Grace Gems for DECEMBER 2009

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The Babylonian books of the present day!

(Charles Spurgeon, "The Greatest Fight in the World")

The history of that human ignorance which calls itself "philosophy", is absolutely identical with the history of fools! If ones were to write the history of folly, he would have to give several chapters to philosophy, and those chapters would be more revealing than any others.

Beware of the Babylonian books of the present day! The truth of God is the only treasure for which we seek, and the Scripture is the only field in which we dig for it! If you keep close to the inspired book, you can suffer no harm; you are at the fountain-head of all moral and spiritual good. This is fit food for the people of God—this is the bread which nourishes the highest life.

The prayerful study of the Word is not only a means of instruction—but an act of devotion wherein the transforming power of grace is often exercised, changing us into the image of Christ, of whom the Word is a mirror.

Within the Scripture, there is a balm for every wound, a salve for every sore. Oh, the wondrous power in the Scripture to create a heart of hope, within the ribs of despair! Amidst sharp and strong temptations, and fierce and bitter trials, the Word of the Lord has preserved us. Amidst discouragements which damped our hopes, and disappointments which wounded our hearts, our Bibles have brought us a secret, unconquerable consolation.

There is no true doctrine which has not been fruitful in good works. Payson wisely said, "If there is one fact, one doctrine, or promise in the Bible, which has produced no practical effect upon your temper or conduct—be assured that you do not truly believe it."

The "doctrines of grace" produce . . .
  a fine morality,
  a stern integrity,
  a delicate purity,
  a devout holiness,
  consecration in life,
  calm resignation in the hour of suffering,
  joyful confidence in the article of death.
This must be a true gospel—which can produce such lives as these!

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In search of an imaginary good

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Many are asking—Who can show us any good?" Psalm 4:6

And all these—all this vast gathering of human souls, are joining in one cry—all moving in one direction! Oh, dreadful thought—at which the faithful well may weep! Their cry is SELF; their course is sin. Here and there are the chosen few struggling against the mighty tide; but the masses, the multitude are hurrying on in their mad career—in search of an imaginary good; and reaping the fruit of the futile search—in disappointment, damnation and hell.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

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He chose you to be trophies of His grace!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"You yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5

God builds a palace for Himself in heaven, made of 'living stones'. Where did He get them? Has He brought forth the richest and the purest marble from the fine quarries of Paris? No! Christians, look to "the hole of the pit where you were dug out of, and to the rock where you were cut from!" You were full of sin. Far from being stones that were white with purity—you were black with defilement, seemingly utterly unfit to be stones in the spiritual temple, which would be the dwelling-place of the Most High God. And yet, He chose you to be trophies of His grace!

Goldsmiths make exquisite jewelry from precious materials; they fashion the bracelet and the ring from gold. But God makes His jewels out of base materials. From the black pebbles of the defiling brooks—He has taken up stones, which He has set in the golden ring of His immutable love, to make them gems to sparkle on His finger forever. He has not selected the best—but apparently the worst of men—to be the monuments of His grace!

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The smallest trifles

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered!" Matthew 10:29-30

It is most important for us to learn, that the smallest trifles are as much arranged by the God of Providence, as the most startling events. He who counts the stars—has also numbered the hairs of our heads. Our lives and deaths are predestined—but so, also, are our sitting down and our rising up!

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Teach me how to pray, mother!

(J. R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)

"Lord, teach us to pray!" Luke 11:1

A little child missed her mother at a certain time every day. The mother's habit was to slip away upstairs alone, and to be gone for some time. The child noticed that the mother was always gentler, quieter and sweeter after she came back. Her face had lost its weary look—and was shining! Her voice was gladder, more cheerful.

"Where do you go, mother," the child said thoughtfully, "when you leave us every day?"

"I go upstairs to my room," said the mother.

"Why do you go to your room?" continued the little questioner. "You always come back with your face shining. What makes it shine so?"

"I go to pray," replied the mother reverently.

The child was silent for a little while, and then she said softly: "Teach me how to pray, mother!"

"When you pray, say: Our Father . . ." Luke 11:2

That one word is the key to the whole mystery of prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to speak to God, calling Him by that blessed name—He gave them the greatest of all lessons in prayer. When we can look into God's face and honestly say 'Father,' it is easy to pray. God loves to be called 'Father'. It opens His heart to hear all that we say—and to grant all that we ask.

Such power has the word 'father' spoken by a child, to open a human heart. Such power too, has the name 'Father' to find and open the heart of God! If we can sincerely say 'Father' when we come to the 'gate of prayer', we shall be sure to find entrance. If God is really our Father, we will no longer have any question as to whether we may pray to Him, or as to how to pray.

Some of us find life hard. It is full of cares and questions, of tasks and duties, of temptations and dangers. There are thorns and briers, among its roses. There are pitfalls in its sunniest paths. If we do not know how to pray—we can never get through the days. The privilege of prayer is always ours. The 'gate of prayer' is always open! Any moment we can look up and say 'Father', lay our need before the throne of mercy—and God will answer us as He desires!

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No sin, no sinner, no devil!

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

"An undefiled inheritance." 1 Peter 1:4

There are few earthly inheritances—but some defilement or other sticks close to them. Many times they are gotten by fraud, oppression, violence, injustice, etc. And as they are often wickedly gotten—so they are as often wickedly kept!

