Grace Gems for SEPTEMBER 2014

Grace Gems for SEPTEMBER 2014

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He took special pains to fetch them out, and hang them up!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)

"A benumbed snake is still a snake. A washed sow is not changed. Just so, our natural corruption does not always break out in full."

There may be a winter to our corruptions — as well as to animal and vegetable life. And then the sin which dwells in us may be quiet, as though frozen into a rigid powerlessness — but what of that? The weather will change, and then the nest of vipers will be all astir again, each one with envenomed tooth aiming to destroy!

Experience has taught the wise observer that sin may be bound by sin, and one evil passion may hold the rest in check. One man is kept from immorality, by covetousness: he would be glad to revel in vice — if it were not so expensive. Another would be a profligate, but then it would not be respectable, and thus his pride checks his passions. This restraint of sin by sin, is no proof that the nature is one jot the better — but that it only puts on a fairer appearance, and is more likely to deceive.

Nothing will overcome with inbred sin, but the killing of it!

When Joshua had captured the five kings in the cave, he was not content to simply shut them in with large stones. No, he took special pains to fetch them out, and hang them up! The condemned race must die — and then Israel can breathe freely.

Sin will be our death — if we do not put it to death! Checks and restraints are of small value; what is needed is the root-cure — crucifixion with Christ! To cure sin by sin, is a mere piece of stage playing, which will never answer before God.

O Destroyer of the serpent and his seed — break the head of sin within me, so that it may never lift up its usurped power within my soul. Let the sword of the Spirit do a thorough work within my nature, until not a single rebel lust shall remain alive in the wide domains of my being. Furbish your sword, Almighty Captain, and do Your office within me, for I cannot rest until sin is slain!

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I awake, a new man in a new world of light and love!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)

"First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens." Mark 4:28

There is a similar quietness and calm and steadiness as He deals with my soul.

So it is when He first saves me. For the most part, there is no stir when Christ revolutionizes my heart. Yet, as quiet and inexplicable as the work is — it is thoroughly done.
My mind is illuminated.
My conscience convinces me of my sin.
My heart is enlivened.
My will is subdued.
I awake, a new man in a new world of light and love, from which I shall never leave!

In the same way, my practical sanctification progresses gradually, rather than by leaps and bounds. My ascent up the strait and narrow way to the Celestial City is slower and more agonizing than I had dreamed. My day has cold in it, and tempest, and tears — as well as sunshine and warmth.

Yet He is ruling within me as . . .
  the Teacher of my ignorance,
  the Finisher of my faith,
  the Gardener who matures my spiritual life, even if my growth takes time and my lot is troubled.

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day!" Proverbs 4:18

"The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand!" Psalm 37:23-24

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!" Philippians 1:6

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Come, friend, you too are getting old!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)

"We see that others are mortal — but we do not number our own days!"

This is an ordinary observation concerning that which is really an extraordinary piece of folly! What can it matter to us, how others are aging? Our main concern is our own conduct, and the spending of our own days.

Come, friend, you too are getting old! Snowflakes here and there upon those once raven locks, are prophetic of coming winter. Those spectacles, too! Why, you will never see fifty again! Half a century have you lived, and more — surely it is time to be wise!

We see that Mr. Brown is getting to be quite the old man. No doubt — but you are moving onward, too. Mr. Brown does not get a year older in less time than you do. We are all sailing at the same rate! Is it not time that we took observations, and found out our longitude and latitude?

At any rate, it were well to know what port we are bound for!

"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle!" Job 7:6

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

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God's hatred of sin!

(J.A. James, "The Practical Believer Delineated" 1852)

"Yet it was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer!" Isaiah 53:10

The death of Christ, apprehended by faith, presents the strongest motives to personal holiness — by setting forth in the most vivid and striking manner . . .
  the holiness and justice of God;
  His determination to punish transgression;
  the immutable authority of the Divine law;
  the evil nature of sin; and
  the fearfulness of falling into the hands of the living God.

