Grace Gems for MAY, 2016
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The Devil's Beans!
The other day I was going down the street and I saw a drove of pigs following a man. This excited my curiosity, so that I determined to follow. I did so, and to my great surprise I saw them follow him to the slaughterhouse! I was very anxious to know how this was, and I said to the man, "My friend, how did you manage to induce those pigs to follow you here?"
"Oh, did you not see?" said the man; "I had a basket of beans under my arms, and I dropped a few as I came along, and so they followed me."
Yes, and I thought, so it is — the devil has a basket of beans under his arm, and he drops them as he goes along, and what multitudes he induces to follow him to an everlasting slaughter house! Yes, friends, and all your broad and crowded thoroughfares are strewn with the beans of the devil!
"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes!" Ephesians 6:11
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Later you will understand!
"You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." John 13:7
You shall see the reason of all the trials and temptations, all the dark and comfortless hours, all the long and tedious conflicts — and you will be convinced that not a sigh, not a single uneasy thought, was allotted to you without a wise and gracious design!
"God disciplines us for our good — that we may share in His holiness! No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:10-11
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You will make no advance in the divine life!
(Octavius Winslow, "Glimpses of truth as it is in Jesus")
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever!" Hebrews 13:8
You will make no advance in the divine life — if your eye is ever upon yourself instead of Christ.
What though the experience of today is the opposite of the experience of yesterday:
yesterday all brightness — today all cloudiness;
yesterday your soul like a well-tuned Psalm — today every string loosed and breathing no melody;
yesterday, Jesus felt to be so near and precious — today not a loving emotion in your heart;
yesterday, communion with God so sweet — today, none whatever;
yesterday, desiring to walk uprightly, holily, and humbly — today detecting so much that is vacillating, weak, and vile.
Nevertheless, Jesus is not changed!
The work of Christ is the same.
Your acceptance in Him is the same.
His intercession in Heaven for you is the same.
So why are you so eager to fly to spiritual experiences for support, strength, and consolation — rising when they rise, falling when they fall — when all your standing, joy, peace, and hope are entirely outside of yourself, and are solely in Christ?
What though you change a thousand times in one day? He never changes!
God may vary His dispensations.
He may alter His mode of dealing.
He may change the nature of His discipline.
He may vary the lesson — but His loving-kindness and His truth are as unchangeable as His very being. He may dry up the earthly cistern — but He will never seal up the heavenly fountain! That will flow on in grace through all time, and in glory through all eternity!
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The seeds of every sin are latent in our hearts!
(J.C. Ryle, Gospel of John)
Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for You!"
Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for Me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times!" John 13:37-38
These verses show us how much self-ignorance there may be in the heart of a true believer. We see Peter declaring that he was ready to lay down his life for his Master. We see his Master telling Peter that he would deny Him three times. And we all know how the matter ended. The Master was right — and Peter was wrong.
Let it be a settled principle in our religion, that there is an amount of weakness in all our hearts of which we have no adequate conception, and that we never know how far we might fall if we were tempted. We imagine sometimes, like Peter, that there are some wicked things which we could not possibly do. We look pitifully upon others who fall, and please ourselves in the thought that we would not have done so.
We know nothing at all. The seeds of every sin are latent in our hearts, even when renewed, and they only need occasion, or carelessness and the withdrawal of God's grace for a season — to put forth an abundant crop. Like Peter, we may think we can do wonders for Christ — and like Peter, we may learn by bitter experience that we have no power and strength at all.
The servant of Christ will do wisely to remember these things. "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12.) A humble sense of our own innate weakness, a constant dependence on the Strong for strength, a daily prayer to be preserved, because we cannot preserve ourselves — these are the true secrets of safety!
Let us watch jealously over our hearts, and beware of giving way to the beginnings of sin. Happy is he who fears always, and walks humbly with his God. The strongest Christian is the one who feels his weakness most, and cries most frequently, "Hold me up — and I shall be safe!" (Psalm 119:117.)
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Saws and hammers!
(Letters of John Newton)
"Assyria — the rod of My anger!" Isaiah 10:5
Dear Mrs. Hannah More,
I consider all second causes and instruments — as mere saws and hammers in the Divine Workman's hands! They can neither give us pleasure nor pain — but as our Lord and Savior is pleased to employ them.
I am firmly assured that He has done, still does, and will do — all things well.
How little can we judge of this great drama of this world — by a single scene! But when we see the glorious outcome — how shall we love and praise and wonder!
As for myself, this old man of seventy-six is still favored with perfect health, and can still preach as loud, as long, and as often as formerly. He is still heard with acceptance and has cause to hope that the Lord blesses his ministry. "Oh to grace how great a debtor" — is the poor African blasphemer and profligate!
I am, my dear madam, your much obliged friend,
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Not puny, sinful worms!