The heavenly inheritance is the only undefiled inheritance. No sin, no sinner, no devil—can enter to defile or pollute the heavenly inheritance, the incorruptible crown! The serpent got into the earthly paradise, and defiled Adam's crown—yes he robbed him of his crown! But the subtle serpent can never enter into the heavenly paradise!

"Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." Revelation 21:27

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A poor shoemaker in his dreary little shop

(J. R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16

"For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die!" 1 Corinthians 15:53

The lesson of the imperishable life, has a special application to those who suffer from sickness or from any bodily affliction. It will help us to endure physical sufferings quietly and unmurmuringly, if we will remember that it is only the outward man that can be touched and affected by these experiences, and that the inward man may not only be kept unharmed, but may be growing all the while in beauty and strength, being spiritually renewed through pain and suffering.

A poor shoemaker in his dreary little shop in a great city, one day noticed that there was one little place in his dark room, from which he could get a view of green fields, blue skies and faraway hills. He wisely set up his bench at that point, so that at any moment he could lift his eyes from his dull work—and have a glimpse of the great, beautiful world outside.

Just so, from the darkest sick-room, and from the midst of the keenest sufferings, there is always a point from which we can see the face of Christ and have a glimpse of the glory of heaven. If only we will find this place and get this vision—it will make it easy to endure even the greatest suffering.

"For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing." 2 Corinthians 5:1-2

Sickness is discouraging and is hard to bear. But we should remember that the doing of the will of God is always the noblest, holiest thing we can do any hour—however hard it may be for us. If we are called to suffer—let us suffer patiently and sweetly. Under all our sharp trials—let us keep the peace of God in our hearts. The outward man may indeed decay—but the inward man will be renewed day by day.

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Our conception of Christian life

(J. R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 2:5

Paul tells us that we ought to have the same spirit as Jesus, the same temper and disposition as Jesus, and the same principles as Jesus.

The life of Christ—must be the pattern of our lives.

We can learn what were the qualities of Christ's life, by a study of the Gospels. These precious books not only tell us about Christ, of the facts of His life, the works He did, the words He spoke—they also show us His sympathy, His kindness, His helpfulness, how He lived, how He interacted with people, how He bore enmity, unkindness and persecution.

Perhaps we do not think enough of Christ's beauty of character and disposition—in forming our conception of Christian life. It is one thing to profess to be a Christian; and another thing to grow into the loveliness of Christ. One may be altogether sincere in confessing Christ—and yet be full of faults, only a beginner, having everything of Christian duty yet to learn; and all the beautiful qualities of Christian character yet to acquire.

"Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

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He had to 'learn the lesson' just as we do!

(J. R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in need." Philippians 4:11-12

Life is a 'school'. All its experiences are 'lessons'.

We are all in 'Christ's school'—and He is always 'educating' us.

Disciples are 'learners' and all true Christians are disciples. We enter the lowest grade when we begin to be Christians. We have everything to learn. Each new experience, is a new lesson set for us by the great Teacher.

The business of noble Christian living—is learning. We know nothing when we begin. Learning is not confined to what we get from reading books. All of life is a school. 'Christ's books' are ever being put into our hands, and 'lessons' are set for us continually.

Paul tells us of one of the lessons he had learned in the 'school of experience'. "I have learned," he said, "the secret of being content in any and every situation." We are glad to know that Paul had to learn to be contented. We are apt to think that such a man as he was—did not have to learn to live as we common people do; that he always knew, for instance, how to be contented. Here, however, we have the confession that he had to 'learn the lesson' just as we do. He did not always know 'the secret of contentment'. He was well on in years when he said this, from which we conclude that it took him a long time to learn the lesson—and that it was not easy for him to do it. Christ's school is not easy.

Sorrow is a choice lesson in Christ's school. Sorrow is not an accident breaking into our life, without meaning or purpose. God could prevent the coming of the sorrow—if He so desired. He has all power, and nothing can touch the life of any of His children—unless He is willing. Since we know that God loves us and yet permits us to suffer—we may be quite sure that there is a blessing, something good, in whatever it is that brings us pain or sorrow.

We shrink from pain. We would run away from afflictions. We would refuse to accept sorrow. But there are things worth suffering for, things dearer than ease and pleasure. We learn lessons in pain, which repay a thousand times—the cost of our tears!

The Bible tells us that God preserves the tears of His children, putting them in His tear-bottle. Tears are sacred to God, because of the blessings that come through them, to His children. In heaven, we will look back on our lives of pain and sorrow on the earth—and will find that our best lessons have come through our tears!

All the 'Christian graces' have to be learned in 'Christ's school'. There Paul had learned contentment. He never would have learned it, however, if he had had only pleasure and ease all his life. Contentment comes from learning to do without things, which we once supposed to be essential to our comfort. Paul had learned contentment through finding such fullness of blessing in Christ—that he did not need the 'secondary things' any more.

Perhaps we would succeed better in learning this same grace—if we had fewer of life's comforts—if sometimes we had experience of need. The continuity of blessings that flow like a river into our lives—gives us no opportunity to learn contentment.

When sufferings come into our life . . .
  disagreeable things—instead of pleasant things;
  hunger and poverty—instead of plenty;
  rough ways—instead of flower-strewn paths;
God is teaching us the 'lesson of contentment', so that we can say at length, that we have learned the secret of being content!

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Then the worm became a splendid butterfly

(J. R. Miller, "The Wider Life" 1908)

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your hearts on things above! Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2

Paul reminds us that those who believe on Christ—should live a risen life.