Not all the judgments God ever inflicted, nor all the threatenings he ever denounced, give such an impressive warning against sin, and admonition to righteousness — as the death of Christ.

The torments of the bottomless pit are not so dreadful a demonstration of God's hatred of sin, as the agonies of the cross!

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How divinely glorious!

(Thomas Reade)

"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins!" Colossians 1:13-14 

The true believer hates and resists those sins which once he loved — and renounces that world which once so much enamored him.

How divinely glorious is the religion of Jesus!
Old things pass away — and behold, all things become new!
It turns the lion, into the lamb.
it turns the desert heart, into the garden of the Lord.
It converts the impure and savage heart, into a habitation fit for the mild and holy Dove.
It restores the Hell-bent sinner to the divine favor.
It transforms him into the divine image.
It redeems him from the depths of damnation.
It raises him to the highest seats in glory!

What tongue can speak, or what heart conceive, the richness and extent of divine redemption!

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace which He lavished on us!" Ephesians 1:7-8 

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

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Revelation 1:13-16

(W. Graham Scroggie)

"He is clothed with a robe reaching down to His feet" — what Official Dignity!

"He is girded about the chest with a golden sash" — what Strong Affection!

"His head and His hair are white as white wool, as white as snow" — what Perfect Holiness!

"His eyes are as flames of fire" — what Consuming Knowledge!

"His feet are like burnished bronze refined in a furnace" — what Righteous Judgment!

"His voice thundered as the mighty ocean waves" — what Absolute Authority!

"He has in His right hand seven stars" — what Sovereign Administration!

"Out of His mouth proceeds a sharp two-edged sword" — what All-Searching Truth!

"His face is like the sun shining in all its brilliance" — what Transcendent Glory!

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A painted happiness, a gilded misery!

(Thomas Watson)

"Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun!" Ecclesiastes 2:11

King Solomon had more than any man!

For his parentage, he came from the royal line.

For the situation of his palace, it was in Jerusalem, the paragon of the earth, "The city of God, the praise of the whole earth."

For wealth, his crown was hung full of jewels. He had vast treasures of gold and pearls: "The king made silver to be as common as stones in Jerusalem."

For wisdom, he was the oracle of his time. The Queen of Sheba was astonished at his knowledge!

Never had the world cast its smile on one so favored as Solomon — yet, when he had given an impartial verdict on the whole, he said of it, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!"

All the golden delights with which he was surrounded were a painted happiness, a gilded misery!

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A life once spent, is irrevocable!

(Adoniram Judson)

"Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life!" Psalm 39:4

A life once spent, is irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated through eternity.

The same may be said of each day. When it is once past, it is gone forever! All the marks which we put upon it — it will exhibit forever. Each day will not only be a witness of our conduct, but will effect our everlasting destiny. How shall we then wish to see each day marked with usefulness!

It is too late to mend the days which are past, but the future is in our power. Let us, then, each morning, resolve to send the day into eternity in such a garb as we shall wish it to wear forever. And at night, let us reflect that one more day is irrevocably gone — indelibly marked!

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12

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The death of His saints!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)

"Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His saints!" Psalm 116:15

To me death has its unlovely aspects. I may be ready by God's grace to meet it — and yet I recoil instinctively from the act of dying.
It seems unnatural.
It is usually attended by pain and suffering.
It is a farewell to dear and beloved associations.
It is a going out into an untrodden land.
I cannot coax myself to love the dreadful experience. And therefore I am glad to think that there is another side to the matter, and that to my Lord, my death is precious. And why should it be so?

Let me consider the name by which He calls me, and I shall begin to understand. "His saints!" That is His title for His sons and daughters, among whom I have been enrolled.
The people of His own purchased possession.
The redeemed people whom He has set apart for Himself.
He owns them in virtue of the stupendous price which He paid for them.
He has been at infinite pains to redeem and save and cleanse them.
Nothing which concerns them appears indifferent to Him.
The death of the humblest of them, is of stupendous moment in His sight.

