Grace Gems for SEPTEMBER 2011
 

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You have saved the best until now!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"Everyone brings out the choice wine first . . . But you have saved the best until now!" John 2:10

The world gives its best first and the worst comes afterwards!

It is so in all sinful pleasures: first exhilaration and then bitter remorse.

It is so in the chase for wealth, power, and fame: gratification first and then painful disappointment. At first money brings gladness a sort of satisfaction. But as time rolls on and wealth increases cares multiply, anxieties thicken, burdens grow heavier, and at last the rich man finds that in all his riches, he has less satisfaction than he had in the days when he was just a poor boy!

It is so in all mere worldly ambitions: the first cups of fame are sweet but soon they pall upon the taste.

This truth holds especially in the sinful life: we need not deny that at the beginning, sin is sweet but bitterness is found at the bottom of the cup!

In grace, however, this is reversed the good wine is kept to the last! Christ Himself first had humiliation, darkness, and the shame of the cross and then exaltation, power, glory!

In the Christian life, the same law holds:
 
First there comes bitterness but out of the bitterness, sweetness flows.

There is first the deep sorrow of penitence but this gives way to the blessed joy of forgiveness.

First comes self-denial and cross-bearing but out of these experiences comes a holy peace which fills all the heart.

Sorrows are to be endured but the good wine of comfort is poured into the emptied cup.

There is also a constant progression in the blessings of the divine life. We never get to the end of them! Indeed, we never get to the best! There is always something better yet to come. Christ keeps the really best wine until the very last in Heaven! As sweet as Christ's peace now is to the Christian he will never know the fullness of the love of God, until he gets home to the Father's house!

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When surrounded by an ungodly society!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah . . . and his wife Elizabeth . . . Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." Luke 1:5-6

It makes a great deal of difference in what times and amid what circumstances and influences, a man lives. In days when godliness pervades society it is not remarkable that one should live righteously. But when the times are ungodly, and the prevailing spirit is wickedness the life which is holy and devout shines with rare splendor, like a lamp in the darkness!

Such were the times and the spirit of "the days of King Herod," and such were the lives of the blameless elderly people, who are here mentioned. Amid the almost universal corruption of the society and religious leaders they lived in piety and godly simplicity!

The lesson is that it is not necessary for us to be and live like other people if other people are not holy. The prevailing standard of living ought not to satisfy us if the prevailing standard is below Scripture. No matter how corrupt the times we should strive to live righteous and godly lives!

Nor is this impossible. God is able and willing to give us all the grace we need, to enable us to live a true and holy life in the most unfavorable circumstances! God makes no mistakes in planting His people in this world. He does not put any of us in a spiritual climate in which we cannot grow into spiritual beauty and strength; and wherever He plants us He sends the streams of grace to refresh and nourish us.

So, whatever our circumstances may be it is possible for us to live a godly life! The darker the night of sin around us the clearer and steadier should the light which streams from our life and conduct be.

Any Christian should be able to live godly in the midst of friendly influences and favoring circumstances; but it is doubly important that we be loyal and true to Christ when surrounded by an ungodly society!

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We should learn a lesson from the old heathen artist!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah . . . and his wife Elizabeth . . . Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." Luke 1:5-6

This is a beautiful thing which God said of them. Yet, after all, that is the test which every life must endure. It is not enough to have human commendation. The question is How do we stand before God? How does our life appear to Him? It does not matter how men praise and commend us if God sees that we are living wrong. The Pharisees were righteous before men; but if you would see how they stood in God's eye read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew: "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to Hell!" (verse 33)

We are in reality just what we are before God nothing less, nothing more! The question we should always ask ourselves is, "What does God think of me?" If we would meet His approval, we must first have our hearts right and then we must be blameless and upright in every part of our life.

One of the old heathen artists was chiseling the back part of his marble statue with great pains. "Why do you carve the tresses on back of the head of your statue so carefully?" asked one; "it will stand high in its niche against the wall and no one will ever see its back." "The gods will see it," was the reply.

We should learn a lesson from the old heathen artist! We should do our work just as honestly, where it will be covered up and never seen by human eyes as where it is to be open to the scrutiny of the world. For God will see it! We should live just as purely and beautifully in secret as in the glare of the world's gaze!

There really is no such thing as secrecy in this world. We imagine that no eye is looking when we are not in the presence of men. But really, we always have a spectator we are living all our life in the presence God Himself! We should train ourselves, therefore, to live for the Divine eye in all that we do that our life may stand the Divine inspection, and that we may have the approval and commendation of God Himself!

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

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When earth's wine runs out!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"When the wine ran out, Jesus' mother said to Him: They have no more wine." John 2:3

This incident is a very fitting illustration of the failure of all this world's joys. The wine ran out at a wedding-feast. There was not enough of it to last through to the end of the feast.

It is just so with all earth's pleasures. It comes in cups not in fountains; and the supply is limited and soon exhausted.

It is especially so with sin's pleasures. The prodigal son soon ran out of money, and began to be in need. A poet compared the pleasures of sin to a snowflake on the river, "a moment white then gone forever!"

But it is true in a sense also of pure earthly pleasures. Even the sweetness of human love is but a cupful, which will not last forever. The joy which so fills us today tomorrow is changed to sorrow. Amid the gladness of the marriage altar there is the knell of the end, in the words "until death do us part." One of every two friends must hold the other's hand in farewell at the edge of the valley of the shadow of death and must stand by the other's grave, and walk alone for part of the way. The best wine of earthly life and of love will fail. If there were nothing better in this world how sad it would be!

But it is here that we see the glory of Christ's gospel. When earth's wine fails Jesus comes, and gives Heaven's wine to supply the lack. How beautiful and how true is the picture here: the failing wine and then Jesus coming with power and supplying the need! That is what He is doing continually. He takes lives which have drained their last drop of earthly gladness and He satisfies them with spiritual good and blessing, so that they need nothing more.

When human joy fails Jesus gives new joy, better than the world's, and in unfailing abundance! How sad it is for those who have not taken Christ into their lives, and who have nothing but the empty cup when earth's wine runs out!

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Ah yes! He does!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"The Mighty One has done great things for me!" Luke 1:49

It is astonishing that the mighty God, so great, so holy should ever think of a poor, lowly sinner on this earth!

But does He really? It scarcely seems possible! Only consider how many millions of people there are in this world. Can it be, that the glorious God ever gives a personal, special thought to any one person, among so many? He may give personal thought to a few great people to kings and rulers, and to certain very good men and women; but surely He does not think of anyone so small and obscure as I am. Ah yes! He does!

You remember that a child was once dying of thirst in a desert and God heard its cries amid all the noise of the world, and sent an angel to point out a spring of water, and thus save its life.

You remember, too, that story of the little baby, which the mother could no longer herself shelter, and which she put into a little basket and laid among the reeds beside the river; and you remember how God cared for that helpless infant and provided for it in a wonderful way.

Then you remember, that Jesus said that our heavenly Father even cares for each small sparrow and feeds it, and that He even clothes each little flower in the field.

If there is not a bird or a flower that God does not think of and care for then surely He gives thought and care to us, His people! We are better than a sparrow, better than a flower. We have immortal souls. We are God's own children; and was there ever a true father who did not think of, and love and care for his children? God calls each one of us by name. He hears our prayers. He knows when anything is going wrong with us, or when we are in any trouble. He watches over us, and sends blessings to us every day. What a wonderful thought that the awesome and almighty God thinks of each one of us, and does great things for us!

"I am poor and needy yet the Lord thinks upon me!" Psalm 40:17

"Casting all your care upon Him because He cares about you!" 1 Peter 5:7

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You are My friends!

