Grace Gems for DECEMBER 2014
 

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That unclean donkey is yourself!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"You must redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb. But if you do not redeem it you must kill the donkey by breaking its neck!" Exodus 34:20

Every firstborn creature must be the Lord's but since the donkey was unclean, it could not be presented in sacrifice to Him. What then? Should it be allowed to go free from the universal law? By no means! God admits of no exceptions. The donkey is His due but He will not accept it; He will not abate the claim but yet He cannot be pleased with the unclean victim. No way of escape remained, but redemption the donkey must be saved by the substitution of a lamb in its place; or if not redeemed, it must die!

My soul, here is a lesson for you! That unclean donkey is yourself! You are justly the property of the Lord who made you and preserves you but you are so sinful that God will not, cannot, accept you! It has come to this: the Lamb of God must stand in your stead or you must die eternally! Let all the world know of your gratitude to that spotless Lamb who has died for you, and so redeemed you from the fatal curse of the law!

Must it not sometimes have been a question with the Israelite, as to which should die the donkey or the lamb? Would not the man pause to estimate and compare the values of these animals? Assuredly there was no comparison between the value of a sinful man and the spotless Lord Jesus! Yet the Lamb dies and man the donkey is spared! My soul, admire the boundless love of God to you! Vile worms are bought with the blood of the holy Lamb of God! Dust and ashes are redeemed with a price far above silver and gold! What a doom would have been mine had not plenteous redemption been found!

The breaking of the neck of the donkey was but a momentary penalty. But who shall measure the eternal wrath to come to which no limit can be imagined! Inestimably dear is the glorious Lamb who has redeemed me from such a doom!

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O for a thankful heart!

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

"Be thankful!" Colossians 3:15

What tremendous cause we have to be thankful what marvelous reasons we have to be grateful!

We are surrounded by mercies, both temporal and spiritual. If we look back, we ought to rejoice that . . .
  God has chosen us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world;
  He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins;
  He sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts, to convince us of sin, lead us to Jesus, and make us fit for Heaven!

We have . . .
  His Word in our hands,
  His grace in our hearts,
  His mercies in our houses,
  His Heaven before our eyes!

O for a thankful heart!

Let us take our poor, hard, ungrateful hearts to Jesus He can soften them and fill them with gratitude!

Let us confess our ingratitude before Him, and mourn over our unthankfulness at His feet.

O Jesus, grant us a deep sense of our utter unworthiness, and of Your unmerited goodness that our souls may daily praise You with joyful lips! May we live . . .
  as thankful dependents on Your gracious bounty;
  as grateful, loving children, before our Father and our God
  and daily be thankful.

Through all eternity, to You,
A joyful song I'll raise;
But O eternity's too short,
To utter all Your praise!

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Two filthy rooms!

(Arthur Pink)

"And when the Spirit comes, He will convict the world of sin, and of God's righteousness, and of the coming judgment." John 16:8

One of the principle things which distinguishes a regenerate person from an unregenerate one, may be likened unto two filthy rooms.

In one room, the blinds are raised and the sunlight streams in, exposing the filth all around.

In the other room, the blinds are lowered, and one walking through the room would be unable to discern its real condition.

Thus it is in the case of one who has been renewed by the Spirit: his eyes have been opened to see the awful filth which lurks in every corner of his heart.

But in the case of the unregenerate, though they have occasional twinges of conscience when they act wrongfully, they are very largely ignorant of the awful fact that they are a complete mass of corruption in the pure eyes of the thrice holy God.

Abraham acknowledged, "I am dust and ashes!" Genesis 18:27
Job said of himself, "I am vile!" Job 40:4
David admitted, "I am a worm!" Psalm 22:6
Isaiah confessed, "Woe is me! I am ruined!" Isaiah 6:5
Peter affirmed, "I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Luke 5:8
Paul considered himself, "The chief of sinners!" 1 Timothy 1:15

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The most holy men

(Thomas Brooks)

"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints!" Ephesians 3:8

The most holy men, are always the most humble men!

None so humble on earth, as those who live highest in Heaven.

Those who are the most highly valued and esteemed of by God, are lowest and least in their own esteem.

"This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My Word!" Isaiah 66:2  

Abraham acknowledged, "I am dust and ashes!" Genesis 18:27

Job said of himself,
"I am vile!" Job 40:4

David admitted, "I am a worm!" Psalm 22:6

Isaiah confessed, "Woe is me! I am ruined!" Isaiah 6:5

Peter affirmed, "I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Luke 5:8

Paul considered himself,
"The chief of sinners!" 1 Timothy 1:15

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The subtle snare of worldly prosperity!

(Archibald Alexander, 1772-1851)

Worldly prosperity has ever been found an unfavorable soil for the growth of piety it . . .
  blinds the mind to spiritual and eternal things,
  dries up the spirit of prayer,
  fosters pride and ambition,
  furnishes the appropriate food to covetousness, and
  leads to a sinful conformity to the spirit, maxims, and fashions of the world!

"It is hard to carry a full cup without a spill. You have need to pray to God, not only to help you in your troubles but to help you in your blessings."
Charles Spurgeon, 1834-1892


"We know how greatly even a moderate share of wealth hinders many from raising their heads towards Heaven. And we know how liable men are to be ensnared by the blandishments of prosperous and smiling fortune."
John Calvin, 1509-1564

"To see a man humble under prosperity, is one the greatest rarities in the world!"
John Flavel, 1630-1691

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Altogether lovely!

("Solitude Sweetened" by James Meikle, 1730-1799)

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Solomon 5:16

Why does the world reject the wondrous Savior?
Why do they abhor Him who is altogether lovely,
and hate Him who is the best Friend of sinners?

