Grace Gems for MARCH 2013

Grace Gems for MARCH 2013

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Perish! What is that?

(James Smith, "
The Way of Salvation Set Forth")

"Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish!" Luke 13:3

Perish! What is that?

It is for hope to forever depart — and despair take eternal possession of the soul!
It is to be banished from God forever — and to be shut up with devils and damned spirits!
It is to be excluded from Heaven — and to be confined in Hell!
It is to be driven from the rivers of pleasure which are at God's right hand — and to be doomed to the lake of fire to dwell in everlasting burnings!
It is to be thrust into blackness, darkness, and eternal woe!

If therefore you live impenitent, then you are condemned already; your destiny is fixed, and fixed by yourself. Hell is your eternal abode! And in Hell, you will be forever deprived of the glorious presence of God. There you will be shut up in prison with all the enemies of God — shut up in a prison where there is . . .
   no order — but horror;
   no voice — but of blasphemers cursing God, themselves, and each other;
   no sounds — but the dismal howlings of the tortured;
   no society — but devils and the damned! And these being tormented themselves — will eternally torment you!

In Hell, you must experience . . .
   punishment, without pity;
   misery, without mercy;
   sorrow, without support;
   crying, without comfort;
   mischief, without measure;
   torment, without ease!

There the worm never dies — and the fire is never quenched. The wrath of God like flames of liquid brimstone, will seize upon your soul and body; and in that flame you will be . . .
   forever burning — but never consumed;
   ever dying — but never dead;
   ever writhing in the pangs of the second death — and never for one moment be free from those pangs, nor know an end of those pains.

Your torments will be always beginning! Your cutting reflections will be:
"All this I procured by my sin! All this I chose in preference to Heaven! To this dreadful place, I forced my way — though warned, invited, and entreated by the servants of God! I despised the solemn warnings — but now I feel the dread reality! I slighted the invitation to embrace the Savior — and now I am banished forever from His presence! My destruction is of myself! I chose the path, I pursued the road — and now I am lost! Lost! Lost forever!
Justice condemns me,
holiness punishes me,
mercy and grace pass me by without pity,
all around curse me,
all within condemns me, and
I am obliged to confess that in this tremendous punishment, that God as fully just!"

"Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath!" 1 Thessalonians 1:10

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The Holy Spirit

(James Smith
, "The Way of Salvation Set Forth")

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John 3:6

The Holy Spirit is the author of the great work of regeneration. He takes up His abode in the renewed heart, as His temple — He dwells in us, and shall be with us. Jesus does all for us, in our justification; and the Holy Spirit does all in us, for our sanctification.

The Holy Spirit is the source of all holy desires, consistent purposes, and good works. There is no good thing in us, but what He produces. He dwells within us as the Teacher, the Comforter, and the Advocate of the soul. He leads us . . .
  into truth,
  against Satan,
  and to labor for God. He . . .
warns us of evil,
directs us to Jesus, and
applies the blessings of salvation to our souls.
He is in us as a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Without the Holy Spirit there is not, there cannot be, genuine religion; for He is its author, guardian, and guide. To Him we are indebted . . .
  for every good desire,
  for every holy thought,
  for every good word, and
  for every fruitful work.
He works in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure.
Every tear of penitence,
every contrite sigh,
every fervent prayer,
every ray of spiritual light,
every holy emotion toward God
 — is from the Holy Spirit.

If He left us — our graces would soon wither, fade, and die.

When we grieve Him . . .
  our comforts decline,
  our evidences are beclouded,
  and our hands wax feeble. But . . .
if we sow to the Spirit,
if we walk in the Spirit,
if we aim in all things to please Him — then . . .
  our souls are vigorous,
  our graces are lively, and
  we are enabled to find our joy in God.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Afflictions are but medicines

(James Smith
, "The Way of Salvation Set Forth")

"The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:6

The Christian may be chastened for his faults, and scourged for his follies — but he shall never be condemned along with the unregenerate world.

To the Christian, afflictions are but medicines prepared with a Physician's skill, and presented by the kind hand of a Father's love. Nothing shall by any means hurt him — but all things shall work together for his eternal good. He need not fear anything — but sin. Whatever God sends, is in love. Whatever happens, is under a divine arrangement. Our light afflictions which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!

