Grace Gems for JUNE, 2015
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Feeding Sheep, or Amusing Goats?
An evil is in the 'professed' camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most short-sighted Christian can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years this evil has developed at an alarming rate. It has worked like leaven, until the whole lump ferments!
The devil has seldom done a more clever thing, than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out the gospel, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony--then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses!
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work, then why did not Christ speak of it? "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature--and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel."
No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people--or because they confronted them? The 'concert' has no martyr roll.
Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the apostolic Church to the world? "You are the salt of the world"--not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out--not swallow.
Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When "many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him," I do not hear Him say: "Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!"
No! Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them--but never sought to amuse them!
In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of the 'gospel of amusement.' Their message is, "Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them... Don't touch their filthy things..." Anything approaching amusement is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel, and employed no other weapon.
After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, "Lord, grant unto your servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are!"
No! They did not cease from preaching Christ. They had no time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down--that is the only difference from today's church.
Lastly, amusement fails to effect the end desired. Let the heavy-laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God's link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer! The mission of amusement produces no converts!
The need of the hour for today's ministry is earnest spirituality joined with Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.
Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods!
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We soon grow dull, cold, lifeless, and inactive!
(James Smith, "The Great Comforter" 1858)
"It is the Spirit who quickens; the flesh profits nothing." John 6:63
All real religion begins with the quickening of the Spirit. When we experience this . . .
we begin to breathe after spiritual things;
we open our eyes in a new world;
we hunger and thirst after righteousness;
and at length taste that the Lord is gracious.
We then have . . .
new joys, and
The eye fixes on Christ,
the heart goes out to Christ, and
the chief desire of the soul is to be like Christ.
The Spirit not only quickens us at first--but all through life we need and are dependent on the Spirit's quickening. He quickens us to pray, and He quickens us in prayer. It is His quickening which puts . . .
life into our graces,
energy into our prayers,
confidence into our expectations, and
enables us to resist Satan, steadfast in the faith.
If His quickening power is withheld--we soon grow dull, cold, lifeless, and inactive! We have . . .
no power in prayer,
no enjoyment in ordinances,
no liberty in speaking to the saints,
nor profit in reading God's Word.
Every duty becomes a task,
every privilege becomes a burden, and
every cross appears insupportable!
While under the quickening operation of the Spirit--we can do all things; but without His quickening--we can do nothing.
Often, very often, have we to cry out from bitter experience, "My soul cleaves unto the dust; quicken me according unto Your Word!" Psalm 119:25
Quickening Spirit, daily quicken my soul!
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The best kind of preaching!
(William Jay, 1769-1853)
What I have always deemed the best kind of preaching is neither highly doctrinal nor overly practical; but distinguished by what I would call experimental--or a constant blending of the doctrines and practice of the Gospel, strongly with the affections and feelings. Many have been sadly deficient here. Their sermons have had theology enough in them, and practical enough; but there was little in them to rend and melt the heart!
"Is not My Word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" Jeremiah 23:29
"He is not the best preacher who tickles the ear--but who breaks the heart!" (Thomas Brooks)
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If you hunt the butterfly of wealth too eagerly!
(Charles Spurgeon, "A Good Start!")
He who loses godliness to gain gold--is a great cheater of himself.
Keep yourselves entirely for Christ. Live above the world. Its goods will come to you--when you do not bid too high for them. If you hunt the butterfly of wealth too eagerly--you may spoil it by the grasp with which you secure it!
When earthly things are sought for as the main object, they are degraded into rubbish, and the seeker of them has fallen to be like Bunyan's man with a muck-rake, turning over a dunghill to find nothing. Set your heart on nobler things than lucre! Let us so live that it will be safe for God to add to us the blessings of the present life; but that can only be done with safety, when we have learned to keep the world under our feet.
"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness--and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33
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A spiritual playpen where the crying babies must be appeased!
In the twenty-first century, we are obsessed with self-satisfaction and getting our desires met. Hence, any teaching that invades our lifestyle and tells us we must alter or discard out old habits, is usually consigned to the junk pile. In so thinking and doing, the church has been transformed into a spiritual playpen where the crying babies must be appeased with what makes them feel good.
The Evangelical world is abuzz with terms like "purpose driven church" or "seeker friendly church". What these terms really amount to is one thing: compromise.
The goal of churches should not be to see how much like the world they can be, so as to make worldly people feel comfortable. Rather, the churches should be so unlike the world, so alien to the world, that the disillusioned unbeliever will be drawn to them.
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?
Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?
What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
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This God is mine, in all His glorious perfection!
(Archibald Brown, "This God Is Our God!" 1896)
"The LORD's portion is His people!" Deuteronomy 32:9
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" Lamentations 3:24
The above two passages of Scripture ought never to be separated.
God and my soul possess each other.
God finds his portion in His people--and His people find their portion in God!
This God is mine, in all His glorious perfection!
His heart is mine--for He loves me.
His ear is mine--for I may pour into it all my tales of sorrow, and all my songs of joy.
His eyes are mine--for they watch me from morning until night.
His hand is mine--for it is stretched out to uphold me.