(J.R. Miller "The Book of Comfort")

"I have called you friends!" John 15:15

If Jesus is our Friend then . . .
  no need can be unsupplied;
  no sorrow can be uncomforted;
  no evil can overmaster us;
  we are safe for time and eternity!

"You are My friends if you do what I command." John 15:14

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He asks for absolute surrender!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"Follow Me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

"They immediately left their nets, and followed Him." Matthew 4:20

Their nets were probably all that they owned! It was with these, that they earned their living. Yet at the call of Christ they gave up all, cut themselves off from their means of support, and in simple obedience and faith, went with Him.

That is just what we all should do when Christ calls us. We should obey instantly and without questioning. No matter how much the sacrifice involves we should make it cheerfully for His sake. Though to obey cuts us off from all our ordinary means of livelihood, and leaves us without provision even for tomorrow we should not hesitate. Christ takes care of His servants when they are faithfully doing His will. He asks for absolute surrender to Him. He wants us to trust Him while we obey Him unquestioningly.

The faith in Christ which the gospel requires is the utter, unreserved devotement of the whole life to Him, and the unquestioning commitment to Him for time and for eternity of every interest and hope. The question of what He will do with us or for us, or how He will provide for us should not be raised for an instant. There must be no 'conditions' in the following and the consecration. We may not 'bargain' with Jesus for an easy time, for 'smooth and pleasant paths' but should simply give ourselves to Him absolutely and forever, to follow where and to whatever He may lead us.

The "immediately" is also important. Many people are forever postponing duties. But every call of Christ should be answered immediately. Many people obey so laggardly, so reluctantly, and so long after they are called that half the value of their obedience is lost! Christ always wants instant obedience. There is no 'tomorrow' with Him. Tomorrow He may not have any need of us, or we may not be here to do the duty which He now asks of us.

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Study the 'two pictures' together to see what grace can do for a man!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"He appointed the Twelve: To Simon, He gave the name Peter" Mark 3:16

In an art gallery in Europe are shown, side by side the first and the last works of a great artist. The first is very crude and most faulty; the last is a masterpiece. The contrast shows the results of long culture and practice.

These two names are like those two pictures:

"Simon" shows us the crude fisherman of Galilee, with all his rashness, his ignorance, his imperfectness.

"Peter" shows us the apostle of the Acts and the Epistles; the firm and secure rock; the man of great power, before whose Spirit-filled eloquence, thousands of proud hearts bow; the gentle, tender soul whose words fall like a benediction; the noble martyr witnessing to the death for his Lord.

Study the 'two pictures' together to see what grace can do for a man!

It is not hard to take roses, lilies, fuchsias, and all the rarest flowers and make forms of exquisite beauty with them. But to take weeds, dead grasses, dried leaves, and trampled and torn and faded flowers and make lovely things out of such base materials is the severest test of skill.

It would not be hard to take an angel and train him into a glorious messenger. But to take such a man as Simon, or as Saul, or as John Newton, or as John Bunyan and make him into a holy saint or a mighty apostle that shows great power and ability!

Yet that is exactly what Christ did with Peter and has been doing ever since. He takes the poorest stuff, despised, worthless and vile ofttimes the outcast of men; and when He has finished His gracious transforming work we behold a saint whiter than snow!

The sculptor beheld an 'angel' in the rough, blackened stone, which had been thrown away. And when he was finished behold! men saw an angel cut from the rejected block!

Just so, Christ can take us, as rough, as unpolished and as vile as we are and in His hands, our lives shall grow into purity and loveliness, until He presents us at last before the celestial throne, faultless and perfect! "For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!" Romans 8:29

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Little Sins

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 5:19

A great many people are careful about breaking large commandments and committing heinous sins while they commit
'little sins' continually and without scruple.

They would not tell a direct lie for the world but their speech is full of little falsehoods!

They would not steal money from the purse or drawer of another and yet they continually commit small thefts! For example, by mistake the grocer gives them a penny too much change and they do not think of returning it. Through the carelessness of a postal worker, the postage stamp on a letter is left uncancelled and they take it off and use it a second time.

They would not purposely try to blacken a neighbor's name or destroy his character and yet they repeat to others the evil whispers about him which they have heard, and thus soil his reputation.

They would not swear or curse in the coarse way of the ungodly but they are continually using such minced oaths such as, Gosh! Gees! Heck! and other mild, timid substitutes for overt swearing.

They would not do flagrant acts of wickedness to disgrace themselves but their lives are honeycombed with all kinds of little meannesses, impurities, selfishnesses, and bad tempers.

We need to remember, that little disobediences harm our witness for the kingdom of Heaven.

Little sins mar the beauty of our character.

Then, little sins are sure to grow! The trickling leak in the dike becomes a torrent deluging vast plains!

Ofttimes, too, little sins are infinite in their consequences.

We ought never to indulge even the smallest faults or evil habits but should aim always at perfection of character, and perfection is made up of 'littles'.

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Editor's note: Minced oaths are used to avoid swearing, when expressing surprise or annoyance.

Minced oaths are usually, although not exclusively, religious in nature, and date from the days when it was irreverent and unacceptable to use the name of God, Jesus, or other sacred words in everyday speech. To mince your words, means to choose words so as not to offend anyone except for God, who sees them as sacrilege (the sin of profaning sacred things).

Here are a few examples:
Bejabbers    By Jesus
By George    By God
By golly    By God
By gosh    By God
Chrissakes    For Christ's sake
Christmas    Christ
Criminy    Christ
Cripes    Christ
Dad gum    God damn
Dagnabbit    God damn it
Dagnammit    God damn it
Dang    Damn
Darn    Damn
Darnation    Damnation
Doggone    God damn
Gee whizz    Jesus
Good grief    Good God
Goodness gracious    Good God
Gosh    God
Gosh darned    God damned
Heck    Hell
Jeepers Creepers    Jesus Christ
Jeez    Jesus
Jiminy Christmas    Jesus Christ
My goodness    My God
My gosh    My God
Tarnation    Damnation

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Surely there could be no truer picture taken of Jesus!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"Blessed . . . Blessed . . . Blessed . . . Blessed . . . " Matthew 5:3-10

The Blesseds of the Scriptures shine all over the inspired pages like stars in the midnight sky! The Bible is a book of beatitudes and blessings. God's mercy lies everywhere. Wherever we see Christ He is imparting blessings, as the sun imparts light and warmth.

While He was here on earth He was always reaching out His hand to give a benediction to some life which sorely needed it. Now it was on the children's heads, now on the leper, now on the blind eyes, now on the sick, now on the dead that He laid those gracious hands, and always He left some rich gift of blessing!

Then we remember one day, when those gentle hands were stretched out by brutal enemies and with iron nails, were fastened to the cruel cross! Yet even then it was in blessing that they were extended for it was for our sins that they were thus transfixed on Calvary's cross. As we see them thus stretched out as wide as they could reach the posture suggests the wideness of divine mercy. Thus the arms of Christ are open to the utmost to receive all who will come to seek refuge. There is room for the worst of sinners within those blessed arms!

Finally, it is a striking fact that the last glimpse we have of the Savior in this world shows Him in the attitude of blessing. He had been talking with His disciples as He led them out, and then "He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them He left them and was taken up into Heaven!" Luke 24:50-51. Surely there could be no truer picture taken of Jesus at any point in His life than as He appeared in that last view of Him which this world enjoyed.

In Heaven now, He is still a blessing Savior holding up His pierced hands before God in intercession, and reaching down gracious hands full of blessings for our sad, sinful earth.

If any life goes unblessed with such a Savior it can be only because of sinful unbelief and willful rejection.