"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:10-11

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Sin is bad!

(by Thomas Brooks)

Sin is bad in the eye,
worse in the tongue,
worse still in the heart
but worst of all in the life!

"Behold, you have sinned against the LORD;
be sure your sin will find you out!" Num. 32:23

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

What God will bestow upon His beloved people!

(James Smith
, "The Way of Salvation Set Forth")

Sin degrades as well as endangers. Sin is a crime — a fearful, abominable, inexcusable crime against a loving God!
God's heart is love — but man's heart is enmity.
God's conduct is kindness — but man's conduct is ingratitude.
God's object is man's happiness — but man's object is the gratification of vile, base, and degrading passions!
Man is . . .
a prodigal feeding swine,
a slave working in chains,
a criminal awaiting execution.
Man is sunk, beyond description!
He is debased, beyond expression; being . . .
  more ignorant than the ox,
  more stupid than the donkey, and
  more contemptible than the worm!
He talks of honor — but knows not in what it consists. Honor comes from God alone. He confers it as a matter of grace, on all who believe in Jesus.

Is it an honor to be a son of God?
Believers are the sons of God.

Is it an honor to be a King?
Believers are Kings and Priests unto God.

Is it an honor to be a companion of the Prince of life?
Believers are the companions of Jesus.

Is it an honor to be the heir of God?
Believers are the heirs of God.

Is it an honor to be the bride of the Son of God?
Every believer is honored to stand in this precious relation.

But what shall I more say, for time would fail to speak of the honors, dignities, and blessings which are conferred upon the people of God!

There are crowns, thrones, scepters, kingdoms, white robes, golden harps, and rivers of pleasure at God's right hand — which are provided, preserved, and will be conferred on every child of God. Yet we do not, we cannot, fully know here, what God will bestow upon His beloved people!
His love is so vast,
His purposes are so deep,
His provision is so extensive,
and His thoughts are so grand —
that it were folly to attempt to dive into, much less to set forth the honors which He has in reserve for His redeemed children!

"No eye has seen,
 no ear has heard, and
 no mind has imagined —
what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~


(J.R. Miller)

All base desires, all bad habits, all longings for ignoble things — which we vanquish and trample down — become ladder-rungs on which we climb upward out of earthliness and sinfulness — into purer and Christlier character. There really is no other way by which we can rise upward. If we are not living victoriously in our little common days — we surely are not making any progress. Only those who climb, are mounting toward the stars. Heaven itself at last, and the heavenly life here on earth — are for those only who overcome.

"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne!" Revelation 3:21

"He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son!" Revelation 21:7

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The only thing that concerns us

(J.R. Miller)

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

Is not God wise enough to manage the complications of our lives — and to bring order and beauty out of them? Has He not skill enough? Is He not our Father? and will He not always do the very best and wisest thing for us? Should we not trust Him — and cease to be anxious about anything that we have committed to Him? Is not anxiety, doubt? and is not doubt, sin? We are simply to commit our way to the Lord, trust Him, and be at peace.

The only thing that concerns us, is our DUTY. God will weave the complicated web of our lives, into patterns of beauty — unless we mar it by our follies and sins. But His plans are sometimes very long, and our impatience may mar them, as well as our sins. The buds of His purposes, must not be torn open. We must wait until His fingers unfold them.

"Commit your way to the LORD. Trust also in Him — and He shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37:5

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Jelly-fish Christianity

(J.C. Ryle)

The consequences of this widespread dislike to distinct biblical doctrine are very serious. Whether we like it or not, it is an epidemic which is doing great harm, and especially among young people. It creates, fosters, and keeps up an immense amount of instability in religion. It produces what I must venture to call, if I may coin the phrase, a 'jelly-fish' Christianity in the land — that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power.

A jelly-fish, as everyone who has been much by the seaside knows, is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little delicate transparent umbrella. Yet the same jelly-fish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation.

Alas! it is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, 'No dogma, no distinct beliefs, no doctrine.' We have hundreds of ministers who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity! They have no definite opinions; they are so afraid of 'extreme views,' that they have no views at all. We have thousands of sermons preached every year, which are without an edge or a point or a corner — they are as smooth as marble balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint!

