The Footsteps of Jesus
Things to be sought — and things to be shunned.
By John MacDuff, 1856
Whatever things were written aforetime in the sacred volume — were
written for our instruction and admonition. The precepts it
inculcates, and the diversified incidents it records — were evidently
intended for our learning on the one hand, and for our warning
on the other. In the biographies of Scripture this particularly appears.
When the things which are pure, and lovely, and of good report — are
exemplified in the character of an individual, the practical application
is, "Go — and do likewise." While in reference to those of an
opposite nature, such as the daring stubbornness of Pharaoh, the
ostentatious zeal of Jehu, the worldly-mindedness of Demas, and many others,
the exhortation is, "Go — and do otherwise." Almost in every page,
both of the Old Testament and the New, are we reminded of what we are to
seek — and of what we are to shun; of what we are to flee from
— and what we are to follow after.
We have a perfect exhibition of the various graces after
which we should aspire, in "the man Christ Jesus," who has left us an
example that we should follow His steps. In thinking as He thought,
feeling as He felt, and walking as He walked — the whole of
experimental and practical religion is embodied. But as the spirit which was
in Him was largely transfused into, and reflected by, many of His faithful
servants — it follows that while we are treading in their footsteps —
that we are at the same time treading in His.
It is lamentable to think that of the many who bear the
name of Christ — that there are so few who can truly say, "But we
have the mind of Christ." The name of Christ, however, will be
of no avail without the mind of Christ. And while a mere nominal
profession is worthless to the individual himself — its effects cannot fail
to be injurious upon others. Let the reader, then, allow the word of
exhortation. To quote from a work recently published, "We beseech you to
cultivate the temper that was in Jesus Christ. Is he like a follower
of the Lamb — who is raging like a roaring lion? Is he like a pardoned
criminal — who sits moping with a cloud upon his brow? Is he like an heir of
heaven — who is vexed and fretted with some petty loss? Is he like one in
whose bosom the Dove of heaven is nestling — who is full of all manner of
malice and bitterness? A kind, compassionate, gentle, loving temper —
presents one of the most winning features of true religion; and by its
silent and softening influence you will do more real service to
Christianity, than by the loudest professions, or by the exhibition of a
cold and heartless orthodoxy." "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger,
harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior.
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just
as God through Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:31-32.
May the perusal of the following earnest pages be blessed
for the promotion of such a temper! May He, to whom the Spirit was not given
by measure, impart to the reader out of His inexhaustible fullness,
abounding grace; and thus cause him to abound more and more in all those
fruits of righteousness, which are for his own personal well being — for the
honor of the Christian cause — and the praise and glory of God!
Contentment — Covetousness
"Good when He gives, supremely good,
Nor less when He denies;
Even crosses from His sovereign hand
Are blessings in disguise!"
"A man's life does not consist in the abundance of the
things which he possesses." Luke 12:15.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be
content with what you have, because God has said — Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5.
"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
The apostle Paul exhorts us to be followers of Him; even
as he also was of Christ. In the character of that distinguished saint,
there is much that deserves our imitation; and among other particulars, the
feelings he cherished in reference to his outward circumstances are
especially worthy of our consideration. His temporal condition was, in
general, anything but desirable; and yet he was far from being dissatisfied
with it. In him, contentment had its perfect work, so that he was, in this
respect, perfect and entire, lacking nothing.
Covetousness and contentment are diametrically
opposed to each other; and where the one is — the other cannot be. Let me
then take heed, and beware of the former — and earnestly aspire after the
latter. "He who loves silver, shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he who
loves abundance, with increase." The worldling never says, "It is enough."
Like the daughters of the horse-leach, his constant cry is, "Give, give!" To
the question, What is enough? The reply was once given, "It is a little more
than a man has." Alas! this "little more," — what weary days and anxious
nights has it occasioned!
It is from the state of our minds that contentment
arises, and not from the amount of our possessions. If we are not
content with those things which we have — we are not likely to be
content, if we succeeded in attaining all that we desire. The desires
of the soul are unbounded. Expectations of greater happiness are constantly
entertained; but how seldom are they realized! The possession of all the
good we may think it desirable or even possible to attain, would still leave
an aching void — there would still be "a cruel something" unpossessed. But
when the mind and the present condition are brought to meet —
then, and then only, will true contentment be found. If our heart is brought
to our condition — then our condition will then be according to our heart.
The consideration that our earthly lot is appointed by
God — that it is He who fixes the bounds of our habitation — is eminently
calculated to promote the spirit of which we are speaking. We are to
remember that He is not merely the Creator — but the Governor
of the world; and that every circumstance which transpires, is under His
superintendence and control. And hence we find the people of God, in every
age, passing by merely second causes, until they came to the First
Great Cause of all. They heard His voice, and saw His hand — in
whatever befell them.
There are some who think that it is beneath the notice of
God to regard such trivial events as those which make up our common
everyday history. They would allow Him to interfere in the affairs of mighty
empires; but for Him to regard insignificant individuals, and all the little
circumstances of which their days are composed, does not comport, they
suppose, with His greatness and majesty. But such people should be reminded
that in the Divine estimation, the distinctions of great and small, of vast
and minute, are altogether unknown. It is not a greater act of condescension
in God to number the hairs of our head, than it is for Him to number
the stars of heaven; the one being as near to His immensity as the
other. Such is His infinite greatness, that in comparison with it — the
mightiest world is on a level with the smallest atom.
This doctrine is clearly taught in the volume of
inspiration, and is likewise confirmed by every dictate of reason. He who
rules in the armies of heaven — who commissions angels and flaming seraphs
that stand before His throne, saying to one, "Come!" and he comes, and to
another, "Go!" and he goes — who wheels in their appointed courses the
innumerable worlds which are scattered through the immensity of space — this
great, adorable, incomprehensible Being, regards with tender compassion the
poor little sparrow which falls unheeded to the ground, and clothes the
lowliest flower with its tints of beauty. Of His care, we are warranted in
saying that nothing is too great to be above it — and that nothing,
on the other hand, is too minute to be beneath it!
Were the doctrine of "chance" a doctrine of God's Word,
there might then be some reason in our murmuring, and some grounds perhaps
for it. But if it is He who makes poor and who makes rich — who
brings low and lifts up; if whatever befalls us is by His appointment
or permission, whom we profess to love and honor — then, surely,
contentment with our lot must be a reasonable duty indeed!
"In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with
wrongdoing." Job 1:22. This commendation refers to the spirit with which he
bore the unparalleled trials which befell him — when he was hurled down, in
a single day, from the highest summit of prosperity to the lowest depths of
adversity! He saw the hand of God in all that took place. It was not
to the invasion of the Sabeans and Chaldeans — that he traced the loss of
his property. It was not to the fury of "mother nature" — that he traced the
death of his children. No! He looked farther and higher! Prostrate in
adoration at the Divine footstool, he exclaimed, "I came naked from my
mother's womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The Lord
gave me everything I had — and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the
name of the Lord!" And then it is added, "In all this, Job did not sin by
charging God with wrongdoing."
Now, how important it is, that the same mind which was in
him should be in us also. To murmur under the Divine dispensations —
to be dissatisfied with the lot which has been appointed to us — to be
always complaining of one circumstance or another — what is this, in effect
— but to charge God with wrongdoing? It is practically to attribute folly
to Him who is the only wise God, and whose knowledge and understanding
are infinite! O let us beware then of a discontented spirit, remembering
that God orders all our affairs! Whatever He gives us — let us
thankfully receive it. Whatever He denies us — let us be satisfied
without it. Whatever He takes from us — let us uncomplainingly part
with it. Whatever trial He lays on us — let us endeavor patiently to
bear it. We shall thus be still, and know that He is God; and we shall honor
and magnify His blessed name.
Were we fully to believe, and rightly to enter into this
truth — that our lot in life, with all its attendant circumstances, is
chosen of God — we would, doubtless, be disposed to join with Peter, "Lord,
it is good for us to be here!" Wherever our lot might be cast, such would be
our language. Let the sun of prosperity shine — or let the clouds
of adversity lower; let our path be smooth — or let it be
rugged; we would be disposed to say, "It is good for us to be here!" We
may be often oppressed, being called to eat the bread of trouble, and
drink the waters of affliction — but let us not rest until we can
utter these words. We may not be able now to see how it is good; but
let us think of the wisdom and love of Him who placed us there, and can we
doubt it, whether we understand it or not? He is too wise to err —
and too good to be unkind! Oh that we might then honor Him, by
trusting and praising Him for evermore.
Among the many faithful sayings which are worthy of all
acceptance, this is one, that "godliness with contentment is
great gain." The two blessings are like the pillars Jachin and Boaz in the
temple — the one with which it was founded, the other wherein there was
strength. O my soul, exercise yourself unto godliness in the first
place — and then unto contentment as one of the most lovely and
important of its fruits. If I am blessed with the former — then I ought
surely to exemplify the latter. The possession of godliness secures to me
all those spiritual treasures which are in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
I can then be addressed, as was the church of Smyrna of old, "I know your
poverty — but you are rich," — rich indeed — "for all things are
yours, whether the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to
come, all are yours!"
Others may well mourn when some part of their earthly
good is taken away; for, miserable creatures! their only portion
is in this life. But if I am a child of God, the consideration of what I
have in hand, and of what I have in hope, should keep me from
complaining, even in the midst of the greatest temporal privations!
Steadfastness — Instability
"Be faithful unto death, nor fear
A few short days of strife;
Behold the crown you soon shall wear,
A crown of endless life!"
"Your loyalty is like the morning mist and like the early
dew that vanishes." Hosea 6:4.
"But we are not of those who draw back unto perdition;
but of those who believe, to the saving of the soul." Hebrews 10:39.
The religious feelings of many, however lively and
promising, have been only of brief duration. The Scriptures abound
with instances of this description; and if we would shun such a spirit of
instability — let us consider what is recorded of such characters, lest
we be led away, and fall from our own steadfastness.
In the history of God's ancient people, this spirit of
instability appears with marked prominence. Never was a nation so
favored as they were. All the ordinances of nature were again and
again suspended for their sakes. For them rivers and seas were divided, and
the sun and moon stood still. The heavens were opened, and angels' food fell
in abundance at their feet. "He turned the desert into pools of water, and
the parched ground into flowing springs." For forty years God led them
through the wilderness; in the day by the pillar of cloud, and in the
night by a pillar of fire. He rebuked kings, He scattered and slew
mighty armies, He turned whole nations upside down — for their preservation
and deliverance. In all His dealings towards them, He made it evident that
He was, not merely excellent in counsel — but mighty in working.
And the great things which God did for them produced, as
they could not fail to produce — a lively impression upon their minds. But,
alas! it was transient in the extreme. This is affectingly shown in
the 106th Psalm. "Both we and our ancestors have sinned. We have done wrong!
