Morning and Evening
by Charles Spurgeon
January 1 — Morning
"They ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year." Joshua 5:12
Israel's weary wanderings were all over, and the promised rest was attained. No more moving tents, fiery serpents, fierce Amalekites, and howling wildernesses. They came to the land which flowed with milk and honey, and they ate the old corn of the land. Perhaps this year, beloved Christian reader, this may be your case or mine. Joyful is the prospect, and if faith is in active exercise—it will yield unalloyed delight. To be with Jesus in the rest which remains for the people of God, is a cheering hope indeed, and to expect this glory so soon is a double bliss.
Unbelief shudders at the Jordan which still rolls between us and the goodly land—but let us rest assured that we have already experienced more ills than death at its worst can cause us. Let us banish every fearful thought, and rejoice with exceeding great joy, in the prospect that this year we shall begin to be "forever with the Lord." A part of the host will this year tarry on earth—to do service for their Lord. If this should fall to our lot—there is no reason why the New Year's text should not still be true. "We who have believed—enter into rest." The Holy Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance; He gives us "glory begun below." In heaven they are secure, and so are we preserved in Christ Jesus; there they triumph over their enemies, and we have victories too. Celestial spirits enjoy communion with their Lord—and this is not denied to us; they rest in His love—and we have perfect peace in Him; they hymn His praise—and it is our privilege to bless Him too. We will this year gather celestial fruits on earthly ground, where faith and hope have made the desert like the garden of the Lord. Man ate angels' food of old—and why not now? O for grace to feed on Jesus, and so to eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan this year!
January 1 — Evening
"We will be glad and rejoice in You." Song of Solomon 1:4
We will be glad and rejoice in You. We will not open the gates of the year to the dolorous notes of the sackbut—but to the sweet strains of the harp of joy, and the high sounding cymbals of gladness. "O come, let us sing unto the Lord—let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation!" We, the called and faithful and chosen—we will drive away our griefs, and set up our banners of confidence in the name of God. Let others lament over their troubles—we who have the sweetening tree to cast into Marah's bitter pool—with joy will magnify the Lord!
"Eternal Spirit, our effectual Comforter, we who are the temples in which You dwell—will never cease from adoring and blessing the name of Jesus."
We WILL, we are resolved about it—Jesus must have the crown of our heart's delight; we will not dishonor our Bridegroom by mourning in His presence. We are ordained to be the minstrels of the skies, let us rehearse our everlasting anthem before we sing it in the halls of the New Jerusalem.
We will be GLAD and REJOICE. These are two words with one sense, double joy, blessedness upon blessedness. Need there be any limit to our rejoicing in the Lord even now? Do not men of grace find their Lord to be camphire and spikenard, calamus and cinnamon even now—and what better fragrance have they in heaven itself?
We will be glad and rejoice IN YOU. That last word is the dainty in the dish—the kernel of the nut—the soul of the text. What heavens are laid up in Jesus! What rivers of infinite bliss have their source, yes, and every drop of their fullness in Him! "Since, O sweet Lord Jesus, You are the present portion of Your people, favor us this year with such a sense of Your preciousness, that from its first to its last day—we may be glad and rejoice in You. Let January open with joy in the Lord, and December close with gladness in Jesus."
January 2 — Morning
"Continue in prayer." Colossians 4:2
It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;" and just as we are about to close the volume, the "Amen" of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elijah; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises.
What does this teach us—but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Do you need nothing? Then, I fear you do not know your poverty. Have you no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord's mercy show you your misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honor of a Christian. If you are a child of God, you will seek your Father's face, and live in your Father's love. Pray that this year you may be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter oftener into the banqueting-house of His love. Pray that you may be an example and a blessing unto others, and that you may live more to the glory of your Master. The motto for this year must be, "Continue in prayer."
January 2 — Evening
"Let the people renew their strength." Isaiah 41:1
All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continues by itself. "You renew the face of the year," was the Psalmist's utterance. Even the trees, which do not wear themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labor—must drink of the rain of heaven, and suck from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap freshly drawn from the earth. Neither can man's life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the waste of the body by the frequent meals—so we must repair the waste of the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances. How weak are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starvelings some saints are—who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God—it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon Him as the flowers wait upon the dew.
Without constant restoration we are not ready for the perpetual assaults of hell, or the stern afflictions of heaven, or even for the strifes within. When the whirlwind shall be loosed, woe to the tree that has not sucked up fresh sap, and grasped the rock with many intertwisted roots. When tempests arise, woe to the mariners that have not strengthened their mast, nor cast their anchor, nor sought the haven. If we allow the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and so, perhaps, a painful desolation, and a lamentable disgrace may follow. Let us draw near to the footstool of divine mercy in humble entreaty, and we shall realize the fulfillment of the promise, "Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength."
January 3 — Morning
"I will give you for a covenant of the people." Isaiah 49:8
Jesus Christ is Himself the sum and substance of the covenant, and is one of its gifts. He is the property of every believer. Believer, can you estimate what you have gotten in Christ? "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Consider that word "God" and its infinity, and then meditate upon "perfect man" and all his beauty; for all that Christ, as God and man, ever had, or can have, is yours—out of pure free favor, given over to you to be your guaranteed property forever.
Our blessed Jesus, as God, is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Will it not console you to know that all these great and glorious attributes are altogether yours? Has he power? That power is yours to support and strengthen you, to overcome your enemies, and to preserve you even to the end. Has He love? Well, there is not a drop of love in His heart which is not yours; you may dive into the immense ocean of His love, and you may say of it all, "It is mine!" Has He justice? It may seem a stern attribute—but even that is yours, for He will by His justice see to it that all which is promised to you in the covenant of grace shall be most certainly secured to you.
And all that He has as perfect man is yours. As a perfect man the Father's delight was upon Him. He stood accepted by the Most High. O believer, God's acceptance of Christ is your acceptance; for know you not that the love which the Father set on a perfect Christ, He sets on you now? For all that Christ did is yours. That perfect righteousness which Jesus wrought out, when through His stainless life He kept the law and made it honorable, is yours, and is imputed to you. Christ is in the covenant. "My God, I am yours — what a comfort divine! What a blessing to know that the Savior is mine! In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am, And my heart it does dance at the sound of His name."
January 3 — Evening
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness—Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Luke 3:4
The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the Lord, a way prepared, and a way prepared in the wilderness. I would be attentive to the Master's proclamation, and give Him a road into my heart, cast up by gracious operations, through the desert of my nature.
The four directions in the text must have my serious attention.
1. Every valley must be exalted. Low and groveling thoughts of God must be given up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys—a glorious causeway of grace must be raised!
2. Every mountain and hill shall be laid low. Proud creature-sufficiency, and boastful self-righteousness, must be leveled, to make a highway for the King of kings. Divine fellowship is never promised to haughty, high-minded sinners. The Lord has respect unto the lowly, and visits the contrite in heart—but the lofty are an abomination unto Him. My soul, beseech the Holy Spirit to set you right in this respect.
3. The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are strangers to the God of truth. My soul, take heed that you are in all things honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.
4. The rough places shall be made smooth. Stumbling-blocks of sin must be removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when He comes to honor His favored ones with His company. Oh that this evening the Lord may find in my heart a highway made ready by His grace, that He may make a triumphal progress through the utmost bounds of my soul, from the beginning of this year even to the end of it.
January 4 — Morning
"Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3:18
"Grow in grace" not in one grace only—but in all grace.
Grow in that root-grace, faith. Believe the promises more firmly than you have done. Let faith increase in fullness, constancy, simplicity.
Grow also in love. Ask that your love may become extended, more intense, more practical, influencing every thought, word, and deed.
Grow likewise in humility. Seek to lie very low, and know more of your own nothingness. As you grow downward in humility, seek also to grow upward—having nearer approaches to God in prayer and more intimate fellowship with Jesus.
May God the Holy Spirit enable you to "grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior." He who does not grow in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed. To know Him is "life eternal," and to advance in the knowledge of Him is to increase in happiness. He who does not long to know more of Christ—knows nothing of Him yet. Whoever has sipped this wine—will thirst for more; for although Christ does satisfy—yet it is such a satisfaction, that the appetite is not glutted—but whetted. If you know the love of Jesus—as the deer pants for the water-brooks, so will you pant after deeper draughts of His love. If you do not desire to know Him better—then you love Him not, for love always cries, "Nearer, nearer!" Absence from Christ is hell—but the presence of Jesus is heaven.
Do not then, rest content without an ever increasing acquaintance with Jesus. Seek to know more of Him in His divine nature, in His human relationship, in His finished work, in His death, in His resurrection, in His present glorious intercession, and in His future royal advent. Abide close by the Cross, and search the mystery of His wounds. An increase of love to Jesus, and a more perfect apprehension of His love to us is one of the best tests of growth in grace.
January 4 — Evening
"And Joseph knew his brethren—but they did not know him." Genesis 42:8
This morning our desires went forth for growth in our acquaintance with the Lord Jesus; it may be well tonight to consider a kindred topic, namely—our heavenly Joseph's knowledge of us. This was most blessedly perfect, long before we had the slightest knowledge of Him.
"His eyes beheld our substance—yet being imperfect, and in His book all our members were written, when as yet there was none of them." Before we had a being in the world—we had a being in His heart. When we were enemies to Him—He knew us, our misery, our madness, and our wickedness. When we wept bitterly in despairing repentance, and viewed Him only as a stern judge—He viewed us as His well beloved brethren, and His affections yearned towards us. He never mistook His chosen—but always beheld them as objects of His infinite affection. "The Lord knows those who are His," is as true of the prodigals who are feeding swine—as of the children who sit at the table.
But, alas! we knew not our royal Brother, and out of this ignorance grew a multitude of sins. We withheld our hearts from Him—and allowed Him no entrance to our love. We mistrusted Him—and gave no credit to His words. We rebelled against Him—and paid Him no loving homage. The Sun of Righteousness shone forth—and we could not see Him. Heaven came down to earth—and earth perceived it not.
Let God be praised, those days are over with us; yet even now it is but little that we know of Jesus, compared with what He knows of us. We have but begun to study Him—but He knows us altogether. It is a blessed circumstance that the ignorance is not on His side—for then it would be a hopeless case for us. He will not say to us, "I never knew you," but He will confess our names in the day of His appearing, and meanwhile will manifest Himself to us as He does not unto the world.
January 5 — Morning
"And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness." Genesis 1:4
Light might well be good, since it sprang from that fiat of goodness, "Let there be light." We who enjoy it, should be more grateful for it than we are—and see more of God in it and by it. Physical light is said by Solomon to be sweet—but gospel light is infinitely more precious, for it reveals eternal things, and ministers to our immortal natures.
When the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual light, and opens our eyes to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ—we behold SIN in its true colors, and OURSELVES in our real position; we see the Most Holy GOD as He reveals Himself, the plan of MERCY as He propounds it, and the WORLD to come as the Word describes it.
Spiritual light has many beams and prismatic colors—but whether they are knowledge, joy, holiness, or life—all are divinely good. If the light received is thus good, what must the essential light be, and how glorious must be the place where He reveals Himself. O Lord, since light is so good—give us more of it, and more of Yourself, the true light.
