Grace Gems for AUGUST, 2017
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What is most needed today!
It is my deepening conviction that what is most needed today is a wide proclamation of those Scripture truths which are the least acceptable to the flesh.
What is needed today, is a scriptural setting forth of the character of God:
His absolute sovereignty,
His ineffable holiness,
His inflexible justice,
His unchanging veracity.
What is needed today, is a scriptural setting forth of the condition of the natural man:
his total depravity,
his spiritual insensibility,
his inveterate hostility to God,
the fact that he is "condemned already," and
that the wrath of a sin-hating God is even now abiding upon him!
What is needed today, is a scriptural setting forth of the alarming danger which sinners are in--the indescribably awful doom which awaits them; and the fact that if they follow their present course only a little further, they shall most certainly suffer the due penalty of their iniquities!
What is needed today, is a scriptural setting forth of the nature of that dreadful punishment which awaits the lost:
the dreadfulness of it,
the hopelessness of it,
the unendurableness of it,
and the endlessness of it!
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All life's tangles!
"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Our affairs are forever getting tangled, like threads in a child's hands--and we cannot straighten out the tangles ourselves! We cannot see how anything beautiful or good can come out of our poor living, or our feeble striving.
Our days are full of disappointments, and our night's rest is broken by anxieties. Yet it is the Christian's privilege to commit all life's tangles into the hands of Jesus Christ. He can take our broken things--and build them up into beauty!
One of the finest windows in a great cathedral is said to have been made out of the fragments of broken glass which the workmen had thrown away as worthless. A skillful hand gathered them up--and wrought them into lovely form.
In the same way, Jesus Christ can take . . .
our broken fragments of life,
and even our sins--
and make them into beautiful life and character!
"Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37:5
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Whence does it come?
(Francis Bourdillon, "Man is Born to Trouble!" 1864)
"Affliction does not come from the dust--nor does trouble sprout from the ground. For man is born unto trouble--as surely as sparks fly upward." Job 5:6-7
Affliction does not come of itself; it does not spring up from the dust of the earth, nor grow naturally from the ground, as plants do; nor has chance anything whatever to do with it. As common as it is--affliction does not come without a cause, or without being sent on purpose by God.
Yet affliction does fall to the lot of all. No one, however prosperous, is without sorrow and trial. Sooner or later: "Man is born unto trouble--as surely as sparks fly upward." As surely as sparks go up from anything burning, or from iron beaten on the anvil--so surely does trouble in some shape befall every man who is born into the world.
Whence does it come? God sends it--or at least allows it to come. But it is not saying too much, to say that He sends it.
When Adam fell and sin and death entered into the world--then trouble came too. This was God's appointment. He said to Adam, "Because you have listened unto the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you--cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; in the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, until you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken--for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return."
And not only is trouble in general appointed to man by God--but each man's particular trouble is of God's appointment as well. Your troubles and mine do not come forth of the dust or spring out of the ground. They do not arise by chance or accident. God sends them! Sickness and sorrow are ordained for us by Him--each sickness and each sorrow as it comes. We do not see the hand that sends them, but a hand there is--the hand of God!
Job's troubles were many and great--yet let him not despair. Everything was in God's hand. All that happened was ordered by Him--all was subject to His control. "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave--and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Job 1:20-21
To all who truly know God--it is a most comforting thought that their affliction comes from Him. It seems to take away the strangeness and the bitterness of it. When once they can realize His hand, then in all their sorrowful thoughts about their afflictions--they think about God too, and this comforts them. It is no longer mere trouble--but trouble which God has sent. If He has sent it--then it is wisely and kindly sent. Is there not a hidden blessing in it? Then the heart goes in search of the blessing and begins to ask why the trouble was sent, what it was meant to do, and how far it has done what it was sent for. And this is the very way to find the blessing.
Besides, when the sufferer thus sees the hand of God in trouble--he reasons that God will never let the trouble be too great. If He sends it--He will not send it too sharply, nor too heavily. There is no chance about it. All is measured and dealt out by an omnipotent hand of wisdom and love! The affliction, therefore, cannot become too sore. When the right point has been reached, when the fit time has come--then He who sent it will say, "Hitherto shall you come, but no further!"
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Wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked!
(Francis Bourdillon, 1864)
There is One who knows just what we are. The Lord Jesus Christ says, "I know your works!" His eye is always upon us. He knows us exactly as we are--each one of us. Mere profession does not deceive Him. Mere head knowledge does not pass with Him for repentance, faith, and holiness. He knows our hearts--and He knows our lives.
The mockery of an empty profession,
the mere pretense of a religion that is all in the head or on the lips,
the unhumbled heart,
the coldness, the hardness, the lack of faith and gratitude and love
--He knows them all!
"You do not realize that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked!" Revelation 3:17
The very first lesson we must learn--is what we are.
What are we, then? Just what the Laodiceans were, but did not know themselves to be: "Wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked!"
What--all of us?