Oh, He is a God of infinite glory! Abased in the very dust, and half bewildered by the thought, I yet dare to look up, and say, "This God is my God forever and ever! He will be my guide even unto death!" Psalm 48:14
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An unseen principle of madness permeates his entire being!
"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
"Her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes!" Revelation 18:5
"Fools mock at sin!" Proverbs 14:9
"Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them!" Romans 1:32
Man by nature is insane! He suffers from a deep rooted psychosis called sin! An unseen principle of madness permeates his entire being! Fallen man is a stark raving lunatic--whose depravity, rebellion, and malice against God literally knows no limit.
Thoroughly degraded, man is a weak, tiny, insignificant, little dung-beetle--yet, in his senseless audacity and brazen insolence he daily tempts God to destroy him by stubbornly refusing to obey Him.
If it is madness for maggots on a dunghill to oppose the all-powerful boot of man--then we worms of the earth dare not oppose the Most High God, whose invisible boot of omnipotent sovereignty could squash our souls into Hell with unthinkable ease! Such unwarranted impudence is not only futile, but completely and utterly insane!
"You have sinned against the Lord. Be sure your sin will find you out!" Numbers 32:23
"I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless!" Isaiah 13:11
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The Christian life
"If anyone would come after Me, he must:
deny himself and
take up his cross daily and
follow Me." Luke 9:23
The Christian life is a life that consists of following Jesus.
The first step toward a daily following of Christ, is the denying of self.
Many suppose they are followers of Christ, and yet ignore the path which He traveled. They imagine that may decline the unpleasant tasks of denying self and cross bearing--and yet enter Heaven when they die. What a delusion!
The one who disregards God's commandments is not walking as Christ walked; instead, he is walking as the world walks.
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:27-28
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Delighting in God!
(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)
"Delight yourself in the Lord--and He shall give you the desires of your heart!" Psalm 37:4
Delighting in worldly things--effectually prevents our delighting in God. Therefore it is often the case, that the Lord strips us of these things, or incapacitates us to enjoy them--in order to bring us back to delight in Himself.
He delights in His people--and He desires that His people to delight in Him. In order to accomplish this, He has revealed Himself in the most amiable characters, as . . .
a Shepherd, and so forth--
all on purpose to endear Himself to us!
Surely if our hearts were right--we would delight in Him on account of . . .
His glorious perfections;
His unalterable love;
the perfect atonement made for our sins;
the promises made for our comfort and encouragement;
the gift of the Holy Spirit;
the communion we are urged to hold with Himself;
and the glorious paradise of blessedness set before us--where we shall forever . . .
view the unfolding of His glories,
enjoy the riches of His grace, and
drink of the river of His pleasures!
Sick Christian, Jesus bids you to delight in Him!
Delight in Him as your Savior, Friend, and Brother!
Delight in His person and glories!
Delight in His perfect work!
Delight in His glorious fullness!
Delight in your salvation in Him, union to Him, and claim upon Him.
Oh, delight in Jesus!
You will have no permanent peace or solid satisfaction--but as you delight in Him, and rejoice in Him, saying, "You are my portion, O Lord!"
He who delights in God has the desires of His heart--because they are in accordance with the purpose, promise, and pleasure of God.
The mind is thrown into the mold of God's mind, and the soul cries from its inmost recesses, "Not my will--but may Your will be done!" Its pleasures are spiritual, permanent, and satisfactory. The desire for earthly things becomes very contracted--a little of the things of this poor world will satisfy a soul that is delighting in Jehovah.
Delighting in God always produces resignation and holy contentment. Whatever they have--they enjoy it as the undeserved gift of God; and they feel obligated and thankful for all. They would rather be conformed to God's will--than have their own will. They know that His appointments are best--because they are infinitely wise, holy, and gracious. They can say, "I trust in You, O Lord, for You are my God! My times are in Your hand!" They find that godliness with contentment is great gain; and say with one of old, "The little that a righteous man has--is better than the riches of many wicked!" "Better a little with the fear of the Lord--than great treasure with turmoil."
The presence, the promise, and the smile of God--are to them inestimably valuable; but other things are not so important. They seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness--and all other necessary things are added unto them. They live at the fountain--when all the streams are dried up! They delight in God--when creatures fade and wither!
O Lord! I would delight in Thee,
And on Your care depend;
To You in every trouble flee,
My best, my only Friend!
No good in creatures can be found,
But may be found in Thee;
I must have all things and abound,
While God is God to me!
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I will arise and go to my Father!
(James Smith, "Daily Bible Readings")
"I will arise and go to my Father!" Luke 15:18
This is a child's cry!
It is full of meaning.
It is full of love.
It is full of comfort.
It is a title which the Lord loves to hear us use!
Lord, give us the Spirit of adoption, and let
us know and feel, that we are Your children!
To whom will you repair in trouble?
To whom will you look in difficulty?
To whom will you cry in danger?
From whom will you ask when in need?
Surely I hear you say, "My Father!"
Who speaks to you in the Bible?
Who tries you by His providence?
Who chastens you with His rod?
Who purifies and cleanses you?