("The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ, The letters of Ruth Bryan" 1805-1860)
Deliverance seldom comes in the way we look for it; for "Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or who gave Him His counsel? Who did He consult with? Who gave Him understanding and taught Him the paths of justice? Who taught Him knowledge and showed Him the way of understanding?" Isaiah 40:13-14
Ah, has not the Lord frustrated our purposes over and over again! I cannot tell you with what majesty this passage has often come to my mind — "Who gave Him His counsel?" Not puny, sinful worms! He will counsel for them — but not with them. "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure!"
Yet "fear not, worm Jacob, I will help you" — help you to stand still and see My salvation; or help you to walk on in the dark in a rough and unknown path — just as My wisdom sees fit.
Spiritual eyesight is not given to look at the outward path — but to look at our Guide; not to look before us at the way we are going to travel — but to look only at Him who will guide us safely through all, who will Himself be our way. Oh, to be kept abiding in Him, and constantly looking unto Him! It is most safe and blessed — but very contrary to flesh and blood!
"I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on paths they have not known. I will turn darkness to light in front of them, and rough places into level ground. This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16
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The only sure medicine for troubled hearts!
"Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God — believe also in Me!" John 14:1
This verse is rich in precious truth. For eighteen centuries it has been peculiarly dear to Christ's believing servants in every part of the world. Many are the sick rooms which it has lightened! Many are the dying hearts which it has cheered!
We have in this passage, a precious remedy against an old disease. That disease is trouble of heart. That remedy is faith.
Heart-trouble is the commonest thing in the world!
No rank, or class, or condition is exempt from it.
No bars, or bolts, or locks can keep it out.
Partly from inward causes — and partly from outward causes;
partly from the body — and partly from the mind;
partly from what we love — and partly from what we fear
— the journey of life is full of trouble! Between grace and glory — even the best of Christians have many bitter cups to drink. Even the holiest saints find the world to be a valley of tears! "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33
Faith in the Lord Jesus is the only sure medicine for troubled hearts!
To believe more thoroughly,
to trust more entirely,
to rest more unreservedly,
to lay hold more firmly,
to lean back more completely —
this is the prescription which our Master urges on the attention of all His disciples.
Never let us forget that there are degrees in faith, and that there is a wide difference between weak and strong believers. The weakest faith is enough to give a man a saving interest in Christ, and ought not to be despised — but it will not give a man such inward comfort as a strong faith. Vagueness and dimness of perception are the defect of weak believers. They do not see clearly what they believe and why they believe. In such cases more faith is the one thing needed. Like Peter on the water, they need to look more steadily at Jesus — and less at the waves and wind.
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You! Isaiah 26:3
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We need more sermons in shoes!
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven!" Matthew 5:16
The demand of the day is for a higher standard and style of Christian life. Every follower of Christ must represent His religion purely, loftily, impressively, before that multitude of "Bible-readers" whose only Bible is the Christian.
We need more sermons in shoes, men and women going up and down the roads of life preaching Christianity by their imitation of Christ!
"Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps!" 1 Peter 2:21
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So it died, buried in pleasure!
"Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" 2 Timothy 3:4
Did you ever read of the bee in the fable, that found a pot of honey, and thought it would be fine to save all the trouble of flying about the meadows and gathering its sweet stores, little by little, out of the cups of flowers? Soon it went in the pot and reveled in the sweets; but when it began to get tired and cloyed, it found — poor bee! — that its wings were all clogged and would not open, nor could it drag its body out of the mass. So it died, buried in pleasure!
There are many people, like this bee, who find death in their pleasures!
"You have lived on earth in pleasure and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter!" James 5:5
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A bad book is a big thief!
A bad book is a big thief! For it robs a man of his time, and of his good principles. Many young people have been ruined by the vile literature which is now so common. A German writer says, "Such books rob the public of time, money, and the attention which ought properly to belong to good literature with noble aims. Of bad books, we can never read too little; of the good books, never too much."
Books should conduce to one of these four ends:
for delight, or
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Polishing God's jewels!
"They will be Mine in the day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17
(Robert Leighton, 1611-1684)
God has many sharp-cutting instruments and rough files for the polishing of His jewels. Those He especially loves and means to make the most resplendent — He most often uses His tools upon!
(Richard Newton, "Bible Jewels")
Jewels are polished for the sake of removing specks and blemishes from them. They are often cut and polished on purpose to make them look more beautiful. If a large diamond is to be put on the crown of some great king, it is only by cutting and polishing that it can be made to shine with all its brilliance.
When you look at a diamond, you see that it has many faces or sides. These don't belong to diamonds naturally. When they are found in the mines, they have none of these smooth faces. They are then like little pebble-stones, without any particular shape. These smooth, even sides are made by the jeweler, by grinding and polishing. And they are made on purpose to make the diamond look more beautiful.
In the same way, God cuts and polishes His jewels in order to make them shine more brightly and beautifully in the crown of His glory in Heaven.
Sometimes we see good Christian people who have very heavy trials which they are obliged to bear for many years. And when we see them bearing those trials, we often wonder what it is all for.
