Grace Gems for MAY 2014
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My Bonfire of Vanities!
(Alexander Smellie, "On the Secret Place" 1907)
"Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their books and burned them at a public bonfire! The value of the books was several million dollars." Acts 19:18-19
No conflagration could be more desirable and more beneficial. I trust that it is paralleled and repeated in my own experience — for I am no Christian until it is.
When I burn my bad books,
when I turn from my old delights,
when the expulsive power of a new affection drives me irresistibly from the sinful life which I used to live
— that is CONVERSION.
It is evidence and token that a supernatural and radical change has transformed me. It is proof that the Holy Spirit is at work in the citadel of my being. Never shall I relinquish a darling sin, never sacrifice that which brought me an iniquitous profit and an unholy pleasure — until He comes in His mightiness, and revolutionizes my nature through and through! From the soul which should have been God's Temple, but which I have debased into a den of robbers — He scourges the traffickers; and the desecrated place is renovated into the shrine and residence of the King of kings!
When I burn my bad books,
when before all men I turn from my former ways,
when I range myself openly on His part, whom I once despised and hated
— that means CONFESSION.
"I am on the Lord's side!" is what I say, fearlessly, publicly, without abatements or concealments or regrets. No true friend of Jesus Christ can conceal his faith. It will reveal itself. It will be discerned by the onlookers, whether they sympathize or disapprove. Through all hindrances, all timidities, all plausible excuses for keeping silence — my affection for Him will make its avowal.
When I burn my bad books,
when I declare that henceforward I am a pilgrim traveling heavenward,
when transports move and thrill me to which I was a stranger until now
— that means CONSECRATION.
Christ alone is the Master of my transfigured history! I cannot tolerate what He disapproves. I cannot harbor guests and tenants who are out of harmony with His purity and perfectness. Where He goes — I will go; and where He lodges — I will lodge. His people will be my people; and His God will be my God — nothing but death will part Him and me. Nay, death will not terminate my loyalty — but will only render it more absolute and complete!
In spirit and soul and body, in my work and in my rest — Lord, what will You have me to do?
That is a blessed day on which I kindle my Bonfire of Vanities! It cannot dawn too soon, and the fire cannot burn with too white a flame!
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He opens His bountiful hand — and my needs are met!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11
"Each morning everyone gathered as much manna as he needed." Exodus 16:21
My daily bread is the gift of God. Never let me divest it of its specialness and glory, as if it were a common thing. Never let me partake of it without reverence and the giving of thanks.
There may not be about its bestowal, the same manifest miraculousness which marked the coming of the manna to Israel. The King of kings prefers to accompany me in modest quietness. But behind the loaf and the grain, above the farmer and the miller — my sustaining Father stands unseen. He opens His bountiful hand — and my needs are met. He could easily leave me destitute — apart from Him, I must go hungry and thirsty, a beggar and in rags. All to Him I owe! Do I praise Him for His bounty as I ought?
The daily bread is to be received in faith. Morning by morning the men of Israel gathered the manna. My Lord would prove me, by keeping me a perpetual pensioner on His charity, and a continual guest at His table. I can never be self-sufficient. I never can walk alone. I am taught to cling and trust — to look up and wait in hope.
The daily bread is a picture of higher and more sacred things. The children of Israel saw in the manna, something unearthly and inexplicable. They knew not what it was.
Just so, as I sit at my food and drink, a window should be opened for me into a world more wonderful and more divine. I should see Him Who is the Bread of my undying spirit — Him Who gives to me the Water of everlasting life.
Him, too, I must seek and find, with the return of every fresh morning. I cannot thrive on the grace of yesterday, as nourishing and ample as that was for yesterday's need. I am dependent on God hour after hour, and minute after minute, for . . .
fresh peace to garrison my heart and mind,
fresh strength to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil.
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Would we really rather have things our way?
"Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!" Psalm 27:14
Will we ever learn this? If we would live in this world for the honor and glory of Christ, we must understand that it is our glorious privilege and responsibility to wait on our God. If we would honor the Lord Jesus we must wait on Him faithfully . . .
believing His word,
trusting His promises,
resting in His finished work as our Savior,
hiding beneath His precious blood,
depending on Him for righteousness, salvation, and acceptance with our God.
We must wait on Him patiently . . .
God does not always work immediately, but He always works. He never performs His works on our carnal schedule, but according to His all wise eternal purpose of grace. Let us be patient. God knows what's best for His glory and our immortal souls. He knows when, where, and how to work deliverance for us, far better than we do.
We must wait submissively. We must submit our vain wills to His sovereign, almighty, perfect will. We must wait on Him with a spirit of humility and submission — as children waiting on their father to help them, feed them, teach them, and provide for them. His name is Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord Will Provide). Our God will not forget us. It is our responsibility to submit ourselves to Him, His will, and His ways.