O men of the world! what good can you desire which is not in Christ?
The excellencies of earth are but His footstool;
the excellencies of Heaven are but His throne!
How excellent, then, must He Himself be!

His treasures are infinite and open for you!

In Jesus are . . .
  riches if you are poor;
  honor if you are despised;
  friendship if you are forsaken;
  help if you are injured;
  mercy if you are miserable;
  joy if you are disconsolate;
  protection if you are in danger;
  deliverance if you are a captive;
  life if you are mortal; and
  all things if you have nothing at all.

Time and eternity are His and He can give you all the glorious things of eternity!

Moreover, He can deliver you . . .
  from all your fears;
  from sin the worst of all evils;
  from self the most hurtful of all companions;
  from death the most dreadful of all changes;
  from Satan the most subtle of all enemies;
  from Hell the most horrible of all prisons; and
  from wrath the most horrifying doom of all sinners!

Now, where will you find such a one as Jesus?

Why, then, refuse life, and seek after death and damnation?

All Heaven is enamored with His beauty!

The longer we look on 'created gaieties', the leaner and less lovely they grow; so that, by the time we have viewed them forty, fifty, or sixty years we see nothing but vanity in the creature! But when ten thousand ages are employed in beholding the perfection and beauty of Jesus He still appears more and more lovely even altogether lovely!

Alas! I can say nothing of His true excellencies! They overwhelm my laboring thought, and are too vast for my feeble conception to bring forth!

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Sin is shut out and they are shut in!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"The sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more!" Isaiah 65:19

The glorified weep no more because all causes of grief are gone!
There are no broken friendships, nor blighted prospects in Heaven.
Poverty, famine, peril, persecution and slander are unknown there.
No pain distresses, and no thought of death or bereavement saddens.

They weep no more because they all are perfectly sanctified!
No "evil heart of unbelief" prompts them to depart from the living God.
They are without fault before His throne, and are fully conformed to His image!
Well may they cease to mourn who have ceased to sin!

They weep no more because all fear of change is past!
They know that they are eternally secure!
Sin is shut out and they are shut in!
They dwell within a city which shall never be stormed!
They bask in a sun which shall never set!
They drink of a river which shall never run dry!
They pluck fruit from a tree which shall never wither!

Countless cycles may revolve but eternity shall not be exhausted; and while eternity endures, their immortality and blessedness shall co-exist with it. They are forever with the Lord!

They weep no more because every desire is fulfilled!
They cannot wish for anything which they don't already have in full possession.
Eye and ear,
heart and hand,
mind and imagination,
desire and affection,
all the faculties
are completely satisfied!

As imperfect as our present ideas are of the things which God has prepared for those who love Him yet we know enough, by the revelation of the Spirit, that the glorified saints are supremely blessed.
The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fullness of delight, is in them.
They bathe forever in the bottomless, shoreless sea of infinite blessedness!

That same joyful rest remains for us! It may not be far distant. Before long, the weeping willow shall be exchanged for the palm-branch of victory! Sorrow's dewdrops will be transformed into the pearls of everlasting bliss!

"The sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more!"
 
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain!" Revelation 21:4

"Therefore comfort one another with these words."

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Christ's sympathy!

(Octavius Winslow, "The Tears of Christ")

"Jesus wept!"
John 11:35

The Creator of all worlds, the Author of all beings, the Upholder of the universe raining tears of human woe and sympathy upon a grave!

Oh, there lives not a being in the universe who can enter into our bereavements with the sympathy, the support, and the soothing of Christ!

They were tears of sympathy. His heart was touched, deeply touched, with sympathy for the sorrow of others. He wept because the mourning sisters wept. He mingled His tears with theirs.

This is true sympathy, "weeping with those who weep," making their sorrow our own. How really our Lord does this with His people. So completely is He our Surety that He takes our sins and infirmities, our trials and sorrows upon Himself, as if they were all and entirely His own. Our sins were so completely laid upon Him that not one remains charged to the account of those who believe in Jesus.

And our present griefs are so entirely absorbed in Him, that,
  softened by His love,
  soothed by His sympathy,
  supported by His grace
the trial is welcome,
the affliction is sweet, and
the rod of a Father's chastening, buds and blossoms into delectable fruit.

Bereaved mourner, the sympathy of Christ is yours! The same Savior who wept at the grave of Bethany, now shares your grief. Do not imagine that your sorrow is isolated, or that your tears are forbidden or unseen. You have a merciful and faithful High Priest who is touched with your present calamity.

There exists no sympathy . . . 
  so real,
  so intelligent,
  so deep,
  so tender,
  so sanctifying
as Christ's sympathy.

And if your heavenly Father has seen it wise and good to remove from you the spring of human pity it is but that He may draw you closer beneath the wing of Jesus' compassion, presence and love.

O child of sorrow, will not this suffice, that you possess Christ's sympathy as immeasurable and exhaustless as the ocean as exquisite and changeless as His being! Yield your heart to His rich compassion!

Will Jesus be regardless of what I feel, and the sorrows under which I groan? Oh no! The sigh that bursts in secret from my heart is not secret to Him; the tear that is my food day and night and drops unperceived and unknown is known and remembered by Him!

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book."
Psalm 56:8

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God takes a safe course with His children!

(Richard Sibbes, 1577-1635)

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

Whatever is truly good for God's children they shall have it, for all is theirs to further them to Heaven. Therefore . . .
  if poverty is good for them they shall have it;
  if disgrace is good for them they shall have it;
  if crosses are good for them they shall have them;
  if misery is good for them they shall have it;
for God makes all things work together for the good of His redeemed people.

