Grace Gems for March 2012

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Embracing Jesus Himself as our personal Redeemer!

(William Bacon Stevens, "The Almost Christian!")

"King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do!" Acts 26:27

Alas! Belief of the truths of Scripture, and practice of its precepts — are too often disjoined!

Alas! An intellectual or theoretical assent to Christianity — is often coupled with the most practical disregard of its duties!

It is indeed strange, that truths so momentous in themselves, and so vital to the interests of the soul, if believed at all — should not be followed by a practice conformable to that belief! Such conduct is contrary to all known principles of human conduct in worldly matters. Let a man be convinced of the truth of anything, or the propriety of any course of conduct which promises him temporal advantage — and how quickly does he carry his mind's beliefs into active practice!

Yet there are multitudes of people who believe the Bible to be God's Word — who do not receive it into their lives as a matter of living faith. Like Agrippa, they believe the prophets — and yet will not do what the prophets require!

If religion were a matter of the intellect only — then such men would be saved. But salvation reaches us, not so much through the faculties of the mind — as through the affections of the heart. For the mind, by its clear power of reason, may be forced to accept as true — that which the heart dislikes, and refuses to acknowledge, or obey.

We are saved, not by believing Christianity as a system — but by embracing Jesus Himself as our personal Redeemer!

This differentiates the Christian religion from all other religions and all other philosophies: they are all based on dogmas and beliefs — but the Christian religion is based on relationship with a Person!

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Modern science and the Bible do not agree!

(William Bacon Stevens, 1815-1887)

What if science, as at present understood, and the Bible, do not agree? Shall we be troubled thereat? I think not. I rejoice to know that what is termed modern science and the Bible do not agree. I would be sorry if they did agree! Modern science is changeable — the Bible is unchangeable!

The science of today is not the science of last year, and will not be the science of the next year.

The Bible of today, is the Bible of all the Christian centuries; and will be a thousand years hence — just what it was nearly eighteen hundred years ago, when the canon of Scripture was closed!

Mark the changes which have taken place along the whole line of sciences since the beginning of this nineteenth century. What a catastrophe then would it have been — had it been proved that the Bible and science as known at the beginning of this century, fully agreed; that all the assertions of the Bible could be squared with the facts of science as then understood! The great tidal waves of science which have rolled over the world since, would have left the Bible stranded and ruined!

And just so now — could it be made clear today that every truth in the Bible accords with the received theories of science — what would become of the Bible fifty years hence, when science will have moved on with even more rapid strides, and left behind more wrecks of theories and more stranded speculations?

In the meanwhile, the Bible stands still in the solitary grandeur of its own perfection. It waits, as the ages roll on, for confirmation and acceptance. It was said by one of old, "God is patient, because He is eternal;" and the Bible, as the book of the God of truth, has this attribute of its divine Author. Its strength is to sit still. It does not go out hastily to meet a half-formed science, and embrace it as an ally — lest it should turn into a foe. It calmly tarries in the consciousness of its own truth — as the advances of science come nearer and nearer; and every advance of true science does bring it nearer to the Bible.

The opposition to that Bible, comes only from a class whose utterances, Paul has justly characterized as "the profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called."

These differences between science and Scripture cannot be settled — because science is not settled. And science will never be settled, so long as there is an undiscovered fact in nature, or an inquiring mind in man!

"Forever, O LORD, Your Word is settled in Heaven!" Psalm 119:89

"The grass withers and the flowers fade — but the Word of our God stands forever!" Isaiah 40:8

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Both apostles are right!

(William Bacon Stevens, "Waiting and Watching!")

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" James 2:14

The religion of Jesus Christ is made up of two parts — faith and works.
Faith is the root of works.
Works are the fruit of faith.

A belief, however true and pure, if it is accepted only by the intellect, and is not carried out into practice — translating the faith held by the mind, into active duties — is a barren faith, which will not be accepted by God, and which will not secure salvation.

On the other hand, works, however good, which do not spring out of faith in the Lord Jesus, but which are done merely from human and worldly motives — are of no avail before God, because "whatever is not of faith, is sin."

Thrice has James told us, "Faith without works is dead!"
And just as distinctly has Paul declared, "By the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified in His sight."

Both apostles are right!

Works without faith — have no living root.
Faith without works — has no authenticating fruit.

They are the two parts of the one tree, namely, the root and the fruit. They are the two halves of the one whole — together they make up the true Christian.

"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by works, is dead!" James 2:17

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The difficulties and mysteries of Scripture

(William Bacon Stevens, "Follow Me!")