We must wait on Him gladly. We quickly forget that not only is it our duty to wait on him, but our privilege to wait on His Majesty. Would we really rather have things our way? Has not our way proved to be abject misery and shame, countless times before? Would we rather have our foolish way — than His who is Love, Mercy, and Wisdom? Let us, as the dear children of God, wait on Him cheerfully.
We must wait on Him expectantly.
He will do all that He has promised.
He will save us.
He will remember us.
He will destroy our enemies.
He will bring us to Himself.
He will dispel the darkness.
He will accomplish His purpose for us and in us.
Let us wait on Him who cannot fail, with earnest expectation and lively hope.
We must wait on Him prayerfully. We must have our eyes perpetually fixed upon Him. Let us give ourselves to constant prayer, so that day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment — we are looking to Him for fresh supplies of mercy and grace to sustain us, strengthen us, and keep us to the end.
We must wait on Him with persistence and perseverance. We must be resolute and determined to wait on Him forever if needs be. In His time, on His terms, when the time is best, right, and perfect — He will come and He will deliver us from all our sorrows, all our troubles, and all our fears.
Children of God — our Savior will never leave us to ourselves!
He is with us always!
He loved us!
He chose us!
He suffered, bled, and died for us!
He redeemed us with His own precious blood!
He called us by His Spirit and gave us life from the dead!
He has staked His glory as God, upon our everlasting salvation!
He has promised to do us good, and to withhold no good thing from us! How can we not faithfully, joyfully, and patiently wait on such a God as this?
"Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!"
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(William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles")
"I will write upon them the name of my God" Revelation 3:12
O there is a great difference between the names of the saints — and the names of the wicked!
The saints are called . . .
godly, from God;
Christians, from Christ;
spiritual, from the Spirit;
heavenly, from Heaven, because their conversation is there, because their Head is there, and they are heirs of heaven.
But the wicked are called . . .
devilish, from the devils;
the cursed, from the curses;
worldlings, from the world;
and sinners, from sin.
The ungodly are called . . .
But the saints are called . . .
heirs of the kingdom of glory!
And hence it is, that some godly men have thought it a greater honor to be a member of Christ — than to be a king upon a throne! Indeed, a holy heart is better than a great estate!
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Worldly men imagine that there is true excellency and true happiness in those things which they are pursuing. They think that if they could but obtain them, that they would be happy. But when they obtain them, and cannot find happiness, they look for happiness in something else, and are still upon the futile pursuit.
But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there.
"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
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Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!
Where will all of our worldly enjoyments be, when we are laid in the silent grave?
Resolved, to live as I shall wish I had done, when I come to die.
Resolved, to live as I shall wish I had done, ten thousand ages hence.
Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:18
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I can take my Elim with me through the great wilderness!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water." Exodus 15:27
If I were not a pilgrim journeying through the wilderness — I could not know the refreshment of Elim. If I did not taste the bitterness of Marah — the pleasanter waters of Elim would lose half of their delightfulness. Therefore I should thank God for the difficult wilderness journey, and the keen afflictions along the way.
Elim brings supply. The oasis has its twelve springs of water — one for each of the tribes in Israel. And if I am journeying under God's leadership, in fellowship with His people, towards His promised land — how many are the aids, and how varied is the provision, with which the King of the way furnishes me!
Sunday worship comes week after week.
The Word of life and peace, is in my hands.
I have the Throne of Grace, to which I can resort in all my times of need.
There are golden days of peculiar privileges, and sweet fellowship with Christian friends.
Never should I be without the living water.
Elim brings shade. Above the twelve springs of water, rise straight and stately palm trees — seventy of them, as many as the seventy years of man's life on earth. They come between me, and the remorseless blaze of the sun. They secure for me a welcome coolness and refreshment.
Jesus, our adorable redeemer, is a shade from the blazing heat of divine justice. He is . . .
shelter from the just condemnation of my sin,
shelter from the cruel onslaught of temptation,
shelter from the hardening effects of sorrow,
mercy to pardon, and grace to help!
Elim also brings rest. "They camped there beside the water" — and I should do likewise. It may be . . .
that the wilderness stretches on every hand,
that tomorrow I shall be in the desert sun once more,
that the end of my pilgrim's journey is far off.
Yet, I have the cheering memory of God's supply and God's shadow to solace me.
In my pilgrim journey through this wilderness, hardship cannot be avoided. Yet, I can take my Elim with me through the great wilderness, and I need never lack the "twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees."
There is something much amiss, if ever my heart ceases to be quiet and confident, and if I ever forget to raise the song that tells of rest beneath the palm-trees and joy beside the springs of water.