We have legions of young men annually turned out from our universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion — and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth. Their only creed, is a kind of 'nothingism.' They are sure and positive about nothing!

And last, and worst of all, we have myriads of respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors. They think . . .
  everybody is right — and nobody is wrong,
  everything is true — and nothing is false,
  all sermons are good — and none are bad,
  every clergyman is sound — and no clergyman unsound.

They are 'tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine;' often carried away by some new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to 'render a reason of the hope that is in them.'

All this, and much more, is the result of that effeminate dread of distinct doctrine which has been so strongly developed, and has laid such hold on many pastors in these days.

I turn from the picture I have exhibited with a sorrowful heart. I grant it is a gloomy one; but I am afraid it is only too accurate and true. Let us not deceive ourselves. Distinct and definitive doctrine is at a premium just now. Instability and unsettled notions are the natural result, and meet us in every direction.

Cleverness and earnestness are the favorite idols of the age!

What a man says matters nothing — however strange and heterogeneous are the opinions he expresses! If he is only brilliant and 'earnest' — he cannot be wrong! Never was it so important for believers to hold sound systematic views of truth, and for ministers to 'enunciate doctrine' very clearly and distinctly in their teaching.

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

First there comes bitterness

(J.R. Miller)

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus . . . who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God!" Hebrews 12:2

Christ Himself had humiliation, darkness, and the shame of the cross — and then exaltation, power, and glory. In Christian life, the same law holds: First there comes bitterness — but out of the bitterness, sweetness flows.

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

First there are 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 empty 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. Heaven will make amends for all!

"Weeping may endure for a night — but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

O parents, parents!

(James Smith)

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4

Children are keen observers, and are much more powerfully affected by what they see — than by what they hear. It is of little use to talk to them of the gospel — if we do not adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in our lives. Thousands of children are ruined by the conduct of their parents — and many of them professing Christian parents!

O parents, parents! Take care what you are teaching your children by your example. You are always influencing them for good — or evil. You are leading them to Heaven — or Hell. Not a day passes, but you produce impressions — perhaps permanent impressions — either good or bad.

When parents profess to be Christians, and do not carry out Christian principles in their daily lives — can we be surprised if their children turn out ungodly?

I fear that the blood of many children's souls — will be found on their parents' garments! I fear the open criminality of many children — is but a public exposure of the secret inconsistency of many professedly Christian parents!

How much attention is frequently paid to the body — how little to the soul! How much time and expense are spent on nurturing the mind — and how little on the heart! How many educate for time — not for eternity! How many prepare their children to take a wealthy place in the world — how few endeavor to prepare their children to take a place in Heaven!

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I know your thoughts!

(James Smith, "God Knows Our Thoughts" 1859)

"I know your thoughts!" Job 21:27

Do we pay sufficient attention to our thoughts?

Every thought has a character — it is either good or bad.

Every thought produces an effect — it either sanctifies or depraves.

Sin begins in thought;
holiness begins in thought;
misery begins in thought;
happiness begins in thought.

Thought decides the state of man — hence the Bible says, "As he thinks in his heart — so is he."

We cannot tell what a man is by his words, nor always by his acts — but if we could get at his thoughts, we could. God attends to our thoughts, and he wishes us to do so. He asks, "How long shall your vain thoughts lodge within you?" He testifies, "I know the thoughts that come into your mind — every one of them!" Not only so — but Jesus has declared, "I am He who searches the thoughts and the heart!"

Reader, God knows the thoughts that come into your mind!

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

She had left her heart behind her!

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)

"Remember Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32

Observe what a solemn warning our Lord gives us against unsound profession.

Lot's wife went far in religious profession. She was the wife of a "righteous man." She was connected through him with Abraham, the father of the faithful. She fled with her husband from Sodom in the day when he escaped for his life by God's command.

But Lot's wife was not really like her husband. Though she fled with him, she had left her heart behind her! She willfully disobeyed the strict injunction which the angel had laid upon her. She looked back towards Sodom, and was at once struck dead. She was turned into a pillar of salt, and perished in her sins!