We live on the earth at present. We walk on earth's streets. We live in material houses, built of stones, bricks, or wood. We eat earth's fruits, gathering our food from earth's fields, orchards and gardens. We wear clothes woven of earthly fabrics. We adorn our homes with works of art that human hands make. We engage in the business of earth. We find our happiness in the things of this life.

But there will be a life after this! We call it heaven. We cannot see it. There is never a rift in the sky, through which we can get even a glimpse of it. We have in the Scriptures hints of its beauty, its happiness, its blessedness. We know it is a world without sorrow, without sin, without death. Paul's teaching is that the Christian, while living on the earth—ought to begin to live this heavenly life.

One day a friend sent me a splendid butterfly, artistically mounted, known as the Lima Moth. This little creature is said to be the most beautiful of North American insects. Its color is light green with variegated spots. In its caterpillar state, it was only a worm. It died and entered its other or higher state, as we would say—and then the worm became a splendid butterfly.

This illustrates the two stages of a Christian's life. Here we are in our earthly state. After this will come the heavenly condition. "The things that are above" belong to this higher, spiritual life. But the Christian is exhorted to seek these higher things—while living in this lower world. We belong to heaven, although we are not yet living in heaven.

Paul presents the same truth in another form, when he says, "Our citizenship is in heaven." Though we are in this earthly world—but we do not belong here. We are only strangers and pilgrims.

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Tangles which our fingers cannot unravel

(J. R. Miller, "For a Busy Day" 1895)

"Show me the way I should walk, for I have come to you in prayer." Psalm 143:8

We cannot know the way ourselves. The path across one little day seems very short, but none of us can find it ourselves. Each day is a hidden world to our eyes, as we enter it in the morning. We cannot see one step before us, as we go forth. An impenetrable veil covers the brightest day, as with night's black robes. It may have joys and prosperities for us—or it may bring to us sorrows and adversities. Our path may lead us into a garden—or the garden may be a Gethsemane. We have our plans as we go out in the morning—but we are not sure that they will be realized. The day will bring duties, responsibilities, temptations, perils, tangles which our fingers cannot unravel, intricate or obscure paths in which we cannot find the way.

What could be more fitting in the morning than the prayer, "Show me the way I should walk!" God knows all that is in the day for us. His eye sees to its close—and He can be our guide.

There is no promise given more repeatedly in the Bible, than that of divine guidance. We have it in the shepherd psalm, "He leads me in the paths of righteousness." Paths of righteousness are right paths. All God's paths are clean and holy. They are the ways of His commandments. But there is another sense in which they are right paths. They are the right ways—the best ways for us. Ofttimes they are not the ways which we would have chosen. They do not seem to be good ways. But nevertheless they are right—and lead to blessing and honor. We are always safe, therefore, in praying this prayer on the morning of any day, "Show me the way I should walk!"

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It kisses—and kills!

(George Swinnock)

"The deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 3:13

Sin goes in a disguise—and thence is welcome.

Like Judas, it kisses—and kills!

Like Joab, it salutes—and slays!

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The process was not easy!

(J. R. Miller, "The Friendships of Jesus" 1897)

"Jesus looked at him and said—You are Simon, son of John.
You will be called Cephas (which means 'Rock')." John 1:42

"You are Simon." That was his name then.
"You will be called Cephas." That was what he would become.

This did not mean that Simon's character was changed instantly into the quality which the new name indicated. It meant that this would be his character by and by—when the work of grace in him was finished. The new name was a prophecy of what he was to become—the man that Jesus would make of him. Now he was only Simon—rash, impulsive, self-confident, vain—and therefore weak and unstable.

The process was not easy!

Simon had many hard lessons to learn!

had to be changed into humility.

Impetuosity had to be disciplined into quiet self-control.

Presumption had to be awed and softened into reverence.

Heedlessness had to grow into thoughtfulness.

Rashness had to be subdued into prudence.

Weakness had to be tempered into calm strength.

Thus lesson after lesson did Simon have to learn, each one leading to a deeper humility.

It took a great deal of severe discipline to make him into the strong, firm man of rock, that Jesus set out to produce in him. The price which he had to pay to attain this nobleness of character and this vastness of holy influence—was not too great.

But how about ourselves? It may be quite as hard for some of us to be made into the image of beauty and strength, which the Master has set for us. It may require that we shall pass through experiences of loss, trial, temptation and sorrow.

Life's great lessons are very long, and cannot be learned in a day; nor can they be learned easily. But at whatever cost, they are worth while. It is worth while for the gold to pass through the fire—to be made pure and clean. It is worth while for the gem to endure the hard processes necessary to prepare it for shining in its dazzling splendor. It is worth while for a Christian to submit to whatever severe discipline may be required—to bring out in him the likeness of the Master, and to fit him for noble living and serving.

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A threefold cord which cannot be broken!

(J. R. Miller)

"When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven!" Nehemiah 1:4

TEARS were not all. Nehemiah also carried the burden to God in prayer. He did this before he took any step himself for the relief of the suffering, and the advancement of his work. Compassion is Christlike; but tears alone are not enough. This is a lesson we should not forget in our compassion for others: God cares more for them than we do, and His compassion is deeper than ours; we may, therefore, be sure of interest upon His part—when we speak the names of our friends into His ear. Besides, He knows best how to help. We should take the burden to Him first—and then be ready to do whatever He may tell us to do.

