Grace Gems for FEBRUARY 2017
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Rich to all eternity!
No matter how great your wealth, if you have not Christ — you are miserably poor! "The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him: Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:22-24
No matter how great your poverty, if you have Christ — you are rich to all eternity! "We have a priceless inheritance — an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4
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Lord, let me be a pure stream
(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")
Jordan, that famous river, no doubt runs through many a pleasant meadow, by many a shady grove and flowery bank; and yet at last empties itself into the Dead Sea.
So it is with a wicked man! Here on earth he walks through meadows of worldly pleasures, and rests under the shades of earthly comforts, and sports and wallows among the flowers of worldly delights — but at last runs himself down into the Dead Sea of Hell. And not only so — but . . .
his earthly delights will fade,
his beauty shall be turned into horror,
his honor shall be turned into shame,
his lusts shall be turned into tormentors, and
his pleasures shall be turned into bitterness!
Lord, let me be a pure stream, that I may terminate in Heaven! I care not what difficult channels I pass through here on earth — if in Heaven I may exchange my weakness and corruption, for perfection and glory!
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God-pardoned, God-reconciled, Sin-delivered, God-arrayed, Heaven-entitled souls!
(Archibald Brown, "What Christ Has Done for Me!" 1872)
"Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul!" Psalm 66:16
No one word can fully express all that God has done for my soul, though in general it may be described as saved. Saved! Ah, that is a grand word worthy of being written in letters of gold! A saved soul includes many things — I can only mention them:
1. A saved soul is a God-pardoned soul. All its sins are forgiven, and its iniquities are drowned in that deluge of pardoning love that rises high above the topmost peaks of all its mountain sins!
2. A saved soul is a God-reconciled soul. Once at enmity — God and the sinner are now at peace. All differences are at an end. The prodigal sinner has been embraced and kissed by the father. The rebel has thrown down his weapons, and bent his knee to the Monarch — and the Monarch has raised him up, and with a smile of love, has put him among His children. If I may so express it, God and the sinner have met and shaken hands beneath the shadow of the cross. They are at at-one-ment there.
3. A saved soul is also a sin-delivered soul. This is something more than pardon, or reconciliation. It is a higher blessing. Pardon remits the punishment of sin — but leaves the guilt of sin. But justification acquits the person of every charge. Believer, your sins are not merely forgiven — but they are done away with, put out of sight, removed from you as far as the remotest east is from the extreme west! In the eye of God, you are as guiltless as His spotless Son! "You are altogether beautiful, My love; there is no flaw in you!" Song of Songs 4:7
4. A saved soul is also a God-arrayed soul. This is higher still. The former blessing was a negation of guilt — this is a possession of righteousness. A righteousness, mark you, that is not capable of improvement — but a righteousness that is superlative in its quality — it is the righteousness of God Himself! A saved soul, even to the omniscient eye of Deity, is not only without spot or wrinkle or any such thing — but it is altogether lovely and glorious, robed in the splendor of "Jehovah Tsidkenu" — "The Lord our Righteousness!"
5. A saved soul is a Heaven-entitled soul. This crowns all. Not merely am I delivered from Hell — but in my hand is placed a title-deed to eternal glory! This is no fiction or flight of imagination — but a blessed fact. Possessed by every saint, is a title to Heaven that God Himself will declare to be valid to all eternity.
Now believer, if all these things are included in what God has done for our souls, then did I not say rightly that many words were necessary to describe the work? Let us then, as God-pardoned, God-reconciled, Sin-delivered, God-arrayed, Heaven-entitled souls — call on all, far and near, to come and listen to our joyous tale.
God looks upon His redeemed people as the masterpieces of His love and power, and He will before assembled worlds exhibit us as the grandest trophies Heaven contains!
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With perfect wisdom, at the right time, in the right way!
"He has done all things well!" Mark 7:37
The truth of these words is full of deep and unspeakable comfort, and ought to be daily remembered by all true Christians.
Let us remember it as we look back over the days past of our lives, from the hour of our conversion. In the first bringing us out of darkness into marvelous light — in humbling us and teaching us our weakness, guilt, and folly — in stripping us of our idols, and choosing all our portions — in placing us where we are, and giving us what we have — how well everything has been done! How great is the mercy that we have not had our own way! "He has done all things well!"
Let us remember it as we look forward to the days yet to come. We know not what they may be — bright or dark, many or few. But we know that we are in the hands of Him who does all things well. He will not err in any of His dealings with us. He will take away and give — He will afflict and bereave — He will move and He will settle — with perfect wisdom, at the right time, in the right way! The great Shepherd of the sheep makes no mistakes! He leads every lamb of His flock by the right way to the city of habitation. "He has done all things well!"