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Such will be their sense of justice!
(Jonathan Edwards, "Discourses on Various Important Subjects" 1738)
Can the believing husband in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving wife in Hell?
Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell?
Can the loving wife in Heaven be happy with her unbelieving husband in Hell?
I tell you, yes. Such will be their sense of justice, that it will increase rather than diminish their bliss!
"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments. Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever." Revelation 19
(Editor's note: Every thinking Christian asks the above difficult questions. When perfected in Heaven, we will lose all of our "human sentimentality" and will see things clearly from God's holy and righteous perspective.)
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Instead of lodging the lion and the leopard and the wolf!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"With authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him!" Mark 1:27
No word of the Gospel sounds more gladsomely in my ears than this. For the unclean spirits have invaded the citadel of my soul, and asserted their hateful domination over me. I have no strength to drive them out — but, my Lord, You can rescue me from their hideous craft and polluting bondage! Every deadly sin may be defeated by the virtue of Your Cross, and the omnipotence of Your Spirit.
There is what Dante calls the hungry lion of Pride. In my pride . . .
I claim a false superiority,
I exalt myself arrogantly and unreasonably,
I am never satisfied,
I am never content with the honor I receive. Always I am clamoring for more, and more, and more.
Lord Jesus Christ, subdue this demon of Pride!
Then there is what Dante calls the spotted leopard of Sensuality. It is not simply in my hot youth that I give harborage to corrupting imaginations, which sink me beneath my true dignity. They are horribly persistent. They follow me into my riper age. Again and again they reappear. A story in the newspaper makes them recur, or a too suggestive picture, or an impure word which I overhear as I hurry along the street.
Wrestle, O Christ, with the spotted leopard in me, and kill him outright! Forsake me not, until my hidden thoughts are as sinless as Your own.
And there is what Dante calls the famished wolf of Covetousness. I crave money, crave it with a hunger which refuses to be appeased. If I have managed to secure a little gain, and am of some account in the social sphere — I am full of eagerness to add to my store. If I am poor, I am discontented, and forever scheming and toiling for more money.
Lord Jesus, when You were here, You had nothing of the world's riches — and yet Your heart lacked for no good thing. Without wallet or purse, You were crowned with the love of the Father and the fullness of the Spirit. Teach me Your secret, and let the wolf of Covetousness be slain too.
You are all I want. Come to me, and dwell patiently and victoriously within me — until I am holy as You are holy. Then, instead of lodging the lion and the leopard and the wolf, and many another unclean and loathly beast — I shall be conformed to the Lamb and the Dove!
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A truly humble man!
"For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit!" Isaiah 57:15
A truly humble man is sensible . . .
of his natural distance from God;
of his dependence on Him;
of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom;
that it is by God's power that he is upheld and provided for;
that he needs God's wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to live a holy life.
Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil's reach, as humility!
"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble!" 1 Peter 5:5
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A mother's tasks!
(J.R. Miller, "Intimate Letters on Personal Problems" 1914)
I know well that a mother's tasks in the home, caring for her children, are not light. It is no easy thing to go on in the same routine, day after day, week after week, month after month . . .
always keeping sweet,
always having a shining face and a cheerful word,
always strong to meet every question and perplexity and difficulty which comes to you.
But I want to say a word of encouragement to you. The mother 's place is the highest place to which any woman can be called! When God puts into your hand a little child . . .
to care for,
to watch over,
to inspire and train for life and eternity —
He puts upon you serious responsibility.
But He also promises the strength you need, and the help for every experience.
One of Augustine's great prayers was, "Command what You will — and then give what You command." That is the way God always does, if we trust Him and go forward in simple confidence. Whatever He commands us to do — He will help us to do. Nothing is impossible when we have Christ with us and in us.
I want to help you to enter upon your days, whatever their care may be, with the confidence that your Master is with you and is going to help you to get through everything beautifully, victoriously and sweetly.
It is a great thing to be able to live victoriously, amid all the cares and frets and frictions and trials of everyday life.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" Philippians 4:13
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My subtlest and strongest enemies are within myself!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
Fighting a long and hard campaign, I shall be very foolish if I underestimate my foes. There are many of them, but they serve under a trinity of wicked captains.
1. "If any man loves the WORLD," writes John, "the love of the Father is not in him." The World is my sworn and unrelenting enemy — an enemy all the more dangerous because it professes to be something so different — the best of comrades and the truest of friends.
I must take my part, and that with diligence, in the World's business. Yet what a risk there is, that it should absorb my thoughts morning and night! Then I shall become selfish and earthly and unspiritual.