"Remember" her, says our Lord, "Remember Lot's wife!"

Lot's wife is meant to be a beacon and a warning to all professing Christians. It may be feared that many will be found like her in the day of Christ's second coming. There are many in the present day who go a certain length in religion. They conform to the outward ways of Christ's true people. They speak the "language of Canaan." They use all the outward ordinances of religion. But all this time their souls are not right in the sight of God. The world is in their hearts — and their hearts are in the world!

Their Christianity will prove rotten at the core!

Let us remember Lot's wife, and resolve to be real in our religion. A mere formal religion will never save our souls. Let us serve Christ for His own sake. Let us never rest until we have the true grace of God in our hearts, and have no desire to look back to the world.

"Remember Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

He does according to His will in Heaven, earth, and Hell!

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

"His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth." Daniel 4:34-35

"Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him!" Psalm 115:3

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

The Lord Jesus Christ is the sole Lord and Lawgiver of His Church. All His laws proceed from His loving heart — and are framed with a view to His people's good, and His own glory. They are all merciful, just, and necessary. They cannot be dispensed with — or His glory would be obscured, and His people injured.

Jesus reigns over His people, He reigns in them, He reigns for them! He reigns . . .
  over them, by His Word and servants,
  in them, by His grace and Spirit,
  for them, by His wise and holy providence.

He can do as He will — for His power is absolute!

He will do as He has said — for His faithfulness is unimpeachable!

Every being in creation is under His eye!

Every movement in the universe, is by His power and permission!

Nothing is too insignificant for Him to regard.

Nothing is too cunning to escape His all-penetrating eye! Nothing in all creation is hidden from His sight. All things are naked and open before Him — and sin has no covering.

He does according to His will in Heaven, earth, and Hell! He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers! He brings princes to naught, and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing! He remains King forever!

His people love His person, His government, and His laws! Whatever the sovereign King does — pleases all His redeemed people.

He is the omnipotent Lord God — and He reigns and rules over all!

"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!" Revelation 19:6

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

He never lacks an apple for an Eve

("The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod" or, "The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes" by Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.)

"Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour!" 1 Peter 5:8

The devil is . . .
  not a lamb — but a lion;
  not a sleeping lion — but a roaring lion;
  not a lion standing still — but a lion prowling around to devour!
He is not satisfied with the prey he has already gotten, but is restless in his designs to fill Hell with damned souls.

He never lacks . . .
  an apple for an Eve
  nor a grape for a Noah,
  nor a change of clothing for a Gehazi,
  nor a wedge of gold for an Achan,
  nor a crown for an Absalom,
  nor a bag of silver for a Judas,
  nor a world for a Demas!

If you look into . . .
  one company — you shall find Satan a-dishing out his dainties to every palate.
  another company — you shall find him fitting a lace to every shoe.
  a third company — you shall find him suiting a garment to every back.

Here, with Jael, he allures poor souls in with milk — and murders them with a nail!
There, with Joab, he embraces with one hand — and stabs with another!
Here with Judas, he kisses — and betrays!
And there, with the whore of Babylon, he presents a golden cup — with poison in it!

"Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour!" 1 Peter 5:8

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A picture of what every Christian life should be!

(J.R. Miller)

A writer tells of going with a group of visitors, down into a coal mine. On the side of the passageway grew a flower which was perfectly white. The visitors were astonished, that there, where the coal dust was continually flying — this little flower would be so pure and white. A miner, who was with them, took a handful of black coal dust and threw it upon the plant, but not a particle adhered. Every atom of the black dust rolled off. The visitors themselves repeated the experiment, but the coal dust would not cling. There was a wonderful enamel on the folds of the white flower to which no speck could adhere. Living there amid clouds of black dust — nothing could stain its snowy white!

This is a picture of what every Christian life should be. We live in an evil world. We go among the ungodly continually in our daily walk and work. Unholy influences breathe all around us; but it is our mission to be pure amid all this vileness — undefiled, unspotted from the world.

If God can make a little flower, so that no black dust can stain its whiteness — can He not by His grace so transform your heart and life, that no sin can cling to you? If God can keep a little flower stainless, as white as snow, amid clouds of black coal dust — can He not keep hearts of His people in like purity, in this world of sin?