We shall never see the full beauty of these words until the resurrection morning. We shall then look back over our lives, and know the meaning of everything that happened from first to last. We shall remember all the way by which we were led, and confess that all was "well done." The why and the wherefore, the causes and the reasons of everything which now perplexes us — will then be as clear and plain as the sun at noon-day. We shall wonder at our own past blindness, and marvel that we could ever have doubted our Lord's love. Truly, "He has done all things well!"
"Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now we know in part, but then shall we know even as we are known." 1 Corinthians 13:12
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He has a perfect knowledge of all His subjects!
(William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles")
Oh, brethren, earthly kings and princes do not know all their subjects; nay, they know very few. Alas! they do not know a quarter of them! They are not acquainted with all the troubles, and needs, and miseries that their poor subjects lie under.
The Lord Jesus infinitely excels all other kings — in that He has a perfect knowledge of all His subjects! He knows them all by name. He knows . . .
all their thoughts,
all their needs,
all their ways,
all their conditions.
So say I to you, brethren, Your King knows . . .
all your necessities,
all your sufferings,
all your troubles,
all your fears!
Yes, and "My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 4:19. Oh, this is a sweet Scripture!
Oh, poor souls, Christ knows everything about you! This is our great happiness, that we have a King who knows us so well. Oh, here is the excellency of our King!
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What answer can you give to these very important questions?
(James Smith's autobiography, "Marvelous Mercy!" 1862)
On the last day of this year, I wrote in my diary as follows:
"Through the richest mercy, I am now brought to the close of another year, let me therefore ask you, my soul — What are your improvements this past year?
Is Christ more precious?
Do His work, righteousness, and blood, appear inestimable?
Do you see more of His suitability, and feel a stronger attachment to Him?
Is His glory dearer to you, and His honor more precious in your sight?
Do you feel more devoted to Him, and find greater pleasure in His service?
Do you lie lower at the foot of the cross, and is Jesus more lovely in your eyes?
Are you more humbled before God under a sight and sense of your sinfulness?
Is your temper, disposition, and will — more subdued by grace?
Does grace reign, and sway its scepter over all your powers?
Is sin more hateful, death less fearful, and Heaven more desirable?
Is the Bible more prized, and are you better acquainted with its contents, living under the influence of its holy precepts?
Is holiness and entire devotedness to God more sought after?
Are you seeking to live nearer to Jesus, to trust more unreservedly to Him, and to leave all your concerns in His hands?
Are you more earnest in your desires to be made useful to His flock and family?
Are you more prayerful, more given to meditation?
Is it your one grand desire and aim, to crown Jesus Lord of all?
Speak, my soul — what answer can you give to these very important questions? Speak as in the sight of God, as though you were placed before the tribunal of the Most High God! Let the Holy Spirit, who searches all things, be your witness that you speak the truth, and nothing but the truth!"
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If Christ has our love — then He has our ALL!
(Thomas Doolittle, "Love to Christ Necessary to Escape the Curse at His Coming!" 1693)
"If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ — he shall be accursed!" 1 Corinthians 16:22
If Christ has our love — then He has our ALL! Christ never has our all from us — until He has our love. Love withholds nothing from Christ, when it is sincerely set upon Him.
Then He shall have our time,
and He shall have our service,
and He shall have the use of all our abilities, and gifts, and graces!
Yes, then He shall have our estates and our very lives — when He calls for them.
As when God loves any of us — He will withhold nothing from us that is good for us; no, not even His own only begotten Son! Romans 8:32
And when Christ loves us, then He gives all unto us:
His merits to justify us,
His Spirit to sanctify us,
His grace to adorn us,
His glory to crown us!
Just so, when any of us love Christ sincerely, we lay all down at His feet, and give up all to be at His command and service! "And they did not love their lives unto the death!" Revelation 12:11
Love gives the character to a man, according as the object is, which he superlatively loves.
As is the love — such is the man. As is the love — such might you boldly call the man.
If he is a lover of honor — then he is an ambitious man.
If he is a lover of pleasure — then he is a voluptuous man.
If he chiefly loves the world — then he is he is a covetous man.
If he loves holiness — then he is he is a pious man.
If he loves the things above — then he is a heavenly-minded man.
If he loves Christ with a predominant love — then he is a Christian man!
