolutionary, lasting!

(Arthur Pink, "
The Sovereignty of God

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

In the new birth, God exerts a quickening influence or power upon His own elect. Regeneration is very, very much more than simply shedding a few tears because of some temporary remorse over sin. It is far more than changing our course of life, the leaving off of bad habits and the substituting of good ones. It is something different from the mere cherishing and practicing of noble ideals. It goes infinitely deeper than coming forward to take some popular evangelist by the hand, signing a pledge-card, or "joining the church." The new birth is no mere turning over a new leaf—but is the inception and reception of a new life! It is no mere reformation, but a radical transformation. In short, the new birth is a miracle—the result of the supernatural operation of God. It is radical, revolutionary, lasting!

   In the new birth:

God lays hold of one who is spiritually dead—and quickens him into newness of life!

God takes up one who was shaped in iniquity and conceived in sin—and conforms him to the image of His Son!

God seizes a drudge of the Devil—and makes him a member of His holy family!

God picks up a destitute beggar—and makes him joint-heir with Christ!

God comes to one who is full of enmity against Him—and gives him a new heart that is full of love for Him!

God stoops to one who by nature is a rebel—and works in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure!

By His irresistible power, God transforms . . .
  a sinner—into a saint;
  an enemy—into His friend,
  a drudge of the Devil—into His beloved child!

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When we complain about the weather!

(Arthur Pink, "
The Sovereignty of God")

"He spreads snow like wool;
 He scatters frost like ashes;
 He throws His hailstones like crumbs.
 Who can withstand His cold?
 He unleashes His winds, and the waters flow."
    Psalm 147:15-18

What a declaration is this! The changes of the elements are beneath God's sovereign control. It is God who withholds the rain—and it is God who gives the rain . . .
He wills,
  where He wills,
  as He wills, and
  on whom He wills!

"I also withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. I sent rain on one city—but no rain on another. One field received rain—while a field with no rain withered. I struck you with blight and mildew; the locust devoured your many gardens and vineyards, your fig trees and olive trees! I sent plagues like those of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword . . . says the Lord." Amos 4:7-10

"The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. He loads the clouds with moisture; He scatters His lightning through them. At His direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever He commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men—or to water His earth and show His love." Job 37:10-13

Truly, then, God governs the elements!

Earth and wind,
fire and rain,
hail and snow,
stormy winds and angry seas
—all obey His omnipotent word—and fulfill His sovereign pleasure! Therefore, when we complain about the weather, we are, in reality, murmuring against God!

Let His Word speak once more: "The Lord does whatever He pleases throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths. He causes the clouds to rise over the earth. He sends the lightning with the rain, and releases the wind from His storehouses." Psalm 135:6-7

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He will never come to Christ!

(Arthur Pink, "
The Sovereignty of God")

"You will not come to Me—that you might have life." John 5:40

"No one can come to Me—unless the Father who sent Me draws him." John 6:44

Why is it, that no one can come to Christ unless he is 'drawn'? The answer is, Because his wicked heart loves sin—and hates Christ! The heart of the every man is so "desperately wicked" that if he is left to himself—he will never come to Christ!

For the sinner to come to Christ that he might have life, is for him . . .
  to realize the awful danger of his situation;
  to see that the sword of Divine justice is suspended over his head;
  to awaken to the fact that there is but a step between him and death, and that after death is the 'judgment'! And in consequence of this discovery, to earnestly strive . . .
  to flee from the wrath to come,
  to cry unto God for mercy, and
  to agonize to enter in at the 'strait gate'!

To come to Christ for life, is for the sinner . . .
  to feel and acknowledge that he is utterly destitute of any claim upon God's favor;
  to see himself as 'without strength,' lost and undone;
  to admit that he is deserving of nothing but eternal wrath, thus taking side with God against himself;
  to cast himself into the dust before God, and humbly sue for Divine mercy.

To come to Christ for life, is for the sinner . . .
  to abandon his own righteousness;
  to disown his own wisdom—and be guided by Jesus;
  to repudiate his own will—and be ruled by Jesus;
  to unreservedly receive the Lord Jesus as his Savior and Lord, as his All in all.

Such, in part and in brief, is what is implied and involved in "coming to Christ." But is the sinner willing to take such an attitude before God? No! For in the first place, he does not realize the danger of his situation, and in consequence makes no earnest attempt to escape. Instead, men are for the most part at ease, and whenever they are disturbed by the alarms of conscience or the dispensations of providence, they flee to any other refuge but Christ!