Who humbles and reproves you?
Again you will say, "My Father!"
Who supports the world?
Who controls the nations?
Who chains up Satan?
Who comforts the believer?
Who pardons the backslider?
Again you reply, "My Father!"
Then I exhort you to . . .
trust your Father's Word,
abide in your Father's heart,
expect from your Father's hand,
and say in every trial:
"I will arise and go to my Father!"
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They would dance with the devil all day--and then dine with Christ at night!
"Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" Numbers 23:10
Some faint desires, and short-winded wishes, may be sometimes found in carnal men--but the mischief is that they would break God's chain, and would sunder . . .
holiness, from happiness,
sanctification, from salvation,
and the means, from the end.
They would dance with the devil all day--and then dine with Christ at night!
They would live all their lives in Delilah's lap--and then go to Abraham's bosom when they die!
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"There are many who desire to die the death of the righteous--but do not endeavor to live the life of the righteous. Gladly would they have their end like theirs--but not their way. They would be saints in Heaven--but not saints on earth. If you resolve to serve God--you must renounce all competitors with Him!" (Matthew Henry)
"I hope none of you calculate on serving the devil all your lives--and cheating God with your dying breath. You can't cheat God by giving him the last snuff of an expiring candle!" (Edward Taylor)
"He who would die well, should live well; for a bad death must be the outcome of a bad life!" (Adam Clarke)
"A Christian is not afraid of death--but of sin!
An unconverted man is not afraid of sin--but of death!" (Brownlow North)
"It is appointed unto men once to die--but after this the judgment!" Hebrews 9:27
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money!" Matthew 6:24
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Carry all your concerns to Him--in the arms of faith!
(James Smith, "The Pastor's Morning Visit")
"Casting all your care upon Him--because He cares for you!" 1 Peter 5:7
The Lord knows all His people--all their needs, and all their trials.
He thinks upon them--to bless, deliver and supply them.
He keeps His eye upon them--in all places, at all times, and under all circumstances.
He has them in His hand--and will not loosen His hold.
He looks upon them always as His own 'treasured possession' . . .
the objects of His eternal love,
the purchase of His Son's blood,
the temples of His Holy Spirit.
They are precious in His sight!
He knows they are weak and fearful--and that they have many enemies. He teaches them to cast themselves and all their cares into His hands! And He has given them His promise--that He will care for them.
It is a Father's care which He exercises. It is a wise, holy, tender, and constant care. Therefore all will be well with you--only trust Him.
Believe that He cares for you this day. Carry all your concerns to Him--in the arms of faith! Leave all with Him, persuaded that He will manage all by His infinite wisdom, and bring all to a good outcome by His omnipotent power.
Do not worry about anything. Cast all your cares upon Him--as fast as they come in.
"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you! He will never allow the righteous to be shaken!" Psalm 55:22
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Are you not put to shame by every little bird that sits upon the bough and sings, though it has not two grains of barley in all the world?
(Charles Spurgeon, "A Good Start!")
"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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire--will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things--and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Matthew 6:25-32
Undue anxiety is very common among the unsaved--I suppose they cannot help it. Yet Christians must help it; for the Lord's precept is plain and binding: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 4:6-7
Fretful anxiety is forbidden to the Christian!
It is needless. "Look at the birds of the air," said Christ: "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?" If you have a Father in Heaven to care for you--are you not put to shame by every little bird that sits upon the bough and sings, though it has not two grains of barley in all the world? God takes charge of the birds of the air, and thus they live exempt from anxious care--why do not we?
Our Lord also taught that such anxiety is useless as well as needless; for, with all our care, we cannot add a single hour to our life!
Can we do anything else by fretful care? What if the farmer deplores that there is no rain? Do his fears unstop the bottles of Heaven? Or if the merchant sighs because the wind detains his ship laden with goods--will his complainings turn the gale to another quarter?
We do not better ourselves a bit, by all our fretting and fuming. It would be infinitely wiser to do our best--and then cast our care upon our God!
Prudence is wisdom--for it adapts means to ends.
But anxiety is folly--for it groans and worries, and accomplishes nothing!
Besides, according to our Savior, anxiety about worldly things is heathenish: "For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them!" They have no God and no providence--and therefore they try to be a providence to themselves. Let the heir of Heaven act a nobler part than the mere man of the world--who has his portion in this life, and lives without God and without hope.
Our distrust of our God is both childish and dishonoring. I was driven through the streets one day by a friend in a four-wheeled carriage, and he, being a good driver, must needs drive into narrow places, where it seemed to me that we would be crushed by the vans and omnibuses. I shrank back in my timidity, and expressed my unwise alarms so freely, that with a smile he laid the reins in my hand, and said, "If you cannot trust me--would you like to drive yourself?" From that ambition I was wholly free, and I assured him that he might drive as he liked, rather than make me the charioteer!
Surely, the great God might well put the same proposal to those who are complaining of His providence. If we cannot trust Him--could we manage better ourselves?
If we are Christians, let us believe in our God, and leave the governance of the great world to the Lord God, our heavenly Father, who will surely cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him!