God takes a safe course with His children
that they may not be condemned with the world.
He permits the world to condemn them that they may not love the world.
The world hates them that they may not love the world.
That they may be crucified to it the world is to be crucified to them.
Because He will not allow them to perish with the world He sends them afflictions in and by the world. Therefore they meet with such crosses and abuses and wrongs in the world.

God afflicts us outwardly that we may be more humble inwardly.
He humbles us and makes us poor that we may be more poor in spirit.
When God designs to humble us we should labor through grace to abase ourselves and mortify pride.

God's providence is often mysterious yet He is just and righteous in all that He does. Therefore when any difficult thing befalls us for which we can see no reason, yet we must reverence the Lord and adore His counsels and submit to Him who is infinitely more good and wise than we.

Glory follows afflictions as the spring follows the winter. For the winter prepares the earth for the spring so do sanctified afflictions prepare the soul for glory.

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The awful tragedy of Calvary!

("Heavenly Aspirations!" John MacDuff, 1818-1895)

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a slave, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:6-8

Our Lord's earthly condition was one of extreme poverty. "The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had nowhere to lay his head." Not merely did He assume our nature in its lowest form, but He endured opposition, indignities, and sufferings of every kind!
His cheeks were smitten,
His face was spat upon,
His temples were pierced with prickly thorns,
His back was ploughed with scourges,
His hands and feet were fixed with iron spikes to the accursed tree,
His burning thirst was tantalized with vinegar and gall,
His last prayers were turned to ridicule, and
His dying groans were converted into impious mockeries.
Men reviled Him,
Satan buffeted Him; and,
in His last extremity, even God forsook Him!
But He bore it all without a single murmur!

The awful tragedy of Calvary, in all its circumstances of woe, stands in dread prominence above all that the annals of time have ever recorded. Many strange events had taken place before now, but never was there such an event as this! "The sun stopped shining!" Luke 23:45

In the past, the sun shone upon heart-rending spectacles in abundance but he veiled his face in mourning when the Prince of life expired!
On the disastrous flood,
on the burning cities of the plain,
on the sea-sunk legions of Egypt,
on the armies of Sennacherib prostrate beneath the angel's blast
  he looked down, as it were, with bright indifference. But when the atoning Substitute was suspended on the cross, to gaze at such a spectacle unappalled, was impossible!

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Not our home!

(David Harsha, "Immanuel's Land")

"For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in Heaven, which is yet to come!" Hebrews 13:14

We are strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

This present world is not our home. We are coming up from the wilderness with our faces Zionward; we are traveling to the Celestial City!

Our path is rough, but the Savior sustains us.

Our pilgrimage lies through a wilderness, but faith cheers us with a view of the glorious rest of the redeemed in our Father's house, in mansions of blessedness!

Let this consideration animate us amid the conflicts of life. In a little while we shall obtain a joyous entrance into the glorious rest above. The storms of life's ocean will soon carry us into the haven of peace, where there is no trouble.

The language of inspiration is, "Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place, because it is defiled, it is ruined beyond all remedy!"

Your Savior, pilgrim Christian, has prepared for you a nobler rest than this polluted world!

In His Father's house are many spacious mansions, where your happy spirit, after tasting the bitter cup of life's sorrow, shall rest in eternal blessedness!

"For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in Heaven, which is yet to come!" Hebrews 13:14

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If Jehovah is your God!

(James Smith)

"I will be their God and they shall be My people!" Hebrews 8:10

So has Jehovah purposed, in reference to those whom He has eternally loved and chosen. All of our present and future blessedness is wrapped up in this holy and gracious purpose.

If Jehovah is your God then all of His glorious attributes and perfections are engaged and employed for your eternal welfare!
  His mercy will supply all of your needs.
  His power will conquer all of your foes.
  His wisdom will direct all of your ways.
  His faithfulness will answer all of your prayers.
  His justice will maintain your cause.
  His infinite love and mercy will be displayed in all of His gracious dealings with you!

If Jehovah is your God then . . .
  His promises are your heritage;
  His precepts are your rule;
  His doctrines are your present paradise;
  His Son is your Savior and King;
  His Spirit is your Sanctifier and Tutor; and
  He Himself is your everlasting portion! Psalm 119:57

If Jehovah is your God then He will freely confer all really good things on you at present and crown you at last with eternal glory! He will . . .
  receive you graciously,
  guide you continually,
  chasten you occasionally,
  and bless you indeed!

If Jehovah is your God then all things are yours things present and to come; life, death, the world, Heaven all are yours!

If Jehovah is your God then He will consider nothing too great to do for you and nothing too glorious to give to you! All the treasures of time, and all the resources of eternity will, if necessary, be employed for your spiritual and eternal benefit! Y
ou can lack nothing which is really for your good.

To have Jehovah for your God, is the highest blessedness and honor in the universe!

How blessed is the man who has Jehovah as his God!

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An easy hell

(Thomas Watson, "The Art of Divine Contentment")

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need." Philippians 4:11-12

Whatever affliction or trouble a child of God meets with it is all the hell he shall ever have! Whatever eclipse may be upon his name or estate it is but a little cloud which will soon be blown over and then his hell is past!

Death begins a wicked man's hell.
Death ends a godly man's hell.

Think with yourself, "What is my affliction? It is but a temporary hell. Indeed, if all my hell is here on earth it is but an easy hell. What is the cup of affliction compared to the cup of damnation!"

Lazarus
could not get a crumb; he was so diseased that the dogs took pity on him and as if they had been his physicians, licked his sores. But this was an easy hell the angels quickly fetched him out of it!

