Morning and Evening
by Charles Spurgeon
July 1 — Morning
"In summer and in winter, shall it be." Zechariah 14:8
The streams of living water which flow from Jerusalem are not dried up by the parching heats of sultry midsummer, any more than they were frozen by the cold winds of blustering winter. Rejoice, O my soul, that you are spared to testify of the faithfulness of the Lord. The seasons change and you change—but your Lord abides evermore the same—and the streams of His love are as deep, as broad and as full as ever.
The heats of business cares and scorching trials make me need the cooling influences of the river of His grace; I may go at once and drink to the full from the inexhaustible fountain, for in summer and in winter it pours forth its flood. The upper springs are never scanty, and blessed be the name of the Lord, the nether springs cannot fail either. Elijah found Cherith to dry up—but Jehovah was still the same God of providence. Job said his brethren were like deceitful brooks—but he found his God an overflowing river of consolation. The Nile is the great confidence of Egypt—but its floods are variable; our Lord is evermore the same.
By turning the course of the Euphrates, Cyrus took the city of Babylon—but no power, human or infernal, can divert the current of divine grace. The tracks of ancient rivers have been found all dry and desolate—but the streams which take their rise on the mountains of divine sovereignty and infinite love shall ever be full to the brim. Generations melt away—but the course of grace is unaltered. The river of God may sing with greater truth than the brook in the poem, "Men may come, and men may go—but I go on forever." How happy are you, my soul, to be led beside such still waters! never wander to other streams, lest you hear the Lord's rebuke, "What have you to do in the way of Egypt—to drink of the muddy river?"
July 1 — Evening
"The voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." Genesis 3:8
My soul, now that the cool of the day has come, retire awhile and hearken to the voice of your God. He is always ready to speak with you—when you are prepared to hear. If there is any slowness to commune it is not on His part—but altogether on your own, for He stands at the door and knocks, and if His people will but open—He rejoices to enter. But in what state is my heart, which is my Lord's garden? May I venture to hope that it is well trimmed and watered, and is bringing forth fruit fit for Him? If not, He will have much to reprove—but still I pray Him to come unto me, for nothing can so certainly bring my heart into a right condition as the presence of the Sun of Righteousness, who brings healing in His wings.
Come, therefore, O Lord, my God—my soul invites You earnestly, and waits for You eagerly. Come to me, O Jesus, my well-beloved, and plant fresh flowers in my garden, such as I see blooming in such perfection in Your matchless character! Come, O my Father, who is the Gardener, and deal with me in Your tenderness and prudence! Come, O Holy Spirit, and bedew my whole nature, as the herbs are now moistened with the evening dews. O that God would speak to me. Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears! O that He would walk with me; I am ready to give up my whole heart and mind to Him, and every other thought is hushed. I am only asking what He delights to give. I am sure that He will condescend to have fellowship with me, for He has given me His Holy Spirit to abide with me forever.
Sweet is the cool twilight, when every star seems like the eye of heaven, and the cool wind is as the breath of celestial love. My Father, my elder Brother, my sweet Comforter, speak now in loving-kindness, for You have opened my ear and I am not rebellious.
July 2 — Morning
"Our heart shall rejoice in Him." Psalm 33:21
Blessed is the fact that Christians can rejoice even in the deepest distress; although trouble may surround them, they still sing; and, like many birds, they sing best in their cages. The waves may roll over them—but their souls soon rise to the surface and see the light of God's countenance; they have a buoyancy about them which keeps their head always above the water, and helps them to sing amid the tempest, "God is with me still." To whom shall the glory be given? Oh! to Jesus—it is all by Jesus.
Trouble does not necessarily bring consolation with it to the believer—but the presence of the Son of God in the fiery furnace with him fills his heart with joy. He is sick and suffering—but Jesus visits him and makes his bed for him. He is dying, and the cold chilly waters of Jordan are gathering about him up to the neck—but Jesus puts His arms around him, and cries, "Fear not, beloved! To die is to be blessed; the waters of death have their fountain-head in heaven; they are not bitter, they are as sweet as nectar, for they flow from the throne of God." As the departing saint wades through the stream, and the billows gather around him, and heart and flesh fail him, the same voice sounds in his ears, "Fear not! I am with you! Do not be dismayed! I am your God." As he nears the borders of the infinite unknown, and is almost affrighted to enter the realm of shadows, Jesus says, "Fear not, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Thus strengthened and consoled, the believer is not afraid to die; nay, he is even willing to depart, for since he has seen Jesus as the morning star, he longs to gaze upon Him as the sun in his strength. Truly, the presence of Jesus is all the heaven we desire. He is at once "The glory of our brightest days—and the comfort of our nights."
July 2 — Evening
"Unto You will I cry, O Lord my rock! Do not be silent to me—lest, if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down into the pit." Psalm 28:1
A cry is the natural expression of sorrow, and a suitable utterance when all other modes of appeal fail us; but the cry must be alone directed to the Lord, for to cry to man is to waste our entreaties upon the air. When we consider the readiness of the Lord to hear, and His ability to aid, we shall see good reason for directing all our appeals at once to the God of our salvation. It will be in vain to call to the rocks in the day of judgment—but our Rock attends to our cries.
"Do not be silent to me." Mere formalists may be content without answers to their prayers—but genuine suppliants cannot. They are not satisfied with the results of prayer itself in calming the mind and subduing the will—they must go further, and obtain actual replies from heaven, or they cannot rest; and those replies they long to receive at once, they dread even a little of God's silence.
God's voice is often so terrible that it shakes the wilderness; but His silence is equally full of awe to an eager suppliant. When God seems to close His ear, we must not therefore close our mouths—but rather cry with more earnestness; for when our note grows shrill with eagerness and grief, He will not long deny us a hearing. What a dreadful case would we be in—if the Lord should become forever silent to our prayers!
"Lest, if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down into the pit." Deprived of the God who answers prayer, we would be in a more pitiable plight than the dead in the grave, and would soon sink to the same level as the lost in hell. We must have answers to prayer—ours is an urgent case of dire necessity; surely the Lord will speak peace to our agitated minds—for He never can find it in His heart to permit His own elect to perish.
July 3 — Morning
"The sickly, thin cows—ate the healthy, well-fed cows." Genesis 41:4
Pharaoh's dream has too often been my waking experience. My days of sloth have ruinously destroyed all that I had achieved in times of zealous industry; my seasons of coldness have frozen all the genial glow of my periods of fervency and enthusiasm; and my fits of worldliness have thrown me back from my advances in the divine life.
I had need to beware of lean prayers, lean praises, lean duties, and lean experiences—for these will eat up the fat of my comfort and peace. If I neglect prayer for ever so short a time, I lose all the spirituality to which I had attained. If I draw no fresh supplies from heaven, the old grain in my granary is soon consumed by the famine which rages in my soul. When the caterpillars of indifference, the cankerworms of worldliness, and the palmer-worms of self-indulgence, lay my heart completely desolate, and make my soul to languish—all my former fruitfulness and growth in grace—avails me nothing whatever.
How anxious should I be to have no sickly, thin days, no ill-favored hours! If every day I journeyed towards the goal of my desires, I would soon reach it—but backsliding leaves me still far off from the prize of my high calling, and robs me of the advances which I had so laboriously made. The only way in which all my days can be as the "healthy, well-fed cows," is to feed them in the right meadow, to spend them with the Lord, in His service, in His company, in His fear, and in His way.
Why should not every year be richer than the past—in love, and usefulness, and joy? I am nearer the celestial hills, I have had more experience of my Lord, and should be more like Him. O Lord, keep far from me the curse of leanness of soul; let me not have to cry, "My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!" but may I be well-fed and nourished in Your house, that I may praise Your name!
July 3 — Evening
"If we suffer—we shall also reign with Him." 2 Timothy 2:12
We must not imagine that we are suffering for Christ, and with Christ, if we are not in Christ. Beloved friend, are you trusting to Jesus alone? If not, whatever you may have to mourn over on earth, you are not "suffering with Christ," and have no hope of reigning with Him in heaven.
Neither are we to conclude that all a Christian's sufferings are sufferings with Christ, for it is essential that he is called by God to suffer. If we are rash and imprudent, and run into positions for which neither providence nor grace has fitted us, we ought to question whether we are not rather sinning than communing with Jesus. If we let passion take the place of judgment, and self-will reign instead of Scriptural authority—we shall fight the Lord's battles with the devil's weapons, and if we cut our own fingers we must not be surprised!
Again, in troubles which come upon us as the result of sin, we must not dream that we are suffering with Christ. When Miriam spoke evil of Moses, and the leprosy polluted her, she was not suffering for God.
Moreover, suffering which God accepts—must have God's glory as its end. If I suffer that I may earn a name, or win applause—I shall get no other reward than that of the Pharisee. It is requisite also that love to Jesus, and love to His elect, be ever the mainspring of all our suffering. We must manifest the Spirit of Christ in meekness, gentleness, and forgiveness.
Let us search and see if we truly suffer with Jesus. And if we do thus suffer, what is our "light affliction" compared with reigning with Him? Oh it is so blessed to be in the furnace with Christ, and such an honor to stand in the pillory with Him, that if there were no future reward, we might count ourselves happy in present honor. But when the recompense is so eternal, so infinitely more than we had any right to expect—shall we not take up the cross with alacrity, and go on our way rejoicing!
July 4 — Morning
"Sanctify them through Your truth." John 17:17
Sanctification begins in regeneration. The Spirit of God infuses into man that new living principle by which he becomes "a new creature" in Christ Jesus.
This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways—mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under; and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. This is carried on every day in what is called "perseverance," by which the Christian is preserved and continued in a gracious state, and is made to abound in good works unto the praise and glory of God. And it culminates or comes to perfection, in "glory," when the soul, being thoroughly purged, is caught up to dwell with holy beings at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
But while the Spirit of God is thus the author of sanctification—yet there is a visible agency employed which must not be forgotten. "Sanctify them," said Jesus, "through your truth—your Word is truth." The passages of Scripture which prove that the instrument of our sanctification is the Word of God are very many. The Spirit of God brings to our minds the precepts and doctrines of truth, and applies them with power. These are heard in the ear, and being received in the heart—they work in us to will and to do of God's good pleasure.
The truth is the sanctifier, and if we do not hear or read the truth, we shall not grow in sanctification. We only progress in sound living as we progress in sound understanding. "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Do not say of any error, "It is a mere matter of opinion." No man indulges an error of judgment, without sooner or later tolerating an error in practice. Hold fast the truth, for by so holding the truth shall you be sanctified by the Spirit of God.