Yes--all of us!
We are "wretched," for we are in great misery and danger--and all the more wretched because we do not know it.
We are "miserable," worthy to be pitied, even while we flatter ourselves that all is well with us, for we are but deceiving ourselves.
We are "poor," for we have no spiritual wealth--no supply whatever for the needs of our souls.
We are "blind," ignorant of our own hearts--ignorant of God--ignorant of truth and of the way of life.
We are "naked," with no righteousness of our own in which we can appear--no covering, no defense, no refuge.
We are all this--and, worst of all, we do not know it! If we knew it and bewailed it--then our case would not be so bad. In other words, if we knew ourselves to be sinners--then it might be hoped that we would seek the Savior of sinners. But we shall never seek Him--until we feel our need of Him!
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Every true citizen of Heaven!
(Francis Bourdillon, 1864)
"They admitted that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them!" Hebrews 11:13-16
Every true citizen of Heaven not only has his home in Heaven, but his heart is there too. Not only does he look forward to dwelling there hereafter--but even now he seeks to be holy and heavenly in life and character. Thus he is known by all that he does and says--to be one who belongs to Heaven, and that more and more, as he gets nearer to his eternal home.
Those who live the life of faith, and love their Savior, and strive to serve God--are different in their whole conduct from men of the world. It is plain that they are not of this world. Their life shows it. Their citizenship is in Heaven.
There ought to be no mistaking a citizen of Heaven. But, alas! There is too much of worldliness and carelessness even in those who are in the narrow way. Too often it would be hard to know them as travelers towards Zion, seeking the heavenly country.
What! Shall those who are to live forever with God--have so little fellowship with Him now? Shall those whose treasure is in Heaven, where no rust nor moth can corrupt--care so much for the perishing things of this world? Shall those for whom Jesus has gone to prepare a place--fret against the little hardships and discomforts along the way? Thus the Christian should often remind himself of the heavenly home to which he belongs. It would help him to be heavenly in heart and life.
"Our citizenship is in Heaven--and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ!" Philippians 3:19-20
We look for Jesus--we expect Him--we are waiting for Him. He said that He would return, and told us to watch for His coming. He has told us to be ready, so that when He comes, we may receive Him with joy.
This is the position of the Christian on earth--waiting for his Lord and Savior!
We do not know when He will come, and we do not know how He will come. He may come while yet we are living--or we may die before His coming; no one knows.
To be thus looking for the coming of the Lord . . .
must have a great effect on a man's character and life,
must keep him from living in sin or in carelessness,
must make him watchful, diligent, and in earnest,
must tend greatly to a spiritual mind,
must lead him to draw off his affections from the world--and to fix them upon eternal realities!
Thinking of Him,
looking for Him,
wishing for Him,
doing His will,
engaged in His work--
this is what Jesus would have us to do and be.
Lord, make us so more and more!
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It will be a great benefit to us in every way, to learn this lesson
(J.R. Miller, "Morning Thoughts" 1906)
"Do not worry about anything--but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
Learning not to worry, is one of the lessons that every Christian should master.
Worry is a terribly wasteful experience:
it uses up the strength we need for our duty,
it unfits us for doing our work well,
it is dishonoring to God, for He has promised to care for us, if only we do His will faithfully,
it is utterly fruitless, for it does not take away the things that it frets over.
The Bible gives many lessons on the subject--but none that makes plainer just how we are to eliminate worrying from our life, than what Paul here tells us to do.
First of all, we are simply not to worry: "Do not worry about anything."
There is no room for exceptions, special circumstances, and all that.
We are not to worry about anything.
What then shall we do with the matters that we are disposed to worry over? Put them into the hands of God in prayer--and leave them there! If we do this--then the peace of God will guard our hearts and thoughts from all anxiety.
It will be a great benefit to us in every way, to learn this lesson.
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He preached only a few months!
(J.R. Miller, "Morning Thoughts")
"Herod immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went and beheaded John in the prison." Mark 6:27-28
Jesus knows how His followers can best serve Him.
He sent the apostles out to teach and heal. John the Baptist, however--He permitted to be seized, to languish in prison, and to be cruelly beheaded.
Just so, we should be willing to serve our Master in any way He desires. He may want us to give a long life to active usefulness--or He may want us to serve and honor Him by enduring persecution and being murdered.
The life of John seemed to be a failure. He preached only a few months! He was a great preacher, too, and hundreds went to hear him. It seemed to his friends a pitiful waste of life, an irreparable loss to the heavenly kingdom--when he was murdered.
But John's work was done. He accomplished all that he was sent into the world to do. There really was no reason for his living an hour longer.
When one dies in youth, we are apt to deplore his death as untimely. But God makes no mistakes! "Every man is immortal--until his work is done!"
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For a rational man to be so attached to a bubble, is a most irrational thing!
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15
Worldliness is an undue attachment to this world. It is living for this world--its riches, its honor, its joys and its cares. It is living by the principles of this world: greed, covetousness, deceit and lust.
