Grace Gems for OCTOBER 2014
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What can't be cured — should be endured!
(Henrietta Wilson, "Little Things" 1852)
"All the days of the despondent are miserable — but a cheerful heart has a continual feast!" Proverbs 15:15
There is a class of little annoyances such as we make for ourselves by a complaining, or an overly fastidious temperament. There are some who make such a fuss about trifles, tormenting themselves, and worrying others by a perpetual fault-finding and discontent — as every trifling irritation is magnified to a mountain — that all pleasure is spoiled by their presence!
It is a good rule in little things, as well as great things, that "what can't be cured — should be endured" — and endured cheerfully!
I am not advocating slovenly and careless endurance of little vexations which may be remedied — let them be set right by all means, and the more quietly as well as quickly, the better. But I have observed people who were most ludicrously discomposed by trifles which neither they nor anyone else could remedy, and which should have been overlooked with a smile, if noticed at all.
There are many overly finicky people in the world, who groan over such trifling irritations. It is really ludicrous to hear the gravity with which some people will allude to the fact of the road being dusty, even alleging that as a reason for not going a walk; others are as much afraid of a shower; others of too much sunshine; some are terrified at the idea of being over-heated.
There is no end to these idle fancies and fears! If you laugh at these miserable people — then they think you are unfeeling. If you sympathize with them — then they multiply and increase their petty annoyances!
Let us all beware of making much of little irritations. Let us learn to laugh at them, remembering how very annoying such complaints are to others, as well as bothersome to ourselves.
A cheerful person who refuses to notice trifles or be aggravated by them — soon ceases to feel them! While to those who seem to find a perverse pleasure in dwelling on, and being daunted by them — these little discomforts will actually become real cares, and will eat out half the comfort of their lives!
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22
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Tokens of God's love!
(Letters of John Newton)
Trials no less than comforts — are the tokens of God's love. All is regulated by His infinite wisdom. You will find cause to praise Him even for the severe afflictions.
Cisterns must be broken — but the fountain of living waters is always full and always flowing!
Gourds must wither — but the tree of life has shade and fruit sufficient for us all, and at all times!
Creatures must die — but the Lord lives!
Creatures are like candles; while they burn — they waste away; and when they are extinguished, those who depend upon them are covered with darkness. But the Lord is a Sun to His people, and His bright beams of consolation can well supply the lack of the candlelight of creature comforts!
"I know, O LORD, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. May Your unfailing love be my comfort." Psalm 119:75-76
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The agonizing lesson!
("Solitude Sweetened" by James Meikle, 1730-1799)
Behold the great confusion of guilt and the eternal gloom of horror, which shall take fast hold on the unrepentant — when the incensed Judge pronounces their sentence in these killing words, "Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!"
Where will they hide their guilty heads — and where conceal their shame?
They will not be able to cover their condemnation with a smiling countenance, as they now cover their sin which causes it. How will the ground shake, and the earth quake beneath the trembling multitude!
What fearful countenances!
What remorseful looks!
What rolling eyes!
What frightful gestures!
What lamentable howlings!
What doleful bewailings!
What preposterous complaints!
What despairing expressions!
What agonizing groans!
What intolerable horror!
What gnawing anguish!
What stabbings of guilt!
What roarings of awakened conscience!
What horrible blasphemies against the divine Judge Himself — shall they be employed in, in that tremendous day! How will they call to the hills to hide them, and run to be lost in the ruins of the tumbling rocks — but in vain!
But from whence will these specters come — these trembling ones be gathered? From another world? Ah! No! They are these mirthful and proud ones, who now walk the round of life, jesting and unconcerned! But they shall then be overwhelmed, and that forever — with a grief too vast for language to express, and too tremendous for conception to apprehend!
Who knows the power of God's wrath?
Who know it but the damned? And yet they know it not, for an eternity of torment is continually teaching them the agonizing lesson!
The bold, the blind, the headstrong sinner, never puts the question to himself, which concerns him most, and might awaken him: "Who of us can dwell with devouring fire? Who can dwell with everlasting burnings? How shall we escape the wrath to come?"
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Keep yourselves out of the filthy puddle of this world!
(William Dyer, "The Strait Way to Heaven")
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God — rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." Hebrews 11:24-25
Choose suffering — before sinning.
Oh! beloved, there is more evil in the least sin against Christ — than in the greatest suffering for Christ!
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17
1. Our sufferings for Christ are but light.
2. Our sufferings for Christ are short — but for a moment.
3. Christ stands by us in our sufferings.
4. Our sufferings are ordered by the loving Father.
5. Our sufferings shall not hurt our souls.
6. God gives us the best of comforts — in the worst of times.
We have most consolation from God — when we have most tribulation from men!
As our sufferings abound — so our consolations abound.
When the burden is heaviest upon the back — then the peace of conscience is sweetest and greatest within.
Therefore, my dear brethren, keep yourselves out of the filthy puddle of this world, and from the evil of this world! And if you must sin or suffer — choose suffering before sinning!