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And yet upon this short time!
God has given to man a short time here upon earth--and yet upon this short time, eternity depends!
"What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short!" 1 Corinthians 7:29
"For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, because our days on earth are as a shadow!" Job 8:9
"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!" James 4:14
"Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life!" Psalm 39:4
"Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace!" 1 Chronicles 29:15
"We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear!" Job 14:2
"My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass!" Psalm 102:11
"So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12
"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise--making the most of your time." Ephesians 5:15-16
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Happiness lies in the heart, rather than in the purse!
(Charles Spurgeon, "A Good Start!")
Contentment with your lot, and confidence in God--will make life peaceful and happy! A dinner of herbs with contentment, will yield a flavor of satisfaction unknown to those who eat the fattened ox.
It is better to be happy than to be rich--happiness lies in the heart, rather than in the purse!
It is not what a man has, but what a man is--which will decide his bliss or woe in both this life and the next.
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need--and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want!" Philippians 4:11-12
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The deceitful harlot has bewitched you with her enchantments!
(Joseph Alleine, "Alarm to the Unconverted!")
Before a man has true faith, he is overcome by the world. He either . . .
bows down to mammon,
idolizes his reputation, or
is a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.
Here is the root of man's misery by the fall: he is turned aside to the creature, and gives that esteem, confidence and affection to the creature--which is due to God alone.
Oh miserable man, what a deformed monster sin has made you! God made you "little lower than the angels"--sin has made you little better than the devils!
Sin has made you a monster who has his head and his heart where his feet should be--and his feet kicking against heaven--and everything out of place! The world which was formed to serve you--now rules you! The deceitful harlot has bewitched you with her enchantments--and made you bow down and serve her!
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Who does He think He is?
"Is it not lawful for Me to do what I wish with what is My own?" Matthew 20:15
How dare people walk their pets on leashes to control them!
How dare parents force their children to obey their rules!
How dare employers insist that their employees do their jobs!
How dare governors rule over the people!
How dare policemen take criminals to jail without their permission!
How dare God have His way with His creatures!
How dare the Potter make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor!
How dare God love and hate whom He will!
How dare God the Father choose to save whom He will!
How dare God the Son die for whom He will!
How dare God the Spirit call whom He will!
How dare the Almighty have His way with all men, in all places, at all times!
How dare God save and damn whom He will!
How dare God judge us!
How dare God call us into question!
How dare the indisputable Sovereign of the universe do . . .
what He pleases,
when He pleases,
where He pleases,
how He pleases, and
with whom He pleases!
Who does He think He is--God?
"Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases!" Psalm 115:3
"I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:5-6
"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
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The sweeter morsel for the worm!
(Charles Spurgeon, "The Profit of Godliness in the Life to Come")
"But godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:8
How many live for that poor body of theirs which so soon must moulder back to the dust!
to adorn themselves,
to catch the glance of the admirer's eye,
to satisfy public taste,
to follow fashion--
surely an object in life more frivolous never engrossed an immortal soul!
It seems as strange as if an angel should be gathering daisies, or blowing soap bubbles!
An immortal spirit living . . .
to dress the body,
to paint the face,
to dye the hair,
to display a ribbon,
to show off a pin--
is this the pursuit of an immortal being?
Yet tens of thousands live for little else!
As for earth's most lovely ones--how do time, and death, and the worm together, make havoc of them!
Take up yonder skull, just upturned by the sexton's careless spade, and take it to the yonder beauty, and tell her, though she paint an inch thick--to this complexion she must come at last! All her dressing shall end in a shroud--and all her makeup and her dainty ornaments shall only make her the sweeter morsel for the worm!
Beloved friends, there is another life beyond this fleeting existence! Why then, do you waste your time and degrade your souls with these frivolities?
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Lost sinners should be afraid!
Lost sinners should be afraid! They have . . . .
an angry God above them,
a guilty conscience within them,
and a yawning Hell below them!
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No hissing serpent!
(Thomas Boston, "Human Nature in its Fourfold State")
Believers shall be made completely happy in the kingdom of Heaven. They shall be fully freed from sin, which of all evils, is the worst.
They shall be free from all temptation to sin. Satan can have no access to tempt them any more, by himself, or by his agents. No hissing serpent can come into the paradise above! No snare or trap can be laid there, to catch the feet of the saints. They may walk there without fear, for they can be in no hazard in the promised land. They shall be set beyond the possibility of sinning, for they shall be confirmed in holiness.
The guilt and the reigning power of sin are then taken away. The corrupt nature will be fully removed, and no vestiges of it left in their souls. Their nature shall be altogether pure and sinless.
There shall be no darkness in their minds; but the understanding will be as a globe of pure and unmixed light.
There shall not be the least aversion to good, nor the least inclination to evil, in their wills. They will be brought to a perfect conformity to the will of God--blessed with angelic purity, and fixed therein.
Their affections shall not be liable to the least disorder or irregularity. They will get such a fixed habit of purity, as they can never lose. They will be so refined from all earthly dross, as never more to savor of anything but of Heaven.
Their graces shall then be fully perfected.