I must make acquaintance with the World's literature, and much of it is beautiful and good. But I am prone to give it an undue attention, and to forget the divine library which God's finger has penned.
I must mingle among the World's citizens, and many of them are love-worthy and full of charm. Yet, when I prize them overmuch, they separate me from Father and Son and Holy Spirit.
Under its kindly face — the World is a hostile power!
2. "Your adversary the DEVIL," writes Peter. Here is another stupendous antagonist. The accuser of the brethren prowls about, unseen and malignant, sleeplessly plotting my harm! Never should I leave off my spiritual armor.
"The FLESH lusts against the Spirit," writes Paul. After all, my subtlest and strongest enemies are within myself! Old sin comes back, seeking the mastery again. And much in me loves it, and goes out to meet and embrace it. There, indeed, is my greatest hazard — there my most deadly snare!
"O wretched man that I am!" I re-echo the ancient cry, "who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Yes, my worst foes are entrenched within the citadel of Man-soul, within my own heart!
My God, I have no might against this great company, neither do I know what to do! But — but my eyes are upon You!
"To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!" Jude 1:24-25
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Rules for training children
Susanna Wesley was the mother of John and Charles Wesley — and 17 other children. Here are some simple rules which she used in training her children for God:
1. Eating between meals is not allowed.
2. Children are to be in bed by 8 p.m.
3. Children are required to take medicine without complaining.
4. Teach children to fear the 'rod of correction'.
5. Teach children to pray as soon as they can speak.
6. Require all children to be still during family worship.
7. Give children nothing that they cry for. Only grant their wishes when asked for politely.
8. Parents should not punish any fault which is first confessed and repented of. This will prevent lying in children.
9. Never allow a sinful act to go unpunished.
10. Commend and reward good behavior. Any attempt to please, even if poorly performed, should be commended.
11. Strictly keep all promises to children.
12. Parents are to subdue self-will in every child. When the will of a child is totally subdued, and it is brought to revere and stand in awe of the parents — then a great many childish follies may be passed by. I insist on the conquering of the will of children early, because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education. When this is thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by reason and piety.
"The silent influence of parental conduct is far greater, either for good or for evil, than most parents are aware of. You teach by what you say, you influence by what you do; and also by what you do not say, and do not perform." J.A. James
"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 to Hell. Not a day passes, but you produce impressions, perhaps permanent impressions — either good or bad!" James Smith
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An old countryman once gave me some good advice which I have never forgotten!
(John Colwell, "Little Foxes; The Little Sins That Mar the Christian Character" 1882)
"Catch the foxes — the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes!" Song of Songs 2:15
"Do not grumble!" James 5:9
The grumbling fox is known by his constant growl and discontent.
An old countryman once gave me some good advice which I have never forgotten. "There are two things," said he, "at which you should never grumble — first, at things which you can change; and, secondly, at things which you cannot change.
If you can change them — then change them.
And if you cannot change them — then leave them alone."
"Why, then, we shall never grumble at anything," I replied.
"Exactly so!" said he.
"He has heard your grumbling against Him. You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD!" Exodus 16:8
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An inexhaustible mine of wealth!
"He has given us His exceeding great and precious promises!" 2 Peter 1:4
The promises of God are an inexhaustible mine of wealth to the believer. Happy is it for him if he knows how to search out their secret veins, and enrich himself with their hidden treasures.
The promises of God are a spiritual armory, containing all kinds of offensive and defensive weapons. Blessed is he who has learned . . .
to enter into the sacred arsenal,
to put on the breastplate and the helmet, and
to lay his hand to the spear and to the sword!
The promises of God are a spiritual pharmacy, in which the believer will find all kinds of restoratives and blessed elixirs. There is . . .
an ointment for every wound,
a cordial for every faintness,
a remedy for every disease.
Blessed is he who is well skilled in heavenly pharmacy and knows how to lay hold on the healing virtues of the promises of God!
The promises are a spiritual storehouse of food to the Christian. They are as the granaries which Joseph built in Egypt, or as the golden pot wherein the manna was preserved. Blessed is he who can take the five barley loaves and fishes of promise — and break them until his five thousand necessities shall all be supplied, and he is able to gather up baskets full of fragments.
The promises are the Christian's Magna Carta of blessings; they are the title deeds of his heavenly estate! Happy is he who knows how to read them well and call them all his own.
Yes, they are the jewel room in which the Christian's crown treasures are preserved. The regalia are his, secretly to admire today — which he shall openly wear in Paradise hereafter. He is already privileged as a king with the silver key that unlocks the strong room; he may even now grasp the scepter, wear the crown, and put the imperial mantle upon his shoulders!