They will not acknowledge that all their 'good works' are as filthy rags but, like the Pharisee, will thank God they are not as bad as other heinous sinners.

They are not ready to receive Christ as their Lord—for they are unwilling to part with their idols! They had rather hazard their soul's eternal welfare—than give them up!

Hence we say that, if left to himself, the natural man is so depraved at heart—that he has no moral and spiritual ability to come to Christ!

"The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God!" Romans 8:7, 8

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He does as He pleases!

(Arthur Pink, "
The Sovereignty of God")

"For the Lord Almighty has purposed—and who can thwart Him? His hand is stretched out—and who can turn it back?" Isaiah 14:27

To say that God is sovereign, is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth—so that none can . . .
  defeat His counsels,
  thwart His purpose,
  or resist His will.

Whatever takes place in time—is but the outworking of that which He has decreed in eternity.

The sovereignty of the God of Scripture, is . . .
  and infinite!

We insist that God does . . .
  as He pleases,
  only as He pleases,
  always as He pleases!

"But our God is in the heavens—He has done whatever He has pleased!" Psalm 115:3

"The Lord does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:6

"All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: What have you done?" Daniel 4:35

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Academic studies

(Letters of John Newton)

Dear friend,
I truly pity those who rise early and study late—with no higher prize and prospect in view, than the obtaining of academic honors! Such pursuits will before long appear (as they really are) as vain as the foolish games of children! May the Lord impress them with the noble ambition of living to and for Him. If these scholars, who are laboring for pebbles under the semblance of goodly pearls, had a discovery of the Pearl of great price—how quickly and gladly would they lay down their admired attainments, and become fools—that they might be truly wise! Their academic studies, if taken in the aggregate, are little better than splendid trifles!

Friend, what a snare have you escaped! You would have been nothing but a scholar—had not God visited your heart and enlightened you by His grace! Now I trust you account your former academic gains, but loss—compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. What you have attained in the way of learning, will be useful to you—if sanctified, and chiefly so by the knowledge which you have of its insufficiency to any valuable purpose in the great concerns of life—knowing God and walking with Him!

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His sheep feed in the midst of wolves!

(Letters of John Newton)
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need!" Psalm 23:1

The Lord is my Shepherd! This is a comprehensive word. The sheep can do nothing for themselves. The Shepherd must guide, guard, feed, heal and recover. It is well for us—that our Shepherd is the Lord Almighty! If His power, care, compassion and fullness were not infinite—the poor sheep would be forsaken, starved and die! But we have a Shepherd full of care, full of kindness, full of power, who has said, "I will search for My lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak!" Ezekiel 34:16. How tender are these expressions, and how well fulfilled! His sheep feed in the midst of wolves—yet are safely preserved; for, though they cannot see Him—His eye and His heart are ever upon them!

Which of God's children have not cause to say, "My soul is among lions!" But our Shepherd stops their mouths, or only permits them to gape and roar, and show their teeth. He does not allow them to bite and tear us at their will. Let us trust our Shepherd—and all shall be well.

As to daily occurrences, it is best to trust that a daily portion of comforts and crosses—each one the most suitable to our case—is adjusted and appointed by the hand which was once nailed to the cross for us! We must trust, that where the path of duty and prudence leads us—that there is the best situation we could possibly be in, at that time.

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The fight!

(Letters of John Newton)

September 1764
My dear Madam,
I understand something of your warfare. Paul describes his own case in few words, "Conflicts on the outside, fears on the inside." Does not this comprehend all you would say? And how are you to know experimentally, either your own weakness—or the power, wisdom and grace of God, seasonably and sufficiently afforded—but by frequent and various trials? How are the graces of patience, resignation, meekness and faith, to be discovered and increased—but by the exercise of trials?

The Lord has chosen, called, and armed us for the fight! Shall we wish to be excused from the battle? Shall we not rather rejoice that we have the honor to appear in such a cause, under such a Captain, such a banner and in such a company?

God has graciously provided:
a complete suit of armor,
formidable weapons,
precious balm to heal us—if we receive a wound, and
precious cordials to revive us—when we are in danger of fainting!

Further, we are assured of the victory beforehand! O what a crown of glory is prepared for every conqueror, which Jesus, the righteous Judge, the gracious Savior—shall place upon every faithful head with His own hand!

So let us not be weary and faint, for in due season we shall reap! The time is short! In a little while, the struggle of indwelling sin, and all the conflicts surrounding us, shall be known no more! "Be faithful, even to the point of death—and I will give you the crown of life!" Revelation 2:10

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He has a numerous and necessitous family!