No sooner is there a good thing in the world, than a division is necessary. Light and darkness have no communion; God has divided them—let us not confound them. Sons of light must not have fellowship with deeds, doctrines, or deceits of darkness. The children of the day must be sober, honest, and bold in their Lord's work, leaving the works of darkness to those who shall dwell in it forever.
Our Churches should by discipline divide the light from the darkness; and we should by our distinct separation from the world do the same. In judgment, in action, in hearing, in teaching, in association, we must discern between the precious and the vile, and maintain the great distinction which the Lord made upon the world's first day. O Lord Jesus, be our light throughout the whole of this day, for Your light is the light of men.
January 5 — Evening
"And God saw the light." Genesis 1:4
This morning we noticed the goodness of the light, and the Lord's dividing it from the darkness; we now note the special eye which the Lord had for the light. "God saw the light" He looked at it with delight, gazed upon it with pleasure; He saw that it "was good." If the Lord has given you light, dear reader, He looks on that light with peculiar interest; for not only is it dear to Him as His own handiwork—but because it is like Himself, for "He is light."
It is pleasant to the believer—to know that God's eye is thus tenderly observant of that work of grace which He has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure, which He has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light—but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the judge to see my innocence, than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God's people—but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, "The Lord knows those who are His."
You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness—yet the Lord sees "light" in your heart, for He has put it there—and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from His gracious eye! You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing towards Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in His finished work, God sees the "light." He not only sees it—but He also preserves it in you. "I, the Lord, do keep it." This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by His grace, He will one day develop into the splendor of noonday, and the fullness of glory. The light within—is the dawn of the eternal day!
January 6 — Morning
"Casting all your care upon Him—for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
It is a happy way of soothing sorrow, when we can feel, "HE cares for me." Christian! do not dishonor religion by always wearing a brow of worry—come, cast your burden upon your Lord. You are staggering beneath a weight—which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden—would be to Him but as the small dust of the scale. Nothing is so sweet as to
"Lie passive in God's hands,
And know no will but His."
O child of suffering—be patient. God has not passed you over in His providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows—will also furnish you with what you need. Do not sit down in despair; hope on, hope ever. Take up the arms of faith—against a sea of trouble, and your your distresses shall end. There is One who cares for you! His eye is fixed on you! His heart beats with pity for your woe! His omnipotent hand shall yet bring you the needed help! The darkest cloud—shall scatter itself in showers of mercy. The blackest gloom—shall give place to the morning. If you are one of His family—He will bind up your wounds, and heal your broken heart. Do not doubt His grace, because of your troubles—but believe that He loves you as much in seasons of distress—as in times of happiness. What a serene and quiet life might you lead—if you would leave providing—to the God of providence!
With a little oil in the cruse, and a handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you—why need you care too? Can you trust Him for your soul—and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens—He has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! Be done with fretful worry—and leave all your concerns in the hand of a gracious God!
January 6 — Evening
"Now the hand of the Lord was upon me in the evening." Ezekiel 33:22
In the way of judgment, this may be the case; and, if so—be it mine to consider the reason of such a visitation, and hear the rod, and Him who has appointed it. I am not the only one who is chastened in the night season; let me cheerfully submit to the affliction, and carefully endeavor to be profited thereby.
But the hand of the Lord may also be felt in another manner, strengthening the soul, and lifting the spirit upward towards eternal things. O that I may in this sense feel the Lord dealing with me! A sense of the divine presence and indwelling, bears the soul towards heaven as upon the wings of eagles. At such times we are full to the brim with spiritual joy, and forget the cares and sorrows of earth; the invisible is near, and the visible loses its power over us. The servant-body waits at the foot of the hill, and the master-spirit worships upon the summit in the presence of the Lord. O that a hallowed season of divine communion may be given to me this evening! The Lord knows that I need it very greatly! My graces languish, my corruptions rage, my faith is weak, my devotion is cold; all these are reasons why His healing hand should be laid upon me. His hand can cool the heat of my burning brow, and stay the tumult of my palpitating heart. That glorious right hand which molded the world—can new-create my mind; the unwearied hand which bears the earth's huge pillars up—can sustain my spirit; the loving hand which encloses all the saints—can nourish me; and the mighty hand which breaks in pieces the enemy—can subdue my sins. Why should I not feel that hand touching me this evening? Come, my soul, address your God with the potent plea, that Jesus's hands were pierced for your redemption, and you shall surely feel that same hand upon you, which once touched Daniel and set him upon his knees that he might see visions of God.
January 7 — Morning
"For me—to live is Christ." Philippians 1:21
The believer did not always live to Christ. He began to do so when God the Holy Spirit convinced him of sin, and when by grace he was brought to see the dying Savior making an atoning sacrifice for his guilt. From the moment of the new and celestial birth—the man begins to live to Christ. Jesus is to believers the one pearl of great price—for whom we are willing to part with all that we have. He has so completely won our love, that it beats alone for Him; to His glory we would live, and in defense of His gospel we would die. He is the pattern of our life, and the model after which we would sculpture our character.
Paul's words mean more than most men think; they imply that the aim and end of his life was Christ—nay, his life itself was Jesus. In the words of an ancient saint, he did eat, and drink, and sleep—Christ. Jesus was his very breath, the soul of his soul, the heart of his heart, the life of his life. Can you say, as a professing Christian, that you live up to this idea? Can you honestly say that, for you to live is Christ?
Your business—are you doing it for Christ? Is it not done for self-aggrandizement and for family advantage? Do you ask, "Is that an evil reason?" For the Christian it is. He professes to live for Christ; how can he live for another object without committing a spiritual adultery?
Many there are, who carry out this principle in some measure; but who is there that dare say that he has lived wholly for Christ as the apostle did? Jesus alone is the true life of a Christian—its source, its sustenance, its model, its end, all gathered up in one word. Lord, accept me; I here present myself, praying to live only in You and to You. Let me be as the bullock which stands between the plough and the altar, to work or to be sacrificed; and let my motto be, "Ready for either."
January 7 — Evening
"My sister, my spouse." Song of Solomon 4:12
Observe the sweet titles with which the heavenly Solomon with intense affection, addresses His bride the church.
My sister—one near to me by ties of nature, partaker of the same sympathies. My spouse—nearest and dearest, united to me by the tenderest bands of love; my sweet companion, part of my own self.
My sister—by my Incarnation, which makes me bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. My spouse—by heavenly betrothal, in which I have espoused you unto myself in righteousness.
My sister—whom I knew of old, and over whom I watched from her earliest infancy. My spouse—taken from among all others, embraced by arms of love, and affianced unto me forever.
See how true it is—that our royal Kinsman is not ashamed of us, for He dwells with manifest delight upon this two-fold relationship. We have the word "my" twice in our verse—as if Christ dwelt with rapture on His possession of His Church. "His delights were with the sons of men," because those sons of men were His own chosen ones. He, the Shepherd, sought the sheep—because they were His sheep. He has gone about "to seek and to save that which was lost," because that which was lost—was His long before it was lost to itself or lost to Him. The church is the exclusive portion of her Lord; none else may claim a partnership, or pretend to share her love. Jesus, your church delights to have it so!
Let every believing soul drink solace out of these wells. Soul! Christ is near to you in ties of relationship; Christ is dear to you in bonds of marriage union—and you are dear to Him. Behold, He grasps both of your hands with both His own, saying, "My sister, my spouse!" Mark the two sacred holdfasts by which your Lord gets such a double hold of you—that He neither can nor will ever let you go. Be not, O beloved, slow to return the hallowed flame of His love.
January 8 — Morning
"The iniquity of the holy things." Exodus 28:38
What a veil is lifted up by these words—and what a disclosure is made! It will be humbling and profitable for us to pause awhile, and see this sad sight. The iniquities of our public worship—its hypocrisy, formality, lukewarmness, irreverence, wandering of heart and forgetfulness of God—what a full measure have we there! The iniquities of our work for the Lord—its ambition, selfishness, carelessness, slackness, unbelief—what a mass of defilement is there! Our private devotions—their laxity, coldness, neglect, sleepiness, and vanity—what a mountain of dead earth is there! If we looked more carefully—we would find this iniquity of the holy things, to be far greater than appears at first sight.
Payson, writing to his brother, says, "My parish, as well as my heart, very much resembles the garden of the sluggard; and what is worse, I find that very many of my desires for the improvement of both, proceed either from pride or vanity or indolence. I look at the weeds which overspread my garden, and breathe out an earnest wish that they were eradicated. But why? What prompts the wish? It may be that I may walk out and say to myself, 'In what fine order is my garden kept!' This is pride. Or, it may be that my neighbors may look over the wall and say, 'How finely your garden flourishes!' This is vanity. Or I may wish for the destruction of the weeds, because I am weary of pulling them up. This is indolence."
Even our desires after holiness—may be polluted by ill motives. Under the greenest sods—worms hide themselves; we need not look long to discover them. How cheering is the thought, that when the High Priest bore the iniquity of the holy things he wore upon his brow the words, "Holiness to the Lord!" Just so, while Jesus bears our sin, He presents before His Father's face, not our unholiness—but His own holiness. O for grace to view our great High Priest by the eye of faith!
January 8 — Evening
"Your love is better than wine." Song of Solomon 1:2
Nothing gives the believer so much joy—as fellowship with Christ. He has enjoyment as others have, in the common mercies of life; he can be glad both in God's gifts and God's works. But in all these separately, yes, and in all of them added together—he does not find such substantial delight—as in the matchless person of his Lord Jesus! He has wine which no vineyard on earth ever yielded; he has bread which all the richest grain-fields could never bring forth.
Where can such sweetness be found—as we have tasted in communion with our Beloved? In our esteem, the joys of earth are little better than husks for swine—when compared with Jesus, the heavenly manna. We would rather have one mouthful of Christ's love, and a sip of his fellowship—than a whole world full of carnal delights! What is the chaff—compared to the wheat? What is the sparkling plastic—compared to the true diamond? What is a dream—compared to the glorious reality? What is time's mirth, in its best form—compared to our Lord Jesus in His most despised estate?
If you know anything of spiritual life, you will confess that your highest, purest, and most enduring joys—must be the fruit of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. No spring yields such sweet water—as that well of God which was dug with the soldier's spear! All earthly bliss is of the earth, earthy—but the comforts of Christ's presence are like Himself, heavenly. We can review our communion with Jesus, and find no dregs in this wine, no dead flies in this ointment. The joy of the Lord is solid and enduring. Vanity has not looked upon it—but discretion and prudence testify that it abides the test of years, and is in time and in eternity—worthy to be called the only true delight! For nourishment, consolation, exhilaration, and refreshment, no wine can rival the love of Jesus. Let us drink to the full!
January 9 — Morning
"I will be their God!" Jeremiah 31:33
Christian! here is all you can require. To make you happy—you need something that shall satisfy you—and is not this enough? If you can pour this promise into your cup—you will say, with David, "My cup runs over! I have more than heart can wish!" When this is fulfilled, "I am your God," —are you not possessor of all things? Desire is insatiable as death—but He who fills all in all, can fill it. The capacity of our desires—who can measure? but the immeasurable wealth of God can more than overflow it. I ask you—if you are not complete—when God is yours? Do you need anything but God? Is not His all-sufficiency enough to satisfy you—if all else should fail?