There will be no more ground for complaints . . .
of weakness of grace,
or of an evil heart,
or a corrupt nature.
And they shall be freed from all the effects of sin: "God will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever!" Revelation 21:4
In Heaven they find the completion and satisfaction of all their desires--having the full enjoyment of God, and uninterrupted communion with Him. In the heavenly Canaan, Immanuel's land--nothing is lacking to complete the happiness of the inhabitants. This is the holy and happy country--blessed with a perpetual spring, and which yields all things for necessity, convenience, and delight!
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The secret of true happiness!
(Harvey Newcomb, "The Young Lady's Guide to the Harmonious Development of Christian Character" 1843)
The secret of true happiness lies in a cordial acquiescence in the will of God. It is sweet to lie passive in His hand--and know no will but His!
The doctrine of a 'particular providence' is precious to the Christian's heart. It enables him to see the hand of God in every event. Hence the sinfulness of a repining, discontented, unsubmissive temper. It is difficult to reconcile the habitual indulgence of such a sinful disposition--with the existence of grace in the heart. The first emotion of the new-born soul is submission to the will of God.
We are prone to lose sight of the 'hand of God' in the little difficulties and perplexities which are of every-day occurrence, and to look only at 'second causes'. We often do the same, in more important matters. When we are injured or insulted by others, we are disposed to murmur and complain, and give vent to our indignation against the immediate causes of our distress; forgetting that these are only the 'instruments which God employs' for the trial of our faith, or the correcting of our sins.
In this doctrine of the secret agency of divine Providence, we have the strongest motive for a hearty and cheerful resignation to all the troubles and difficulties, trials and afflictions, which come upon us in this life--whatever may be their immediate cause. We know that they are directed by our heavenly Father, whose "tender mercies are over all His works," and who "does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men."
Whatever may be our afflictions, so long as we are out of Hell, we are monuments of His mercy.
We are assured "that all things work together for good, to those who love God." The afflictions of this life, are the faithful corrections of a kind and tender Father. "For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives." How consoling the reflection--that all our sufferings are designed to mortify and subdue our corruptions, to wean us from the world, and lead us to a more humble and constant sense of dependence upon God! How ungrateful for a child of God to repine at the dealings of such a tender and faithful Father!
God will give us all that He sees is best for us. And surely we ought to be satisfied with this; for He who sees the end from the beginning, must know much better than we--what is for our good. It is our duty to maintain a contented and cheerful spirit in every situation of life.
If God directs all our ways, and has promised to give us just what He sees we need, we surely ought to rest satisfied with what we have; for we know it is just what the Lord, in His infinite wisdom and unbounded goodness--sees fit to give us.
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I am chained to the chariot of rolling time!
(Charles Spurgeon, "The Swiftness of Life!")
"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle!" Job 7:6
"My days are but a breath!" Job 7:16
"My days are swifter than a runner--they flee away!" Job 9:25
"My days pass by like swift ships--like an eagle swooping on its prey!" Job 9:26
"Are not my days few?" Job 10:20
"My days are cut short, the grave awaits me!" Job 17:1
"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!" James 4:14
Let me speak to you of . . .
the frailty of human life,
the fleeting nature of time,
how swiftly time passes away,
how soon we shall all fade as the leaf, and
how speedily the place which knows us now, shall know us no more forever.
It is a great fact that life to the young man appears to be long.
Yet to the old man, life is ever short.
And to all men, life is really but a brief period!
Children sometimes blow bubbles, and amuse themselves thereby. Life is even as that bubble. You see it rising into the air; the child delights itself by seeing it fly about, but it is all gone in one moment! So uncertain is life!
Human life is not long. Compare it with the ages of the universe, and it becomes a span; and especially measure it by eternity--and how imperceptible does life appear! It sinks like one small drop into the ocean--and becomes as insignificant as one tiny grain of sand upon the sea-shore!
Life is swift!
Your pulses each moment beat the funeral marches to the tomb!
I am chained to the chariot of rolling time--there is no bridling the steeds, or leaping from the chariot. The wind of time bears me along--I cannot stop its motion. I am moving through time at an incalculable rate. Oh! what an idea it is, could I grasp it!
The wise man says, "For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?" Ecclesiastes 6:12. Now what can there be less substantial than a shadow? What substance is there in a shadow? Who can lay hold thereof? You may see it, but the moment the person passes by, it is gone.
Yes, and who can grasp his life? Many men reckon upon a long existence, and think they are going to live forever; but who can calculate upon a shadow? Go, O man, who say to your soul, "Eat, drink, and be merry; I have much goods laid up for many years!" Go, and store your barn with shadows; go and pile shadows up, and say, "These are mine, and they shall never depart." But, say you, "I cannot catch a shadow!" No and you can not reckon on a year, for it is as a shadow, which soon melts away and is gone!
"My days pass by like swift ships!" Like a swift ship, my life must speed on its way until it reaches its haven. But where is that haven to be? Shall it be found in the land of eternal bitterness and punishment--that dreary region of the lost? Or shall it be that sweet haven of eternal peace, where not a troubling wave can ruffle the quiescent glory of my spirit?