"So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe!" Philippians 2:15

"Religion that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this . . . to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world!" James 1:27

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

God knows best what cross we need to bear!

(J.R. Miller)

There is a poem called "The Changed Cross." It represents a weary one who thought that her cross was surely heavier than those of others whom she saw around her, and wished that she might choose another cross instead of her own.

She slept, and in her dream she was led to a place where many crosses lay — crosses of various types, shapes and sizes.

There was a little cross most beauteous to behold, set in jewels and gold. "Ah, this I can wear with comfort," she said. So she took it up, but her weak form shook beneath it. The jewels and the gold were beautiful, but they were far too heavy for her.

Next she saw a lovely cross with fair flowers entwined around its sculptured form. Surely that was the one for her. She lifted it, but beneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh.

At last, as she went on, she came to a plain cross, without jewels, without ornate carving, with only a few words of love inscribed upon it. This she took up, and it proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne. And as she looked upon it, bathed in the radiance which fell from Heaven — she recognized her own old cross. She had found it again, and it was the best of all, and lightest for her!
God knows best what cross we need to bear!

We do not know how heavy other people's crosses are.

We envy one who is rich — his is a golden cross set with jewels. But we do not know how heavy it is.

Here is another whose life seems very lovely. She bears a cross entwined with flowers. But we do not know what sharp thorns are hidden beneath the flowers.

If we could try all the other crosses which we think are lighter than ours, we would at last find that not one of them suited us as well as our own!

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

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:10-11

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Amid the sorrows and trials of the world

(J.R. Miller)

"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Psalm 18:2

In a gallery at Florence hangs a picture which represents a stormy sea, with wild waves and black clouds and fierce lightnings flashing across the sky. Wrecks were afloat on the angry waters, and here and there a human face is seen in the turbulent waters. Out of the midst of the waves, a rock rises, against which the waters dash in vain. It towers high above the crest of the waves. In a cleft of the rock are some tufts of grass and green herbage, with sweet flowers blooming; and amid these a dove is seen, sitting on her nest, quiet and undisturbed by the wild fury of the storm, or the mad dashing of the waves below her.
The picture fitly represents the peace of the Christian amid the sorrows and trials of the world. He is hidden in the cleft of the Rock of Ages, and nestles securely in the bosom of God's unchanging love.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The crosses we make

(J.R. Miller)

A cross is composed of two pieces of wood. The shorter piece represents your will — and the longer piece represents God's will. Lay the two pieces side by side — and there is no cross; but lay the shorter piece across the longer one — and you have a cross.

Just so, whenever our will falls across God's will — there is a cross in our life. We make a cross for ourselves . . .
  every time we do not accept Christ's way,
  every time we murmur at anything He sends,
  every time we will not do what He commands.

But when we quietly accept what He gives, when we yield in sweet acquiescence to His will, though it shatters our fairest hopes, when we let our will lie alongside His — there are no crosses in our life, and we have found the peace of Christ.

"My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done." Matthew 26:42

"I delight to do Your will, O my God!" Psalm 40:8 

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Are you seeking great things for yourself?

(J.R. Miller)

"Are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them!" Jeremiah 45:5

This lesson is not an easy one to learn, for we all want to erect our work for God on the summit of a mountain, where it will be seen by all the world. We easily forget that sometimes the greatest work we can perform for Him, is to do the little things He gives us to do, quietly and sweetly.

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The power of habit!

(J.R. Miller, 1893)

A California stagecoach driver had held the leather reins for so many years, that when he began to grow old, his hands were crooked into hooks, and his fingers were so stiffened into that shape — that they could not be straightened out.
There is a similar process that goes on in men's minds and souls, when they continue to do the same things over and over. If you are trained, and train yourself, from childhood . . .
  to be gentle and patient,
  to control your temper,
  to resist all wrong —
your life will grow into moral beauty, and the peacefulness of your heart will at length shine upon your very face.