But you want more than quiet satisfaction; you desire rapturous delight. Come, soul, here is music fit for heaven in this your portion, for God is the Maker of Heaven. Not all the music blown from sweet instruments, or drawn from living strings—can yield such melody as this sweet promise, "I will be their God!" Here is a deep sea of bliss, a shoreless ocean of delight; come—bathe your spirit in it; swim an age—and you shall find no shore; dive throughout eternity—and you shall find no bottom.
"I will be their God!" If this does not make your eyes sparkle, and your heart beat high with bliss—then assuredly your soul is not in a healthy state.
But you need more than present delights—you crave something concerning which you may exercise hope; and what more can you hope for than the fulfillment of this great promise, "I will be their God!" This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below—and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of your Lord, and let your soul be always ravished with His love. Get out the marrow and fatness which this portion yields you. Live up to your privileges, and rejoice with unspeakable joy.
January 9 — Evening
"Serve the Lord with gladness." Psalm 100:2
Delight in divine service is a sign of acceptance with God. Those who serve God with a sad countenance, because they do what is unpleasant to them, are not serving Him at all; they bring the form of homage—but the life is absent. Our God requires no slaves to grace His throne; He is the Lord of the empire of love, and would have His servants dressed in the livery of joy. The angels of God serve Him with songs, not with groans; a murmur or a sigh would be a mutiny in their ranks.
That obedience which is not voluntary—is disobedience, for the Lord looks at the heart, and if He sees that we serve Him from force, and not because we love Him—He will reject our offering. Service coupled with cheerfulness is heart-service, and therefore true service. Take away joyful willingness from the Christian, and you have removed the test of his sincerity. If a man is forced to battle, he is no patriot; but he who marches into the fray with flashing eye and beaming face, singing, "It is sweet for one's country to die," proves himself to be sincere in his patriotism.
Cheerfulness is the support of our strength; in the joy of the Lord, we are strong. Joy acts as the remover of difficulties. It is to our service—what oil is to the wheels of a railway carriage. Without oil the axle soon grows hot, and accidents occur; and if there is not a holy cheerfulness to oil our wheels, our spirits will be clogged with weariness. The man who is cheerful in his service of God, proves that obedience is his element; he can sing, "Make me to walk in Your commands—it is a delightful road." Reader, let us put this question—do you serve the Lord with gladness? Let us show to the people of the world, who think our religion to be slavery—that it is to us a delight and a joy! Let our gladness proclaim that we serve a good Master.
January 10 — Morning
"There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness!" 2 Timothy 4:8
Doubting one! You have often said, "I fear I shall never enter heaven." Fear not! All the people of God shall enter there. I love the quaint saying of a dying man, who exclaimed, "I have no fear of going home; I have sent all before me; God's finger is on the latch of my door, and I am ready for Him to enter." "But," said one, "are you not afraid lest you should miss your inheritance?" "Nay," said he, "nay; there is one crown in heaven, which the angel Gabriel could not wear—it will fit no head but mine. There is one throne in heaven which Paul the apostle could not fill—it was made for me, and I shall have it."
O Christian, what a joyous thought! Your portion is secure— "there remains a rest." "But cannot I forfeit it?" No—it is certain. If I am a child of God—I shall not lose it. It is mine as securely as if I were there! Come with me, believer, and let us sit upon the top of Nebo, and view the goodly land, even Canaan. See that little river of death glistening in the sunlight, and across it do you see the pinnacles of the eternal city? Do you mark the pleasant country, and all its joyous inhabitants? Know, then, that if you could fly across you would see written upon one of its many mansions, "This remains for such a one; preserved for him only. He shall be caught up to dwell forever with God."
Poor doubting one, see the lovely inheritance—it is yours! If you believe in the Lord Jesus, if you have repented of sin, if you have been renewed in heart—you are one of the Lord's people, and there is a place reserved for you, a crown laid up for you, a harp specially provided for you. No one else shall have your portion, it is reserved in heaven for you, and you shall have it before long, for there shall be no vacant thrones in glory, when all the chosen are gathered in.
January 10 — Evening
"In my flesh shall I see God." Job 19:26
Mark the subject of Job's devout anticipation "I shall see God." He does not say, "I shall see the saints" though doubtless that will be untold felicity—but, "I shall see God." It is not, "I shall see the pearly gates, I shall behold the walls of jasper, I shall gaze upon the crowns of gold," but "I shall see God." This is the sum and substance of heaven; this is the joyful hope of all believers. It is their delight to see Him now in the ordinances, by faith. They love to behold Him in communion and in prayer; but there in heaven—they shall have an open and unclouded vision, and thus seeing "Him as He is," they shall be made completely like Him. Likeness to God—what more can we wish for? And a sight of God—what can we desire better?
Some read the passage, "Yet, I shall see God in my flesh," and find here an allusion to Christ, as the "Word made flesh," and that glorious beholding of Him which shall be the splendor of the latter days. Whether so or not—it is certain that Christ shall be the object of our eternal vision; nor shall we ever need any joy beyond that of seeing Him. Do not think that this will be a narrow sphere for the mind to dwell in. It is but one source of delight—but that source is infinite. All His attributes shall be subjects for contemplation, and as He is infinite under each aspect, there is no fear of exhaustion. His works, His gifts, His love to us; and His glory in all His purposes, and in all His actions, these shall make a theme which will be ever new.
The patriarch looked forward to this sight of God as a personal enjoyment. "Whom my eye shall behold—and not another." Take realizing views of heaven's bliss; think what it will be to you. "Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty!" All earthly brightness fades and darkens—as we gaze upon it—but here is a brightness which can never dim, a glory which can never fade, "I shall see God."
January 11 — Morning
"These have no root." Luke 8:13
My soul, examine yourself this morning by the light of this text. You have received the Word with joy; your feelings have been stirred and a lively impression has been made; but, remember, that to receive the Word in the ear is one thing—and to receive Jesus into your very soul is quite another. Superficial feeling is often joined to inward hardness of heart, and a lively impression of the Word is not always a lasting one.
In the parable, the seed in one case fell upon ground having a rocky bottom, covered over with a thin layer of earth; when the seed began to take root, its downward growth was hindered by the hard stone, and therefore it spent its strength in pushing its green shoot aloft as high as it could—but having no inward moisture derived from root nourishment, it withered away. Is this my case? Have I been making a fair show in the flesh, without having a corresponding inner life? Good growth takes place upwards and downwards at the same time. Am I rooted in sincere fidelity and love to Jesus? If my heart remains unsoftened and unfertilized by grace, the good seed may germinate for a season—but it must ultimately wither, for it cannot flourish on a rocky, unbroken, unsanctified heart.
Let me dread a godliness as rapid in growth and as lacking in endurance as Jonah's gourd; let me count the cost of being a follower of Jesus, above all let me feel the energy of His Holy Spirit, and then I shall possess an abiding and enduring seed in my soul. If my mind remains as obdurate as it was by nature, the sun of trial will scorch, and my hard heart will help to cast the heat the more terribly upon the ill-covered seed, and my religion will soon die, and my despair will be terrible. Therefore, O heavenly Sower, plough me first, and then cast the truth into me, and let me yield You a bounteous harvest.
January 11 — Evening
"I have prayed for you." Luke 22:32
How encouraging is the thought of the Redeemer's never-ceasing intercession for us. When we pray—He pleads for us. And when we are not praying—He is advocating our cause, and by His supplications shielding us from unseen dangers. Notice the word of comfort addressed to Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you—that he may sift you as wheat; but" what? "But go and pray for yourself." That would be good advice—but it is not so written. Neither does he say, "But I will keep you watchful, and so you shall be preserved." That would be a great blessing. No, it is, "But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not."
We little know what we owe to our Savior's prayers! When we reach the hill-tops of heaven, and look back upon all the way whereby the Lord our God has led us—how we shall praise Him who, before the eternal throne, undid the mischief which Satan was doing upon earth. How shall we thank Him because day and night, He pointed to the wounds upon His hands, and carried our names upon His breastplate!
Even before Satan had begun to tempt, Jesus had entered a plea in heaven. Mercy outruns malice. Mark, He does not say, "Satan has desired to have you." He checks Satan even in his very desire, and nips it in the bud. He does not say, "But I have desired to pray for you." No—but "I have prayed for you—I have done it already; I have gone to court and entered a counter-plea even before an accusation is made." O Jesus, what a comfort it is, that you have pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies; countermined their mines, and unmasked their ambushes. Here is a matter for joy, gratitude, hope, and confidence!
January 12 — Morning
"You are Christ's." 1 Corinthians 3:23
"You are Christ's." You are His by donation—for the Father gave you to the Son. You are His by His bloody purchase—for He paid the price for your redemption. You are His by dedication—for you have consecrated yourself to Him. You are His by relation—for you are named by his name, and made one of His brethren and joint-heirs.
Labor practically to show the world that you are the servant, the friend, the bride of Jesus. When tempted to sin, reply, "I cannot do this great wickedness—for I am Christ's!" Immortal principles forbid the friend of Christ to sin. When wealth is before you to be won by sin, say, "I am Christ's!" and touch it not. Are you exposed to difficulties and dangers? Stand fast in the evil day, remembering that you are Christ's. Are you placed where others are sitting down idly, doing nothing? Rise to the work with all your powers; and when the sweat stands upon your brow, and you are tempted to loiter, cry, "No, I cannot stop, for I am Christ's, and cannot loiter."
When the siren song of pleasure would tempt you from the path of right, reply, "Your music cannot charm me—I am Christ's." When the cause of God invites you—give your goods and yourself away, for you are Christ's. Never belie your profession. Be ever one of those whose manners are Christian, whose speech is like the Nazarene, whose conduct and conversation are so redolent of heaven—that all who see you may know that you are the Savior's, recognizing in you His features of love and His countenance of holiness. "I am a Roman!" was of old a reason for integrity; far more, then, let it be your argument for holiness, "I am Christ's!"
January 12 — Evening
"I have yet to speak on God's behalf." Job 36:2
We ought not to court publicity for our virtue, or notoriety for our zeal; but, at the same time, it is a sin to be always seeking to hide that which God has bestowed upon us for the good of others. A Christian is not to be a village in a valley—but "a city set upon a hill;" he is not to be a candle under a bushel—but a candle on a candlestick, giving light to all. Retirement may be lovely in its season, and to hide one's self is doubtless modest—but the hiding of Christ in us can never be justified, and the keeping back of truth which is precious to ourselves, is a sin against others, and an offence against God.
If you are of a nervous temperament and of retiring disposition, take care that you do not too much indulge this trembling propensity, lest you should be useless to the church. Seek in the name of Him who was not ashamed of you—to do some little violence to your feelings, and tell to others what Christ has told to you. If you cannot speak with trumpet tongue, use the still small voice. If the pulpit must not be your tribune, if the press may not carry your words on its wings—yet say with Peter and John, "Silver and gold have I none—but such as I have, I give you."