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29:28

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts — neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth — so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts!" Isaiah 55:8-9

The difficulties and mysteries of Scripture, necessarily result from the relations between God and man:
  God the infinite — man the finite;
  God the holy — man the sinner;
  God a Spirit — man a creature of flesh and blood;
  God in Heaven — man on earth;
  God inhabiting eternity — and man the creature of a day;
  God the Sovereign of the universe — and man the tiny, puny rebel to His throne.
Mark these contrasts — measure their diversity. The very statement of them shows how impossible it is for man to be able to fully comprehend God or His dealings.

The question was asked of old, "Who, by searching, can find out God? Who can find out the Almighty?" And Solomon, the wisest of men, declared, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter." For if man knew as much as God — he must have the mind of God and the wisdom of God!

For eighteen hundred years the mind of man, with its measuring lines — has been endeavoring to fully understand God and His ways, and compute the measurements of His great truths — and yet they are no nearer the solution now, than when first revealed. There they stand in the firmament of theology, the great unresolvable nebulae of revelation; and no magnifying power of man's optics, and no space-penetrating power of man's devising — can unfold those mysteries, which at once challenge and test, the faith of man.

There can be no revelation of God which is free from mysteries — because human language cannot embody celestial thoughts and modes of divine existence. And the human mind could not comprehend terms and phrases which would truly reflect the person, glory, and work of the Almighty.

Divine thoughts, before they can be taken into our minds, have to be diluted into human words.
Divine things have to be symbolized to us, by human or earthly types.
And divine beings have to be described to us, by terms borrowed from human existences and of purely earthly signification.
Hence, in the process of translation, dilution, and illustration — no one attribute of God, no one truth of God — can be fully revealed and understood.

We can only see the earthly side and the earthly terminus — the heavenly side and the heavenly starting-point, are all beyond our reach — far away out of sight! And there we must be content to let it be, ever standing with our eyes upturned to Jesus, holding in one hand the great doctrines of revealed truth, and in the other the precious assurances:
"What I am doing, you do not understand now; but you shall know hereafter." John 13:7
"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

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One thing you lack!

(William Bacon Stevens, "The Almost Christian!")

"Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' He said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor — and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me.'
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." Mark 10:21-22

He who searched the heart, knew what the one thing lacking was — and hence put His probing finger on the defect, and made the young man see himself in a truer light than he had ever seen himself before.

What was the result? "At this the man's face fell."
What did he do? "He went away sad."
Why? "Because he had great wealth."

The one thing which he lacked, was a willingness to give up his besetting sin! That besetting sin was covetousness.
He preferred to keep his possessions — rather than give them to the poor;
he preferred the treasure on earth — to the treasure in Heaven;
he preferred ease — to taking up a cross;
he preferred the following of his own will — to following Jesus.

This most instructive case shows us how near, how very near, a person may be to the kingdom of Heaven — and yet fall short of it! They may lack but one thing:
  the giving up of a besetting sin;
  the willingness to make a personal sacrifice for Christ;
  the refusal to take up some cross;
  the drawing back from a full following of Jesus.
Some one single sin, some one single difficulty — may thus obstruct the soul's entrance into Heaven, and prevent one from becoming an altogether Christian.

One sin deliberately persisted in — will certainly keep your soul out of Heaven!

One known duty deliberately disregarded — will surely secure your condemnation!

And a refusal to take up a cross and bear it after Jesus — must result in being only an almost Christian, and so fail of eternal life!

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Indelible impressions!

(William Bacon Stevens, "Parental Responsibility")

We aid and abet the spiritual death of our children, by our irreligious example — both in doing that which is positively wrong, and in neglecting to do what is as positively required. As young as our child is — it has learned to join together precept and practice. And if we are professors of religion, our child has put along side of this profession — our daily walk and conversation, and is perpetually drawing inferences from the one to the other, either for, or against, the truth which we profess.

Uncurbed tempers, ill-governed passions;
unbridled tongues, uncharitable words;
lack of meekness, and gentleness, and truth;
lack of sobriety of mind, and kindliness of heart;
the absence of that strict conscientiousness which should mark all our actions;
neglect of the Bible and of prayer;
disregard of the means of grace;
irrepressible worldliness, in ever dwelling upon "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and with what shall we be clothed?"
 — are leaving indelible impressions upon the minds of our offspring! So that, copying our habits of thought, speech, and action — our child's character in its essential characteristics, may be formed for eternity; before its mind is able to receive the precepts which perhaps we occasionally teach.