"The upright love You!" Song of Songs 1:4
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"Do not love the world or anything in the world." 1 John 2:15
1. Because the gain of it, is the loss of the soul — Matthew 16:25-26.
2. Because its friendship is enmity to God — James 4:4.
3. Because it did not know Christ — John 1:10; 17:25.
4. Because it hates Christ — John 7:7; 15:18.
5. Because the Holy Spirit has forbidden us — 1 John 2:15.
6. Because Christ did not pray for it — John 17:9.
7. Because Christ's people do not belong to it — John 17:16.
8. Because its Prince is Satan — John 13:31; 16:11.
9. Because Christ's kingdom is not of it — John 18:36.
10. Because its wisdom is foolishness — 1 Corinthians 1:20.
11. Because Christ does not belong to it — John 8:23.
12. Because it is condemned — 1 Corinthians 11:32.
13. Because it is passing away — 1 Corinthians 7:31.
14. Because it slew Christ — James 5:6; Matthew 21:39.
15. Because it is crucified to us — Galatians 6:14.
16. Because we are crucified to it — Galatians 6:14.
17. Because it is the seat of wickedness — 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 5:19.
18. Because its god is the evil one — 2 Corinthians 4:4.
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He redeemed me! He redeemed me! He redeemed me!
(The Preacher's Book, 1885)
The tears of a slave girl just going to be put up for sale, drew the notice of a gentleman as he passed through the auction mart of a southern slave state. The other slaves of the same group, standing in a line, for sale like herself, did not seem to care about it — while each knock of the hammer made her shiver.
The gentleman stopped to ask why she wept, and was told that the others were used to such things, and might even be glad for a change from a hard, harsh master — but that she had been brought up with much kindness by a good owner, and she was terrified to think who might buy her.
"What is her price?" the stranger asked. He stood a moment in deep thought when he heard the greatness of the ransom, but paid it nevertheless.
But no joy came to the poor slave girl's face when he told her that she was free. She had been born a slave, and knew not what freedom meant. Her tears fell fast on the signed parchment which her deliverer brought to prove it to her. She only looked at him with fear. At last he prepared to go on his way, and as he told her what she must do when he was gone, it began to dawn on her what freedom was.
With sudden joy, she cried out, "I will follow him! I will serve him all my days!" And to every reason urged against it, she only cried, "He redeemed me! He redeemed me! He redeemed me!"
When strangers afterwards visited that master's house, and noticed, as all did, the loving, constant service of the glad-hearted girl, and asked why she was so eager with unbidden service night and day — she had but one answer, and she loved to give it: "He redeemed me! He redeemed me!"
So may it be with us. When any note the joy in our looks, the love in our voice, the freedom of our service — we have but one answer, "He redeemed me!"
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Short pithy gems from Charles Spurgeon!
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It is better to preach five words of God's Word — than five million words of man's wisdom!
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To be almost saved — is to be altogether lost! There are many in Hell who once were almost saved — but who are now altogether damned! Think of that, you who are not far from the Kingdom. It is being in the Kingdom that saves the soul — not being near the Kingdom.
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The world does not read the Bible — the world reads Christians!
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A golden coffin will be a poor compensation for a damned soul!
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If you have lived like the wicked — then you will die like the wicked, and be damned like the wicked!
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The crosses we make!
"Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine." Luke 22:42
A cross is composed of two pieces of wood. The shorter piece represents your will — and the longer piece represents God's will. Lay the two pieces side by side — and there is no cross; but lay the shorter piece across the longer one — and you have a cross.
Just so, whenever our will falls across God's will — there is a cross in our life. We make a cross for ourselves . . .
every time we do not accept Christ's way,
every time we murmur at anything He sends,
every time we will not do what He commands.
But when we quietly accept what He gives, when we yield in sweet acquiescence to His will, though it shatters our fairest hopes, when we let our will lie alongside His — there are no crosses in our life, and we have found the peace of Christ.
"My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it — may Your will be done." Matthew 26:42
"I delight to do Your will, O my God!" Psalm 40:8
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Of all sins, it is the most secret, subtle and insinuating!
(Edward Payson, 1783-1827)
"In his pride, the wicked does not seek Him. In all his thoughts, there is no room for God." Psalm 10:4
The pride of the wicked is the principal reason why they will not seek after the knowledge of God.
In the first place, pride renders God a disagreeable object of contemplation to the wicked — and a knowledge of Him as undesirable. Pride consists in an unduly exalted opinion of one's self. It is, therefore, impatient of a rival, hates a superior, and cannot endure a master. In proportion as it prevails in the heart — pride makes us wish . . .
to see nothing above us,
to acknowledge no law but our own wills,
to follow no rule but our own inclinations.
Thus it led Satan to rebel against his Creator — and our first parents to desire to be as gods.
Since such are the effects of pride, it is evident that nothing can be more painful to a proud heart than the thoughts of such a being as God — one who is infinitely powerful, just, and holy — who can neither be resisted, deceived, nor deluded — who disposes, according to His own sovereign pleasure, of all creatures and events — and who, in an especial manner, hates pride, and is determined to abase and punish it. Such a Being, pride can contemplate only with feelings of dread, aversion, and abhorrence. It must look upon God as its natural enemy — the great Enemy whom it has to fear.