By Sychar's well talk to the Samaritan woman—if you cannot on the mountain preach a sermon; utter the praises of Jesus in the house—if not in the temple; in the field—if not upon the exchange; in the midst of your own household—if you cannot in the midst of the great family of man. From the hidden springs within, let sweetly flowing rivulets of testimony flow forth, giving drink to every passer-by. Hide not your talent; trade with it; and you shall bring in good interest to your Lord and Master. To speak for God will be refreshing to ourselves, cheering to saints, useful to sinners, and honoring to the Savior. Dumb children are an affliction to their parents. Lord, unloose all Your children's tongues.
January 13 — Morning
"Jehoshaphat built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir for gold, but they never set sail—they were wrecked at Ezion-Geber." 1 Kings 22:48
Solomon's ships had returned in safety—but Jehoshaphat's vessels never reached the land of gold. Providence prospers one, and frustrates the desires of another, in the same business and at the same spot—yet the Great Ruler is as good and wise at one time as another. May we have grace today, in the remembrance of this text, to bless the Lord for ships broken at Ezion-geber, as well as for vessels freighted with temporal blessings. Let us not envy the more successful, nor murmur at our losses as though we were singularly and specially tried. Like Jehoshaphat, we may be precious in the Lord's sight, although our schemes end in disappointment.
The secret cause of Jehoshaphat's loss is well worthy of notice, for it is the root of very much of the suffering of the Lord's people; it was his alliance with a sinful family, his fellowship with sinners. In 2 Chron. 20:37, we are told that the Lord sent a prophet to declare, "Because you have joined yourself with Ahaziah, the Lord has broken your works." This was a fatherly chastisement, which appears to have been blessed to him; for in the verse which follows our text—we find him refusing to allow his servants to sail in the same vessels with those of the wicked king.
Would to God that Jehoshaphat's experience might be a warning to the rest of the Lord's people—to avoid being unequally yoked together with unbelievers! A life of misery is usually the lot of those who are united in marriage, or in any other way of their own choosing—with the men of the world. O for such love to Jesus that, like Him, we may be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; for if it is not so with us, we may expect to hear it often said, "The Lord has broken your works."
January 13 — Evening
"But as one of them was chopping, his axe-head fell into the river. "Ah, my lord!" he cried. "It was a borrowed axe!" "Where did it fall?" the man of God asked. When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water. Then the axe-head rose to the surface and floated." 2 Kings 6:5-6
The axe-head seemed hopelessly lost, and as it was borrowed, the honor of the prophetic band was likely to be imperilled, and so the name of their God to be compromised. Contrary to all expectation, the iron was made to mount from the depth of the stream and to float; for things impossible with man are possible with God.
I knew a man in Christ but a few years ago who was called to undertake a work far exceeding his strength. It appeared so difficult as to involve absurdity in the bare idea of attempting it. Yet he was called thereto, and his faith rose with the occasion; God honored his faith, unlooked-for aid was sent, and "the axe-head floated."
Another of the Lord's family was in grievous financial straits, he was able to meet all claims, and much more if he could have realized a certain portion of his estate—but he was overtaken with a sudden pressure; he sought for friends in vain—but faith led him to the unfailing Helper, and lo, the trouble was averted, his footsteps were enlarged, and "the axe-head floated."
A third had a sorrowful case of depravity to deal with. He had taught, reproved, warned, invited, and interceded—but all in vain. Old Adam was too strong for young Melancthon, the stubborn spirit would not relent. Then came an agony of prayer, and before long a blessed answer was sent from heaven. The hard heart was broken, and "the axe-head floated."
Beloved reader, what is your desperate case? What heavy matter have you in hand this evening? Bring it here. The God of the prophets lives, and lives to help His saints. He will not allow you to lack any good thing. Believe in the Lord Almighty! Approach Him pleading the name of Jesus, and "the axe-head shall float." You too shall see the finger of God working marvels for His people. According to your faith be it unto you, and yet again "the axe-head shall float."
January 14 — Morning
"Mighty to save." Isaiah 63:1
By the words "to save" we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire—onward to complete sanctification. Indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only "mighty to save" those who repent—but He is able to make men repent. He will carry those who believe those to heaven; but He is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness—love it; and to constrain the despiser of His name—to bend the knee before Him.
Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by "the Mighty God." The bush burns—but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep His people holy—after He has made them so; and to preserve them in his fear and love—until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven. Christ's might does not lie in making a believer—and then leaving him to shift for himself; but He who begins the good work carries it on; He who imparts the first germ of life in the dead soul—prolongs the divine existence, and strengthens it—until it bursts asunder every bond of sin, and the soul leaps from earth, perfected in glory.
Believer, here is encouragement. Are you praying for some beloved one? Oh, do not give up your prayers, for Christ is "mighty to save." You are powerless to reclaim the rebel—but your Lord is Almighty. Lay hold on that mighty arm—and rouse it to put forth its strength.
Does your own case trouble you? Fear not, for His strength is sufficient for you. Whether to begin with others, or to carry on the work in you, Jesus is "mighty to save;" the best proof of which lies in the fact that He has saved you. What a thousand mercies—that you have not found Him mighty to destroy!
January 14 — Evening
"Beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me!" Matthew 14:30
Sinking times are praying times with the Lord's servants. Peter neglected prayer at starting upon his venturous journey—but when he began to sink—his danger made him a suppliant, and his cry though late—was not too late.
In our hours of bodily pain and mental anguish—we find ourselves as naturally driven to prayer, as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves. The fox flees to its hole for protection; the bird flies to the woods for shelter; and even so the tried believer hastens to the mercy seat for safety. Heaven's great harbor of refuge is All-prayer; thousands of weather beaten vessels have found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to make for it with all sail.
Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out—but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length—but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride—and more wing—they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion, as chaff to the wheat. Precious things lie in small compass, and all that is real prayer in many a long address might have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter.
Our extremities are the Lord's opportunities. Immediately a keen sense of danger forces an anxious cry from us—the ear of Jesus hears—and with Him ear and heart go together—and the hand does not long linger. At the last moment we appeal to our Master—but His swift hand makes up for our delays by instant and effectual action. Are we nearly engulfed by the boisterous waters of affliction? Let us then lift up our souls unto our Savior, and we may rest assured that He will not allow us to perish. When we can do nothing—Jesus can do all things; let us enlist His powerful aid upon our side, and all will be well.
January 15 — Morning
"Do as you have said." 2 Samuel 7:25
God's promises were never meant to be thrown aside as waste paper; He intended that they should be used. God's gold is not miser's money—but is minted to be traded with. Nothing pleases our Lord better, than to see His promises put in circulation. He loves to see His children bring them up to Him, and say, "Lord—do as You have said."
We glorify God when we plead His promises. Do you think that God will be any the poorer—for giving you the riches He has promised? Do you dream that He will be any the less holy—for giving holiness to you? Do you imagine He will be any the less pure—for washing you from your sins? He has said "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Faith lays hold upon the promise of pardon, and it does not delay, saying, "This is a precious promise—I wonder if it is true?" but it goes straight to the throne with it, and pleads—Lord, here is the promise, Do as You have said!"
Our Lord replies, "Be it unto you even as you will." When a Christian grasps a promise, if he does not take it to God, he dishonors Him; but when he hastens to the throne of grace, and cries, "Lord, I have nothing to recommend me but this—You have said it;" then his desire shall be granted. Our heavenly Banker delights to cash His own notes.
Never let the promise rust. Draw the Word of promise out of its scabbard, and use it with holy violence. Do not think that God will be troubled by your importunately reminding Him of His promises. He loves to hear the loud outcries of needy souls. It is His delight to bestow favors. He is more ready to hear—than you are to ask. The sun is not weary of shining, nor the fountain of flowing. It is God's nature to keep His promises; therefore go at once to the throne with, "Do as You have said."
January 15 — Evening
"But I give myself unto prayer." Psalm 109:4
Lying tongues were busy against the reputation of David—but he did not defend himself; he moved the case into a higher court, and pleaded before the great King Himself. Prayer is the safest method of replying to words of hatred. The Psalmist prayed in no cold-hearted manner—he gave himself to the exercise—threw his whole soul and heart into it—straining every sinew and muscle, as Jacob did when wrestling with the angel. Thus, and thus only, shall any of us benefit at the throne of grace. As a shadow has no power because there is no substance in it, even so that supplication, in which a man's heart is not thoroughly present in agonizing earnestness and vehement desire, is utterly ineffectual, for it lacks that which would give it force. "Fervent prayer," says an old divine, "like a cannon planted at the gates of heaven, makes them fly open."
The common fault with the most of us, is our readiness to yield to distractions. Our thoughts go roving hither and thither, and we make little progress towards our desired end. Like quicksilver, our mind will not hold together—but rolls off this way and that. How great an evil this is! It injures us, and what is worse, it insults our God. What would we think of a petitioner, if, while having an audience with a prince, he should be playing with a feather or catching a fly!
Continuance and perseverance are intended in the expression of our text. David did not cry once, and then relapse into silence; his holy clamor was continued until it brought down the blessing. Prayer must not be our occasional work—but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer. We must be immersed in prayer as in our element, and so pray without ceasing. Lord, teach us so to pray—that we may be more and more prevalent in supplication.
January 16 — Morning
"Do not be afraid—for I Myself will help you—declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." Isaiah 41:14
This morning let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: "I Myself will help you." "It is but a small thing for Me, your God, to help you. Consider what I have done already. What! not help you? Why, I bought you with My blood. What! not help you? I have died for you! And if I have done the greater—will I not do the lesser? Help you! It is the least thing I will ever do for you; I have done more, and will do more. Before the world began I chose you. I made the covenant for you. I laid aside My glory and became a man for you. I gave up My life for you. And if I did all this, I will surely help you now. In helping you, I am giving you what I have bought for you already. If you had need of a thousand times as much help—I would give it to you. You require little compared with what I am ready to give. It is much for you to need—but it is nothing for me to bestow. 'Help you?' Fear not! If there were an ant at the door of your granary, asking for help—it would not ruin you to give him a handful of your wheat! Just so, you are nothing but a tiny insect at the door of My all-sufficiency. 'I Myself will help you.'"
O my soul, is not this enough? Do you need more strength than the omnipotence of the United Trinity? Do you need more wisdom than exists in the Father? Do you need more love than displays itself in the Son? Do you need more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring your empty pitcher here! Surely this well will fill it. Haste, gather up your needs, and bring them here—your emptiness, your woes, your troubles. Behold, this river of God is full for your supply. What more can you desire? Go forth, my soul, in this your might. The Eternal God is your helper!
"Fear not, I am with you, oh, be not dismayed!
I, I am your God, and will still give you aid."
January 16 — Evening
"The Messiah shall be cut off—but not for himself." Daniel 9:26
Blessed be His name, there was no cause for death in Himself. Neither original nor actual sin had defiled Him—and therefore death had no claim upon Him. No man could have taken His life from Him justly, for He had done no man wrong; and no man could even have slain Him by force—unless He had been pleased to yield Himself to die. But lo, one sins—and another suffers. Justice was offended by us—but found its satisfaction in Him. Rivers of tears, mountains of offerings, seas of the blood of bullocks, and hills of frankincense, could not have availed for the removal of sin; but Jesus was cut off for us, and the cause of wrath was cut off at once—for sin was put away forever.