Let me reflect, too, that death is one of the means His grace and power employ to uplift and crown me. It looks as though I scarcely could know God thoroughly, or confide in Him completely — until I learn to lean upon Him . . .
  when heart and flesh faint and fail,
  when the long and close fellowship of body and soul is sundered,
  and when I pass forth alone into the mystery of unseen eternity.
Then He becomes more indispensable than ever. Then my trust must be simple and absolute. Then, when lover and friend are put far away, I cling to Him and refuse to let Him go. Death teaches us this perfection of dependence.

And let me predict to myself the future to which death is the doorway. I can scarcely imagine it . . .
  its spotless holiness,
  its unfathomable bliss,
  its endless pleasures,
  its divine love. But He sees it clearly, and comprehends it in its breadth and length and depth and height. He is familiar . . .
  with the flowers and fruits of His upper garden,
  with the refreshment of the fourfold river,
  with the music of the better country,
  with the city's foundations of gems, and its gates of pearl, and its streets of gold.

Is it a marvel that He should pronounce desirable and precious, that loosening and wrench from earth which liberates me for a Heaven like this?

When I think my Lord's thoughts, I shall cease to be so afraid of death!

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Ah! the heart was wrong, and therefore everything was wrong!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)

"Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root!" Mark 4:5-6

Much is said about these stony-ground hearers of the Word, which is attractive and hopeful. I anticipate a true life, a brave witness, an abundant harvest. But suddenly comes the check, the change, the fall. And what was the problem? Ah! the heart was wrong, and therefore everything was wrong!

1. The heart was unbroken. The rock had never been penetrated at all, and the seed died soon on its hard and impervious surface.

I wonder whether the stubbornness and the stolidity of my heart have been shattered. Have I been melted . . .
  into practical concern of soul,
  into the sense of spiritual neediness,
  into godly sorrow,
  into contrite prayer?
There can be no new birth and no vital growth, until then!

After an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the lava covered the fields with an apparently invincible crust; but the peasants bored holes in it, and pierced to the ground below, and planted their vines — and in due season gathered the grapes. Has the lava-crust of my heart been divinely pierced and overcome?

2. And the heart was shallow and superficial. It had no depth. Immediately beneath the thin layer of top-soil, was that rebellious and intractable adamant; the seed had not a sufficient resting-place and home.

This is the fatal fault of very many. They do not stop to think about unseen, eternal, heavenly things. They do not take time to consider their own miserable state of soul, and the grace of Jesus Christ. They nod, and glance, and bustle by.

Again I ought to examine myself. I can be eager enough, and resolute enough, about earthly matters. But have I ever roused my very soul, have I ever set my face like a flint, to seek and find the Lord my Savior, my Righteousness, my Strength? There is no possibility of salvation for the superficial heart!

3. And the heart was dry. It had none of the moistening, subduing, fructifying influences of the Holy Spirit. If the showers descend upon the rocky soil, there is no loam to retain them and to derive a benefit from them.

Just so, does everything depend on the Spirit's presence and work within me! Apart from His dews and gentle rains, I am helpless, hopeless, dead, damned. For until His almightiness renews me, until His waters slake and vivify my parched and thirsty being, until I receive the outpouring of the grace of God — I have no spiritual life.

Is it not a miserable heart, this heart of stone?

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh!" Ezekiel 36:26

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Poverty and affliction

(Richard Sibbes)

"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

Poverty and affliction take away the fuel which feeds pride!

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

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Ten thousand are destroyed by its smiles!

(Thomas Brooks)

Where one thousand are destroyed by the world's frownsten thousand are destroyed by its smiles!

A little of this world will serve a man who is strong in grace.
Much of this world will serve a man who is weak in grace.
But nothing will serve a man who is void of grace!

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever!" 1 John 2:15-17

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He became poor!