The knowledge of God directly tends to bring this infinite, irresistible, irreconcilable Enemy full to the view of the proud man. It teaches him that he has a superior, a master . . .
from whose authority he cannot escape,
whose power he cannot resist,
and whose will he must obey —
or be crushed before Him, and be rendered miserable forever! It shows him what he hates to see — that, in despite of his opposition . . .
God's counsel shall stand,
He will do all His pleasure, and
that He is infinitely above them.
These truths torture the proud unhumbled hearts of the wicked, and hence they hate the Scriptures which teach these truths. On the contrary, they wish to remain ignorant of such a Being, and to banish all thoughts of Him from their minds. With this view, they neglect, pervert, or explain away those passages of Scripture which describe God's true character, and endeavor to believe that He is altogether such a one as themselves.
How foolish, how absurd, how ruinous, how blindly destructive of its own self — does pride appear! By attempting to soar — it only plunges itself in the mire! While endeavoring to erect for itself a throne — it undermines the ground on which it stands, and digs its own grave!
Pride plunged Satan from Heaven into Hell; it banished our first parents from paradise; and it will, in a similar manner, ruin all who indulge in it. Pride . . .
keeps us in ignorance of God,
shuts us out from His favor,
prevents us from resembling Him, and
deprives us in this world, of all the honor and happiness which communion with Him would confer.
And in the next world, unless previously hated, repented of, and renounced — pride will bar the door of Heaven forever against us, and close the gates of Hell upon us!
O then, my friends, beware, above all things — beware of pride! Beware, lest you indulge it imperceptibly, for of all sins — it is the most secret, subtle and insinuating!
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God washes and scours, trains and nurtures them!
(The Preacher's Book)
Frankincense, when it is put into the fire — gives off the greater perfume.
Spice, if it is pounded and beaten — smells the sweeter.
The earth, when it is torn up with the plough — becomes more fruitful.
The seed in the ground, after frost and snow and winter storms — grows the thicker.
The nearer the vine is pruned to the stock — the larger grapes it yields.
The grape, when it is most pressed and beaten — makes the sweetest wine.
Linen, when it is washed and wrung and beaten — is so made fairer and whiter.
In the same way, the children of God receive great benefit by affliction — for by it God washes and scours, trains and nurtures them.
"Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit!" John 15:2
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When the Puritan Richard Baxter lay dying, he said to his friends who visited him: "You come here to learn to die. I can assure you that your whole life, be it ever so long — is little enough to prepare for death. Beware of this vain deceitful world, and the lusts of the flesh. Be sure that you choose . . .
God for your portion,
Heaven for your home,
God's glory for your end,
His Word for your rule —
and then you need never fear but we shall meet with comfort."
He also said, "Lord, what is man? What am I? A vile worm to the great God! God may justly condemn me for the best duty I ever did. All my hopes are from the free mercy of God in Christ!"
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How kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers
"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; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." John 20:27
We should mark in this verse, 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!" John 20:25
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 nurse 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 plainest, coarsest, most material evidence could satisfy him — even that evidence was supplied. Surely this was a love that surpasses knowledge, and a patience that passes 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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There is no such thing as luck, chance, or accident, in the journey of our life!
The future history of Christians, both in life and death, is foreknown by Christ. The Lord tells Simon Peter, "When you are old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall gird you, and bring you where you do not want to go." These words, without controversy, were a prediction of the manner of the Apostle's death. They were fulfilled in after days, when Peter was crucified as a martyr for Christ's sake. The time, the place, the manner, the painfulness to flesh and blood of the disciple's death — were all matters foreseen by the Master.
The truth before us is eminently full of comfort to a true believer. To obtain foreknowledge of things to come would, in most cases, be a sorrowful possession. To know what was going to befall us, and yet not to be able to prevent it — would make us simply miserable. But it is an unspeakable consolation to remember that our whole future is known and fore-arranged by Christ. There is no such thing as luck, chance, or accident, in the journey of our life. Everything from beginning to end, is arranged by One who is too wise to err, and too loving to do us harm.
Let us store up this truth in our minds, and use it diligently in all the days of darkness through which we may yet have to pass. In such days we should lean back on the thought, "Christ knows this, and knew it when He called me to be His disciple."
It is foolish to repine and murmur over our troubles. We should rather fall back on the thought that Jesus does all things well. It is useless to fret and be rebellious, when we have bitter cups to drink. We should rather say, "This also is from the Lord — He foresaw it, and would have prevented it, if it had not been for my good."
Happy are those who can enter into the spirit of that old saint, who said, "I have made a covenant with my Lord, that I will never take amiss anything that He does to me." We may have to walk sometimes through rough places on our way to Heaven. But surely it is a comforting, soothing reflection, that "Every step of my journey was foreknown by Christ!"
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Sickness, trials and disappointments!