(Letters of John Newton)

What a multitude of eyes and hearts wait at the Throne of Grace! He has a numerous and necessitous family—but He is rich enough to supply them all—and His tender compassions extend to the poorest and most unworthy of them! Like the sun—He can cheer and enlighten millions of His poor pensioners at once! He gives to each one as bountifully—as if there were no others to partake of His favor!

His best blessings are not diminished—by being shared among many. The greatest earthly monarch would soon be poor—if he was to give but a pittance to all his subjects. But Jesus has unsearchable, inexhaustible riches of grace to bestow!

The innumerable assembly around the Eternal Throne are all continually supplied from His fullness; and yet there is enough and to spare for His earthly children also—and for all who shall come after us! May He give us an eager appetite—a hunger and thirst that will not be satisfied with anything short of the Bread of Life. We may confidently open our mouths wide—for He has promised to fill them!

"Let us therefore 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

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Mr. Cox's Museum

(Letters of John Newton)

August, 1772
My dear Miss,
I received some instruction where I little expected it—at Mr. Cox's Museum. The efforts of his ingenuity amazed me—while at the same time I was struck with their insignificance. His fine things were curious beyond all I had any idea of; and yet what are they better than toys and amusements, suited to the taste of children! And notwithstanding the variety of their motions, they were all destitute of life.

There is unspeakably more wisdom and skill in the mechanism of a butterfly or a bee which flutters unnoticed in the fields—than in all his fancy apparatus put together! But the works of God are disregarded, while the feeble imitations of them which men can produce gain universal applause! If you and I could make self-moving lions and elephants, what would it profit us?

Blessed be God, that He has given us some glimpses of His wisdom and love—by which our hearts, more hard and lifeless by nature than the stones in the street—are constrained and enabled to move upwards, and to seek after Him. He has given us in His Word, a greater treasure than all that we ever beheld with our eyes, and a hope which shall flourish when the earth and all its works shall be burnt up! What will all the fine things of men's devising be worth on that day?

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Then they hiss and spit their venom!

(Letters of John Newton)

"I know, O Lord, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me!" Psalm 119:75

"God disciplines us for our good—that we may share in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10 

In Scripture, we read much concerning the emptiness, vanity and uncertainty of the present world.

When our minds are enlightened by the Holy Spirit—then we receive and acknowledge what His Word declares to be truth. Yet if we remain long without changes and trials, and when our path is very smooth—we are for the most part but faintly affected with what we profess to believe. But when some of our dearest friends die, or we ourselves are brought low with pain and sickness—then we not only say, but feel that this world must not, cannot be our rest!

We know by experience, that though afflictions in themselves are not joyous—but grievous—yet in due season they yield the peaceful fruits of righteousness. Various are the blessed fruits which afflictions produce:

By affliction, prayer is quickened—for our prayers are very apt to grow languid and formal in a time of ease.

Affliction greatly helps us to understand the Scriptures, especially the promises; most of which are made to times of trouble. We cannot so well know their fullness, sweetness and certainty—as when we have been in the situation to which they are suited, have been enabled to trust and plead them, and found them fulfilled in our own case.

We are usually indebted to affliction—as the means or occasion of the most signal discoveries we are favored with—of the wisdom, power, and faithfulness of the Lord. These are best observed by the evident proofs we have—that He is near to support us under trouble, and that He can and does deliver us out of it.

Likewise, many of our graces cannot thrive or manifest themselves, without trials—such as resignation, patience, meekness and long-suffering. Strength of grace is not ordinarily acquired by those who sit still and live at ease.

Afflictions do us good likewise, as they make us more acquainted with what is in our own hearts, and thereby promote humiliation and self-abasement. There are abominations which, like nests of vipers, lie so quietly within our hearts, that we hardly suspect they are there—until the rod of affliction rouses them! Then they hiss and spit their venom! This discovery is indeed very distressing—yet, until it is made, we are prone to think ourselves much less vile than we really are, and cannot so heartily abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes.

I must write a sermon rather than a letter—if I would enumerate all the good fruits which, by the power of sanctifying grace, are produced from this bitter tree of affliction!

While we have such a depraved nature, and live in such a polluted world; while the roots of pride, vanity, self-dependence and self-seeking, are so strong within us—we need a variety of sharp afflictions to keep us from cleaving to the dust!

"Before I was afflicted I went astray—but now I obey Your Word." Psalm 119:67

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Stupid creature!