(William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles")

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich!" 2 Corinthians 8:9

He who was so rich — became so poor!

He who was Lord of all — had nothing at all!

He who made heaven and earth — had no home of His own!

As He was born in another man's house — so He was buried in another man's tomb!

He who gives crowns of glory to others — had only a crown of thorns for Himself!

The foxes and the birds had more than Jesus! "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay My head!" Matthew 8:20. The foxes had holes to lay their heads in — but Christ had not a place to lay his head on.

"He became poor!" Yes, poor indeed, and so poor that He had not a shekel! You will say that a man is very poor — who has not a shekel! Truly such a one was Christ — He had not a shekel to pay the tax until He got it out of the fish's mouth!

Oh! admire and wonder at this! Is not Jesus . . .
  the brightness of God,
  the paradise of angels,
  the beauty of Heaven,
  the Redeemer of man,
  the destroyer of death,
  the King of saints!
And that He should become so poor for us — oh! this is wonderful and astonishing to angels and men!

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The antidote for fear!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you! I have called you by your name — you are Mine!" Isaiah 43:1

God is intensely desirous to rid me of my needless fears. Does He not give me reason after reason for peacefulness, calmness and hope?

1. "Fear not," He says, "for I have redeemed you!"
What a work it was!
What a price it demanded!
What a sorrow it involved!
It meant the surrender and sacrifice of His Son, His Only-Begotten, His Well-Beloved. It meant for the King of Glory, to be born in a lowly stable, with the ox and donkey and camel. After a life of suffering, it meant a stark and dreadful Cross on the Hill of Shame!

A Scottish professor, who retained to the last a childlike heart, speaking to his students one day about the atoning sacrifice of Calvary, said, with the tears running down his cheeks, "Ay, ay, do you know what it was? Do you know what it was? It was damnation — and He took it lovingly!"

It was my damnation — and He took it lovingly! And since God gave all this for me — then how can He ever abandon me? Let my heart be confident and strong.

2. There is His understanding of my case. "Fear not," He continues, "for I have called you by name!" He has such multitudes to remember, and yet He knows me individually and intimately! The stars lie along the face of the sky like bright unnumbered dust; but He knows star from star. The flowers spring up in battalions; but not a single flower is "born to blush unseen" — He knows it, and rejoices in it. There are billions of people in the world today, and I cannot grasp the tremendous aggregate; but He is familiar with each beating soul.

Just so, He comprehends . . .
  my special needs and circumstances,
  my overbearing duties,
  my sore temptations,
  my herculean difficulties,
  my subtle and persevering foes.
Should I not be strong and courageous, when the Lord of Heaven has such perfect acquaintance with me?

3. And there is His ownership of my soul. "Fear not," He commands once more, "for you are Mine!" In a sense I was always His possession; but since He purchased me with Christ's blood, I am among . . .
  His jewels,
  His trophies,
  His special possessions,
  His redeemed children!

Why should I be afraid? I am Christ's redeemed child, and He owns and keeps me!

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(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)

What vastness and wonder there is about Christ and His redemption! When He is mine, I dwell among inexhaustible and immeasurable things! Three times the New Testament uses the adjective "Unspeakable!" concerning Him.

1. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

Saved by His mercy, I possess this unspeakable gift — unspeakable on account of its dimensions. Jesus baffles computation, He is so far-reaching and so wide.

I cannot describe His breadth: He meets all the requirements of my many-sided nature — body, mind, memory, imagination, conscience, will, heart.

I cannot estimate His length: from eternity past He loved me — and through eternity future His love will last, without end, without change!

I cannot fathom His depth: He fathoms my sharpest sorrow, my bitterest agony, my fiercest temptation, my foulest sin.

I cannot scale His height: He transforms me into His own holy likeness, and will soon bring me to His own presence — up and up to the heart and the house of the Father!

Christ is an inexpressible gift which cannot be set forth in detail!