Sickness helps to remind men of death. Most live as if they were never going to die. They follow business, or pleasure, or politics, or science — as if earth was their eternal home. They plan and scheme for the future, like the rich fool in the parable — as if they had a long lease of life. A heavy illness sometimes goes far to dispel these delusions. It awakens men from their day-dreams, and reminds them that they have to die, as well as to live. Now this I say emphatically is a mighty good.
We live in such a lovely and pleasant world — we are so surrounded with so much that is smiling and mirthful — that if we were not often obliged to taste of sickness, trials and disappointments — we would forget our heavenly home, and pitch our tents right in this Sodom!
Therefore it is that God's people pass through great tribulations. Therefore it is they are often called upon to suffer the sting of affliction and anxiety — or weep over the grave of those whom they have loved as their own soul.
It is their Father's hand that chastens them!
It is thus He weans their affections from things below — and fixes them on Himself!
It is thus He trains them for eternity, and cuts the threads one by one which bind their wavering hearts to this poor earth.
No doubt such chastening is grievous for the time — but still it brings many a hidden grace to light; and cuts down many a secret seed of sin.
The purest gold is that which has been longest in the refiner's furnace.
The brightest diamond is often that which has required the most grinding and polishing.
We shall see those who have suffered most — shining among the brightest stars in the assembly of Heaven.
The last night of weeping will soon be spent, the last wave of trouble will soon have rolled over us — and then we shall be at home forever with the Lord!
"Our light affliction endures but for a moment, and it works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!" 2 Corinthians 4:17
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Contemplating God's greatness!
"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place — what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4
Lift up your eyes, behold the heavens, the work of God's fingers — behold the sun guided in his daily march! Go forth at midnight, and behold the heavens — consider the stars and the moon! Look upon these works of God's hands, and if you are men of sense, and your souls are attuned to the high music of the spheres — you will say, "What is man that You are mindful of him?"
My God! When I survey the boundless fields of ether, and see those ponderous orbs rolling therein; when I consider how vast are Your dominions — so wide that an angel's wing might flap to all eternity and never reach a boundary — I marvel that You should look on insects so obscure as man!
When I behold the Almightiness of Jehovah — I am so little that I shrink into nothingness! I am so little, that the difference between the molecule and man dwindles into nothing — when compared with the infinite chasm between God and man.
Let your mind rove upon the great doctrines of the Godhead; consider the existence of God from before the foundations of the world; behold Him who is, and was, and is to come, the Almighty.
Let your soul comprehend as much as it can of the Infinite, and grasp as much as possible of the Eternal — and I am sure if you have minds at all, that they will shrink with awe.
The tall archangel bows himself before his Master's throne — and we shall cast ourselves into the lowest dust when we feel what base nothings, what insignificant specks we are, when compared with our all-adorable Creator.
Labor, O soul, to know your nothingness — and learn it by contemplating God's greatness!
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As though it had never been!
Beloved, soon, O how soon! All that now loads the heart with care, and wrings it with sorrow — all that dims the eye with tears, and renders the day anxious and the night sleepless — will be as though it had never been!
Emerging from the entanglement, the dreariness, the solitude, the loneliness, and the temptations of the wilderness — you shall enter upon your everlasting rest, your unfading inheritance, where there is no sorrow, no sin, no sunset, no midnight darkness! But all is one perfect, cloudless, eternal day — for Jesus is the joy, the light, and the glory thereof!
"No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever!" Revelation 22:3-5
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We can't even imagine!
(John Newton, "The Present and Future Rest of True Believers")
Our most enlarged ideas of our future glory are faint and imperfect. Who can describe or conceive the happiness of Heaven? It will be as unlike as possible — to this wilderness of sin and sorrow where we are now confined. Here on earth, we are in a warfare — but then we shall enter into perfect rest. We now cry out, "O that I had wings like a dove! For then would I flee away and be at REST." (Psalm 55:6)
Heaven will be a rest from all SIN. No 'unclean thing' shall ever defile or disturb us forever! We shall be free from all indwelling sin. This alone would be worth dying for! Indwelling sin is a burden under which all the redeemed must groan, while they sojourn in the body.
And those who are most spiritual — are most deeply affected with shame, humiliation, and grief, on account of their sins — because they have the clearest views . . .
of the holiness of God,
of the spirituality of His law,
of the love of Christ, and
of the deceitfulness of their own hearts!
Therefore the Apostle Paul, though perhaps in grace and talents, in zeal and usefulness, was distinguished above all saints — accounted himself the 'chief of sinners,' (1 Timothy 1:15) 'less than the least of all saints,' (Ephesians 3:8) and cried out under the disparity he felt between what he actually was — and what he desired to be, "O wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin!" (Romans 7:24)
But we shall not carry this burden of sin beyond the grave. The hour of death shall free us from our inbred enemies (the inseparable attendants of this frail perishing nature) which now trouble us, and we shall see them no more forever!