The best way for us to help others—usually is to PRAY for them. Of course praying is not all we should do; Nehemiah did not stop with tears and prayers. He gave himself to the work in behalf of his people. He left the luxurious palace, and journeyed away to Jerusalem, and took earnest hold with both hands, giving all his energy and influence to the cause.

Likewise, more than tears and prayers are needed; there is something for us to DO. Many people can weep over distress, and then pray fervently for the relief that is needed—but never DO anything themselves!

Nehemiah's way is better: sympathy, prayer, work.

This makes a threefold cord which cannot be broken!

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Only a 'kiss'

(J. R. Miller, "The Friendships of Jesus" 1897)

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends—if you do what I command. . . . I have called you friends." John 15:13-15

The central fact in every true Christian life, is a personal friendship with Jesus. Men were called to follow Him, to leave all and cleave to Him, to believe on Him, to trust Him, to love Him, to obey Him; and the result was the transformation of their lives into His own beauty! That which alone makes one a Christian, is being a friend of Jesus.

Friendship transforms—we become like those with whom we live in close, intimate relations. Life flows into life, heart and heart are knit together, spirits blend, and the two friends become one.

We have but little to give to Christ; yet it is a comfort to know that our friendship really is precious to Him, and gives Him joy—poor and meager though its best may be. But He has infinite blessings to give to us. The friendship of Jesus includes all other blessings for time and for eternity! If Christ is our friend, all of life is made rich and beautiful to us.

"I have called you friends." No other gift He gives to us—can equal in value, the love and friendship of His heart.

When King Cyrus gave Artabazus, one of his courtiers, a 'gold cup'; he gave Chrysanthus, his favorite, only a 'kiss'. And Artabazus said to Cyrus, "The gold cup you gave me, was not so precious as the kiss you gave Chrysanthus."

No good man's money is ever worth as much as his love. Certainly the greatest honor of this earth, greater than rank or station or wealth—is the friendship of Jesus Christ.

The stories of the friendships of Jesus when He was on the earth, need cause no one to sigh, "I wish that I had lived in those days, when Jesus lived among men—that I might have been His friend too—feeling the warmth of His love, my life enriched by contact with His, and my spirit quickened by His love and grace!" The friendships of Jesus, whose stories we read in the New Testament, are only patterns of friendships into which we may now enter—if we are ready to consecrate our life to Him in faithfulness and love.

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A good many people have to die—to be appreciated

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

"About that time she became sick and died. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other garments Dorcas had made for them." Acts 9:37,39

A good many people have to die—to be appreciated. They go through the world living quietly, devoted to the interests of those who are dear to them, seeking no recognition. They are merely commonplace people, and so are allowed to love and serve without appreciation.

But one day they are missed from their accustomed place—their work on earth is done—and they are gone! Then the empty place reveals the value of the blessing they have been. In their absence, people learn for the first time—the value of the services they had been accustomed to receive from them.

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The bliss of heaven

(J. R. Miller, "Our New Edens" 1903)

"They will see His face!" Revelation 22:4

John says that in heaven, "we shall be like Christ—for we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3:2. While we look upon the brightness of our Master's face—its beauty is imprinted upon us! Looking upon Christ—makes us like Him!

Paul teaches the same remarkable truth: "We all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory!" 2 Corinthians 3:18. This transformation is not a heavenly matter alone—it will be completed there, when, all veils removed—we shall look directly into the face of Christ; but it is something for our earthly life too. It begins here, and it goes on, the likeness coming out ever more and more fully and clearly—as we know more and more about Christ.

Companionship with Him, communion with Him, looking into His face—prints upon us His likeness! Every day, if we live as we should—some new line of His beauty comes out on our faces!

One day we shall slip away from these scenes of earth. Our eyes shall be closed on all familiar things. Next moment—O rapture! they will be opened on the unveiled face of Jesus Christ! That is what 'death' will be to you—if you are God's child. You may now dread death—but it is only going to look at your Redeemer's face!

The bliss of heaven will be largely—in being with Christ, in seeing His face, in enjoying His companionship. What bliss it will be in heaven—to look into Christ's face of love—and to have His smile!

To see the face of Christ is also a token of high honor. Not many people are admitted to the presence of an earthly king. Only his favorites and those high in rank have this privilege. But in heaven, all of Christ's servants shall see His face. That is, they shall be admitted to the closest fellowship and shall have all the privileges of intimate friends!

What a blessed moment it will be—when we are ushered into the presence of Christ! No wonder Paul says, "To depart and be with Christ—is very far better!"

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How good I am! What fine things I have done!

(J. R. Miller, "The Beauty of Quietness" 1903)

"They will be like dew sent by the Lord." Micah 5:7

The lives of godly people are sometimes compared to the dew. One point of likeness, is the quiet way in which the dew performs its ministry. It falls silently and imperceptibly. It makes no noise. No one hears it dropping. It chooses its time in the night when men are sleeping, when none can see its beautiful work. It covers the leaves with clusters of pearls. It steals into the bosoms of the flowers, and leaves new cupfuls of sweetness there. It pours itself down among the roots of the grasses and tender herbs and plants. It loses itself altogether, and yet it is not lost. For in the morning there is fresh life everywhere, and new beauty. The fields are greener, the gardens are more fragrant, and all nature is clothed in fresh luxuriance!