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The path of sorrow

(William Bacon Stevens, "The Rainbow in the Cloud" 1856)

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33

We live in a world of sin, and hence in a world of sorrow — for "man is born to sorrow, as the sparks fly upward." The apostle Paul tells us that "We must go through much tribulation to enter the kingdom of God." Thus it is true that . . .
"The path of sorrow, and that path alone —
 leads to the land where sorrow is unknown!"
That being so, it befits us to learn . . .
  how to transmute tribulations into blessings;
  how to turn God's chastening rod into a supporting staff;
  how to discern the rainbow in the cloudwhile we are still wet with with raindrops of sorrow!

It is the design of this volume to aid in doing this comforting work. It seeks to ameliorate sorrow — not by a kind of moral anesthetic, deadening the sensibility of grief, and making the heart less susceptible to woe — but rather by showing to the afflicted, that chastenings are the sure evidence of God's Fatherly love.

The furnace of affliction is but the purifying agent to purge away our dross — that the great Refiner may see His own image reflected in purified souls.

In furnishing the strongest and most Scriptural consolation which can be offered to the sorrowful and stricken-hearted, we believe . . .
  that all our springs of comfort are in Jesus Christ,
  that they are applied to the soul by the Holy Spirit,
  that they are to be sought for by the prayer of faith, and
  that they result from the overflowing grace of our Heavenly Father.
We are unwilling to lead the reader to any of the "broken cisterns of earth" for consolation, when the well-spring of Divine comfort, which can alone staunch his bleeding heart, is pouring forth its free and life-giving waters!

It is the lot of all, to be visited with sorrow. There is "a time to mourn" marked out in every man's life; and when that time comes, and the fainting spirit turns away from the "miserable comforters" of earth — may all who consult these pages find in God a refuge from every storm, and "a very present help" in every time of trouble. And may they be enabled so to look at their sorrows, with the clear-sighted eye of faith, that they shall discern "a rainbow" in every cloud of affliction; and "covenant mercy'' in every shower of grief!

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The one startling monosyllable which rings all day long!

(William Bacon Stevens, "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made!")

Why do we die?

Paul answers, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin; and in this way death came to all men — because all sinned!" Romans 5:12

Death, then, wherever we meet it, is the result of sin! And its sepulchral voice ever repeats, "Man has sinned!"

Every funeral knell — tolls the word sin.

Every stroke of the hammer that drives a nail into the coffin — strikes the sharp quick word sin.

Every passing hearse — rattles the word sin.

Every stroke of the chisel upon the gravestone — clicks the word sin.

Every burial service — tells of sin.

Sin is the one startling monosyllable which rings all day long, and all night long — like the cricket's monotone from every graveyard!

Sin is the one syllable — which the great sea ever moans forth from its charnel depths!

Sin is the one fearful cry — which dwells on the bloodless lips of the pestilence!

Sin is the one appalling shriek — which rings louder than the cannon's roar on the field of blood!

There is not a day, nor an hour, nor a minute, nor a second of time — when Death as he hurls his dart into some victim's heart, does not shout the word, which tells the whole story of himself and his deeds — and that one word is "SIN!"

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The worldling's ease — but the godly man's end

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

All men desire happiness for their end — but few will have holiness for their way.

All men desire the kingdom of Heaven, and the glory thereof — but few seek the kingdom of Heaven, and the righteousness thereof.

A nobleman being asked whether he would rather be a godly Christian — or worldly pleasure seeker, answered, "I had rather live like the latter — and die like the former!" So most men had rather live like Balaam — but "die the death of the righteous!" They wish to have the worldling's ease — but the godly man's end.

But this is certain, no man shall go to God in death — unless he draws near to God in life. If the kingdom of God is not first in us — we shall never enter into the kingdom of God. None shall enter Heaven hereafter — but those who walk in Heaven here on earth.

None shall enter the gates of felicity — but those who tread the narrow paths of piety!

Lord! make me holy — as well as happy, that I may desire to glorify You, as well as to be glorified by You.

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My jewels!

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

"They shall be Mine, says the Lord Almighty — in the day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17

Jewels are costly and are highly valued by their owners.

We, though worthless in ourselves — cost our adorable Savior an immense price! To procure our release, to purchase our freedom — He left His Father's bosom, came into our world, labored, suffered, bled, and died! He gave Himself for us! We are bought at a very high price! We are His purchased possession, intended to deck His mediatorial crown, to reflect His praise, and to shine to His glory for evermore!