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When He comes to us in the garb of pain or sorrow

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"He came unto His own but His own did not receive Him." John 1:11

We say that the Jews, "His own," were very ungrateful to treat their Messiah in this way; and also that their rejection was a terrible wrong to themselves, for they thrust away in Christ, the most glorious things of Heaven and eternity!

But how is it with ourselves? Christ comes to us. He is continually coming. His hands are full of blessings. Do we really take from the hand of Christ all that He offers to us? Do we not daily grieve Him and rob ourselves of blessings by declining what He brings?

Especially do we reject Christ often when He comes to us in the garb of pain or sorrow. Many times the blessings which He brings to us then are the very richest and the most precious in all His treasury of grace!

But how many of us receive Christ as gladly, and take the gifts from His hand as cheerfully and gratefully, when He comes in grief or suffering as when He comes in the garb of joy or worldly prosperity?

Why should we not do so? Can we not trust His love and wisdom?

He never sends pain unless pain is best for us.

He never chastens us unless there is a blessing in the chastening.

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The darling child whom we love so much, lies dead in our arms!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat!" Matthew 8:23-24

Had the disciples put out to sea without Christ's bidding they would not have had the same reason to expect His protection and deliverance.

The lesson we learn here is, that storms may arise, even when we are in the plain line of Christian duty. We should not be discouraged by the difficulty or trouble which comes and conclude that we are in the wrong path.

We see, also, that Christ's presence with His disciples, does not keep the storms away. There are no promises in the Bible that Christian people shall not have trials. The Gospel builds no high walls around us to break the force of the stormy winds. Troubles come to the Christian just as surely as to the worldly man.

There are the storms of temptation these sweep down with sudden and terrific power from the cold mountains of this world! Then, there are storms of sickness, of disappointment and adversity, of sorrow which make the waves and billows to roll over the soul.

On the Sea or Galilee, travelers say that a boat will be gliding along smoothly over the glassy surface, unbroken by a ripple when suddenly, without a moment's warning a tempest will sweep down, and almost instantly, the boat will be tossed upon the angry waves.

Just so, do many of life's storms come. Great troubles come when we least expect them. We may be at peace in a happy home. At an hour when we think all is calm, without warning the darling child whom we love so much, lies dead in our arms! The friend we trusted, and who we thought would never fail us proves false! The hopes cherished for years wither in our hands, like flowers when the frost comes!

The storms of life are nearly all sudden surprises. They do not hang out danger-signals days before, to warn us. The only way to be ready for them is to have Jesus with us in our boat.

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With the eye of tenderest love!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them." Mark 6:48

Jesus always sees our toils and distresses in this world. We do not see Him and sometimes we think that He has forgotten us; but that is never true. He never forgets us, nor is He indifferent for a moment.

On the heights, while the battle was in progress, stood a group of men watching the struggling armies on the plain below. In this group was the American general Sheridan, who watched the mighty strife with the keen eye of a soldier. King William was also there; but his interest was different from Sheridan's. His son was in the thick of the fight and he watched the battle with the eye of a father, as well as of a king.

Just so, Christ looks down upon our struggles in this world. He sees us straining and toiling; He beholds all our battles and strifes. He sees us in the waves and in the storm. He sees us, not merely with the eye of the calm spectator but with the eye of tenderest love!

This is a great thought! If we can only get it into our hearts it will give us wondrous courage in the hour of toil, sorrow, or struggle. Jesus knows . . .
  when the battle is hard,
  when the night is dark,
  when the temptation is more than we can bear.

The winds were against His disciples even though Christ sent them out to sea. We learn here, that even when we are doing the things God which has bidden us do we may encounter great opposition and difficulty. We may even be beaten back, and find the trial too great for our strength. Many of the Lord's disciples have to make their voyage over very stormy seas on their way to glory. For some, duty is often very hard. Indeed, a true, noble, courageous, holy life must always exist in the face of opposition and contrary winds.

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There are few things at which people enact greater farces!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"Then Jesus said to His disciples: If anyone would come after Me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me!" Matthew 16:24

There are few things at which people enact greater farces than in their feeble and foolish efforts at self-denial. Very few seem to have the remotest conception of what self-denial is!

One does without meat on Fridays, eating fish instead and thinks that he has denied himself in a most commendable way.

Another gives up candy or a certain amusement for forty days in Lent and is proud of over his great self-denial.

Others make themselves miserable in various ways: inflicting pain, making useless and uncalled-for sacrifices as if God were somehow pleased when they suffer!

But none of these things constitute self-denial. There is no merit or virtue in . . .
  giving up anything,
  suffering any loss or pain, or
  making any sacrifice merely for its own sake.

True self-denial
is the renouncing of SELF and the yielding of the whole life to the will of Christ. It is SELF coming down from the heart's throne, laying crown and scepter at the Master's feet and thenceforth submitting the whole life to His sway.

True self-denial
is living not to please ourselves, not to advance our own personal interests but to please our Lord and do His work. It is denying ourselves anything which is sinful in His sight. It is the glad making of any sacrifice which loyalty to Him requires. It is the giving up of any pleasure or comfort for the good of others which the living out of His gospel may demand. The essential thing is that SELF gives way altogether to CHRIST as the purpose and end of life.

True self-denial, like all other traits of Christlikeness, is unconscious of itself. We deny ourselves when we follow Christ with joy and gladness, through cost and danger and suffering wherever He leads!

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He does not come in the sunshine only!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"When they saw Him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking He was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw Him!" Mark 6:49-50

It seems strange to us, that the disciples would ever have been afraid of their own Master. They had been in great distress all through the night just because He was not with them. There was nothing they had desired so much all through those long dark hours as that Jesus would come to them. Yet now, when He did come they were in terror at the sight of Him. It was because they did not know that it was Jesus as His very unusual presence so affrighted them.

It is ofttimes just so with us. We are in some need or danger, and Jesus does not come to us. We call upon Him, and most earnestly desire His coming; yet He does not come. At length He comes, but often it is not as we had expected in lovely visage and gentle deportment but in the form of terror! It is in some great trial that He comes. Death enters our door and carries away a loved one. Or we experience some loss or some misfortune at least it seems to us, loss or misfortune. We cry out in terror! We do not know that it is Jesus, veiled in the dark robe, who has come! We do not know that this is the answer to our prayer for His presence and His help. We are affrighted at the unusual form that moves over the waters in the dark night. We think it is new danger when really it is the very divine love and divine help for which we have been longing and pleading!

We ought to learn that Jesus is in every providence that comes to us. He does not come in the sunshine only; quite as frequently it is in the dark night that He draws near. It is our duty as Christians to train ourselves to see Christ in every event. Then, whether it is sorrow or joy which knocks at our door we shall give it loving welcome, knowing that Jesus Himself is veiled in whatever form it is, that He enters. Then we shall find, that when we welcome Him in the somber garments of affliction He will always have a rich blessing for our lives!

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Nestle in our Savior's arms!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in His arms," Mark 9:36

This picture of "Jesus with the little one in His arms" is very beautiful. In all the Bible there is scarcely another picture which so well represents the attitude both of the soul and of the Savior in salvation, and in all Christian life.

Jesus takes the child in His arms
there is love, tenderness and protection.

The bosom is the place of warmth, of affection, of intimacy, of confidence.

The encircling arms imply safety, support and shelter.

Jesus lifted up the child and held it in His arms just so does He carry His people through this wilderness world! He does not merely tell them what path to travel but He takes them on His shoulders, carrying not only their burdens but themselves! Thus He bears them on through life and through death to Heaven, where they shall forever be with Him!