Herein is wisdom, whereby substitution, the sure and speedy way of atonement, was devised! Herein is condescension, which brought Messiah, the Prince, to wear a crown of thorns, and die upon the cross! Herein is love, which led the Redeemer to lay down His life for His enemies! It is not enough, however, to admire the spectacle of the innocent—bleeding for the guilty, we must make sure of our interest therein. The special object of the Messiah's death was the salvation of His church—have we a part and a lot among those for whom He gave His life a ransom? Did the Lord Jesus stand as our representative? Are we healed by His stripes? It will be a terrible thing indeed—if we would come short of a portion in His sacrifice; it were better for us that we had never been born.
Solemn as the question is, it is a joyful circumstance, that it is one which may be answered clearly and without mistake. To all who believe on Him—the Lord Jesus is a present Savior; and upon them all the blood of reconciliation has been sprinkled. Let all who trust in the merit of Messiah's death, be joyful at every remembrance of Him, and let their holy gratitude lead them to the fullest consecration to His cause.
January 17 — Morning
"I looked, and there before me was the Lamb." Revelation 14:1
The apostle John was privileged to look within the gates of heaven, and in describing what he saw, he begins by saying, "I looked, and there before me was the Lamb!" This teaches us that the chief object of contemplation in the heavenly state, is "the Lamb of God." Nothing else attracted the apostle's attention, so much as that Divine Being, who has redeemed us by His blood. He is the theme of the songs of all glorified spirits and holy angels.
Christian, here is joy for you; you have looked, and you have seen the Lamb. Through your tears—your eyes have seen the Lamb of God taking away your sins. Rejoice, then. In a little while, when your eyes shall have been wiped from tears—you will see the same Lamb exalted on His throne! It is the joy of your heart to hold daily fellowship with Jesus; you shall have the same joy to a higher degree in heaven; you shall enjoy the constant vision of His presence; you shall dwell with Him forever! "I looked, and there before me was the Lamb!"
Why, that Lamb is heaven itself; for as holy Rutherford says, "Heaven and Christ are the same thing!" To be with Christ is to be in heaven—and to be in heaven is to be with Christ. That prisoner of the Lord very sweetly writes in one of his glowing letters, "O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without you—it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have you still—it would be a heaven to me, for you are all the heaven I want." It is true, is it not, Christian? Does not your soul say so?
"Not all the harps above
Can make a heavenly place,
If God His residence remove,
Or but conceal His face."
All you need to make you blessed, supremely blessed, is "to be with Christ."
January 17 — Evening
"One evening David got up from his bed and strolled around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing—a very beautiful woman." 2 Samuel 11:2
At that hour David saw Bathsheba. We are never out of the reach of temptation. Both at home and abroad we are liable to meet with allurements to evil. The morning opens with peril, and the shadows of evening find us still in jeopardy. They are well kept—whom God keeps—but woe unto those who go forth into the world, or even dare to walk their own house unarmed. Those who think themselves secure, are more exposed to danger than any others. The armor-bearer of Sin—is self-confidence.
David should have been engaged in fighting the Lord's battles, instead of which he tarried at Jerusalem, and gave himself up to luxurious repose, for he arose from his bed at eventide. Idleness and luxury are the devil's jackals—and find him abundant prey. In stagnant waters—noxious creatures swarm. Neglected soil—soon yields a dense tangle of weeds and briars. Oh for the constraining love of Jesus to keep us active and useful!
When I see the King of Israel sluggishly leaving his couch at the close of the day, and falling at once into temptation, let me take warning, and set holy watchfulness to guard the door. Is it possible that the king had mounted his housetop for retirement and devotion? If so, what a caution is given us to count no place, however secret, a sanctuary from sin!
While our hearts are so like a tinder-box, and sparks so plentiful—we had need use all diligence in all places—to prevent a blaze. Satan can climb housetops, and enter closets—and even if we could shut out that foul fiend, our own corruptions are enough to work our ruin—unless grace prevents it.
Reader, beware of evening temptations. Be not secure. The sun is down—but sin is up. We need a watchman for the night— as well as a guardian for the day. O blessed Spirit, keep us from all evil this night. Amen.
January 18 — Morning
"There remains a rest for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9
How different will be the state of the believer in heaven—from what it is here! Here he is born to toil and suffer weariness—but in the land of the immortal, fatigue is never known. Anxious to serve his Master, he now finds his strength unequal to his zeal: his constant cry is, "Help me to serve You, O my God." If he is thoroughly active, he will have much labor; not too much for his desire—but more than enough for his power, so that he will cry out, "I am not wearied of the labor—but I am wearied in it!"
Ah! Christian, the hot day of weariness lasts not forever; the sun is nearing the horizon; it shall rise again with a brighter day than you have ever seen, upon a land where they serve God day and night, and yet rest from their labors. Here, rest is but partial—there, it is perfect. Here, the Christian is always unsettled; he feels that he has not yet attained. There, all are at rest; they have attained the summit of the mountain; they have ascended to the bosom of their God. Higher they cannot go!
Ah, toil-worn laborer, only think when you shall rest forever! Can you conceive it? It is a rest eternal; a rest that "remains." Here, my best joys bear "mortal" on their brow; my fair flowers fade; my dainty cups are drained to dregs; my sweetest birds fall before Death's arrows; my most pleasant days are shadowed into nights; and the flood-tides of my bliss subside into ebbs of sorrow. But there, everything is immortal; the harp abides unrusted, the crown unwithered, the eye undimmed, the voice unfaltering, the heart unwavering, and the immortal being is wholly absorbed in infinite delight. Happy day! happy! when mortality shall be swallowed up in life, and the Eternal rest shall begin.
January 18 — Evening
"He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself." Luke 24:27
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus had a most profitable journey. Their companion was the best of teachers; the interpreter one of a thousand, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The Lord Jesus condescended to become a preacher of the gospel, and He was not ashamed to exercise His calling before an audience of two people, neither does He now refuse to become the teacher of even one. Let us court the company of so excellent an Instructor, for until He is made unto us wisdom—we shall never be wise unto salvation.
This unrivaled tutor used as His class-book the best of books. Although able to reveal fresh truth—He preferred to expound the old. He knew by His omniscience what was the most instructive way of teaching, and by turning at once to Moses and the prophets, He showed us that the surest road to wisdom is not speculation, reasoning, or reading human books—but meditation upon the Word of God. The readiest way to be spiritually rich in heavenly knowledge, is to dig in this mine of diamonds, to gather pearls from this heavenly sea. When Jesus Himself sought to enrich others—He wrought in the quarry of Holy Scripture.
The favored pair were led to consider the best of subjects, for Jesus spoke of Jesus, and expounded the things concerning Himself. Here the diamond cut the diamond, and what could be more admirable? The Master of the House unlocked His own doors, conducted the guests to His table, and placed His own dainties upon it. He who hid the treasure in the field, Himself guided the searchers to it. Our Lord would naturally discourse upon the sweetest of topics, and He could find none sweeter than His own person and work—with an eye to these—we should always search the Word. O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson!
January 19 — Morning
"I sought him—but I found him not." Song of Solomon 3:1
Tell me where you lost the company of Christ—and I will tell you the most likely place to find Him. Have you lost Christ in the closet by restraining prayer? Then it is there that you must seek and find Him. Did you lose Christ by sin? You will find Christ in no other way but by the giving up of the sin, and seeking by the Holy Spirit to mortify the member in which the lust dwells. Did you lose Christ by neglecting the Scriptures? You must find Christ in the Scriptures. It is a true proverb, "Look for a thing where you dropped it—it is there." So look for Christ where you lost Him—for He has not gone away.
But it is hard work to go back for Christ. Bunyan tells us, the pilgrim found the piece of the road back to the Arbor of Ease, where he lost his sroll, the hardest that he had ever traveled. Twenty miles onward is easier than to go one mile back for the lost evidence. Take care, then, when you find your Master—to cling close to Him.
But how is it you have lost Him? One would have thought you would never have parted with such a precious friend, whose presence is so sweet, whose words are so comforting, and whose company is so dear to you! How is it that you did not watch Him every moment—for fear of losing sight of Him? Yet, since you have let Him go, what a mercy that you are seeking Him, even though you mournfully groan, "O that I knew where I might find Him!" Go on seeking, for it is dangerous to be without your Lord. Without Christ you are like a sheep without its shepherd; like a tree without water at its roots; like a sere leaf in the tempest—not bound to the tree of life. With your whole heart seek Him—and He will be found of you. Only give yourself thoroughly up to the search, and truly—you shall yet discover Him to your joy and gladness.
January 19 — Evening
"Then He opened their understanding—that they might understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
He whom we viewed last evening as opening Scripture, we here perceive opening the understanding. In the first work He has many fellow-laborers—but in the second He stands alone. Many can bring the Scriptures to the mind—but the Lord alone can prepare the mind to receive the Scriptures. Our Lord Jesus differs from all other teachers; they reach the ear—but He instructs the heart; they deal with the outward letter—but He imparts an inward taste for the truth, by which we perceive its savor and spirit. The most unlearned of men become ripe scholars in the school of grace—when the Lord Jesus by His Holy Spirit unfolds the mysteries of the kingdom to them, and grants the divine anointing by which they are enabled to behold the invisible.
Happy are we if we have had our understandings cleared and strengthened by the Master! How many men of profound learning are ignorant of eternal things! They know the killing letter of revelation—but its killing spirit they cannot discern; they have a veil upon their hearts which the eyes of carnal reason cannot penetrate.
Such was our case a little time ago; we who now see—were once utterly blind! Truth was to us—as beauty in the dark, a thing unnoticed and neglected. Had it not been for the love of Jesus—we would have remained to this moment in utter ignorance, for without His gracious opening of our understanding, we could no more have attained to spiritual knowledge than an infant can climb the Pyramids, or an ostrich fly up to the stars. Jesus' College is the only one in which God's truth can be really learned; other schools may teach us what is to be believed—but Christ's alone can show us how to believe it. Let us sit at the feet of Jesus, and by earnest prayer call in His blessed aid that our dull wits may grow brighter, and our feeble understandings may receive heavenly things.
January 20 — Morning
"Abel was a keeper of sheep." Genesis 4:2
As a shepherd, Abel sanctified his work to the glory of God, and offered a sacrifice of blood upon his altar, and the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering. This early type of our Lord is exceedingly clear and distinct. Like the first streak of light which tinges the east at sunrise—it does not reveal everything—but it clearly manifests the great fact that the sun is coming.
As we see Abel, a shepherd and yet a priest, offering a sacrifice of sweet smell unto God—we discern our Lord, who brings before His Father a sacrifice to which Jehovah ever has respect. Abel was hated by his brother—hated without a cause; and even so was the Savior. The natural and carnal man hated the accepted man in whom the Spirit of grace was found, and rested not until his blood had been shed. Abel fell, and sprinkled his altar and sacrifice with his own blood, and therein sets forth the Lord Jesus slain by the enmity of man while serving as a priest before the Lord.