If all our hell is in this life and in the midst of this hell, we have the love of God then it is no more hell, but paradise! If all our hell is here on earth, we may see to the end of it; it is but skin-deep, it cannot touch the soul. It is a short-lived hell. After a dreary night of affliction, comes the bright morning of glory!

Since our lives are short our trials cannot be long!

As our riches take wings and fly away so do our sufferings!

Let us learn then, to be content, whatever our circumstances.

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It takes a long and painful process to purge it out!

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

"I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10

The love of Jesus will not preserve His people from trials but rather, assures them of trials! All whom He loves He chastens! He has a furnace to purge our dross, and refine our souls. His Word and the Spirit reveal to us our defilement and impurity and His grace and providence co-operate to remove them. "I am the Lord God who sanctifies you."

It is divine love which . . .
  prepares the furnace,
  kindles the flame,
  brings the Christian into it,
  superintends the whole process, and
  brings him out as gold, seven times purified!

"From all your filthiness and from all your idols, I will cleanse you!" He cleanses them in the laver of the Word by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit. But He also cleanses them by a variety of afflictive dispensations, through which He causes them to pass.

Our sin calls for trials His love sends them!


Our nature repines at trials but grace submits to them!

Our corruption is enraged at trials but the Spirit sanctifies them to our good, and our Savior's glory.

He makes His people choice ones in the "furnace of affliction!" He says, "I will put you into the fire and will purge away your dross."

Believer, never repine at your trials, nor be over-anxious for their removal. They are appointed by Jesus as your Purifier and are choice blessings in disguise!

Seek their sanctification,
wrestle with God that you may see His love in every stroke, and
look to Jesus that you may enjoy His presence when passing through the flame!

Nothing can hurt you while Jesus is near you; and He is never nearer to you than when you are in the furnace! For He sits right there as the Refiner . . .
  watching the process,
  regulating the heat, and
  waiting to effect a gracious deliverance when the ends of His love are answered.

He is only preparing you for fresh manifestations of His glory and fitting you for larger communications of His love.

In the furnace, you will lose nothing that is worth keeping but you will obtain what is truly valuable!

The flesh and the soul need constant cleansings for corruption is so deeply rooted in our nature, that it takes a long and painful process to purge it out! But in reference to the furnace, your Lord says, "The Lord did this to purge Israel's wickedness, to take away all her sin!"

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Are we Christians? Or are we worldlings?

(Horatius Bonar, "Self-Denial Christianity")

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!" Amos 6:1

What do we say to . . .
  our self-indulgence,
  our spiritual sloth,
  our love of ease,
  our avoidance of hardship,
  our luxury,
  our pampering of the body,
  our costly feasts,
  our silken couches,
  our brilliant furniture,
  our gay attire,
  our jeweled fingers,
  our idle mirth,
  our voluptuous music,
  our jovial tables, loaded with every variety of rich viands?

Are we Christians? Or are we worldlings?

Where is the self-denial of the New Testament days?

Where is the separation from a self-pleasing luxurious world?
 

Where is the cross, the true badge of discipleship, to be seen except in useless religious ornaments for the body, or worse than useless decorations for the sanctuary?

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!"
Is not this the description of multitudes who name the name of Christ? They may not be "living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." But even where these are absent, there is 'high living' luxury of the table or the wardrobe in conformity to 'this present evil world.'

"At ease in Zion!" Yes! there is the shrinking . . .
  from hard service;
  from 'spending and being spent;'
  from toil and burden-bearing and conflict;
  from self-sacrifice and noble service;
for the Master's sake.

There is conformity to the world, instead of conformity to Christ!
There is a laying down, instead of a taking up of the cross.
Or there is a lining of the cross with velvet, lest it should gall our shoulders as we carry it!
Or there is an adorning of the cross, that it may suite the taste and the manners of our refined and intellectual age.

Anything but the bare, rugged and simple cross!


We think that we can make the strait gate wider, and the narrow way broader, so as to be able to walk more comfortably to the heavenly kingdom. We try to prove that 'modern enlightenment' has so refined 'the world and its pleasures', that we may safely drink the poisoned cup, and give ourselves up to the inebriation of the Siren song.

"At ease in Zion!" Even when the walls of our city are besieged, and the citadel is being stormed!

Instead of grasping our weapons, we lie down upon our couches!

Instead of the armor, we put on the silken robe!

We are cowards, when we should be brave!

We are faint-hearted, when we should be bold!

We are lukewarm, when we should be fervent!

We are cold, when we should be full of zeal!

We compromise and shuffle and make excuses, when we should lift up our voice like a trumpet! We pare down truth, or palliate error, or extenuate sin in order to placate the world, or suit the spirit of the age, or 'unify' the Church.

Learn self-denying Christianity. Not the form or name, but the living thing. Let us renounce the lazy, luxurious, self-pleasing, fashionable religion of the present day!

A self-indulgent religion has nothing in common with the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; or with that cross of ours which He has commanded us to take up and carry after Him renouncing ease and denying self.

Our time,
our abilities,
our money,
our strength
are all to be laid upon the altar.

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!"
Amos 6:1

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Such poor, depraved, insignificant creatures!

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

"I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love! With unfailing love, I have drawn you to Myself!" Jeremiah 31:3

The love of Christ is unending; it is not a passion of His humanity but a perfection of His divinity. He has always existed and He has always loved His people. His people . . .
  always had a place in His thoughts,
  have ever been before His eye, and
  have always been loved by Him!