Then look at the picture the other way the child in the Savior's arms. The child's attitude speaks of trust, confidence, repose, peace, love, joy just the feelings which belong to the true Christian. What a place the bosom of Christ is in danger, in storm, in sorrow, in death! Shall we not likewise learn to nestle in our Savior's arms in all our troublesome experiences?

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Flying through the air with an angel-escort!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." Luke 16:22

Nothing is said about his funeral. Of course, if he had one it was only a pauper's funeral. Earth had no honor for the beggar, no splendid coffin, no flowers. But the angels came and were his bearers and escort to glory!

Notice also, that nothing is said about what became of his body. The body is of little matter, for the man himself was no longer in that old, worn-out, battered frame. He was soon far away in the realm of eternal glory! When his body was dropped into the ground the beggar, the real man, was carried away to Heaven! We see him there, no longer a beggar but enjoying eternal blessedness.

There is still another thought here. We dread death. It seems like the end of existence. But really, to the Christian death is only a fleeting incident in his life. It is just a moment's passage through an experience which we never can understand; and then eternal glory!

One minute, this poor beggar lies at the rich man's gate despised, suffering, and starving!
The next moment, a strange sensation passes over him, and all is confusion.
And then he awakes flying through the air with an angel-escort!
And in a moment he is inside the celestial city, to dwell forever with the Lord!
There is no break in his life.

Death came also to the rich man. His riches could not save him from death. No doubt he had a splendid funeral. There would be a long procession, many mourners, a luxurious coffin, and every show of honor.

But who would not rather have the beggar's escort after death than the finest funeral earth ever gave to a mortal?

There have been funerals of rich men at which there was genuine sorrow, where those who had been blessed by their benevolence came and wept by their coffins. But in this rich man's case, there were no sincere mourners, for the man had allowed the needy to lie hungry at his gates! He had lived for himself only and no one really missed him when he was gone. "The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus in his bosom!" Luke 16:22-23

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Every cent!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26

That is putting the case in its most favorable light! The whole world is the largest possible gain. But suppose a man does gain the whole world
  it cannot keep him from trouble;
  it cannot give him peace of conscience;
  it cannot comfort him in sorrow;
  it cannot make a soft pillow for him when he is dying;
  it cannot purchase Heaven for him when he is gone!
All that he can do with the world, after he has it is to keep it for a short time until he dies! He cannot carry any part of it with him into eternity!

"How much did he leave?" asked one, referring to a millionaire who had just died. "Every cent!" was the reply. He left all. So it is easy to see that there is no profit but rather a fearful and eternal loss, in gaining even all the world at the price of one's soul.

Then, think for how much smaller price than 'the whole world' which many people sell their souls for!
Some sell their soul for a few hours' guilty pleasure!
Some sell their soul for a political office!
Some sell their soul for filthy lucre!
Some sell their soul for honor which fades in a day.
They are selling their souls also in many other ways for pitiable trifles.
Like Esau, they are bartering their heavenly birthright for a bowl of stew!

What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Ah! that's the trouble. When the soul is lost there is no way of recovering it. When we have made our choice, and lived our life, whether right or wrong there is no possibility of changing the results! Life is given to us only once; and if we live it wrongly, there is no chance to live it over again. A lost soul cannot be gotten back; it is irretrievably lost!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Leaning on Jesus

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was leaning on Jesus' bosom." John 13:23

We are not told the name of this disciple but we know him by his place and posture. What were the traits in John's character which made him the beloved disciple? One was his humility; another was his love artists always paint his face in features of gentleness and affectionateness. Another of his winning traits was his trust. He never seems to have doubted.

When was it, that he reclined on Jesus' bosom? It was in a time of great darkness. The Master was about to go away, and all the hopes of the disciples were being destroyed. But where was John in that darkness? Leaning on Jesus' bosom! Just so, sorrow, instead of driving us into despair should drive us nearer to Christ to His bosom!

Where was it, that John learned? On Jesus' bosom!
Not merely on His arm the place of strength;
nor upon His shoulder the place of upholding;
but on His bosom which is the place of love and tenderness.
It is a great thing to know that divine omnipotence is underneath us in all our weakness; but mere omnipotence is cold. How much better it is when omnipotence has the heart of love within it.

But what did John do? He leaned. He rested his weight on the omnipotent love of his Lord. Christ wants all His friends to lean upon Him. He wants to carry our burdens for us He wants us to lay all our sins and all our cares upon Him; but more than this ourselves! He wants to bear us as well as our burdens.

"Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" Song of Songs 8:5

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A great and noble army of holy women

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"And many women were there beholding from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him" Matthew 27:55

These were the earliest of a great and noble army of holy women attached to Christ by deep, personal love following and ministering unto Him. In all the ages since, Christian women have shown similar devotion and constancy to Christ and similar heroic love in serving Him. The record of women's ministry to Christ, is one of the brightest in all the world's history!

Women owe an incalculable debt to Christ. He has lifted them up from base thraldom, and from degradation. Women have always been grateful too, and have served Christ with great devotion.

Women are found in every sickroom, bending over the sufferer with unwearying solicitude, with matchless tenderness ministering to bodily comfort, and pouring the warmth of affection upon feverish spirits. They are found in the wards of hospitals, and upon battlefields, moving like God's angels in blessed, loving ministry.

Faithful Christian mothers are following the Master and doing work which will shine forever in glorious luster!

Faithful Christian Sunday school teachers are doing quiet service in lowly paths which in God's sight, is nobler than that of many of earth's famous ones!

Everywhere, too, there is an open field for woman's ministry. Christ is no longer here in person to be served as He was served by these women who followed Him from Galilee; but in His needy and suffering followers He is ever present; and whoever will, may minister unto Him! For He said that in doing acts of kindness to the least of His people we do them unto Him.

Much practical teaching is in this picture, which is here held up before every woman, inspiring her to wholeheartedly follow Christ.

Why do so many young Christian girls choose a life . . .
  of idleness,
  of love of pleasure,
  of aimless, purposeless existence,
  of mere dressing, promenading, and trifling
when such a life of glorious service is open to them?

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

We may be doing Satan's work!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him: Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You! But He turned and told Peter: Get behind Me, Satan!" Matthew 16:22-23

It was Peter's love for Christ which made him so rebel at the thought of such a dire fate for Him. In his love he sought to hold the Master back from so throwing away His life. But in doing this, he was acting the part of Satan in seeking to tempt Jesus away from His great work of atonement. This way of the cross was not an accident; it was the way marked out for Christ; to swerve from it, would be to fail in His mission.

Our best friends may become our tempters in the same way. In their love for us they may seek to keep us from entering paths of duty which will lead us to great sacrifice. Mothers may seek to restrain their children from going to foreign mission fields. Any of us, in the warmth of our affection for our friends, may seek to dissuade them from perilous or costly service which it may be their duty to undertake. We need to guard ourselves at this point.

The path of true success does not always lie along the sunny hillside! Sometimes it goes down into the dark valley of self-sacrifice! And if we try to hinder any from entering upon hard duties, urging them to choose easier ways we may be doing Satan's work! We may be plucking the crown from the brow of our friend by holding back his feet from the way of the cross.

We all need to guard, too, against the counsels of friends who would restrain us from costly or perilous service. In matters of duty we must know only one guide, and follow the call of only one voice.

We are not put in this world to have a pleasant and easy time! We are not put here to consult our own inclinations at all. We are here to go where Christ leads; to follow Him to sacrifice and to death if He leads us in these paths. We dare not allow ourselves to be turned aside by any tenderness of human love. It is the way of duty, however hard, that takes us home to Heavenly glory!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

O wondrous transformation!