God is using those trials just as the jeweler uses the files and wheels — to polish His jewels so as to make them brighter and more beautiful in Heaven.
There was that poor beggar at the gate of the rich man, of whom we read in the New Testament. He was left to be so poor, and to have all those dreadful sores, not because God could not help it; He could easily have made him a rich man and have kept him from having any sores at all, if He had so pleased. But Lazarus was one of God's jewels, and God was making use of his poverty and beggary and sores — in order to polish that jewel and make it shine more beautifully in Heaven!
All of God's jewels need polishing!
"I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10
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A medicine essential for our spiritual health and happiness!
"I, even I, am He who comforts you!" Isaiah 51:12
How does God comfort us? Suppose you are in some great trouble — how will God comfort you?
God comforts us by showing us the necessity of that trouble. Do you ever think of this — that there is NO CHANCE? Not a pang can pierce the heart of His redeemed child, for which there is not a needs-be!
Not an ache can gnaw the frame;
not a grief can pierce the heart;
not a shadow can darken the soul —
which is not permitted because there was a needs-be!
It is a comfort to know that no affliction is random, that no bereavement is accident — but that each is sent because it was a medicine essential for our spiritual health and happiness. Thus God comforts us.
God comforts us in affliction, by revealing to us what is the source of trouble. We are told that not a trouble can befall us that has not been first in God's bosom; that not a tear can start in the eye that He has not first planned, and estimated, and weighed, and pronounced to be expedient for us.
Admit for one moment, that CHANCE is the parent of your troubles — that accident is the author of your bereavements — and what a gloomy place must this world be! What a sad heart must the mourner's be! What an unhappy man must the victim of trouble be! But when we know that the blow that strikes the heaviest, is from our Father's hand; that the sorrow that pierces the heart with the keenest agony, lay in His bosom before it received its mission to touch us — then surely it is a truth, "I, even I, am He who comforts you!"
God comforts us by showing us the end of that trouble. If the sorrows, bereavements, disappointments, griefs, secret and open, had no end, and no grand object, and no great purpose to accomplish — then they would be intolerable. But He tells us, "Though no tribulation for the present seems joyous, but grievous — yet afterwards it works out the peaceable fruits of righteousness to those who are exercised thereby." He tells us that "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory." "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."
And therefore the necessity, the source, and the end of our troubles, revealed to us by God — take away the edge of them, and make at least tolerable that which, if inexplicable, would be altogether intolerable.
Lastly, He will comfort us by delivering us from all our troubles, and introducing us into a glorious rest — more bright and beautiful than eye has seen, or ear has heard, or man's heart in its happiest imaginings has ever conceived!
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It is a fact of life!
(Albert Barnes, "Life at Three-score and Ten" 1868)
It is a fact of life, that all of our thoughts, words, and actions are fixed and unchangeable.
Now, at the age of seventy, my work for good or for evil is done.
I cannot go back and repair what has been amiss.
I cannot now do what has been left undone.
I cannot do in a better manner, what has been imperfectly performed.
I cannot recover the hours that have been wasted.
I cannot correct the evils which may have resulted from my errors.
I cannot overtake and stop what I have spoken or written, as it has gone out into the world.
I cannot summon back the opportunities for usefulness which have been neglected.
I cannot obliterate the reality or the memory of wrong thoughts, or wrong motives, or wrong words, or wrong actions.
All that has been thought or said or done in these seventy years, has become fixed as a reality — never to be changed.
Past errors and follies may be forgiven — but they are never to be changed.
The hope of a man at seventy years of age — at any age — is not that the errors, and sins, and follies of the past can be changed — it is only . . .
that they may be pardoned by a merciful God;
that they may be covered over by the blood of the atonement;
that though they must remain forever as facts — facts fully known to the Great Searcher of hearts — their guilt may be so taken away that they will not be punished;
that by the blood shed on the cross, they themselves may be so covered over — so hidden — that they will not be disclosed on the final trial before assembled worlds!
That hope, the religion of Christ offers to all.
How different would men try to make their lives, if they habitually felt that all — literally all — that they do, or say, or think — even their most fugitive thoughts — becomes thus fixed and unchangeable forever!
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You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do!
(Hiram Mattison, "The Evils of Theater-going" 1867)
"You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do — living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, revelings, banquetings, and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you!" 1 Peter 4:3-4
1. That Christians were not to live as formerly, and like other men — in folly and dissipation.
2. That "revelings" and "banquetings" are specified, which covers all balls, parties, and masquerades, at least.
3. That the early Christians had ceased to run with those who walked in these follies.
4. That the ungodly thought this very "strange" and over-rigid.
5. That the ungodly spoke evil of Christians, on account of their peculiar abstinence and self-denial.
And today the same holy course meets the same unholy treatment, even at the hands of some who profess religion, and ought to be found wholly upon the Lord's side.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind!" Romans 12:2
"The spirit of the world is eating out the very heart and life of true godliness!" (George Everard)
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That always brings down the wrath of the religious majority!