Is there not in this simile, a suggestion as to the way we should seek to do good in this world? Should we not wish to have our influence felt—while no one thinks of us; rather than that we should be seen and heard and praised? Should we not be willing to lose ourselves in the service of self-forgetful love, as the dew loses itself in the bosom of the rose—caring only that other lives shall be sweeter, happier, and holier—and not that honor shall come to us? We are too anxious, some of us, that our names shall be written in large letters on the things we do, even on what we do for our Master; and are not willing to sink ourselves out of sight—and let Him alone have the praise.

Our Lord's teaching on the subject is very plain. He says: "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." That is, they have that which they seek—the applause of men.

"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." The meaning would seem to be, that we are not to wish people to know of our good deeds, our charities, our self-denials; that we should not seek publicity, when we give money or do good works; indeed, that we are not even to tell ourselves what we have done; that we are not to think about our own good deeds so as to become conscious of them; not to put them down in our diaries and go about complimenting ourselves, throwing bouquets at ourselves, and whispering: "How good I am! What fine things I have done!"

This is an insightful test of our lives. Are we willing to be as the dew—to steal abroad in the darkness, carrying blessings to men's doors, blessings that shall enrich the lives of others and do them good—and then steal away again before those we have helped or blessed awaken, to know what hand it was that brought the gift? Are we willing to work for others  . . .
  without gratitude,
  without recognition,
  without human praise,
  without requital?

Are we content to have our lives poured out like the dew—to bless the world and make it more fruitful—and yet remain hidden away ourselves? Is it enough for us to see the fruits of our toil and sacrifice—in others' spiritual growth, and deeper happiness; yet never hear our names spoken in praise or honor—perhaps even hearing others praised for things we have done?

If you go about doing good in simple ways, in gentle kindnesses, not thinking of reward, not dreaming of praise, not hoping for any return—you are enshrining your name where it will have immortal honor! Our lesson teaches us that this is the way we are to live—if we are followers of Christ!

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There is no habit that we should more sedulously form

(J. R. Miller, "Prayer in the Christian life" 1903)

What place should prayer have in a Christian's life? Should we pray little or much? Should we confine our praying to certain days—Sundays, for example; or to certain hours or moments of our days—mornings, for example? Should we pray only about certain things, certain affairs, certain portions of our life? Are there things we have no permission to take to God in prayer? Should we pray only in certain places—in our accustomed room at home, or in places 'set apart for divine worship'? Is there any place, where we may not pray?

There is a verse of Paul's which seems to answer all these questions. "Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17. That means, pray always and everywhere. There is nothing we may not take to God in prayer—asking for His help. There is no hour of the day when we may not turn to God—and find Him ready to hear and bless us. The gates of prayer are never shut!

To pray without ceasing—is to do everything with prayer. This does not mean that every piece of work we undertake, must be begun with a 'formal act' of prayer—stopping, kneeling down, and offering a spoken petition. To pray without ceasing is—to have the heart always in converse with God. It is to live so near to God—that we can talk with Him wherever we go—and seek His help, His wisdom, His guidance. God is our Father, with infinite love in His heart for us, ready and eager to help us and bless us in every way!

True prayer is not a matter of times and places. Wherever we go—we are with God. Whatever we are doing—our hearts may go out to Him. "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath—the Christian's native air!"

There is no habit that we should more sedulously form, than that of talking with God about everything we do. We are often told that we should begin every day with prayer. That is very needful and beautiful. The first face our eyes see in the morning—should be Christ's! His too, should be the first voice we hear; and to Him, our first words should be spoken! Ten minutes in the morning, yes, two minutes, spent really with Christ, will change all our day for us.

It is often said that we should 'count that day lost' in which no kindness is done, no deed of love to anyone, no help given. But sadder far—is a day without prayer! It is a day without God, without heaven's light shining into it—a day unblessed! That morning you forget to pray—is a sad morning for you!

We should form the habit of praying at every step, as we go along through the day. That was part of Paul's meaning when he said, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed—do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." He would have us include every word we speak—as well as every deed we do. Think what it would mean to have every word that passes our lips winged and blessed with prayer—always to breathe a little prayer before we speak, and as we speak. This would put heavenly sweetness into all our speech! It would make all our words kindly, loving, inspiring words—words that would edify and minister grace to those who hear. We can scarcely think of one using bitter words, backbiting words, unholy words—if his heart is always full of prayer; if he has trained himself to always pray before he speaks.

But we are to do all our deeds, also, in the name of the Lord Jesus. That means that we should do everything for Him, to please Him. If we could get this lesson learned, if we would really pray without ceasing—how beautiful our lives would be! How well we would do all our work!

Only think of a man in business doing all his day's business in a spirit of prayer—breathing a little prayer as he makes a bargain, as he writes a business letter, as he talks with other men. Think of a woman amid her household cares—taking everything to God for His blessing, for His approval, for His direction. These are not by any means, impossible suppositions. Indeed, this is the way a Christian is to live, should always live—doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus!

"In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"Pray at all times and on every occasion." Ephesians 6:18

It is well for us to learn this lesson—to take everything to God in prayer, to pray as we go from task to task. We may form the habit of putting up little 'sentence prayers' continually. When you feel an inclination to speak bitterly, or to answer sharply; when you have been stung by another's speech or act; when you are tempted to refuse a request for help, to do some selfish thing, to pass by a human need, to speak an untruth—lift up your heart in the prayer, "Jesus, help me to do Your will." Or if you meet a sudden temptation and are in danger of being swept away, look up and cry, "Jesus, save me!" We do not know what we miss—by leaving God out of so much of our life!