July 4 — Evening
"He who has clean hands, and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully." Psalm 24:4
Outward practical holiness is a very precious mark of grace. It is to be feared that many professors have perverted the doctrine of justification by faith in such a way, as to treat good works with contempt; if so, they will receive everlasting contempt at the last great day. If our hands are not clean, let us wash them in Jesus' precious blood, and so let us lift up pure hands unto God. But "clean hands"will not suffice, unless they are connected with "a pure heart." True religion is heart-work. We may wash the outside of the cup and the platter as long as we please—but if the inward parts are filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God, for our hearts are more truly ourselves than our hands are; the very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within. The pure in heart shall see God—all others are but blind bats.
The man who is born for heaven, "has not lifted up his soul unto vanity." All men have their joys, by which their souls are lifted up; the worldling lifts up his soul in carnal delights, which are mere empty vanities; but the saint loves more substantial things; like Jehoshaphat, he is lifted up in the ways of the Lord. He who is content with husks—will be reckoned with the swine! Does the world satisfy you? Then you have your reward and portion in this life; make much of it, for you shall know no other joy.
"Nor sworn deceitfully." The saints are men of honor still. The Christian man's word is his only oath; but that is as good as twenty oaths of other men. False speaking will shut any man out of heaven, for a liar shall not enter into God's house, whatever may be his professions or doings. Reader, does the text before us condemn you, or do you hope to ascend into the hill of the Lord?
July 5 — Morning
"Called to be saints." Romans 1:7
We are very apt to regard the New Testament saints as if they were "saints" in a more especial manner, than the other children of God. All are "saints" whom God has called by His grace, and sanctified by His Spirit; but we are apt to look upon the apostles as extraordinary beings, scarcely subject to the same weaknesses and temptations as ourselves. Yet in so doing, we are forgetful of this truth—that the nearer a man lives to God—the more intensely has he to mourn over his own evil heart; and the more his Master honors him in His service, the more also does the evil of the flesh vex and tease him day by day.
The fact is, if we had seen the apostle Paul, we would have thought him just like the rest of the chosen family. And if we had talked with him, we would have said, "We find that his experience and ours are much the same. He is more faithful, more holy, and more deeply taught than we are—but he has the same exact trials to endure. Nay, in some respects he is more sorely tried than ourselves."
Do not, then, look upon the ancient saints as being exempt either from infirmities or sins; and do not regard them with that mystic reverence which will almost make us idolaters. Their holiness is attainable even by us. We are "called to be saints" by that same voice which constrained them to their high calling. It is every Christian's duty to force his way into the inner circle of saintship. If these saints were superior to us in their attainments, as they certainly were, let us follow them; let us emulate their ardor and holiness. We have the same light that they had, the same grace is accessible to us—so we should not rest satisfied until we have equaled them in heavenly character! They lived with Jesus, they lived for Jesus, therefore they grew like Jesus. Let us live by the same spirit as they did, "looking unto Jesus," and our saintship will soon be apparent!
July 5 — Evening
"Trust you in the Lord forever—for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." Isaiah 26:4
Seeing that we have such a God to trust to, let us rest upon Him with all our weight; let us resolutely drive out all unbelief, and endeavor to get rid of doubts and fears, which so much mar our comfort; since there is no excuse for fear—where God is the foundation of our trust.
A loving parent would be sorely grieved if his child could not trust him; and how ungenerous, how unkind is our conduct when we put so little confidence in our heavenly Father who has never failed us, and who never will. It would be well if doubting were banished from the household of God; but it is to be feared that old Unbelief is as nimble nowadays, as when the psalmist asked, "Is His mercy clean gone forever? Will He be favorable no more?"
David had not made any very lengthy trial of the mighty sword of the giant Goliath, and yet he said, "There is none like it!" He had tried it once in the hour of his youthful victory, and it had proved itself to be of the right metal, and therefore he praised it ever afterwards; even so should we speak well of our God, there is none like unto Him in the heaven above—or the earth beneath, "To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One." There is no rock like unto the rock of Jacob!
So far from allowing doubts to live in our hearts—we will take the whole detestable crew, as Elijah did the prophets of Baal, and slay them over the brook! And for a stream to kill them at—we will select the sacred torrent which wells forth from our Savior's wounded side! We have been in many trials—but we have never yet been cast where we could not find in our God all that we needed. Let us then be encouraged to trust in the Lord forever, assured that His ever lasting strength will be, as it has been, our support and stay!
July 6 — Morning
"Whoever listens to Me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm." Proverbs 1:33
Divine love is rendered conspicuous—when it shines in the midst of judgments. Fair is that lone star which smiles through the rifts of the thunder clouds; bright is the oasis which blooms in the wilderness of sand; so fair and so bright is love in the midst of wrath.
When the Israelites provoked the Most High by their continued idolatry, He punished them by withholding both dew and rain, so that their land was visited by a sore famine; but while He did this, He took care that His own chosen ones should be secure. If all other brooks are dry—yet shall there be one reserved for Elijah; and when that fails, God shall still preserve for him a place of sustenance; nay, not only so, the Lord had not simply one "Elijah," but He had a remnant according to the election of grace, who were hidden by fifties in a cave, and though the whole land was subject to famine—yet these fifties in the cave were fed, and fed from Ahab's table too by His faithful, God-fearing steward, Obadiah.
Let us from this, draw the inference, that come what may, God's people are safe. Let convulsions shake the solid earth, let the skies themselves be rent in twain—yet amid the wreck of worlds—the believer shall be as secure as in the calmest hour of rest. If God cannot save His people under heaven, He will save them in heaven. If the world becomes too hot to hold them, then heaven shall be the place of their reception and their safety.
Be then confident, when you hear of wars, and rumors of wars. Let no agitation distress you—but be quiet from fear of evil. Whatever disaster comes upon the earth—you, beneath the broad wings of Jehovah, shall be secure. Stay yourself upon His promise; rest in His faithfulness, and bid defiance to the blackest future, for there is nothing in it direful for you. Your sole concern should be to show forth to the world the blessedness of hearkening to the voice of wisdom!
July 6 — Evening
"How many are my iniquities and sins!" Job 13:23
Have you ever really weighed and considered how great the sin of God's people is? Think how heinous is your own transgression, and you will find that not only does a sin here and there tower up like an alp—but that your iniquities are heaped upon each other, as in the old fable of the giants who piled mountain upon mountain. What an aggregate of sin there is—in the life of one of the most sanctified of God's children! Attempt to multiply this, the sin of one only, by the multitude of the redeemed, "a number which no man can number," and you will have some conception of the great mass of the guilt of the people for whom Jesus shed His blood!
But we arrive at a more adequate idea of the magnitude of sin—by the greatness of the remedy provided. It is the blood of Jesus Christ, God's only and well-beloved Son. God's Son! Angels cast their crowns before Him! All the choral symphonies of heaven surround His glorious throne. "God over all, blessed forever. Amen." And yet He takes upon Himself the form of a servant, and is scourged and pierced, bruised and torn, and at last slain—since nothing but the blood of the incarnate Son of God could make atonement for our offences.
No human mind can adequately estimate the infinite value of that divine sacrifice, for as great as the sin of God's people is—the atonement which takes it away is immeasurably greater! Therefore, the believer, even when sin rolls like a black flood, and the remembrance of the past is bitter, can yet stand before the blazing throne of the great and holy God, and cry, "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died; yes rather, who has risen again!"
While the recollection of his sin fills him with shame and sorrow—he at the same time makes it a dark foil—to show the brightness of mercy! Our guilt is the dark night in which the fair star of divine love shines with serene splendor!
July 7 — Morning
"Brethren, pray for us." 1 Thessalonians 5:25
This one morning in the year, we reserved to refresh the reader's memory upon the subject of prayer for ministers, and we do most earnestly implore every Christian household to grant the fervent request of the text first uttered by an apostle—and now repeated by us.
Brethren, our work is solemnly momentous, involving weal or woe to thousands; we treat with souls for God on eternal business, and our word is either a savor of life unto life—or of death unto death. A very heavy responsibility rests upon us, and it will be no small mercy if at the last, we are found clear of the blood of all men. As officers in Christ's army, we are the especial mark of the enmity of wicked men and devils; they watch for our halting, and labor to take us by the heels. Our sacred calling involves us in temptations from which you are exempt; above all it too often draws us away from our personal enjoyment of truth into a ministerial and official consideration of it. We meet with many knotty cases, and our wits are bewildered. We observe very sad backslidings, and our hearts are wounded. We see millions perishing, and our spirits sink. We wish to profit you by our preaching; we desire to be blessed to your children; we long to be useful both to saints and sinners. Therefore, dear friends, intercede for us with our God!
Miserable men are we—if we miss the aid of your prayers; but happy are we—if we live in your supplications. You do not look to us but to our Master for spiritual blessings, and yet how many times has He given those blessings through His ministers. Ask then, again and again, that we may be the earthen vessels into which the Lord may put the treasure of the gospel. We, the whole company of missionaries, ministers, city workers, and students, do in the name of Jesus beseech you, "brethren, pray for us!"
July 7 — Evening
"When I passed by you, I said unto you—LIVE!" Ezekiel 16:6
Saved one, consider gratefully, this mandate of mercy.
Note that this fiat of God is majestic. In our text, we perceive a sinner with nothing in him but sin, expecting nothing but wrath; but the eternal Lord passes by in His glory; He looks. He pauses, and He pronounces the solitary but royal word, "LIVE!" There speaks a God! Who but He could venture thus to deal with life, and dispense it with a single syllable?
Again, this fiat is manifold. When He says "Live!" it includes many things. Here is judicial life. The sinner is ready to be condemned—but the mighty One says, "Live," and he rises pardoned and absolved. It is spiritual life. We knew not Jesus—our eyes could not see Christ, our ears could not hear His voice—Jehovah said "Live!" and we who were dead in trespasses and sins—were quickened. Moreover, it includes glory life, which is the perfection of spiritual life. "I said unto you, Live!" and that word rolls on through all the years of time, until death comes, and in the midst of the shadows of death, the Lord's voice is still heard, "Live!" In the morning of the resurrection it is that self-same voice which is echoed by the arch-angel, "Live!" and as holy spirits rise to heaven to be blessed forever in the glory of their God, it is in the power of this same word, "Live!"
Note again, that it is an irresistible mandate. Saul of Tarsus is on the road to Damascus to arrest the saints of the living God. A voice is heard from heaven and a light is seen above the brightness of the sun, and Saul is crying out, "Lord, what will you have me to do?"
