Grace Gems for JANUARY, 2015

Grace Gems for JANUARY, 2015

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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.

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A solemn sham and an impudent mockery!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Rend your heart — and not your garments!" Joel 2:13

Garment-rending and other external signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested, and are frequently hypocritical. True repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Unsaved men will attend to the most multiplied and minute religious ceremonies and regulations — for such things are pleasing to their flesh. But true godliness is too humbling, too heart-searching, too spiritual for the tastes of carnal men! They prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly.

External religious rituals are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up. But they are ultimately delusive, for at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than religious ceremonies and rituals to lean upon.

Apart from vital godliness — all religion is utterly vain! When offered without a sincere heart, every form of religious worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of God!

Heart-rending is divinely wrought — and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form — but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of — but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating and sin-purging! But also, it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled souls are unable to receive! This heart-rending  distinctly belongs to the elect of God — and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts — but they are naturally as hard as marble! How then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary! A dying Savior's voice rent the rocks once — and it is just as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us effectually hear the death-cries of Jesus — and our hearts shall be rent!

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Both apostles are right!

(William Bacon Stevens, "Waiting and Watching!")

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" James 2:14

The religion of Jesus Christ is made up of two parts — faith and works.
Faith is the root of works.
Works are the fruit of faith.

A belief, however true and pure, if it is accepted only by the intellect, and is not carried out into practice — translating the faith held by the mind, into active duties — is a barren faith, which will not be accepted by God, and which will not secure salvation.

On the other hand, works, however good, which do not spring out of faith in the Lord Jesus, but which are done merely from human and worldly motives — are of no avail before God, because "whatever is not of faith, is sin."

Thrice has James told us, "Faith without works is dead!"
And just as distinctly has Paul declared, "By the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified in His sight."

Both apostles are right!

Works without faith — have no living root.
Faith without works — has no authenticating fruit.

They are the two parts of the one tree, namely, the root and the fruit. They are the two halves of the one whole — together they make up the true Christian.

"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by works, is dead!" James 2:17

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A new impulse — a nobler bent!

(Hannah More, "Practical Piety")

In salvation, the Holy Spirit operates on the human character to produce a new heart and a new life. By this operation the affections and faculties of the man receive a new impulse . . .
   his dark understanding is illuminated,
   his rebellious will is subdued,
   his irregular desires are rectified,
   his warped judgment is informed,
   his vile imagination is chastised,
   his sinful inclinations are sanctified, and
   his hopes and fears are directed to their true and adequate end. Heaven becomes the object of his hopes — and eternal separation from God the object of his fears.

His love of the world, is transformed into the love of God.

The lower faculties are pressed into the new service.

The senses have a higher direction.

The whole internal frame and constitution receive a nobler bent . . .
  the intents and purposes of the mind acquire a sublimer aim;
  his aspirations gain a loftier flight;
  his vacillating desires find a fixed object;
  his vagrant purposes attain a settled home;
  his disappointed heart has a certain refuge.

That heart, no longer the worshiper of the world, now struggles to overcome it.

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The unchangeable method of God!

(Matthew Mead, "The Almost Christian" 1661)

"I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:32. That is
such as see themselves as sinners, and thereby in a lost condition.

God will have the soul truly sensible of the bitterness of sin — before it shall taste the sweetness of mercy. The plough of conviction must go deep, and make deep furrows in the heart, before God will sow the precious seed of grace there — so that it may have depth of earth to grow in.

This is the unchangeable method of God in bestowing grace — to begin with conviction of sin.
  First to show man his sin — then his Savior;
  first his danger — then his Redeemer;
  first his wound — then his cure;
  first his own vileness — then Christ's righteousness.

The sinner must see the worthlessness and vileness of his own righteousness — before he can be saved by Christ's righteousness. The Israelites are first stung with the fiery serpents — and then the brazen serpent is set up to heal them.

We must see the leprosy of our righteousness, and be brought to cry out, "Unclean, unclean!" We must mourn for Him whom we have pierced — and then He sets open for us "a fountain to cleanse us from all sin and impurity." Zechariah 12:10, 13:1

Be convinced of the evil of sin — the filthy and heinous nature of it. Sin is the greatest evil in the world —
  it wrongs God;
  it wounds Christ;
  it grieves the Holy Spirit;
  it damns a precious soul!
All other evils cannot be compared with this. Though to DO sin is the worst work — yet to SEE sin is the best sight!

Sin discovered in its vileness — makes Christ to be desired in His fullness!