O, how unutterably rich are the promises of our faithful, covenant-keeping God! If we had the tongue of the mightiest of orators, and if that tongue could be touched with a live coal from off the altar — yet still it could not utter a tenth of the praises of the exceeding great and precious promises of God. Nay, those who have entered into Heavenly rest, whose tongues are attuned to the lofty and rapturous eloquence of cherubim and seraphim — even they can never tell the height and depth, the length and breadth of the unsearchable riches of Christ, which are stored up in the treasure house of God — the promises of the covenant of His grace!
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The furnace of affliction!
(William Nicholson and Milburn Cockrell, "The Furnace of Affliction!")
"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction!" Isaiah 48:10
The furnace of affliction is divinely appointed.
Afflictions are not the result of chance or blind fate.
Afflictions do not arise out of the dust (Job 5:6).
Afflictions are not to be traced to secondary causes.
Afflictions are not merely the work of our enemies.
Afflictions come from the moral government of God.
Without His permissive hand, they would never take place.
Without His restraining hand, they would be overwhelming.
Without His supporting hand, they would be intolerable.
Without His sanctifying hand, they would never be blessed.
Afflictions come by the wise and gracious arrangement of God's divine providence. "So that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this!" (1 Thessalonians 3:3). "Heed the rod, and the One who appointed it!" (Micah 6:9).
As a furnace is prepared for refining gold (Proverbs 17:3) — so afflictions are appointed for the saints, who are compared to fine gold (Lamentations 4:2). Let us see here the high value that God places upon His people. Being . . .
chosen by the Father,
redeemed by the Son, and
regenerated by the Holy Spirit
— they are His precious gold!
As His gold, they get tarnished by the world and sin, and they must be subjected to the refining process. The beauty of His grace must be seen in them. Hence Jehovah seeks their spiritual improvement: "I will turn My hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities!" Isaiah 1:25
The design of God in choosing us to suffer in the furnace of affliction, is for our everlasting good, and for His glory. Regenerating grace implants in us the seeds of immortality, which require cultivation in order to bring about maturity. The furnace is designed to develop these principles, and to fit us for higher enjoyment. Afflictions . . .
scour off our rust,
preserve us from sin,
assimilate us to Christ, who was a man of sorrows,
make us very humble, and break our haughty mind,
show us the frailty of human life, and the vanity of the world!
The people of God have the same need of affliction . . .
that our bodies have of medicine,
that fruit trees have of pruning,
that gold and silver have of the furnace,
that iron has of the file, and
that the child has of the rod of correction!
God's chastisements are blessings in disguise — they are veiled mercies!
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The mother and daughter die on one bed, and are buried in one grave!
(William Nicholson, "The Presence of God in Affliction" 1862)
"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:5-6
All believers need afflictions. It must be so, for the God of infinite love and wisdom appoints them, and His judgment can never err.
Saints are the children of God, but they need correction and discipline, etc.
The precious seed requires the use of the winnowing fan to blow away the chaff. So do saints.
The gold requires the furnace to purge away the dross. Saints are the gold which belongs to the King of the Church, and He places His gold in the furnace of affliction to purge away the dross of sin.
The patient requires medicine to restore to health — and God chastens His people to restore them to spiritual health.
Afflictions are needful to wean us from earth — and to induce us to aspire after Heaven!
"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
Yet afflictions are transient, and will soon end. The end of our mortal life — will be the end of all our sorrows. The night of affliction may appear long — but a morning of joy will follow it, which will be as long as eternity! It is a short night of sorrow — before a day of endless rejoicing.
At death sin dies, and sorrow expires!
Sin is the mother — and sorrow is the daughter. The mother and daughter die on one bed, and are buried in one grave!
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As a mother comforts her child!
(William Nicholson, "Divine Comfort!" 1862)
"As a mother comforts her child — so will I comfort you; and you shall be comforted." Isaiah 66:13
The condescending love of God to sinners is most astonishing. Though He is the High and Lofty One — yet He knows, pities, and cares for worms of the earth — sinful, frail, dying men. Human language is insufficient to express the heights and depths of Divine compassion.
God is called, "The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Also, "God, who comforts the downcast" 2 Corinthians 7:6
God's divine comfort is most endearing and effective. "As a mother comforts her child — so will I comfort you." This is a beautiful and striking comparison. No other relationship can so expressively represent the parental kindness of God, as an affectionate mother caring for her beloved child.
1. God will comfort His people with all the affection and solicitude of a mother. See the mother — how she loves, strives, labors, suffers, and sacrifices for her child.
A mother watches over and defends her child. So does our heavenly Father. He is a wall of fire, a refuge, a strong tower, a shield, a rock of strength, a fortress, a very present help in times of trouble, etc., etc.
A mother is solicitous to care and provide for her child. "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus!" "Casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you!"