Wherever the haven is to be, that truth is the same, we are like "the swift ships."
"So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12
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It will make you doubly happy, even in this life!
(Charles Spurgeon, "A Good Start!")
"Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come!" 1 Timothy 4:8
The gospel will bring you present blessings! It will give you . . .
present access to God,
present peace through believing,
and present help in time of trouble.
It will make you doubly happy, even in this life! It will be . . .
wisdom for your way,
strength for your conflict,
and comfort for your sorrow.
To have the love of God in the heart,
to have present and eternal peace with God,
to be able to look up to Heaven with confidence,
to talk to my Heavenly Father in childlike trustfulness
--is a present joy and comfort worth more than worlds!
Believer! You now enjoy the unchanging favor of God, so that you will go your way henceforth not to live as others do--but as the chosen of God, beloved with special love, enriched with special blessings, to rejoice every day until you are taken up to dwell where Jesus is!
"For the grace of God that brings salvation . . . teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions--and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age!" Titus 2:11-12
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It is not because He needs them!
(Charles Spurgeon, "A Good Start!")
"God is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything--because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else!" Acts 17:25
Let no man imagine that God needs any of us. He was perfect--perfectly happy and perfectly glorious--long before wing of angel moved in space, or time even existed! God ever was and still is self-contained and all-sufficient. If He chooses to make any creatures, or to preserve or use any of the creatures He has formed--it is not because He needs them, or is in the least degree dependent upon them.
"Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. Before Him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by Him as worthless and less than nothing. To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare Him to?" Isaiah 40:15-18
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught, and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing!" Isaiah 40:21-23
"I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills! I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are Mine! If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all that is in it!" Psalm 50:9-12
"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay Him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:35-36
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God is to have the scraps of a man's life!
(Charles Spurgeon, "A Good Start!")
David said, "O Lord, truly I am Your servant." Psalm 116:16
If you become the servant of God--then become the servant of God truly. God is not mocked.
It is the curse of our churches, that we have so many merely nominal Christians in them. It is the plague of this age, that so many profess Christ--and yet never intend to live for Him. Oh, if you serve God, mean it!
If a man serves the devil--then let him serve the devil!
But if he serves God--then let him serve God!
Is there not much of this hypocrisy abroad? God is to have the scraps of a man's life--and he flings these down as if they were all that God was worth. But as for the world, that is to have the vigor of his life and the cream of his being.
God does not want nominal servants! "O Lord, truly I am Your servant!" He who does not mean to be truly God's servant, let him not pretend to be one at all.
Every man in the presence of the cross-bearing Jesus, should feel that to take up his cross and follow Christ is the most natural thing that can be; and he should resolve in God's strength that he will do it, and continue to obey the Lord, though all the world should ridicule. He must put on the badge of Christ, and say, "I am His servant and His follower from this day to life's end, and will shoulder the cross! I am free from all the maxims and customs of the world!"
"And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15
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Do not mistake the lessons learned at your mother's knee--for the teachings of the Holy Spirit!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Joash and His Friend Jehoiada")
"Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD--all the years of Jehoiada the priest." 2 Chronicles 24:2
After the six years living in the house of God, Joash had a grand start in life with everything to his advantage. Alas, alas, alas, that, with such a bright beginning--he should come to such a wretched end!
Notice also that, being thus well-started, "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD--all the years of Jehoiada the priest." While that godly priest lived, the king was under his influence; he consulted him in every matter of importance. He was plastic under Jehoiada's hand, and he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord--not only that which was right in the sight of godly people. His life seems to have been at least outwardly obedient to the law of Jehovah, and he yielded himself up, apparently, at any rate, to be a loyal servant of the great King; and that he did, not for a short time only--but all the years in which Jehoiada lived.
But Joash buried all his religion in Jehoiada's grave!
The graven images which he had broken down--were set up again.
The Asherah poles which he had cut down--were worshiped again.
And he who seemed so zealous a servant of Jehovah--had now become a worshiper of the foul idols, and bowed before the accursed Baals. Oh, sad, sad, sad!
There was a lack of godly principle in Joash--and it is of this, that I want to warn all.
Do not be satisfied with the practice of piety--without the principles of piety.
It is not enough to have a correct creed--you must have a renewed heart.
It is not sufficient to have an ornate ritual--you must have a holy heart and life.
If this change is not wrought in you by the Holy Spirit--you who yield so readily to godly parents, will yield just as quickly to evil companions when on your own out in the world.
Well, now, have we not known men and women, whose lives have been under the benignant influence of some kind father or mother, and they have done what was right year after year--as long as their godly parents lived? They have been diligent in going up to God's house, apparently devout in Bible-reading and prayer, willing to assist in work in the church and all sorts of service for the Lord, and leading outwardly most useful, admirable lives--all the time that these nobler influences were over them.
More than this, Joash was zealous for the externals of religion: "Joash decided to repair and restore the Temple of the LORD." Yes, and there are some whose hearts are not right towards God, who nevertheless are very zealous about the externals of divine worship. It is a much easier thing to build a temple for God--than it is be a temple for God. Just so, it is a much more common thing for people to show zeal in repairing churches--than in reforming their own lives.