He highly values us. "Since you were precious in My sight!" He says. We are valued not according to our intrinsic excellence — but according to His estimation of us.

For our safety — He employs . . .
  His watchful eye,
  His powerful arm,
  His numerous angelic hosts!

For our security and preservation — He arranges, directs, and controls all things; so that all things work together for the best, to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.

Soon we shall shine as the gemstones of His crown!

How strange, that He should value us so highly! That He should compare us to all that is beautiful, desirable, or costly in nature! But He really does so!

We are not only His subjects — His friends — His children — His brethren — His bride; but His ornaments — His jewels!

Men may despise us — our Savior will not!

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Hurl God from His throne!

Henry Law, "Forgiveness of Sins" 1875)

"The carnal mind is enmity against God!"
    Romans 8:7

If the sinner's power were equal to his will
he would invade the heaven of heavens, and
hurl God from His throne! Man's secret
chambers of imagination swarm with
thoughts tainted with dislike of . . .
  His name,
  His nature,
  His perfections,
  His cause,
  His people,
  His Word,
  His scepter,
  His kingdom,
  His Christ.

Sin has strong inclinations, and they all
are arrayed against God's righteous ways.

Sin has an ungodly bias towards the
abominable things which God hates!

"The carnal mind is enmity against God!"

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The crowning sin of the ungodly!

(William Bacon Stevens, "The Parables" 1857)

"The one who believes in the Son has eternal life; but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him!" John 3:36

Unbelief is the crowning sin of the ungodly! And until Christ is believed in, by a faith which "purifies the soul" — all other changes will be of no avail.
We may correct this evil habit;
we may prune away that sin;
we may turn from debauchery to purity;
we may turn from profanity to reverence;
we may turn from covetousness to charity;
we may polish our characters until we shall appear beautiful to ourselves and others;
we may even have a sentimental regard for Christ, and experience a sort of respect for His ordinances, and join with external devotion in the praises of the sanctuary —
yet, build up these characters as high as we may, adorn them with every worldly ornament, set them off with every earthly virtue — unless Christ is formed in our hearts as the hope of glory — they are nothing "but white-washed sepulchers, which, indeed, appear beautiful outwardly — but within are full of dead bones and all uncleanness!"

On the other hand, no matter how evil may have been our former course, no matter what the turpitude of our character — though our sins are as black as midnight, and as numberless as the stars, and as vile as Hell itself; yet, if we now receive Christ into our hearts in the fullness of a faith that trusts in Him alone — all will be well! "Though your sins are like scarlet — I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson — I will make them as white as wool!" Isaiah 1:18

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Comfort in the cloudy and dark day!

(James Smith, "Daily Bible Readings for the Lord's Household")

"God, who comforts those who are downcast." 2 Corinthians 7:6

Many things cast us down — but only our God can effectually comfort us. He is the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. He delights to comfort His people — when comfort will do them good. He secures their welfare first — and makes comfort a secondary object. But He never sees His child in sorrow, without sympathy; nor long withholds the necessary cordial.

He comforts the downcast — especially those who are employing their talents in His service, and consecrating their energies to His praise.

Sometimes He brings home a sweet passage of His Word.

Sometimes He sends a Christian friend to speak with us.

Sometimes He cheers us through the preaching of the gospel.

Sometimes a sweet, soothing, comforting light beams upon the soul — and we feel relieved, refreshed, and encouraged; but scarcely know how or by what.

The Lord sends the comfort — whoever brings it. He is the Comforter of the downcast, and to Him alone let us look for comfort in the cloudy and dark day!

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Once in Hell!

(William Bacon Stevens, "The Rich Man and Lazarus" 1857)

"But Abraham replied: Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things — but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony! And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us!" Luke 16:25-26

This parable teaches that our eternal future corresponds to our earthly character. We enter the eternal world with precisely the same moral feelings with which we leave this present world. "As the tree falls — so it lies." He who at death is sinful — will be sinful still. He who at death is holy — will be holy still.

We may be summoned before God at any moment! If called hence in an unrepenting and unbelieving state — we shall enter that unseen world only to spend an eternity amidst the torments of the lost, with an impassable chasm between us and the land of bliss! An "impassable chasm!" No passing now! No passing ten thousand ages hence! No passing forever! Once in Hell, lifting up our eyes in torment — and we are there forever!

For though there is remorse in Hell,
though there is sorrow there,
though there is weeping and wailing there —
there is no repentance there, no faith there, no Savior there!

Now, there is mercy and forgiveness!
Now, the blood-filled fountain is open!
Now, the arms of Jesus are outstretched to receive sinners!
"Now is the accepted time! Now is the day of salvation!"