This mandate is a mandate of free grace. When sinners are saved, it is only and solely because God will do it to magnify His free, unpurchased, unsought grace. Christians, see your position, debtors to grace; show your gratitude by earnest, Christlike lives, and as God has bidden you live—see to it that you live in earnest!
July 8 — Morning
"Tell me the secret of your great strength?" Judges 16:6
Where lies the secret strength of faith? It lies in the food it feeds on. Faith studies what the PROMISE is—an emanation of divine grace, an overflowing of the great heart of God; and faith says, "My God could not have given this promise, except from love and grace; therefore it is quite certain His Word will be fulfilled." Then faith thinks, "WHO gave this promise?" It considers not so much its greatness, as, "Who is the author of it?" She remembers that it is God who cannot lie—God omnipotent, God immutable; and therefore concludes that the promise must be fulfilled; and forward she advances in this firm conviction. She remembers, WHY the promise was given—namely, for God's glory, and she feels perfectly sure that God's glory is safe, that He will never stain His own escutcheon, nor mar the luster of His own crown; and therefore the promise must and will stand.
Then faith also considers the amazing work of Christ as being a clear proof of the Father's intention to fulfill His Word. "He who spared not His own Son—but freely delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Moreover faith looks back upon the PAST, for her battles have strengthened her, and her victories have given her courage. She remembers that God never has failed her; nay, that He never did once fail any of His children. She recollects times of great peril, when deliverance came; hours of awful need, when as her day her strength was found, and she cries, "No, I never will be led to think that He can change and leave His servant now. Hitherto the Lord has helped me—and He will help me still."
Thus faith views each promise in its connection with the promise-giver, and, because she does so, can with assurance say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!"
July 8 — Evening
"Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation. I wait for You all day long." Psalm 25:5
When the believer has begun with trembling feet to walk in the way of the Lord, he asks to be still led onward like a little child upheld by its parent's helping hand, and he craves to be further instructed in the alphabet of truth. Experimental heart teaching, is the theme of this prayer. David knew much—but he felt his ignorance, and desired to be still in the Lord's school—four times over in two verses he applies for a scholarship in the college of grace.
It would be well for many professors, if instead of following their own devices, and cutting out new paths of thought for themselves, they would inquire for the good old ways of God's own truth, and beseech the Holy Spirit to give them sanctified understandings and teachable hearts.
"For you are the God of my salvation." The Three-One Jehovah is the Author and Perfecter of salvation to His people. Reader, is He the God of your salvation? Do you find in the Father's election, in the Son's atonement, and in the Spirit's quickening, all the grounds of your eternal hopes? If so, you may use this as an argument for obtaining further blessings! If the Lord has ordained to save you, surely He will not refuse to instruct you in His ways. It is a happy thing when we can address the Lord with the confidence which David here manifests, it gives us great power in prayer, and comfort in trial.
"I wait for You all day long." Patience is the fair handmaid and daughter of faith. We cheerfully wait—when we are certain that we shall not wait in vain. It is our duty and our privilege to wait upon the Lord in service, in worship, in expectancy, in trust all the days of our life. Our faith will be tried faith, and if it is of the true kind, it will bear continued trial without yielding. We shall not grow weary of waiting upon God—if we remember how long and how graciously He once waited for us!
July 9 — Morning
"Do not forget all His benefits." Psalm 103:2
It is a delightful and profitable occupation—to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe His goodness in delivering them, His mercy in pardoning them, and His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with them.
But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us—to mark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God—as full of His goodness and of His truth, as much a proof of His faithfulness and veracity—as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before us? We do our Lord an injustice, when we suppose that He wrought all His mighty acts, and showed Himself strong for those in the earlier times—but does not perform wonders or lay bare His arm for the saints who are now upon the earth.
Let us review our own lives. Surely in these, we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God. Have you had no deliverances? Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence? Have you walked through no fires unharmed? Have you had no spiritual manifestations of Christ to your heart? Have you had no choice favors? The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart—has He never listened to you and answered your requests? That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, "Who satisfies your mouth with good things," has He never satiated you with fatness? Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures? Have you never been led by the still waters?
Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old. Let us, then, weave His mercies into a song. Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus. Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David's harp, while we praise the Lord—whose mercy endures forever!
July 9 — Evening
"And God divided the light from the darkness." Genesis 1:4
A believer has two principles at work within him. In his natural state, he was subject to one principle only, which was darkness; now light has entered, and the two principles disagree. Mark the apostle Paul's words in the seventh chapter of Romans, "I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." How has this state of things come to pass?
"The Lord divided the light from the darkness." Darkness, by itself, is quiet and undisturbed—but when the Lord sends in light, there is a conflict, for the one is in opposition to the other—a conflict which will never cease until the believer is altogether light in the Lord. If there is a division within the individual Christian, there is certain to be a division without. As soon as the Lord gives to any man light, he proceeds to separate himself from the darkness around; he secedes from a merely worldly religion of outward ceremonial, for nothing short of the gospel of Christ will now satisfy him; and he withdraws himself from worldly society and frivolous amusements.
He also seeks the company of the saints, for "we know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." The light gathers to itself, and the darkness gathers to itself. What God has divided—let us never try to unite; but as Christ went outside the camp, bearing His reproach, so let us come out from the ungodly, and be a peculiar people. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners; and, as He was—so we are to be nonconformists to the world, dissenting from all sin, and distinguished from the rest of mankind by our likeness to our Master!
July 10 — Morning
"Fellow citizens with the saints." Ephesians 2:19
What is meant by our being citizens in heaven? It means that we are under heaven's government. Christ the king of heaven reigns in our hearts; our daily prayer is, "May Your will be done on earth—as it is in heaven." The proclamations issued from the throne of glory are freely received by us—the decrees of the Great King we cheerfully obey.
Then as citizens of the New Jerusalem, we share heaven's honors. The glory which belongs to beatified saints—belongs to us, for we are already sons of God, already princes of the blood imperial; already we wear the spotless robe of Jesus' righteousness; already we have angels for our servitors, saints for our companions, Christ for our Brother, God for our Father, and a crown of immortality for our reward! We share the honors of citizenship, for we have come to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven.
As citizens, we have common rights to all the property of heaven. Ours are its gates of pearl and walls of chrysolite; ours the azure light of the city that needs no candle nor light of the sun; ours the river of the water of life, and the twelve kinds of fruits which grow on the trees planted on the banks thereof; there is nothing in heaven that belongs not to us. "Things present—or things to come," all are ours!
Also as citizens of heaven—we enjoy its delights. Do they there rejoice over sinners that repent—prodigals that have returned? So do we. Do they chant the glories of triumphant grace? We do the same. Do they cast their crowns at Jesus' feet? Such honors as we have we cast there too. Are they charmed with His smile? It is not less sweet to us who dwell below. Do they look forward, waiting for His second advent? We also look and long for His glorious appearing. If, then, we are thus citizens of heaven—let our walk and actions be consistent with our high dignity!
July 10 — Evening
"And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day." Genesis 1:5
The evening was "darkness" and the morning was "light," and yet the two together are called by the name that is given to the light alone! This is somewhat remarkable—but it has an exact analogy in spiritual experience. In every believer there is darkness and light, and yet he is not to be named a sinner because there is sin in him—but he is to be named a saint because he possesses some degree of holiness. This will be a most comforting thought to those who are mourning their infirmities, and who ask, "Can I be a child of God—while there is so much darkness in me?" Yes! For you, like the day, take not your name from the evening—but from the morning; and you are spoken of in the Word of God—as if you were even now perfectly holy as you will be soon. You are called the child of light, though there is darkness in you still. You are named after what is the predominating quality in the sight of God, which will one day be the only principle remaining.
Observe that the evening comes first. Naturally we are darkness first in order of time, and the gloom is often first in our mournful apprehension, driving us to cry out in deep humiliation, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" The place of the morning is second, it dawns when grace overcomes nature. It is a blessed aphorism of John Bunyan, "That which is last—lasts forever." That which is first, yields in due season to the last; but nothing comes after the last. So that though you are naturally darkness, when once you become light in the Lord, there is no evening to follow; "your sun shall no more go down." The first day in this life is an evening and a morning; but the second day, when we shall be with God, forever, shall be a day with no evening—but one, sacred, high, eternal noon!
July 11 — Morning
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
You have seen the bow of heaven as it spans the plain—glorious are its colors, and rare its hues. It is beautiful—but, alas, it passes away, and lo, it is not. The fair colors give way to the fleecy clouds, and the sky is no longer brilliant with the tints of heaven. It is not established. How can it be? A glorious show made up of transitory sun-beams and passing rain-drops, how can it abide?
The graces of the Christian character must not resemble the rainbow in its transitory beauty—but, on the contrary, must be established, settled, abiding. Seek, O believer, that every good thing you have—may be an abiding thing. May your character not be a writing upon the sand—but an inscription upon the rock! May your faith be no "baseless fabric of a vision," but may it be built of material able to endure that awful fire which shall consume the wood, hay, and stubble of the hypocrite. May you be rooted and grounded in love. May your convictions be deep, your love real, your desires earnest. May your whole life be so settled and established, that all the blasts of hell, and all the storms of earth—shall never be able to remove you.
But notice how this blessing of being "established in the faith" is gained. The apostle's words point us to suffering as the means employed, "After you have suffered a little while." It is of no use to hope that we shall be well rooted—if no rough winds pass over us. Those old gnarlings on the root of the oak tree, and those strange twistings of the branches—all tell of the many storms that have swept over it, and they are also indicators of the depth into which the roots have forced their way. So the Christian is made strong, and firmly rooted by all the trials and storms of life. Shrink not then, from the tempestuous winds of trial—but take comfort, believing that by their rough discipline, God is fulfilling this blessing to you.
July 11 — Evening
"Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation." Joel 1:3
In this simple way, by God's grace, a living testimony for truth is always to be kept alive in the land—the beloved of the Lord are to hand down their witness for the gospel, and the covenant—to their heirs, and these again to their next descendants. This is our first duty, we are to begin at the family hearth. He is a bad preacher—who does not commence his ministry at home. The heathen are to be sought by all means, and the highways and hedges are to be searched—but home has a prior claim, and woe unto those who reverse the order of the Lord's arrangements.
To teach our children is a personal duty; we cannot delegate it to Sunday School Teachers, or other friendly helpers; these can assist us—but cannot relieve us from the sacred obligation; proxies and sponsors are wicked devices in this case. Mothers and fathers must, like Abraham, command their households in the fear of God, and talk with their offspring concerning the wondrous works of the Most High God.