Nothing is more dangerous to the souls of men--than the love of the world.
Nothing more effectually chokes out the influence of the gospel in a man's heart--than the cares of this world.
Nothing is more difficult to avoid--than an undue attachment to this world.
Therefore, John sets these four words up as a beacon. They stand in blazing letters to warn us of great danger: "LOVE NOT THE WORLD!"
Beloved, this world and all that it offers, is no more than a bubble that soon must burst! Your money, your farms, your houses, your influence, your families--everything here is temporary. It will all vanish away!
We laugh at the small child who cries when the bubbles he is playing with burst. But, for a rational man to be so attached to a bubble, is a most irrational thing!
What fools they are who love and seek this world! I cannot warn you enough of the danger of worldliness--of loving, seeking, and living for this world!
Are you God's child? Are you risen with Christ? Do you live in the hope of eternal glory?
Then count this world to be a dead thing.
Live no longer for this world.
Set your heart on things above.
Live above this pile of rubbish that must soon burn.
Live to do the will of God, seek the glory of Christ, further the gospel of the grace of God, and serve the people of God. Quit seeking those things for which unbelieving men live, and seek those things which are above--life, immortality, and glory.
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Toys and playthings of the religious babyhouse!
(J.C. Philpot, "The Good Shepherd and His Work")
"I will feed My flock." Ezekiel 34:15
"As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word--that you may grow thereby." 1 Peter 2:2
The only real food of the soul--must be of God's own appointing, preparing and communicating.
You can never deceive a hungry child. You may give it a plaything to still its cries. It may serve for a few minutes; but the pains of hunger are not to be removed by a doll. A toy horse will not allay the cravings after the mother's milk.
So it is with babes in grace--a hungry soul cannot feed upon playthings.
intoning priests, and
singing men and women--
these dolls and wooden horses--these toys and playthings of the religious babyhouse, cannot feed the soul that, like David, cries out after the living God. (Psalm 42:2)
Christ, the bread of life, the manna that came down from Heaven--is the only food of the believing soul. (John 6:51)
"Your words were found, and I ate them; and Your Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart!" Jeremiah 15:16
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Endless, sinless, sorrowless immortality!
(John MacDuff, a prayer)
"Weeping may endure for a night--but joy comes in the morning!" Psalm 30:5
Here, Lord, I have "no continuing city." I would not desire to live here always.
Change is the portion of my earthly pilgrimage. Lord, wean me from this uncertain world!
Bring me to live under the influence of eternal realities. I rejoice to think of the happy myriads already in glory--safe in the presence of the Master they love, with every tear drop wiped away. May the thought of that endless, sinless, sorrowless immortality reconcile me to all of earth's severest discipline.
Let me not murmur under the heaviest cross--in the prospect of such a crown. Let me not refuse to pass cheerfully through the hottest furnace which is to refine and purify me for this exceeding and eternal weight of glory! Allow me to bear with calm serenity, whatever cross You see fit to lay upon me.
"They will be His people--and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain--for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3-4
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How is it that we strive so hard to build our nest here?
"Those who use the things of the world--as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away!" 1 Corinthians 7:31
"The world and its desires pass away--but the man who does the will of God lives forever!" 1 John 2:17
Oh, how uncertain are all events in this changing world! We are here for a little while, and then pass away--the believer to his happy, happy home in Heaven, prepared for him by infinite and eternal love!
How is it that we strive so hard to build our nest here--and cling so fondly and with such tenacity to the creature?
Did we fully believe all that Christ says to us--then how more willing would we be to depart and be with Him!
O eternity! With all your solemn realities--how is it that we frail creatures of a clay think so little of you! A few more struggles and you and I, dear friend, will be there!
How soon, how very soon, we shall be fitted for the companionship of Jesus Himself, and shall be with Him, beholding Him in all His unveiled loveliness, and bathing in the ocean of His love!
Does not the thought often gladden your heart, while it dissolves in sweet contrition, that ever it should have sinned against One who so loved us as to lay down His precious life for us?
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I know this--and I know that!
"In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice: Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!" Luke 4:33-34
"Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting: 'You are Christ the Son of God!' But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ." Luke 4:41
We should notice, in this passage, the clear religious knowledge possessed by the devil and his agents. Twice in these verses we have proof of this. "I know who you are--the Holy One of God!" was the language of an an evil spirit in one case. "You are Christ the son of God," was the language of many demons in another. Yet this knowledge was a knowledge unaccompanied by faith, or hope, or charity. Those who possessed it were miserable evil beings--full of bitter hatred both against God and man.
Let us beware of an unsanctified knowledge of the truths of Christianity. It is a dangerous possession, but a fearfully common one in these latter days. We may know the Bible intellectually--and have no doubt about the truth of its contents. We may have our memories well stored with its leading texts, and be able to talk glibly about its leading doctrines. And all this time the Bible may have no influence over our hearts, and wills, and consciences. We may, in reality, be nothing better than the demons!