Heaven will also be a rest from all outward AFFLICTIONS, which, though necessary, and, under the influence of Divine grace, are profitable — yet they are grievous to bear. But in Heaven, they will no more be necessary. Where there is no sin — there shall be no sorrow. Then, "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)
Heaven will also be a rest from SATAN'S TEMPTATIONS. How busy is this adversary of God and man — what various arts and schemes he employs! What surprising force, what constant assiduity does he employ to ensnare, distress, and terrify those who by grace have escaped from his servitude! He says, like Pharaoh of old, "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will destroy!" (Exodus 15:9) He follows them to the last stage of life — but he can follow them no farther. The moment of their departure out of the body — shall place them beyond his reach forever!
Heaven will also be a rest from UNSATISFIED DESIRES. Here on earth, the more we drink — the more we thirst. But in heaven, our highest wishes shall be crowned and exceeded! We shall rest in full communion with Him whom we love, and shall no more complain of interruptions and imperfections, and a careless heart.
Here on earth — we obtain a little glimpse of His presence, when He brings us into His banqueting-house, and spreads His banner of love over us! And how gladly would we remain in such a desirable frame! How unwilling are we to 'come down' from the mount! But these pleasing and holy seasons are quickly ended, and often give place to some sudden unexpected trial, which robs us of all that sweetness in which we lately rejoiced. But when we ascend the holy hill of God above — we shall never again 'come down'! We shall be forever with the Lord, never offend Him, and never be separated from Him again! "I will see Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I will be fully satisfied with Your presence!" (Psalm 17:15)
Here on earth — we find a mixture of evil in our most holy moments! When we approach nearest to God, we have the liveliest sense of our defilement, and how much we fall short in every branch of duty, and in every temper of our hearts. But when we shall see Jesus as He is — we shall be fully transformed into His image, and be perfectly like Him!
"Yes, dear friends, we are already God's children, and we can't even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when He comes — we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is!" 1 John 3:2
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined — what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9
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(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)
"You are my portion, O Lord!" Psalm 119:57
Many people are proud of their possessions, and boast of their wealth; yet their possessions are very limited, and their wealth has wings and may flee away at any time!
A Christian may not be proud — but he has great reason to be thankful.
He can look over the whole earth, and say, "My wealth exceeds all this!"
He can look up and gaze on the starry heavens and say, "My property exceeds this vast expanse!"
He may try to conceive of the greatness and glory of the created universe, and then say, "I claim more than all this!"
Looking up to the Author, Owner, and Disposer of all worlds — he can say, "You are my portion, O Lord!"
What a privilege! A portion — and such a portion.
God Himself in all His greatness, and in all His goodness.
God with all He is, and all He has — is my portion!
What kind of a portion is this? It is immense, for it comprehends all.
All the attributes of the Divine nature, are for us.
All the perfections of God's character, are on our side.
All the productions of the divine power, are for our good.
Therefore the apostle says, "All things are yours!"
Nothing good is withheld from us!
What the father of the prodigal said to his eldest son — our heavenly Father says to every one of His children, "Son, you are ever with Me — and all that I have is yours!"
We may adopt similar language in speaking to our heavenly Father, to that used by the angel to Abraham, "By this I know that You love me, because You have not withheld Your Son, Your only Son from me!" And from this fact, we may draw the same conclusion as Paul did, "He who spared not His own Son — but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also, freely give us all things!"
O beloved, God in all the glory of His nature and perfections, God with all His unsearchable riches — is our portion!
What kind of a portion is this? It is immutable. It remains forever. Others may lose their property, or it may become deteriorated and comparatively valueless — but our portion is forever the same!
Speaking of the finest, noblest, and most durable works of creation, the Psalmist says, "In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain the same; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them, and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end!" Psalm 102:25-27
Our portion can never be forfeited, or alienated, or reduced in value — because it is the unchangeable God Himself!
Blessed is the man that can say with Jeremiah, "The Lord is my portion, therefore will I hope in Him!"
Or with David, "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance!"
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:26
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Was there ever a better student in divine knowledge?
(George Everard, "At the Feet of Jesus!" 1884)
"Mary seated herself at the Lord's feet and was listening to His teaching." Luke 10:39
Holy Scripture abounds in promises to the humble.
"He exalts the humble and meek."
"He who humbles himself shall be exalted."
"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
To take the lowest place, to sit down in the lowest room — is the sure road to true peace on earth and a throne of glory hereafter. By this path our Master went before — and we must endeavor to walk in His footsteps.
For this purpose, let us keep close to the Savior. For all that we need, let us abide "at His feet."