Parental teaching is a natural duty—who so fit to look to after child's well-being, as those who are the authors of his actual being? To neglect the instruction of our offspring—is worse than brutish. Family religion is necessary for the nation, for the family itself, and for the church of God. By a thousand plots, Popery is covertly advancing in our land, and one of the most effectual means for resisting its inroads is left almost neglected, namely, the instruction of children in the faith. Would that parents would awaken to a sense of the importance of this matter. It is a pleasant duty to talk of Jesus to our sons and daughters, and the more so because it has often proved to be an accepted work, for God has saved the children through the parents' prayers and admonitions. May every house into which this volume shall come—honor the Lord and receive His smile!
July 12 — Morning
"Sanctified by God the Father." Jude 1
"Sanctified in Christ Jesus." 1 Corinthians 1:2
"Through sanctification of the Spirit." 1 Peter 1:2
Mark the union of the Three Divine Persons in all their gracious acts. How unwisely do those believers talk, who make preferences in the Persons of the Trinity; who think of Jesus as if He were the embodiment of everything lovely and gracious, while the Father they regard as severely just—but destitute of kindness. Equally wrong are those who magnify the decree of the Father, and the atonement of the Son—so as to depreciate the work of the Spirit.
In deeds of grace—none of the Persons of the Trinity act apart from the rest. They are as united in their works, as in their essence. In their love towards the chosen they are one, and in the actions which flow from that great central source—they are still undivided. Specially notice this in the matter of sanctification. While we may without mistake speak of sanctification as the work of the Spirit—yet we must take heed that we do not view it as if the Father and the Son had no part therein. It is correct to speak of sanctification as the work of the Father, of the Son, and of the Spirit. Still does Jehovah say, "Let us make man in our own image after our likeness," and thus we are "his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them."
See the value which God sets upon real holiness, since the Three Persons in the Trinity are represented as co-working to produce a Church without "spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."
And you, believer, as the follower of Christ, must also set a high value on holiness—upon purity of life, and godliness of conversation. Value the blood of Christ as the foundation of your hope—but never speak disparagingly of the work of the Spirit which is your fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light. This day let us so live as to manifest the work of the Triune God in us!
July 12 — Evening
"His heavenly kingdom." 2 Timothy 4:18
Yonder city of the great King, is a place of active service. Ransomed spirits serve Him day and night in His temple. They never cease to fulfill the good pleasure of their King. They always "rest," so far as ease and freedom from care is concerned; but never "rest," in the sense of indolence or inactivity.
The heavenly Jerusalem is the place of communion with all the people of God. We shall sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in eternal fellowship. We shall hold high converse with the noble host of the elect, all reigning with Him who by His love and His potent arm—has brought them safely home. We shall not sing solos—but in chorus shall we praise our King.
Heaven is a place of realized victory. Whenever, Christian, you have achieved a victory over your lusts—whenever after hard struggling, you have laid a temptation dead at your feet—you have in that hour a foretaste of the joy that awaits you when the Lord shall shortly tread Satan under your feet, and you shall find yourself more than conqueror through Him who has loved you.
Paradise is a place of security. When you enjoy the full assurance of faith, you have the pledge of that glorious security which shall be yours when you are a perfect citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem. O my sweet home, Heaven! O happy harbor of my soul! Thanks, even now, to Him whose love has taught me to long for You; but louder thanks in eternity—when I shall possess you!
"My soul has tasted of the grapes,
And now it longs to go
Where my dear Lord His vineyard keeps
And all the clusters grow.
"Upon the true and living vine,
My famished soul would feast,
And banquet on the fruit divine,
An everlasting guest!"
July 13 — Morning
"God said to Jonah—Is it right for you to be angry?" Jonah 4:9
Anger is not always or necessarily sinful—but it has such a tendency to run wild, that whenever it displays itself, we should be quick to question its character, with this enquiry, "Is it right for you to be angry?" It may be that we can answer, "YES!" Very frequently, anger is the madman's firebrand—but sometimes it is Elijah's fire from heaven. We do well when we are angry with sin, because of the wrong which it commits against our good and gracious God; or with ourselves because we remain so foolish after so much divine instruction; or with others when the sole cause of anger is the evil which they do.
He who is not angry at transgression, becomes a partaker in it. Sin is a loathsome and hateful thing, and no renewed heart can patiently endure it. God himself is angry with the wicked every day, and it is written in His Word, "You who love the Lord—hate evil."
"Is it right for you to be angry?" Far more frequently, it is to be feared that our anger in not commendable or even justifiable, and then we must answer, "NO!" Why should we be fretful with children, passionate with servants, and wrathful with companions? Is such anger honorable to our Christian profession, or glorifying to God? Is it not just the old evil heart seeking to gain dominion, and should we not resist it with all the might of our newborn nature.
Many professors give way to angry temper as though it were useless to attempt resistance; but let the believer remember that he must be a conqueror in every point, or else he cannot be crowned. If we cannot control our tempers—what has grace done for us? Someone told Mr. Jay that grace was often grafted on a crab-tree stump. "Yes," said he, "but the fruit will not be crab apples." We must not make natural infirmity an excuse for sin—but we must fly to the cross and pray the Lord to crucify our tempers, and renew us in gentleness and meekness after His own image!
July 13 — Evening
"When I cry unto You, then shall my enemies turn back; this I know—for God is for me." Psalm 56:9
It is impossible for any human speech to express the full meaning of this delightful phrase, "God is for me." He was "for us" before the worlds were made. He was "for us," or He would not have given His well-beloved son. He was "for us" when He smote the Only-begotten, and laid the full weight of His wrath upon Him—He was "for us," though He was against Him. He was "for us," when we were ruined in the fall—He loved us notwithstanding all. He was "for us," when we were rebels against Him, and with a high hand were bidding Him defiance. He was "for us," or He would not have brought us humbly to seek His face. He has been "for us" in many struggles; we have been summoned to encounter hosts of dangers; we have been assailed by temptations from without and within—how could we have remained unharmed to this hour—if He had not been "for us"?
He is "for us," with all the infinity of His being; with all the omnipotence of His love; with all the infallibility of His wisdom; arrayed in all His divine attributes, He is "for us," eternally and immutably "for us"; "for us" when yon blue skies shall be rolled up like a worn out vesture; "for us" throughout eternity!
And because He is "for us," the voice of prayer will always ensure His help. "When I cry unto You, then shall my enemies be turned back." This is no uncertain hope—but a well-grounded assurance, "this I know." I will direct my prayer unto You, and will look up for the answer, assured that it will come, and that my enemies shall be defeated, "for God is for me." O believer, how happy are you—with the King of kings on your side! How safe—with such a Protector! How sure your cause, pleaded by such an Advocate! If God is for you—who can effectually be against you!
July 14 — Morning
"If you lift up your tool upon it—you have polluted it." Exodus 20:25
God's altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labor might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross—into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature. Instead, however, of improving the gospel—carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all. All alterations and amendments of the Lord's own Word—are defilements and pollutions.
The proud heart of man is very anxious to have a hand in the justification of the soul before God; preparations for Christ are dreamed of, humblings and repentings are trusted in, good works are cried up, natural ability is much vaunted, and by all means the attempt is made to lift up human tools upon the divine altar. It would be well if sinners would remember that so far from perfecting the Savior's work, their carnal confidences only pollute and dishonor it. The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement, and not a single mark of man's chisel or hammer will be endured! There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction.
Trembling sinner, away with your tools, and fall upon your knees in humble supplication; and accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of your atonement, and rest in Him alone. Many professors may take warning from this morning's text as to the doctrines which they believe. There is among Christians far too much inclination to square and reconcile the truths of revelation; this is a form of irreverence and unbelief, let us strive against it, and receive truth as we find it; rejoicing that the doctrines of the Word are unhewn stones, and so are all the more fit to build an altar for the Lord.
July 14 — Evening
"As it began to dawn, Mary Magdalene came to see the sepulcher." Matthew 28:1
Let us learn from Mary Magdalene, how to obtain fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Notice how she sought.
She sought the Savior very early in the morning. If you can wait for Christ, and be patient in the hope of having fellowship with Him at some distant season—you will never have fellowship at all; for the heart that is fitted for communion is a hungering and a thirsting heart.
She sought Him also with very great boldness. Other disciples fled from the sepulcher, for they trembled and were amazed; but Mary, it is said, "stood" at the sepulcher. If you would have Christ with you, seek Him boldly. Let nothing hold you back. Defy the world. Press on—where others flee.
She sought Christ faithfully—she stood at the sepulcher. Some find it hard to stand by a living Saviour—but she stood by a dead one. Let us seek Christ after this mode, cleaving to the very least thing that has to do with Him, remaining faithful—though all others should forsake Him.
Note further, she sought Jesus earnestly—she stood "weeping." Those tear-droppings were as spells that led the Savior captive, and made Him come forth and show Himself to her. If you desire Jesus' presence—weep after it! If you cannot be happy unless He comes and says to you, "You are My beloved!" you will soon hear His voice.
Lastly, she sought the Savior only. What cared she for angels, she turned herself back from them; her search was only for her Lord. If Christ be your one and only love—if your heart has cast out all rivals—you will not long lack the comfort of His presence.
Mary Magdalene sought thus—because she loved much. Let us arouse ourselves to the same intensity of affection; let our heart, like Mary's, be full of Christ—and our love, like hers, will be satisfied with nothing short of Himself! O Lord, reveal Yourself to us this evening!
July 15 — Morning
"The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar—it shall never go out." Leviticus 6:13
Keep the altar of private prayer burning. This is the very life of all piety. The sanctuary and family altars borrow their fires here, therefore let this burn well. Secret devotion is the very essence, evidence, and barometer—of vital and experimental religion. Burn here the fat of your sacrifices. Let your closet seasons be, if possible, regular, frequent, and undisturbed. Effectual prayer avails much.
Have you nothing to pray for? Let us suggest the Church, the ministry, your own soul, your children, your relations, your neighbors, your country, and the cause of God and truth throughout the world.
Let us examine ourselves on this important matter. Do we engage in private devotion with lukewarmness? Is the fire of devotion burning dimly in our hearts? Do the chariot wheels drag heavily? If so, let us be alarmed at this sign of spiritual decay.
Let us go with weeping—and ask for the Spirit of grace and of supplication. Let us set apart special seasons for extraordinary prayer. For if this fire should be smothered beneath the ashes of a worldly conformity—it will dim the fire on the family altar, and lessen our influence both in the Church and in the world.
The text will also apply to the altar of the heart. This is a golden altar indeed. God loves to see the hearts of His people glowing towards Himself. Let us give to God our hearts, all blazing with love, and seek His grace, that the fire may never be quenched; for it will not burn if the Lord does not keep it burning. Many foes will attempt to extinguish it; but if the unseen hand behind the wall pours the sacred oil upon it—it will blaze higher and higher. Let us use texts of Scripture as fuel for our heart's fire, they are live coals; let us attend sermons—but above all, let us be much alone with Jesus!