We often wonder . . .
  why we fail,
  why so little comes of our efforts,
  why we do not get along better with people,
  why we are not happy,
  why joy is so lacking in our experience,
  why we are so easily fretted and vexed,
  why we are so discontented,
  why we fall so easily into surliness and bad temper.
It is because we cease to pray!

It is impossible to tell of the blessing of such a spirit and habit of prayer. Those who have not learned to "pray without ceasing" have no conception of what they are missing. If we all had learned this lesson—what a company of overcoming Christians we would be! The world would have little power over us—we would tread it under our feet! We would be strong—where now we are so weak. We would be victorious over temptation, where now we fail so sadly. If you knew that Christ was always actually walking with you—how strong you would be! There is no lesson we need to take more to heart—than this lesson of unceasing prayer! All the best things of Christian living—are the fruit of silent meditation.

Life is not easy for any of us. We can live nobly, purely, Christly—only by being much with Christ! We will rob ourselves of Divine blessing, of beauty of character, of power in service—if we fail to make room in all our busy days—for quiet retreats from the noise and strife, where we may sit at Christ's feet—to hear His words, and lie on His bosom that we may absorb His spirit, to prepare us for the toil of the day!

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Afterwards you will understand

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

"He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel He had around Him." John 13:4-5
"What I am doing, you do not understand now—but afterwards you will understand." John 13:7

At this time Peter did not know why the Messiah he really needed—was a Messiah with basin and towel. He was thinking of a Messiah with throne and crown and scepter and earthly pomp! He did not understand it—until after the blood of Calvary had been shed. Christ referred to these days by "afterwards."

This saying of Christ, however, may be used in a much wider sense. There are a great many things that He does, which at the time we cannot understand; yet in due time—all of them will become clear. As they appear to us, while we are passing through them, they are unfinished acts; when the work is completed—it will appear beautiful. This is especially true of many mysterious providences in our lives. One time Jacob thought and said, "All these things are against me!" But he lived to see that the very things which he thought were against him—were really all working together for his good.

So it is always, in the providences of God with His own people. "We know that all things work together for good, to those who love God."

The back side of a tapestry appears to be a mystery of tangle and confusion—but there is a beautiful picture on the other side. Just so—we are looking at our lives, largely on the back side. We cannot see the Master's plan—until 'afterwards'.

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It is only a heathen lodging-place!

(J. R. Miller, "Our New Edens")

Parents are the custodians of their children's lives. If they would meet their responsibility and be able to look God and their children in the face at the judgment, they must make their homes as nearly 'gardens of Eden' as possible.

The way to save your children from the temptations of the streets—is to make your home so bright, so sweet, so beautiful, so happy, so full of love, joy and prayer—that the streets will have no attractiveness for them—no power to win them away. "Do not be overcome by evil—but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

The place of the home-life among the influences which mold and shape character, is supreme in its importance. Our children are given to us in tender infancy—to teach them and train them for holy, worthy, beautiful living.

It is not enough to have an opulent house to live in! It is not enough to have fine foods, and luxurious furniture, and expensive entertainments! Most of the world's worthiest men and women, those who have blessed the world the most—were brought up in plain homes, without any luxury!

It is the tone of the home-life, that is important. We should make it pure, elevating, refining, inspiring. The books we bring in, the papers and magazines, the guests we have at our tables and admit to our firesides, the home conversation, the pictures we hang on our walls—all these are educational. As in everything, LOVE is the great master-secret of home happiness.

The religious influences are also vitally important. In that first 'garden home', the Lord came and went as a familiar friend. Christ must be our guest—if our home is to be a fit place either for our children or for ourselves. If there is no sincere prayer in it, it is not a true home at all—it is only a heathen lodging-place!

How can we make 'new Edens' of our homes? What are some of the secrets of home happiness? I might gather them all into one word and say—CHRIST! If we have Christ as our guest—our home will be happy! He must be welcomed into all our life. He must be in each heart. He must sit at our tables and mingle with us in all our family interaction. Christ can bless our home, only through the lives of those who make the home circle.

Make your home so sweet, so heavenly, with love and prayer and song and holy living—that all through it, there shall be the fragrance of the heart of Christ!

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The supreme thing in Christian life!

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

"To obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22

Many people set a great deal more stress on religious rituals, than upon practical obedience. They will be faithful in attendance upon church services, devout and reverent in worship—and yet in their daily life, they will disregard the plain commandments of God! They fill the week with selfishness, pride, bitterness, and evil-speaking, and then go to church on Sunday, with great show of devotion, to engage in the worship of God!

But what God desires before our worship can be acceptable, is that we obey what He commands us. He bids us to love one another, to be unselfish, patient, kind, honest, pure, true; and unless we obey these commands, our religious rituals, no matter how conspicuous, how costly, how seemingly devout and reverent, are not acceptable to God!

There are many other phases of the truth. It is exact obedience which God desires, and not something else of our own substituted. When He tells a mother to care for her child, He is not satisfied if she neglects that duty to attend church. When God wants a man to help a poor family in some obscure street, He is not satisfied if instead of that lowly service, the man does some brilliant thing that seems to bring ten times as much honor to the Lord.

The supreme thing in Christian life—is to obey God; without obedience nothing else counts. The obedience must also be exact, just what God commands, not something else.

"If you love Me—you will keep My commandments." John 14:15

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We ought not to spend our life in picking up rubbish!

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

"Do not work for food that perishes—but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you!" John 6:27

We need to be continually reminded of the unsatisfying nature of the things of this world—and exhorted to seek eternal realities. We live in a material age, when the quest of people is for money, for power, for things of the earth.