He has loved them ever since He knew them and He knew them from eternity! His love ran through the boundless ages of eternity past and fixed upon poor sinners who were to appear during the existence of time; and having fixed upon them His love maintains its hold!

When He created the earth, spread abroad the Heavens, and gave His decree to the sea His love was fixed upon His people! Their welfare, in connection with His Father's glory was the object which He sought in all things.

Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! That Jesus should have fixed His love upon such poor, depraved, insignificant creatures and that from eternity past!

When we meditate upon eternity past we can say in reference to the most distant periods, "My Savior loved me then! He loved me from all eternity!" Glorious truth! He always has loved me and He always will love me! He loved me . . .
  before angels existed,
  before devils appeared,
  before sin was committed!

He loved me when the Godhead dwelt all alone! O the depths! Surprising mystery! It seems almost too good to be true! But God has said it, and my soul shall rejoice in it and praise Him for it!

His love to me is as eternal as His nature without beginning of days, or end of years. From His love, as from a mighty ocean, flows . . .
  all the acts of His power,
  all the displays of His benevolence,
  all the manifestations of His grace, and
  all the provisions of His gospel.

It is sweet to silently meditate upon the thought, of such a vile and insignificant creature as I am that Jehovah-Jesus not only thought of me but eternally loved me with all the strength of His Deity! He so loved me, as to be willing, when it became necessary to take my nature, and to save me by His humiliation, sufferings, and death!

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All is transparent and harmonious to His eye!

(Octavius Winslow, "My Times in God's Hand!")

We live in a world of mysteries! They . . .
  meet our eye,
  awaken our inquiry, and
  baffle our investigation at every step.

Nature is a vast arcade of mysteries.
Science is a mystery.
Truth is a mystery.
Religion is a mystery.
Our existence is a mystery.
The future of our being is a mystery.

And God, who alone can explain all mysteries, is the greatest mystery of all! How little do we understand of the inexplicable wonders of a wonder working God, "whose thoughts are a great deep," and "whose ways are past finding out."

But to God, nothing is mysterious.
In His purpose, nothing is unfixed.
In His forethought, nothing is unknown.
In His providence, nothing is contingent.

His glance pierces the future as vividly as it beholds the past. "He knows the end from the beginning."

All His doings are parts of a divine, eternal, and harmonious plan!

He may make ''darkness His secret place; His pavilion round about Him dark waters;" and to human vision, His dispensations may appear gloomy, discrepant, and confused. Yet He is "working all things after the counsel of His own will," and all is transparent and harmonious to His eye!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

He beholds the idol in its natural deformity!

(Thomas Reade)

The converted sinner daily feeds upon Christ by faith and daily derives strength from this gracious source of blessedness.

He feels his own weakness and experiences the power of Jesus. He loathes himself and truly loves his Savior, in whose righteousness he appears all lovely in the eyes of his heavenly Father.

As a pilgrim, he journeys onwards under the guidance of that Holy Spirit who dwells in him as in a temple, and who has promised to keep him by His mighty power through faith unto salvation.

The world fascinates no longer the mask falls from its face, and he beholds the idol in its natural deformity! He sees . . .
  the emptiness of human applause;
  the madness of ambition;
  the deceitfulness of riches;
  the folly of extravagance.

Everything beneath the sun assumes its true character, while he views it through the medium of God's holy Word.

The converted sinner lives by faith; he longs for Heaven; he desires to be daily conformed to Jesus, and to glorify Him more, whether it be by life or death.

To him, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Such is the character of the converted sinner.

Oh, how precious, how divine, how rare a character!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

God's love-letter!

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

The Scripture is God's love-letter to men.

Here the lamb may wade and here the elephant may swim!

The blessed Scriptures are of infinite worth and value!
Here you may find . . .
  a remedy for every disease,
  balm for every wound,
  a plaster for every sore,
  milk for babes,
  meat for strong men,
  comfort for the afflicted,
  support for the tempted,
  solace for the distressed,
  ease for the wearied,
  a staff to support the feeble,
  a sword to defend the weak.

The holy Scriptures are . . .
  the map of God's mercy and man's misery,
  the touchstone of truth,
  the shop of remedies against all maladies,
  the hammer of vices,
  the treasury of virtues,
  the exposer of all sensual and worldly vanities,
  the balance of equity,
  the most perfect rule of all justice and honesty.

Ah, friends, no book befits your hands like the Bible!

The Bible is the best preacher.
This book, this preacher will preach to you . . .
  in your shops,
  in your chambers,
  in your closets,
  yes, in your own bosoms!
This book will preach to you at home and abroad;
it will preach to you in all companies; and it will
preach to you in all conditions.

By this book you shall be saved or
  by this book you shall be damned!
By this book you must live.
By this book you must die.
By this book you shall be judged in the great day!

Oh, therefore . . .
  love this book above all other books,
  prize this book above all other books,
  read this book before all other books,
  study this book more than all other books!
For he who reads much and understands nothing,
is like him who hunts much and catches nothing!

"Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The work of the Holy Spirit

(James Smith, "Rills from the Rock of Ages", 1860)

I love to meditate on the work of the Holy Spirit, from whom we receive such great and invaluable blessings, and to whom we are so much indebted. To Him, I feel that I am indebted for every good thought, and for every good work. How wonderful His patience that He should bear with me so long; and how wonderful His loving-kindness that He should confer on me so much! O that I was more deeply sensible of my obligations!
 

It was the Holy Spirit who quickened me when I was dead in trespasses and sins . . .
  imparting a new life,
  infusing new thoughts, and
  producing new desires in my soul.

Having quickened me, He conquered me, subduing . . .
  the enmity of my heart,
  the obstinacy of my will,
  the worldliness of my affections,
and bringing every thought into subjection to the obedience of Christ.