Alas! it is Christ's infinite righteousness which must atone for our sins — for it is an infinite God whom we have sinned against!

If ever your sin is pardoned — it is Christ's infinite mercy which must pardon it!

If ever you are reconciled to God — it is Christ's infinite merit which must do it!

If ever your heart is changed — it is Christ's infinite power which must effect it!

If ever your soul escapes Hell, and is saved at last — it is Christ's infinite grace which must save it!

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." Luke 19:10

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We would all be incarnate devils!

(Thomas Brooks)

"The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time!" Genesis 6:5

There is the seed of all sins, of the vilest and worst of sins — in the best of men!

Did God leave us to act according to our sinful natures — we would all be incarnate devils, and this world would be an absolute Hell!

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

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Reading God's Word

"There is nothing more important in the Christian life than the way in which we approach the Bible, and the way in which we read it." (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

"God has given the Word to us as a revelation . . .
  of Himself,
of His character,
  of His government,
  of His requirements.
Our motive in reading it, then, should be to become better acquainted with Him, with His perfections, with His will for us. Our end in perusing His Word should be learn how to please and glorify Him; and that, by our characters being formed under its holy influence, and our conduct regulated in all its details by the rules He has there laid down." (Arthur Pink)

"Our knowledge of God's Word, and delight in it, must be directed to practice!" (Thomas Manton)

"The Scripture is given to establish our faith, and comfort our hearts, and sanctify our lives — but not to amuse us and to gratify our curiosity." (William Jay)

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Martin Luther's favorite preacher!

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:25-26

Martin Luther, referring to the sin of worrying, says: "I have one preacher that I love better than any other on earth; it is my little tame robin, who preaches to me daily. I put some crumbs upon my window sill, especially at night. He hops onto the window sill when he wants his supply, and takes as much as he desires to satisfy his need. From thence he always hops to a little tree close by, lifts up his voice to God and sings his carol of praise and gratitude, then tucks his little head under his wing, goes fast to sleep, and leaves tomorrow to care for itself. He is the best preacher that I have on earth!"

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Though we do not know where the road winds — we know where it ends!

(Charles Spurgeon)

Life is ever changing. Who can tell what may come next? Today it is fair — the next day there may be the thundering storm. Today I may need nothing — tomorrow I may be like Jacob, with nothing but a stone for my pillow and the heavens for my curtains.

But what a happy thought it is: though we do not know where the road winds — we know where it ends!

We may have to go through trial and affliction; the pilgrimage may be a tiresome one — but it is safe. We cannot trace the river upon which we are sailing — but we know it ends in floods of bliss! We cannot track the roads — but we know that they all meet in the great metropolis of Heaven! God help us to pursue the true pilgrimage of a pious life!

"He led them forth by the right way — that they might go to a city of habitation!" Psalm 107:7

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Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit!

(Thomas Watson)

There is more malignity in a drop of sin, than in a sea of affliction; for sin is the cause of affliction, and the cause is greater than the effect. The sword of God's justice lies quiet in the scabbard — until sin draws it out!

Affliction is good for us: "It is good for me that I have been afflicted!" Psalm 119:71. When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to Him. God's smiting His people with the rod of affliction, is like the musician's striking upon the violin, which makes it put forth melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by affliction! Like fragrant spices, when they are pounded, they send forth their sweetest smell. Affliction is a bitter root, but it bears sweet fruit!

Affliction causes repentance. "In his distress Manasseh sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers!" 2 Chronicles 33:12

The viper, being stricken, casts up its poison. Just so, God's rod of affliction striking us, we spit away the poison of sin!

Affliction betters our grace. Gold is purest, and juniper sweetest — in the fire.

Affliction prevents damnation! "When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world!" 1 Corinthians 11:32

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Mary might well complain of Martha!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)
"Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42
"The world eats up our time, our energies, and our thoughts — and God has but a little share, little worship, little reverence."
For the most part in our households, Mary might well complain of Martha, for family cares still encumber many and keep them away from Jesus' feet. Very seldom are Christians nowadays too much in the closet, too much with their Bibles, too much at prayer-meetings. Alas, the most of them are all zeal for the world, the shop, or the evening party! "Martha, Martha!" we may well complain to the Master of you — for you leave Him alone, and forsake His teaching — and all for this poor, cumbering world!
Lord, help us to balance our duties, and thus may we serve you after the best manner, through your grace.

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Sword and famine and wild beasts and plague!