Likewise, there are many who, trained up in the ways of the Lord, are indefatigable in rendering some external service to the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. They would give to the building of a church; they would work hard to construct it, and so forth. But, alas, you may give, and you may work, and you may attend to all the externals of religion--and yet have no part nor lot in the matter!
All this while, Joash influenced other people for good. As king, he kept back the nation from the worship of idols. As king, he threw the cloak of his patronage over those who worshiped Jehovah; and things seemed to go well for years, "all the days of Jehoiada the priest." As long as Jehoiada lived, Joash seemed to be all that he should be!
All that Joash had done, was to give his heart to Jehoiada--not to Jehovah. It is very easy to be outwardly religious--by giving your heart to your mother or your father--or some godly person who helps you to do what is right. But God says, "My son, give Me your heart." If your religion is taken up to please any creature--it is not the religion which pleases the Creator. Your homage is due, not to anyone here below, but to Him who sits in the heavens, whose kingdom rules over all.
This yielding to godly influences may exist without any personal, vital godliness whatever! You may meet with God's people--and yet not be one of God's people. A young man may yield to his mother's advice--and yet never be really repentant on account of sin. He may listen to his father's word, and pay respect to the externals of his father's religion--but yet never have sincerely believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is so easy to have been under religious influence from our youth up, and then to go on, year after year, never having raised the question whether we are true Christians or not!
Many young people are like Joash: sinful human nature is held in check for a while--not the Spirit of God creating a new life, and infusing a new character into the soul.
Do not imagine that natural religion is spiritual religion. Do not mistake the lessons learned at your mother's knee--for the teachings of the Holy Spirit! Though you were raised under the most hallowed influences, you only need an opportunity, a temptation, a peculiar stress laid upon you--and you will go off where the old nature carries you, and you will find out for yourself, and to the horror of others--that all your early religious training had effected nothing!
Oh, if I could tell some of you what will become of you--you would be so angry with me! If I could prophesy to some good young fellow--I mean, outwardly good as Joash was at first, but without a new heart, without the grace of God in his soul--if I could prophesy to him what a monster he will become--he would spit in my face in indignation that I should dare to foretell such a thing!
Yet there is not a man or woman who is safe from the most abominable sin--until they sincerely yield themselves to Christ. There is not one who is sure that the deepest damnation of Hell will not be their portion--unless they sincerely come and commit their soul into the hands of Jesus!
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That spiritual pipe!
(Thomas Watson, "Christ All in All")
"Christ is all in all." Colossians 3:11
All good things are transmitted and conveyed to us, through Christ. As our rich commodities, such as jewels and spices, come to us by the sea--so all heavenly blessings sail to us through the Red Sea of Christ's blood! "God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ!" Ephesians 1:3
Christ is that spiritual pipe through which the golden oil of mercy empties itself into the soul!
Christ is all in all. He is a treasury and storehouse of all spiritual riches! You may go with the bee, from flower to flower--and suck a little sweetness here and there--but you will never have enough until you come to Christ--for He is all in all. There is enough in Christ . . .
to scatter all our fears,
to remove all our burdens,
to supply all our needs.
"The unsearchable riches of Christ!" Ephesians 3:8
There can be no defect, in that which is infinite.
Christ is the most supreme good. Put what you will in the balance with Christ--He infinitely outweighs it.
Christ is the most sufficient good. He who has Christ needs no more. He who has the ocean--needs not the cistern.
Christ is the most suitable good. "In Him dwells all fullness," Colossians 1:19. Christ is whatever the soul can desire. Christ is . . .
beauty to adorn,
gold to enrich,
balm to heal,
bread to strengthen,
wine to comfort,
salvation to crown!
Christ sweetens all our comforts. He who has Christ may say, "This mercy is given to me by the hand of my Savior! This is a love-token from Him--a pledge of glory!"
Christ sanctifies all our crosses. They shall be medicinal to the soul; they shall work sin out--and work grace in. Christ sees to it that His people lose nothing in the furnace of affliction--but their drossy impurities.
Christ is the most rare blessing. Christ is a jewel that few are enriched with. This should both raise our esteem of Him--and quicken our pursuit after Him. Many hear of Christ--but few have Him. Many have Christ sounded in their ears--but few who have Christ formed in their hearts.
Christ is the most choice good. God shows more love in giving us Christ--than in giving us crowns and kingdoms! God may give a man many worldly things--and hate him. God may give silver and gold to others--but if He gives you Christ, He gives you all that ever He had!
Without Christ, nothing else is good.
Without Christ, health is not good; it is fuel for lust.
Without Christ, riches are not good; they are golden snares.
Without Christ, ordinances are not good; they are as breasts without milk. Without Christ, they will damn us. Millions go to Hell, loaded with ordinances.
Make Christ all, in your affections. Desire nothing but Christ. He is the aggregation of all good things. Why should the soul desire less? How can it desire more?