2. "He was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter!" 2 Corinthians 12:4

I listen to His unspeakable words — unspeakable on account of their sacredness. It is not lawful for a man to utter them. I have moments on the Mount with my Lord, about which in their mystery and miracle and delight — I cannot express. He has His secrets for me, with which it would be sacrilege for a stranger to intermeddle. I am lifted into Paradise; I look on its flowers; I hearken to its songs — and then I must shut up the marvel in my heart of hearts.

3. "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an unspeakable and glorious joy!" 1 Peter 1:8

Admitted to His family, I rejoice with an unspeakable joy — unspeakable on account of its richness. How superfluous and empty are words picture it — how poor and inadequate! The cup runs over. The tide sweeps every barrier away! Christ intends me to have an unbroken experience of His pardoning mercy, and His keeping and sanctifying grace. He intends me to reap inconceivable satisfaction from communion with Himself. My joy on earth should be of the same substance, if not of the same degree, as the joy which waits for me in Heaven!

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The place called Calvary!

(John Stott, "The Message of Galatians")

"When they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him!" Luke 23:33

Every time we look at the Cross, Jesus seems to say to us,
"I am here because of you! It is . . .
 your sin that I am bearing,
 your curse that I am suffering,
 your debt that I am paying,
 your death that I am dying!"

Nothing in the universe cuts us down to size, like the Cross! All of us have inflated views of ourselves — until we have visited the place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the Cross, that we shrink to our true size.

"When we were utterly helpless, Christ died for the ungodly!" Romans 5:6

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What are you doing?

(J.C. Ryle)

Do nothing that you would not like God to see.

Say nothing that you would not like God to hear.

Write nothing that you would not like God to read.

Go no place, where you would not like God to find you.

Read no book, of which you would not like God to say, "Show it to Me!"

Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, "What are you doing?"

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God at work!

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

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

There is nothing too hard for God to EFFECT.
"I know that You can do everything."
"Is anything too hard for Me, says the Lord?"
"He does according to His will among the armies of Heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth."
"He works all things after the counsel of His own will."

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

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

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

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How much did he leave?

(J.R. Miller, "The Shining Light" 1911)

"What is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Matthew 16:26

That is putting the case in its most favorable light. The whole world is the largest possible gain. But suppose a man does get the whole world . . .
  it cannot keep him from pain or trouble;
  it cannot give him peace of conscience;
  it cannot comfort him in sorrow;
  it cannot make a soft pillow for him when he is dying;
  it cannot purchase Heaven for him when he is gone.

All he can do with the world, after he has it, is to keep it for a short time until he dies — he cannot carry any part of it with him to eternity.

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

"Then the rich man said: 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.'
And I'll say to myself: 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry!'
But God said to him: 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'"

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I must take off my earthly garments, and put on my sacred dress

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)

"Once the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court until they leave behind the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They are to put on other clothes before they approach the public area." Ezekiel 42:14

The priests which Ezekiel mentions, take great discipline and preparation to please God. In compliance with His command, they clothe themselves in holy robes of the fairest linen. They make ready for drawing near His holy Presence.

Just so, I must be willing to take time and effort in my worship. Every day, I must pass into my sacred shrine to be with God. With a set purpose, I must take off my earthly garments, and put on my sacred dress.
I have to hush myself into quietness.
I have to beseech the Holy Spirit for His empowerment.
I have to steadfastly study the majesty, the purity, and the grace of the God to Whom I come.
Much mental concentration is required of me.
A sincere and honest heart is also required.
I am called to earnest contemplation and prayer.

When the service of the priests is over in the inner sanctuary, they divest themselves of the robes of whiteness in which they stood before the Lord. They do not show themselves to the people in a garb so venerable. God keeps something to Himself, something which shall be known only to His servants and to Him.

Just so, I cannot disclose everything in my secret place with others. There are heights and depths in the truth I am being taught, in the mercy I have received — which I do not yet comprehend, and over which I shall have to ponder all my life long.