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Woe be to all the Philistines!
(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)
"Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see — but know that for all these things, God will bring you to judgment!" Ecclesiastes 11:9
This is just as if God had said, "Well, poor sinner, run down the hill as fast as you please — but know that you will surely break your neck at last!"
As God's mercy lets no service pass unregarded — so God's justice lets no sin pass unrevenged!
As God is too merciful to condemn the innocent — so He is too just to acquit the guilty!
Poor sinner, will you so willfully embrace those poisonous vipers, your lusts — which will so assuredly sting you with the pains of eternal damnation? Why will you rashly pursue anything in this world — which will subject you to the intolerable curse of God in the eternal world?
This is the day of God's long-suffering — but the judgment day will be the day of the sinner's long-suffering. Here, the cords of patience, do, as it were, tie the hands of vengeance. But our Samson will at last be roused, and break all these cords — and then woe be to all the Philistines!
He who now shakes His sword over the hardened sinner's head — will in the great day, sheathe it in His heart!
"Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of Their wrath has come, and who can stand?" Revelation 6:15-17
Thus, all who refuse and reject Him as a refining fire — must be obliged to meet, and feel Him as a consuming fire! How can they endure the wrath of the Lamb — who have consistently disregarded the death of the Lamb? If the night of death finds them graceless — the day of judgment will find them speechless!
Reader, if you have uniformly lifted up your rebellious hand against Christ — how will you be able to lift up your guilty head before Christ? "For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil!" Ecclesiastes 12:14
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God hems me in!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"Blessed be the LORD, who has . . . restrained His servant from doing evil." 1 Samuel 25:39
Even when my heart is resolute in its pursuit of iniquity, God hampers and hinders its unholy determination. Mercifully, that He may halt me in my fatal course — He raises one barrier after another.
For example, there is His written Word. In lands like India and China, there are peoples with intellects and emotions and aspirations as manifold and high-soaring as mine. Yet numbers among them are abandoned to the shameless vices of paganism — vices to which, with all my folly and wrong-doing, I do not succumb. Why am I morally better — why am I less openly wicked, than they? It is because God's Word is in my hands. It is because the truth of Jesus permeates the atmosphere I breathe, and leavens the world in which I live and move and have my being. God hems me in, and I cannot so easily and so foully transgress.
And there is His living Spirit. He acts on mind and will and conscience and affections. Often He snatches me from the brink of the abyss, and from the jaws of the grave. He quenches my defiling thoughts. He rebukes my vain imaginations. He reins in my sinful passions as with bit and bridle. He prevents me from the commission of much that is unworthy.
And there is His watchful providence. God is so constantly and busily at work in my biography, that it is difficult for me to sin scandalously. He places me in the midst of a great multitude of sobering and restraining influences:
the just laws of the country,
the social restraints of culture,
my godly friends,
the appealing voices of my home,
the wholesome chastisements of my Father in Heaven.
By these, and by many other restraints and constraints, the Lord Who is the Lover of my soul stops me when I would run recklessly on to spiritual ruin!
I cannot thank Him enough for the whole array of His fences — where would I have been without them? I cannot hate enough the evil things which He hates. And, by His grace enabling me, let me set about speaking and doing the things which are pleasing to Him.
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat — but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail." Luke 22:31-32
"When my foot slipped, Your mercy, O Lord, held me up!" Psalm 94:18
"My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:27-28
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Untrained, unlopped, unpruned, uncultured!
(John MacDuff, "Ripples in the Twilight" 1885)
"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life!" Proverbs 4:23
Leave the heart to itself — untrained, unlopped, unpruned, uncultured — and you will soon have a wild wilderness — an aggregate of distorted ugliness — the home and haunt of all venomous things! We must lay the axe to the root of every evil habit and debasing passion!
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry!" Colossians 3:5
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(J.R. Miller, "The Shining Light" 1911)
"As your days — so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25
Strength was not promised in advance — enough for all of life, or even for a year, or for a month. The promise was, that for each day, when it came with its own needs, duties, battles, and griefs — enough strength would be given. As the burden increased — more strength would be imparted. As the night grew darker — the lamps would shine out more brightly.
The important thought here is, that strength is not emptied into our hearts in bulk — a supply for years to come — but is kept in reserve, and divinely given day by day, just as the day's needs require.
"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11
"On the day I called, You answered me; You increased strength within me!" Psalm 138:3
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The mariner's chart as he sails the sea of life!
The Bible is a book which calls not so much for the exertion of our intellect — as it does for the exercise of our affections, conscience and will. God has given His Word to us not for our entertainment, but for our education — to make known what He requires from us. It is to be . . .
the traveler's guide as he journeys through the maze of this world,
and the mariner's chart as he sails the sea of life.