Let it never content us to know religion with our heads only. We may go on all our lives saying, "I know this--and I know that!"--and sink at last into Hell with the words upon our lips! Let us see that our knowledge bears fruit in our lives.
Does our knowledge of sin make us hate it?
Does our knowledge of Christ make us trust and love Him?
Does our knowledge of God's will make us strive to do it?
Does our knowledge of the fruits of the Spirit make us labor to show them in our daily behavior?
Knowledge of this practical kind is really profitable.
Any other religious knowledge will only add to our condemnation at the last day!
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He became poor!
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: although He was rich, for your sake He became poor--so that by His poverty you might become rich!" 2 Corinthians 8:9
He who was so rich--became so poor!
He who was Lord of all--had nothing at all!
He who made Heaven and earth--had no home of His own!
As He was born in another man's house--so He was buried in another man's tomb!
He who gives crowns of glory to others--had only a crown of thorns for Himself!
The foxes and the fowls had more than Jesus! "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of My own, not even a place to lay My head!" Matthew 8:20. The foxes had holes to lay their heads in--but Christ had not a place to lay His head on.
"He became poor!" Yes, poor indeed, and so poor that He had not a penny! You will say, that a man is very poor--who has not a penny! Truly such a one was Christ--he had not a penny to pay the tax until He got it out of the fish's mouth!
Oh! admire and wonder at this! Is not Jesus . . .
the brightness of God,
the paradise of angels,
the beauty of Heaven,
the Redeemer of man,
the destroyer of death,
the King of saints!
And that He should become so poor for us--oh! this is astonishing to angels and men!
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We need more sermons in shoes!
"Live such good lives among the pagans, that . . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God!" 1 Peter 2:12
"Whoever says he abides in Him--ought to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself." 1 John 2:6 (Amplified version)
We need more sermons in shoes--men and women going up and down the roads of life preaching Christianity by their imitation of Christ!
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!
"The true test of religion, is in the street. It lies in the common walks of life--even more than in the worship of the sanctuary. The test of our religion is not the regular manner in which we go to church, or the way in which we read our Bibles, or any elaborate religious ritual we perform. Its test is the kind of people it makes us--the kind of life it produces in us."
"A fine illustration of the worth of Christian character was seen in a teacher of one of the government schools of Japan. His contract was that he was not to teach Christianity--and, so far as words were concerned, he kept it faithfully. But all the while his life was so blameless and beautiful--that it did the work without words. As evidence of this, forty of the students, without his knowledge, met in a grove secretly, and signed a covenant to forsake idolatry--for the religion of their teacher. Some of them are now preaching the gospel in their native land."
"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven!" Matthew 5:16
"That you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe!" Philippians 2:14-15
"So that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." Titus 2:10
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love--just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us" Ephesians 5:1-2
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When a proud heart meets with flattering lips!
"A flattering mouth works ruin!" Proverbs 26:28
"Whoever flatters his neighbor, is spreading a net for his feet!" Proverbs 29:5
They are not our best friends, who stir the pride in our hearts--by the flattery of their lips.
Christian! You carry gunpowder with you! Desire those who carry fire, to keep at a distance from you! It is a dangerous crisis--when a proud heart meets with flattering lips! Faithful, seasonable, and discreet reproofs are much more safe to us, and advantageous to the mortification of sin in our souls.
"Beware of the flatterer!" John Bunyan
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Our clumsy hands!
"I do not practice what I want to do--but I do what I hate!" Romans 7:15
Think of the brokenness, the incompleteness, the littleness--of these lives of ours!
We get glimpses of beauty in character--which we are not able to attain!
We have spiritual longings--which seem to us too great ever to come true.
We dream of things we want to do--but when we try to work them out, our clumsy hands cannot put them into realizations!
We have glimmerings of a love that is very rich and tender, without a trace of selfishness, without envy or jealousy, without resentment--a love which does not seek its own, nor is not provoked, and bears all things. We get the vision from the life of Christ Himself. We say, "I will learn that lesson of love--I will be like that!" But we fail.
We strive to be sweet-spirited, unselfish, thoughtful, kind--but we must wet our pillow with tears at the close of our marred days, because we cannot be what we strive to be! We have glimpses of an inner peace which is very beautiful. We strive after it strive with intense effort--but do not reach it!
So it is in all our living. Life is ever something too large for us. We attain only fragments of living. Yet take heart, "The desire of the righteous shall be granted!" Proverbs 10:24
"We know that when He appears--we shall be like Him!" 1 John 3:2
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Christ knows His people by certain distinguishing marks
"I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own sheep--and they know Me!" John 10:14
The Jewish shepherds had certain marks by which they knew their own sheep. Even in this country, the farmers put "brands" on their sheep--their own initial, or an "ear-mark," or some other particular sign by which they will know them anywhere. Christ knows His people by certain distinguishing marks.