"The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." Let us weep over Him as we view Him slain by the hatred of mankind, staining the horns of His altar with His own blood. Abel's blood speaks. "The Lord said unto Cain—The voice of your brother's blood cries unto Me from the ground." The blood of Jesus has a mighty tongue, and the import of its prevailing cry is not vengeance—but mercy. It is precious beyond all preciousness to stand at the altar of our good Shepherd! to see Him bleeding there as the slaughtered priest, and then to hear His blood speaking peace to all His flock, peace in our conscience, peace between man and his offended Maker, peace all down the ages of eternity for blood-washed men. Abel is the first shepherd in order of time—but our hearts shall ever place Jesus first in order of excellence. Great Keeper of the sheep, we the people of Your pasture bless You with our whole hearts—when we see You slain for us!
January 20 — Evening
"Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken me in Your way." Psalm 119:37
There are diverse kinds of vanity. The cap and bells of the fool; the mirth of the world; the dance, the lyre, and the cup of the dissolute. All these we know to be vanities; they wear upon their forefront, their proper name and title. Far more treacherous, are those equally vain things—the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. A man may follow vanity as truly in his business—as in the theater. If he is spending his life in amassing wealth—he passes his days in a vain show. Unless we follow Christ, and make our God the great object of life, we only differ in appearance from the most frivolous. It is clear that there is much need of the first prayer of our text.
"Quicken me in Your way." The Psalmist confesses that he is dull, heavy, lumpy—all but dead. Perhaps, dear reader, you feel the same. We are so sluggish that the best motives cannot quicken us, apart from the Lord Himself. What! will not hell quicken me? Shall I think of sinners perishing—and yet not be awakened? Will not heaven quicken me? Can I think of the glory that awaits the righteous—and yet be cold? Will not death quicken me? Can I think of dying, and standing before my God—and yet be slothful in my Master's service? Will not Christ's love constrain me? Can I think of His dear wounds, can I sit at the foot of His cross—and not be stirred with fervency and zeal? It seems so! No mere consideration can quicken us to zeal—but God Himself must do it, hence the cry, "Quicken me!"
The Psalmist breathes out his whole soul in vehement pleadings—his body and his soul unite in prayer. "Turn away my eyes," says the body: "Quicken me," cries the soul. This is a fit prayer for every day. O Lord, hear it in my case this night.
January 21 — Morning
"And so all Israel shall be saved." Romans 11:26
When Moses sang at the Red Sea, it was his joy to know that all Israel were safe. Not a drop of spray fell from that solid wall—until the last of God's Israel had safely planted his foot on the other side the flood. That done, immediately the floods dissolved into their proper place again—but not until then. Part of that song was, "You in your mercy have led forth the people which you have redeemed."
Just so, in the last time, when the elect shall sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb, it shall be the boast of Jesus, "Of all whom you have given me—I have lost none." In heaven, there shall not be a vacant throne.
"For all the chosen race
Shall meet around the throne,
Shall bless the conduct of His grace,
And make His glories known."
As many as God has chosen, as many as Christ has redeemed, as many as the Spirit has called—as many as believe in Jesus, shall safely cross the dividing sea. We are not all safely landed yet: "Part of the host have crossed the flood—and part are crossing now." The vanguard of the army has already reached the shore. We are marching through the depths; we are at this day following hard after our Leader into the heart of the sea. Let us be of good cheer: the rear-guard, shall soon be where the vanguard already is; the last of the chosen ones shall soon have crossed the sea, and then shall be heard the song of triumph, when all are secure.
But oh! if one were absent—oh! if one of His chosen family should be cast away—it would make an everlasting discord in the song of the redeemed, and cut the strings of the harps of paradise, so that music could never be extorted from them.
January 21 — Evening
"Now Samson was very thirsty, and he cried out to the Lord, "You have accomplished this great victory by the strength of your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of these pagan people?" Judges 15:18
Samson was thirsty and ready to die. The difficulty was totally different from any which the hero had met before. Merely to get thirst assuaged, is a small matter—as compared to be delivered from a thousand Philistines! but when the thirst was upon him, Samson felt that little present difficulty more weighty than the great past difficulty out of which he had so specially been delivered.
Just so, it is very usual for God's people, when they have enjoyed a great deliverance, to find a little trouble too much for them. Samson slays a thousand Philistines, and piles them up in heaps—and then faints for a little water! Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel, and overcomes Omnipotence itself—and then goes "halting on his thigh!" Strange that there must be a shrinking of the sinew, whenever we win the day. As if the Lord must teach us our littleness, our nothingness, in order to keep us within bounds.
Samson boasted right loudly when he said, "I have slain a thousand men!" His boastful throat soon grew hoarse with thirst, and he betook himself to prayer.
God has many ways of humbling His people. Dear child of God, if after great mercy you are laid very low—your case is not an unusual one. When David had mounted the throne of Israel, he said, "I am this day weak, though anointed king." You must expect to feel weakest—when you are enjoying your greatest triumph. If God has wrought for you great deliverances in the past, your present difficulty is only like Samson's thirst, and the Lord will not let you faint, nor allow the daughter of the uncircumcised to triumph over you. The road of sorrow is the road to heaven—but there are wells of refreshing water all along the route. So, tried brother, cheer your heart with Samson's words, and rest assured that God will deliver you before long.
January 22 — Morning
"Son of man, What is the vine more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?" Ezekiel 15:2
"Son of man, how does a grapevine compare to a tree? Is a vine's wood as useful as the wood of a tree?" Ezekiel 15:2
These words are for the humbling of God's people; they are called God's grapevine—but what are they by nature more than others? They, by God's goodness, have become fruitful, having been planted in a good soil; the Lord has trained them upon the walls of the sanctuary, and they bring forth fruit to His glory. But what are they without their God? What are they without the continual influence of the Spirit, begetting fruitfulness in them?
O believer, learn to reject pride, seeing that you have no ground for it. Whatever you are—you have nothing to make you proud. The more you have—the more you are in debt to God—and you should not be proud of that which renders you a debtor. Consider your origin—look back to what you were. Consider what you would have been—but for divine grace! Look upon yourself as you are now. Does not your conscience reproach you? Do not your thousand wanderings stand before you, and tell you that you are unworthy to be called God's son? And if He has made you anything, are you not taught thereby that it is grace which has made you to differ? Great believer—you would have been a great sinner—if God had not made you to differ! O you who are valiant for truth—you would have been as valiant for error—if grace had not laid hold upon you. Therefore, be not proud, though you have a large estate—a wide domain of grace—for once, you had not a single thing to call your own—except your sin and misery! Oh! strange infatuation, that you—who have borrowed everything, should think of exalting yourself! That you—a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of your Savior, one who has a life which dies without fresh streams of life from Jesus—and yet proud! Fie on you, O silly heart!
"What makes you better than anyone else? What do you have—that God hasn't given you? And if all you have is from God—why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?" 1 Corinthians 4:7
January 22 — Evening
"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Job 1:9
This was the wicked question of Satan, concerning that upright man of old—but there are many in the present day concerning whom it might be asked with justice, for they love God after a fashion, because He prospers them; but if things went badly with them—they would give up all their boasted faith in God. If they can clearly see that since the time of their supposed conversion, the world has gone prosperously with them, then they will love God in their poor carnal way; but if they endure adversity, they rebel against the Lord. Their love is the love of the table, not of the host; a love to the cupboard, not to the master of the house.
As for the true Christian, he expects to have his reward in the next life, and to endure hardness in this life. The promise of the old covenant—is prosperity; but the promise of the new covenant—is adversity. Remember Christ's words, "Every branch that produces fruit," What? "He prunes it, that it may bring forth fruit." If you bring forth fruit—you will have to endure the pruning knife.
"Alas!" you say, "that is a terrible prospect." But this affliction works out such precious results, that the Christian who is the subject of it must learn to rejoice in tribulations, because as his tribulations abound—so his consolations abound by Christ Jesus. Rest assured, if you are a child of God, you will be no stranger to the "rod"! Sooner or later, every bar of gold must pass through the fire. Fear not—but rather rejoice that such fruitful times are in store for you, for in them you will be weaned from earth and made fit for heaven; you will be delivered from clinging to the present world, and made to long for those eternal things which are so soon to be revealed to you. When you feel that as regards the present, you serve God for nothing—you will then rejoice in the infinite reward of the future.
January 23 — Morning
"I have exalted one chosen out of the people." Psalm 89:19
Why was Christ chosen out of the people? Speak, my heart, for heart-thoughts are best. Was it not that He might be able to be our brother, in the blessed tie of kindred blood? Oh, what relationship there is between Christ and the believer! The believer can say, "I have a Brother in heaven; I may be poor—but I have a Brother who is rich, and is a King, and will He allow me to lack, while He is on His throne? Oh, no! He loves me; He is my Brother!" Believer, wear this blessed thought, like a necklace of diamonds, around the neck of your memory; put it, as a golden ring, on the finger of recollection, and use it as the King's own seal, stamping the petitions of your faith with confidence of success. He is a brother born for adversity, treat Him as such.
Christ was also chosen out of the people that He might know our needs and sympathize with us. "He was tempted in all points like as we are—yet without sin." In all our sorrows we have His sympathy. Temptation, pain, disappointment, weakness, weariness, poverty—He knows them all—for He has felt them all. Remember this, Christian, and let it comfort you. However difficult and painful your road—it is marked by the footsteps of your Savior; and even when you reach the dark valley of the shadow of death, and the deep waters of the swelling Jordan—you will find His footprints there! In all places wherever we go—He has been our forerunner. Each burden we have to carry—has once been laid on the shoulders of Immanuel.
"His way was much rougher and darker than mine;
Did Christ, my Lord, suffer—and shall I repine?"
Take courage! Royal feet have left a blood-red track upon the road, and consecrated the thorny path forever!
January 23 — Evening
"We will remember Your love more than wine." Song of Solomon 1:4
Jesus will not let His people forget His love. If all the love they have enjoyed should be forgotten, He will visit them with fresh love. "Do you forget my cross?" says He, "I will cause you to remember it; for at My table I will manifest Myself anew to you. Do you forget all I did for you in the council-chamber of eternity? I will remind you of it, for you shall need a counselor, and shall find Me ready at your call." Mothers do not let their children forget them. If the boy has gone to Australia, and does not write home, his mother writes, "Has John forgotten his mother?" Then there comes back a sweet letter, which proves that the gentle reminder was not in vain.
So is it with Jesus, He says to us, "Remember Me," and our response is, "We will remember Your love!" We will remember Your love and its matchless history. It is ancient as the glory which You had with the Father, before the world was. We remember, O Jesus, Your eternal love, when You became our Surety, and espoused us as Your betrothed. We remember the love which suggested the sacrifice of Yourself, the love which, until the fullness of time, mused over that sacrifice, and long for the hour whereof in the volume of the book it was written of You, "Lo, I come!" We remember Your love, O Jesus as it was manifest to us in Your holy life, from the manger of Bethlehem to the garden of Gethsemane. We track You from the cradle to the grave—for every word and deed of Yours was love—and we rejoice in Your love, which death did not exhaust. We remember Your love which shone resplendent in Your resurrection. We remember that burning fire of love, which will never let You hold Your peace until Your chosen ones are all safely housed, until Zion are glorified, and Jerusalem settled on her everlasting foundations of light and love in heaven!
January 24 — Morning
"Surely he shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler." Psalm 91:3
God delivers His people from the snare of the fowler in two senses. From, and out of.