Pragmatism is having a powerful influence upon contemporary Christianity!
Pragmatism asks no embarrassing questions about the Scripturalness of what we are doing. It accepts our chosen ends as right and good — and casts about for efficient means and ways to get them accomplished. When it discovers something that works, it soon finds a text to justify it, then "consecrates" it to the Lord, and plunges ahead.
As one fairly familiar with the contemporary religious scene, I say without hesitation that a very large part of the activities carried on today in evangelical circles are not only influenced by pragmatism — but almost completely controlled by it!
Religious methodology is geared to it;
it appears large in our youth meetings;
magazines and books constantly glorify it;
conventions are dominated by it; and
the whole religious atmosphere is alive with it!
What shall we do to break its power over us? The answer is simple. We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His church. The New Testament contains full instructions, not only about what we are to believe — but what we are to do and how we are to go about doing it. Any deviation from those instructions, is a denial of the Lordship of Christ.
The answer is simple, but it is not easy — for it requires that we obey God rather than man, and that always brings down the wrath of the religious majority! It is not a question of knowing what to do — we can easily learn that from the Scriptures. It is a question of whether or not we have the courage to do it!
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The Utilitarian Christ!
Our Lord forewarned us that false Christs would come. Mostly we think of these as coming from the outside — but we should remember that they may also arise within the church itself.
We must be extremely careful that the Christ we profess to follow, is indeed the very Christ of Scripture. There is always danger that we may be following a Christ who is not the true Christ — but one conjured up by our imagination and made in our own image.
I confess to a feeling of uneasiness about this when I observe the questionable things Christ is said to do for people these days. He is often recommended as a wonderfully obliging, but not too discriminating, Big Brother — who delights to help us to accomplish our ends, and who further favors us by forbearing to ask any embarrassing questions about the moral and spiritual qualities of those ends.
Within the past few years, Christ has been popularized by some so-called evangelicals as one who, if a proper amount of prayer were made — would help the pious prize fighter to knock another fighter unconscious in the ring.
Christ is also said to help the big league pitcher to get the proper hook on his curve.
In another instance He assists an athlete to win the high jump; and in another case, not only to come in first in a track meet — but to set a new record in the bargain.
He is said also to have helped a praying businessman to beat out a competitor in a deal. He is even thought to lend support to a praying movie actress while she plays a role so lewd as to bring the blood to the face of a professional prostitute!
Thus our Lord becomes the Christ of utility — a kind of Aladdin's lamp to do minor miracles in behalf of anyone who summons Him to do his bidding.
Apparently no one stops to consider that if Christ were to step into a prize ring and use His divine power to help one prize fighter to paralyze another — that He would be putting one fighter at a cruel disadvantage and violating every common instinct of fair play. If He were to aid one businessman to the detriment of another, He would be practicing favoritism and revealing a character wholly unlike the Bible picture of the real Christ. All this is too horrible to contemplate.
Theirs is a Christ of carnal convenience — not too far removed from the gods of paganism.
The whole purpose of God in redemption is to make us holy and to restore us to the image of Christ. To accomplish this, He disengages us from earthly ambitions and draws us away from the cheap and unworthy prizes that worldly men set their hearts upon. A holy man would not dream of asking God to help him beat an opponent, or win over a competitor. No man in whom the Spirit dwells, could bring himself to ask the Lord to help him knock another man unconscious, for filthy lucre or the plaudits of the vulgar spectators.
To teach that Christ will use His sacred power to further our worldly interests, is to wrong our Lord and injure our own souls.
We modern evangelicals need to learn the truths of the sovereignty of God and the lordship of Christ. Christ will not be manipulated by any of Adam's selfish brood! We had better learn these things fast if this generation of young Christians is to be spared the supreme tragedy of following a Christ who is merely a Christ of convenience — and not the true Lord of glory after all!
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The poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause!
(Letters of John Newton)
Among the many general causes of decline in grace, we may assign a principal place to spiritual pride and self-admiration. If our attainments in knowledge and giftedness, and even in grace — seduce us into a good opinion of ourselves, as if we were wise and good — we are already ensnared, in danger of falling every step we take, of mistaking the right path, and proceeding from bad to worse — without a power of correcting or even of discovering our deviations! That is — unless and until the Lord mercifully interposes, by restoring us to a spirit of humility, and dependence upon Himself. For God, who gives more grace to the humble — resists the proud! He beholds them with abhorrence — in proportion to the degree in which they admire themselves! It is the invariable law of His kingdom, that everyone who exalts himself — shall be abased!
True Christians, through the remaining evil of their hearts, and the subtle temptations of their enemy, are liable, not only to the workings of that pride which is common to our fallen nature — but to a certain kind of pride, which, though the most absurd and intolerable in any person — can only be found among those who make profession of the gospel. We have nothing but what we have received, and therefore to be proud of our titles, wealth, knowledge, success, or any temporal advantages by which the providence of God has distinguished us — is downright sinful! For those who confess themselves to be 'sinners', and therefore deserving of nothing but misery and wrath — to be proud of those peculiar blessings which are derived from the gospel of God's grace — is a wickedness of which even the demons are not capable of!