(Letters of John Newton)

"What a wretched man I am!" Romans 7:24

January 27, 1778
My dear friend,
At present it is January with me—both within and without. The outward sun shines and looks pleasant—but his beams are faint, and too feeble to dissolve the frost.

Is it just so in my heart. I have many bright and pleasant beams of truth in my mind's view—but they have but little power to warm my heart—and cold predominates in my frost-bound spirit!

I could tell a stranger something about Jesus, which would perhaps astonish him—such a glorious person is He! Such wonderful love! Such humiliation! Such a life! Such a death! I could tell of what He is in Himself, and what He is to His people! What a sun! What a shield! What a fortress! What a friend! My tongue can run on upon these themes sometimes; and could my heart keep pace with it—I would be the happiest fellow in the country! Stupid creature! to know these things so well—and yet be no more affected with them!

Indeed, I have reason to be upon ill terms with myself! It is strange that pride should ever find anything in my experience to feed upon—but this completes my character for folly, vileness, and inconsistency—that I am not only vile—but proud! And though I am convinced I am a very wretch, and nothing before the Lord—yet I am prone to go forth among my fellow-worms, as though I were wise and good!

You ask me what I am doing. I must admit, that too much of my time passes in busy idleness, too much in waking dreams. I aim at something—but hindrances from within and without—make it difficult for me to accomplish anything! I dare not say that I am absolutely idle, or that I willfully waste much of my time. I have seldom one hour free from interruption: letters come that must be answered, visitors who must be received, and business which must be attended to. I have a good many sheep and lambs to look after—sick and afflicted souls, dear to the Lord—and these must not be neglected. Among these various avocations, night comes before I am ready for noon!

O precious, irrecoverable time!
O that I had more wisdom in redeeming and improving you!

I beg you to pray for me. I am a poor creature—and full of needs. I seem to need . . .
  the wisdom of Solomon,
  the meekness of Moses, and
  the zeal of Paul—
to enable me to fulfill my ministry.

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I would have carried the whole human race to hell with me!

(Letters of John Newton)

y the grace of God—I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

October 27, 1778
My dear friend,
How industriously is Satan served! I was formerly one of his most active under-tempters! Not content with running down the broad way which leads to destruction by myself—I was indefatigable in enticing others! And, had my influence been equal to my wishesI would have carried the whole human race to hell with me! And doubtless some have already perished, to whose destruction I was greatly instrumental, by tempting them to sin, and by poisoning and hardening them with principles of infidelity. And yet I was spared! When I think of the most with whom I spent my ungodly days of ignorance, I am ready to say, "I alone have escaped alive!"

Surely I have not half the activity and zeal in the service of Him who snatched me as a brand out of the burning—as I had in the service of His enemy! Then the whole stream of my endeavors and affections went one way; now my best desires are continually crossed, counteracted, and spoiled, by the sin which dwells in me! Then the tide of a corrupt nature bore me along; now I have to strive and swim against it.

Had my abilities and opportunities been equal to my heart desires—I would have been a monster of profaneness and profligacy! A common drunkard or harlot is a petty sinner—compared to what I once was! I had unabated ambition, and wanted to rank in wickedness among the foremost of the human race!

"O to grace how great a debtor—daily I'm constrained to be!"

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Filled with folly, vanity, and vexation!

(Letters of John Newton)

August 28, 1779
My dear friend,
The days speed away apace! Each one bears away its own burden with it—to return no more. Both pleasures and pains which are past—are gone forever! What is yet future will likewise, soon be past.

Our final end will shortly arrive! O to realize the thought, and to judge of things now in some measure suitable to the opinion which we shall form of them, when we are about to leave them all! Many things which now either elate or depress us—will then appear to be trifles as light as air!

Only one thing is needful

to have our hearts united to Jesus in humble faith;
to set Him always before us;
to rejoice in Him as our Shepherd and our portion;
to submit to all His appointments, not of necessity, because He is stronger than us—but with a cheerful acquiescence, because He is wise and good, and loves us better than we do ourselves;
to feed upon His truth;
to have our understandings, wills, affections, imaginations, memory—all filled and impressed with the great mysteries of His redeeming love;
   to do all for Jesus;
   to receive all from Jesus;
   to find all in Jesus!

I have mentioned many things, but they are all comprised in one—a life of faith in Jesus!

We are empty vessels in ourselves—but we cannot remain empty. Unless Jesus dwells in our hearts, and fills them with His power and presence—they will be filled with folly, vanity, and vexation!