John Bunyan gives a picture of 'a man with a muck-rake', working hard, scraping up the rubbish at his feet—and not seeing the crown which hung above his head. It is a picture of the great majority of the people in this world. They are wearing out their life in scraping up worldly rubbish—not thinking of the heavenly treasures, the divine and imperishable gifts, which they might have—with half the toil and care!

We ought not to spend our life in picking up rubbish which we cannot carry beyond the grave! If we are wise, we will seek rather to gather lasting treasures and riches, which we can take with us into eternity!

Whatever we build into our character, we shall possess forever!

Money which we spend in doing good in Christ's name—we lay up as safe and secure treasure in heaven.

All true service for Christ—stores up rewards for us in the future.

What we keep—we lose!

What we give in love—we keep forever!

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Little slips!

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

"Whoever is faithful in very little—is also faithful in much; and
whoever is unrighteous in very little—is also unrighteous in much."
    Luke 16:10

We are apt to under-estimate little failures in duty.

It seems to us, a small matter:
  that we do not keep an engagement,
  that we lose our temper,
  that we say an impatient or angry word,
  that we show an unkind or harsh spirit,
  that we speak uncharitably of another,
  that we treat someone with discourtesy, or
  fail in some other way which appears trivial.

We think that so long as we are honest, faithful, and loving in the larger things—that it of small importance, that we make 'little slips'.

But we never can tell what may be the consequences of our failure, in even the most minute duty.

A little slip hurts our own life! It leaves us a little weaker in our character, a little less able to resist the next temptation that comes at the same point. It breaks our habit of faithfulness, and makes it easier for us to break it a second time. We sin against ourselves, when we relax our diligence or our faithfulness, in even the least thing!

Then, we do not know what the consequences to others will be—when we fail in their presence. An outburst of temper in a Christian, may hinder many others in their Christian life. The failure of a Christian minister to pay a little debt, may destroy the minister's influence over many in his church.

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Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me!

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

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me! But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you—for My power is made perfect in your weakness!' " 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Many prayers which seem to be unanswered—are really answered. The blessing comes—but in a form we do not recognize. Instead of the very thing we sought—something better is given!

The burden is not lifted away—but we are sustained beneath it.

We are not spared the suffering—but in the suffering we are brought nearer to God, and receive more of His grace.

The sorrow is not taken away—but is changed to joy.

Our ignorant prayers are taken into the hands of the great Intercessor, and are answered in ways far wiser than our thought!

Instead of earthly trifles—heavenly riches!

Instead of things which our poor wisdom sought—things God's infinite wisdom chose for us!

Instead of pleasure for a day—gain for eternity!

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A device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility

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

"But we prayed to our God—AND posted a guard day and night to meet this threat!" Nehemiah 4:9

We are in danger of making prayer a substitute for duty; or of trying to roll over on God, the burden of caring for us and doing things for us—while we sit still and do nothing! When we pray to be delivered from temptation—we must keep out of the way of temptation, unless duty clearly calls us there. We must also guard against temptation, resist the Devil, and stand firm in obedience and faith. When we ask God for our daily bread, pleading the promise that we shall not lack—we must also labor to earn God's bread, and thus make it ours honestly.

A lazy man came once and asked for money, saying that he could not find bread for his family. "Neither can I!" replied the industrious mechanic to whom he had applied. "I am obliged to work for it!"

While we pray for health—we must use the means to obtain it.

While we ask for wisdom—we must use our brains and think, searching for wisdom as for hidden treasure.

While we ask God to help us break off a bad habit—we must also strive to overcome the habit.

Prayer is not merely a device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility. When there is no human power adequate to the need—we may ask God to work without us, and in some way He will help us. But ordinarily WE must do our part, asking God to work in and through us, and to bless us through faithful obedience.

"I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!" Colossians 1:29

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

"Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa that called for the death of all Jews, and he asked Hathach to show it to Esther. He also asked Hathach to explain it to her and to urge her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people. So Hathach returned to Esther with Mordecai's message.
Then Esther told Hathach to go back and relay this message to Mordecai . . ." Esther 4:8-10

We are apt to overlook the minor actors in Scripture stories—in our absorbed interest in the prominent ones. Yet ofttimes these lesser people are just as important in their own place, and their service is just as essential to the final success of the whole—as the greater ones.

The little girl in the story of Naaman the leper, is scarcely seen among the splendors of the Syrian court; but without her part, we would never have had the story at all.

The young lad with the basket, is hardly thought of when we read the account of the miracle; but they were his loaves with which the Master fed all those hungry thousands that day on the green grass.

The smallest links in a chain—are ofttimes quite as important as the greatest links.

Hathach was one of these obscure characters. But his part was by no means unimportant. Without his being a trustworthy messenger, Mordecai's communication with Esther would have been impossible—and the whole nation would have perished!

If we cannot do brave things like Esther, nor give wise counsels like Mordecai—we may at least be useful, as Hathach was, in faithful service. And perhaps our lowly part may some day prove to have been as essential—as the great deeds which all men praise. We may at least help some others in doing the great things that they are set to do in this world.

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The rose taught me a lesson

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

"Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless." Psalm 119:37

We must be always turning—if we would keep our life true and according to God's commandments.