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The only thing which God hates!

(Thomas Brooks)

Sin is the only thing which God hates!

Sin brought Christ to the Cross!

Sin damns souls!

Sin shuts Heaven!

Sin laid the foundations of Hell!

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Sin meets his eye wherever he turns!

(William Bacon Stevens, "The Parables" 1857)

The very fact that we have been renewed in the temper and disposition of our minds, that we have been born again of the Holy Spirit, that old things have passed away and that all things have become new — only makes us realize more vividly our sad condition — to be thus dwellers in an ungodly world, and to be thus of necessity so mixed up with sin and corruption and unbelief in all the walks of daily life.

The true Christian finds everything around him antagonistic to his thoughts and feelings.
He loves Christ supremely — the world hates Him supremely.
He delights to do God's will — the world revels in its disobedience.
His heart is set on heavenly and Divine things — "the heart of men is fully set to do evil."

He is daily pained at the manifestations of sin and unbelief. He mourns at the spiritual destitution of his fellow men, and at the rampant evils which rear themselves unbridled, and devour the vitals of society with rapacity! Sin meets his eye wherever he turns!

In the Church — he sees hypocrisy, formality, self-righteousness, censoriousness, lukewarmness, and backsliding.
In the family — he finds peevishness, ill temper, discord, variance, strifes, evil surmisings, and positive hatred.
In the state — he perceives crimes of every sort and hue, and the decalogue broken in each one of its commandments.
In business — he is made to witness fraud, greed, deceptions, lying!

We are ever made to feel that we are in an enemy's country; that here, as the Patriarchs confessed, "we have no abiding city — but we seek one to come;" that "we who are in tabernacles of flesh do groan, being burdened" —
burdened with the remaining corruption of our own hearts;
burdened with our daily short-comings and omissions of duty;
burdened with our positive transgressions;
burdened with our frequent infirmities; and
burdened with seeing and hearing the ungodliness which surrounds us, and which is ever crying to Heaven for vengeance!

We long for a release from the place where our soul, like that of righteous Lot, is daily "vexed with the filthy lives of the wicked!" So that, look where we will, we are constrained to say with the Psalmist, "Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech — that I live among the tents of Kedar!" Psalm 120:5

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The unsearchable riches of Christ!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"The unsearchable riches of Christ!" Ephesians 3:8

My Master has riches —
  beyond the eloquence of words 
  beyond the dream of imagination,
  beyond the count of arithmetic, and
  beyond the measurement of reason!

They are unsearchable! You may look, and study, and weigh, but when your thoughts are at the greatest — Jesus is a greater Savior than you think Him to be. My Lord is more ready to pardon — than you to sin; more able to forgive — than you to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your needs — than you are to ask for them!

Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus. When you put the crown on His head, you will only crown Him with silver, when He deserves gold.

My Master has riches of happiness to bestow upon you now. He can make you to lie down in green pastures, and lead you beside still waters. There is no love like His, neither earth nor Heaven can match it. To know Christ and to be found in Him — oh! this is life, this is joy, this is marrow and fatness, wine on the lees well refined!

My Master does not treat His servants churlishly — He gives to them as a king gives to a king! He gives them two Heavens: a Heaven below in serving Him here — and a Heaven above in delighting in Him forever!

His unsearchable riches will be best known in eternity. He will give you all that you need on the way to Heaven — your place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks, your bread shall be given you, and your waters shall be sure. But it is there, THERE, where you shall hear the song of those who triumph, the shout of those who feast, and shall have a face-to-face view of the glorious and beloved One! The unsearchable riches of Christ! This is the tune for the minstrels of earth, and the song for the harpers of heaven!

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All glittering glow-worm glories

(Anne Dutton's Letters on Spiritual Subjects)

"When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from Me and sets up idols in his heart . . ." Ezekiel 14:7

As to our heart-idolatry, it is a very great iniquity of which the Lord's own people are deeply guilty.

Let us bring our every idol unto Him to be entirely slain — so shall our hearts be separated from them, and our admiration of, and sinful affection to, all glittering glow-worm glories sink and die before the rising attracting display of His all-transcendent and infinite excellencies.

"O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who looks after you and cares for you." Hosea 14:8

"Little children, keep yourselves from idols!" 1 John 5:21

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What an unspeakable mercy to have such a Father!

(James Smith, "The Pastor's Morning Visit")

"Return, you backsliding children!" Jeremiah 3:22

We are prone to wander — and are daily going astray!