Having quickened and conquered me, He comforted me, assuring me of a saving interest in . . .
  the love of God,
  the perfect work of Jesus,
  the precious promises of the Word, and
  the eternal rest which remains for the people of God.

Having quickened, conquered, and comforted me, He sanctified me by . . .
  separating me from the world, and
  setting me apart for my Redeemer's glory and praise.

As my Sanctifier, He became my Guide . . .
 
leading me into the truth,
  conducting me out of the paths of danger,
  and directing me into the everlasting way.

Not only my guide, but He became my Guard . . .
  preserving me from danger,
  protecting me from foes, and
  becoming a wall of fire round about me.

Whenever I wander He reproves me; when I willfully go astray He corrects me, and makes me smart for my folly.

The work He began so long ago He carries on; nor will He withdraw His hand from it, until it is perfected, and I am fully fitted for glory.

Reader, what do you experimentally know of the work of the Holy Spirit?
Has He quickened you?
Has He conquered you?
Does He comfort you?
Are you sanctified by His presence, power, and operation in your heart?
Does He . . .
  guide you by His counsel,
  guard you by His power, and
  correct you for your follies?

The work of the Spirit within us is as necessary as the work of Jesus for us! For if the atonement of Christ entitles us to glory it is the work of the Holy Spirit that prepares us to possess and enjoy it. We must be washed, justified, and sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God or we cannot be saved!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

He does as He pleases!

(Arthur Pink, "
The Sovereignty of God")

"For the Lord Almighty has purposed and who can thwart Him?
 His hand is stretched out and who can turn it back?" Isaiah 14:27

To say that God is sovereign, is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth so that none can . . .
  defeat His counsels,
  thwart His purpose,
  or resist His will.

Whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He has decreed in eternity.

The sovereignty of the God of Scripture, is . . .
  absolute,
  irresistible
  and infinite!

We insist that God does . . .
  as He pleases,
  only as He pleases,
  always as He pleases!

"But our God is in the heavens He has done whatever He has pleased!" Psalm 115:3

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

"All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of Heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: What have you done?" Daniel 4:35

   ~  ~  ~  ~

He is the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, gracious, just, holy, and unchangeable I AM!

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ!")

"Having loved His own who were in the world He loved them unto the end!" John 13:1

The Lord Jesus Christ is God possessed of all divine attributes, and entitled to all divine honors. He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit God over all, and blessed for evermore! He is naturally, essentially, perfectly, and eternally possessed of everything peculiar to Deity.

He owes His existence to none. He says, "I am Jehovah, and beside Me there is no Savior!" He is God and there is no other. There is no other name given under Heaven, or among men, whereby we can be saved. He is the Rock of Ages. He is the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, gracious, just, holy, and unchangeable I AM!

Angels worship Him,
devils obey Him,
saints love Him, and
sinners will bow to Him!

He is the author of . . .
  Creation,
  Providence,
  Redemption,
  and Glorification!

He . . .
  produced all things by His power,
  formed them by His wisdom,
  supplies them by His bounty,
  rules them by His instruments, and
  employs them according to His sovereign will.

He is above all in the glory of His nature.
He possesses all by essential right.
He will judge all according to His righteousness.

All things are dependent upon Him, and all rational beings are accountable to Him.

Nothing can escape His eye; none can escape out of His hand!

He is exalted above all, and remains King forever!

He is . . .
  the King of kings,
  the Lord of lords, and
  the only supreme Law-giver of the universe!

He is naturally, essentially, and eternally God:
  one with the Father,
  equal to the Father,
  and infinite as the Father.

Thus, the Scriptures reveal Him; as such, saints acknowledge Him, and join the angelic host in worshiping, praising, and adoring Him! 

As such, He loves all His people yes, He is love to them.

As such, they love Him and trust their eternal interests into His hands!

No person can have right views of the love of Christ who has not right views of the deity of Christ. His divinity gives lustre and glory to His love. If He were not God His love would be only a passion like ours, and would fluctuate and change. But being divine His love is an infinite perfection, and remains immutably the same!

He loves His redeemed people with all the majesty of God and with all the tenderness of man! 

His love has the strength of God and the gentleness of sinless man!

He is all-loving and altogether lovely!

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, this is my Friend!" Song of Solomon 5:16

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Who could have thought!

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

"But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people!" Psalm 22:6

How wondrously did Jesus display His love, when He . . .
  assumed our nature,
  took upon Him the form of a slave, and
  was found in appearance as a man!

What love
to stoop so low as to . . .
  be conceived in a virgin's womb,
  be brought forth in pain, and
  experience all the weakness and ignorance of infancy!

Yes, He was brought forth in poverty a stable for His birth-place, and a feeding-trough for His bed! He passed by the palaces of the noble, and the mansions of the great yes, even the comfortable cottages of the poor and was born in circumstances of misery and degradation!

Who could have thought, if they had entered that stable and seen that infant nursing on His mother's bosom that that infant was the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace! That all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in that little babe! That it was love incomparable and inconceivable love, which brought Deity and humanity together in such a wonderful and indescribable union! This is the mystery of Godliness the mystery of love! He left . . .
  the bright abodes of blessedness and glory,
  the songs of Cherubim and Seraphim,
  the bosom of His Father, and
  the infinite delights which He had eternally enjoyed
to be a worm and not a man; to be scorned and despised by all!

What privations He suffered, even from the very beginning of His career on earth! What pain He endured from His birth unto His death! He went sorrowing, sighing, and groaning from the stable, to gloomy Calvary; where He . . .
  finished His work,
  proved His love,
  conquered His foes,
  delighted His Father, and
  merited everlasting honors and glories for His people!