Therefore, whenever we open the Bible, the all-important consideration for each of us to keep before him is: "What is here for me today? What bearing does the passage now before me have upon my present case and circumstances — what warning, what encouragement, what information? What instruction is there . . .
to direct me in the management of my business,
to guide me in the ordering of my domestic and social affairs,
to promote a closer walking with God?"
I should see myself addressed in every precept — and included in every promise.
But it is greatly to be feared that, through failure to appropriate God's Word unto our own case and circumstances — there is much Bible reading and study which is of little or no real benefit to the soul.
Nothing else will . . .
secure us from the pollutions of this world,
deliver from the temptations of Satan, and
be so effectual a preservative from sin —
as the Word of God received into our affections. "The law of his God is in his heart — none of his steps shall slide" (Psalm 37:31) can only be said of the one who has made personal appropriation of the Word, and is able to say with the Psalmist, "Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (119:11).
Just so long as the Word is . . .
actually working in us,
influencing us in a practical way,
loved and revered by us,
and stirs the conscience —
are we kept from falling into open sin!
And only as we personally go out and daily gather our portion of manna, and feed upon the same — will there be strength provided for the performing of duty and the bringing forth of fruit to the glory of God.
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The prosperity of the wicked — and the adversity of the righteous!
(Arthur Pink, "No Marvels" 1952)
"If you see oppression of the poor, and perversion of justice and righteousness throughout the land — do not marvel at the matter." Ecclesiastes 5:8
In the midst of his soliloquizings and moralizings, King Solomon interjected an occasional counsel or exhortation: "Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, there was wickedness; and that in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there also." (Ecclesiastes 3:16), and he bids his readers not to be surprised or stumbled thereat.
It was a timely word, for such passages as Job 12:6 and 21:7; Psalm 73:2-12; Jeremiah 12:1 show that the Old Testament saints were deeply exercised over the prosperity of the wicked — and the adversity of the righteous. Solomon, therefore, seeks to remove this stumbling-block and prevent their taking offence at, or murmuring against, God's divine government.
Fallen human nature being what it is, we should not think it strange that the strong oppress the weak, or that justice should be corrupted by those in high places. Man is made to reap the bitter harvest of his apostasy from God.
Yet, however perplexed we may be over the success which so often rewards the workers of iniquity, let us be assured that nothing escapes the notice of the Most High God, that He "regards" and has wise reasons for permitting the frequent miscarriage of human justice by the magistrates and rulers of earth. There is One infinitely above to whom they must yet render an account, and from whom they will receive "a just recompense of reward." (Hebrews 2:2)
"But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. This is what the wicked are like — always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me — until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny! Surely You place them on slippery ground; You cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!" Psalm 73
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The imperativeness of the new birth
(Arthur Pink, 1952)
"You must be born again!" John 3:7
The imperativeness of the new birth is evident from the fact that man is a fallen creature. Originally he was made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), fitted to enjoy fellowship with Him. But upon his apostasy, he . . .
was alienated from his Maker,
became unsuited unto the Holy One,
and fled from Him.
The natural man is . . .
a slave of Satan,
dead in sin,
and, therefore, it is no marvel that he needs to be born again.
He is devoid of . . .
any love to God,
any delight in Him,
any relish for heavenly things,
any ability to perform spiritual acts.
A miracle of grace, then, must be wrought upon him before he is qualified to enter the Father's house. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people — for those who have been made "fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12), for without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
An unregenerated person would be entirely out of harmony with the ineffable purity of the celestial courts, and could no more enjoy their company and activities, than could a deaf man enjoy an oratorio, or a blind man enjoy the beauties of an exquisite sunset. A spiritual kingdom requires a spiritual nature, and in order to the acquisition of that, the natural man must be regenerated — divinely regenerated, for the creature can no more quicken himself than he could give himself a natural being.
Regeneration is no . . .
mere outward reformation,
process of education, or
even religious cultivation.
No, it consists of a radical change of heart and transformation of character — the communication of a gracious and holy principle, producing new desires, new capacities, and a new life. Then, do not marvel that in order thereto, a man must be born from above.
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Not allowing the inclination to sin — and the opportunity to sin, to meet!
(James Smith, "The Pleading Savior" 1861)
"I do not pray that you should take them out of the world — but that you should keep them from the evil." John 17:15
Jesus prayed that His children would be kept from evil:
1. From the evil of the world — from its evil spirit, which is carnal, and directly opposed to the spirit of Christ, and the requirements of God's holy law.
2. From the evil course of the world — which is downward, corrupt, and corrupting.
3. From the evil customs of the world, which are vain, wicked, and opposed to the mind of God.
4. From the Evil One, who is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. He stirs up evil men — to hate, oppose, and persecute them. He stirs up evil corruptions within them — to weaken, discourage, and mislead them.
God keeps them by His Spirit — who warns, teaches, strengthens, and works in them to will and to do of His own good pleasure.
He keeps them also by His Providence — which sometimes removes sinful objects from before them — and at other times, prevents violent temptations from assailing them.