We have acted wickedly! Our ancestors in Egypt gave no thought to His
miracles; they soon forgot His many acts of kindness to them. Instead, they
rebelled against Him at the Red Sea. Even so, He saved them — to defend the
honor of His name and to demonstrate His mighty power. He commanded the Red
Sea to divide, and a dry path appeared. He led Israel across the sea bottom
that was as dry as a desert. So He rescued them from their enemies and
redeemed them from their foes. Then the water returned and covered their
enemies; not one of them survived. Then at last His people believed His
promises. Then they finally sang His praise."
Such was the impression which His mercies produced. With
glowing ardor they sang, "Who is like unto You, O Lord; glorious in
holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders!'' They sounded the timbrel, and
joined in the dance. High and low, men and maidens, all united in
celebrating His marvelous loving-kindness, and in extolling His wondrous
works. But what is man? When most highly favored — what is he? "Then at last
His people believed His promises. Then they finally sang His praise." But
did they continue to do so all their journey through? Alas! not so!
"But they soon forgot what He had done — and did not wait for His counsel."
Their gratitude speedily evaporated! Their delightful frames and feelings
soon passed away! And they went on still in their trespasses — murmuring and
rebelling against Him, as if He had never rescued them, and as if they had
never acknowledged His deliverance on their behalf.
A similar view is given in the 78th Psalm. God's
wonderful works are there declared, that they might be held in constant
remembrance, and that their record might be transmitted from sire to son,
through successive generations. "That the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their
children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His
deeds but would keep His commands. They would not be like their forefathers
— a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to Him." Such was their character. There was
nothing stable about them. When any extraordinary mercies were
conferred on them, they were melted just for the moment; or when any
visitations of vengeance were brought upon them, they were filled with
fear and trembling. But the rejoicing on the one hand, and the
alarm on the other — were alike evanescent. "All that the Lord has
spoken, will we do!" was their language, while the terrors of the Almighty
surrounded them — as when He proclaimed His law, in dread majesty, from the
summit of Sinai. But no sooner had the lightnings ceased to glitter, and the
thunderclaps to roar — than they set up a golden calf, before which they
bowed, and to which they ascribed their deliverance!
In the time of Christ, the same spirit frequently
appeared, as it has in all subsequent ages. In the parable of the sower
He divides the hearers of the gospel into four classes, and one, the
stony ground hearers, represents the class we are now considering. They
receive with joy the word preached to them. In a transport of admiration
they exclaim, "How sublime, how wonderful, how clear, how convincing! We
were never so charmed in all our days — never so moved, and so melted!" But
the great Teacher — He who knew what was in man — who was never deceived by
any outward appearances — He testified that it would all come to nothing.
They had no root in them, and therefore they could not endure. "When
trouble or persecution comes because of the Word — they quickly fall away."
Many have we known, whose histories have verified this
representation. They were at one time truly promising characters. They
appeared to be inflamed with a holy ambition to win the heavenly crown. We
saw them commence the journey, and we thought they started well. But
where are they now? Where? The tears of their friends — the sighs of their
ministers — the triumphs of the enemy, answer the question! From the way of
truth — they have turned aside. According to the true proverb it has
happened to them, "A dog returns to its vomit, and a sow that is washed goes
back to her wallowing in the mire!" Miserable men! it would have been better
for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after having
known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
How striking is the figure which the prophet employs in
representing such characters. They are compared to the morning mist,
and the early dew — which quickly fades away. These are emblems of
whatever is brief and transitory. Look at the morning mist
— it may be now dark and lowering; but look, again, and it is gone — not the
least trace of it appears! And so with the early dew. There it is in
countless drops, shining like so many glittering gems; but as the sun comes
forth from his eastern chamber, and begins careering his majestic way,
pouring forth the fullness of his beams on every hand — then how speedily
does the morning dew vanish! Just so with the people we have described.
Their loyalty disappears in like manner.
Believer, dread the thought of ever forsaking Him by
whose worthy name you are called. "Will you also go away?" "Lord, to whom
shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Let your motto ever be,
"Onward!" Though faint — be still pursuing. Hold fast the
profession of your faith without wavering, for He is faithful who promised.
He will not forsake those who put their trust in Him. Deeply conscious are
you, doubtless, of your own weakness, and of the backsliding tendency
of your wayward and deceitful heart; but there is One who is greater than
your heart, and your safety consists in looking daily to Him for that
upholding and persevering grace which He has promised to His people.
If the reader is a young disciple, let him endeavor to
count the cost — and thus seek to be prepared for all that may await
him. Had one and another of Bunyan's pilgrims done this, they would
not have been so likely to turn back, nor be discouraged by the
difficulties, nor frightened at the dangers, to which they were
exposed. To you we would say then, Reckon upon meeting with much to oppose
and dishearten you. Through the Slough of Despond you will have to
pass. By Beelzebub's Castle, with the archers aiming to level their
darts at you, you will have to pass. Over the Hill Difficulty, and by
the roaring lions, and through the Valley of Humiliation,
haunted with its frightful demons, you will have to pass. And so with
Doubting Castle, and Giant Despair, and innumerable pits and snares!
But, after all, be not discouraged. To have that one promise fulfilled, "My
grace is sufficient for you, and My strength shall be made perfect in your
weakness," and you will be able to surmount them all, and thus hold on until
your pilgrimage is finished, and an entrance be granted to you into the
Shining City above!
O You who has endured such contradiction of sinners —
help us to consider You, and to call continually upon You, lest we become
weary and faint in our minds. Inspire us with a spirit of increasing
steadfastness. Help us to attend with all diligence to every means which
will be likely to promote this great object. May we so run the race that is
set before us, that at length we may receive the end of our faith — even the
full and final salvation of our souls.
Humility — Pride
"The saint who wears heaven's brightest crown,
In deepest adoration bends.
The weight of glory bows him down,
The most when most his soul ascends.
Nearest the throne itself must be
The footstool of humility."
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit
before a fall." Proverbs 16:18
"Be clothed with humility." 1 Peter 5:5
Humility may be defined as consisting in profound
self-abasement before God, arising from a deep sense of our sinfulness — and
in a low estimation of ourselves, as we stand related to our fellow
creatures, whatever is the extent of our attainments, or the importance of
the station we occupy. It is described by the apostle as a disposition which
leads us, not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think — but
to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of
Upon this subject too much stress cannot be laid, for
without humility, true religion cannot possibly exist. A proud Christian is
a contradiction in terms. We might as well speak of a wise fool, of a wicked
saint, of a sober drunkard, or of a chaste harlot — as of a proud Christian.
We may as soon expect delicate flowers to flourish in the frozen and
barren regions of Siberia — as that true piety should grow in the heart that
is proud and haughty. A vine might as well thrive when a worm is gnawing at
its root — as that the soul should prosper and be in health, when its
arrogance and pride are not subdued.
One of the Fathers of the Church, when asked which was
the first principle in religion, replied, Humility. When asked which
was the second, he said, Humility. And when asked which was the
third, he again answered, Humility. So important was this grace in
his estimation, that he regarded it as the beginning, the middle, and the
end of true godliness. And we may truly say that where humility is absent,
everything else in religion, is in vain. A person may possess the most
splendid talents — he may have the gift of miracles, and the knowledge of
all mysteries — but without true humility he is, in the sight of God,
nothing but sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
Without a spirit of humility — no happiness could be
enjoyed in heaven. The proud man, were he admitted there, could feel no real
or lasting enjoyment. The outward glory of the place might dazzle his eyes
for a time — but he could not relish the society and employments of that
blessed state. The honors conferred upon patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and
martyrs — would be likely to excite his envy, and before long he
would attempt to sow the seeds of discord among the heavenly multitudes!
Reader, if you would enjoy true happiness, both here and
hereafter, cultivate a humble spirit — for without humility, you will never
know true happiness. "O that lovely Valley of Humiliation," said the
venerable Rowland Hill, when writing to a friend, "the safest, the most
fertile spot between the city of destruction and heaven. May you get into
it, make your constant abode in it, and never get out of it, until from
thence you shall be called to glory. O! I could say a thousand things in
praise of this valley. The air is so healthy; the ground so
fertile; the fruit so wholesome; while from the branches of every
tree, the voices of prayer and praise are heard in delightful concert. While
living in it no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper, since the
enemy of souls cannot shoot low enough to reach us to our hurt. Take this
hint from a very old man, who is just putting off his harness."
"True humility," said Matthew Wilks, "is a lovely
ornament; it is the only suitable dress for a saved sinner." O let us seek
then to be clothed in this robe, that we may be brought to lie low at the
footstool of our Maker and Redeemer; and that in all our fellowship with
each other, we may look at our superiors without envy, and upon our
inferiors without contempt.
In the saints of old, this grace of humility appeared
with marked prominence; and in following them as patterns for our imitation,
let us endeavor to be like-minded with them in this important particular.
There was Abraham, the father of the faithful and the friend of God.
How great was his humility! how profound his self-abasement! "I have
ventured to speak to the Lord — even though I am nothing but dust and
ashes." He was filled with a consciousness of his absolute nothingness in
the presence of the Great Eternal. There was David also, who speaks
of himself as "a worm and no man." Job cried out, "Behold, I am
In the apostle Paul, again, what a striking
exemplification have we of this grace of humility. If self-delight were ever
allowable in any individual, it would be in him; for such a laborious,
self-denying, unselfish character, has, doubtless, not yet appeared — the
man Christ Jesus alone and always excepted. But what were his views and
feelings in reference to himself? On one occasion we hear him saying that
he was not worthy to be called an apostle. At another time he says, "I
am less than the least of all God's people!" And when penning one of his
last epistles, he designates himself the very chief of sinners. He
was brought to know himself — a knowledge, we are told, in which all
wisdom centers. If we knew ourselves as he did — pride and self-delight
would find no room within us!
But, above all, let us consider Him who said, "Take my
yoke upon you and learn from Me — for I am gentle and humble in heart." The
heaven of heavens could not contain Him; all the fullness of the Eternal
Godhead dwelt in Him; devils trembled at His rebuke, and flew from His
presence to the abodes of misery; yet how gentle, how humble! Reader, aspire
after conformity to Christ — in His humility. In the words of the Apostle we
would say, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in
humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not
only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your
attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
Against the proud — God's displeasure has been manifested
in all ages. Think of Pharaoh. The language of that proud monarch
was, "Who is the Lord — that I should obey Him?" But the Divine Majesty
could not bear to be thus insulted; hence the puny worm with all his
legions were destroyed; they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Think
of Nebuchadnezzar. Hear his boasting exclamation, "Is not this great
Babylon that I have built, by the might of my power, and for the
honor of my majesty?" But God resisted him, and he was turned from the
society of men — to eat grass with the beasts of the field! Think of
Herod. With what delight did he receive the applause of the people, when
they cried, "It is the voice of a god, and not the voice of man!" But the
angel of the Lord smote him, and he was eaten with worms!