First, He delivers them from the snare—He does not let them enter it.
Secondly, if they should be caught therein, He delivers them out of it.
The first promise is the most precious to some; the second is the best to others.
"He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler." How?
Trouble is often the means whereby God delivers us. God knows that our backsliding will soon end in our destruction, and He in mercy sends the 'rod'. We say, "Lord—why is this?" not knowing that our trouble has been the means of delivering us from far greater evil. Many have been thus saved from spiritual ruin—by their sorrows and their crosses; these have frightened the birds from the snare of the fowler.
At other times, God keeps His people from the snare of the fowler by giving them great spiritual strength, so that when they are tempted to do evil, they say, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"
But what a blessed thing it is that if the believer shall, in an evil hour, come into the net—yet God will bring him out of it! O backslider, be cast down—but do not despair. Wanderer though you have been, hear what your Redeemer says, "Return, O backsliding children; I will have mercy upon you!" But you say you cannot return, for you are a captive. Then listen to the promise, "Surely He shall deliver you out of the snare of the fowler!" You shall yet be brought out of all evil into which you have fallen—and though you shall never cease to repent of your ways—yet He who has loved you will not cast you away; He will receive you, and give you joy and gladness, that the bones which He has broken may rejoice. No bird of paradise shall die in the fowler's net!
January 24 — Evening
"Martha was cumbered about much serving." Luke 10:40
Her fault was not that she served—the condition of a servant well befits every Christian. "I serve," should be the motto of all the princes of the royal family of heaven. Nor was it her fault that she had "much serving." We cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can; let head, and heart, and hands, be engaged in the Master's service. It was no fault of hers that she was busy preparing a feast for the Master. Happy Martha, to have an opportunity of entertaining so blessed a guest; and happy, too, to have the spirit to throw her whole soul so heartily into the engagement. Her fault was that she grew "cumbered with much serving," so that she forgot Him, and only remembered the service. She allowed service to override communion, and so presented one duty—stained with the blood of another.
We ought to be Martha and Mary in one—we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve—than to commune. Joshua never grew weary in fighting with the Amalekites; but Moses, on the top of the mountain in prayer, needed two helpers to sustain his hands! The more spiritual the exercise—the sooner we tire in it. The choicest fruits—are the hardest to rear. The most heavenly graces—are the most difficult to cultivate.
Beloved, while we do not neglect external things, which are good enough in themselves, we ought also to see to it that we enjoy living, personal fellowship with Jesus. See to it that sitting at the Savior's feet is not neglected, even though it is under the specious pretext of doing Him service. The first thing for our soul's health—the first thing for His glory—and the first thing for our own usefulness—is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus, and to see that the vital spirituality of our piety, is maintained over and above everything else in the world.
January 25 — Morning
"I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has bestowed on us." Isaiah 63:7
And can you not do this? Are there no mercies which you have experienced? What though you are gloomy now, can you forget that blessed hour when Jesus met you, and said, "Come unto me!" Can you not remember that rapturous moment when He snapped your fetters, dashed your chains to the earth, and said, "I came to break your bonds and set you free!" Or if the love of your espousals is forgotten, there must surely be some precious milestone along the road of life not quite grown over with moss—on which you can read a happy memorial of His mercy towards you? What, did you never have a sickness like that which you are suffering now—and did He not restore you? Were you never poor before—and did He not supply your needs? Were you never in difficulties before—and did He not deliver you? Arise, go to the river of your experience, and pull up a few bulrushes, and weave them into an ark, wherein your infant-faith may float safely on the stream.
Do not forget what your God has done for you; turn over the book of your remembrance, and consider the days of old. Can you not remember the hill Mizar? Did the Lord never meet with you at Hermon? Have you never climbed the Delectable Mountains? Have you never been helped in time of need? Nay, I know you have! Go back, then, a little way to the choice mercies of yesterday, and though all may be dark now—light up the lamps of the past, they shall glitter through the darkness, and you shall trust in the Lord until the day breaks and the shadows flee away. "I remember, O Lord, your tender mercies and your loving kindnesses, for they have been ever of old."
January 25 — Evening
"Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." Romans 3:31
When the believer is adopted into the Lord's family, his relationship to old Adam and the law ceases at once; but then he is under a new rule, and a new covenant. Believer, you are God's child; it is your first duty to obey your heavenly Father. A servile spirit—you have nothing to do with: you are not a slave—but a child; and now, inasmuch as you are a beloved child, you are bound to obey your Father's faintest wish, the least intimation of His will. Does He bid you fulfill a sacred ordinance? It is at your peril that you neglect it, for you will be disobeying your Father! Does He command you to seek the image of Jesus? It is not your joy to do so? Does Jesus tell you, "Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect"? Then not because the law commands—but because your Savior enjoins, you will labor to be perfect in holiness. Does He bid his saints love one another? Do it, not because the law says, "Love your neighbor," but because Jesus says, "If you love Me—keep My commandments;" and this is the commandment that He has given unto you, "that you love one another." Are you told to distribute to the poor? Do it, not because charity is a burden which you dare not shirk—but because Jesus teaches, "Give to him who asks of you." Does the Word say, "Love God with all your heart"? Look at the commandment and reply, "Ah! commandment, Christ has fulfilled you already—I have no need, therefore, to fulfill you for my salvation—but I rejoice to yield obedience to you, because God is my Father now and He has a claim upon me, which I would not dispute."
May the Holy Spirit make your heart obedient to the constraining power of Christ's love, that your prayer may be, "Make me to go in the path of Your commandments; for therein do I delight." Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness—and not the license for sin.
January 26 — Morning
"Your heavenly Father." Matthew 6:26
God's people are doubly His children, they are His offspring by creation, and they are His sons by adoption in Christ. Hence they are privileged to call Him, "Our Father in heaven."
Father! Oh, what precious word is that!
Here is authority: "If I am a Father—where is my honor?" If you are sons, where is your obedience?
Here is affection mingled with authority; an authority which does not provoke rebellion; an obedience demanded which is most cheerfully rendered—which would not be withheld, even if it might. The obedience which God's children yield to Him, must be loving obedience. Do not go about the service of God as slaves to their taskmaster's toil—but run in the way of His commands, because it is your Father's way. Yield your bodies as instruments of righteousness, because righteousness is your Father's will, and His will should be the will of His child.
Father! Here is a kingly attribute so sweetly veiled in love, that the King's crown is forgotten in the King's face, and His scepter becomes, not a rod of iron—but a silver scepter of mercy—the scepter indeed seems to be forgotten in the tender hand of Him who wields it!
Father! Here is honor and love. How great is a Father's love to his children! That which friendship cannot do, and mere benevolence will not attempt—a father's heart and hand must do for his sons. They are his offspring—he must bless them; they are his children—he must show himself strong in their defense. If an earthly father watches over his children with unceasing love and care—how much more does our heavenly Father?
Abba, Father! He who can say this, has uttered better music than cherubim or seraphim can reach! There is heaven in the depth of that word—Father! There is all I can ask; all my necessities can demand; all my wishes can desire. I have all in all to all eternity when I can say, Father!
January 26 — Evening
"All those who heard it—wondered at those things." Luke 2:18
We must not cease to wonder at the great marvels of our God. It would be very difficult to draw a line between holy wonder—and real worship; for when the soul is overwhelmed with the majesty of God's glory, though it may not express itself in song, or even utter its voice with bowed head in humble prayer—yet it silently adores. Our incarnate God is to be worshiped as "the Wonderful."
That God should consider His fallen creature, man, and instead of sweeping him away with the broom of destruction, should Himself undertake to be man's Redeemer, and to pay his ransom price—is, indeed marvelous! But to each believer, redemption is most marvelous—as he views it in relation to himself. It is a miracle of grace indeed, that Jesus should forsake the thrones and royalties above, to suffer ignominiously below for you! Let your soul lose itself in wonder, for wonder is in this way, a very practical emotion. Holy wonder will lead you to grateful worship and heartfelt thanksgiving. It will cause within you godly watchfulness; you will be afraid to sin against such a love as this.
Feeling the presence of the mighty God in the gift of His dear Son, you will put off your shoes from your feet, because the place whereon you stand is holy ground. You will be moved at the same time to glorious hope. If Jesus has done such marvelous things on your behalf, you will feel that heaven itself is not too great for your expectation. Who can be astonished at anything—when he has once been astonished at the manger and the cross! What is there wonderful left— after one has seen the Savior! Dear reader, it may be that from the quietness and solitariness of your life, you are scarcely able to imitate the shepherds of Bethlehem, who told what they had seen and heard—but you can, at least, fill up the circle of the worshipers before the throne, by astonishment at what God has done!
January 27 — Morning
"From the fullness of His grace—we have all received one blessing after another." John 1:16
These words tell us that there is a fullness in Christ. There is a fullness of essential Deity, for "in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead." There is a fullness of perfect manhood, for in Him, bodily, that Godhead was revealed. There is a fullness of atoning efficacy in His blood, for "the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin." There is a fullness of justifying righteousness in His life, for "there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." There is a fullness of divine prevalence in His plea, for "He is able to save to the uttermost, all who come unto God by Him; seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them." There is a fullness of victory in His death, for through death He destroyed him who had the power of death, that is the devil. There is a fullness of efficacy in His resurrection from the dead, for by it "we are begotten again unto a lively hope." There is a fullness of triumph in His ascension, for "when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and received gifts for men."
There is a fullness of blessings of every sort and shape; a fullness of grace to pardon, of grace to regenerate, of grace to sanctify, of grace to preserve, and of grace to perfect. There is a fullness at all times; a fullness of comfort in affliction; a fullness of guidance in prosperity. A fullness of every divine attribute—of wisdom, of power, of love; a fullness which it were impossible to survey, much less to explore. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell." Oh, what a fullness must this be—of which all receive! Fullness, indeed, must there be when the stream is always flowing, and yet the well springs up as free, as rich, as full as ever. Come, believer, and get all your need supplied; ask largely, and you shall receive largely, for this "fullness" is inexhaustible, and is treasured up where all the needy may reach it—even in Jesus, Immanuel—God with us!
January 27 — Evening
"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19
There was an exercise on the part of this blessed woman, of three powers of her being:
her memory—she kept all these things;
her affections—she kept them in her heart;
her intellect—she pondered them.
So that memory, affection, and understanding, were all exercised about the things which she had heard.
Beloved, remember what you have heard of your Lord Jesus, and what He has done for you; make your heart the golden pot of manna to preserve the memorial of the heavenly bread whereon you have fed in days gone by. Let your memory treasure up everything about Christ which you have either felt, or known, or believed—and then let your fond affections hold Him fast for evermore. Love the person of your Lord! Bring forth the alabaster box of your heart, even though it is broken, and let all the precious ointment of your affection come streaming on His pierced feet. Let your intellect be exercised concerning the Lord Jesus. Meditate upon what you read—do not stop at the surface—dive into the depths! Do not be as the swallow which touches the brook with her wing—but as the fish which penetrates the lowest wave. Abide with your Lord—let Him not be to you as a wayfaring man, that tarries for a night—but constrain Him, saying, "Abide with us, for the day is far spent." Hold Him, and do not let Him go!