God graciously keeps His children, in answer to the prayer of Jesus — by not allowing the inclination to sin — and the opportunity to sin, to meet!
Sometimes they are violently tempted to sin, and feel inclined to yield — but they have not the opportunity.
At other times, the opportunity presents itself — but they have not the inclination.
Thus they are divinely kept and graciously preserved.
"I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:28
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A holy man will follow after humility
(J.C. Ryle, "Holiness, Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots")
A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. He will see more evil in his own heart — than in any other in the world.
He will understand something of Abraham's feeling, when he says, "I am dust and ashes!"
And Jacob's feeling, when he says, "I am unworthy of the least of all Your mercies!"
And Job's feeling, when he says, "Behold! I am vile!"
And Paul's feeling, when he says, "I am the chief of sinners!"
Holy John Bradford, that faithful martyr of Christ, would sometimes finish his letters with these words: "A most miserable sinner, John Bradford."
The godly William Grimshaw's last words, when he lay on his deathbed, were these: "Here goes an unprofitable servant!"
"By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10
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This ever-present Christ!
(Letters of John Newton)
"Surely I am with you always — to the very end of the age!" Matthew 28:20
In our natural state, we have very dark, and indeed dishonorable thoughts of God — we conceive of Him as at a distance.
But when the heart is awakened, we begin to make Jacob's reflection, "Surely the Lord is in this place — and I knew it not!" Yes, though we cannot see Him — He sees us, He is nearer to us than we are to ourselves!
And when we are saved, we begin to know this ever-present Christ; that the government of Heaven and earth, the dispensations of the kingdom of nature, providence, and grace — are in His hands; that it is He with whom we have to do — who once suffered agony and death for our redemption, and whose compassion and tenderness are the same as when He conversed among men in the days of His humiliation.
Thus Jesus is made known to us by the gospel, in the endearing views of a Shepherd, a Husband, a Friend. With humble confidence, we may enter into the holiest of all, and repose all our cares and concerns upon the strength of that everlasting arm which upholds Heaven and earth, and upon that infinite love which submitted to the shame, pain, and death of the cross — to redeem sinners from wrath and misery!
There is a height, a breadth, a length, and a depth, in this mystery of redeeming love, exceeding the comprehension of all finite minds!
"May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully!" Ephesians 3:19
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A very great attainment
(William Plumer, "Vital Godliness: A Treatise on Experimental and Practical Piety" 1864)
It is a very great attainment to lie passive in God's hands, and know no will but His.
"It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him." 1 Samuel 3:18
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21
"May the Lord's will be done." Acts 21:14
"Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Nevertheless, I want Your will to be done, not Mine!" Luke 22:42
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(Samuel Milton Vernon, "Amusements in the Light of Reason, History, and Revelation" 1882)
We find that as matter of fact, the good and the holy of all times have pronounced the theater to be disgraceful.
We can trace the theater to a definite beginning in the feasts of Bacchus, five hundred years before Christ; from which time, hand in hand with the wine-god, its first lover and life-long companion — it has journeyed through the world, spreading demoralization and desolation on every hand. We consider it to be the devil's most successful scheme for destroying the morals of the culture.
The theater, the saloon, and the brothel are the three confederate tempting devils of civilization, seeking to despoil the flower of humanity.
The theater insinuates lust, murder, theft, hypocrisy, and profligacy upon overworked and sensitive minds, under the name of amusement and recreation. It inoculates our fairest sons and daughters with the most deadly poisons — corrupting personal purity, destroying domestic happiness, and dishonoring the sanctuary of home — under the guise of entertainment. It has proven to be "a school of vice and the home of debauchery" under the name of recreation. It is . . .
black with the curses of the souls it has ruined,
infamous for the social impurities it has nursed into life, and
abhorred by everyone who studies its work of degradation and destruction.
We are now to examine the character of this ancient institution, whose whitened locks, as it stands before us clad in the robes of its own history, might awaken our veneration were it not for . . .
the blood-spots on its hands,
the demon leer in its eye, and
the foul odors from its filthy clothing proclaiming it one of the vile monsters that still lingers on the earth, because mankind have not had virtue enough to exterminate it!
From the days of Athens until now, the wise and good have not ceased to bewail the demoralizing effects of the theater. Throughout history, Christian people have always been at war against "Satan's chapel" — the theater.
Plato says: "The diversions of the theater are dangerous to the temper and sobriety of mind. They rouse the feelings of passion and sensual desire too much. Tragedy is prone to render men unfeeling — and comedy makes them buffoons. Thus those passions are cherished which ought to be checked, virtue loses ground, and reason becomes uncertain."
Aristotle says: "The law ought to forbid young people the seeing of comedies until they are proof against debauchery."
Solon, the wisest of the Greeks, and their lawgiver, forbade "theatrical exhibitions as pernicious to the popular mind."
Cicero says: "The theater exists on lewdness!"