While, however, God resists the proud — He has
promised to give grace unto the humble. The humble are the objects of
His special regard. What He declared concerning Zion, He says in reference
to every humble heart, "This is my rest forever; here will I dwell, for I
have desired it." "For thus says the high and lofty One, who inhabits
eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place;" that is
one of the palaces of the Great King, where the throne of His glory is
erected — where the countless armies of cherubim and seraphim are stationed,
and where perfected saints reside. But He has another place of habitation:
"with him also, who is humble and contrite in spirit!"
"Thus says the high and lofty One,
I sit upon My holy throne;
My name is God, I dwell on high,
Dwell in My own eternity.
But I descend to worlds below;
On earth I have a mansion too;
The humble spirit and contrite
Is an abode of My delight!"
You, O Lord, are high, being exalted above all blessing
and praise; yet, notwithstanding Your unspeakable greatness — You have
respect unto the humble; but the proud You know afar off. O Lord, subdue the
pride of my heart; and help me to manifest, by my whole demeanor — that
humility of spirit which is in Your sight of great price!
Companionship of the Godly — Counsel of the Ungodly
"Depart from me, you wicked race,
Whose hands and hearts are ill;
I love my God, I love His ways,
And must obey His will."
"He who walks with wise men shall be wise; but a
companion of fools shall be destroyed." Proverbs 13:20
"I said to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; I have no good
besides You.' As for the holy people who are in the land — they are
the noble ones in whom is all my delight." Psalm 16:2-3
Man is a social being. Wherever he is found,
whether in a savage or civilized state, this trait more or less appears. Nor
is it by man alone that this propensity is manifested. It is seen in the
lower departments of the animal creation. Fish swim in schools — and
insects move in swarms. Thus man and beast possess this instinct in
common, as they do many others.
The social principles of our nature may become, like all
other principles, the source either of good — or of evil. If rightly
improved, and properly directed — of good; if perverted and abused — of
evil. How anxious then should we be to shun the latter — and to realize the
former! And that such may be the case, what care should we exercise in the
choice of those with whom we associate!
Reader, are you a follower of Christ? If so, select your
companions from among His people. How solemn and decisive are
the apostle's words, "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship
with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of
the world — becomes an enemy of God!" In the book of Proverbs we have line
upon line, and precept upon precept, calling upon us to shun the
fellowship of the ungodly. Into their path — we are not to enter.
Solomon tells us, "Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the
way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your
way!" Proverbs 4:14-15. And what was the resolution of the Psalmist? "Depart
from me, you evil doers; for I will keep the commandments of my God."
In the history of God's people we have this duty
prominently exemplified. In the experience of David, whose words we
have just quoted, this was especially the case. There were three things to
which he was pre-eminently attached. The first was the WORD of God. O
how highly did he prize that sacred treasure! It was his daily Counselor and
guide! The second was the HOUSE of God. "I have loved the habitation
of Your house; and the place where Your honor dwells." And in his
banishment, when deprived of the high privilege of treading its threshold,
and joining in its hallowed exercises of prayer and praise, he envied
even the birds that built their nests against its walls. "Even the
sparrow finds a home there, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her
young — at a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God!"
But in addition to the word and house of
God — he ardently loved the PEOPLE of God. "I am a companion of all
those who fear You — and of those who keep Your precepts." He speaks of the
saints that were upon the earth, and the excellent, as those in whom
was all his delight. And God appears to have blessed him with not a few of
such to delight himself in. He had Nathan, so faithful and true; he
had Barzillai, the Gileadite, a brother born for adversity; he had
Abiathar the priest, and Zadok the scribe; and he once had
Jonathan, whom he loved as his own soul; and many more, with whom he
took sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God in company.
How interesting, again, is the account given of what took
place in the time of the prophet Malachi. It appears to have been a
season when iniquity and infidelity greatly abounded. The avowal was
unblushingly made, that it was vain to serve God, and that there was no
profit in keeping His ordinances. But even then, there were some who were
found faithful among the faithless. And among other things, they were
especially distinguished by the particular we are considering, namely, their
love to and their fellowship with each other. "Then those who feared the
Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A
scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who
feared the Lord and honored His name." And, as He always honors those who
honor Him, it is added, "They will be Mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the
day when I make up My treasured possession!" Having come out from among the
ungodly, God received them; He looked down with special approbation upon
them; and promised that He would at length gloriously reward them!
And so with the early Christians. "As soon as they were
released," it is said, "Peter and John returned to the other believers!"
This declaration that gives us a clear insight into their character as far
as their fellowship with each other was concerned. They were, though a
persecuted — yet a happy, loving, united family. They had to mix with the
ungodly — but it was their own company which they loved.
There is something highly reasonable in the duty we are
endeavoring to enforce. "Like loves like," says the proverb, "all the
world over." One individual is drawn to another, and one class
of men to another class — where a oneness of views, of tastes, of feelings,
and of efforts — are found to exist. Whether it be in literary and political
pursuits, or in the degrading pleasures of sin — we have abundant
illustrations of this truth. And if such associate together, how much
more should the followers of Christ do so, who are united to each other by
far higher bonds — bonds heavenly in their source, and deathless in
The feelings with which we regard the people of God are a
decisive proof of our spiritual condition. "By their fruits," said the
Savior, "you shall know them." And the fruits to which the Scriptures refer,
are exceedingly simple and palpable. Nothing brilliant or imposing is
required in order to evidence that we are the disciples of Christ. The
possession of splendid talents; the distribution of large charities; the
endurance of martyrdom — none of these things are represented as proofs of
our discipleship. Had such been the case, only some favored few could evince
their attachment to the Lord Jesus, and manifest that they were His true
friends and followers. But the requirements of the Gospel are such as may be
practiced by individuals in every condition; they are tests which may be
applied to people of every rank and station!
How desirable a thing is it for us to be brought
to know that we have passed from death to life — that that great and
glorious change has taken place, in virtue of which we are made children of
God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven! Well, it may be known.
The thing is not impossible. But in what way? Not by conferring with prophet
or angel — gifted with the revelation of hidden things. Not by reading our
names in the book of life — that mystic volume which is chained to the
eternal throne, with all the fates of men. Not by receiving from God any
direct intimation of the fact, such as proclaiming from the excellent glory
that we are His beloved and accepted children, in whom He is well pleased.
No, not so! It is not by ascending to heaven above, nor
by descending to the depths below; but it is by means of that revealed Word,
which is near us. And what is its testimony? "We know that we have passed
from death unto life — because we love the brethren." Brotherly
affection — a cordial feeling of attachment to all who possess the mind, and
manifest the spirit of Christ — is what the apostle John fixes upon as an
indubitable evidence of our personal salvation.
The question then is one of the greatest importance, "Do
I love the brethren? And does my love to them lead me to delight in
fellowship with them?" If we are strangers to such feelings — we have every
reason to doubt our spiritual condition. "By this shall all men know that
you are My disciples — if you love one another." And the converse
will hold equally true — By this shall all men know that you are not
my disciples — if brotherly love is not possessed and manifested by you.
Once more, if we make the people of God our companions —
then we are likely to derive benefits of the most important kind from
fellowship with them. "Come with us," is their invitation, "and we will do
you good." They will cheer, and warn, and direct us; they will sympathize
with us in our sorrows, and bring down the blessing of heaven upon us by
Reader, beware of sinful companions! Ask the wretched
youth who, with a ruined character, is now an inmate of yonder prison, what
brought him to such a place — and he will tell you that it was wicked
companions! Ask the poor creature who is about to terminate his miserable
career on the gallows, what led him to so disastrous an end, and he will
answer — wicked companions! No mind but His who comprehends the universe in
its vast survey — can tell what multitudes have been ruined, ruined for both
worlds — by the influence of wicked companions! Young man, shun the society
of the ungodly. Flee from them — as you would from a venomous viper! Dread
their abode — as you would a place infected with the most malignant
pestilence. O, if sinners entice you — do not consent! Dare to be singular;
learn to be decided. And whatever others may do, be it yours to aspire after
the blessedness which is pronounced upon those who walk not in the counsel
of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the
scornful; but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditate
therein day and night.
Selfishness — Unselfish Love
"Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:9
"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have
become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save
some." 1 Corinthians 9:22
"Mankind," says one, "are fallen from God into a great
gulf of sinful selfishness!" "Pleasure, profit, and honor," says another,
"are the natural man's trinity; and his carnal self is this trinity
in unity." With most of our fellow-creatures, self is Alpha, and self is
Omega — it is first and last, middle and end!
And there is too much of this selfishness in the
Christian Church. "All men," says the apostle, when referring to certain
religionists of his day, "seek their own — and not the things which are
Christ's." Even those who have been brought to realize somewhat of the value
of spiritual blessings, often manifest too exclusive a regard for their own
personal well-being. It is to be feared that many in attending the means of
grace, are only solicitous about their own edification and comfort. And
there are some, of very high pretensions, who can tolerate no preaching but
that which is addressed to believers invariably. O, have such never read of
the faithful shepherd, who left the ninety-nine sheep that were safe and
secure — in order to traverse the wilderness in search of the one wanderer?
They would have the ninety — nine wanderers neglected — that
undivided attention might be given to the few already folded sheep. To be
personally comforted is their great concern. Let others perish; it
matters but little — so long as they themselves are pampered and
well-fed. But let us be well assured that there is something radically wrong
where such a feeling exists. It is a sure sign, not of spiritual health but
of spiritual sickliness, if not of spiritual unsoundness! Even were there no
wandering ones to be reclaimed — this undue, inordinate panting after what
is merely comforting, ought not by any means to be encouraged. It is as if
we were always taking sweets and cordials, which, though they may for the
time revive the spirits, would yet be secretly — but surely, undermining the
It is quite natural for the people of God to be concerned
about obtaining a blessing for their own souls. But the thing to be shunned
is being concerned for ourselves alone. When the believer treads the
threshold of the sanctuary, it is very proper for his cry to be, "O You who
speak peace to Your people and to Your saints — speak peace to my waiting
soul. I beseech You to show me Your glory; reveal Your smiling face, and
make me joyful in Your house of prayer." But let him not forget to add,
"Save now, I beseech you, O Lord; quicken the dead; alarm the careless;
break the sinner's heart; open his blind eyes; and work mightily by Your
truth upon the consciences of those who have never felt its saving power."
And so in reference to those practical efforts
which we are called upon to make with the view of reclaiming those who are
ignorant and lost. Alas! that the interest taken in the welfare of
such, should be so languid — and that the exertions put forth on
their behalf, should be so few.
The reader may recollect the language which the Jewish
elders addressed to Judas, when, with compunction and remorse, he returned
to them the thirty pieces of silver — the sum for which he had sold the Son
of God. Did they endeavor to nourish the contrition which he seemed to
manifest, when he cried, "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the
innocent blood!" No — but with an indifference that must have chilled him,
they replied, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!"
Now this is in effect, the language of all who are
unconcerned about the well-being of their fellow-creatures. Tell them of the
misery that abounds; tell them of the temporal and spiritual destitution of
hundreds and thousands around them; tell them of the teeming millions who
are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, strangers to happiness and
strangers to God — and their practical reply is, "What is that to us?"