He knows them by their faces. There is something in every true child of God, which shows to whom he belongs--some family likeness, some feature of the Divine image shining out. The prodigal's father knew his son when he saw him a long way off. In his rags, in his beggary--the eye of love recognized the child. Just so, Christ knows His own people, however dim the likeness--by their faces. The crowds do not recognize heaven's princes, in the humble Christians they meet; but Jesus does!
Not only does Christ know His own by their faces--but also by their voice. The mother knows her child's voice anywhere, even in the darkness, and can distinguish it among a thousand voices. Christ knows the voices of His own people, wherever He hears them speak or cry.
He knows them also by their character. Even if the outside is rough and uncouth, it does not hide from His eye, the inner life--the spirit, the heart. He saw the future Peter with all his grandeur of character--in the crude Simon who was brought to Him.
He knows His friends by their obedience. He knows His disciples--by their following where He leads.
He also knows the white garments of righteousness which His redeemed ones wear.
He knows the penitent heart--by the fragrance it puts forth. It is an altar of incense. It is a box of ointment broken open. Just as we find out the hiding-places of flowers by their fragrances--so God knows the home of the penitent heart by the sweetness that wafts up from it.
"I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own sheep--and they know Me!"
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The Sympathy of Christ!
"We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are" Hebrews 4:15
In all our infirmities and troubles of every kind--in pain and sickness, in poverty and need, in anxiety and grief--Jesus has a sympathetic heart for us. Is not this comforting? Does it not cheer us in a time of suffering, when some kind friend comes in and sits down beside us and shows most plainly that though he is unable to help us, he does sincerely feel for us? How much more cheering it is to know that Jesus in Heaven sympathizes with us in all our troubles here below! Does not this thought, this blessed truth--take the edge off the sharpest suffering, and lift us for the time above our sorrows?
Jesus Christ Himself was afflicted when He was on earth. He is called a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. No sorrows were ever equal to His. We know that He was tired and hungry and sad. He was besides, the poorest of the poor--He had nowhere to lay His head. He led what would be called a very hard life.
Our greatest sufferings are light when compared with His. He had some afflictions which we cannot fully understand, as when He prayed in the garden, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me!" And as when He cried upon the cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!"
He can sympathize with the poor--because He was poor Himself.
He can sympathize with the sad--because He was a man of sorrows.
He can sympathize with all who suffer--because His own sufferings were so many and so great.
He was tempted; He was tried; He was afflicted; He went through what we have to go through--and much more. In this very world in which we live now--He lived and suffered; and therefore He can and does sympathize with His suffering people.
"He was despised and rejected by men--a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces--He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows--yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace, was upon Him--and by His wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:3-5
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Shall we refuse to give unto God's children this valuable bread, merely because dogs snap at it!
"Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Romans 9:10-13
We ask the reader--ought not the doctrine of election to be plainly and freely proclaimed?
If God's Word is full of it,
if the gospel cannot be Scripturally preached without it,
if the grace of God cannot be maintained when it is suppressed,
if the proclamation of it abases man into the dust,
if it is a divinely appointed means of faith,
if it is a powerful incentive unto the promotion of holiness,
if it stirs up the spirit of praise in the soul,
if it establishes the Christian in his eternal security,
if it is such a source of stability to the child of God,
if it supplies encouragement to praying souls,
if it works in us a sweet submission to the divine will--
then shall we refuse to give unto God's children this valuable bread, merely because dogs snap at it!
Shall we withhold from the sheep this vital ingredient of their food--simply because the goats cannot digest it!
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The bags will come to an end, long before the treasure is exhausted!
"If a wealthy and mighty king should open his treasure, and bid men come and bring their bags, and take as much as they would--do you think they would neglect this occasion of gain? Surely not! They would run and fetch bag after bag, and never cease. Thus does the Lord act toward us with His grace."
He makes over all His fullness to His people, and says, "All is yours!" We are not straitened in Him. The bags will come to an end, long before the treasure is exhausted!
Let us come, then, to the throne of grace with enlarged desires and widened expectations! The Lord does not stint us--why should we put ourselves upon scanty fare? He says, "Eat and drink, yes, drink abundantly, O beloved!" Why, then, do we sit at the table and starve, or rise from it hungry? Let us by faith, drink of the abundance of the sea of grace, and partake largely of the hidden treasure which the Lord has laid up for us!
"Let us then 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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We cannot fathom the horrors of that dismal dungeon of lost souls!"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath--but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ!" 1 Thessalonians 5:9
If we give any description of the doom of the impenitent which is at all true to God's Word, those who reject the Scriptures begin to cry out that we have borrowed it from Dante, or taken it from Milton! But the most awful and harrowing descriptions of the woes of the lost which ever fell from human lips, do not exceed or even equal the language of the loving Christ, Himself! Listen: "Depart from Me, you who are cursed--into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!"