Seneca, the great heathen moralist, says: "Nothing is so injurious to good morals as theaters, for then vice makes an insensible approach and steals upon us in the disguise of pleasure."
Mr. Wilberforce, known and honored wherever freedom unfurls her banner, affirms, "The debauchee, the sensualist, the profane, have ever found in the theater, their chosen resort for enjoyment." He asks: "How can a virtuous mind seek pleasure in such a place, amid such companions, and from such persons as the actors and actresses are generally known to be?"
Pollok says: "The theater was from the very first, the favorite haunt of sin; though honest men maintained that it might be turned to good account. And so, perhaps, it might — but never was. From first to last it was an evil place; and now such things are acted there as make the demons blush!"
In 1778 Congress passed a law providing for "the dismissal of any officer of the United States who was found in attendance upon a theater."
Soon after the declaration of independence, the following resolution was adopted by Congress: "Whereas, true religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness:
Resolved, That it be and is hereby earnestly recommended to the several States to take the most effective measures for the suppression of theatrical entertainments, horse-racing, gambling, and such other diversions as are productive of idleness, dissipation, and a general depravity of principles and manners."
Augustine calls the theater, "a cage of immorality and a public school of debauchery!"
Tillotson, speaking of the conduct of certain parents, says, "They are such monsters, I had almost said devils — as not to know how to give their children good things. Instead of bringing them to God's Church, they bring them to the devil's chapels, playhouses, places of debauchery, those schools of lewdness and vice."
If we may accept the testimony of those most to be trusted, the theater grows worse, rather than better, as it grows older — a strong indication that its character is essentially bad.
To consent to look upon vice without a protest against it, is the first step to moral degeneracy.
Editor's note: I wonder what the author would say about much of today's entertainment!
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One of the broadest avenues that lead to destruction!
(Hannah More, 1745-1833)
I do not hesitate for a moment to pronounce the theater to be one of the broadest avenues that lead to destruction! Fascinating no doubt it is, but on that account the more delusive and the more dangerous. Let a young man once acquire a taste for this species of entertainment, and yield himself up to its gratification — and he is in great danger of becoming a lost character, rushing upon his ruin. All the evils that can . . .
corrupt his morals,
blast his reputation,
embitter his life,
and destroy his soul —
lurk in the purlieus of the theater! Vice in every form lives and moves and has its being there. Myriads have cursed the hour when they first exposed themselves to the contamination of the theater.
Light and darkness are not more opposed to each other, than the Bible and the theater. If the one is good — then the other must be evil. If the Scriptures are to be obeyed — then the theater must be avoided. The only way to justify the theater, as it is, as it has ever been and is ever likely to be, is to condemn the Bible — the same individual can not defend both!
(Editor's note: Hannah More's words have certainly come true in our generation. Our American "entertainment" has perhaps done more to corrupt our society than anything else. We Christians would do well to evaluate our entertainment choices by God's Word.)
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Oh, let us beg for grace to lie as clay in the hands of Infinite Wisdom
(Joseph Milner, 1780)
Resignation to the divine will is one of the last and highest attainments of the Christian life. It is what is ultimately to be aimed at, as essential to comfort here — and happiness hereafter.
The Scriptures, daily meditated on, will supply us with instruction.
When we have genuine love to God, we shall be led to such an acquiescence in His wisdom and goodness — that we shall choose His will to take place, rather than ours. And the thought of how soon all things shall be set right in eternity, and that He will make all things work together for our good in this life — will reconcile the mind to anything that God pleases.
You will not mistake me, I hope, as if I suppose all true Christians have learned all this lesson completely. Far from it! These things are learned but in measure, and not without much conflict and opposition from sinful nature all along, and much imperfection.
And though it is not easy to confine the Spirit's operations by rules — yet this seems the general order of Christian virtues:
4. sweet resignation to God's will.
In Christ Himself, this resignation was perfect, "Not My will, but may Your will be done!" (Luke 22:42), and as far as we can trust in Him for grace — so far we may receive grace out of His fullness.
Oh, let us beg for grace to lie as clay in the hands of Infinite Wisdom, who knows how . . .
to humble our pride,
to bend our proud wills, and
to conform us to the likeness of His beloved Son.
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Lose yourself in the impenetrable tracts of His Glory!
(John MacDuff, "The Night Watches")
"Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God!" Psalm 90:2
O my soul! Seek to fill yourself with thoughts of the Almighty. Lose yourself in the impenetrable tracts of His Glory!
"Can you by searching find out God?"
Can the insect fathom the ocean?
Can the worm scale the skies?
Can the finite comprehend the Infinite?
Can the mortal grasp Immortality?
We can do no more than stand on the brink of the shoreless sea, and cry, "Oh the depth!"
"From everlasting to everlasting, You are God!"
Shrouded in the great and amazing mystery of eternity,
before one star revolved in its sphere,
before one angel moved his wing — God was!