"For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem My four dreadful judgments: sword and famine and wild beasts and plague — to kill its men and their animals!" Ezekiel 14:21

(Edward Payson)
National judgments are always the consequence of national sins. It is indispensably necessary to the perfection of God's moral government, that it should extend to nations and communities, as well as to individuals. This, I conceive, is too evident to require proof; for how could God be considered as the moral Governor of the world — if nations and communities were exempt from His government?

(Matthew Henry)
God has a variety of sore judgments with which to punish sinful nations — and He has them all at His command and inflicts which nations He pleases. God often chastises sinful nations by bringing the sword of war upon them — and He gives it its commission and orders what execution it shall do.

(John Calvin)
War is one of God's judgments.

(William Greenhill)
It is God who calls out the sword, and causes it to come: "When I bring the sword upon a land!" Ezekiel 33:2. He is the Lord of hosts, and commissions armies to make invasions where He please. Eminent wickedness brings eminent judgments. Wars do not come upon any nation by accident — but by the righteous providence of God.

(Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
I regard the two World Wars which we have experienced in the 20th century, as God's punishment of the apostasy of the last century. I see no other adequate explanation.

Nothing happens, unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen.

(Thomas Watson)
Sinners may oppose God's ways — but not His wrath.

(James Durham)
Let us stay our faith here — that our Lord is still working in all these confusions. And when matters are turned upside down as to human appearance — our blessed Lord knows well what He is doing, and will make all things most certainly, infallibly, and unalterably to work for His own glory, and for the good of His people.

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The carrion which professors can now feed upon!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)
"It is not a wonder for a pauper, who has not been acquainted with fine foods, to love husks. But it would be strange for a prince who has been acquainted with better diet, to leave the dainties of his father's table for such base food. Just so, I do not wonder at carnal men, that they are delighted with carnal objects — they know no better. But for a child of God, who has tasted how gracious and sweet Christ is, to find savor in coarser fare — this is astonishing!"
Yet were our author now alive, he might weep his eyes out as he saw professing Christians craving for the ball-room and the theater! The carrion which professors can now feed upon, is disgusting to the real Christian. Sinful entertainments are enjoyed among religious professors, which are unworthy even of decent worldlings.
Many true hearts are deeply wounded by this terrible degeneracy. Were it not for a small remnant, we would have been as Sodom and Gomorrah!

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2

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He shall save His people from their sins!

(Frank Hall)

"You shall call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins!" Matthew 1:21

Glorious Jesus, your name is . . .
  the cure for sin-sick hearts,
  the resting place for the weary pilgrims of Zion,
  heavenly manna for every true Israelite wandering through this barren wilderness of darkness and sin.

This name, "which is above every name" . . .
  calms the troubled sea within,
  sweetens every bitter trial,
  illuminates every sad and lonesome path,
  dispels the darkness of doubt and despair, and
  soothes the trembling heart
 — of every redeemed child of God.

This precious verse teaches us that Jesus Christ cannot fail to save His people from their sins. He established perfect righteousness for them by His obedience unto death, and obtained eternal redemption for them with His own precious blood. When He shouted from the cross, "It is finished" . . .
  salvation was finished,
  God's holiness was appeased,
  satisfaction for sin was made, and
  judgment was over
 — for all the people of God.

God did not send His Son into this world to save all men from their sins; rather, He sent His Son into this wicked world to save "His people" from their sins. 

God's salvation, in its entirety, is for His elect people, who are identified in the Scriptures as "the people of God." All that the Lord Jesus did, does, and will do — is, has always been, and will always be for His chosen people. He came into this world, was born of a virgin, lived under the law, was in all points tempted like as we are, and perfectly obeyed the will of God in all things for one reason — that He might save His elect people with an everlasting salvation. He loved them, chose them, and gave Himself for them — them, and only them.

He was born for His people.
He kept the law for His people.
He suffered for His people.
He was made sin for His people.
He died for His people.
He arose from the dead for His people.
He ascended into glory for His people.
He rules all things for His people.
He intercedes for His people.
He is coming again for His people.

Listen to the reverberation of God's distinguishing grace as the apostle Paul sounds the gospel trumpet: "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . . to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless!" Ephesians 5:25-27

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God's most comforting attribute!

(Charles Spurgeon)

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

There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than that of God's sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe . . .
  that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions,
  that Sovereignty overrules them, and
  that Sovereignty will sanctify them all.

There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend, than . . .
  the doctrine of their Master ruling over all creation,
  the kingship of God over all the works of His own hand,
  the throne of God, and His right to reign upon that throne.

"Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases!" Psalm 115:3

All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth." Daniel 4:35

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

"To be God and sovereign are inseparable!" (Stephen Charnock)

"Sovereignty characterizes the whole being of God. He is sovereign in all His attributes!" (Arthur Pink)

"God has sovereign right to dispose of us as He pleases. We ought to acquiesce in all that God does with us and to us." (William Carey)

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God's most hated attribute!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases!" Psalm 115:3

"The LORD does whatever pleases Him, throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in 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." Daniel 4:35

On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, as the great, stupendous — but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah!

Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne!

They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars.

They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties.

They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of Heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean.

But when God ascends His throne — then His creatures then gnash their teeth! And when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter — then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us — for God on His throne, is not the God they love!

No doctrine in the whole Word of God has more excited the hatred of mankind, than the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God!

Opposition to divine sovereignty is essentially atheism — and were it not for sovereign grace, none of us would ever have followed the path to Heaven. I am daily more and more convinced that the difference between one man and another is, not the difference between his use of his will — but the difference of grace that has been bestowed upon him.

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

"The great controversy between God and man has been, whether He or they shall be God; whether His reason or theirs, His will or theirs, shall be the guiding principle. If anything could frustrate God's will — then it would be superior to Him, God would not be omnipotent, and so would lose the perfection of the Deity, and consequently the Deity itself; for that which did wholly defeat God's will, would be more powerful than He. To be God and yet inferior to another, is a contradiction!" (Stephen Charnock)

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We must struggle long and hard!

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

"So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then!" Joshua 14:11

It is refreshing to find Caleb so heroic at eighty-five. Most old people ask for easy places — but Caleb had a young man's heart. He did not seek easy things. He asked for a mountain which giants still held, saying that he would drive them out.

In the same way, it develops our own virtues and graces to have to fight to get possession of our inheritance.

God puts the gold deep down among the rocks, that we must dig and search for it if we would get it.

He gives a man a farm — but the farm has to be cleared and cultivated before it is ready to yield its harvest.

He gives a young man a fine education — but the young man must study hard to get it.

He gives a young girl splendid musical talent, and to get it developed into its possibilities, she has to spend months and years in weary practice.

God gives us great grace, holiness, meekness, patience, and likeness to Christ; but we must struggle long and hard with our old nature to obtain these gifts.

"Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling!" Philippians 2:12

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The best and the only sufficient expositors of Scripture!

(Letters of John Newton)

"When the Spirit of truth comes — He will guide you into all the truth." John 16:13

Psalm 25:14, "The secret counsel of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He reveals His covenant to them" — not notionally, but experimentally.

A few minutes of the Spirit's teaching will furnish us with more real, useful and experimental knowledge — than toiling through whole folios of commentators! It will be our wisdom to deal less with the streams — and be more close in applying to the fountain-head. The Scripture itself, and the Spirit of God — are the best and the only sufficient expositors of Scripture. Whatever men have valuable in their writings — they got it from Scripture; and the Scripture is as open to us — as to any of them. There is nothing required but a teachable, humble spirit; and academic learning, as it is commonly called, is not necessary in order for this.

We learn more, and more effectually, by one minute's communication with God through the medium of His written Word, than we could from an assembly of theologians, or a library of books!

"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law!" Psalm 119:18

"Teach me Your statutes!" Psalm 119:12

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The world will not care!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men!" 1 Peter 2:15

The world will not care about my testimony with the lip — unless there is also a testimony in my daily life for God, for truth, for holiness, for everything that is honest, lovely, pure and of good report.

"There is no argument like a holy life!"
(Robert Murray M'Cheyne)

"Men may refuse to see the truth of our arguments — but they cannot evade the evidence of a holy life. Live a holy life brethren!" (J.C. Ryle)

"You ought to live holy and godly lives!" 2 Peter 3:11

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An inlet to three dreadful things!

Thomas Brooks, "A Heavenly Cordial" 1665)

Death is dreadful to the unbelieving sinner, for it puts an everlasting end to all his temporal . . .
  and enjoyments.

Death will put an everlasting end to all his pleasures of sin. Now the sinner shall never more have one merry day. In Hell there is no . . .
  no singing — but howling;
  no music — but madness;
  no sporting — but sighing;
  no dancing — but wringing of hands
and gnashing of teeth for evermore!

In a word, now the sinner shall find by woeful experience, that death will be an inlet to three dreadful things:
   1. To judgment, Hebrews 9:27;
   2. To an irreversible sentence of condemnation, Matthew 25:41;
   3. To endless, ceaseless, and remediless sufferings!