If, on the other hand, you give way from childhood . . .
  to all ugly tempers,
  to resentful feelings,
  to all bitterness and anger —
your life will grow into permanent moral disfigurement.
One who accustoms himself to think of pure and holy things, who sets his affections on things above, and strives to reach for things which are true, things which are honorable, things which are lovely — will grow heavenward toward the things which he loves and thinks upon.

But one who lets his mind turn habitually . . .
  to debasing things,
  to unholy things,
  to impure things,
  to earthly things —
will find his whole soul bending downward, and growing sinful, corrupt, and evil.

"Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise!" Philippians 4:8

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The flowers are growing to strew on their graves

(J.R. Miller)

There is a great host of weary men and women, toiling on through life, toward the grave — who most sorely need, just now, the cheering words and helpful ministries which we can give.

You are gathering incense of affection to scatter about their coffins; but why should it not be scattered in the hard paths on which their feet today are treading?

The kind words are lying in men's hearts unexpressed, trembling on their tongues unvoiced — which will be spoken by and by, when these weary ones are sleeping in their graves. But why should they not be spoken now, when they are needed so much, and when the kind words would give such cheer and hope?

The flowers are growing to strew on their graves; but why not cut them now to brighten their dreary lives and dark paths.
Many a godly man goes plodding through life, living obscurely — yet living a true Christian life, doing many a quiet kindness to his neighbors and friends — yet seldom hearing a word of appreciation or praise. The vases, filled with the incense of affection, are kept sealed. The flowers are not cut from the stems. One day you stand by his coffin, and there are enough kind things said to have brightened every hour of his life — if only they had been said at the right time. There are enough flowers piled upon his casket, to have kept his chamber filled with fragrance all through his years — if only they had been sent day by day. How his heavy heart would have thanked God, if, in the midst of his toils, burdens, and struggles — he could have heard a few of the words of affection and appreciation which are now wasted on ears that hear them not! How much happier he would have been in his weary days — if he had known how many kind friends he had!

But, poor man! he had to die before the appreciation could express itself. Then he could not hear the gentle words spoken over his cold lifeless body. The love blossomed out too late!

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Their blessings fall upon us as perpetually, in a gentle rain of grace

(J.R. Miller)

We need Jesus just as much in our bright, prosperous, comfortable days — as in the days of darkness, adversity, and affliction. We are quite in danger of thinking that religion is only for sickrooms and funerals, and for times of great sorrow and trial . . .
  as a lamp to shine at night,
  as a staff to help when the road is rough,
  as a friendly hand to hold us up when we are stumbling.

This is not true. Jesus went to the marriage feast — as well as to the home of sorrow. His religion is just as much for our hours of joy — as for our days of grief. There are just as many stars in the sky at noon, as at midnight — although we cannot see them in the sun's glare. And there are just as many comforts, promises, divine encouragements, and blessings for us — when we are in the sunshine of our human gladness and earthly success — as when we are in our nights of pain and shadow. We may not see them in the brightness about us, but they are there, and their blessings fall upon us as perpetually, in a gentle rain of grace.

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A boy growing up in a home of poverty

(J.R. Miller)

A good many years ago, there was a boy growing up in a home of poverty, with no advantages. He was long and lanky — a most clumsy boy. He would lie on the earthen floor at night, when the day's work was done, reading by the dim firelight. There seemed little hope that the boy would ever be a man of influence. But the years pass, and we see him as President of the United States. One day we see him taking a pen and signing a paper which frees millions of slaves, and writes the name of Abraham Lincoln among the immortal names.
Just so, we should all just go on with our daily tasks, doing the best we can in our circumstances — and wait for God's timing. It takes months for the apple to grow mellow and sweet on the tree. If you are a disciple of Christ — He is going to make something very beautiful, very noble out of your life, when His work on you is finished. You will not always be struggling with faults, fainting under infirmities, bowing beneath burdens, striving in vain against difficulties. It does not yet appear what you will be; but there is glory in reserve for every faithful follower of Jesus!