His own infinite presence filling all space. All time, to Him, is but as the heaving of a breath — the beat of a pulse — the twinkling of an eye! He was as infinitely glorious when He inhabited the solitudes of immensity alone — as He is now with the songs of angel and archangel sounding in His ear!
This is the Being to whom I can look up with sweetest confidence, and call "My Father!"
This is the Infinite One, whom "the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain," whom I call "My God!"
"This God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even until death!" Psalm 48:14
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What it is to follow the Lamb?
(William Dyer, "Follow the Lamb")
"These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes!" Revelation 14:4
What it is to follow the Lamb?
To follow the Lamb wherever He goes — is to follow Him in four things:
1st, We follow the Lamb in His COMMANDMENTS. "If you love Me — you will keep My commandments!" John 14:15. "You are My friends — if you do what I command you." John 15:14. Oh, beloved, we cannot follow the Lamb wherever He goes, unless we follow Him in His commandments! True Christians take as much delight in those precepts that enjoin holiness — as in those promises that assure happiness.
2ndly, We follow the Lamb in His TEACHING. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me! But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." John 10:5, 27
3rdly, We follow the Lamb in His PROVIDENCE. Through all afflictions, all straits, all discouragements and sorrows whatever, though it is the way of death! We must forsake all to follow a crucified Christ, a condemned Christ, in bloody paths of sufferings — if He calls us to it! "For," says Paul, "I am ready not to be bound only — but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!" We must be willing to venture the loss of all for Him: our liberty, our estates, our relations, and our life itself! "We have forsaken all — and followed You!" Matthew 19:27
4thly, We follow the Lamb in His EXAMPLE. "I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you." John 13:15. "Christ has suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21. To follow in Christ's steps — is to take Him for our example. We must not follow wicked men's example, who walk in the broad way that leads to death, for "They are the children of their father the Devil, and they love to do the evil things he does!" John 8:44. But we must follow our head Christ, who went about doing good, Acts 10:38.
Now this is to follow the Lamb, wherever He goes:
in His commands,
in His teaching,
in His providences,
in His examples.
~ ~ ~ ~
Sin is bad!
Sin is bad in the eye,
worse in the tongue,
worse still in the heart,
but worst of all in the life!
Sin and punishment are linked together with chains of adamant!
The first step to mercy — is to see our own misery.
The first step toward Heaven — is to see ourselves near Hell.
~ ~ ~ ~
He chooses and saves one of His crucifiers!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up His clothes by casting lots." Luke 23:34
"And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard His cry and saw how He died, he said: Surely this man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:39
He Who hung in sheer and marvelous mercy on the Cross craves a trophy of grace, and will not be satisfied until He has it. Out of the ranks of cruel paganism, He chooses and saves one of His crucifiers!
The Savior had been praying, and it is evident now that His prayer was not in vain: "Father, forgive them!" He had entreated God for the very Roman centurion who had nailed Him to His tree of shame, and then had sat down and barbarously gambled for His clothes. Yet he is . . .
fully and instantly forgiven,
led bound in blessed thraldom by Him Whose arms he had fettered,
transformed into the confessor of the Man he crucifies!
Let me rejoice that nothing is too hard for the prayers of Jesus. He asks God for . . .
my salvation and pardon,
the conquest of my unthinking and earth-chained mind,
the renewal of my selfish, proud and disobedient life.
In the heavenly place He lifts His holy and pierced hands on my behalf. And the Father gives Him His heart's desire, and does not withhold the request of His lips.
~ ~ ~ ~
Choice Puritan quotes from John Flavel, 1627-1691
Herein the sovereign grace of God appears — that Jesus Christ passed by millions of creatures of more excellent gifts and temperaments, and never makes them one offer of salvation — never turns aside to give one knock at the door of their hearts. But He comes to you, the vilest and basest of creatures, and will not be gone from your heart's door without His errand's end!
~ ~ ~ ~
It is true, some wicked men die in apparent peace, and some godly men die in turmoil — but both are mistaken. A few moments will clear up the mistake of both!
~ ~ ~ ~
The life of a believer in this world is a life of labor and expectation. He must expect no rest or satisfaction on this side of Heaven, and the full enjoyment of God. As the rivers cannot rest until they pour themselves into the bosom of the sea — so neither can renewed souls find rest until they come into the bosom of God!
~ ~ ~ ~
O when you go to God in any duty, take your heart aside, and say, "O my soul, I am now addressing myself to the greatest work that ever a creature was employed about — I am going into the solemn presence of God about business of everlasting importance!"
~ ~ ~ ~
We should call our hearts to account every evening, and say, "O my heart! Where have you been today? Where have your thoughts been wandering? O naughty heart! O vain heart! Could you not abide by the fountain of delights? Is there better pleasure with the creature, than with your redeemer God?"
~ ~ ~ ~
Repentance will cost you more than a few cheap words against sin!
~ ~ ~ ~
The candle of your life is almost burnt down — the hour-glass of time almost run out. Yet a few, a very few days and nights more — and then time, nights and days shall be no more!