The apostle Paul was so aware of his danger of being exalted above measure, through the abundant revelations and peculiar favors which the Lord had afforded him — that he says, "There was given me a messenger of Satan to buffet me." He speaks of this sharp trial as a great mercy, because he saw that it was necessary, and designed to keep him humble and attentive to his own weakness.
Ministers who are honored with singular abilities and success, have great need of watchfulness and prayer on this account! Simple-hearted hearers are apt to admire their favorite preacher — taking it for granted that he is deeply affected himself with the truths, which, with so much apparent liberty and power — he proposes to them. While, perhaps — the poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause, and pleasing himself with the numbers and attention of those who hang upon his words!
Perhaps such thoughts will occasionally rise in the minds of the best ministers; but, if they are allowed, if they become habitual, and enter strongly into the idea he forms of his own importance; and if, while he professes to preach Jesus Christ — he is preaching himself, and seeking his own glory — he is guilty of high treason against the Majesty of Him in whose name he speaks! And sooner or later, the effects of his pride will be visible and noticed. Doctrinal errors, gross misconduct, an abatement of zeal, of gifts, of influence — are evils always to be dreaded, when spiritual pride has gained an ascendancy, whether in public or in private life.
"The Lord Almighty has planned it, to bring low the pride of all glory and to humble all who are renowned on the earth." Isaiah 23:9
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He will not spare the pruning knife if He sees that we need it!
"Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes so that it may bear more fruit." John 15:2
We learn from this verse, that God will often increase the holiness of true Christians by His providential dealings with them. The meaning of this language is clear and plain. Just as the gardener prunes and cuts back the branches of a fruitful vine, in order to make them more fruitful — so does God purify and sanctify believers by the circumstances of life in which He places them.
Trial, to speak plainly, is the instrument by which our heavenly Father makes Christians more holy. By trial, He calls out their passive graces, and proves whether they can suffer His will as well as do it. By trial, He . . .
weans them from the world,
draws them to Christ,
drives them to the Bible and prayer,
shows them their own hearts,
and makes them humble.
This is the process by which He "prunes" them, and makes them more fruitful.
The lives of the saints in every age, are the best and truest commentary on the text. Never, hardly, do we find an eminent saint, either in the Old Testament or the New, who was not purified by suffering, and, like His Master, a "man of sorrows."
Let us learn to be patient in the days of darkness, if we know anything of vital union with Christ. Let us remember the doctrine of the passage before us, and not murmur and complain because of trials. Our trials are not meant to do us harm, but good. God chastens us "for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." Hebrews 12:10
Fruit is the thing that our Master desires to see in us — and He will not spare the pruning knife if He sees that we need it!
In the last day, we shall see that all was well done.
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Only as much religion as will save them from Hell!
There are multitudes of professing Christians among us, who want only as much religion as will save them from Hell — not an atom more! The world is their real god. Gold is their idol. They worship in mammon's temple!
Love God with all their heart! — they do not so much as understand the meaning of such a thing.
Sacrifice riches, place, honor, and friends to Christ! — they scoff at the thing as madness.
Oh, be out and out for God!
Do not trifle with religion.
Do not mock God and Christ.
Do not love the world.
Be pious in your inmost soul.
Do not mistake mere sentimentalism for saving religion — or a good character for the new birth. You may go very far — and yet not be a Christian. You may follow Christ in some things — but if not in all, what is your following worth?
This world, or the world to come — that is the alternative. Not this world, and the world to come.
Christ is all — or nothing. There is no middle ground; no half-discipleship; no compromise. No! The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Come out and be separate.
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Clowns entertaining the goats!
"Feed My sheep." John 21:17
A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats!
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth, and turn aside to myths!" 2 Timothy 4:1-4
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He has a numerous and necessitous family!
(Letters of John Newton)
"Let us therefore approach the Throne of Grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!" Hebrews 4:16
What a multitude of eyes and hearts wait at the Throne of Grace! He has a numerous and necessitous family — but He is rich enough to supply them all — and His tender compassions extend to the poorest and most unworthy of them! Like the sun — He can cheer and enlighten millions of His poor pensioners at once! He gives to each one as bountifully — as if there were no others to partake of His favor!
His best blessings are not diminished — by being shared among many. The greatest earthly monarch would soon be poor — if he was to give but a pittance to all his subjects. But Jesus has unsearchable, inexhaustible riches of grace to bestow!
The innumerable assembly around the Eternal Throne are all continually supplied from His fullness; and yet there is enough and to spare for His earthly children also — and for all who shall come after us! May He give us an eager appetite — a hunger and thirst that will not be satisfied with anything short of the Bread of Life. We may confidently open our mouths wide — for He has promised to fill them!