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A real influence!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

The saving grace of God has a real influence upon the whole man. It . . .
  enlightens the understanding,
  directs the will,
  purifies the affections,
  regulates the passions, and
  corrects the different excesses to which different people are by constitution or habit inclined. It does not impart any new natural powers, though it teaches the use and improvement of those we have received.

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Through a wilderness of sins, sorrows, trials and temptations!

(Edward Payson, 1783-1827)

"Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years!" Deuteronomy 8:2

"Remember how He . . .
  pitied us,
  awakened us,
  convinced us of sin, and
  drew us to Himself by the cords of love!

Remember how often He has since . . .
  healed our backslidings,
  pardoned our sins,
  borne with our unbelief, ingratitude, and stubborness,
  supplied our needs,
  listened to our complaints,
  alleviated our sorrows, and
  revived our drooping spirits when we were ready to faint.

In short, we must remember all the way which He has led us, these many years, through a wilderness of sins, sorrows, trials and temptations!

"He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions!" Deuteronomy 8:15

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The Divine Gardener!

"Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit!" John 15:2

(J.C. Ryle)

The Father is ever training the members of this family for their everlasting abode with Him in Heaven. He acts as a gardener pruning his vines, that they may bear more fruit. He knows the character of each of us . . .
  our besetting sins,
  our weaknesses,
  our peculiar infirmities,
  our special needs,
  our trials,
  our temptations,
  and our privileges.

He knows all these things, and is ever ordering all for our good. He allots to each of us, in His providence, the very things we need, in order to bear the most fruit. He gives us . . .
  as much of sunshine as we can stand — and as much of rain;
  as much of bitter things as we can bear — and as much of sweet.

Trials are intended . . .
  to make us think,
  to wean us from the world,
  to send us to the Bible, and
  to drive us to our knees!

"The Christian grows by tears — and withers by smiles. God's vines thrive the better for pruning." (Stephen Charnock)

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I find afflictions to be good for me!

(Letters of Joseph Williams, 1822)

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

I find afflictions to be good for me. I have always found them so. Afflictions are happy means in the hands of the Holy Spirit to subdue . . .
  my corruptions,
  my pride,
  my evil passions, and
  my inordinate love to the creature.

Afflictions . . .
  soften my hard heart,
  bring me to my knees,
  increase faith,
  increase love,
  increase humility,
  increase self-denial.
Afflictions make me poor in spirit, and nothing in my own eyes!

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

"I know, O LORD, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

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You have lately been in the furnace!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33

Dear friend,
You have lately been in the furnace — and are now brought safely out. I hope you have much to say of the grace, care, and skill of the great Refiner, who watched over you; and that you have lost nothing but dross. Let this experience be treasured up in your hearts for the use of future times. Other trials will come — but you have found the Lord faithful to His promise, and have good encouragement to trust Him again.

I doubt not, but you will have your share of trials; but when the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, it sweetens what bitter things the Lord puts into our cup, and enables us to say, "None of these things move me!"

Yes, the life of faith is a happy life, and
  if attended with conflicts — there is an assurance of victory;
  if we sometimes get a wound — there is healing balm near at hand;
  if we seem to fall — we are raised again; and
  if tribulations abound — consolations shall abound likewise.

Is it not happiness — to have an infallible Guide, an invincible Guard, an almighty Friend! to be able to say of the Maker of heaven and earth, "He is my Beloved, my Shepherd, my Savior, and my Husband!"

Oh the peace that flows from believing . . .
  that all events in which we are concerned, are under His immediate disposal;
  that the hairs of our head are all numbered;
  that He delights in our prosperity;
  that there is a need-be, if we are in heaviness, and
  that all things shall surely work for our good!

How happy to have such views of God's sovereignty, wisdom, love, and faithfulness — as will enable us to meet every painful dispensation with submission, and to look through the changes of the present life — to that unchangeable inheritance to which the Lord is leading us, when all evil shall cease, and where joy shall be perfect and eternal! "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!" Revelation 21:4

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Worldly prosperity!

(Archibald Alexander)

"In my prosperity, I said: I shall never be moved!" Psalm 30:6

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!

In general, God in mercy refuses to give worldly prosperity to His children. He has chosen the poor of this world, to be rich in faith. That is, He has commonly chosen poverty as the safest condition for His children!