~ ~ ~ ~
The whole world is not a theater large enough to display the glory of Christ upon — or unfold the one half of the unsearchable riches which lie hidden in Him! What shall I say of Christ? His excelling glory dazzles apprehension, and swallows up all expression!
~ ~ ~ ~
God's divine care thus engaged for you, is your convoy to accompany and secure you, until it sees you safe into your harbor of eternal rest!
~ ~ ~ ~
Choice quotes from the Puritan Thomas Adams, 1583-1652
Pride thrust . . .
Adam out of paradise,
Saul out of his kingdom,
Nebuchadnezzar out of men's society,
Haman out of court, and
Lucifer out of Heaven!
~ ~ ~ ~
Satan, like a skillful fisherman, baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish!
~ ~ ~ ~
Half our virtue arises from our being out of the way of temptation!
~ ~ ~ ~
No man more truly loves God, than he who is most fearful to offend Him.
~ ~ ~ ~
Good deeds are such things that no man is saved for them, nor without them.
~ ~ ~ ~
Death is as near to the young as to the old. Here is all the difference:
death stands behind the young man's back, but before the old man's face.
How certain you are to die, you know;
how soon to die, you know not.
You can name no living man, not the sickest, which you are sure shall die before you.
We spend our years with sighing — it is a valley of tears.
Death is the funeral of all our sorrows!
~ ~ ~ ~
Conscience is God's deputy in the soul.
~ ~ ~ ~
Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line — the Scriptures being but as it were, the swaddling bands of the child Jesus.
~ ~ ~ ~
Self-righteousness is the devil's masterpiece to make us think well of ourselves.
~ ~ ~ ~
He who demands mercy and shows none, burns the bridges over which he himself must later pass!
~ ~ ~ ~
Jesus . . .
hides our unrighteousness with His righteousness,
covers our disobedience with His obedience,
shadows our death with His death —
that the wrath of God cannot find us!
~ ~ ~ ~
If the world loves us, smiles on us, and speaks well of us!
(James Smith, "The Pleading Savior" 1861)
The concern of Jesus for the safety and happiness of His people, is both great and astonishing! He had watched over His disciples while He was with them, and being about to leave them — He would make them the special care and charge of His Father, and thus He prays, "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, KEEP through Your own name, those whom You have given Me!" John 17:11
Notice the circumstances in which we are placed: "They are still in the world." They are chosen out of it, are raised above it — and yet are left in it, for holy and important purposes.
The world to the believer, is a place of trial. Every principle he has, as well as the profession he makes, will be tried here.
Storms will arise, and often suddenly and unexpectedly.
Labors have to be performed, and self-denying labors too.
Persecutions must be endured, and at times these are fiery and long-continued.
This world is . . .
a treacherous environment,
a field of labor,
a weary land,
an enemy's country!
The world to the Christian is a place of DANGER. He has foes both within and without. From some he must escape by fleeing — and from some by resisting.
"The corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:4) is defiling, debasing, and disturbing! It must be overcome; we must cleanse ourselves from it, and escape from its contagion!
Then we have to do battle with . . .
the god of this world — the prince of the power of the air;
the powers of the world — or ungodly, persecuting men in authority;
the men of the world — or the masses surrounding us;
the things of the world, especially . . .
the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eye,
and the pride of life!
In such a world, surrounded by such evil elements and diabolic agents — we must be in danger, and shall be severely tried!!
Hence Jesus pleads with His Father; He fixes on the holiness of His nature and character, and cries, "Holy Father!" His grace, or His mercy, or His pity — more generally attracts us, because we feel unworthy, or miserable, or weak. But His holiness fixes the eye on His obedient Son, and our great High Priest!
He prays for their preservation: "Holy Father, KEEP through Your own name, those whom You have given Me." Keep through Your own name, that is — keep them . . .
in the knowledge of Yourself and of Your truth;
by Your power, mercy, and providence;
to show forth Your truth, Your mercy, and Your love.
The Lord's people, therefore, will be kept by God's power through faith unto salvation.
Beloved, if Jesus thus prayed for us — then our preservation is certain, and our perseverance is sure. We shall be kept, in answer to the prayer of our great High Priest . . .
to His gratification,
for His honor, and
to the Almighty Keeper's glory!
Whatever storms may arise,
whatever foes may assail us,
whatever trials may come upon us —
our Heavenly Father will keep us, in honor of His Son.
Kept by the all-seeing eye and all-powerful hand of Jehovah — we shall persevere, though . . .
the road is rough and treacherous,
the journey is long and dangerous,
and our strength is but small.
Let us in every season of danger . . .
when foes and fears beset us,
when our hearts misgive us, and
the cross lies heavy upon us —
then let us hear Jesus praying for us, "Keep through Your own name — those whom You have given Me!"