Let us look at the feet of Jesus, as the place for the LEARNER. And was there ever a better student in divine knowledge than Mary of Bethany? While her sister was hard at work, desiring to honor Christ by providing for His physical needs — Mary sat quiet and still, calmly drinking in the words of grace and wisdom and love that flowed from His lips. His words sank very deep. She was filled with faith and love and reverence and holy joy and strength of soul. She was prepared for days of sorrow that lay before her. She learned well the lesson of His love, which led her in future days to bring her box of ointment and anoint Him for His burial.
Like Mary, come to the footstool of Jesus. Be a willing pupil in His school. Ever hearken to the voice that speaks to us from God.
The written Word is to us, in place of the teachings of the Incarnate Word. And in the study of the Word, nourish a quietness and stillness of spirit as in the very presence of Jesus. Believe it, that Christ is as near to you, as to Mary as she sat at His feet. And in the consciousness of this — avoid all hurried, hasty reading. Watch against the mind being preoccupied with business or anything of earth. Realize Christ close beside you, and let this thought calm and refresh your spirit, and prepare you to receive whatever instruction you need.
And as you read, be ever looking to Jesus for divine illumination. We can imagine Mary looking up again and again to the Savior when anything seemed beyond her. Then He would open her understanding, give her some fresh word of explanation, and make it all plain.
Only catch the humble, teachable spirit of Mary — and doubtless you shall have Mary's blessing and reward.
It is a blessed thing to be with Christ, as a lowly, teachable learner, drinking in the words of eternal life.
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All that occurs in His wide empire!
("The Sovereignty of God in Calamity!" Delivered on September 20, 1857, by Ebenezer Rogers — two days after the steamship 'Central America' sank during a hurricane. 560 of the 626 people on board lost their lives!)
Upon the whole history of this solemn event, is stamped the record of the absolute sovereignty of God. It is not an enemy who has done this! God is sovereign, and this is the hand of God!
All that occurs in His wide empire, from the falling of a leaf — to the extinction of a race; from the death of a sparrow — to the blotting out of a star; is only the fiat of Him, who is from everlasting to everlasting God — whose counsel shall stand and who will do all His good pleasure.
There is a God who reigns in the earth! "Affliction does not come forth from the dust; neither does trouble spring out of the ground" — but "the Lord God omnipotent reigns!"
God is sovereign on His throne! All the powers and processes of nature, are but the ministers who do His pleasure. Rising above the roaring of the ocean, above the moaning of the blast, above even the shrieks of drowning men — is heard the solemn voice of the Almighty, saying in tones of overwhelming majesty, "Be still and know that I am God!" Psalm 46:10
Let us enthrone above these scenes of apparent disorder and arbitrary infliction — a Sovereign God, a God of wisdom, a God of power, a God of love, who sees the end from the beginning, and orders all things according to the counsel of His will — and here at least we have an anchorage for Faith, a place where she can cling, and look up amid the jarring elements, and say, "Even so, Father, for so it seems good in Your sight!"
Who would not prefer, if called on to submit uncomplainingly and absolutely to the most trying circumstances and dealings — that these should be ordered by a wise, just and good Being — one whose infinite wisdom enabled Him to devise the best things, whose infinite power enabled Him to accomplish them, and whose infinite goodness disposed Him to exert that power. Who would not choose that a Father's hand should pour the bitter cup which he was to drink even to the dregs?
Oh! to be taught that a Sovereign God rides upon the billows, and directs the storms which have swept all our idols away and left us beggared and forlorn — is a lesson worth to the tried and tempted soul of man, all that it costs to learn it.
To my own mind this fearful event in all its horrors is full of teaching on that great point which lies at the foundation of all religion, but which men are so constantly prone to forget — that there is a Sovereign God in the heavens before whom all must bow, and to whom all must give account!
"All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing! He does according to His will in the army of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him: What have You done?" Daniel 4:35
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Therefore, brethren, we are debtors!
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors!" Romans 8:12
Christian, stop and ponder for a moment, what a debtor you are to divine sovereignty! God could have destroyed you, if He had pleased — it is entirely of His own good pleasure that you are made one of His beloved children, while others are allowed to perish.
Consider, then, how much you owe to His sovereignty! If He had willed it — you would have been among the damned! If He had not willed your salvation — then all you could do would have been utterly powerless to deliver yourself from perdition!
Remember how much you owe to His sovereign love, which tore His own Son from His bosom — that He might die for you! Let the Cross and bloody sweat remind you of your obligation.
Consider how much you owe to His forgiving grace — that after ten thousand affronts, He loves you as infinitely as ever!
Consider what you owe to His power — how He has raised you from your death in sin; how He has preserved your spiritual life; how He has kept you from falling; and how, though a thousand enemies have beset your path — He has upheld you on your way!