"Let us therefore approach the Throne of Grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!" Hebrews 4:16
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These are tailor-made for the flesh!
Jesus Christ has almost no authority at all today, among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics, nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults.
I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely the evangelicals.
We evangelicals also know how to avoid the plain instructions, and sharp point of obedience of our Lord in the New Testament — by means of fine and intricate explanations. These are tailor-made for the flesh! They excuse disobedience, worldliness, and carnality and make the words of Christ of no effect. And the essence of it all is that Christ simply could not have meant what He said. His teachings are accepted even theoretically, only after they have been weakened by our interpretations.
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My Father's eye!
(James Smith, "The Pastor's Evening Visit")
"Your Father who sees in secret." Matthew 6:6
Can anyone hide himself from the Lord in secret places?
Can I, under any circumstances, escape His notice?
The eye of God has been fixed upon me every second of this day; it is now at this moment fixed fully upon me. But it is my Father's eye! My Father sees in secret!
He sees my needs — and my woes.
He sees every secret working of my foes — and will save me from them.
He sees every secret influence which is likely to injure me — and will prevent it.
He sees . . .
the secret workings of my heart,
my hidden thoughts,
my unuttered desires,
my soul conflicts,
my private temptations.
But He sees also my secret sins!
Every evil thought,
every unfitting word,
every improper action —
passes under His eye!
Solemn consideration this!
May it make me cautious. May it preserve me . . .
from yielding to temptation,
from nourishing sinful thoughts, and
from acting inconsistent with my profession.
My heavenly Father sees me!
He sees me at this moment!
He sees me every moment!
He sees my most secret motives, thoughts, and purposes!
He who thus sees me — hates every sin with an infinite hatred!
"There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do!" Hebrews 4:13
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The dull, and the slow, and the stupid, and the doubting!
(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of John")
"Then He said to Thomas: Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side." John 20:27
We see here, how kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers. Nowhere, perhaps, in all the four Gospels, do we find this part of our Lord's character so beautifully illustrated, as in the story before our eyes. It is hard to imagine anything more tiresome and provoking than the conduct of Thomas, when even the testimony of ten faithful brethren had no effect on him, and he doggedly declared, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side — I will not believe."
But it is impossible to imagine anything more patient and compassionate, than our Lord's treatment of this weak disciple. He does not reject him, or dismiss him, or excommunicate him. He comes again at the end of a week, and apparently for the special benefit of Thomas. He deals with him according to his weakness, like a gentle mother dealing with a froward child, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side." If nothing but the grossest, coarsest, most material evidence could satisfy Thomas — even that evidence was supplied. Surely this was a love which surpasses knowledge, and a patience which surpasses understanding.
A passage of Scripture like this, we need not doubt, was written for the special comfort of all true believers. The Holy Spirit knew well that the dull, and the slow, and the stupid, and the doubting, are by far the commonest type of disciples in this evil world. The Holy Spirit has taken care to supply abundant evidence that Jesus is rich in patience as well as compassion, and that He bears with the infirmities of all His people. Let us take care that we drink into our Lord's spirit, and copy His example. Let us never set down men as godless — because their faith is feeble, and their love is cold. Let us remember the case of Thomas, and be very compassionate and of tender mercy.
Our Lord has . . .
many weak children in His family,
many dull pupils in His school,
many raw soldiers in His army,
many lame sheep in His flock.
Yet He bears with them all, and casts none away!
Happy is that Christian who has learned to deal likewise with his brethren. There are many in the Church, who, like Thomas, are dull and slow — but for all that, like Thomas, are real and true believers.
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The one book for all ages and all nations, for all classes of men and all states of society, for all capacities of intellect and all necessities of the soul!
(Daniel March, 1868)
The Bible is the oldest and the newest of books. It surveys the whole field of time — and it looks farthest into the infinite depths of eternity. It lends the most vivid and absorbing interest to the scenes and events of the past — and it keeps us in the most active sympathy with the time in which we live. It gives us the most reliable record of what has been — and it affords us our only means of knowing what is yet to be. It is strict enough to denounce the very shadow and semblance of sin — and it is liberal enough to save the chief of sinners. It is full of God — and must therefore be read with a pure heart or its true glory will not be seen. It is full of man — and must therefore always be interesting and instructive to all who would know themselves.
The Bible is the plainest of books — and yet it has depths of wisdom which no created mind can fathom! It is set up as a beacon to show all wanderers the safe way — and yet its light shines forth from thick clouds of mystery and from abysses of infinite darkness. It describes all conditions of life, and it gives utterance to all desires and emotions of the soul.
It sparkles with the fervor and gladness of youth, it celebrates the strength and glory of manhood — and it bewails the sorrows and infirmities of old age. It sympathizes with the poor and lowly, it lifts up the fallen, it delivers the oppressed, and it breathes the blessing of peace upon the quiet homes of domestic life. It describes with startling clearness the seductions of temptation, the conflicts of doubt, and the miseries of skepticism. It searches the secret chambers of the heart, and brings to light its purest love and its darkest hate, its highest joy and its deepest grief. It compasses the utmost range of thought and feeling and desire — and it sounds the utmost depth of motive and character and passion.