July 15 — Evening
"He appeared first, to Mary Magdalene." Mark 16:9
Jesus "appeared first, to Mary Magdalene," probably not only on account of her great love and persevering seeking—but because, as the context intimates, she had been a special trophy of Christ's delivering power. Learn from this, that the greatness of our sin before conversion—should not make us imagine that we may not be specially favored with the very highest grade of fellowship with Jesus. She was one who had left all to become a constant attendant on the Savior. He was her first, her chief object. Many who were on Christ's side did not take up Christ's cross; she did. She spent her substance in relieving His needs. If we would see much of Christ—let us serve Him. Tell me who they are, that sit oftenest under the banner of His love, and drink deepest draughts from the cup of communion, and I am sure they will be those who give most, who serve best, and who abide closest to the bleeding heart of their dear Lord.
But notice how Christ revealed Himself to this sorrowing one—by a word, "Mary!" It needed but one word in His voice, and at once she knew Him! And her heart owned allegiance by another word, her heart was too full to say more. That one word would naturally be the most fitting for the occasion. It implies obedience. She said, "Master." There is no state of mind in which this confession of allegiance will be too cold. No, when your spirit glows most with the heavenly fire, then you will say, "I am Your servant—You have loosed my bonds!" If you can say, "Master," if you feel that His will is your will, then you stand in a happy, holy place. He must have said, "Mary!" or else you could not have said, "Master."
See, then, from all this, how Christ honors those who honor Him, how love draws our Beloved, how it needs but one word of His to turn our weeping to rejoicing, how His presence makes the heart's sunshine!
July 16 — Morning
"They gathered manna every morning." Exodus 16:21
Labor to maintain a sense of your entire dependence upon the Lord's good will and pleasure, for the continuance of your richest enjoyments. Never try to live on the old manna, nor seek to find help in Egypt. All must come from Jesus, or you are undone forever. Old anointings will not suffice to impart unction to your spirit; your head must have fresh oil poured upon it from the golden horn of the sanctuary, or it will cease from its glory.
Today you may be upon the summit of the mount of God—but He who has put you there—must keep you there, or you will sink far more speedily than you dream. Your mountain only stands firm when He settles it in its place; if He hides His face, you will soon be troubled. If the Savior should see fit, there is not a window through which you see the light of heaven, which He could not darken in an instant. Joshua bade the sun stand still—but Jesus can shroud it in total darkness. He can withdraw the joy of your heart, the light of your eyes, and the strength of your life. In His hand your comforts lie—and at His will they can depart from you.
Our Lord is determined that we shall feel and recognize this hourly dependence, for He only permits us to pray for "daily bread," and only promises that "as our days—so our strength shall be." Is it not best for us that it should be so, that we may often repair to His throne, and constantly be reminded of His love? Oh! how rich the grace which supplies us so continually, and does not refrain itself because of our ingratitude! The golden shower never ceases, the cloud of blessing tarries evermore above our habitation. O Lord Jesus, we would bow at Your feet, conscious of our utter inability to do anything without You; and in every favor which we are privileged to receive—we would adore Your blessed name, and acknowledge Your inexhaustible love!
July 16 — Evening
"You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity." Psalm 102:13, 14
A selfish man in trouble is exceedingly hard to comfort, because the springs of his comfort are entirely within himself; and when he is sad all his springs are dry. But a large-hearted man full of Christian philanthropy, has other springs from which to supply himself with comfort, beside those which lie within. He can go to his God first of all, and there find abundant help; and he can discover arguments for consolation in things relating to the world at large, to his country, and, above all, to the church.
David in this Psalm, was exceedingly sorrowful; he wrote, "I am like an owl in the desert, like a lonely owl in a far-off wilderness. I lie awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof." The only way in which he could comfort himself, was in the reflection that God would arise, and have mercy upon Zion; though he was sad—yet Zion should prosper; however low his own estate—yet Zion should arise.
Christian man! learn to comfort yourself in God's gracious dealing towards the church. That which is so dear to your Master, should it not be dear above all else to you? What though your way is dark—can you not gladden your heart with the triumphs of His cross, and the spread of His truth? Our own personal troubles are forgotten while we look, not only upon what God has done, and is doing for Zion—but on the glorious things He will yet do for His church.
Try this formula, O believer, whenever you are sad of heart and in heaviness of spirit—forget yourself and your little concerns, and seek the welfare and prosperity of Zion. When you bend your knee in prayer to God, limit not your petition to the narrow circle of your own life, tried though it is—but send out your longing prayers for the church's prosperity, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem," and your own soul shall be refreshed!
July 17 — Morning
"Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." 1 Thessalonians 1:4
Many people want to know their election, before they look to Christ—but they cannot learn it thus. It is only to be discovered, by "looking unto Jesus." If you desire to ascertain your own election after the following manner, you shall assure your heart before God. Do you feel yourself to be a lost, guilty sinner? Go straightway to the cross of Christ, and tell Jesus so; and tell Him that you have read in the Bible, "Him who comes unto me, I will never cast out." Tell Him that He has said, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Look to Jesus and believe on Him—and you shall make proof of your election directly; for so surely as you believe—you are elect.
If you will give yourself wholly up to Christ and trust Him, then you are one of God's chosen ones; but if you stop and say, "I want to know first whether I am elect," you ask you know not what. Go to Jesus, just as you are—be you ever so guilty. Leave all curious inquiry about election alone. Go straight to Christ and hide in His wounds—and you shall know your election. The assurance of the Holy Spirit shall be given to you—so that you shall be able to say, "I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to Him."
Christ was at the everlasting council—He can tell you whether you were chosen or not; but you cannot find it out in any other way. Go and put your trust in Him, and His answer will be, "I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you!" There will be no doubt about His having chosen you—when you have chosen Him!
July 17 — Evening
Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Let not one of them escape!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there." 1 Kings 18:40
When the prophet Elijah had received the answer to his prayer, and the fire from heaven had consumed the sacrifice in the presence of all the people, he called upon the assembled Israelites to take the priests of Baal, and sternly cried, "Let not one of them escape!"
So must it be with our sins—they must all die—not one must be preserved. Our darling sin must die. Spare it not—for its much crying. Strike, though it be as dear as an Isaac. Strike, for God struck at sin when it was laid upon His own Son! With stern unflinching purpose, must you condemn to death that sin which was once the idol of your heart!
Do you ask how you are to accomplish this? Jesus will be your power. You have grace to overcome sin, given you in the covenant of grace. You have strength to win the victory in the crusade against inward lusts, because Christ Jesus has promised to be with you even unto the end. If you would triumph over darkness, set yourself in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness. There is no place so well adapted for the discovery of sin, and recovery from its power and guilt—as the immediate presence of God.
Job never knew how to get rid of sin half so well as he did—when his eye of faith rested upon God—and then he abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes.
The fine gold of the Christian is oft becoming dim. We need the sacred fire to consume the dross. Let us fly to our God—He is a consuming fire; He will not consume our spirit—but our sins. Let the goodness of God excite us to a sacred jealousy, and to a holy revenge against those iniquities which are hateful in His sight. Go forth to battle with your sins—in His strength, and utterly destroy the accursed crew—let not one of them escape!
July 18 — Morning
"They are to move out last, with their banners." Numbers 2:31
The camp of Dan brought up the rear when the armies of Israel were on the march. The Danites occupied the last place—but what did the position matter—since they were as truly part of the host as were the foremost tribes; they followed the same fiery cloudy pillar, they ate of the same manna, drank of the same spiritual rock, and journeyed to the same inheritance. Come, my heart, cheer up, though you are the last and least; it is your privilege to be in the army, and to fare as they fare, who lead the van. Someone must be last in honor and esteem, someone must do menial work for Jesus—and why not I? In a poor village, among an ignorant peasantry; or in a back street, among degraded sinners—I will work on, and "go last, with my banners."
The Danites occupied a very useful place. Stragglers have to be picked up upon the march, and lost property has to be gathered from the field. Fiery spirits may dash forward over untrodden paths to learn fresh truth, and win more souls to Jesus; but some of a more conservative spirit may be well engaged in reminding the church of her ancient faith, and restoring her fainting sons. Every position has its duties, and the slowly moving children of God will find their peculiar state, one in which they may be eminently a blessing to the whole host.
The rear guard is a place of danger. There are foes behind us—as well as before us. Attacks may come from any quarter. We read that Amalek fell upon Israel, and slew some of the hindmost of them. The experienced Christian will find much work for his weapons in aiding those poor doubting, desponding, wavering, souls—who are hindmost in faith, knowledge, and joy. These must not be left unaided, and therefore be it the business of well-taught saints to bear their banners among the hindmost. My soul—tenderly watch to help the hindmost this day.
July 18 — Evening
"They never jostle each other; each moves in exactly the right path." Joel 2:8
Locusts always keep their rank, and although their number is legion, they do not crowd upon each other, so as to throw their columns into confusion. This remarkable fact in natural history shows how thoroughly the Lord has infused the spirit of order into His universe, since the smallest animate creatures are as much controlled by it as are the rolling spheres, or the seraphic messengers.
It would be wise for believers to be ruled by the same influence in all their spiritual life. In their Christian graces no one virtue should usurp the sphere of another, or eat out the vitals of the rest for its own support. Affection must not smother honesty; courage must not elbow weakness out of the field; modesty must not jostle energy; and patience must not slaughter resolution.
So also with our duties, one must not interfere with another; public usefulness must not injure private piety; church work must not push family worship into a corner. It is ill to offer God one duty stained with the blood of another. Each thing is beautiful in its season—but not otherwise. It was to the Pharisee that Jesus said, "This you ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone."
The same rule applies to our personal position, we must take care to know our place, take it, and keep to it. We must minister as the Spirit has given us ability, and not intrude upon our fellow servant's domain. Our Lord Jesus taught us not to covet the high places—but to be willing to be the least among the brethren. Far from us be an envious, ambitious spirit, let us feel the force of the Master's command, and do as He bids us, keeping rank with the rest of the host.
Tonight let us see whether we are keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace, and let our prayer be that, in all the churches of the Lord Jesus, peace and order may prevail.
July 19 — Morning
"The Lord our God has showed us His glory." Deuteronomy 5:24
God's great design in all His works, is the manifestation of His own glory. Any aim less than this—is unworthy of Himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man's eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honor, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why He brings His people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when He comes forth to work their deliverance.