And I ought not to disclose everything. To unveil my most sublime spiritual experiences, will injure me.
It would lessen humility, and foster pride.
It would rub the delicate bloom from off my character.
It would make my secret place a beaten path.
My sanctuary clothing is not for the public outer court.

Yet mine is a God who is never distant and inaccessible. The priests of old, left the shrine and went out into the world. But the Lord abides in the Holy Place still. We need only to return, and to clothe themselves anew in our holy vestments, and we will find Him the same as before — a God . . .
   Who rejoices to hear our cry,
   Who delights in our sincere, yet poor and disappointing services,
   Who will lift up His countenance on us and give us peace.

When I call upon Him, withdrawing myself from all others and all else — He is near as my strong Refuge and and my ever-present Help in times of trouble. The doors of His Holy Place are never barred; and, within the doors, His gracious welcome awaits me.

May He be the Temple that is the dearest spot on earth to me.
May I be priest to serve Him day and night!

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty!" Psalm 91:1

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A task far, far beyond the poor resources of fallen human nature!

(Arthur Pink "Saving Faith" 1948)

O my reader, be not deceived on this vital matter:
  to mortify the lusts of the flesh,
  to be crucified unto the world,
  to overcome the Devil,
  to die daily unto sin,
  to live unto righteousness,
  to be . . .
    meek and lowly in heart,
    trustful and obedient,
    pious and patient,
    faithful and uncompromising,
    loving and gentle;
in a word, to be a Christian, to be Christlike — is a task far, far beyond the poor resources of fallen human nature!

The demands of Christ are . . .
  too humbling to our natural pride,
  too searching for the callous conscience,
  too exacting for our fleshly desires.
A miracle of grace has to be wrought within us before this awful depravity of our nature, this dreadful state of affairs, is changed!

"Apart from Me you can do nothing!" John 15:5

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" Philippians 4:13

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The horticulture of the heart!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)

"You are My private garden, My treasure, My bride!" Song of Songs 4:12

"My Beloved has gone down to His garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens and to gather lilies." Song of Songs 6:2

I pray that in my heart and life, God Almighty may find a garden of His own planting, where He can talk with me in the cool of the day.

Let my "winter of adversity" grow submissiveness and patience and prayer.

Let my my "spring of promise" abound in hope.

Let my my "summer of attainment" show the blossoms of thanksgiving and humility.

Let my my "autumn of fruit" be dedicated to God's glory and praise.

I would acquire skill in the horticulture of the heart . . .
  by meditating much in His Book,
  by sincere communing with Himself,
  by keeping company with my Master's friends,
  and by kissing His chastening rod.

I must reverence God's hedges:
  the restraints of His providence,
  the warnings of His Word,
  the bounds imposed by an enlightened conscience,
  the forbiddings of the Holy Spirit.
I must have no wish for the profane wasteland outside.

If the garden of the soul is to maintain beauty and fragrance — must not the waters of my spiritual life be constantly renewed? Must I not return daily to the Well from which the living streams flow ever forth?

There should be no weeds in the garden of a regenerated life. May the Lord the Spirit fill me to overflowing, that my holiness may be spontaneous, enthusiastic, exuberant — not fettered and checked by the weeds of sin.

So I shall walk in peace and pleasantness; and in the garden God will talk with me.

"Oh, I pray that the cold north wind and the soft south wind may blow upon my garden, that its spices may flow out in abundance for You in whom my soul delights. Let my Beloved come into His garden and eat its choicest fruits!" Song of Songs 4:16

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Christians are like snow covered dung!

(Martin Luther)

"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
  though they are red like crimson, they shall be as white as wool!" Isaiah 1:18

Christians are like snow covered dung; it is the purity of the covering which the Father sees!