(John MacDuff, "Heavenly Aspirations")

"He shall be lifted up, and extolled, and be greatly exalted!" Isaiah 52:13

This sure word of prophecy was literally and most gloriously verified, when the incarnate Redeemer, after having finished the work which was given Him to do, was taken up into Heaven, and sat down on the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him. We now gaze upon the throne on which He reigns!

That meek and lowly One, who had been despised and rejected is now adored by all the heavenly hosts!

That face, once covered with spittle, and furrowed with tears is now gazed upon with transporting admiration!

That brow, once bound with thorns is now encircled with a splendor before which suns turn pale!

Those hands which were nailed to the bloody tree now grasp the scepter of universal dominion!

That ignominious cross is exchanged for Heaven's highest throne!

That crown of thorns is exchanged for a diadem of everlasting glory!

O wondrous transformation!

"On His robe at His thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords!" Revelation 19:16

"God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!" Philippians 2:9-11

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Without wealth, without learning, without friends!

(John MacDuff, "The Promised Land" 1859)

You can go to Heaven without wealth, without learning, without friends but "without holiness, no man shall see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A most soul-ruining sin!

(J. C. Ryle)

"I hate pride and arrogance!" Proverbs 8:13

It is a dreadful fact, whether we like to allow it or not that PRIDE is one of the common sins which beset human nature. We are all born Pharisees. We all naturally think far better of ourselves than we ought. We all naturally imagine that we deserve something better than we have.

Pride is an old sin. It began in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they had not got everything that their merits deserved.

Pride is a subtle sin. It rules and reigns in many a heart without being detected, and can even wear the garb of humility.

Pride is a most soul-ruining sin. It prevents repentance, keeps men back from Christ, checks brotherly love, and nips spiritual desires in the bud.

Let us watch against pride, and be on our guard.

Of all garments, none is so graceful, none wears so well, and none is so rare as true humility. "All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

God at work!

(James Smith, "Nothing Too Hard for God!" 1864)

"There is nothing too hard for You!" Jeremiah 32:17

There is nothing too hard for God to EFFECT:

"Is anything too hard for Me, says the Lord?"

"I know that You can do everything."

"He does according to His will among the armies of Heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth."

"He works all things after the counsel of His own will."

Nothing is too hard for God no change in providence however it may appear improbable, or impossible to us. He could bring water out of the flinty rock. He could supply quail to satisfy the needs, and gratify the lusts of His people in the desert. He could feed Elijah for twelve months by ravens, and for two years and a half more, by a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in the widow's cruse. He could inundate Samaria with plenty in the midst of famine and fearful desolation. If He wills it . . .
  the fire shall not burn the three Hebrew youths,
  nor the lions injure Daniel,
  nor death hold Lazarus in the tomb.

What He has done He can do; for He is the same. And if necessary for the glory of His name He will do it, for He will not allow His name to be polluted.

"Providence" is simply God at work at work for . . .
  the accomplishment of His decrees,
  the fulfillment of His promises,
  the manifestation of His character, and
  the present and eternal welfare of His people.
He can . . .
   give whatever we need,
   do whatever we need, and
   glorify Himself in giving to us, and working for us!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The desires of the righteous!

(John MacDuff, "Brief Thoughts for the Followers of Jesus" 1855)

"For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you wish." Galatians 5:17

How true is this! How exactly does it accord with the experience of the believer! "As in water, face answers to face," so in God's Word, we have the inmost feelings of His people clearly reflected.

O, what would the Christian do if he could! He would serve God perfectly. He would have his way directed to keep all His statutes. He would have all his faculties and feelings in complete subjection to the Divine Will. He would live, not to himself but to Him who died for him and rose again. He would consecrate every moment to His service, and employ every breath in His praise.

In a word, he would rise to the seraphic sanctity of the Paradise above, and present to God those offerings which would be unmixed with any earthly dross; which would be uncontaminated and untinctured by any of the frailties of his fallen nature.

Could the Christian do as he would there is not a glorified spirit before the Heavenly throne, who would excel or outstrip him! He would love as they do serve as they do admire and adore as they do. But here, alas! his infirmities are a constant clog about him and hence his longings for that better world, where his desires and his doings will be one and the same!

Do we want a striking emblem of the child of God, as he is situated at present? We have it in that majestic bird, the eagle; not as it roams at large in the enjoyment of its native freedom but when, as a poor captive, it is fastened down with a chain! It is an interesting object, under any circumstances, to gaze upon; but especially so, when its former soarings are contrasted with its present fettered state. The fire of its eye clearly indicates its longings for those lofty regions, far beyond the clouds, where it felt so much at home, and where its wings were often bathed in the burning splendors of the sun's meridian rays. But no sooner is the attempt made to mount aloft; no sooner does it begin to ruffle its plumes, and spread its wings, in order to prepare for the flight than the touch of the chain is instantly felt!

Just so with the believer. At times how soaring are his aspirations! How would he rise, as on eagles' wings, above earth's turmoils on the one hand, and his manifold imperfections on the other! But, alas! how the chains of time and sense fetter his soul, and fasten it down to this earth! Then his cry is, "My soul cleaves unto the dust! Quicken me according to Your Word!" "O that I had wings like a dove, for then I would fly away and be at rest! I would hasten my escape from the stormy wind and tempest!"

A person is known by his doings. But, in addition to this external and practical proof, a man's desires may be regarded as a strong index of his character. "As he thinks in his heart so is he." There is undoubtedly sin in the desire of sin; the actual commission of the outward act not being requisite to render us guilty in the sight of God. And there is undoubtedly grace even in the desire of grace!

What then are the desires of my soul? Am I of the number of those who are walking according to the course of this world, and who are gratifying the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature? Or are my desires God-ward and Heaven-ward?

Let me remember, for my encouragement, that the Lord will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him. Let me seek Him then; let me trust in Him, and wait patiently for Him. "Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart!" "The desire of the righteous will be granted!" Proverbs 10:24

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

He is the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent,
gracious, just, holy, and unchangeable I AM!


(James Smith, "The Love of Christ!")


The Lord Jesus Christ is God possessed of all divine attributes, and entitled to all divine honors. He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit God over all, and blessed for evermore! He is naturally, essentially, perfectly, and eternally possessed of everything peculiar to Deity.

He owes His existence to none. He says, "I am Jehovah, and beside Me there is no Savior!" He is God and there is no other. There is no other name given under Heaven, or among men, whereby we can be saved. He is the Rock of Ages. He is the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, gracious, just, holy, and unchangeable I AM!

Angels worship Him,
devils obey Him,
saints love Him, and
sinners will bow to Him!

He is the author of . . .
  Creation,
  Providence,
  Redemption,
  and Glorification!

He . . .
  produced all things by His power,
  formed them by His wisdom,
  supplies them by His bounty,
  rules them by His instruments, and
  employs them according to His sovereign will.

He is above all in the glory of His nature.
He possesses all by essential right.
He will judge all according to His righteousness.

All things are dependent upon Him, and
all rational beings are accountable to Him.

Nothing can escape His eye;
none can fly out of His hand!

He is exalted above all,
and remains King forever!

He is . . .
  the King of kings,
  the Lord of lords, and
  the only supreme Law-giver of the universe!

He is naturally, essentially, and eternally God:
  one with the Father,
  equal to the Father,
  and infinite as the Father.

Thus, the Scriptures reveal Him; as such, saints acknowledge Him, and join the angelic host in worshiping, praising, and adoring Him!

As such, He loves all His people yes, He is love to them.

As such, they love Him and trust their eternal interests into His hands!

No person can have right views of the love of Christ who has not right views of the deity of Christ. His divinity gives lustre and glory to His love. If He were not God His love would be only a passion like ours, and would fluctuate and change. But being divine His love is an infinite perfection, and remains immutably the same!