He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence—but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. Those who navigate little streams and shallow creeks, know but little of the God of tempests; but those who "do business in great waters," these see His "wonders in the deep." Among the huge Atlantic waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach—we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man. Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road—it is this which has given you your experience of God's greatness and loving-kindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means—your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as He did His servant Moses, that you might behold His glory as it passed by. Praise God that you have not been left to the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved—but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of His glory in His wonderful dealings with you.
July 19 — Evening
"He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick." Matthew 12:20
What is weaker than the bruised reed, or the smoldering wick?
A reed that grows in the marsh, let but the wild duck land upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river—moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle, or whose existence is more in jeopardy, than a bruised reed.
Then look at the smoldering wick—what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true—but it is almost smothered; an infant's breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame.
Weak things are here described—yet Jesus says of them, "I will not break a bruised reed; I will not put out a smoldering wick." Some of God's children are made strong to do mighty works for Him; God has His Samsons here and there—who can pull up Gaza's gates, and carry them to the top of the hill; He has a few mighties who are lion-like men. But the majority of His people are a timid, trembling race. They are like starlings, frightened at every passer-by. They are a little fearful flock. If temptation comes, they are captured like birds in a snare. If trial threatens, they are ready to faint; their frail skiff is tossed up and down by every wave; they drift along like a sea bird on the crest of the billows—weak things, without strength, without wisdom, without foresight.
Yet, as weak as they are—and because they are so weak—they have this promise made specially to them! Herein is grace and graciousness! Herein is love and loving-kindness! How it reveals the compassion of Jesus to us—so gentle, tender, considerate! We need never shrink back from His touch. We need never fear a harsh word from Him—though He might well chide us for our weakness. Bruised reeds shall have no blows from Him, and the smoldering wick no damping frowns!
July 20 — Morning
"The promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance." Ephesians 1:14
Oh! what enlightenment, what joys, what consolation, what delight of heart—is experienced by that man who has learned to feed on Jesus—and on Jesus alone. Yet the realization which we have of Christ's preciousness is, in this life, imperfect at the best. As an old writer says, "Tis but a taste!" We have but tasted "that the Lord is gracious," but we do not yet know how good and gracious He is; although what we know of His sweetness, makes us long for more. We have enjoyed the first fruits—and they have set us hungering and thirsting for the fullness of the heavenly vintage. Here we are like Israel in the wilderness, who had but one cluster from Eshcol—there we shall be in the vineyard!
We are but beginners now in spiritual education; for although we have learned the first letters of the alphabet, we cannot read words yet, much less can we put sentences together. As one says, "He who has been in heaven but five minutes—knows more than all the theologians on earth!"
We have many ungratified desires at present—but soon every wish shall be satisfied; and all our powers shall find the sweetest employment in that eternal world of joy. O Christian, within a very little time you shall be rid of all your trials and your troubles. Your eyes which are now suffused with tears—shall weep no longer. You shall gaze in ineffable rapture upon the splendor of Him who sits upon the throne! Nay, more—upon His throne—you shall sit! The triumph of His glory shall be shared by you! His crown, His joy, His paradise—these shall be yours! You shall be co-heir with Him who is the heir of all things!
July 20 — Evening
"What have you to do in the way of Egypt—to drink the waters of the muddy river?" Jeremiah 2:18
By wondrous miracles, by manifold mercies, by marvelous deliverances, Jehovah had proved Himself to be worthy of Israel's trust. Yet they broke down the hedges with which God had enclosed them as a sacred garden; they forsook their own true and living God, and followed after false gods. Constantly did the Lord reprove them for this infatuation, and our text contains one instance of God's expostulating with them, "What have you to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of the muddy river?" for so it may be translated. "Why do you wander afar to drink the waters of the muddy river—and leave your own cool stream from Lebanon? Why are you so strangely set on mischief, that you cannot be content with the good and healthful—but would follow after that which is evil and deceitful?"
Is there not here a word of expostulation and warning to the Christian? O believer, called by grace and washed in the precious blood of Jesus—you have tasted of better drink than the muddy river of this world's pleasure can give you! You have had fellowship with Christ; you have obtained the joy of seeing Jesus, and leaning your head upon His bosom. Do the trifles, the songs, the honors, the merriment of this earth—content you after that? Have you eaten the bread of angels—and can you live on swine-husks? Good Rutherford once said, "I have tasted of Christ's own manna, and it has put my mouth out of taste for the brown bread of this world's joys." Methinks it should be so with you.
If you are wandering after the muddy waters of Egypt, O return quickly to the one living fountain! The waters of the Nile may be sweet to the Egyptians—but they will prove only bitterness to you. What have you to do with them? Jesus asks you this question this evening—what will you answer Him?
July 21 — Morning
"The daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you." Isaiah 37:22
Reassured by the Word of the Lord, the poor trembling citizens of Zion grew bold, and shook their heads at Sennacherib's boastful threats. Strong faith enables the servants of God to look with calm contempt upon their most haughty foes. We know that our enemies are attempting impossibilities. They seek to destroy the eternal life, which cannot die while Jesus lives; to overthrow the citadel, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. They kick against the goads to their own wounding, and rush upon Jehovah's thick, studded shields, to their own hurt. We know their weakness. What are they—but men? And what is man—but a worm? They roar and swell like waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. When the Lord arises, they shall fly as chaff before the wind, and be consumed as crackling thorns! Their utter powerlessness to do damage to the cause of God and His truth, may make the weakest soldiers in Zion's ranks laugh them to scorn!
Above all, we know that the Most High God is with us, and what enemy can conquer Him? If He comes forth from His place, the potsherds of the earth will not long contend with their Maker. His rod of iron shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel, and their very remembrance shall perish from the earth. Away, then, all fears—the kingdom is safe in the King's hands. Let us shout for joy, for the Lord reigns, and His foes shall be as straw for the dunghill.
July 21 — Evening
"Why do I go mourning?" Psalm 42:9
Can you answer this, believer? Can you find any reason why you are so often mourning, instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day? Who told you that the sea of troubles would ebb out—until there should be nothing left but long leagues of the mud of horrible poverty? Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow, and ice, and hail, to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Don't you know—that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer follow winter? Hope then! Hope ever! For God fails you not.
Don't you know—that your God loves you in the midst of all this? Mountains, when hidden in darkness, are as real as in day—and God's love is as true to you now as it was in your brightest moments. No father chastens always—your heavenly Father hates the rod as much as you do! He only cares to use it for that reason which should make you willing to receive it, namely—that it works your everlasting good. You shall yet climb Jacob's ladder with the angels, and behold Him who sits at the top of it—your covenant God. You shall yet, amidst the splendors of eternity—forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them, and wrought your everlasting good by them.
Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Make the wilderness to blossom like the rose! Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then—"forever with the Lord," your bliss shall never wane!
July 22 — Morning
"I am married unto you." Jeremiah 3:14
Christ Jesus is joined unto His people in marriage-union. In love He espoused His Church as a chaste virgin, long before she fell under the yoke of bondage. Full of burning affection He toiled, like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid, and now, having sought her by His Spirit, and brought her to know and love Him—He awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb!
Not yet, has the glorious Bridegroom presented His betrothed, perfected and complete, before the Majesty of heaven. Not yet, has she actually entered upon the enjoyment of her dignities as His wife and queen. She is as yet—a wanderer in a world of woe, a dweller in the tents of Kedar; but she is even now the bride, the spouse of Jesus, dear to His heart, precious in His sight, written on His hands, and united with His person!
On earth He exercises towards her—all the affectionate offices of Husband. He makes rich provision for her needs, pays all her debts, allows her to assume His name, and to share in all His wealth. Nor will He ever act otherwise to her. The word divorce He will never mention, for "He hates divorce."
Death must sever the marital tie between the most loving mortals—but it cannot divide the links of this immortal marriage. In heaven they do not marry—but are as the angels of God; yet there is this one marvelous exception to the rule, for in Heaven Christ and His Church shall celebrate their joyous nuptials. This affinity as it is more lasting, so is it more near than earthly wedlock. Let the love of husband be never so pure and fervent—it is but a faint picture of the flame which burns in the heart of Jesus! Passing all human union—is that mystical cleaving unto the Church, for which Christ left His Father, and became one flesh with her!
July 22 — Evening
"Behold the Man!" John 19:5
If there is one place where our Lord Jesus most fully becomes the joy and comfort of His people—it is where He plunged deepest into the depths of woe.
Come hither, gracious souls, and behold the Man in the garden of Gethsemane! Behold His heart so brimming with love—that He cannot hold it in; so full of sorrow—that it must find a vent. Behold the bloody sweat as it distills from every pore of His body, and falls upon the ground.
Behold the Man as they drive the nails into His hands and feet! Look up, repenting sinners, and see the sorrowful image of your suffering Lord. Mark Him, as the ruby drops stand on the thorn-crown, and adorn the diadem of the King of Misery with priceless gems. Behold the Man when all His bones are out of joint, and He is poured out like water and brought into the dust of death! God has forsaken Him, and hell compasses Him about.
Behold and see—was there ever sorrow, like unto His sorrow? All you who pass by—draw near and look upon this spectacle of grief! Unique, unparalleled, a wonder to men and angels, an unmatched prodigy! Behold the Emperor of Woe—who had no equal or rival in His agonies! Gaze upon Him, you mourners, for if there is not consolation in a crucified Christ—there is no joy in earth or heaven. If in the ransom price of His blood, there is not hope—you harps of heaven, there is no joy in you; and the right hand of God shall know no pleasures for evermore!
We have only to sit more continually at the cross foot—to be less troubled with our afflictions and woes. We have but to see His sorrows—and we shall be ashamed to mention our sorrows. We have but to gaze into His wounds—and heal our own. If we would live aright—it must be by the contemplation of His death. If we would rise to dignity—it must be by considering His humiliation and His sorrow.
July 23 — Morning
"Even you were just like one of them." Obadiah 1:11
Brotherly kindness was due from Edom to Israel in the time of need—but instead thereof, the men of Esau made common cause with Israel's foes. Special stress in the sentence before us is laid upon the word you; as when Caesar cried to Brutus, "and you Brutus". A bad action may be all the worse, because of the person who has committed it.
When we who are the chosen favorites of heaven sin—we sin with an emphasis. Ours is a crying offence, because we are so peculiarly indulged. If an angel should lay his hand upon us when we are doing evil, he need not use any other rebuke than the question, "What, you? What are you doing?" Much forgiven, much delivered, much instructed, much enriched, much blessed—shall we dare to put forth our hand unto evil? God forbid!