There are some flowers which always turn toward the sun. There was a little potted rose-bush in a sick-room which I visited. It sat by the window. One day I noticed that the one rose on the bush was looking toward the light. I referred to it; and the sick woman said that her daughter had turned the rose around several times toward the darkness of the room—but that each time the little flower had twisted itself back, until again its face was toward the light. It would not look into the darkness.

The rose taught me a lesson—never to allow myself to look toward any evil—but instantly to turn from it. Not a moment should we permit our eyes to be inclined toward anything sinful. To yield to one moment's sinful act—is to defile the soul. One of the main messages of the Bible is, "Turn from the wrong, the base, the crude, the unworthy—to the right, the pure, the noble, the godlike!" We should not allow even an unholy thought to stay a moment in our mind—but should turn from its very first suggestion, with face fully toward Christ, the Holy One.

"I will set before my eyes no vile thing!" Psalm 101:3

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things!" Philippians 4:8

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He saw that they were in serious trouble!

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

"Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.
He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o'clock in the morning He came to them, walking on the water." Mark 6:45, 46, 48

Jesus did not come immediately; indeed, it was almost morning when He came, and the disciples had been struggling all night in the storm. Yet He had not been indifferent to them meanwhile. From the mountainside where He was praying—He kept His eye upon them. "He saw that they were in serious trouble." All that dark night, He kept a watch upon that little boat that bore His disciples in the midst of the waves.

There is something very suggestive in the narrative. This 'boat in the storm', is a picture of 'Christ's friends in this world, in the storms of life'. Sometimes we think we are forgotten—but from His place in glory, Christ's eye is always on us! He sees us struggling, battling with the waves, beaten, and distressed. He has full sympathy with us in all our struggles. It ought to be a great strength and comfort to us in trial, to know this. Jesus intercedes for us in our distresses!

It may not be best always to deliver us immediately—but His prayer continually ascends, that our faith may not fail in the struggle. This also should encourage us.

Then, He always comes in time. He may delay long—but it is never too long. If we call upon Him in trouble—we may be sure that He hears and sees us, and knows just how hard it is for us to endure; that He prays for us that we may not fail, and that He will come at the right time for our deliverance!

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We must hew our Agags to pieces!

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

"Since he had no sword, he ran over and pulled Goliath's sword from its sheath. David used it to kill the giant and cut off his head!" 1 Samuel 17:50-51

If he had not cut off the giant's head
—the old Philistine champion would have gotten up by and by, and walked away; for he was only stunned, not killed, by the stone. David made sure work of his victory!

A great many of our attacks upon sin in our own hearts, and in the world—only stun, and do not kill the evil. We walk away, thinking we have done a fine thing. But shortly, we meet the 'old giant' again, stalking abroad as before! He soon recovers from our blow, and we have to fight the battle over; and perhaps we fight it again in the same half-hearted way—and thus on and on, to the end of our life!

Most of us have had just such experience as this, with our own evil lusts and passions. We overcome them very often, and think each time that we are through with them—but soon again they are as active as ever.

We need to learn a lesson from David—and finish our victories by cutting off the head of every giant we strike down!

There is no other way of killing sins!

The life is in the head—and the head must be struck off—or the enemy will be facing us again in a day or two, with but a scar on his forehead!

The only way to get a real victory over vices—is to decapitate them! Bruises and wounds are not enough. There must be thorough work done, in the name of the Lord. Half-way measures will not avail.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5

"Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord." 1 Samuel 15:33. Like Samuel, we must hew our Agags to pieces!

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When I grumble about the weather

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

"The Lord has heard all your grumblings against Him!" Exodus 16:8

Does God really hear every discontented word which I ever speak?

Does He hear when I grumble about the weather . . .
  about the hard winter,
  about the late spring,
  about the dry summer,
  about the wet harvest?

Does He hear when I grumble . . .
  about the frosts,
  about the drought,
  about the high winds,
  about the storms?

Does He hear when I grumble . . .
  about my circumstances,
  about the hardness of my lot,
  about my losses and disappointments?

If we could get into our heart, and keep there continually, the consciousness that God hears every word we speak—would we murmur and complain so much as we now do?

We are careful never to speak words which would give pain to the hearts of those we love. Are we as careful not to say anything that will grieve our heavenly Father?

"I tell you this—that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak!" Matthew 12:36

"He who complains of the weather—complains of the God who ordains the weather!" William Law

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Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us!

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

"He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:4

If your faith stops at the cross—it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ!

You need a Savior who not merely two thousand years ago went to death to redeem you—but one who also is alive to walk by your side in loving companionship.

You need a Savior who can hear your prayers, to whose feet you can creep in penitence when you have sinned, to whom you can call for help when the battle is going against you.

You need a Savior who is interested in all the affairs of your common life, and who can assist you in every time of need.

You need a Christ who can be a real friend—loving you, keeping close beside you, able to sympathize with your weaknesses.

You need a Savior who will come into your life, and will save you, not by one great act of centuries past—but by a life warm and throbbing with love today, and living again in you.

A DYING Christ alone, will not satisfy our heart. We must have the living One for our friend! Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us! And that is the Christ the gospel brings to us: one who was dead—and is now alive for ever and ever!

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!" cried the psalmist, and cries every redeemed soul. It is only as we realize the truth of a living Christ—that our hearts are satisfied. We crave love—a bosom to lean upon, a hand to touch ours, a heart whose beatings we can feel, a personal friendship that will come into our life with its sympathy, its inspiration, its companionship, its shelter, its life, its comfort. All this, the living Christ is to us!

"I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" Revelation 1:18