The word "ponder," means to weigh. Make ready the balances of judgment. Oh—but where are the scales that can weigh the Lord Christ? "He takes up the islands as a very little thing:" who shall take Him up? "He weighs the mountains in scales" in what scales shall we weigh Him? Be it so, if your understanding cannot comprehend, let your affections apprehend; and if your spirit cannot compass the Lord Jesus in the grasp of understanding, let it embrace Him in the arms of affection!
January 28 — Morning
"Perfect in Christ Jesus." Colossians 1:28
Do you not feel in your own soul—that perfection is not in you? Does not every day teach you that? Every tear which trickles from your eye—weeps "imperfection"; every harsh word which proceeds from your lip—mutters "imperfection." You have too frequently had a view of your own heart—to dream for a moment of any perfection in yourself. But amidst this sad consciousness of imperfection, here is comfort for you—you are "perfect in Christ Jesus." In God's sight, you are "complete in Him;" even now you are "accepted in the Beloved."
But there is a second perfection—yet to be realized, which is sure to all the chosen seed. Is it not delightful, to look forward to the time when every stain of sin shall be removed from the believer, and he shall be presented faultless before the throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing? The Church of Christ then will be so pure, that not even the eye of Omniscience will see a spot or blemish in her; so holy and so glorious, that Joseph Hart did not go beyond the truth when he said—"With my Savior's garments on—Holy as the Holy One." Then shall we know, and taste, and feel the happiness of this vast but short sentence, "Complete in Christ!" Not until then shall we fully comprehend the heights and depths of the salvation of Jesus. Does not your heart leap for joy at the thought of it? As black as you are—you shall be white one day! As filthy as you are—you shall be pure. Oh, it is a marvelous salvation! Christ takes a worm—and transforms it into an seraph! Christ takes a vile and deformed thing—and makes it pure and matchless in His glory, peerless in His beauty, and fit to be His eternal companion! O my soul, stand and admire this blessed truth, of perfection in Christ.
January 28 — Evening
"And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." Luke 2:20
What was the subject of their praise? They praised God for what they had heard—for the good tidings of great joy that a Savior was born unto them. Let us copy them; let us also raise a song of thanksgiving that we have heard of Jesus and His salvation.
They also praised God for what they had seen. There is the sweetest music—what we have experienced, what we have felt within, what we have made our own, "the things which we have made touching the King." It is not enough to hear about Jesus: mere hearing may tune the harp—but the fingers of living faith must create the music. If you have seen Jesus with the God-giving sight of faith, allow no cobwebs to linger among the harp-strings—but awake your psaltery and harp loud to the praise of sovereign grace!
One point for which they praised God was the agreement between what they had heard and what they had seen. Observe the last sentence, "As it was told unto them." Have you not found the gospel to be in yourselves, just what the Bible said it would be? Jesus said He would give you rest—have you not enjoyed the sweetest peace in Him? He said you should have joy, and comfort, and life through believing in Him—have you not received all these? Are not His ways—ways of pleasantness, and His paths—paths of peace? Surely you can say with the queen of Sheba, "The half has not been told to me! I have found Christ more sweet than His servants ever said He was. I looked upon His likeness as they painted it—but it was a mere daub compared with Himself; for the King in His beauty outshines all imaginable loveliness!" Surely what we have "seen" keeps pace with, nay, far exceeds, what we have "heard." Let us, then, glorify and praise God for a Savior so precious, and so satisfying.
January 29 — Morning
"We fix our eyes not on what is seen—but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!" 2 Corinthians 4:18
In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it is for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love—the future must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith! Looking into the future—we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made perfect, and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Looking further yet, the believer's enlightened eye can see death's river passed, the gloomy stream forded, and the hills of light attained on which stands the celestial city. He sees himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with Him, and made to sit together with Him on His throne, even as He has overcome and has sat down with the Father on His throne.
Contemplation of my glorious future—may well relieve the darkness of the past—and the gloom of the present. The joys of heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth! Hush, hush, my fears! Death is but a narrow stream, and you shall soon have forded it. Time—how short; eternity—how long! Death—how brief; immortality—how endless! Methinks I even now eat of Eshcol's clusters, and sip of the well which is within the gate. The road is so, so short! I shall soon be there!
"In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day; and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing!" 2 Timothy 4:8
January 29 — Evening
"The dove came in to him in the evening." Genesis 8:11
Blessed be the Lord for another day of mercy—even though I am now weary with its toils. Unto the preserver of men, I lift my song of gratitude. The dove found no rest out of the ark, and therefore returned to it; and my soul has learned yet more fully than ever, this day, that there is no satisfaction to be found in earthly things—God alone can give rest to my spirit.
As to my business, my possessions, my family, my attainments—these are all well enough in their way—but they cannot fulfill the desires of my immortal nature. "Return unto your rest—O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you."
It was at the still hour, when the gates of the day were closing, that with weary wing the dove came back to the master. "O Lord, enable me this evening thus to return to Jesus!" The dove could not endure to spend a night hovering over the restless waste, not can I bear to be even for another hour away from Jesus, the rest of my heart, the home of my spirit. The dove did not merely alight upon the roof of the ark, she "came in to him." Even so would my longing spirit look into the secret of the Lord, pierce to the interior of truth, enter into that which is within the veil, and reach to my Beloved in very deed. To Jesus must I come—short of the nearest and dearest communion with Him—my panting spirit cannot stay. "Blessed Lord Jesus, be with me, reveal Yourself, and abide with me all night—so that when I awake I may be still with you!"
I note that the dove brought in her mouth an olive branch, the memorial of the past day, and a prophecy of the future. Have I no pleasing record to bring home? No pledge of loving-kindness yet to come? "Yes, my Lord, I present You my grateful acknowledgments for tender mercies which have been new every morning and fresh every evening. And now, I ask You—put forth Your hand and take Your dove into Your bosom!"
January 30 — Morning
"When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall bestir yourself." 2 Samuel 5:24
The members of Christ's Church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come, and that His "will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven." But there are times when God seems especially to favor Zion, such seasons ought to be to them like "the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees." We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the throne than we have been accustomed to do. Action should then be prompt and vigorous. The tide is flowing—now let us pull manfully for the shore. O for Pentecostal outpourings and Pentecostal labors.
Christian, in yourself there are times "when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees." You have a peculiar power in prayer; the Spirit of God gives you joy and gladness; the Scripture is open to you; the promises are applied; you walk in the light of God's countenance; you have peculiar freedom and liberty in devotion, and more closeness of communion with Christ than was your accustomed. Now, at such joyous periods—when you hear the "sound of a marching in the tops of the mulberry trees," is the time to bestir yourself. Now is the time to get rid of any evil habit, while God the Spirit helps your infirmities. Spread your sail—but remember what you sometimes sing, "I can only spread the sail; You alone must breathe the auspicious gale." Only be sure you have the sail up! Do not miss the gale—for lack of preparation for it. Seek help from God, that you may be more earnest in duty, when made more strong in faith; that you may be more constant in prayer, when you have more liberty at the throne; that you may be more holy in your walk, while you live more closely with Christ.
January 30 — Evening
"In Him also, we have obtained an inheritance." Ephesians 1:11
When Jesus gave Himself for us—He gave us all the rights and privileges which went with Himself. As eternal God, He has essential rights to which no creature may venture to pretend—yet as Jesus, the Mediator, the federal Head of the covenant of grace—He has no inheritance apart from us. All the glorious consequences of His obedience unto death—are the joint riches of all who are in Him, and on whose behalf He accomplished the divine will.
See, He enters into glory—but not for Himself alone, for it is written, "Where the Forerunner has entered for us." Hebrews 6:20. Does He stand in the presence of God? "He appears in the presence of God for us." Hebrews 9:24. Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself; your right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through His blood; if you are justified, it is through His righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is because He is made of God unto you sanctification; if you shall be kept from falling, it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in Him.
Thus Jesus is magnified—for all is in Him and by Him; thus the inheritance is made certain to us—for it is obtained in Him; thus each blessing is the sweeter, and even heaven itself the brighter, because it is Jesus our Beloved "in whom" we have obtained all!
Where is the man who shall estimate our divine portion? Weigh the riches of Christ in scales, and His treasure in balances—and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ's sea of joy—and then hope to understand the bliss which God has prepared for those who love Him! Overleap the boundaries of Christ's possessions, and then dream of a limit to the fair inheritance of the elect! "All things are yours—for you are Christ's!"
January 31 — Morning
"The Lord our Righteousness." Jeremiah 23:6
It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace—to think of the perfect righteousness of Christ. How often are the saints of God downcast and sad! I do not think they ought to be. I do not think they would be—if they could always see their perfection in Christ. There are some who are always talking about corruption, and the depravity of the heart, and the innate evil of the soul. This is quite true—but why not go a little further, and remember that we are "perfect in Christ Jesus!" It is no wonder that those who are dwelling upon their own corruption should wear such downcast looks; but surely if we call to mind that "Christ is made unto us, righteousness," we shall be of good cheer!
What though distresses afflict me, though Satan assaults me, though there may be many troublesome things to be experienced before I get to heaven, those are done for me in the covenant of divine grace; there is nothing wanting in my Lord, Christ has done it all. On the cross He said, "It is finished!" and if it is finished, then am I complete in Him, and can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, "Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law—but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith!"
You will not find on this side heaven a holier people—than those who receive into their hearts the doctrine of Christ's righteousness. When the believer says, "I live on Christ alone; I rest on Him solely for salvation; and I believe that, however unworthy, I am still saved in Jesus;" then there rises up as a motive of gratitude this thought, "Shall I not live to Christ? Shall I not love Him and serve Him, seeing that I am saved by His merits?" "The love of Christ constrains us!" "Those who which live—should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him which died for them." If saved by imputed righteousness, we shall greatly value imparted righteousness.
January 31 — Evening
"Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi." 2 Samuel 18:23
Running is not everything—there is much in the road which we select. A swift foot running up hills—will not keep pace with a slower traveler upon level ground. How is it with my spiritual journey? Am I laboring up the hill of my own works—and down into the ravines of my own humiliations and resolutions, or do I run by the plain way of "Believe and live"?
How blessed is it to wait upon the Lord by faith! The soul runs without weariness, and walks without fainting, in the way of believing. Christ Jesus is the way of life, and He is a plain way, a pleasant way, a way suitable for the tottering feet and feeble knees of trembling sinners! Am I found in this way—or am I hunting after another track such as priestcraft or science may promise me?
I read of the way of holiness, that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein. Have I been delivered from proud reason and been brought as a little child to rest in Jesus' love and blood? If so, by God's grace I shall outrun the strongest runner who chooses any other path.
This truth I may remember to my profit—in my daily cares and needs. It will be my wisest course to go at once to my God, and not to wander in a roundabout manner to this friend and that. He knows my needs and can relieve them—to whom should I repair but to Himself by the direct appeal of prayer, and the plain argument of the promise. "Straightforward makes the best runner." I will not parlay with the servants—but hasten to their master!
In reading this passage, it strikes me that if men vie with each other in common matters, and one outruns the other, I ought to be in solemn earnestness so to run that I may obtain. Lord, help me to gird up the loins of my mind, and may I press forward towards the mark for the prize of my high calling of God in Christ Jesus!