A few minutes of confession may be beneficial to you, gentle reader, this morning. Have you never been as the wicked? At an evening party, certain men laughed at a dirty joke—and the joke was not altogether offensive to your ear—even you were just like one of them. When harsh things were spoken concerning the ways of God, you were bashfully silent; and so, to on-lookers, you were as one of them. When worldlings were bartering in the market, and driving hard bargains, were you not as one of them? When they were pursuing vanity with a hunter's foot, were you not as greedy for gain as they were? Could any difference be discerned between you and them? Is there any difference?
Here we come to close quarters. Be honest with your own soul, and make sure that you are a new creature in Christ Jesus; but when this is sure, walk jealously, lest any should again be able to say, "Even you were just like one of them." You would not desire to share their eternal doom—why then be like them here on earth? Come not into their secret—lest you come into their ruin. Side with the afflicted people of God—and not with the world.
July 23 — Evening
"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." 1 John 1:7
"Cleanses," says the text—not "shall cleanse." There are multitudes who think that as a dying hope, they may look forward to pardon. Oh! how infinitely better to have cleansing now—than to depend on the bare possibility of forgiveness when I come to die. Some imagine that a sense of pardon is an attainment only obtainable after many years of Christian experience. But forgiveness of sin is a present thing—a privilege for this day, a joy for this very hour. The moment a sinner trusts Jesus—he is fully forgiven.
The text, being written in the present tense, also indicates continuance; it was "cleanses" yesterday, it is "cleanses" today, it will be "cleanses" tomorrow—it will be always so with you, Christian, until you cross the river of death. Every hour you may come to this fountain—for it cleanses still.
Notice, likewise, the completeness of the cleansing, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" not only from sin—but "from all sin." Reader, I cannot tell you the exceeding sweetness of this word—but I pray God the Holy Spirit to give you a taste of it. Manifold are our sins against God. Whether the bill be little or great, the same receipt can discharge one as the other. The blood of Jesus Christ is as blessed and divine a payment for the transgressions of blaspheming Peter—as for the shortcomings of loving John. Our iniquity is gone, all gone at once, and all gone forever. Blessed completeness! What a sweet theme to dwell upon as one gives himself to sleep.
"Sins against a holy God;
Sins against His righteous laws;
Sins against His love, His blood;
Sins against His name and cause;
Sins immense, as is the sea—
From them all, He cleanses me!"
July 24 — Morning
"Stand still—and see the salvation of the Lord." Exodus 14:13
These words contain God's command to the believer when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master's word to him is, "Stand still." It will be well for him—if at such times he listens only to his Master's word, for other and evil advisers come with their suggestions.
Despair whispers, "Lie down and die—give it all up!" But God would have us put on a cheerful courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness.
Cowardice says, "Retreat; go back to the worldling's way of action; you cannot play the Christian's part, it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles." But, however much Satan may urge this course upon you, you cannot follow it if you are a child of God. His divine fiat has bid you to go from strength to strength, and so you shall, and neither death nor hell shall turn you from your course. What, if for a while you are called to stand still—yet this is but to renew your strength for some greater advance in due time.
Haste cries, "Do something. Stir yourself; to stand still and wait, is sheer idleness." We must be doing something at once—we must do it so we think—instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something, but will do everything.
Presumption boasts, "If the sea is before you, march into it and expect a miracle."
But Faith listens neither to Presumption, nor to Despair, nor to Cowardice, nor to Haste—but it hears God say, "Stand still," and immovable as a rock it stands. "Stand still"—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long before God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, "Go forward!"
July 24 — Evening
"His camp is very great." Joel 2:11
Consider, my soul, the mightiness of the Lord who is your glory and defense. He is a man of war, Jehovah is His name. All the forces of heaven are at His beck, legions wait at His door, cherubim and seraphim, watchers and holy ones, principalities and powers—are all attentive to His will. If our eyes were not blinded by the cataracts of the flesh—we would see horses of fire, and chariots of fire, round about the Lord's beloved.
The powers of nature are all subject to the absolute control of the Creator—stormy wind, and tempest, lightning, and rain, and snow, and hail, and the soft dews and cheering sunshine—come and go at His decree. He loosens the bands of Orion—and binds the sweet influences of the Pleiades. Earth, sea, and air, and the places under the earth—are the barracks for Jehovah's great armies; space is His camping ground, light is His banner, and flame is His sword.
When He goes forth to war—famine ravages the land, pestilence smites the nations, hurricane sweeps the sea, tornado shakes the mountains, and earthquake makes the solid world to tremble!
As for animate creatures, they all own His dominion, and from the great fish which swallowed the prophet, down to "all manner of flies," which plagued the field of Zoan—all are His servants, and like the palmer-worm, the caterpillar, and the cankerworm, are squadrons of His great army, for His camp is very great.
My soul, see to it that you are at peace with this mighty King, yes, more, be sure to enlist under His banner, for to war against Him is madness, and to serve Him is glory. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, is ready to receive recruits for the army of the Lord—if I am not already enlisted—let me go to Him before I sleep, and beg to be accepted through His merits; and if I am already a soldier of the cross, let me be of good courage; for the enemy is powerless, when compared with my Lord, whose camp is very great.
July 25 — Morning
"She grabbed him by his garment and said, 'Sleep with me!' But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran from the house." Genesis 39:12
In contending with certain sins, there remains no mode of victory but by flight. The ancient naturalists wrote much of basilisks, whose eyes fascinated their victims and rendered them easy victims. Just so—the mere gaze of wickedness puts us in solemn danger. He who would be safe from acts of evil—must hasten away from occasions of it. A covenant must be made with our eyes—not even to look upon the cause of temptation, for such sins only need a spark to begin with—and a blaze follows in an instant!
Who would wantonly enter the leper's hut and sleep amid its horrible corruption? He alone who desires to be leprous himself—would thus court contagion. If the mariner knew how to avoid a storm, he would do anything rather than run the risk of weathering it. Cautious pilots have no desire to try how near the quicksand they can sail, or how often they may touch a rock without springing a leak; their aim is to keep as nearly as possible in the midst of a safe channel.
This day I may be exposed to great peril—let me have wisdom to keep out of it and avoid it. The wings of a dove may be of more use to me today than the jaws of a lion. It is true I may be an apparent loser by declining evil company—but I had better leave my cloak—than lose my character! It is not needful that I should be rich—but it is imperative upon me to be pure. No ties of friendship, no chains of beauty, no flashings of talent, no shafts of ridicule—must turn me from the wise resolve to flee from sin. I am to resist the devil—and he will flee from me—but the lusts of the flesh, I must flee, or they will surely overcome me! O God of holiness, preserve your Josephs—that Madam Bubble bewitch them not with her vile suggestions. May the horrible trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil—never overcome us!
July 25 — Evening
"In their affliction—they will seek Me early." Hosea 5:15
Losses and adversities are frequently the means which the great Shepherd uses to fetch home His wandering sheep! Like fierce dogs, afflictions chase the wanderers back to the fold! Often have we seen the Christian rendered obedient to the Lord's will—by straitness of bread and hard labor. When rich and increased in goods—many professors carry their heads much too loftily, and speak exceeding boastfully. Like David, they flatter themselves, "My mountain stands fast—I shall never be moved!"
When the Christian grows wealthy, has good health, and a happy family—he too often admits Mr. Carnal Security to feast at his table; and then if he is a true child of God—there is a rod being prepared for him. Wait awhile, and it may be you will see his substance melt away as a dream. There goes a portion of his estate—how soon the acres change hands. That debt, that dishonored bill—how fast his losses roll in, where will they end? It is a blessed sign of divine life if when these losses occur one after another—he begins to be distressed about his backslidings, and betakes himself to his God. Blessed are the fierce waves—which wash the mariner upon the rock of salvation!
Losses in business are often sanctified to our soul's enriching. If the chosen soul will not come to the Lord full-handed, it shall come empty-handed. If God, in His grace, finds no other means of making us honor Him among men—He will cast us into deep afflictions. If we fail to honor Him on the pinnacle of riches, He will bring us into the valley of poverty. Yet faint not, heir of sorrow, when you are thus rebuked; rather recognize the loving hand which chastens, and say, "I will arise—and go unto my Father!"
July 26 — Morning
"Make every effort to
add to your faith, goodness;
and to goodness, knowledge;
and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance;
and to perseverance, godliness;
and to godliness, brotherly kindness;
and to brotherly kindness, love."
2 Peter 1:5-7
If you would enjoy the eminent grace of the full assurance of faith, under the blessed Spirit's influence, and assistance, do what the Scripture tells you, "Make every effort." Take care that your faith is of the right kind—that it is not a mere belief of doctrine—but a simple faith, depending on Christ, and on Christ alone. Give diligent heed to your courage. Plead with God that He would give you the face of a lion, that you may, with a consciousness of right, go on boldly. Study well the Scriptures, and get knowledge; for a knowledge of doctrine will tend very much to confirm faith. Try to understand God's Word; let it dwell in your heart richly.
When you have done this, "Add to your knowledge self-control." Take heed to your body—be temperate without. Take heed to your soul—be temperate within. Get temperance of lip, life, heart, and thought. Add to this, by God's Holy Spirit, patience; ask Him to give you that patience which endures affliction, which, when it is tried, shall come forth as gold. Array yourself with patience, that you may not murmur nor be depressed in your afflictions.
When that grace is won—look to godliness. Godliness is something more than external religion. Make God's glory your object in life; live in His sight; dwell close to Him; seek for fellowship with Him; and you have "godliness".
And to that add brotherly love. Have a love to all the saints—and add to that a charity, which opens its arms to all men, and loves their souls. When you are adorned with these jewels, and just in proportion as you practice these heavenly virtues—will you come to know by clearest evidence, "your calling and election." "Make every effort," if you would get assurance, for lukewarmness and doubting very naturally go hand in hand.
July 26 — Evening
"That He may set him with princes." Psalm 113:8
Our spiritual privileges are of the highest order. "Among princes" is the place of select society. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." Speak of select society—there is none like this! "We are a chosen generation, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood." "We are come unto the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven." The saints have courtly audience—princes have admittance to royalty—when common people must stand afar off. The child of God has free access to the inner courts of heaven. "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." "Let us come boldly," says the apostle, "to the throne of the heavenly grace."
Among princes there is abundant wealth—but what is the wealth of princes compared with the riches of believers? for "all things are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." "He who spared not His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
Princes have special power. A prince of heaven's empire has great influence—he wields a scepter in his own domain; he sits upon Jesus' throne, for "He has made us kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign forever and ever." We reign over the united kingdom of time and eternity.