Jesus was once a helpless infant, a feeble child; and yet, at the same moment He was the Almighty, the self-sufficient God!

O mystery of mercy!

Here is love beyond measure and degree!

O my soul, admire and adore!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

His heart is a fountain of mercy, and its streams are perpetually flowing!

("Heavenly Aspirations!" John MacDuff, 1818-1895)

A funeral procession was coming out as He approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow's only son. When the Lord saw her, His heart overflowed with compassion. 'Do not weep!' He said." Luke 7:12-13

Oh, how was His tender heart touched by the scene He witnessed on this occasion! The sight excited the liveliest emotions in His sinless bosom; and with a look beaming with pity, and in the most tender tones, He said to her, "Do not weep!"

In the Person of our adorable Redeemer, we behold mercy incarnate. This was the garb in which the whole of His other virtues were arrayed; the soft luster with which they were all surrounded and adorned.

Such was the character of Jesus in the days of His flesh, and such is it still. He with whom we have to do, whose favor we implore, and whose blessings we supplicate far from being a harsh, unfeeling Master is a loving Savior and compassionate Friend. His heart is a fountain of mercy, and its streams are perpetually flowing!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

This is the finger of God!

(J.C. Ryle, "This is the Finger of God!" Written during the Great Cattle Plague of England, 1865-1867.)

Look at the words which form the title of this article, and consider them well. They were spoken by heathen men more than three thousand years ago. They fell from the lips of Egyptian magicians when God sent one of the famous plagues on the land of Egypt. "Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh: This is the finger of God!" Exodus 8:19. It would be well if we all were as wise as these Egyptians!

From WHENCE does the cattle plague come?

I answer, unhesitatingly, that it comes from God! He who orders all things in Heaven and earth He by whose wise providence everything is directed, and without whom nothing can happen He it is who has sent this scourge upon us! It is the finger of God!

I shall not spend time in proving this point. I refer anyone who asks for proof, to the whole tenor of God's Word. I ask him to mark how God is always spoken of as the governor and manager of all things, from the very least to the greatest.

Who sent the flood on the world in the days of Noah (Genesis 6:17)? It was God!

Who sent the famine in the days of Joseph (Genesis 41:25)? It was God!

Who sent the plague on the livestock of Egypt in the reign of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:3)? It was God!

Who sent disease on the Philistines, when the ark was among them (1 Samuel 5:7; 6:3-7)? It was God!

Who sent the pestilence in the days of David (2 Samuel 24:15)? It was God!

Who sent the famine in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 8:1)? It was God!

Who sent the stormy wind and tempest in the days of Jonah (Jonah 1:4)? It was God!

I cannot understand how anyone can be called a believer of the Bible, who denies God's providence over His world. For my own part, I believe thoroughly that God has not changed. I believe that He is governing all things as much now, as He was in the Old Testament days. I believe that wars, famines, pestilences, and cattle plagues are all His instruments for carrying on the government of this world. And therefore when I see a scourge like the cattle plague, I have no doubt as to the hand that sends it. 'Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord has not done it?' (Amos 3:6). It is the finger of God!

Can anyone give a better account of the cattle plague? I believe that the only cause that we must come to as last is: This is the finger of God!

Does anyone regard my assertion as absurd and unreasonable? I have no doubt that many do so. Many, I suspect, think that God never interferes with the affairs of this world, and that pestilences and cattle plagues are only the result of certain natural laws which are always producing certain effects. I pity the man who thinks so.

Is he an atheist? Does he believe that this wonderfully designed world came together by chance, and had no creator? If so, he is a very credulous person.

But if he does believe that God made the world, where, I ask, is the absurdity of believing that God governs the world? If he allows that God framed the universe, then why not allow that God manages it?

Away with this modern skepticism! It is offensive and revolting to common sense. They are not to be heard, who would shut out the Creator from His own creation. He who made the world at the beginning by the finger of creating wisdom will never cease to govern the world by the finger of His providence. This cattle plague is the finger of God!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The grand secret of daily comfort in Christianity!

(J.C. Ryle, "Do You Have a Priest?")

"We have a great High Priest who has entered Heaven, Jesus the Son of God." Hebrews 4:14

Christ, the great High Priest in Heaven, is ever doing the work of a Friend, a Protector, a Counselor, and an Advocate, on behalf of His redeemed people. He is ever watching over the interests of His people, and providing a continual supply of all that they need. To . . .
   sympathize with them in all their troubles,
   guide them in their perplexities,
   strengthen them for their duties,
   preserve them in their temptations
all this is part of Christ's present priestly office.

Note His tenderness and sympathy so that He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Note His forbearance and patience so that He can bear with our weaknesses and pity our mistakes. Note His wisdom, His faithfulness, His readiness to aid who can describe or number up these things?

Christ, as our great High Priest, is ever interceding for us in Heaven. It is written, "He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him, because He ever lives to make intercession for them!" (Hebrews 7:25.) It is asked by Paul, "Who then is the one who condemns? No one! Christ Jesus who died more than that, who was raised to life is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us!" (Romans 8:34.) Jesus is carrying believers safely from grace to glory, by His almighty intercession!

Reader, let us thank God daily that Christ is doing the work of a Priest for us in Heaven. Let us be thankful for the "precious blood" of Christ but let us not be less thankful for His precious intercession.

Christ's continual Priesthood is the grand secret of a saint's perseverance to the end. Left to ourselves, there would be little likelihood of our getting safely home to Heaven. We might begin well and end ill.
So weak are our hearts,
so busy is the devil,
so many and ensnaring are the temptations of the world
  that nothing could prevent our making shipwreck!