Our God might justly cast us off — but He lovingly invites us to return. He bids us to take words and come to Him, and gives us every encouragement to hasten to His feet. We are His children, though backsliding; and it is our Father who bids us to return!

Beloved, let us return to our God this morning, let us . . .
  confess our sin,
  deplore our folly,
  beg His pardon,
  plead His Word,
  hope in His mercy, and
  expect His reconciliation and love.

What an unspeakable mercy to have such a Father!

So ready to forgive!

So willing to receive!

So desirous that we should be happy and blessed!

His love is astonishing!

His patience is beyond description!

See His arms extended to you; hear His Word inviting you — and hasten to be blessed! Do not dwell on your miseries, or your wretchedness; they are the effects of your backsliding. He says, "I will heal your backslidings!"

"Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for He has torn us — and will heal us! He has smitten us — and He will bind us up!"

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The littleness of all earthly things

(William Law, "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life")

The Scriptures represent this life, and the greatest things of life . . .
  as bubbles,
  as vapors,
  as dreams,
  and as shadows.

Think upon the vanity and shortness of human life — and let death and eternity be often in your minds; for these thoughts will strengthen and exalt your minds, make you wise and judicious, and truly sensible of the littleness of all earthly things.

The greatness of those things which follow death — makes all that goes before it sink into nothing!

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Robert Murray McCheyne quotes:

1. For every look at self — take ten looks at Christ!

2. The greatest need of my people — is my personal holiness. Take heed to yourself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. Keep up close communion with God. Study likeness to Him in all things.

3. Unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again — you will never come to the bottom of these depths!

4. Get your texts from God — your thoughts, your words, from God. In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be success. It is not great talents God blesses — so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is a powerful weapon in the hand of God.

5. A man is what he is on his knees before God — and nothing more.

6. Live near to God — and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities.

7. Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be!

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He waits to fall upon our neck and kiss us!

(James Smith, "The Pastor's Morning Visit")

"Only acknowledge your iniquity!" Jeremiah 3:13

Will the Lord receive us when we have backslidden from Him, and are desirous of returning to Him? Oh, yes, He invites, He exhorts, He beseeches us to return! Nor does He prescribe any hard conditions — but He says, "Only acknowledge your iniquity!"

He is so ready to forgive, so infinitely gracious in His nature — that if we only confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Have we wandered?

Have we left our first love?

Let us go and return to our first husband, for then it was better with us than now. His affections yearn for us, His arms are open to receive us, and He waits to fall upon our neck and kiss us!

Let us go to His throne of grace — and there . . .
  confess our sins,
  beg His pardon,
  sigh for the enjoyment of His love —
and He will restore unto us the joys of His salvation.

Let us daily confess our iniquities unto the Lord, and He will pardon our numerous sins.

In His favor is life. In His frown is distress and woe.

He delights in mercy.

He will receive us, pardon us, and bless us — like a God!

His mercy endures forever!

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A mixed condition

Thomas Brooks, "The Crown and Glory of Christianity; or, HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness", 1662)

The condition of God's people in this life, is a mixed condition. They now have . . .
  their rejoicing times — and their mourning times,
  their laughing times — and their weeping times,
  their singing times — and their sorrowing times, etc.

But in Heaven there is . . .
  all joy — and no sorrow,
  all gladness — and no sadness.

And in Hell there is . . .
  all sorrow — and no joy,
  all grief — and no gladness,
  all howling — and no singing,
  all madness — and no mirth.

But in this present life, it is otherwise. For if there were nothing but joy — many would look for no other Heaven. And if there were nothing but sorrow — most would look for no other Hell.

If men had nothing but joy — how sadly would they be puffed up! And if they had nothing but sorrow — how easily would they be cast down! But now, by a divine hand, our sorrows being mixed with our joys — our hearts come to be the more effectually weaned from the vanities of this life, and to long more earnestly after the pure and unmixed joys in the world of glory!

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O suffering saints of God!

J.C. Philpot, "Daily Portions")

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment — works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." 2 Corinthians 4:17

O suffering saints of God! Are you tried, tempted, afflicted?

It is your mercy. God does not deal so with everyone. It is because you are His children, that He lays His chastening hand on you.

He means to conform you to the image of His Son in glory — and therefore He now conforms you to the image of His Son in suffering.

All will end well with the people of God. Their life here is a life of temptation, of suffering and trial — but Heaven will make amends for all!

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The human heart!

(Thomas Watson)

"The human heart is the most deceitful
 of all things, and desperately wicked! Who
 really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9

The human heart is full of hostility against God.