2. God will comfort His people with all the patience and forbearance of a mother. "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust!" Psalm 103:14. "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness!" Psalm 103:8
3. God will comfort His people with all the forgiveness and consolation of a mother. How ready is she to forgive her erring, wandering child — and how ready to console in trouble! "The LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted." Isaiah 49:13
4. God will comfort His people with all the instruction and correction of a mother. A good and wise mother will both instruct and correct. Just so, "the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:6
5. God will comfort His people with all the constancy of a mother. When does the love of a mother end? "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget — yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!" Isaiah 49:15-16. "Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end!" John 13:1
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The cause of all the formality, apathy, and lukewarmness in the church!
(William Nicholson, "The Power of the Gospel" 1862)
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith!" 2 Timothy 4:7
It was his experimental acquaintance with the sublime doctrines of the Gospel, that made Paul such an ardent Christian.
The cause of all the formality, apathy, and lukewarmness in the church, is the lack of a comprehensive knowledge of the doctrines of the cross, and of heartfelt experience of their vital and saving power!
"Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction!" 1 Thessalonians 1:5
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There are sublime and magnificent scenes of unparalleled grandeur before us!
"For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God — and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever!" 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
There are sublime and magnificent scenes of unparalleled grandeur before us! Great events are brought together here, any one of which is more grand than all the pomp of this world:
the glory of the descending Judge of all mankind;
the attending retinue of angels;
the loud shout of the descending host;
the blast of the archangel's trumpet;
the bursting open of graves;
the coming forth of the millions there entombed;
the rapid, sudden, glorious change on the millions of living men;
the consternation of the wicked;
the ascent of the innumerable host through the air;
and the solemn process of the judgment there!
Has anything ever occurred so magnificent as these events?
How strange it is that the thoughts of men are turned away from these bright and glorious realities — to the trifles, the vain show, the shadow, the glitter, the empty pageantry of this poor world!
"Therefore encourage each other with these words!" 1 Thessalonians 4:18
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God, the Portion of His People!
(William Nicholson, "God the Portion of His People!" 1862)
"The Lord is the portion of my inheritance!" Psalm 16:5
This passage describes the wealth and happiness of believers; and in that respect, their infinitely superior state to that of the wicked.
God has given Himself to be their Portion forever. God, as the portion of His people, promotes their honor and interest, for He makes them kings, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ! They are His special people, His treasure, His jewels, etc.
Through God's grace, every Christian is rich — inconceivably rich — eternally rich — really rich!
With God as his portion, the believer is supplied and upheld by His providence and grace, and raised above the fear of need. "The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want." Psalm 23:1
Behold the believer's portion:
Divine Life to quicken him.
Supernatural Light to illuminate him.
Infallible Wisdom to counsel him.
All Power to aid and defend him.
Spiritual joy to cheer and encourage him.
Heavenly bread to feed and sustain him.
Glorious robes of righteousness to clothe him.
Excellent graces and virtues to adorn him.
God Himself to guard and protect him!
A saint lives upon God, in whom all fullness dwells! God gives . . .
pardon to the guilty,
liberty to the captive,
life to the condemned,
health to the sick,
light to the blind,
food to the hungry,
the robe of righteousness to the naked soul,
rest to the weary,
strength to the weak,
and riches to the poor.
How superior is the saint's spiritual portion to all the portions of the world, which are corruptible and unsatisfying! God is an immortal, immense, infinite portion — and therefore satisfying. Who can compute the value of this portion?
Earthly portions have much evil frequently mixed with them; they are a bitter-sweet — they have many snares. But God is a pure unmixed portion — there is nothing in Him but goodness!
Earthly portions are common to men, to the vilest of men, etc. But God is a special portion; He gives Himself only to His own redeemed people. They alone can say, "For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end!" Psalm 48:14
Other portions are but for a time — they pass away, or are lost. Riches make themselves wings, and fly away. But God is a never-failing portion; not only a portion now, but a portion hereafter . . .
our present and yet a future portion,
our portion while we live,
our portion when we die
our portion to all eternity!
"Whom have I in Heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26
"You are my portion, O LORD!" Psalm 119:57
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What does it mean to follow Christ?
(William Nicholson, "Called to Be a Disciple" 1862)
"Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow Me,' Jesus said to him. And Levi got up, left everything and followed Him!" Luke 5:27-28
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation!
No sinner is too vile,
no sins are too numerous,
no guilt is too black —
for its powerful efficacy!
This is proved by the conduct of Christ, in offering His mercy to such sinful characters; and by the death of Christ, which was for the chief of sinners. How rich His grace! How impartial His love!
The context contains an account of the grace and favor of Christ, to a sinful and despised tax collector.