The composition of the Bible was extended through a long course of years; it was carried on under a great variety of circumstances; it bears the impress of every diversity of individual character. And yet the spirit of inspiration speaks with equal fullness through all the times and circumstances and characters. Thus in the Bible, God and man, earth and Heaven, time and eternity — speak with one voice and teach the same truth. Thus the Bible is made to be the one book for all ages and all nations, for all classes of men and all states of society, for all capacities of intellect and all necessities of the soul. It sets forth the most spiritual and heavenly truths — in the lights and shadows of earthly scenes and human characters.
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What a Heaven!
(J. A. James, "The Practical Believer Delineated")
Heaven will consist of . . .
the moral perfection of the soul,
perfect likeness to Christ,
perfection of the body in . . .
the presence of God in the full manifestation of His glory,
the beatific vision of Christ,
the fellowship of angels and all the redeemed,
the joint worship of the heavenly multitudes,
the perfect service of Christ, without . . .
complete freedom from . . .
Such is the substance of heavenly felicity. Take
any one of them by itself — and each is a Heaven!
Add them altogether — and what a Heaven!
How pure! How elevated! How felicitous!
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Go to Him in your emptiness, and receive daily out of His fullness!
(Ashton Oxenden, "The Christian Life" 1882)
"As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord — so walk in Him!" Colossians 2:6
We are apt to think that all we need is to look to Christ as our Sin-bearer; and that, having once gone to Him in faith, and obtained forgiveness, the work is done. But the believer now needs the same Savior who pardoned him — to be ever with him, to help him on his way, and to keep his soul alive. He must ever run his Christian race, 'looking unto Jesus.' He must 'come out of the wilderness, leaning on his Beloved.' In himself, the believer is powerless. Christ is both the Life and Strength of the renewed soul.
The believer needs daily strength. He cannot fight by his own power. He cannot even walk alone. If he hopes to resist temptation, and to lead a holy life of service to his heavenly Master — if he wants boldly to come out from the world, and to stand forth as a decided follower of Christ — he must look to Jesus for daily grace to strengthen him.
It is living upon Christ, which alone can make us growing, thriving, vigorous Christians!
To be ever looking to Christ for grace, to be constantly stretching out the hand and heart to Christ for help, to be daily feeding upon Him — this is the secret of all our spiritual life, and of all our spiritual well-being.
Never suppose that you can become strong enough to do without Christ. Never imagine that you can reach such a point, that you are anything more than a poor, helpless being. As you humbled yourself beneath His cross at the first — so continue to feel your place to be in the dust before Him, your righteousness to be as filthy rags, your strength as utter weakness!
Go to Him in your emptiness, and receive daily out of His fullness!
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The Infinite has become an infant!
(Charles Spurgeon, "The Condescension of Christ!")
"Even angels long to look into these things!" 1 Peter 1:12
Oh, how surprised angels were, when they were first informed that Jesus Christ, the Prince of Light and Majesty, intended to shroud Himself in clay and become a babe, and live and die! We do not know how it was first mentioned to the angels — but when the rumor first began to get afloat among the sacred hosts, you may imagine what strange wonderment there was.
What! Was it true that He whose crown was all bedecked with stars, would lay that crown aside?
What! Was it certain that He about whose shoulders was cast the government of the universe, would become a man dressed in a peasants garment?
Could it be true that He who was everlasting and immortal, would one day be nailed to a cross?
And when He descended from on high, they followed Him; for Jesus was "seen by angels," and seen in a special sense, for they looked upon Him in rapturous amazement, wondering what it all could mean.
Oh, can you conceive the yet increasing wonder of the heavenly hosts when He put aside His majesty — when they saw the tiara taken off, when they saw Him unbind His belt of stars, and cast away His sandals of gold?
Can you conceive it, when He said to them: "I do not disdain the womb of the virgin — I am going down to earth to become a man!"
And now wonder, you angels, the Infinite has become an infant!
He, upon whose shoulders the universe hangs — hangs at His mothers bosom!
He who created all things, and bears up the pillars of creation — has now become so weak that He must be carried by a woman!
And oh, wonder, you angels who knew Him in His riches, while you admire His poverty!
Where does the new-born King sleep? Had He the best room in Caesar's palace? Has a cradle of gold been prepared for Him, and pillows of down, on which to rest His head? No! Where the ox fed, in the dilapidated stable, in the feeding trough — there the Savior lies, swathed in the swaddling bands of the children of poverty!
See Him who made the worlds — handle the hammer and the nails, assisting Joseph in the trade of a carpenter!
Mark Him who has put the stars on high, and made them glisten in the night; mark Him without one star of glory upon His brow — a simple child, as other children.