The human heart is the very nursery of sin.

The human heart is the storehouse where all
the weapons of unrighteousness lie.

The human heart is a lesser Hell.

"For from within, out of a person's heart — come
 evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,
 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful
 desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.
 All these vile things come from within; they
 are what defile you." Mark 7:21-23

Click to see a picture of your heart!

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The toiling, the tempted, and the sorrowing!

(T. S. Arthur, "Words of Cheer for the Tempted, the Toiling, and the Sorrowing" 1856) 

"May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant." Psalm 119:76

As we pass on our way through the world, we find our paths now smooth and flowery — and then rugged and difficult to travel. The sky, bathed in golden sunshine today — is black with storms tomorrow! This is the checkered history of everyone. And it is also the life-experience of all, that when the way is rough and the sky dark — the poor heart sinks and trembles, and the eye of faith cannot see the bright sun smiling in the heavens beyond the veil of clouds. But, for all this fear and doubt — the rugged path winds steadily upwards, and the broad sky is glittering in light.

Let the toiling, the tempted, and the sorrowing ever keep this in mind. Let them have faith in Him who feeds the young lions, and clothes the fields with verdure — who binds up the broken heart, and gives joy to the mourners. There are words of cheer in the Scripture! Listen! and their melody will bring peace to the spirit; and their truths, strength to the heart.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort — who comforts us in all our troubles!" 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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How deplorably mistaken you are!

(Timothy Shay Arthur, "Do You Suffer More than Your Neighbor?" 1856)

"Whose sorrow is like unto my sorrow?" Lamentations 1:12

Such is the language of the stricken soul, such the outbreak of feeling — when affliction darkens the horizon of man's sunny hopes, and dashes the full cup of blessings suddenly from the expectant lips!

"Console me not; you have not felt this pang," cries the spirit in agony, to the kind friend who is striving to pour the balm of consolation into the wounded heart.

"But I have known worse," is the reply.

"Worse! Never, never! No one could suffer more keenly than I now do!"

In vain the friend reasons. Sorrow is always more or less selfish; it absorbs all other passions; it consecrates itself to tears and lamentations, and the bereaved one feels alone — utterly alone in the world; and of all mankind, the most forsaken. Every heart knows its own bitterness, and there is a canker spot on every human plant in God's garden. Some are blighted and withered — ready to fall from the stalk; others are blooming — while a blight is at the root.

What right have you to say, because you droop and languish — that your neighbor, with a fair exterior and light deportment, is all that his appearance indicates? What evidence have you, that because you suffer from poverty, and your neighbor rides in his fine carriage — that he is, therefore, more abundantly blessed, more contentedly happy than you?

As you walk through the streets lined with costly and beautiful mansions, you feel vaguely, that, associated with so much of beauty, of magnificence and ease — there must be . . .
  absolute contentment,
  enviable freedom,
  unmixed pleasure,
  and constant happiness.

How deplorably mistaken you are!

Here, where gold and crimson drape the windows — is mortal sickness!
There, where the gilded shutters fold over the rich plate glass — lies shrouded death!

Here, is blasted reputation!
There, is an untold and hideous grief!

Here, is blighted love, striving to look and be brave — but with a bosom corroded and full of bitterness!
There, is the sad conduct of a wayward child.

Here, is the terrible neglect of an unkind and perhaps idolized husband!
There, is the willful and repeated faults of an unfaithful wife!

Here, is dread of bankruptcy!
There, is dread of dishonor or exposure!

Here, is bitter hatred, lacking only the nerve to prove another Cain!
There, is silent and hidden disease, working its skillful fangs about the heart, while it paints the cheek with the very hue of health!

Here, is undying remorse in the heart of one who has wronged the widow and the fatherless!
There, is the suffering victim of foul slander!

Have you a worse grief than your neighbor? You think you have. You have buried your only child — but he has laid seven children in the tomb. Seven times has his heart been torn open — and his wounds are yet fresh!

Have you more trouble than your neighbor? You have lost your all. No, no — do not say so! Your neighbor has lost houses and lands — but his health has gone also! And while you are robust — he lies on the uneasy pillow of sickness, and then waits until a trusty hand bears the scanty meal to his parched lips.

Do you suffer more than your neighbor? True, you hardly have money enough for the bare necessaries of life; your children dress meagerly, and your house is scantily furnished; you do not know whether or not work will be forthcoming the following week.