Ah! there is a day coming when they will see that it is something to them;
and that were they guilty of no other crime than that of indifference
to the wants and woes of their fellow-men, they will be consigned, with the
unprofitable servant, to the place where there is weeping, and wailing, and
gnashing of teeth!
In seeking to do good to others — we are likely to get
good ourselves. "The liberal soul," says the wise man, "shall be made fat,
and he who waters — shall be watered also himself." Relieve the distressed;
clothe the naked; feed the hungry; instruct the ignorant. Thus the blessing
of those who are ready to perish will come upon you; you will enjoy the
approving testimony of a peaceful conscience, that testimony which is "the
soul's sweet sunshine and the heart-felt joy;" and in the performance of
such acts you will be materially benefitted yourself.
There is an old proverb which says, "Everyone for
himself!" We trust that the sentiment it expresses, is one with which we
have no sympathy!
Be it ours to nourish "another spirit," even the spirit
of the Lord Jesus, who pleased not Himself. Had it been "everyone for
himself" with Him, the throne of His glory would never have been left; He
would not have appeared as a humble babe in Bethlehem; there would have been
no groaning in the garden — and no bleeding on the accursed tree! Had it
been "everyone for himself" with Him, the violated law must have taken its
dreadful course; the vials of divine wrath would have been poured out upon
our guilty heads; and ruin, unmixed, unaltered, unending ruin — would have
been our portion! But let us rejoice that He espoused our cause, and that He
died the sinless — for the sinful, to bring us to God. And may the
contemplation of His unexampled love, shame us out of that spirit of
selfishness in which we are so prone to indulge; and constrain us to
live, not to ourselves — but to Him!
Pleasing Men — Pleasing God
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men — or of God?
Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men — I would
not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
"Enoch was commended as one who pleased God." Hebrews
It is recorded in one of the gospel narratives, that
certain of the Jews besought the Savior's interposition in the case of the
Centurion, whose servant was at the point of death; and the plea they urged
was, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and
has built our synagogue." He had thus won, Gentile though he was, their
esteem; and in order to testify their approbation, they came forward on this
occasion, not merely to express their sympathy — but to exert their
influence on his behalf.
To enjoy the favor of our fellow-creatures is, doubtless,
a blessing not to be despised. The Centurion could not be otherwise than
gratified by finding that he stood so high in the estimation of those among
whom he dwelt; and the contemplation of the incident, simple though it is —
is refreshing to every mind.
But those who make it their chief aim to please
men — are evidently under the influence of a feeling which cannot be too
strongly condemned. If this is the regulating principle of our lives; if we
shape our whole course and conduct with the view of attaining this object —
we cannot, as the apostle states, be the servants of Christ. The true
Christian acts from other and higher motives; his actions are to be always
regulated by the will of God — whether men are pleased or not! With the
apostles, when summoned before the Jewish rulers, our language should be,
"Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you, rather
To seek to please men is in general — a very hopeless
task. Many a minister of the gospel especially, has found it to be so by
painful experience. He would be of all men most miserable, if his only end
was to secure the approval of those among whom he labors! As one remarks,
"If the preacher is faithful — then he is
said to be too intolerant.
If he is cheerful — then he is trifling.
If he is serious — then he is dull.
If he is practical — then he is legal.
If he preaches grace — then he is an enemy to good works.
If he is social — then he is worldly.
If he is very studious — then he is reserved.
If he is forgiving when misrepresented — then he is guilty, or he
would resent it.
If he pleads for his rights — then he is self-serving.
If he is passive — then he is weak.
If he is courteous — then he is afraid of man.
If he is courageous — then he is crude.
If his language is piercing — then he is coarse.
If he is plain — then he is illiterate.
If he is elevated — then he is too high in his style."
But let us turn to a more congenial and important theme,
that of pleasing God. And in order to
attain this blessed privilege, it is indispensable that we be brought into a
state of personal acceptance with Him. "Those who live according to the
sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those
who live in accordance with the Spirit, have their minds set on what the
Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by
the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not
submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature
cannot please God." Romans 8:5-8.
There is something fearfully emphatic in the above
representation. It shows not merely that men are enemies to God — but that
their carnal minds are enmity itself — enmity in the abstract! Enemies
may be reconciled — but enmity cannot. A wicked man may
become virtuous — but vice never can. Indeed, the only way to
reconcile enemies is by destroying the enmity that exists between
them. "We," says the apostle elsewhere, "who were once enemies, are
reconciled to God by the death of his Son;" but he speaks of enmity as
having been consumed or destroyed. Having "abolished in his flesh the
enmity" — and having "slain the enmity thereby." The conclusion drawn
from all this is inevitable, that those who are in the flesh — in their
natural condition of enmity and alienation — cannot please God.
It is, however, cheering to know that if our state by
nature is such that we cannot please God while we remain in it; yet that
there is a state of grace in which we can, and that there is a way of
translation from the one to the other. We are naturally guilty and depraved;
and before anything we can do will be well-pleasing in God's sight, we must,
as guilty creatures — be pardoned; and as depraved and
polluted — we must be renewed.
We are spiritually — to employ a familiar comparison — in
the situation of a poor criminal in prison — who has been sentenced
to death, and who is at the same time infected with some fatal
disease. Now if such a one is only pardoned — he will soon die of the
disease; and, on the other hand, if he is only cured of the disease — he
must soon be executed. It is evident that he needs both — he must be
both pardoned and cured.
Just so with us. We require a double cure — we
must be both justified and sanctified; we must be freed from
sin in its guilt — and from sin in its reigning power. Now the
Savior does both. "This is He who came by water and blood;" by water to wash
us from our impurities, and by blood to remove, by its sacrificial efficacy,
the condemnation we have deserved. Now these two blessings should never be
separated; what God has joined together let not man put asunder. "True
religion," says John Newton, "stands upon two pillars — what Christ did
for us, and what the Holy Spirit does in us. Most errors," he
adds, "arise from an attempt to separate these two." Before, then, we can
please God, our guilty persons must be accepted — and our sinful
hearts must be renewed.
Various things may be specified, with the possession and
exercise of which God is declared to be well pleased. Of these, one of the
most prominent is faith. "But without
faith it is impossible to please Him; for he who comes to God must believe
that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." No
state of mind can possibly be more offensive to God, than that of unbelief.
"Anyone who does not believe God, has made him out to be a liar, because he
has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son." Unbelief is a
spirit which casts the foulest indignity upon the divine character. It is a
spirit which would tarnish all the glory of His infinite perfections. It is
a spirit which would rob every gem which decks His crown. It is a spirit
which would pluck away every pillar that supports His throne. It is a spirit
which would, not merely change the glory of the incorruptible God into an
image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts,
and creeping things; but into the likeness of the great apostate spirit
himself, of whom it is emphatically said that he is a liar, and the
father of it. Unbelief, then, must be a spirit which God abhors; and
faith, on the contrary, or implicit confidence in Him, is a spirit
which He cannot but regard with approbation and delight.
Another particular we may mention is
gratitude. "Whoever offers praise
glorifies me;" it must therefore be pleasing to Him. "I will praise the name
of God," says David, "with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.
This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock." Let us
then present unto God thanksgiving, and pay our vows unto the Most High. Let
our resolve be,
"I'll praise my Maker with my breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers;
My days of praise shall ne'er be past,
While life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures."
A life of holiness is
another thing that may be specified. "Whatever we ask," says John, "we
receive from Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things
which are pleasing in His sight." "We beseech you," says Paul, "and exhort
you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received of us how you ought to walk
and to please God, so you would abound more and more."
"The fruits of holiness," it has been strikingly
observed, "which appear in God's people on earth, imperfect as they are, are
on some accounts more pleasing to Him than those produced by the angels in
heaven. Holiness in heaven is like flowers in spring, or like fruit in
autumn — when they are expected; but holiness in a world so depraved as
this, is like flowers and fruit in the depth of winter — or like the
blossoms and almonds of Aaron's rod, which proceeded from a dead and sapless
branch! When the delicious fruits of southern climates can be made by the
gardener's skill to flourish in our northern regions, they are far more
admired and praised than while growing in rich abundance in their native
soil. Just so, when holiness, whose native land is heaven, is found
in the comparatively frozen and barren soil of this world, which lies in
wickedness, it is viewed by God with peculiar pleasure."
We see from this subject, what should be the constant aim
of every believer — it is to please God. Reader, study to show
yourself approved unto Him. His favor is life; His loving-kindness is better
than life. And may He whose approbation outweighs a world of censure, and
which transcends a whole universe of applause, says to you, after this
chequered scene is over, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter
into the joy of your Lord!"
Unity — Divisions
"Let party names no more
The Christian world o'erspread;
Gentile and Jew, and bond and free,
Are one in Christ their Head."
"Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond
of peace." Ephesians 4:3
"You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and
quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere
men?" 1 Corinthians 3:3
The Church of Christ is one. It is one family, one flock,
one army, one vineyard, one body, one bride. Her God is one. Jesus, her
husband and head, is one. Her privileges, her interests, her objects, her
destination, are one. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are
called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one
God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
And if the Universal Church is one, should not each of
its separate branches be one? But are they one? To ask the question is a
taunt and mockery. Oh! if tears could bedim those eyes which gaze on the
glories of the beatific vision — would not the heavenly multitudes weep and
wail at the sad spectacle of the mystical body of Christ — torn and mangled
as it now is! And while Heaven might weep — hell might well rejoice, as she
doubtless does, with fiendish triumph, at the sight! The world which now
lies in wickedness will continue to lie therein, until a divided Church is
made one — one in spirit and affection at least, even if its members be not
fully joined in the same mind and the same judgment.
Satan is well aware that the conversion of the world is
suspended upon the unity of the Church; and hence he leaves no means untried
which are likely to embitter its various sections one against the other,
that his reign might be thereby prolonged. And were Christians as fully
aware of the same fact, would they not be likely to come closer together?
Would they not be disposed to forget their trifling differences?
Would they not be willing to lose them, in the indulgence of a heavenly
charity — in the noble oblivion of love? We might then hope; yes, we might
entertain the assured conviction, that the set time to favor Zion had come —
the time when God, even our own God, would abundantly bless her, and when
all the ends of the earth would be brought to fear Him.
The above considerations are abundantly confirmed by the
memorable prayer which the Savior offered on the night in which He was
betrayed. Among the petitions which He then addressed to His Heavenly
Father, this was one: "I do not pray for these alone — but for those also
who shall believe on Me through their word; that they all might be one, as
You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us —
that the world may believe that You have sent Me." The world will not
believe before then. The one must precede the other. It is heaven's own
plan; and to imagine that it will be otherwise, is to expect that the
Savior's prayer will be frustrated, and that, out of mere indulgence to our
perverseness, to our cold carnalities and unhallowed bigotries.