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The infallible umpire

(J.R. Miller)

The throne of Russia was once occupied by two boy princes. They sat side by side and gave their decisions on the gravest questions. Their judgments were so wise and just, that men marveled that princes so young and inexperienced, could know so much of statecraft, or speak with such discretion on questions so difficult. But the secret was that close behind the throne where they sat, hidden by a thin veil, was the Princess Sophia. She heard the cases which were brought to them, and she gave the decisions which they delivered. They referred every question to her, and waited until she had whispered to them the wise answer, which they gave out.
In like manner, the Word of Christ should dwell richly in our heart. We are to refer every matter to the Holy Spirit, and wait for His decision. Then what He bids us to do — we are to do. Thus Christ will rule every thought, every feeling and every affection. He will settle every point of duty. He will sit as the infallible umpire in all questions of daily living — of duty, of relationships, of recreations, of business.

"I have better understanding and deeper insight than all my teachers, because Your testimonies are my meditation!" Psalm 119:99

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word." Psalm 119:9

"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom." Colossians 3:16

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The volcano

(J.R. Miller)

The volcano is quiet and silent for years. No fires and lava pour forth from its crater. Meanwhile, people venture up its slopes, and lay out their gardens, and build their villas, and plant their vineyards. And flowers bloom, and fruits hang in purple clusters, and beauty covers the once fire-swept, lava-furrowed mountain slopes. But has the volcano really been tamed? Have its fires been put out? Is all permanently peaceful in the volcano's heart?

Just so is the heart of a man, who has merely trained himself into good moral and ethical habits. What the best mere self-culture can do for a life — is no more than the planting of flowers and vineyards on the volcano's sides — while all its fires still burn within, ready to break forth again any day in all their old fury! Good manners are not saving religion. The heart must be changed. The heart of stone, must be made a heart of flesh. The heart that hates God, and holiness and purity — must become a heart that loves God, His holy ways, and His holy Word.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." Ezekiel 36:26-27

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

True, victorious living

(J.R. Miller)

Many of us find life hard and full of pain. The world treats us meanly and roughly. We suffer wrongs and injuries. Other people's clumsy feet tread upon our tender hearts. We must endure misfortunes, trials, and disappointments. We cannot avoid these things, but we should not allow the harsh experiences to deaden our sensibilities, or make us stoic or sour. The true aim of living, is to keep our hearts sweet and gentle amid the hardest conditions and experiences.
If you remove the snow from the hillside in the late winter, you will find sweet flowers growing there, beneath the cold drifts, unhurt by the storm and by the snowy blankets that have covered them. Just so, should we keep our hearts tender and sensitive beneath life's fiercest winter blasts, and through the longest years of suffering, and even of injustice and wrong treatment. That is true, victorious living.

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

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Heaven! Heaven! It is Heaven!

(J.R. Miller)

An author tells of a French ship which had been lost for months amid storms in the southern seas. One morning land was espied from the mast-head. Passengers and crew gathered on deck, awaiting the sight of the coming shore in suspense. Vague outlines only were seen, so vague that the uncertainty almost broke the hearts of the watchers. Was it land? If so, what land? Could it be France? Was it indeed France? Or was it some strange country?

Nearer and nearer they came. Clearer and more distinct became the outlines. After some hours, hours which seemed days, the lookout cried, "France! France! It is France!" The joy of the ship's company knew no bounds. They were indeed home after all their wanderings, and all their dangers and fears!
So will it be with us believers, when, through the mists of that sea which we call death, we approach the shores of eternal life. After the dimness of dying — our eyes shall open to behold the banks of the celestial land! Then the shout will not be, "France! It is France!" but "Heaven! Heaven! It is Heaven!" The storms will all be past. We shall be in eternal glory. Then we shall have life in all its fullness. Then we shall be home forever!

"No eye has seen,
 no ear has heard, and
 no mind has imagined —
 what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The cost of all truly helpful and holy living

(J.R. Miller)

Prosperity has never enriched the world, as adversity has done. The best thoughts, the richest lessons, the sweetest songs which have come down to us from the past — have not come from the minds and hearts of those who have known no privation, no suffering, no adversity. They are the fruit of pain, of weakness, of trial.

Men have cried out for emancipation from the bondage of hardship, of sickness, of infirmity, of poverty — not realizing that the very trial which seemed to be hindering them in their career — was making whatever was noble, beautiful, and blessed in their life. The cost of all truly helpful and holy living, is pain!