You and I can never imagine all the depths of Hell. Shut out from us by a black veil of darkness--we cannot fathom the horrors of that dismal dungeon of lost souls!
Happily, the wailings of the damned have never startled us, for a thousand tempests would be but a maiden's whisper--compared with one wail of a damned soul.
It is not possible for us to see the tortures of those souls who dwell eternally within an anguish which knows no alleviation. Our eyes would become sightless balls of darkness--if they were permitted for an instant to look into that ghastly shrine of torment!
Hell is horrible, for we may say of it: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man--to conceive of the horrors which God has prepared for those who hate Him!
SIN, indeed, is Hell--Hell in embryo, Hell in essence, Hell kindling, Hell emerging from the shell.
HELL is but sin when it has manifested and developed itself to the full!
Stand at the gates of Hell and understand how venomous is the disease for which Heaven's remedy is provided in the ignominious sufferings and death of the Only Begotten.
He is the true lover of men's souls--who does not deceive them! He who paints the miseries of Hell as though they were but little--is seeking to murder men's souls under the pretense of being their friend!
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"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." John 10:11
"You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21
Where does the Word of God proclaim . . .
an atonement that doesn't atone,
a redemption that doesn't redeem,
a deliverance that doesn't deliver,
a ransom that doesn't set free,
a Savior who doesn't save?
Universal redemption is no redemption at all!
Universal redemption is universal nonsense!
"Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" Ephesians 5:25
"I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20
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What are these Christians doing on Satan's ground?
"What are these Hebrews doing here?" 1 Samuel 29:3
David's men wanted to mingle with the Philistine army--this was decidedly wrong.
It is always wrong when God's people unite with the world, contrary to His holy Word.
We may ask, "What are these Christians doing here?" What are they doing--joining with the world? Their Master has told them to "Come out from among them and be separate! Touch no unclean thing!" He has said, "Arise and depart, for this is not your rest--because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy!" What are these Christians doing out of the path of duty--or by their presence, sanctioning sin?
God has said, "Be holy--for I am holy." What are these Christians doing on Satan's ground? They are in the enemy's ranks? Do they intend to leave Jesus--and go back to the world? Are they . . .
tired of His company,
set against His Word, and
determined to throw off His yoke?
Do they intend to share in . . .
the slavery of Satan,
the sinner's doom,
the wrath of God?
What are these Christians doing here? Their conduct is . . .
Christian! you should . . .
keep the company of Jesus,
walk with holy people, and
keep yourselves unspotted from the world!
"The Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins--to rescue us from the present evil age!" Galatians 1:3-4
~ ~ ~ ~
The fruitful branch!
"He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit." John 15:2A
But the gardener does something to the fruitful branch also: "While every branch that does bear fruit--He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2B
He is not content with a little fruit from it--he wants more. So he takes his knife and prunes it--and that not once only, but again and again. Not roughly or hastily--but with great skill and care, that it may bear as much fruit as possible.
Does not this show us the meaning of our afflictions? God is the Gardener of souls. What is He doing when . . .
He sends sore trouble on the Christian,
or lays him on a bed of sickness,
or takes away his comforts,
or removes some who were very dear?
What is the meaning of this? God has taken the pruning-knife in hand, and is pruning the branch that it may bring forth more fruit.
People are sometimes surprised at seeing trouble fall on the godly--and not on the wicked. But this parable explains it quite plainly. The godly man is a fruit-bearing branch; he is joined by faith to Christ, the true Vine, and does already bear fruit. But God, the heavenly Gardener, desires more fruit--and therefore prunes him by means of affliction.
It may be a sharp pruning knife that He makes use of--and He has sharpened it for the very purpose. But it is not too sharp. In His wise and gracious hands--it will do its work well. The Christian will rise from his sick-bed, or come forth from the house of mourning, all the better for God's dealing with him--more humble, more spiritually-minded, more sober-minded, more zealous and in earnest. Henceforth the world will be less to him--and his Savior more precious to him.
Cannot every Christian, who has been under God's pruning-knife--bear witness to the gentle firmness with which it has been used? There is no weakness or wavering in God's dealings--yet no roughness. There is no lack of decision, no half-work--yet no rashness, no mistake.
The gardener's hand may make a slip--and he may cut too deep, or cut where he did not mean to cut. Not so with the hand of God. When He takes the knife, He uses it . . .
with perfect firmness,
with unerring wisdom, and
with tender and compassionate love.
He will make no slip.
He will not cut too deep.
He will give no needless pain.
He will take away no comfort that would better have been left.
Sometimes the gardener adds an ointment to the place where the cut has been made--lest the branch should "bleed" too much, as they say.
Just so, God is always ready to apply a healing ointment to the wounds which He makes.
Oh, what comfort He sends in trouble!
Oh, what soothing, heavenly thoughts!
Oh, what a sense of His love!
Oh, what answers to prayer!
Oh, what grace and peace--what thankfulness and love!
These are His precious ointments. This is how He binds up the wounds which He has made.