How desirable is it, in order to hasten this blissful
consummation, that Christians should have a deep and realizing impression of
the spiritual relationship which exists between the whole body of the
faithful. They are all children of the same Father, members of
the same Son, habitations of the same Spirit. It is the same mercy
that pitied them, the same blood that bought them, the same
grace that sanctifies them, the same blessed hope that animates
them! Are they not all walking by the same Scriptural rule, all
pressing toward the same heavenly mark, all engaged in the same
earthly warfare, all hated by the same vile foes! Is not the
same blood now coursing through their veins, and are they not hereafter to
spend unending ages in the same heaven, surrounding the same
throne, and singing the same song! How is it then that they keep
so far apart from each other now? Whence those divisions and alienations
which are, alas! so common? The poet asks,
"Is Christ divided? What can part
The members from the Head?
O how should those be one in heart,
For whom one Savior bled!
Bound to one Lord by common vow,
In one great enterprise;
One faith, one hope, one center now,
Our common home the skies.
O let us undivided be:
Let party contests cease;
Nor break the Spirit's unity,
Nor burst the bond of peace.
Then shall the wondering world again,
Admire how Christian's love,
And know we do not bear in vain
His name who pleads above.
We would further say — let us not give undue prominence
to those minor points on which we differ. What are they, when
compared with those great points on which we are agreed? They bear no more
proportion to each other than did the mint, and anise, and cummin of old —
to the weightier matters of the law. Need we ask, What is it, that
sanctifies and saves? What is it, that cheers and supports when guilt
presses down upon the conscience, or when care is corroding the
heart, or when sorrow drives sleep from the eyes, or when death
robs us of the friends we love, or when he is likely to lay his cold
hand upon ourselves? Are they not those blessed truths in reference to which
all who love the Savior are agreed? O, should there be more in matters of
church government, and outward forms — to keep Christians apart; than there
is in their common adoption, their common justification, their common hopes
and anticipations — to bring them together!
Reader, seek to promote in every way — a spirit of
greater love and unity among the followers of Christ. Mark those who cause
divisions — and avoid them. Guard especially against every unhallowed
propensity in your own breast, which may have the least tendency to produce
the evils over which we mourn. "Lay aside all malice, and all deceit, and
hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings," on the one hand: and
"follow after the things which make for peace," on the other hand.
Things of Earth — Things of Heaven
"O what folly, O what madness!
That my thoughts should go astray,
After toys and empty pleasures —
Pleasures only of a day!
This vain world, with all its trifles,
Soon, alas! will be no more;
There's no object worth admiring,
But the God whom I adore!"
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your
hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set
your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2.
"Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and
whose glory is in their shame — who mind earthly things." Philippians
The history of six thousand years has given indisputable
evidence of the insufficiency of all earthly objects to yield true and
satisfying enjoyment. Man has needs — which no earthly riches can
supply; he has soul diseases — which no human skill can cure; he has
fears — which no mortal courage can quell; he has debts —
which no finite resources can discharge; and he has miseries — which
no earth-born sagacity can console.
In earthly things, to
whatever extent they may be possessed, there is a lack of adaptation to
yield real happiness. It is recorded of Caesar, that he exclaimed, when in
possession of universal empire, "Is this all?" This clearly showed
that his expectations of happiness were not answered by the attainment of
worldly things. From a distance, it seemed something great and enviable for
mighty nations to acknowledge his sway, and submit to his scepter; but when
it was actually attained, his language was, "Is this all?"
Reader, have you not often felt something similar to
this? You may have set your heart upon some distant object; and oh! what
were you not ready to give for its attainment! What sacrifices you made!
What self-denial did you undergo! At length, perhaps, the desire of your
heart was granted you. But was it what you expected? Were you not, on the
contrary, led to exclaim, in the language of the disappointed emperor,
"Is this all?"
It is an absolute certainty, that the things of earth
cannot satisfy the cravings of our immortal nature. Wealth, fame, learning,
pleasure, domestic happiness — none of these things can do it. "Whoever
drinks of these waters shall thirst again," as the Savior declared to the
Samaritan woman; "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him
shall never thirst — but it shall be in him a well of water springing up
into everlasting life!"
But the things of earth, besides being unsatisfying
in their nature, are, at best, transitory in their duration. What are
RICHES? 'Uncertain' is the epithet which the pen of inspiration
employs in describing them. "Will you set your eyes upon that which is not?
for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward
heaven!" What is PLEASURE? Something that is only for a season. What is
WISDOM? More precious than rubies, if it is the wisdom which comes from
above; but if it the wisdom of this world — it also is vanity, and will soon
pass away. What is FAME? Often a bubble, no sooner blown — than it bursts!
Yes, the earth itself is only temporary!
With the things of heaven,
however, it is far otherwise. The true believer is "begotten again unto a
living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead — to an
incorruptible and undefiled inheritance, which never fades away." Such was
not the inheritance of many of the angels — they kept not their first
estate — but left their own habitation. Such was not the inheritance of our
first parents in Paradise; from their bowers, and happy walks and
shades, they were banished, and that by God Himself, because of their
disobedience to His just command. Such was not the inheritance of the
Jews in Canaan, for the glory of all lands was made a desolation, and
its guilty tribes have had to wander over the wide earth, without a country
or a home. Such is not the inheritance of the man of this world; his
portion is in the present life; and that, as we have seen, will soon vanish
away. But looking upward to yon glorious spheres, we can say,
"O you blessed scenes of permanent delight!
Full above measure! lasting beyond bound!
A perpetuity of bliss, is bliss.
Could you, so rich in rapture, fear an end,
That ghastly thought would drink up all your joy,
And quite unparadise the realms of light."
A Roman general, on one occasion, when elated by the
splendors of a triumphal entrance into the imperial city, which had been
awarded to him in honor of the victories he had won, exclaimed, "Ah, that it
would continue!" But, alas! it did not continue. All the glittering
pomp soon vanished. It floated away like a fleeting dream. And so with all
earthly bliss — it will not, and cannot, continue. Had earthly things a
character of abiding permanence belonging to them, men might with some
semblance of reason make them the first and last objects of their desires
and pursuits. Such a character, however, they do not possess. "The world
with its lust is passing away!"
But, O blessed heavenly world! and O blessed beings! who,
through much tribulation have reached it — never will you have mournfully to
say, "Ah, that it would continue!" This fullness of joy — this unclouded
vision of God and the Lamb — this sweet fellowship with saints and angels —
this day without a night — this sky without a cloud — this
sea without a ruffle — these ravishing melodies — this seraphic
transport and exulting joy — "Ah, that they would continue!" Well,
continue they will, you blessed ones! and that forever. Eternal ages as they
roll their everlasting rounds, will find you in full, yes, in constantly
augmenting possession of all you now inherit. "Your sun will never set; your
moon will not go down. For the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your
days of mourning will come to an end!"
In a certain town, some few years ago, at a time of great
commercial distress, two friends were one day conversing on what kind of
property was safest at so critical a period. One of them said that he had
not much confidence in the oils, nor did he much like bank-stock, and he
expressed his doubts in reference to other investments. Having done so, he
asked his friend, what kind he thought best? That friend was a Christian,
and his reply showed where his treasure was, and where his heart was also.
In the words of the apostle, already quoted, he answered, "I have a
priceless inheritance — pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and
decay!" O secure, O eternal treasure! a treasure in the confident
expectation of which the early Christians took joyfully the confiscation of
their earthly all, knowing that they had this better and enduring substance.
Reader, may their portion be yours! And then, whatever disasters may come,
you will have nothing to fear.
"Set your affection then on things above — not on things
on the earth." The prophet's expostulates, "Why spend money on what is not
bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" "Lay not up for yourselves
treasures upon earth," is the exhortation of Christ, "where moth and rust
corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." O make not those things
which perish in the using, the objects of your exclusive and supreme
attention. Be assured that they build too low — who build below the
skies! There are durable riches to be obtained, and that freely. All
the blessings of the Gospel are everlasting. The salvation which the Lord
Jesus procured shall be forever, and the righteousness which He wrought out,
shall not be abolished.
But, alas! how many are there who mind earthly things.
With the great majority of our fellow creatures, such things are first
and last, they are middle and end. The curse
pronounced upon the serpent is fully verified in their case — "Upon their
belly they go, and dust they eat all the days of their lives." It
was over such characters that the apostle wept. He saw that they were
enemies of the cross of Christ, inasmuch as its great object was
unaccomplished in them; for they were not crucified to the world, nor the
world crucified to them. The Lord Jesus "gave Himself for our sins, that He
might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God
and our Father." And unless we are thus delivered — His sufferings and
death, as far as we are concerned, have been in vain!
Timidity — Courage
"Now we must fight if we would reign;
Increase our courage, Lord!
We'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Your word.
Must we be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease;
While others fought to win the prize,
And swam through bloody seas?"
"The wicked flee when no man pursues; but the righteous
are as bold as a lion." Proverbs 28:1.
"Only be strong, and very courageous." Joshua 1:7.
The Scriptures abound with instances of great moral
courage. We have a memorable exhibition of this spirit in the case of
Daniel. He was one who courted not the smiles, and who feared not the
frowns of men. When he knew that the decree was signed, with a serenity and
undauntedness of soul befitting a saint of the Most High God — he went to
his prayer chamber as usual. In the prospect of a terrific death, his
purpose continued unchanged; he did not attempt to conceal his devotions; he
did not endeavor to resist or elude his enemies. A den of roaring lions
could not dampen his courage, nor cause him to swerve from the path of
Think again of his three young Hebrew companions.
When the impious and haughty monarch told them that if they did not worship
the image which he had set up — they should be cast into a burning fiery
furnace; what was their reply? "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your
hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that
we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set
Think of Paul, singing with his companion the high
praises of God at midnight, in his gloomy dungeon, not knowing but that his
life might be demanded the very next day. Think of Luther in after
ages. When summoned to appear before the authorities, where it was likely
that he would be exposed to the greatest danger, and when besought with the
most urgent importunity by his friends to refrain from going, his well known
language was, "I am called in the name of God to go — and go I would though
there were as many devils in the place, as there are tiles upon the houses!"
Think of the noble army of martyrs; see them standing undismayed,
while the flames were kindling around them. Hear one of their number, a
helpless female, exclaiming, "I cannot dispute for Christ; but I can
die for Him!" — and into the flames she rushed! Here was courage of
the noblest and sublimest kind — courage compared with which that of the
warrior at the cannon's mouth deserves not to be mentioned for a moment.
We are not called upon, through gracious Providence, to
give our bodies to be burned; to seal our testimony with our blood is an
ordeal through which we, in this land of liberty, are not likely to pass.
But it is still true that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, must
suffer persecution. The offence of the cross has not yet ceased even
among us! The gospel is same which it was at the beginning; and its
professors ought to be as much separated from a world lying in wickedness,
as were the early believers. But let them be thus separated — and
misrepresentation and ridicule are likely to be their portion. To the
persecution of physical violence, none in this country are exposed;
but the persecution of reproach and invective is not unknown — a species of
persecution that is more appalling to some minds than the former. To be
scoffed and sneered at is a very trying thing to many.