We must not forget that redemption and Heaven come to be ours, only through the bitter sufferings and cross of the Son of God.

In all of life, the sweetest comforts and the richest blessings, come to us at the cost of suffering and tears. The fruit of earth's "thorns" seems bitter to the taste, but it is the wholesome food of human souls.

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:10-11

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

"It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees." Psalm 119:71

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

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

From desert to garden!

(J.R. Miller)

In traveling to California, we passed over hundreds of miles of the dreariest desert. The hot sands glowed and burned under the sun's rays. Rain scarcely ever falls, and nothing grows on the arid wastes except straggling sagebush and wild cacti. On and on our train rolled, hour after hour, amid choking dust and unrelieved desolation.

At length, however, we began to pass into the first fringes of luxuriance, and soon we were in the midst of the garden splendors of Southern California — flowers, fragrance, and fruit, masses of roses and flowers of all kinds, orange groves, clumps of ornamental trees, vineyards, and palm trees. In an hour we had left behind us the dreary desert — and had entered the richest garden luxuriance of the world!
It is just so with many Christians, in leaving this poor world for Heaven. Here on earth are trials, afflictions, struggles, strifes, bitter tears, disappointments, injustices, hardships and cares. Life seems all desert to these desert toilers. No springs of fresh water burst up along the way to refresh them. Nothing grows in the hot arid fields, to be food for their heart hunger.
What must Heaven be to these weary ones, when they enter it — leaving forever behind them, the dreary desolation of this world? In an hour they will pass from the heat, strife, and bitterness of earthly sorrow — into the eternal blessedness, the perfect love, and the unbroken joy of Heaven!

"In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are eternal pleasures!" Psalm 16:11 

"No eye has seen,
 no ear has heard, and
 no mind has imagined —
 what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9 

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The eye of God is ever upon us!

(J.R. Miller)

A flower blooms no more sweetly, because it is gazed at by an admiring crowd. It would be just as lovely, if it grew in the depths of a great forest where no eye ever saw it.

The stars look down with as much brilliancy into the desert, where no one looks up at them — as into the streets of the great city where thousands behold them.

The sea breaks with as much majesty on an uninhabited shore — as where its waves kiss the feet of multitudes.

It is just so in all true Christian life and work. When one is doing any great thing, and shows by his attitude that he is conscious of it — more than half the greatness is gone from the performance. When a man knows that he is living a life that is very great in its service, when he is conscious that he is being noticed by others — much of the glory is gone from his life. We should live just as sweetly and beautifully when no one is looking upon us to see our deed and praise our life — as when all the world is beholding. The eye of God is ever upon us, and it is His approval and commendation that we should always seek to deserve.

It is said of the great sculptor, Michael Angelo, that when at work he wore a little lamp fastened on his cap, in order that no shadow of himself might fall upon his work.

Just so, we need to take care that no shadows of ourselves, of our pride, our ambition, our self-seeking — shall fall upon our work for Christ.

To labor in Christian work, that we ourselves may have the glory — is to dim and darken the beauty of all we do, and also to make ourselves vessels unfit for the Master's use. We are ready for the most sacred of all ministries — only when we are content to be nothing, that Christ may be all in all.

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets — to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:1-4

    ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Mamma, kiss me!

(J.R. Miller)

That was a touching story which Mr. Gladstone gave in Parliament, when announcing the death of the Princess Alice. Her little boy was ill with diphtheria, and the mother had been cautioned not to inhale the poisoned breath. The child was tossing in the delirium of fever. The Princess stood beside him and laid her hand on his brow to caress him. The touch cooled the fevered brain, and brought back the wandering soul from its wild delirium. He nestled a moment in his mother's lap; then, throwing his arms around her neck, he whispered, "Mamma, kiss me." Mother-love was stronger than all the injunctions of physicians — and she pressed her lips to the child's. The result was her death.
You say that she was foolish. Yet where is the mother who would not have done the same? Love stops at no peril, at no sacrifice. There was great peril in Christ's own mission to this world. In His marvelous love for us, He put his lips to the poison of our sin — and died in our place!

"Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her!" Ephesians 5:25

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!" John 10:11