Love nothing but Christ. Love is the choicest affection; it is the richest jewel the creature has to bestow. Oh, if Christ is all--then love Him better than all! He who is all--let Him have all. Give Him your love--who desires it most, and deserves it best.
Oh, Christian, have you seen the Lord Jesus? Has this morning-star shone into your heart with its enlightening, quickening beams? Then rejoice and be exceeding glad! Shall others rejoice in the world--and will not you rejoice in Christ! How much better is He than all other things! It reflects disparagement upon Christ--when His saints are sad and drooping. Is not Christ yours? What more would you have?
Be thankful for Christ. God has done more for you in giving you Christ--than if He had made you angels, or had given you the whole world! God cannot give a greater gift than Christ--who is all in all.
Here is a breast of comfort to every believer--Christ is all.
When a Christian sees a deficiency in himself--he may see an all-sufficiency in his Savior!
He who has Christ, has no lack--for "Christ is all!"
In the hour of death, a believer may rejoice. When he leaves all--he is possessed of all. A godly man say, "I fear not death, because I have Christ to go to! Death will but carry me to that torrent of divine pleasure, which runs at His right hand forevermore! I have the desire to depart and be with Christ--which is far better!" Philippians 1:23
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The man with the muck-rake!
(J. R. Miller, "Life's Byways and Waysides")
"Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better." Luke 10:42
Paul prayed that his friends "may be able to discern what is best." Philippians 1:10
We must be always making choices in this world. We cannot take up everything that lies in our path--and we ought to choose the best things. Even among 'right things' there is room for choice, for some right things are better than others.
There are many Christians, however, who do not habitually choose the best things--but second-rate things. They labor for the food that perishes--when they might labor for the food that endures unto everlasting life. Even in their prayers, they ask for temporal blessings--when they might ask for spiritual treasures!
They are like "the man with the muck-rake" in Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress'--who only looks 'down' and drags his rake among the weeds and worthless rubbish--while over his head are crowns which he might take into his hands! They are like Esau, who sold his valuable birthright for some lentil stew. They toil for this world's vain things--when they might have been laying up treasures in Heaven!
We only have one life to live--and we ought therefore to do the best we possibly can with it. We pass through this world only once--and we ought to gather up and take with us the things that will truly enrich us--things we can keep forever!
It is not worth our while, to toil and moil, and strive and struggle--to do things that will leave no lasting results when our life is done--while there are things we can do which have eternal significance!
"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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As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." John 9:1-3
"Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins--but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces. Christ, who perfectly knew the secret springs of the divine counsels, told them two things concerning such calamities: that they are not always inflicted as punishments of sin--and that they are sometimes intended purely for the glory of God, and the manifesting of His works." Matthew Henry
"Afflictions are often the black foils in which God sets the jewels of His children's graces, to make them shine the better. There are some of your graces which would never be discovered, if it were not for your trials. Well, Christian, may not this account for the troubles through which you are passing? Is not the Lord bringing out your graces, and making them grow? Real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials. The heart of a Christian is Christ's garden, and his graces are as so many sweet spices and flowers, when His Spirit blows upon them, to send forth a sweet savor." Charles Spurgeon
"Stars shine brightest in the darkest night. Afflictions ripen the saints' graces. Gold looks the brighter for scouring. Just so, afflictions are but our Father's goldsmiths who are working to add pearls to our crowns. Spices smell sweetest when pounded--and juniper smells sweeter in the fire." Thomas Brooks
"Some graces grow best in winter. Grace withers without adversity." Samuel Rutherford
"The lowly graces of the Spirit thrive best under crosses." Daniel Rowland
"The Lord's jewels need grinding, and cutting, and polishing." R.C. Chapman
"Grievous afflictions are not always sent as a scourge for sins committed--but sometimes as preventatives from sins. Paul's thorn prevented his pride." John Leland
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The nest was destroyed, and the poor bird lay bleeding and exposed!
(James Smith, "The Pastor's Evening Visit")
"I thought: Surely I shall die in my nest!" Job 29:18
Job's nest was very comfortable--and appeared to be very secure. It was on high--and not to be easily reached. He knew that death could reach it--but he thought that nothing else would disturb it.
His conduct was consistent,
his conscience was quiet;
God was his Father, and
providence was his friend.
"I thought: Surely I shall die in my nest!"
But, alas! Suddenly a 'storm' arose--the nest was destroyed, and the poor bird lay bleeding and exposed!
No earthly nest is out of danger! Temporal comforts are only lent to us. The higher the tree in which we build--the more exposed to the whirlwind and the storm!
Here on earth--we have no continuing city. In one moment--our fine nest may be devastated! Let us therefore endeavor to leave our matters fully with the Lord--and learn to be content with His appointments.
We must die. But when, and where, and how--should be left with the Lord.
Five minutes after death--it will matter very little whether we died on a bed of down, in a luxurious mansion, and surrounded by kind friends--OR as a poor diseased beggar, dying alone in squalor!
Present comforts may all leave us, and our soft nest may be scattered to the winds--but nothing can disturb our salvation and future glory!
"These all died in faith--and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth!" Hebrews 11:13
"They were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a heavenly city for them!" Hebrews 11:16