He loves with all the majesty of God and with all the tenderness of man!

His love has the strength of God and the gentleness of sinless man!

He is all-loving and altogether lovely!

"Having loved His own who were in the world He loved them unto the end!" John 13:1

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A friend whose door is always open!

(John MacDuff, "Brief Thoughts for the Followers of Jesus" 1855)

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

A Friend! How endearing the title! There is music in the very sound. But if there is something so sweet and precious in having an earthly friend then what is it to have a Heavenly one! It is of such, that the spouse is here speaking, even of Him who is the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely one! O my soul, let me think of the Lord Jesus as my friend
  my true friend,
  my loving friend,
  my faithful friend,
  my powerful friend,
  my seasonable friend,
  my unchanging friend,
  my friend who sticks closer than a brother,
  my friend who loves me at all times, and on all occasions!

In the enjoyment of the Savior's friendship, there are many precious privileges involved. One is, freedom of access to Him at all seasons, and under all circumstances. In our fellowship with strangers, it is proper that some degree of reserve should be maintained. But it is not so with a well-known and thoroughly tested friend his heart and home are always open! Just so, Jesus is always ready to receive us, just as we are guilty, polluted, and wretched!

Christian, the Lord Jesus is a friend whose door is always open! Knock whenever you will you are sure to be welcome. It is true He sits upon a throne but it is the throne of grace; and you are called upon to approach it, not in a spirit of fear and trembling but with filial confidence, that you may receive from His fullness, and find grace to help in time of need.

O my soul, what a friend have you in Christ!

"I have called you friends!"
John 15:15

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Such poor, depraved, insignificant creatures!

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

"I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love! With unfailing love, I have drawn you to Myself!" Jeremiah 31:3

The love of Christ is unending; it is not a passion of His humanity but a perfection of His divinity. He has always existed and He has always loved His people. His people . . .
  always had a place in His thoughts,
  have ever been before His eye, and
  have always been loved by Him!

He has loved them ever since He knew them and He foreknew them from eternity! His love ran through the boundless ages of eternity past and fixed upon poor sinners who were to appear during the existence of time; and having fixed upon them His love maintains its hold!

When He created the earth, spread abroad the Heavens, and gave His decree to the sea His love was fixed upon His people! Their welfare, in connection with His Father's glory was the object which He sought in all things.

Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! That Jesus should have fixed His love upon such poor, depraved, insignificant creatures and that from eternity past!

When we meditate upon eternity past we can say in reference to the most distant periods, "My Savior loved me then! He loved me from all eternity!" Glorious truth! He always loved me and He always will love me! He loved me . . .
  before angels existed,
  before devils appeared,
  before sin was committed!

He loved me when the Godhead dwelt all alone! O the depths! Surprising mystery! It seems almost too good to be true! But God has said it, and my soul shall rejoice in it and praise Him for it!

His love to me is as eternal as His nature without beginning of days, or end of years. From His love, as from a mighty ocean, flows . . .
  all the acts of His power,
  all the displays of His benevolence,
  all the manifestations of His grace, and
  all the provisions of His gospel.

It is sweet, to silently meditate upon the thought, of such a vile and insignificant creature as I am that Jehovah-Jesus not only thought of me but eternally loved me with all the strength of His Deity! He so loved me, as to be willing, when it became necessary to take my nature, and to save me by His humiliation, sufferings, and death!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Who could have thought!

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

"But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people!" Psalm 22:6

How wondrously did Jesus display His love when He assumed our nature, took upon Him the form of a slave, and was found in appearance as a man! What love to stoop so low as to . . .
  be conceived in a virgin's womb,
  be brought forth in pain, and
  experience all the weakness and ignorance of infancy!

Yes, He was brought forth in poverty a stable for His birth-place, and a feeding-trough for His bed! He passed by the palaces of the noble, and the mansions of the great yes, even the comfortable cottages of the poor and was born in circumstances of misery and degradation!

Who could have thought, if they had entered that stable and seen that infant weeping on His mother's bosom that that infant was the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace! That all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in that little babe! That it was love incomparable and inconceivable love, which brought Deity and humanity together in such a wonderful and indescribable union! This is the mystery of Godliness! The mystery of love! He left . . .
  the bright abodes of blessedness and glory,
  the songs of Cherubim and Seraphim,
  the bosom of His Father, and
  the infinite delights which He had eternally enjoyed
to be a worm and not a man; to be scorned and despised by all!

Jesus was once a helpless infant, a feeble child; and yet, at the same moment He was the Almighty, the self-sufficient God!

What privations He suffered, even from the very beginning of His career on earth! What pain He endured from His birth unto His death! He went sorrowing, sighing, and groaning from the stable, to gloomy Calvary; where He . . .
  finished His work,
  proved His love,
  conquered His foes,
  delighted His Father, and
  merited everlasting honors and glories for His people!

O mystery of mercy!

Here is love beyond measure and degree!

O my soul, admire and adore!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Can Jesus delight in such worms?

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

Jesus presents Himself unto us as the Bridegroom of our souls. He says, "I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord!" He here promises to bring us into the nearest possible union. He becomes one with us. He says, "I will be your portion and you shall be My possession!"

He manifests His beauties to attract us,
He sends His Spirit to prepare us,
He gives His sweet gospel to allure us,
He puts forth His power and draws us and then makes Himself over to us in an everlasting covenant.

He calls us by every sweet appellation, such as "My beloved, My dove, My sister, My darling, My flawless one, My delight, My spouse!" (Song of Songs 5:2)

He gives us . . .
  His person,
  His unsearchable riches, and
  a share in His eternal glories and honors!

He loves us most tenderly, constantly, and prudently.

He assures us . . .
  that He will never leave us,
  that He will come and commune with us, 
  and that He will withhold no good thing from us!

He says, "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor My covenant of peace be removed says the Lord, who has compassion on you!" "No weapon formed against you shall prosper. For your Maker is your Husband the Lord Almighty is His name!"

"As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride so will your God rejoice over you! I will take delight in My people!" What love is here!
 
Can Jesus delight in such worms?
 
Can He rejoice over such unworthy creatures?

Can He enter into a marriage contract with such depraved beings?

Yes! He loved His Church and gave Himself for it! He has redeemed it unto Himself by His blood and will everlastingly rejoice over it, to bless it and honor it!

Jesus, the Heavenly Lover, gave
His life, my wretched soul to save!
Resolved to make His mercy known,
He kindly claims me for His own!

Lost in astonishment, I see
Jesus, Your boundless love to me!
With sin and self, I freely part,
And gladly yield to You, my heart!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

It takes a long and painful process to purge it out!

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

"I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10

The love of Jesus will not preserve His people from trials but rather, assures them of trials! All whom He loves He chastens! He has a furnace to purge our dross, and refine our souls. His Word and the Spirit reveal to us our defilement and impurity and His grace and providence co-operate to remove them. "I am the Lord God, who sanctifies you."

It is divine love which . . .
  prepares the furnace,
  kindles the flame,
  brings the Christian into it,
  superintends the whole process, and
  brings him out as gold, seven times purified!

"From all your filthiness and from all your idols, I will cleanse you!" He cleanses them in the laver of the Word by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit. But He also cleanses them by a variety of afflictive dispensations, through which He causes them to pass.

Our sin calls for trials His love sends them!


Our nature repines at trials but grace submits to them!

Our corruption is enraged at trials but the Spirit sanctifies them to our good, and our Savior's glory.

He makes His people choice ones in the "furnace of affliction!" He says, "I will put you into the fire and will purely purge away your dross."