Do not shrink from your Father's hand--even though the knife is in it! Trust Him, love Him. He will do all wisely, tenderly, faithfully. Let it be your heart's desire to abide more closely to Christ, and to bring forth more fruit to the glory of God.
~ ~ ~ ~
He would save you from disappointment, sorrow and woe!
"Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils." Isaiah 2:22
Never trust in man--for his heart is deceitful.
Never expect satisfaction from from man--for he is an empty cistern.
Never follow man--for he is a false guide.
Do not trust even in a friend. One object of trust is enough--Jesus has all you need.
If you neglect this loving direction--then you may expect to suffer.
But if you walk by it--then your peace will be a river, and your soul will be like a well-watered garden.
He cautions you--because He loves you.
He knows what is in man--you do not.
He would save you from disappointment, sorrow and woe!
"Cursed is the one who trusts in man--who depends on flesh for his strength!" Jeremiah 17:5
"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord--whose confidence is in Him!" Jeremiah 17:7
"O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You!" Psalm 84:12
"In You, O Lord, I have put my trust!" Psalms 71:1
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The worldling's Bible!
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven." Matthew 5:16
The worldling's Bible is the Christian. He never reads the Book--but he reads the disciple of Christ, and he judges the Christian religion by the lives of its professors!
The world does not read the Bible--the world reads Christians!
"For it is God's will that by doing good, you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men!" 1 Peter 2:15
"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-2
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It will even make the cross of Christ into a pedestal on which to erect its deformed visage!
(Octavius Winslow, "Eminent Holiness Essential to an Efficient Ministry" 1843)
An attribute in the formation of an elevated standard of ministerial holiness--too essential and important to be overlooked--is a growing humbleness of mind.
Where is the spiritual minister of Christ who has not detected the latent existence, and who has not had to struggle against--the secret workings of the sin of pride? It is so insidious and powerful a sin--and is so exhilarating in the sensations it produces--that few are more liable to be enamored by its fair exterior, and ensnared by its specious and seductive form--than the minister of the gospel! And yet, pride is an evil more calculated to feed as a cankerworm at the root of his ministry! A sin more loathed of God, against which His denunciations are more severely recorded, on which His wrath has more signally and fearfully fallen--is not found to exist! Pride originated the first form of evil that ever existed--and it constitutes, at this moment, the great center of rebellion against God on earth!
Thus, the identical sin which we find to form so impregnable a stronghold of Satan in the hearts of the unregenerate, and which has so sadly wounded the peace, retarded the prosperity, and deformed the beauty of Christ's Church--is the sin most rife in our own bosoms!
Its classifications are many. Among them may be specified the pride of office, the pride of denomination, the pride of knowledge, the pride of talent, the pride of scholarship, the pride of influence, the pride of orthodoxy, the pride of eloquence, the pride of pulpit, the pride of platform, the pride of success, and the pride of applause.
Pride is a protean evil--assuming a thousand varied and opposite forms! It will insinuate itself into the most spiritual and solemn of our services. There is no soil so holy--in which its root will not strike. There is no employment so sacred--on which it will not engraft itself. It will even make the cross of Christ into a pedestal on which to erect its deformed visage! Yes, while exalting Jesus--we may be found but exalting ourselves! And while exclaiming, "Behold the Lamb of God!"--we may be but veiling His true glory behind our insignificant persons; virtually exclaiming, "Behold my talents, my eloquence, and my zeal!" We are often guilty of the awful sin of self-exaltation--while setting forth the person, work, glory, and humiliation of the Son of God!
Is there not in us, my brethren, a manifest deficiency of the humble, self-annihilating spirit of the divine Master whom we serve--and whom it should be our aim and glory to resemble? In maintaining our position in the Church--may there not be a lofty deportment, an air of self-sufficiency and importance--utterly at variance with the "mind that was in Christ Jesus"? Is there not an unholy ostentation, and a desire for self-promotion--in much that we do for Christ?
Is there not . . .
an eagerness for preferment to influential and wealthy churches,
a fondness for conspicuousness of place,
a shrinking from fields of labor where no laurels are to be won,
a thirsting for human applause,
a studied aim after popularity,
a trimming policy designed to please the world,
a trumpeting of our own fame, and
a vaunting parade of our own success?
We have plucked the crown from Christ's head--and placed it on our own! In setting forth Christ's infinite glory, and His deep abasement and sufferings--we have turned it into an occasion of pride and self-exaltation!
Instead of inquiring, "Who shall be most lowly--the most like Christ--the least in the kingdom?" is it not, "Who shall be the greatest? Who shall stand upon the highest pinnacle of renown?"
Are we not, in many or in all these points--truly guilty before our God?
And yet how much is there in us, if soberly and frequently pondered--calculated . . .
to abase our pride,
to repress our aspirings of vanity,
to rebuke our self-adulation,
and to lay us low in a low place?