"We have seen many professed Christians make shipwreck. In ten cases to the one, it has been attributable to worldly prosperity. It is hard to carry a full cup without a spill." (Charles Spurgeon)

"To see a man humble under prosperity, is one the greatest rarities in the world!" (John Flavel)

"Pray in prosperity, that you may not be ensnared by your prosperity!" (William Gurnall)

"I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven!" Matthew 19:23

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One reason why the church has so little influence over the world

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind!" Romans 12:2

I believe that one reason why the church has so little influence over the world — is because the world has so much influence over the church!

It is overwhelming to see the growing worldliness of the visible church. Many professed Christians — the Lord alone knows whether they are true believers or not — give us grave cause for apprehension. We see them tolerating practices which would not have been endured by their fathers; my blood chills when I think of how far some fashionable professors go astray!

When the Church descends to the world's level, her spiritual power is gone. Jesus said, "Preach the gospel to every creature!" But men are getting tired of the divine plan; they are going to be saved by the music, or by the theatricals, or by the amusements! Well, they may try these things as long as ever they like; but nothing can ever come of the whole thing, but utter disappointment and confusion:
  God is dishonored,
  the gospel is travestied,
  hypocrites are manufactured by thousands, and
  the church is dragged down to the level of the world!

"The world has absorbed the Church, and the church was content that it should be so!"
(Horatius Bonar)

"Conformity to the world, in all ages, has proved the ruin of the church!" (Rowland Hill)

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Oh, welcome sorrow! welcome suffering!

(Ashton Oxenden, "The Blessings and Trials of Sickness" 1863)

"I know their sorrows!" Exodus 3:7

Thank God for this! I have often said within myself, "No one knows my sorrows — no one can tell what I suffer!" But now I hear, as it were, a voice from Heaven, saying to me, "I know your sorrows!"

It is my heavenly Father who speaks these words. He measures out every sorrow to me. There is not one too many. There is not one heavier, or sharper, than is needful. Neither am I called upon to bear them one day longer than is good for me.

No matter what my sorrow is; whether it arises from pain of body or anguish of heart — it is the cross that my Father has laid upon me, and I will cheerfully bear it. I will kiss the hand that smites me, for it is my heavenly Father's hand!

It is no small comfort to feel that the Lord "knows our sorrows." Therefore we may be quite sure He will not lay upon us more than we can bear. As the refiner of silver carefully watches the metal while it is in the hot furnace — so does Jesus watch over His suffering people. There is no trial too small, and no pang too hidden — for His eye to reach, and His heart to pity. He feels for them, and tenderly loves them.

Oh, welcome sorrow! welcome suffering — if it only weans me from this treacherous world, and drives me to my Savior's arms!

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There never was a fountain like this!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Hour of Silence" 1899)

"On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity!" Zechariah 13:1

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

There is another river, the streams of which make glad the City of God. It is a river whose waters are crimson red, rather than crystal clear. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin — His life-blood, shed for our redemption on the shameful tree!

So many have proved the potency of this blessed fountain — a great multitude which no man can number! From the East and the West, the North and the South; from the early dawn of Christ, and the modern home — they have pressed to its brink, and they are pressing still. Whoever is willing, may stoop down and drink and live!

Such continuous and permanent efficacy resides in this wondrous fountain. It is not like the Pool of Bethesda, endowed with a strange and vitalizing virtue only at intervals. The dear dying Lamb never loses His power to save. The Cross is at every moment, the instrument of pardon. The blood cleanses — and retains its capacity of cleansing perennially, age after age.

And so universally and omnipotently successful these blood-red waters are. From all my sin they will purge me:
  my secret sins — and my presumptuous sins,
  my sins of youth — and my sins of old age,
  my sins against others — and my sins against myself,
  my sins when I was a stranger to God — and my darker and more hateful sins since I came home to Him.

There never was a fountain like this! Exploration has not discovered its like, nor has imagination ever conceived it! It is peerless, matchless, unique. Surely I have washed and am daily washing in it, that I may be clean!

    There is a fountain filled with blood
    drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
    and sinners plunged beneath that flood
    lose all their guilty stains!

    The dying thief rejoiced to see
    that fountain in his day;
    and there may I, though vile as he
    wash all my sins away!

    Dear dying Lamb, Your precious blood
    shall never lose its power
    till all the ransomed church of God
    be saved, to sin no more!

    E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream
    Your flowing wounds supply,
    redeeming love has been my theme,
    and shall be till I die!

    When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
    lies silent in the grave,
    Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
    I'll sing Your power to save!
     (William Cowper, 1731-1800)