Not a few, especially among the young, are kept from
following Christ by the fear of man — that fear which brings a snare. But
should it be so? Where is the courage and dignity of such
conduct? Reader, should the wit of the profane, the jest of
the railer — cause you to disown the Savior, and make light of His
salvation? "Who are you, that you should be afraid of a man that shall die,
and forget the Lord your Maker?" What will the frowns of your companions be
to you — at the judgment bar? Will not the approbation of the Judge, then,
be an ample compensation for their displeasure now? Fear not the reproach of
men, neither be afraid of their revilings. "Do not be afraid of those who
kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you
should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw
you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!"
Let the Christian especially aspire after such a spirit.
Let the declaration of Solomon, "that the righteous is as bold as a lion,"
be practically exemplified in the whole of his conduct. O, to be decided for
God and for His cause! Let us fear Him — and let us fear none but Him.
Let the approbation of men be a small thing with us; but let the
approbation of God be a great thing — yes, everything in our estimation.
With good old Baxter, let us learn to say:
"Careless, myself a dying man,
Of dying men's esteem;
Happy, if you, O God, approve,
Though all beside condemn."
And for the encouragement of His people, God has promised
to be with them; and having Him on our side, we may well be unmoved,
unterrified, of all that men or evil spirits can do unto us. This was the
feeling of the Psalmist when he said, "The Lord is my light and my salvation
— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life — of whom shall I
be afraid?" Almost innumerable are the exhortations given to the believer to
fear not. In all ages, and under all circumstances, God has bidden
him to be of good courage.
O Lord, help me to trust You, and not be afraid. Say to
my soul in the hour of distress, when perils may be surrounding me, when my
enemies may be rising up against me, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not
be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will
hold on to you with My righteous right hand!"
Fruits of the Spirit — Works of the Flesh
"Happy the heart where graces reign,
Where love inspires the breast;
Love is the brightest of the train.
And strengthens all the rest."
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Galatians 5:22, 23.
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims
— abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." 1 Peter 2:11.
Among the fruits of which the Apostle of specifies is
LOVE — a grace that cannot be too earnestly sought, as its value cannot be
too highly estimated. Its importance may be shown by several considerations.
One is, that the Savior expressed His will on the subject in the form of a
new and express law. "A new command I give you: Love one
another." As the great Head of the Church, possessing all authority in
heaven and on earth, the Lord Jesus was empowered to enact whatever laws
He pleased; it is, however, worthy of remark, that in the exercise of
that high function, the only subject on which He chose formally to
legislate, was the one under consideration.
But it may be said — was not a command given of Old
Testament to the same effect? Was not the second table of the moral law
included in the saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself?" How then
could it be called a new commandment? To this we reply, that it is
evident that the love which Christ inculcated was of a different kind
of love to that which the law of Moses required. The love prescribed by the
old law was that of benevolence; while the love prescribed by the new
law is that of delight. The one was loving-kindness — that is, the
love of the kind, or the love of man as man; the other is the love of man as
a follower of Christ. And not merely are they different in their nature —
but also as regards the considerations by which they are enforced; the great
Legislator Himself, in the latter case, proposing His own example as the
motive to, and the model of, obedience. "A new command I give you: Love one
another. As I have loved you — so you must love one another."
Again, the importance of love appears from the
pre-eminence given to it above all other gifts and graces. "And now abides
faith, hope, love — these three; but the greatest of these is love."
It is here shown that love is the richest gem which sparkles in the
Love is greater than either faith or hope
in several respects. It is so, in the first place — as it is the end
for which the other two are bestowed. The great design of the gospel is
to re-stamp upon man the moral image of God; and if that image consists in
one thing more than another — it is in love, for "God is love." Now, the
salvation of the gospel is applied by faith, and to look for
its completion is the work of hope; but love is the completion
itself, it is that state of mind which it is the design of God in all His
dispensations to produce. A building cannot be erected without scaffolding —
but the building is of more importance than the scaffolding, being the end
for which it was put up; and when the building is finished, the scaffolding
This leads us to observe, secondly, that love is greater
than the other graces in point of duration. "Love never fails;
but whether there are prophecies, they shall fail; whether there are
tongues, they shall cease; whether there is knowledge, it shall vanish
away." The shield of faith will be laid aside in heaven, for
believing will be consummated in seeing and knowing. And
as faith will be turned to sight — so hope will be lost in
full fruition. There will be no submission there — for the
days of trial and mourning will be ended. There will be no self-denial
— for there will be no cross to take up, and no burden to be borne. There
will be no watchfulness — for there will be no enemy near; there will
be no Canaanite left in the land; no thief can ever climb over the
massive walls of the eternal city; and no foe can ever enter through its
adamantine gates! There will be no prayer there — for every need will
have been supplied, every sorrow soothed, and every sin forgiven. But if
these graces will be absent — love will be there; and not faint and
feeble as here on earth — but in full vigor and maturity! It will be there,
beaming in every eye, and burning in every breast, forever and ever! It is
thus a grace that will be unending in its duration. If we possess it
here — then it will ascend with us above the skies, to be the temper of our
souls to all eternity.
There is another sense in which the pre-eminence of love
appears. Faith and hope are comparatively selfish
graces. We believe and hope for ourselves; but in the exercise of love we
regard the well-being of others. Faith and hope are the channels by
which the streams of joy and peace flow from God to us; but by love,
we dispense of those streams to others. In the one case — we are made
the recipients of happiness; in the other we become its
distributors. By the former we are made the heirs of salvation, to whom
the angels of God minister; but by the latter we become ministering spirits
ourselves, hushing the groans of creation, wiping away the tears of
humanity, alleviating sorrow, and mitigating care on every hand, and leaving
a blessing behind us wherever we go!
We may observe, once more, that the importance of this
grace appears from the fact, that in the epistles addressed to the early
churches, there is something about love, especially about brotherly love, in
them all. Addressing the Romans, the apostle says, "Love each other with
genuine affection;" and again, "Owe no man anything — but to love one
another." If we turn to his first epistle to the Corinthians, we have one
chapter entirely taken up with this topic, where its nature is
explained, and its influence strikingly represented; and in the second
epistle we find many affectionate appeals on the same subject. In the
epistle to the Galatians, in addition to what is stated of the fruits of the
Spirit, it is said, "By love, serve one another." Addressing the Ephesians,
he says, "Be followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ
also has loved us, and has given Himself for us." To the Philippians His
language is, "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the
affections of Jesus Christ: and this I pray, that your love may abound yet
more and more in knowledge and in all judgment." To the Colossians again,
"We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying
always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the
love which you have to all the saints." In the epistle to the
Thessalonians, we have the emphatic words, "But as touching brotherly
love, you need not that I write unto you; for you yourselves are taught
of God to love one another." Among the many things which Timothy was
exhorted to follow after, one of the first was love. Just so with the
believing Hebrews — the apostle was for provoking them, and for their
provoking each other to love; and in closing the epistle he says, "Let
brotherly love continue."
In perfect harmony with these exhortations of Paul, are
those of Peter. "Seeing," is his language, "that you have purified your
souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto sincere love of the
brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently." To
refer to the epistles of John would be needless. There is nothing but love
there. With an affection worthy of him who leaned on the bosom of incarnate
love and compassion, he beseeches us, with the overflowings of tender
importunity, as little children — to love one another. Now from all this
there is but one conclusion at which we can arrive, namely, that that which
is thus so prominently exhibited, and so repeatedly enjoined, must be
important in the highest possible degree.
True religion, in a word, is love — and love is true
religion. It is because love prevails in heaven — that religion prevails
there. It is because there is no love in hell — that there is no religion in
hell. And it is in proportion as love prevails in this world — that true
But the fruits of the Spirit enumerated by the apostle
are numerous and diversified. We may, however, in accordance with the above
observations, regard each and all of the graces subsequently specified, as
so many modifications of the one we have been considering. What is
joy — but love exulting! What is peace — but love reposing! What
is patience — but love enduring! That it "suffers long, and is kind,"
the apostle, in another place, expressly declares. And in "kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control," we have what may be
described as the amiability, the beneficence, the fidelity, the
unostentatiousness, and the controlling influence of the same great
principle. Or should it be thought that this representation is somewhat
fanciful; no one can deny that if these several qualities are not actual
modifications of love — yet that they are the inseparable adjuncts
of it, and that where love abounds they cannot be absent.
With the fruits of the Spirit — the apostle
contrasts the fruits of the flesh. "This I say then," is his
language, "walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the
flesh. For the flesh lusts against Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
and these are contrary the one to the other. Now the works of the flesh are
obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery,
hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions,
dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I
tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those
who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!" These evil
passions and propensities, we are to shun as resolutely — as we are
to seek the virtues, so lovely and of such good report, to which we
have just referred. And how many are the considerations which should induce
us to guard against those fleshly lusts which war against the soul! If we
live after the flesh — if we yield our members as servants to moral impurity
and to iniquity — the certain consequence will be death — a death which
never dies. The word is gone forth and shall not return, "The cowardly, the
unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who
practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in
the fiery lake of burning sulfur!" May God, in His infinite mercy, deliver
the reader from such a doom!
Murmuring — Submission
"Peace, all our angry passions, then,
Let each rebellious sigh
Be silent at His sovereign will,
And every murmur die!"
"Why should any living man complain?" Lamentations 3:39.
"It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him." 1
Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards. And
what we are born to as men — we are born again to as Christians.
We are not therefore to think that any strange thing has happened to us — if
sorrow, in any of its multifarious forms, befalls us here below —
since the same afflictions happen to our all our brethren.
"If you endure chastening," says the apostle, "God deals
with you as with sons." But HOW should we endure it? It should be
done in an inquiring spirit. We ought to be anxious to know the cause
of the painful visitation. With the patriarch of old, our language should
be, "Show me why You contend with me?" It should be done also in a
prayerful spirit — "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray." And it
should be done especially in a submissive spirit. We should not
merely feel the 'chastening rod' — but kiss it. Instead of
cherishing any feelings of murmuring and rebellion under the
afflictive dispensations of God's providence — we should humble
ourselves under His mighty hand, that He may exalt us in due time.
And how many considerations are there which should induce
and promote such a submissive spirit towards affliction! If we compare our
sufferings with our deserts
— shall we not find abundant reason to banish every complaint, and hush into
silence every murmur? Should we complain of our light and momentary trouble
— when we deserve to be tormented in hell forever? Should we complain of the
chastisements of a gracious Father — when we have rendered ourselves
obnoxious to the sentence of a holy and angry Judge? Should we complain that
God sits by us as a refiner to purify us — when He might be a
consuming fire to destroy us? Should we complain that we have to pass
under the rod of His love — when we might have been set up as a "mark for
the arrows of His indignation, and His terrors be arrayed against us?" Could
we look into the lake of fire, and have a sight of the wretched beings who
are there writhing in deathless agonies — we would then thank God for the
most miserable condition on earth — if it were only sweetened with the hope
of escaping that place of eternal torment!