Matthew followed Christ, that is, he became His disciple. To follow Christ implies:
(1.) A knowledge of Christ and His truth. The design of preaching is to give the knowledge of Christ. No man can really follow the Redeemer, without some understanding of Him. This is the result of the Spirit's enlightening operations.
(2.) It implies dissatisfaction with a life of sin, and a conviction of the superior excellence of a holy life. This also is the result of the Spirit's enlightening operations.
(3.) It implies decision for Christ. The resolve of the heart to love Him and follow Him, "Lord, I am yours!"
(4.) It implies renunciation of everything that stands in competition with Christ. Matthew surrendered a lucrative employment, a good business, etc., etc. He "got up, left everything, and followed Him!" Just so, the sinner must surrender . . .
his darling sins,
his impure pleasures,
the creature, however dear, if it is a competitor with Christ.
"Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it!" Mark 8:34-35
(5.) It implies dependence upon Christ's Sacrifice for acceptance with God — and for all needful blessings.
(6.) It implies prompt obedience to all Christ's commandments. "'Follow Me,' Jesus said to him. And Levi got up, left everything and followed Him!"
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My New Testament Joseph
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"The chief butler, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him." Genesis 40:23
1. Was it simply that the butler was absorbed in the affections of home, and the duties of business? Through his imprisonment, he had been bereft of the touch of a wife's hand and the kiss of a child on lip and cheek. His occupation was in danger of going to another, and his prosperity of being lost. It was scarcely surprising that the treasures so nearly forfeited, should engross him, when once they were restored.
But home is at its best, when I am full of the recollection of my New Testament Joseph; and the wheels of business never run so pleasantly as then. I gain by thinking first of Him.
2. Was it that at Pharaoh's court, the butler was afraid to speak of his obligation to a Hebrew slave? Doubtless the stranger had conferred a measureless blessing on him; but, among the lords and ladies of Egypt, it required great courage to tell out frankly his indebtedness to an alien and a prisoner.
Just so, Christ in many circles is almost a forbidden theme. He is not fashionable in the mirthful world. There are masters of culture and leaders of society who pass Him contemptuously by. In such surroundings, am I brave enough to be His enthusiast, His witness, His champion?
3. Was it that the butler felt a kind of awe and dread when he recalled Joseph? As congenial and brotherly as the young captive was — there was a curious separateness about him, a noble scorn of much that the butler might have condoned and approved, an impressiveness of character to which he could lay little claim. It may have been a relief to banish Joseph from thought.
Just so, Jesus is holy Himself, and He demands holiness in me. I am glad of His blessings — but I may dislike His commands. And yet, the better I know them, the more resolved I shall be to bind them on my life.
4. Was it merely that the butler was unthinking and heedless? But he had not been so a little before — when the fetters lay on him and the dungeon walls shut him in. It does not commend him that he could become oblivious of his friend, immediately after that friend had lifted him into the king's palace.
Just so, how greatly I am to be blamed, if I fail to keep fresh and green, the memory of the mighty things which Christ has done for me! Mine was the worst and most shameful thraldom — and His the most astonishing emancipation. To forget the Redeemer, when He has rescued me from deserved Hell, and blessed me with undeserved Heaven — there never was ingratitude so base!
"Be thankful!" Hebrews 12:28. It is a command which nothing must induce me to disregard, and which I must hold in constant reverence. I cannot sound the praises of my Deliverer too loudly. I cannot yield myself too absolutely to Him who sacrificed Himself for me!
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Away with that guilty atheism which dethrones God from the sovereign control over His own world!
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" James 1:17
Let us cherish the simple thought that all our blessings are from God. Everything we have emanates from Him, and wears the impress of His love — from the humblest crumb of providential bounty, to the richest blessing of His grace in Jesus.
How apt we are to live and act as if it were otherwise — to speak of . . .
my household treasures.
How prone are we to live independent of Him, forgetful of the Divine Hand which fills our cup, and interweaves our life with happiness.
Whatever our prized possession may be — it is His giving. It was He who planted. It is He who waters every moment — who nurtures and fosters delicate stem and leaf and bud and fruit, lest anything may hurt it.
Away with that guilty atheism which dethrones God from the sovereign control over His own world — which speaks of chance, good luck, good fortune, happy coincidences.
Rather, strive to inscribe above every loan given to you by the Great Proprietor, "This also comes from the Lord Almighty!"
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Rules for Self-Knowledge
Rules for Self-Knowledge:
1. What we want most.
2. What we think about most.
3. How we use our money.
4. What we do with our leisure time.
5. The company we enjoy.
6. Who and what we admire.
7. What we laugh at.
"For where your treasure is — there your heart will be also!" Luke 12:34
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Does Christ think on me?