Believer, never repine at your trials, nor be over-anxious for their removal. They are appointed by Jesus as your Purifier and are choice blessings in disguise!

Seek their sanctification,
wrestle with God that you may see His love in every stroke, and
look to Jesus that you may enjoy His presence when passing through the flame!

Nothing can hurt you while Jesus is near you; and He is never nearer to you than when you are in the furnace! For He sits right there as the Refiner . . .
  watching the process,
  regulating the heat, and
  waiting to effect a gracious deliverance when the ends of His love are answered.

He is only preparing you for fresh manifestations of His glory and fitting you for larger communications of His love.

In the furnace, you will lose nothing that is worth keeping but you will obtain what is truly valuable!

The flesh and the soul need constant cleansings for corruption is so deeply rooted in our nature, that it takes a long and painful process to purge it out! But in reference to the furnace, your Lord says, "The Lord did this to purge Israel's wickedness, to take away all her sin!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A family of such vile, polluted, and wretched beings!

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

Those whom Jesus loves, being chosen of God to holiness here on earth, and happiness in eternity are predestined to the adoption of His children to the praise of the glory of His grace. They are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son they are to . . .
  partake of His nature,
  receive of His spirit,
  wear His image, and
  be associated with Him in honor and glory forever!

Jesus calls them, His brethren heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Himself! Being related to Him, they . . .
  have a saving interest in Him,
  are loved by Him,
  are in union with Him, and
  shall never be separated from Him!

O wondrous mercy! That God should condescend to make up a family of such vile, polluted, and wretched beings as we are!

O wondrous mercy! That He should write our names in His book of life, give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, privilege us to claim relationship at His throne, and associate us with Jesus as fellow-heirs!

O wondrous mercy! That all this should have been fixed upon and settled before the world began, and all for the praise of His glorious grace!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

And to what is this astonishing change to be ascribed?

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

"Beloved, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!" 1 John 3:2-3

Let us endeavor to realize our present sonship; it will produce . . .
  boldness at His throne of grace;
  contrition at His cross;
  confidence in His Word;
  love to His person;
  contentment with our lot;
  victory over the world,
  zeal for His glory; and
  encouragement under all our trials and troubles!

We are either children of God or enemies of God! Every child of God . . .
  mourns over sin,
  flies to the Savior, and
  departs from iniquity!
God is now his Father.
All the promises are his.
The eternal inheritance is his.

Let us look back to the rock from whence we were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence we were dug:
How base our origin the dust!
How degraded our condition slaves of sin and Satan!
How fearful our character enemies to God!
How dreadful our eternal doom the lake which burns with brimstone and fire!

Contrast this with . . .
our present relation children of God;
our high standing in heavenly places in Christ;
our glorious privilege justified from all things;
our fixed destiny to be forever with the Lord!

And to what is this astonishing change to be ascribed? To love the love of God in Christ Jesus! "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

What a mystery of mercy is this!

But if we are unbelievers then we are . . .
  God's enemies,
  children of wrath,
  under the curse,
  in imminent danger!
Satan is our father!
Sin is our element!
Hell is our eternal portion!

Reader, are you a child of God?

If not, then you are the child of Satan!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

If Jehovah is your God!


(by James Smith)

"I will be their God and they shall be My people!" Hebrews 8:10

So has Jehovah purposed, in reference to those whom He has eternally loved and chosen. All of our present and future blessedness, is wrapped up in this holy and gracious purpose.

If Jehovah is your God then all of His glorious attributes and perfections are engaged and employed for your eternal welfare!
  His mercy will supply all of your needs.
  His power will conquer all of your foes.
  His wisdom will direct all of your ways.
  His faithfulness will answer all of your prayers.
  His justice will maintain your cause.
  His infinite love and mercy will be displayed in all of His gracious dealings with you!

If Jehovah is your God then . . .
  His promises are your heritage;
  His precepts are your rule;
  His doctrines are your present paradise;
  His Son is your Savior and King;
  His Spirit is your sanctifier and Tutor; and
  He Himself is your everlasting portion! Psalm 119:57

If Jehovah is your God then He will freely confer all really good things on you at present and crown you at last with eternal glory! He will . . .
  guide you continually,
  chasten you occasionally,
  receive you graciously,
  and bless you indeed!

If Jehovah is your God then all things are yours things present and to come; life, death, the world, Heaven all are yours!

If Jehovah is your God then He will consider nothing too great to do for you and nothing too glorious to give to you! All the treasures of time, and all the resources of eternity will, if necessary, be employed for your spiritual and eternal benefit! Y
ou can lack nothing which is really for your good.

To have Jehovah for your God, is the highest blessedness and honor in the universe!

How blessed is the man who has Jehovah as his God!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Our Heaven, our glory, and our portion!

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

"I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" Philippians 1:23

"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am!" John 14:3

We shall be forever with Christ!

Now, we have to mourn His absence. Now we exclaim, "O that I knew where I could find Him!" But He has provided something better for us even to dwell forever in His presence which will constitute our Heaven, our glory, and our portion!

O with what rapture shall we fix and feast our eyes upon Him, and how will the thought that we are to be forever with Him thrill through our souls, and open ten thousand gushing streams of unutterable delight and joy! O with what joy shall we hear Him say, "Come, you who are blessed of my Father!"

The presence of Jesus will . . .
  dissipate all gloom,
  disperse all slavish fears,
  chase away all darkness,
  free from all pain,
  deliver from all sorrow,
  preserve from all sickness,
  raise us above all temptations, and
  fill us with unspeakably glorious joy.

Here on earth, we may be cast down for the way is rough and our trials are many. Here we may mourn the absence of our God but the love of Jesus will soon rescue us, and we shall be received into His presence to abide forever!

To be with Christ to be with Christ forever this comprises
all that we now desire, and all  that we can wish!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

We all have our Ashtareth!

(John MacDuff, "Brief Thoughts for the Followers of Jesus" 1855)

"And I said this is my infirmity!" Psalm 77:10

The best of men are but men at best! We all have many remaining corruptions; we are all encompassed, like the high priests of old, with many infirmities. And what effect should the consideration of this humiliating but undoubted truth, produce? Ought it not, among other results, to excite in us a spirit of constant watchfulness?

We are frail creatures ever liable to fall! And being exposed, in addition, to the wiles of our spiritual adversaries our danger is considerably greater. It is on our indwelling corruptions, that Satan works and often, alas, with sad success!

In addition to our general infirmities, it is probable that there is some one, or more besetting sins to which we are particularly liable; in which case it befits us to be doubly on our guard!

"If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths; and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." 1 Samuel 7:3

Samuel exhorts them to rid themselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths. But was not Ashtareth one of the many idols an idol like all the rest? Would not one specification, therefore, do for all? It appears not. And why? It was because Ashtareth was their favorite idol, after whom they were specially liable to go! So that while they were to put away all their foreign gods they were to put away their Ashtoreths in particular.

And just so with us. We all have our Ashtareth, of whom, by reason of . . .
  the temper of our minds,
  or the constitution of our bodies,
  or our circumstances in life
we are in especial danger! And while we are to be on our guard against every sin our spiritual forces must be mustered against this besetting sin, with more than ordinary energy and decision. We are to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."

Compassed about, then, as we are, with infirmities some of a more special, and others of a more general nature we should continually be on our watch-tower! Let us never dream that we are free from danger; for when we imagine that there is the least danger there may be the greatest!

Reader, remember therefore, and that continually, the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, "Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

When all the mysteries of Providence will be solved!