Has not the cherishing of this sin of pride in our bosom--deeply grieved the Spirit? Is not the real secret . . .
of our barren souls,
of our ineffectual ministry,
of our languishing churches,
of our paralyzed efforts--
simply the sad but certain consequences of our accursed pride?
A holy ministry--is a humble ministry!
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He gives His beloved sleep!
"He gives His beloved sleep." Psalm 127:2
How often is it lost sight of, that the Lord cares for the bodies of His saints--as well as for their souls. Sleep is a Divine gift---but the nightly recurrence of it blinds us to the fact. Sleep is as imperative for our physical well-being--as is food and drink. Sleep is as much the gift of our heavenly Father, as is the other.
When it so pleases Him, God withholds sleep--and then we have to say with the Psalmist, "You kept my eyes from closing." Psalm 77:4. But that is the exception rather than the rule--and deeply thankful should we be that it is so. Day by day the Lord feeds us--and night by night, "He gives His beloved sleep."
We should perceive the gracious hand of God ministering in tenderness to all of our daily needs. He is mindful of our frailty--and tempers His dealings with us accordingly. He is aware when our energies are spent, and graciously renews our strength and mercifully refreshes our bodies with sleep.
Alas, how little are we affected by the Lord's goodness and grace unto us. The unfailing recurrence of His temporal and spiritual mercies--incline us to take them for granted. So dull of understanding are we, so cold our hearts Godward--it is to be feared that most of the time we fail to realize whose loving hand it is, which is ministering to us.
Is not this the very reason why we do not begin to really value our health--until it is taken from us? It is not until we spend night after night tossing upon a bed of pain--that we perceive the worth of regular sleep with which we were formerly favored. And such vile creatures are we, that when illness and insomnia come upon us, instead of improving the same by repenting of our former ingratitude--we murmur and complain at the hardness of our present lot, and wonder what we have done to deserve such treatment!
O let those of us who are still blessed with good health and regular sleep--not fail to daily return thanks for such privileges, and earnestly seek grace to use the strength from them to the glory of God!
"Let us thank God for common mercies--for they prove to be uncommonly precious, when they are once taken away!" Charles Spurgeon
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Why are those blessed, who hear and obey the Word of God?
(Francis Bourdillon, "Short Sermons for Family Reading" 1881)
"Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it." Luke 11:28
The Word must be obeyed--as well as heard. We must not hear it carelessly. Nor must we be hearers only, forgetting it as soon as heard. We are to guard it and keep it--to treasure it in our hearts as a precious possession. We are to believe it and to follow it--then the full blessing will be ours.
Why are those blessed, who hear and obey the Word of God?
1. Because the Word of God tells us of the Savior, speaks pardon and peace, and opens to us God's wondrous way of saving sinners. This can be said of no other book, and no other thing. The works of God in nature tell us much--but they do not tell us this. Many books of man are written on these subjects--but they are but man's books after all.
2. They are blessed also, because the Word of God is a sure guide. It is a difficult path through the wilderness of this world. Many hindrances and perplexities meet us--and many different rules are offered for our guidance: fashion, custom, prudence, man's opinion, etc. But the Word of God is the only sure guide. A simple, humble, earnest following of this guide--is the wisest, happiest, safest course! The poorest and most unlearned who through grace take this course--have more security for going right than the greatest and wisest who follow any other path. Therefore they are blessed who hear and keep the word of God--because they have a sure guide through life.
3. The word of God also comforts in trouble, and therefore they are blessed who hear it and keep it. This world has its sorrows as well as its difficulties--sorrows many and great; but the word of God has comfort for all of life's sorrows. It is full of comfort. It has promises and declarations of God's love. It contains examples of mourners whom He has comforted--and these in great number and variety. There is no kind of trouble for which some suitable comfort may not be found in the Bible. In time of deep sorrow--a comfort and consolation are found in the Word of God which are sought in vain in other books. It is the best of all books for those in trouble.
~ ~ ~ ~
What a farce it all is!
The vast majority of the churches are in a sorry state! Those that are out-and-out worldly are at their wits end to invent new devices for drawing a crowd. Others which still preserve an outward form of godliness often provide nothing substantial for the soul; there is little ministering of Christ to the heart, and little preaching of sound doctrine without which souls cannot be built up and established in the faith.
The great majority of the pastors summon to their aid some professional speaker, who puts on a high-pressure campaign and secures sufficient new 'converts' to take the place of those who have 'lapsed' since he was last with them.
What a farce it all is!
~ ~ ~ ~
Experimental conformity to the image of Christ
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word--that you may grow thereby" 1 Peter 2:2
It behooves each one of us to honestly and diligently examine himself, so as to discover whether or not we are growing in grace.
We are not to be content with an increase of mere head-knowledge of Scripture. What we need to be most concerned about is our practical growth--our experimental conformity to the image of Christ.
One point at which we may test ourselves is: "Does my reading and study of God's Word make me less worldly?"
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen." 2 Peter 3:18