Reader! Are you OF the world — or are you one of Christ's redeemed people IN the world? Saints in the world are like . . .
pure lilies among stinging thorns,
precious diamonds among filthy pebbles,
harmless sheep among ravenous wolves!
If the world loves us, smiles on us, and speaks well of us — then we are certainly OF it! And if of the world — we shall certainly be damned along with it.
But if the world is to us a place of trial, and a place of danger; if we feel that we are not at home in it; if we are longing and preparing to leave it, that we may go home and dwell with Jesus in His Father's house forever — then all is well with us, and will be well forever!
~ ~ ~ ~
In the great mirror of eternity!
(John MacDuff, "The Faithful Promiser")
"You do not realize now what I am doing — but you will understand hereafter." John 13:7
As the natural sun sometimes sinks in clouds — so, occasionally, the Christian who has a bright rising, and a brighter meridian, sets in gloom. It is not always "light" at his evening time; but this we know, that when the day of immortality breaks, the last vestige of earth's shadows will forever flee away!
To the closing hour of time, Divine Providence may be to him a baffling enigma; but before the first hour has struck on Heaven's clock — all will be cleared up! My soul! "in God's light, you shall see light." The Book of His decrees is a sealed book now! "A great deep" is all the explanation you can often give to His mysterious ways. The why and the wherefore, He seems to keep from us . . .
to test our faith,
to discipline us in trustful submission,
to conform us to the image of Christ, and
to lead us to say, "May Your will be done!"
But rejoice that 'hereafter' — light awaits you! Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror — but then, face to face! In the great mirror of eternity — all the events of this chequered earthly scene will be reflected. The darkest of them will be seen to be bright with mercy; the severest of His dispensations will prove to be "only the severer aspects of His love!" Pry not, then, too curiously! Do not judge too censoriously on God's dealings with you. Wait with patience, until the grand day of disclosures; one confession shall then burst from every tongue, "He has done all things well!"
~ ~ ~ ~
My own special treasure!
(Theodore Cuyler, "Wayside Springs from the Fountain of Life" 1883)
"Now if you will obey Me and keep My covenant, you will be My own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth!" Exodus 19:5
Luther said that there is great divinity in the personal pronouns of Scripture. "They will be Mine — in the day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17
Every true believer is surrendered to the ownership of Christ. Up to the hour of conversion we had other masters — self, sin, and the devil. Now Jesus says to each Christian, "You are Mine! I own you. I will instruct you, and polish you, and put you wherever it pleases Me. I will take care of your salvation, and nothing shall pluck you out of My hand. You shall be My own special treasure in the day of My triumphant appearing. I will place you in My crown!"
"You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and He has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be His own special treasure!" Deuteronomy 14:2
"The LORD has declared today that you are His people, His own special treasure, just as He promised, and that you must obey all His commands." Deuteronomy 26:18
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The greatest evil
(Octavius Winslow, "The Lord's Prayer" 1866)
"Deliver us from evil." Matthew 6:13
SIN is the greatest evil. Emancipated from this, you are disenthralled from all evil — for sin is the prolific parent of all.
Sin is your heaviest burden, your bitterest grief.
Conscious of their indwelling within your heart, you long to be delivered from . . .
the evil passions,
the carnal lusts,
the worldly affections,
the idolatrous attachments,
the sordid cares —
that enchain and fetter you!
Thus you cry, "Deliver me from the evil of sin! Lord, subdue its power, cleanse its guilt, weaken its assault, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me!"
~ ~ ~ ~
A truly humble man!
Humility may be defined to be a habit of mind and heart corresponding to our unworthiness and vileness before God — with the disposition to a behavior consistent thereto.
A truly humble man is sensible of . . .
the small extent of his knowledge,
the great extent of his ignorance,
and his utter spiritual weakness.
He is sensible . . .
of his natural distance from God,
of his dependence upon 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
that he needs His might to enable him to live a holy life.
The man who is under the influence of a humble spirit . . .
is content with such a situation as God is pleased to allot to him,
is not greedy for honor or fame, and
does not strive to appear exalted above his neighbors.
Humility tends also to prevent an arrogant and domineering behavior. On the contrary, humility, disposes a person to a condescending behavior to the vilest and lowest, and to treat inferiors with courtesy and affability — as being sensible of his own despicableness before God.
If we then consider ourselves as the followers of the meek and lowly and crucified Jesus, we shall walk humbly before God and man all the days of our life on earth.
Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before Him.
Rely only on Christ.
Renounce all glory except for Him.
Yield yourself heartily to His will and service.
Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, domineering, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, willful, self-justifying behavior; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while He was on earth.
Humility is a most essential and distinguishing trait in all true piety!
Earnestly seek then, and diligently and prayerfully cherish a humble spirit — and God shall walk with you here below, and soon shall "Present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy!" Jude 1:24
~ ~ ~ ~
(Jeremiah Burroughs, 1600-1646)
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances!" Philippians 4:11
Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.
"Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that!" 1 Timothy 6:6-8
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said: Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!" Hebrews 13:5