"On that day a fountain will be opened — to cleanse them from all their sins and defilement!" Zechariah 13:1

"The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!" 1 John 1:7

"God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!" 2 Corinthians 5:21

"You are absolutely beautiful, My beloved! There is no spot in you!" Song of Solomon 4:7

"They are without fault before the throne of God!" Revelation 14:5

"Because the sinless Savior died
 My sinful soul is counted free.
 For God the just is satisfied
 To look on Him — and pardon me!"
Charitie L. Bancroft, 1863

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The little kindnesses and self-denials of Christian living!

(Henrietta Wilson, "Little things" 1852)

"Be kind and compassionate to one another" Ephesians 4:32 

Look around you, first in your own family, then among your friends and neighbors, and see whether there is not someone you can show kindness to — someone . . .
  whose little burden you can lighten,
  whose little cares you may lessen,
  whose little pleasures you can promote,
  whose little wants and wishes you can gratify.

Cheerfully giving up our own pleasures to minister to others, is one of the little kindnesses and self-denials of Christian living. Doing little things that nobody likes to do, but which must be done by someone, is another.

It may seem to many, that if they avoid little unkindnesses, they must necessarily be doing all that is required. But it is not enough to abstain from sharp words, sneering tones, petty contradictions, or daily little irritations. We must be active and earnest in kindness — not merely passive and inoffensive.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12, 14

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Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!

(Thomas Brooks)

"Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away!" 1 Corinthians 7:31

Sorrow attends worldly joy,
danger attends worldly safety,
loss attends worldly labors,
tears attend worldly purposes.
As to these things . . .
  men's hopes are vain,
  their sorrow is certain,
  and their joy is artificial.
The apostle calls this world a sea of glass — a sea for the trouble of it, and glass for the brittleness and bitterness of it.

Saving faith makes a man see . . .
  the prickles that are in every rose,
  the thorns that are in every crown,
  the poison that is in the golden cup,
  the spot that is in the shining pearl.
And thus a Christian counts and calls all these things, as indeed they are, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" Ecclesiastes 1:2

"The world is passing away, along with its desires; but the one who does the will of God lives forever!" 1 John 2:17

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Fear living!

(Charles Spurgeon)

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

Never fear dying, beloved. Dying is the last, but the least matter that a Christian has to be anxious about. Fear living — that is . . .
  a hard battle to fight,
  a stern discipline to endure,
  a rough voyage to undergo.

There is an essential difference between the decease of the godly — and the death of the ungodly.

Death comes to the ungodly as a penal infliction — but to the righteous, as a summons to his Father's palace!

To the lost sinner, it is an eternal execution — to the saint, death is an undressing from all his sins, sorrows and infirmities.

Death to the wicked, is the king of terrors!
Death to the saint, is the end of terrors and the commencement of glory!

"Let them fear death — who do not fear sin!"
Thomas Watson

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This is to follow the Lamb wherever He goes

(William Dyer, "Follow the Lamb")

"These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes!" Revelation 14:4

A believer follows the Lamb TRULY, without hypocrisy. Many follow the Lamb, as beggars follow a rich man — only for his money. They prize the wages of religion — above the works of religion! "I tell you the truth, you are looking for Me . . . because you ate the loaves and had your fill!" John 6:26. Oh, beloved, God abhors a hypocrite more than a Sodomite! Hell is provided on purpose for hypocrites, "He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!" Matthew 24:51

My beloved, following the Lamb fully, is to have the heart fixed and resolved for God, "My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You!" says David in Psalm 63:8. "As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, O God. I thirst for God, the living God!" Psalm 42:1-2

A believer follows the Lamb CONSTANTLY, without apostasy. A true believer never stops following the Lamb.

He does not follow the Lamb wherever He goes — who follows the Lamb earnestly for a while — but afterwards forsakes Him, when the storm arises! "Since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word — he quickly falls away!" Matthew 13:21

He does not follow the Lamb wherever He goes — who follows the Lamb in some things, and the Beast in other things! "They worshiped the Lord — but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought." 2 Kings 17:33

He does not follow the Lamb wherever He goes — who follows the Lord in a dull heavy manner, and lukewarm temper. "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth!" Revelation 3:15-16. Oh! this is not following the Lamb!