Let us leave the scenes of His childhood and His earlier life. See Him when He becomes a man — as for His food, He oftentimes hungered; and always was dependent upon the charity of others for the relief of His needs!
He who scattered the harvest over the broad acres of the world — at times had nothing to stop the pangs of His hunger!
He who dug the springs of the ocean — sat upon a well and said to a Samaritan woman, "Give me a drink!"
He rode in no chariot, but He walked His weary way, foot-sore, over the flints of Galilee!
He had no where to lay His head. He looked upon the fox as it hurried to its burrow, and the fowl as it went to its resting-place, and He said, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests — but I have nowhere to lay my head."
He who had once been waited on by angels — becomes the servant of servants, takes a towel, girds Himself, and washes His disciples' feet!
He who was once honored with the hallelujahs of ages — is now spit upon and despised!
Oh, there are no words to picture the humiliation of Christ! What leagues of distance between Him that once sat upon the throne — and Him that died upon the cross! Oh, who can tell the mighty chasm between yon heights of glory — and the cross of deepest woe!
Trace Him, Christian. Follow Him all His journey through. Begin with Him in the wilderness of temptation, see Him fasting there, and hungering with the wild beasts around Him. Trace Him along His weary way, as the Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He is the byword of the drunkard, He is the song of the scorner, and He is hooted at by the malicious — see Him as they point their finger at Him, and call Him a "drunken man and wine-bibber!"
Follow Him along His 'Via Dolorosa', until at last you meet Him among the olive groves of Gethsemane — see Him sweating great drops of blood!
Follow Him to the pavement of Gabbatha — see Him pouring out rivers of gore beneath the cruel whips of Roman soldiers!
With weeping eye follow Him to the cross of Calvary, see Him nailed there!
Mark His poverty — so poor that His unpillowed head is girt with thorns in death!
Oh, Son of Man, I know not which to admire most — Your height of glory — or Your depths of misery!
If I had a tale to tell you this day of some king, who, out of love to some fair maiden, left his kingdom and became a peasant like herself — you would stand and wonder, and would listen to the charming tale. But when I tell of God concealing His dignity to become our Savior — our hearts are scarcely touched!
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich!" 2 Corinthians 8:9
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We would never commit a sin!
(Charles Spurgeon, "How God Condemned Sin")
Such are the assemblage of graces found only in Jesus, each sparkling with peerless luster, and all blending with such exquisite gracefulness — that we are at once moved with awe and touched with love as we contemplate Him.
Such majesty — and yet such meekness in His demeanor.
Such solemnity — and yet such tenderness in His speech.
So impartial in judgment — and yet so forgiving in temper.
So full of zeal — and yet so equally full of patience.
So keen to detect malice — and yet so slow to resent it.
Such a wise mentor — and yet such a gentle sympathizing friend.
Jesus was perfectly . . .
All His words were love.
All His actions were kindness.
We would never commit a sin, if we would but first say to ourselves, "Would Jesus have done this?"
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If that man had the soul of a swine!
No object is so suitable and adequate to the heart as Christ is. He is a portion that exactly and directly suits . . .
the condition of the soul,
the desires of the soul,
the necessities of the soul,
the wants of the soul,
the longings of the soul,
and the prayers of the soul.
The soul can crave nothing, nor wish for nothing — but what is to be found in Christ. He is . . .
light to enlighten the soul,
wisdom to counsel the soul,
power to support the soul,
goodness to supply the soul,
mercy to pardon the soul,
beauty to delight the soul,
glory to ravish the soul,
and fullness to fill the soul.
Health is not more suitable to the sick man,
nor wealth to the poor man,
nor bread to the hungry man,
nor drink to the thirsty man,
nor clothes to the naked man,
nor balm to the wounded man,
nor ease to the tormented man,
nor health to the diseased man,
nor pardon to the condemned man,
nor a guide to the blind man —
than Christ is suitable to all the necessities of man.
This speaks out the excellency of Christ above all others!
There is no 'earthly' portion that can suit an immortal soul. He is a fool upon record who said, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years — take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry!" If that man had the soul of a swine — what more could he have said? For those things were more suitable to swine, than they were to an immortal soul.
Man's soul is a spiritual and immortal substance. It is capable . . .
of union and communion with God;
of a choice enjoyment of God here,
and an eternal fruition of God hereafter!
"Yes, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved — and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
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The matchless wisdom of God which devised this system of salvation!
"Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her!" Ephesians 5:25
The more I consider the doctrine of substitution — the more is my soul enamored of the matchless wisdom of God which devised this system of salvation. As for a hazy atonement which atones for everybody in general, and for nobody in particular — an atonement made equally for Judas and for John — I care nothing for it. But a literal, substitutionary sacrifice, Christ vicariously bearing the wrath of God on my behalf — this calms my conscience with regard to the righteous demands of the law of God, and satisfies the instincts of my nature which declare that, as God is just, He must exact the penalty of my guilt!
"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!" John 10:11
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Where the battle rages!
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking — I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved — and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point!