Let us think, again, of the many
mercies of which we have been, and still continue to
be, the subjects. "And shall we receive good at the hand of God — and shall
we not receive evil?" not moral evil, for that cannot come from Him who is
of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; but the corrections with which
He visits His children. It is recorded that a slave, on one occasion, was
presented by his master with a bitter melon, which was immediately eaten by
him. Seeing this the master asked how he could eat so nauseous a fruit? He
replied, "I have received so many favors from you — that it is no wonder
that I should, for once in my life, eat a bitter melon from your hand." This
answer, so striking and generous, affected the master deeply — so much so,
that he gave him his liberty as a reward for the noble spirit he displayed.
And is there not a lesson for us to learn from this? Should we not receive
our afflictions from the Divine hand with similar feelings? Should we forget
our blessings, which are so many — and dwell upon our crosses, which are so
It would be well also for us to compare our sufferings —
with what others have had to
endure. The people of God have been, in all ages, a suffering people; and
many of them could say with special emphasis, "I am the man who has seen
affliction!" There was Job. So pre-eminent was his character,
that it was said of him by God Himself, that there was none like him in all
the earth; and yet in a single day he was cast down from the highest
pinnacle of prosperity — to the lowest depths of adversity! In the morning,
he was the richest man in all the East — and with patriarchal dignity he
looked around upon the joyous circle of seven sons and three daughters. But
in the evening, he found himself without flock, or herd, or child. In the
morning he flourished like a stately cedar, with its verdant branches spread
around; but in the evening, as if struck by the lightning's flash, his
spreading honors are all scattered to the winds, and he stands like a
withered trunk, solitary, and bare, and blasted. O what are our
troubles — compared with his? And did he murmur? No, he adored the hand
that smote him! Prostrate in the dust he exclaimed, "I came naked from
my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I
had — and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!"
Take the apostle Paul. O what had he to
pass through! Bonds and imprisonments everywhere awaited him. Perils and
privations of every kind he had to endure. But none of these things moved
him, neither did he count his life dear to himself, so that he might finish
his course with joy.
But let us turn from the servant — to the Master,
and consider Him. What was His condition during His earthly sojourn? He was
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, notwithstanding His infinite
dignity and unsullied purity! "We suffer justly, for we receive the due
reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing amiss." Our sufferings
are only partial — but He suffered in every way. Ours are only occasional;
for hours and days of pain — we have weeks and months of pleasure. But His
sufferings were uninterrupted — they accompanied Him from the manger to the
cross. What He endured, especially during the closing scenes of His
memorable career, passes all comprehension. Hear His heart-rending cry, "My
soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death!" "And being in an agony He
prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood
falling down to the ground."
O shall we compare our sufferings — with His? To do so
would be to weigh a mote against a mountain! Well may we say —
"Now let our pains be all forgot,
Our hearts no more repine;
Our sufferings are not worth a thought,
When, Lord, compared with Thine!"
If we desire to bear our trials with submission — let us
think much, then, of what the Savior endured for us. We should consider Him
who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest we be
wearied and faint in our minds. The disciple, we must remember, is not above
his Master, nor the servant above his Lord. And would you, Christian, wish
to fare better than Him? Can the common soldier complain when he sees the
commander enduring the same privations? Jesus Christ was a man of
sorrows — and are you not to taste the bitter cup? He was acquainted with
grief — and would you be a stranger to it? Would you wish for the friendship
of that world, whose malice He had to bear continually? Would you have
nothing but ease — where He had nothing but trouble? Would you have
nothing but honor — where He had nothing but disgrace? Would you
reign with Him hereafter — and not suffer with Him here? O say, then,
with Him, "The cup which My Father has given Me — shall I not drink it?" And
as you drink your cup — O, think of His.
"How bitter that cup, no heart can conceive,
Which He drank quite up, that sinners might live;
His way was much rougher and darker than mine,
Did Jesus thus suffer — and shall I repine?"
Another consideration that should produce a spirit of
submission is, that our sorrows are not to last
forever. "For surely," says the wise man, "there is an end."
That end is certain. Many a mariner has been ready to hail a desired
haven which he never reached; and many a warrior has reckoned with
confidence upon a victory which he never obtained. "We looked," said the
Jews, "for light, and behold darkness; for peace, and behold trouble." But,
O you suffering saint — it will not be so with you! Your deliverance from
sorrow is as sure as the purpose, the promise, the covenant,
the oath of God can render it! And not merely is it certain
— but it is near! "For yet a little while, and He who shall
come will come, and will not tarry." A few weeks, or months, or years more —
and all will be peace and quietness and bliss forever!
And, it must be added Christian, that your end will be
unspeakably glorious. "God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and
there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things
are gone forever!" There will be no shattered frame — no emaciated
countenance — no furrowed cheek — no faltering voice in those blessed
regions. There every eye shall sparkle with delight — every countenance will
beam with ineffable satisfaction — every pulse will beat high with
immortality — and every frame will be able to sustain without weariness, an
eternal weight of glory!
O child of sorrow, think of these things. Be anxious to
feel their hallowing influence, that resignation may have her perfect work,
and that no murmuring spirit may be indulged in, even for a moment! In the
sweet strains of the poet, we would say,
"Whatever your lot, Whoever you be,
Confess your folly, kiss the rod;
And in your chastening sorrows see,
The hand of God!
A bruised reed He will not break;
Afflictions all His children feel;
He wounds them for His mercy's sake,
He wounds to heal.
Humbled beneath His mighty hand,
Prostrate, His providence adore;
'Tis done! arise — He bids you stand,
To fall no more."
Lukewarmness — Zeal
"Dear Lord, and shall we ever live
At this poor dying rate?
Our love so faint, so cold to You,
And Yours to us so great?"
"For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God
in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." 1 Corinthians 6:20.
"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I
wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and
neither hot nor cold — I am going to vomit you out of My mouth!" Revelation
It is an undoubted — but mournful truth,
that God is not served with diligence and zeal, by the great mass of His
professing people. There are many who are at ease in Zion; they are
settled on their lees, like Moab of old. What if such were to keep a
diary of their doings — what if they were to write down every day what
they have done for God and His cause! What a record, we have reason to fear,
would it be! What solemn blanks would be presented on one page after
another! Concerning how many days would there have to be written,
"Nothing done for Jesus!" Concerning how many weeks, "Nothing done
for Jesus!" Concerning how many months, "Nothing done for Jesus!" And
alas! in instances which are far from being rare, concerning how many
years, "Nothing done for Jesus!" Nothing to any purpose, nothing done
with full resolvedness and devotedness of heart. O how solemn the thought!
And it is still more solemn to think that such a register is kept —
and that by One who knows our negligences and shortcomings far better than
we do ourselves!
There are many considerations which should
constrain us to devote ourselves unreservedly to the service of God; but the
chief is the obligations we are under for redeeming love and mercy.
"You are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your
spirit, which are God's!" "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through
His poverty might be rich." "He who spared not His own Son — but delivered
Him up for us all; how shall He not with Him also freely give us all
With equal propriety, the apostle might have drawn
another inference — an inference to which the Christian, when his heart is
in a right state, cannot fail to respond. If He spared not His own Son — but
delivered Him up for us all; then how should we not for Him also, freely
give Him all things — wealth, labor, talents, yes, life itself? While we
turn aside to see that great sight — while gazing, in the exercise of
faith, on that spectacle of matchless love and grace which was
exhibited on Calvary — has not our language been —
"See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown!"
And then, moved and melted by the amazing scene, have we
not been compelled to add —
"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."
Our reasonable service it is, truly, to make such a
surrender; but while we are ready to acknowledge our obligations, how
feebly in general do we fulfill them!
In the apostles and early Christians, we have a striking
specimen of the manner in which we ought to serve the Lord Christ. O what
labors were theirs! What sacrifices! What sleepless vigilance! What
overwhelming, all-consuming zeal! And has the Savior done less for us — than
He did for them? Were the sufferings He bore for us less ignominious,
His pangs let piercing, His blood of less value? Are the blessings He
bestows upon us less precious — the salvation He offers us less
glorious? Is the heaven He opens to our view less attractive, its
rest less sweet, its joys less ravishing, its music less melodious? All that
He did for them — He has done for us; the blessings He bestowed upon them —
He is willing to bestow upon us. The love He bears towards us and the
blissful prospects He sets before us — are the same. Must there not be then
the same obligations in both cases; and should there not therefore be
a similar consecration?
And how powerful an argument for devotedness to the
service of God, does the brevity of life supply! Should not the words
of the great Master be ever sounding in our ears, "Work while it is day
— for the night comes when no man can work." Should not the exhortation of
the wise man be practically exemplified in our whole course and conduct,
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no
work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom — in the grave where you are
That was a noble reply that was once made by a Mohammedan
hero on the field of battle. Although greatly fatigued by over-exertion, and
well near fainting from loss of blood, occasioned by the wounds he had
received, he was yet about securing other means for rushing into the
thickest of the fight. A friend who stood by, perceiving the state he was
in, earnestly entreated him to retire, and permit someone else to occupy his
post. The veteran stood for a moment, and, pointing with his sword to the
ground, he exclaimed, "This is the place for labor;" then lifting up
his hand towards his imaginary paradise above, he added, "And there is
the place for rest!" How sublime a sentiment! Reader, adopt the words as
your motto. Ever remember that this is the place for labor — and that
there is the place for rest. Be assured that as you live for God
here, so will you secure, not on the ground of personal merit — but on that
of His free and gracious promise — endless repose hereafter.
It has been remarked, and the assertion is doubtless
true, although it sounds somewhat startling, that there is one privilege
enjoyed by the people of God on earth — that the saints in heaven do not
possess. It is that of being instrumental in doing good to their
fellow-creatures. The mighty warriors of the cross, who have reached their
everlasting home, will not be favored anymore in this way. Luther
cannot now lift up his voice against the abominations of Popery.
Whitefield cannot cross the Atlantic to proclaim the unsearchable riches
of Christ. Howard cannot dive into the depths of dungeons, nor plunge
into the infection of hospitals. All the ranks of the glorified rest from
their labors; their work is done. It is true that they serve God in His
temple; but the service in which they are engaged appears to be that of
worship, adoration, and praise. Does not this consideration loudly call upon
us to make the most diligent use of all the opportunities we enjoy of doing
good while we possess them. In a short time they will be gone forever!
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your
labor is not in vain in the Lord!"
Purity of Heart — Nominal Profession
"My dear Redeemer and my Lord,
I read my duty in Your Word;
But in Your life the law appears
Drawn out in living characters.
O be my pattern, make me bear
More of Your gracious image here;
Then God the Judge shall own my name,
Among the followers of the Lamb."