Those who follow the Lamb — abide in the Lamb, and cleave to the Lamb, and continue constantly in the Lamb's ways, unto the end of their days. "Yet the righteous person will hold to his way!" Job 17:9. The righteous man follows the Lamb wherever He goes. "Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know Him!" Hosea 6:3

This is to follow the Lamb wherever He goes
1. Speedily
2. Sincerely
3. Whole-heartedly
4. Zealously
5. Humbly
6. Cheerfully
7. Diligently
8. Constantly
9. Faithfully
10. Supremely

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Deceitful and desperately wicked!

(William S. Plumer, "Sinners Saved by Unmerited Kindness")

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9

Man is the only creature on earth that practices self-deception. That we should sometimes deceive others is proof of our depravity; but that we should spend our lives in self-deception is truly astonishing! Men of the fewest virtues commonly have the highest thoughts of themselves. How strange and yet how common that he, whose heart has deceived him a thousand times, should yet confide in it as if it had always been honest!

The human heart deceives every being but one — and it would deceive Him, if He were not omniscient. None but God knows all the depths of iniquity and duplicity within us.

Though the language of the Bible is strong, it is just. God declares, and every Christian knows by sad experience — that his heart is deceitful above all things. A perfect knowledge of the treachery of our hearts is possessed by none but God.

The heart is also VILE. It is "desperately wicked."

It loves vanity, and folly, and sin.
It hates holiness, and truth, and divine restraints.

The heart is . . .
  a sink of iniquity,
  a pool of pestilential waters,
  a cage of unclean birds,
  a sepulcher full of dead men's bones.
It is torn by wild, fierce, unhallowed passions.
It rejects good and chooses evil.
It is wholly corrupt.
It is full of evil.
There is no soundness in it.

"For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander! These are the things which defile the man." Matthew 15:19, 20

"He who trusts in his own heart is a fool!" Proverbs 28:26

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The evidence of genuine piety

(John Angell James, "The Christian Professor")

The evidence of genuine piety is to be found in . . .
  real humility,
  reliance on Christ,
  hungering and thirsting after righteousness,
  sincere sorrow for sin, and
  a continual effort to regulate our thoughts, words, and conduct by the Word of God.

Genuine piety will not thrive and increase without effort — but is of so tender and delicate a nature as to require great, constant, and persevering concern, watchfulness, and care.

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." Philippians 2:12-13 

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How shall I govern my children, so as to secure their virtue and happiness?

(John Abbott, "The Mother's Authority")

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Ephesians 6:1

How shall I govern my children, so as to secure their virtue and happiness?

is absolutely essential to proper family government. Without this, all other efforts will be in vain. You may pray with, and for your children; you may strive to instruct them in Christian truth; you may be unwearied in your efforts to make them happy, and to gain their affection. But if they are in habits of disobedience, your instructions will be lost, and your toil in vain! And by obedience, I do not mean languid and dilatory yielding to repeated threats — but prompt and cheerful acquiescence to parental commands. Neither is it enough that a child should yield to your arguments and persuasions. It is essential that he should submit to your authority.

The first thing therefore to be aimed at, is to bring your child under total subjection. Teach him that he must obey you.

Never give a command that you do not intend to be obeyed! There is no more effectual way of teaching a child disobedience, than by giving commands that you have no intention of enforcing. A child is thus habituated to disregard its mother; and, in a short time, the habit becomes so strong and the child's contempt for the mother so confirmed, that entreaties and threats are alike unheeded. Accustom him to immediate and cheerful acquiescence to your will. This is obedience. And this is absolutely essential to good family government. Let it be an immutable principle in family government, that your word is law!

"The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother." Proverbs 29:15