Does He notice me?
Does He love me?
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34
Jesus of Nazareth, the sinless Son of God, was hated without cause, arrested, beaten, mocked, laughed at, reviled, ridiculed, spat upon, shamed, stripped naked, crowned with thorns, publicly humiliated, nailed to a cross, and left to die!
What is the first thing He says while hanging upon the cruel tree? Does He ask His Father to send a legion of angels to destroy His persecutors? Does He condemn His unjust executioners? Does He call for fire and brimstone to fall on these wicked devils?
That's what we would do, is it not? But He is not like us. He is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts!
Instead of fire — we see forgiveness.
Instead of words of wrath — we hear words of mercy.
Oh what grace! His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
Christ prays, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
"I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours!" John 17:9. He prayed, "Father forgive them (My people); for they know not what they do."
Child of God, be of good comfort — you were on the heart of Christ as He hung upon the cross! You may ask yourself, Does Christ think on me? Does He notice me? Does He love me? Oh you of little faith! You are always on His heart! You were on His heart in eternity past, in Gethsemane, on the cross — and you are on His heart now in glory! As He died in agony and blood under the wrath of God, He was thinking of you: "Father, forgive the sin of My poor, ignorant, rebellious child; for he knows not what he does!"
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Where God sees but a little grace
"Remember the patience of Job" James 5:11
It is not:
"Remember the murmuring of Job,
the cursing of Job,
the complainings of Job,
the impatience of Job," but
"Remember the patience of Job."
God looks upon the pearl — and not upon the spot that is in it!
Just so, in Hebrews 11:30, 31, there is mention made of Rahab's faith, love, and kind behavior towards the spies — but no mention is made of her lie or immorality. The Lord overlooks her weakness — and keeps His eye upon her virtues.
Where God sees but a little grace, He does, as it were, hide His eyes from those circumstances that might seem to deface the glory of it.
He who painted Alexander, drew him with his finger over the scar on his face.
Just so, when the Lord comes to look upon a poor soul, He lays His finger upon the scar, upon the infirmity — that He may see nothing but grace, which is the beauty and the glory of the soul.
"You are altogether beautiful, My love; there is no flaw in you!" Song of Songs 4:7
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Some have already split upon the rocks of Atheism!
(William Nicholson, 1862)
Never was there a time like the present, when Atheism and Infidelity appeared so determined, if possible, to annihilate the Christian religion! Behold their attempts. In schools and books, there is an incessant attempt to instill into the minds of the young, principles inimical to Christianity, as well as to draw professors from their steadfastness. Some have already split upon the rocks of Atheism — some have stranded on the quicksands of Infidelity.
"Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men!" Psalm 12:1
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All His corrections are sent in love!
"And all the children of Israel murmured!" Numbers 14:2
There are murmurers among Christians now, as there were in the camp of Israel of old. There are those who, when the chastening rod falls, cry out against the afflictive dispensation. They complain, "Why am I thus afflicted? What have I done to be chastened in this manner?"
O murmurer! Why should you murmur against the dispensations of your heavenly Father? Can He treat you worse than you deserve? Consider what a rebel you were once — but He has pardoned you! Surely, if He in His wisdom sees fit now to chasten you — you should not complain!
After all, are you smitten as badly as your sins deserve? Consider the corruption that is in your heart — and then you will not wonder that there needs so much of the rod to fetch it out! Weigh yourself, and discern how much dross is mingled with your gold — and do you think the fire is too hot to purge away so much dross as you have? Does not that proud rebellious spirit of yours, prove that your heart is not thoroughly purified? Are not those murmuring words contrary to the holy submissive nature of God's children? Is not the correction needed?
But if you will murmur against His chastening, take heed, for it will go hard with murmurers. God always chastises His children twice, if they do not bear the first stroke patiently. But know one thing, "He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." All His corrections are sent in love, to purify you, and to draw you nearer to Himself. Surely it must help you to bear the chastening with resignation, if you are able to recognize your Father's hand in it. For "whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons."
"Do all things without murmurings!" Philippians 2:14
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The more worthless will this world appear!
(William Nicholson, 1862)
Growth in faith will be manifested by increasing deadness to the world. The more faith discovers of the beauty and glory of the Savior, and the splendors of that heavenly country to which the Christian is bound — the more worthless will this world appear!
"Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith!" 1 John 5:4
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Accepted patterns of behavior prevalent in society and in the professing church
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2
There are accepted patterns of behavior prevalent in society and in the professing church, which are in violation of the commands of God. And because they are the accepted patterns — they are not reckoned to be wrong, and we do not come under reproach when we conform to them.
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." 2 Corinthians 6:17