But, thanks be to God, the Priesthood of Christ secures our safety. He who never slumbers and never sleeps is continually watching over our interests, and providing for our needs. While Satan pours water on the fire of grace, and strives to quench it Christ pours on oil, and makes it burn more brightly.

Christ's continual Priesthood is the grand secret of daily comfort in Christianity. Oh, what an unspeakable comfort it is to remember that we have a great High Priest in Heaven, who never forgets us night or day, and is continually interceding for us, and providing for our safety! Christian, that great High Priest who died for you and intercedes for you will never forget His people, or allow one lamb of His flock to perish! The merciful and faithful High Priest who began a work for you on the cross, will bring that work to a triumphant conclusion.

Reader, think of Jesus Christ as a loving Friend, to whom you may go morning, noon, and night, and  receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need. Of all the offices that Christ exercises on behalf of His people, none will repay thought and study so richly, as that of His present priesthood.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Nature!

(Octavius Winslow, "Experimental Religion")

The spiritual mind, fond of soaring through nature in quest of new proofs of God's existence and fresh emblems of His wisdom, power and goodness exults in the thought that it is his Father's domain which he treads! He feels that God, his God, is there.

And the sweet consciousness of His all-pervading presence, and the impress of His great perfections which everywhere meets his eye, overwhelm his renewed soul with wonder, love, and praise.

O the delight of looking abroad upon nature, under a sense of pardoning filial love in the soul, when enabled to exclaim, "This God is my God!"

"The heavens tell of the glory of God.
 The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship.
 Day after day they continue to speak;
 night after night they make Him known.
 They speak without a sound or a word;
 their voice is silent in the skies;
 yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
 and their words to all the world." Psalm 19:1-4

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The last day of the year!

("Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" J.R. Miller, December 31, 1890)

"Jesus said unto him: Follow Me!" John 21:19

We have come now to the last day of the year! For a whole year in these daily readings, we have been walking with Christ. Is there any better word with which to close this book and close the year, than this last invitation of Jesus, "Follow Me!" This is the true outcome of all learning of Christ. Mere knowledge, though it be of spiritual things, avails nothing except as it leads us to follow Christ.

We have seen Jesus in all the different phases of His life. We have heard many of His words. Now it remains only for us to follow Him. The outcome of seeing and knowing Jesus should be holy living and doing. The last day of the year suggests also the same duty.

Who is satisfied with his life as it appears in retrospect? The past, however blotted, must go as it is; we cannot change it, and we need not waste time in regretting. But the new year is before us, and if we would make that better than the stained past, it must be by following Christ more closely.

To follow Christ is to go where He leads without questioning or murmuring. It may be to a life of trial, suffering, or sacrifice but it does not matter; we have nothing whatever to do with the kind of life to which our Lord calls us. Our only simple duty is to obey and follow. We know that Jesus will lead us only in right paths, and that the way He takes slopes upward and ends at the feet of God!

The new year on which we are about to enter is unopened, and we know not what shall befall us; but if we follow Christ we need have no fear. So let us leave the old year with gratitude to God for its mercies, and with penitence for its failures and sins; and let us enter the new year with earnest resolve in Christ's name to make it the holiest and most beautiful year we have ever lived.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

This is the last evening of the year!

(J.R. Miller, December 31, 1907)

This is the last evening of the year! I am trying to sum up my year's life. The days have come to me like clean, white pages and I have tried to put upon each something beautiful to keep for me when the eternal books shall be opened.

It has been a year of opportunities. I am conscious of not having embraced them all. I have neglected duties of love, not always doing the things I should have done. I have not grown in heart-culture and spiritual life as I ought to have done. These neglects and all my sins, I humbly confess.

Yet I thank God for the past year. I cannot now change anything in it. But I want to learn lessons of experience from my failures and mistakes, and carry them forward into the new year.

I would forget the good things I have done, and try to do better things next year. No year's life, however beautiful, is beautiful enough to simply repeat it must be improved upon. So I leave my year, with all its blots and blessings, with God, who will forget nothing worthy, and will look graciously upon my mistakes.

"One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 3:13-14

   ~  ~  ~  ~

A New Year's Resolution!

(Matthew Henry)

"My times are in Your hand!" Psalm 31:15

Firmly believing that my times are in God's hand, I here submit myself and all my affairs for the ensuing year, to the wise and gracious disposal of God's divine providence. Whether God appoints for me . . . .
  health or sickness,
  peace or trouble,
  comforts or crosses,
  life or death
  may His holy will be done!

All my time, strength, and service, I devote to the honor of the Lord Jesus and even my common actions. It is my earnest expectation, hope, and desire, my constant aim and endeavor that Jesus Christ may be magnified in me.

In everything I have to do my entire dependence is upon Jesus Christ for strength. And whatever I do in word or deed, I desire to do all in His name, to make Him my Alpha and Omega. I have all from Him and I would use all for Him.

If this should prove a year of affliction, a sorrowful year to me I will fetch all my supports and comforts from the Lord Jesus and stay myself upon Him, His everlasting consolations, and the good hope I have in Him through grace.

And if it should be my dying year then my times are in the hand of the Lord Jesus. And with a humble reliance upon His mediation, I would venture into the eternal world looking for the blessed hope. Dying as well as living Jesus Christ will, I trust, be gain and advantage to me.

Oh, that the grace of God may be sufficient for me, to keep me always in a humble sense of my own unworthiness, weakness, folly, and infirmity together with a humble dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ for daily grace and strength.