"Not everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall
enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who
is in heaven." Matthew 7:21.
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without
which no man shall see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14.
The character given of our great High Priest is, that He
was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." By spotless,
stainless purity — was He distinguished. In Him no spot, or wrinkle, or any
such thing was found. As "the man Christ Jesus," the divine law was
in His heart — and by His whole career, from the manger to the cross, did He
magnify it and make it honorable. To all its requirements, He rendered
uninterrupted and complete obedience. How ardently were His affections fixed
upon His Heavenly Father. No idol of wealth, or ambition, or vanity,
had any ascendancy over Him. How exalted were His conceptions of the nature
of God; the worship He paid Him was spiritual worship; He did not make any
graven image, nor the likeness of anything in heaven above or the earth
beneath. How did He reverence the name of God; it was a name dearer to Him
than all other names; and the dishonor cast upon it by an ungodly world
vexed His righteous soul, and filled it with holy indignation. How did He
sanctify the day of sacred rest, delighting in its services, and
consecrating its hours and moments to works of love and mercy. How did He
honor His earthly parents as well as His Heavenly Father. Notwithstanding
His exalted character, He cheerfully submitted Himself to them; and when in
the agonies of death, He recognized and hallowed the earliest and dearest of
nature's ties, and committed His mother to the charge of the beloved
disciple. How full was His heart of love and tenderness to every human
being! No one ever had so many enemies to encounter — but He never conceived
a single purpose of hatred or ill-will against them. Although they were for
killing Him — yet for their cruelty, He returned nothing but kindness. How
free was He from everything licentious, both in practice and in thought. No
Bathsheba's beauty ever kindled an unchaste desire in Him. From the
lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes — He was entirely free. And as
with the other precepts of the law — between Him and all injustice, and all
falsehood, and all desires after the possessions of others — there was the
farthest remove. Upon the tablet of His heart, the whole of the ten
commandments were engraved, and all were embodied, in their spirit and
in their letter, in His outward conduct.
As the Great Teacher who came from God, He preached to
the people the gospel of the kingdom; setting forth with matchless
eloquence, the doctrines they were to believe, and the virtues
they were to manifest. His life was a living commentary upon the truths
which He taught! Every virtue that He preached — He practiced.
Did He preach separation from the world? O how separate was He from
it Himself. He lived above the world. Its forms and fashions, its pomps and
pleasures had no influence over him. Did He preach humility? Never
was one so humble as He. They were sincere words which He uttered, when He
said, "I am meek and humble in heart." Did he preach patience and
forbearance? "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before
her shearers is silent — so He opened not His mouth." "When they hurled
their insults at Him — He did not retaliate; when He suffered — He made no
threats. Instead, he entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly." Did He
preach devotedness and zeal? It was His food and drink to do the will
of His Father who was in Heaven. He went about — not for purposes of ease
and enjoyment, not to admire the wonders of creation, or the treasures of
art — but for the single object of doing good. Did He preach the
necessity and importance of devotion?
"Cold mountains and the midnight air
Witnessed the fervor of His prayer."
After spending the day with men in uninterrupted labors
for their temporal and spiritual well-being, He often spent the night with
God, seeking His face, and imploring His blessing. Did He preach love?
Greater love than His, was never shown. His tears, His agonies, His bloody
sweat, His cross and passion, His life and death — all proclaim, "Behold
how He loved us!" In every particular there was the fullest harmony
between His precepts on the one hand — and His practice on the
Child of God! we call upon you to turn aside and see this
great sight. A marvelous thing it is to see One in our nature "who did no
sin, neither was any deceit found in His mouth." Gaze, then, with adoring
wonder, upon Him. By the eye of faith — behold Him as the Lamb of God
— a Lamb without blemish and without spot.
"Looking unto Jesus" is one of the most important
exhortations contained in the Word of God. And there are two aspects in
which we are to regard Him, while so doing. We are, first, to look to Him as
our substitute dying in our stead, giving Himself for us as an
offering and a sacrifice to God for our sins. And we are to look to Him,
secondly, as our great exemplar, for He left us an example that we
should follow His steps. But it is especially in His purity that we
are to aspire after conformity to Him. Those who have hope in Him as their
substitute — are to purify themselves even as He is pure.
To be in Christ by a mere outward name, will avail us
nothing. We may carry the lamp of an outward profession — but if destitute
of the oil of grace we shall never enter in to the marriage supper of the
Lamb! Those only are savingly in Him — whose chief aim and object is to walk
as He walked. If we are united to Him by a living faith, there is now, and
there will be to us on the great day — no condemnation; but the practical
proof that this blessedness is ours — consists in walking, not after the
flesh — but after the Spirit.
What then, reader, should be your petition, and what
should be your request? It should be, "Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me." It should be, "Sanctify me wholly, and
let my whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless, unto the
coming of the Lord Jesus Christ." It is said of the King's highway, that it
shall be called the way of holiness; and the truth cannot be too
frequently reiterated, that we receive the grace of God in vain, unless we
are made inwardly and outwardly holy.
All the truths and doctrines of the gospel have
immediate reference to this great object. Think of those ancient purposes
which were formed in the solitudes of eternity, before men or angels were
created. In many respects they transcend our loftiest conceptions; but,
however mysterious in their nature, in their design they are exceedingly
clear. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has
blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ;
according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world —
that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." With the
purposes of God — connect the gracious call of God: "As the
One who called you is holy — you also are to be holy in all your conduct;
because it is written, Be holy — for I am holy."
With the promises of God it is so likewise. They
are given that we may thereby "perfect holiness in the fear of God." And so
with the afflictive dispensations of His providence. It is by
affliction that God separates the sin which He hates — from the soul which
He loves! He chastens us for our profit — that we may be partakers of
His holiness. And with the preceding particulars we are especially to
connect the death and sacrifice of the Redeemer. "He gave Himself for
us — that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a
peculiar people, zealous of good works." Thus all God's dispensations, both
in providence and grace, have direct reference to the purification of His
"The desire of happiness" it has been said, "is
natural; but the desire of holiness is supernatural" — it is not what
man's carnal mind will aspire after. Have you, reader, any desires after
holiness? If you have, cherish them more and more. Then existence is to be
regarded as a token for good. We would say, for the encouragement of the
weak and doubtful, that there may be holiness — even in the desire of
holiness; that there may be grace — in the desire of grace; as doubtless as
there is sin, in the desire of sin.
How delightful is the thought that heaven is a land of
perfect holiness! The good work, begun in the day of conviction, will
then be complete. The mournful cry, "O wretched man that I am, who shall
deliver me from the body of this death," will not be heard there; for over
all the principles of indwelling corruption — a final victory will be
gained. To one, in the days of His flesh, and she a guilty one, the Savior
said, "Go, and sin no more!" But what will be His language to His people as
they are received into the gates into the eternal city? He will say, not
"go, and sin no more" — but "come, and sin no more!" O blessed prospect! O
transporting thought! — to sin no more — to be done forever with it — done
with it in all its deceitful forms, and in all its woeful consequences!
"There we shall see His face,
And never, never sin!
There from the rivers of His grace,
Drink endless pleasures in!"
Life Everlasting — The Second Death
"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is
fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore!" Psalm
"What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are
now ashamed? for the end of those things is death." Romans 6:21.
Those who walk in the footsteps of Jesus in this world —
have a prospect ineffably glory awaiting them hereafter! They have
now to pass, it may be, through much that is painful; but were those
sufferings a thousand-fold greater than they are, they would not be worthy
to be compared with that "eternal weight of glory" of which the apostle
speaks. If the believer's condition were that of the most extreme distress
and poverty; if not a single beam of light were to break in upon his
gloomy dungeon; if not a single drop of consolation were mingled with
his bitter cup; if he had to travel through this waste wilderness amid
perpetual assaults and alarms, without a moment's rest or safety — yet the
end to which his manifold tribulations conduct him, will make ample
amends for all!
The end of the Christian's toils and trials, is
variously represented; but one of the most frequent and emphatic expressions
which the inspired writers employ, is "everlasting life." To attempt to
unfold the full signification of this phrase would be a fruitless effort. As
brief as it is — it has depths of meaning which baffle all our
powers of conception. But it is evident — taking a mere negative view of the
subject — that in the state of being referred to, death will be a thing
This present world — is dying world. Here death reigns,
and that with a sway so absolute and universal, that nothing can resist or
stand before him. The strength of man cannot resist death — the whole
of his energies are vain; death stamps a cruel mockery on them all. The
art of man cannot resist death — the physician himself is a dying
creature, and death may seize him in his iron grasp, even while attempting
to preserve the life of others. The varied conditions of man cannot
resist death — on the high and low alike, he inflicts an equal humiliation.
Here the mightiest conqueror is vanquished, and the proudest of monarchs
finds himself a slave. The tenderest sympathies of man cannot resist
death. The husband would gladly live to protect his wife from the crude
assaults of an evil world; the parent would not leave his children orphans
in a region where the law of kindness is so feebly felt. Death's command,
however, is given — and it must be obeyed. But there is a world where "there
shall be no more death!"
But there is more than the exclusion of death
embodied in the expression. In heaven there will be not merely life — but
life of the highest kind. It will embrace every element of bliss. There
will be perfect knowledge, and perfect purity, and perfect
peace, and perfect liberty, and perfect love; and all
these combined will constitute perfect life! And if, with its
glorious nature, we connect its boundless duration — unending ages,
far from producing any symptoms of decrepitude and decay — but contributing
to preserve and augment, as they roll their ceaseless rounds, the blooming
freshness and vigor of perpetual youth and beauty — we shall then have some
faint idea of the import of the apostle's words, when he said — "You have
your fruit unto holiness — and the end Everlasting Life!"
In contrast with the final outcome of the Christian's
career, we are reminded of the fearful termination of the course pursued by
the ungodly. Many representations are given of sin — but they all point to
one result — namely death. Is sin a way? It leads to death. Is sin a
work? Its wages is death. Is sin a conception? It brings forth
death. Sin is unprofitable in its nature here, and most fearful in its
consequences hereafter, for "the end of those things is death!" Yes,
thoughtless sinner, the things in which you indulge, and which you have been
so often exhorted to abandon — their end is death! The end of gratifying
your sinful passions — of loving this present evil world — of trifling with
eternal realities — of rejecting the Savior, and despising the blessings of
His grace — is death — a death which never dies!
But Jesus came to deliver us from the bitter pains of
eternal death. And by believing in Him the vilest sinner may be saved. He is
the resurrection and the life; and those who are made partakers of Him,
however aggravated their offences, shall not die eternally.
"I have set before you life — and death," was the
language of Moses, when addressing the children of Israel. Reader, the same
things are now set before you, and that in a far clearer light, and with
much more solemn sanctions than they were set before the assembled tribes of
old. And why are they set before you? It is that you may be led earnestly
and diligently to seek the one; and that you may as earnestly and diligently
endeavor to, shun the other!