Your neighbor has never seen poverty. House, wife and children are sumptuously provided for. His barn is a palace, compared to your poor hovel! Step into his parlor and look at him for a moment — velvet carpets yield to the step; luxurious chairs invite to rest. But check your sigh of envy! There is a ring of the doorbell — and a jarring thud against the polished door — and in bursts the rich man's son, his brow haggard, his eyes fierce and red. He is a notorious profligate — gambling is his food and drink, and debauchery is his glory and his ruin. Would you rather be that father?

Go back to your honest sons and look in their bright faces. Be even thankful that you are not burdened with corrupt gold, for their sakes. Never say again, that you suffer more than your neighbor!

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A bird's-eye view of Hell!

(James Smith, "A Voice from Hell!" 1856)

"I beg you, father Abraham — send Lazarus to my father's house! For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don't end up in this place of torment!" Luke 16:27-28

Jesus takes off the covering from the bottomless pit — and gives us a bird's-eye view of Hell!

There is a young man there. He was rich. He was surrounded by a multitude of earthly goods. He has forfeited them all — and now he is in Hell. His doom is fixed — and fixed forever. He cannot obtain one single drop of water to cool his parched tongue!

He finds that it is now no use asking favors for himself. But he has brothers — five brothers. Can he prevent their coming to Hell? He will try. He therefore prays that Lazarus may become a missionary — and be sent on a mission of mercy to his father's house. Hear him: "I beg you, father Abraham — send Lazarus to my father's house!" Who would expect to find mercy in Hell — or pity in Hell — or prayer in Hell! But here it is!

Can earth be worse than Hell? Can professed Christians be worse than this lost soul? Shall lost souls in Hell wish to send someone to their ungodly relatives — if possible to prevent their damnation — and will you neglect your relatives? Has pity for the souls of your lost relatives no influence on you?

Is Hell only a fable?

Is eternal torment only a trifle?

How then, can you let them go to Hell without pity or concern?

Souls are perishing!

Hell is filling!

Time in flying!

Are you, can you be careless about the eternal happiness or eternal misery of the souls around you?

Where, O where is your pity for poor perishing sinners?

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Thoughtful, sleepless, loving care

(J. R. Miller, "Weekday Religion" 1880)

There is no comfort like the fact of God's infinite, unchanging and eternal love for us! If we can but get this truth into our minds and hearts — it will sustain us in every trial. All the universe is under God's personal sway, and He is our tenderest and dearest Friend, carrying each one of us close in His heart.

Providence is not merely the outworking of a mechanical system, or the beneficent operation of wise and good laws. It is rather — the thoughtful, sleepless, loving care of our Heavenly Father!

"The Lord who created you says: Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble — I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty — you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression — you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3

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What would Jesus do?

James Smith, "A Purifying Hope" 1865)

"And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself — just as He is pure." 1 John 3:3

The model after which the hopeful believer works, is Jesus — "just as He is pure." Jesus is presented as . . .
  our pattern which we are to copy,
  our example which we are to imitate,
  our copy after which we are to write, and
  the standard which we are to endeavor to reach.

No believer can look at the life of Jesus — without approving that life in his judgment. Nor can he be under the influence of grace — without admiring that life, and desiring to be conformed to it.

He would never ask, "What do others do?" But he asks himself, "What would Jesus do? How would Jesus act in this case? What would Jesus say under such circumstances?" And then he earnestly desires, heartily prays, and energetically endeavors to do — as he believes Jesus would do. This course corrects many evils, prevents many failures, stimulates him constantly to deny himself, and raises him to a pitch of purity and spirituality, which he would not otherwise attain.

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And what are my troubles?

(James Smith's autobiography, "Marvelous Mercy!" 1862)

The following in an excerpt from the diary of James Smith:

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!" 2 Corinthians 4:17

And what are my troubles?
A furnace to purge my dross,
a rod to correct my folly,
a burden to roll on my Lord,
a whip to drive me from man,
a medicine to cure me of sin,
a bridle to check my pride,
a knife to probe my wounds, and
a mirror to give me a faint view of my deserts.

But I want to be sweetly submissive to my lot. I want to acknowledge the love, justice, and compassion of my God in these things. I want . . .
  to take honey out of the carcass of this lion,
  to suck honey from the end of this rod, and
  to find oil flowing out of this apparently flinty rock!

But, alas! I often rebel, murmur, and repine at the rebukes of the Lord. I too often look at man working, instead of looking to the Lord over-ruling. I am apt . . .
  to quarrel with the human instrument — and forget the divine agent;
  to bite the stone — instead of looking for the hand which threw it!