Consider what you owe to His immutability. Though you have changed a thousand times — He has not changed once. Though you have shifted your intentions — yet He has not once swerved from His eternal purpose, but still has held you fast.
Christian, consider that you are as deep in debt as you can be to every attribute of God. To God you owe yourself, and all that you have! "Brethren, we are debtors!"
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He cannot love you more — and He will not love you less!
"Having loved His own who were in the world — He loved them to the very end!" John 13:1
Christian, God's love to you is always the same. He cannot love you more — and He will not love you less!
Never, when afflictions multiply, when terrors frighten you or when your distresses abound — does God's love falter or flag. Let the rod fall ever so heavily upon you — the hand that moves, like the heart that prompts the stroke, is full of love! Judge not the Lord by feeble sense — but trust Him for His grace. Whether He brings you down into the depths of misery, or lifts you up into the seventh Heaven of delight — His faithful love never varies or fluctuates — it is everlasting in its continuity!
"His faithful love endures forever!" Psalm 136:1
"I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love!" Jeremiah 31:3
"The faithful love of the Lord never ends!" Lamentations 3:22
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The most hideous blasphemy ever to be spewed from the pit of darkness!
Universal atonement is the most hideous blasphemy ever to be spewed from the pit of darkness! No greater blasphemy ever spewed from the pit of Hell, than the blasphemous assertion that Christ died to redeem the multitudes who suffer the wrath of God there!
Universal love, universal grace, and universal redemption — is meaningless love, meaningless grace, and meaningless redemption. To preach such is to preach a meaningless gospel, a meaningless god, and a meaningless savior!
There is . . .
no love except distinguishing love,
no redemption except a particular redemption,
no atonement except a limited atonement,
no deliverance except an effectual deliverance, and
no grace except irresistible, omnipotent, saving grace!
"Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her!" Ephesians 5:25
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How much influence has the love of Christ had over us?
(Jared Waterbury, "Meditations and Prayers" 1840)
"The love of Christ constrains us!" 2 Corinthians 5:14
The love of Christ! What a motive to one who has felt its constraining influence! Can we say that we have not only experienced the love of Christ to us — but have felt in return, the outgoings of love to our blessed Savior?
How much influence has the love of Christ had over us?
Has it led us to practice self-denial for Jesus' sake?
Has it fed the flame of our devotions?
Has it been the secret spring of our charities?
Do we daily go up to Calvary, and study our obligations at the foot of the cross?
See, on that cross, the adorable Savior! Behold Him, who is the equal of the Father, stretched in bleeding agony — expiring under an inconceivable weight of sorrow — to redeem us wretched, guilty men! All this He does . . .
to rescue us from sin and from Hell,
to make us heirs of God,
to purchase for us an unfading and incorruptible inheritance!
And what have we ever done for Him?
Let us weep, that we have made such returns of ingratitude and sin.
Let us renew our vows at the foot of the cross.
O let us go forth to our work with increased diligence.
Be it ours, to say with Paul, "For whether we live — we live unto the Lord; and whether we die — we die unto the Lord. Whether we live therefore, or die — we are the Lord's!" Romans 14:8
O, our adorable Savior, when we reflect on Your matchless love, which led You first to pity us, then to come into this polluted world to redeem us; when we think of all that You have done and suffered for us sinful worms — we are lost in wonder, and we cannot find language to express our infinite obligations! But O, what poor returns have we made for all Your love and compassion! Well might we bury our faces in the dust; nor, but for your mercy, could we venture to look up to You. 'Twas not enough that the sins of our unregenerate state were laid upon you; we have added to that oppressive load, by sinning against love and mercy — Your dying love and boundless mercy!
Yet does Your love, O Savior, overtop all these mountains of iniquity!
It says "Your sins, which are many, are all forgiven!"
May this love reach and melt our obdurate hearts.
May it constrain us to "live, not to ourselves, but to You, who has died for us and risen again."
And while the children of this world are laboring to aggrandize self — let us, forgetful of self, be absorbed in the work of glorifying our adorable Redeemer. "For us, to live may it be Christ." When we can no longer glorify You on earth — then, O Savior, let us have a place in that bright world where love — that grace which outlives faith and hope — shall endure forever!
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Tokens of God's love!
(Letters of John Newton)
Trials no less than comforts — are the tokens of God's love! All is regulated by infinite wisdom. You will find cause to praise Him even for the severe afflictions.
Cisterns must be broken — but the fountain of living waters is always full and always flowing!
Gourds must wither — but the tree of life has shade and fruit sufficient for us all, and at all times!
Creatures must die — but the Lord lives!
Creatures are like candles; while they burn — they waste away, and when they are extinguished, those who depend upon them are covered with darkness. But the Lord is a Sun to His people, and His bright beams can well supply the lack of the candlelight of creature comforts!
"Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low and keep me there!"