(John MacDuff, "Brief Thoughts for the Followers of Jesus" 1855)

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

The Scriptures contain many great and precious promises and this is one of the foremost. It is a promise that has wiped away the tear of sorrow from many an eye; it has proved a balm to many a bleeding and almost broken heart; it has given to many a mourner in Zion "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Many have sucked at its bosom and have been consoled. Many have reposed upon its truth and by so doing have found peace and joy. They have been enabled to glory in tribulations, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

The language of the apostle is particularly decisive. "We know" not we suppose, not we hope, not we trust but we know. It was not to him, a matter of any doubtful disputation; and neither should it be to us. God has said it and let God be true, though all men are liars. 

"We know that all things" O, how comprehensive is this ALL! Nothing whatever is excepted. All things . . .
  temporal and spiritual,
  prosperous and adverse,
  health and sickness,
  life and death!

And they all work together in the most complete and beautiful harmony. The various wheels in the great machine of divine Providence, may appear to be opposed to each other; and yet every movement is directed by infinite wisdom, and tends to the accomplishment of the end proposed. And what is that end? "For good to those who love God."

Is the believer cast into the furnace of affliction?
Are all his earthly prospects blasted?
Is the desire of his eyes taken away with a stroke?
Whatever the painful visitation may be it is for our good. As it is the well-being of the patient, that the physician has in view in the mixing up of his bitter medicines so it is the well-being of His people, that God has in view in all His afflictive dispensations towards them.

There may be much in the divine dealings that is above our comprehension; but what we don't understand now we shall understand hereafter. Even should God's inscrutable dealings be shrouded in mystery as long as we live yet in Heaven, all will be clear. For every tear we have shed, for every pang we have borne the "needs-be" will then be apparent. We shall no longer wonder . . .
   why our path was so rugged;
   why our sun was so often obscured;
   why one wave of trouble should have followed another in almost constant succession
  but we shall then bless God for it all, with our whole hearts.

After the Savior had performed some of His miracles, the people were astonished beyond measure, and they cried out with one voice, saying, "He has done all things well!" Very similar to this will it be with us in Heaven if, through rich and reigning grace, we shall reach that blessed world. When we shall gaze upon the eternal throne, and Him who sits upon it we shall be astonished beyond measure!

And when the books will be opened;
and when all the mysteries of Providence will be solved;
and when the whole of our own history will be explained;
and when all the turnings of the wilderness will be accounted for;
and when all the dangers to which we have been exposed will be made clear;
oh, we shall then be astonished beyond measure! And if its greatness will allow us to give expression thereto our adoring cry will also be, "He has done all things well!"

O believer, cherish high thoughts of God in all His dealings towards you.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

My helper!

(James Smith "The Sure Resource!")

"The Lord is my helper!" Hebrews 13:6

Creatures sometimes would help us but they cannot;
and sometimes they could help but they will not.

Yet the Christian need not be discouraged; he has a Friend who can, and is always willing to help him: it is his God his sure resource. He may be disappointed by others but this is divinely appointed, in order to lead him to trust only in his God.

Beloved, our God Himself loves to help us. It is His delight to do us good. He is pleased to see us coming to Him for assistance, or for grace, or for His blessing; especially if we come in a filial spirit, as children to a Father. 

Help is sure to be needed for we have . . .
   many difficulties to overcome,
   many foes to conquer,
   many trials to endure,
   many duties to perform,
   and many privileges to enjoy.
But not one of them can be attended to with success without divine help.

We have to . . .
  maintain our profession,
  mortify sin,
  cultivate holiness,
  live above the world,
  exercise our graces,
  and labor for God
but such is our ignorance, and such is our weakness that unless we are assisted by divine wisdom and strengthened by divine power we shall utterly fail in every point!

God is a powerful an omnipotent helper; He has Heaven and earth at His command. It is nothing for Him to help. He can work deliverance by the weakest instruments; and often does, in order to confound the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

He is a wise and judicious helper, and affords His assistance in such a way as to . . .
   hide pride from men;
   exercise the graces of His people;
   try the sincerity of those who profess to rely upon Him;
   and keep His saints humble at His footstool.

He equally displays His grace, wisdom, and power in . . .
   the help He affords,
   the supplies He sends,
   and the deliverances He works.

Believer, see what you have to expect! You will be tried. You will feel your own weakness. You will learn more and more your need of divine help. Yes, you will be brought to see that only the Lord can afford you the help you need that you need a helper, who is . . .
   infinite in wisdom,
   omnipotent in power, and
   whose grace is immutable and free.

See to whom you are to look for help in every duty, trial or conflict to the Lord, to the Lord always, for all that you need and to Him alone.
 

"The Lord is my helper!" Hebrews 13:6

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Doubly sweet!

(John MacDuff, "Evening Incense" 1856)

Blessed Lord! I desire to draw near this night with holy boldness to the footstool of Your throne, rejoicing that I can look up to You as my Father in Heaven.

Let this hour of prayer be doubly hallowed by the thought that I am permitted to frequent my Heavenly Father's presence, and pour my needs into my Father's ear!

Let me feel every temporal blessing to be doubly sweet as emanating from my Heavenly Father's hand, and being a proof and pledge of my Father's love! May every rill of temporal bliss be doubly precious to me as flowing from Christ's atoning sacrifice!

Let this season of sorrow be sweetened by the thought that the rod is in my Heavenly Father's hand and that the voice, though apparently rough is the tender whispering of paternal wisdom and love! May I take refuge in the arms that are chastising me, and be enabled to say in unmurmuring submission, "May the Lord's will be done!"

Hear me, gracious Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, my blessed Lord and Savior. Amen.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I am fast borne along the 'stream of time'

(John MacDuff, "EVENING INCENSE" 1856)

"It is appointed unto all once to die and after death, the judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

O my Father, You are daily loading me with Your benefits giving me unnumbered causes for gratitude and thankfulness. No earthly friend could have loved and cared for me like You. Oh may the life You are thus preserving by Your unceasing bounty be unreservedly dedicated to Your praise.

O my Father, keep me mindful that I am soon to be done with this fleeting world that I am fast borne along the 'stream of time' to the ocean of endless futurity!

May I be living in a constant state of preparedness for that solemn hour when small and great shall stand before You, and the books shall be opened. Train me for eternity! Let me not be frittering away these fleeting, but precious moments. Impress on me the solemn conviction that "as men live so do men die;" that as death leaves me so judgment will find me; and as judgment finds me so eternity will keep me.

Oh let death leave me falling asleep in Jesus, united to Him by a living faith so that judgment may find me seated at His right hand, listening to the joyous welcome, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!"

Blessed Jesus, all my hope of a glorious resurrection centers in You. I look to You as the strong tower which cannot be shaken. I flee anew to the holy sanctuary of Your covenant love. Sheltered there, amid a dissolving earth, and burning worlds I shall be able joyfully to utter the challenge, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?"

Keep me from all negligence and unwatchfulness. Trim my flickering lamp. Let me live with Your Judgment-throne in view. May I ever remember that I must soon give an account of myself to You, the infallible searcher of all hearts. May I feel that all the talents and means which You have given me are trusts to be laid out for You. When you come to demand a reckoning, may I not be among the number of those who have hidden their talent in the earth, and have the cheerless retrospect of a misspent life.

May every providential voice sound loud in my ears, "Arise and depart for this is not your rest, because it is defiled it is ruined, beyond all remedy!"

Make me more heavenly-minded. Give me more of a pilgrim attitude and a pilgrim spirit. May I ever feel that my true home is above and that I am here on earth, but a wayfarer and sojourner, as all my fathers were. May I attain, as I advance nearer to Heaven, the blessed habit of a holy life, declaring plainly that I am seeking "a better country."

I delight often to anticipate that happy time, when I shall suffer no more and sin no more!