Princes, again, have special honor. We may look down upon all earth-born dignity from the eminence upon which grace has placed us. For what is human grandeur compared to this, "He has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!" We share the honor of Christ, and compared with this, earthly splendors are not worth a thought. Communion with Jesus is a richer gem than ever glittered in imperial diadem. Union with the Lord is a coronet of beauty, outshining all the blaze of imperial pomp!
July 27 — Morning
"Exceeding great and precious promises." 2 Peter 1:4
If you would know experimentally the preciousness of the promises, and enjoy them in your own heart, meditate much upon them. There are promises which are like grapes in the wine-press; if you will tread them—the juice will flow. Thinking over the hallowed words will often be the prelude to their fulfillment. While you are musing upon them, the blessing which you are seeking will insensibly come to you. Many a Christian who has thirsted for the promise—has found the favor which it ensured gently distilling into his soul, even while he has been considering the divine record; and he has rejoiced that ever he was led to lay the promise near his heart.
But besides meditating upon the promises, seek in your soul to receive them as being the very words of God. Speak to your soul thus, "If I were dealing with a man's promise, I would carefully consider the ability and the character of the man who had covenanted with me. So with the promise of Gwod; my eye must not be so much fixed upon the greatness of the mercy—that may stagger me; as upon the greatness of the promiser—that will cheer me. My soul, it is God, even your God, God who cannot lie—who speaks to you! This Word of His which you are now considering, is as true as His own existence. He is an unchangeable God. He has not altered the thing which has gone out of His mouth, nor called back one single consolatory sentence. Nor does He lack any power; it is the God who made the heavens and the earth—who has spoken thus. Nor can He fail in wisdom as to the time when He will bestow the favors, for He knows when it is best to give and when better to withhold. Therefore, seeing that it is the Word of a God so true, so immutable, so powerful, so wise—I will and must believe the promise."
If we thus meditate upon the promises, and consider the Promiser, we shall experience their sweetness, and obtain their fulfillment!
July 27 — Evening
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Romans 8:33
Most blessed challenge! How unanswerable it is! Every sin of the elect was laid upon the great Champion of our salvation—and by the atonement carried away. There is no sin in God's book against His people—He sees no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel; they are justified in Christ forever! When the guilt of sin was taken away—the punishment of sin was removed. For the Christian there is no stroke from God's angry hand—nay, not so much as a single frown of punitive justice. The believer may be chastised by his Father—but God the Judge has nothing to say to the Christian, except "I have absolved you—you are acquitted."
For the Christian there is no penal death in this world, much less any second death. He is completely freed from all the punishment as well as the guilt of sin, and the power of sin is removed too. It may stand in our way, and agitate us with perpetual warfare; but sin is a conquered foe to every soul in union with Jesus.
There is no sin which a Christian cannot overcome—if he will only rely upon his God to do it. Those who wear the white robe in heaven, overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and we may do the same. No lust is too mighty, no besetting sin too strongly entrenched; we can overcome through the power of Christ. Do believe it, Christian, that your sin is a condemned thing. It may kick and struggle—but it is doomed to die! God has written condemnation across its brow. Christ has crucified it, "nailing it to His cross." Go now and mortify it, and may the Lord help you to live to His praise, for sin with all its guilt, shame, and fear—is gone!
"Here's pardon for transgressions past,
It matters not how black their cast;
And, O my soul, with wonder view,
For sins to come—here's pardon too!"
July 28 — Morning
"So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before You." Psalm 73:22
Remember this is the confession of the man after God's own heart; and in telling us his inner life, he writes, "So foolish was I, and ignorant." The word "foolish," here, means more than it signifies in ordinary language. David, in a former verse of the Psalm, writes, "I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked," which shows that the folly he intended had sin in it. He puts himself down as being thus "foolish," and adds a word which is to give intensity to it; "so foolish was I." How foolish he could not tell. It was a sinful folly, a folly which was not to be excused by frailty—but to be condemned because of its perverseness and wilful ignorance, for he had been envious of the present prosperity of the ungodly, forgetful of the dreadful end awaiting all such.
Are we better than David—that we should call ourselves wise! Do we profess that we have attained perfection, or to have been so chastened that the rod has taken all our wilfulness out of us? Ah, this is pride indeed! If David was foolish, how foolish should we be in our own esteem, if we could but see ourselves! Look back, believer—think of your doubting God when He has been so faithful to you—think of your foolish outcry of "Not so, my Father," when He crossed His hands in affliction to give you the larger blessing; think of the many times when you have read His providences in the dark, misinterpreted His dispensations, and groaned out, "All these things are against me!" when they are all working together for your good! Think how often you have chosen sin because of its pleasure, when indeed, that pleasure was a root of bitterness to you! Surely if we know our own heart we must plead guilty to the indictment of a sinful folly; and conscious of this "foolishness," we must make David's consequent resolve our own, "You shall guide me with Your counsel."
July 28 — Evening
"He went about doing good." Acts 10:38
Few words—but yet an exquisite miniature portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are not many touches—but they are the strokes of a master's pencil. Of the Savior and only of the Savior is it true in the fullest, broadest, and most unqualified sense. "He went about doing good."
From this description it is evident that He did good personally. The evangelists constantly tell us that He touched the leper with His own finger, that He anointed the eyes of the blind, and that in cases where He was asked to speak the word only at a distance, He did not usually comply—but went Himself to the sick bed, and there personally wrought the cure.
This is a lesson to us, if we would do good—to do it ourselves. Give alms with your own hand; a kind look, or word, will enhance the value of the gift. Speak to a friend about his soul; your loving appeal will have more influence than a whole library of tracts.
Our Lord's mode of doing good sets forth His incessant activity! He did not only the good which came close to hand—but He "went about" on His errands of mercy. Throughout the whole land of Judea there was scarcely a village or a hamlet which was not gladdened by the sight of Him. How this reproves the creeping, loitering manner, in which many professors serve the Lord. Let us gird up the loins of our mind, and do not be weary in well doing.
Does not the text imply that Jesus Christ went out of His way to do good? "He went about doing good." He was never deterred by danger or difficulty. He sought out the objects of His gracious intentions. So must we. If old plans will not answer, we must try new ones, for fresh experiments sometimes achieve more than regular methods.
Christ's perseverance, and the unity of His purpose, are also hinted at, and the practical application of the subject may be summed up in the words, "He has left us an example—that we should follow in His steps."
July 29 — Morning
"Nevertheless, I am continually with You." Psalm 73:23
"Nevertheless," as if, notwithstanding all the foolishness and ignorance which David had just been confessing to God, not one atom the less was it true and certain that David was saved and accepted, and that the blessing of being constantly in God's presence was undoubtedly his. Fully conscious of his own lost estate, and of the deceitfulness and vileness of his nature—yet, by a glorious outburst of faith, he sings "nevertheless, I am continually with You."
Believer, you are forced to enter into Asaph's confession and acknowledgment, endeavor in like spirit to say "nevertheless, since I belong to Christ—I am continually with God!"
By this is meant continually upon His mind, He is always thinking of me for my good. Continually before His eye—the eye of the Lord never sleeps—but is perpetually watching over my welfare. Continually in His hand, so that none shall be able to pluck me thence. Continually on His heart, worn there as a memorial, even as the high priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his heart forever.
'You always think of me, O God. The affections of Your love continually yearn towards me. You are always making providence work for my good. You have set me as a signet upon your arm; your love is strong as death, many waters cannot quench it; neither can the floods drown it. Surprising grace! You see me in Christ, and though in myself abhorred, You behold me as wearing Christ's garments, and washed in His blood, and thus I stand accepted in Your presence. I am thus continually in Your favor, continually with You.'
Here is comfort for the tried and afflicted soul; vexed with the tempest within—look at the calm without. "Nevertheless" O say it in your heart, and take the peace it gives. "Nevertheless, I am continually with You."
July 29 — Evening
"All whom the Father gives Me—shall come to Me." John 6:37
This declaration involves the doctrine of election—there are some whom the Father gave to Christ. It involves the doctrine of effectual calling—these who are given, must and shall come; however stoutly they may set themselves against it—yet they shall be brought out of the darkness of sin—into God's marvelous light. It teaches us the indispensable necessity of faith—for even those who are given to Christ are not saved except they come to Jesus. Even they must come, for there is no other way to heaven but by the door, Christ Jesus. All that the Father gives to our Redeemer, must come to Him, therefore none can come to heaven—except they come to Christ.
Oh! the power and majesty which rest in the words "shall come." He does not say they have power to come, nor they may come if they wish—but they "shall come." The Lord Jesus does by His messengers, His Word, and His Spirit—sweetly and graciously compel men to come in, that they may eat of His marriage supper. And this He does, not by any violation of the free agency of man—but by the power of His grace. I may exercise power over another man's will, and yet that other man's will may be perfectly free, because the constraint is exercised in a manner accordant with the laws of the human mind. Jehovah Jesus knows how, by irresistible arguments addressed to the understanding, by mighty reasons appealing to the affections, and by the mysterious influence of His Holy Spirit operating upon all the powers and passions of the soul—so to subdue the whole man, that whereas he was once rebellious, he now yields cheerfully to His government, subdued by sovereign love.
But how shall those whom God has chosen be known? By this result—that they do willingly and joyfully receive Christ, and come to Him with simple and sincere faith, resting upon Him as all their salvation and all their desire. Reader, have you thus come to Jesus?
July 30 — Morning
"And when he thought thereon, he wept." Mark 14:72
It has been thought by some that as long as Peter lived, the fountain of his tears began to flow whenever he remembered his denying his Lord. It is likely that it was so, (for his sin was very great, and grace in him had afterwards a perfect work). This same experience is common to all the redeemed family according to the degree in which the Spirit of God has removed the natural heart of stone. We, like Peter, remember our boastful promise, "Though all men shall forsake You—yet I will not." We eat our own words—with the bitter herbs of repentance. When we think of what we vowed we would be, and of what we have been—we may weep whole showers of grief.
Peter thought on his denying his Lord. The place in which he did it, the little cause which led him into such heinous sin, the oaths and blasphemies with which he sought to confirm his falsehood, and the dreadful hardness of heart which drove him to do so again and yet again.
Can we, when we are reminded of our sins, and their exceeding sinfulness, remain stolid and stubborn? Will we not make our house a Bochim, and cry unto the Lord for renewed assurances of pardoning love? May we never take a dry-eyed look at sin, lest before long we have a tongue parched in the flames of hell.
Peter also thought upon his Master's look of love. The Lord followed up the rooster's warning voice with an admonitory look of sorrow, pity, and love. That glance was never out of Peter's mind so long as he lived. It was far more effectual than ten thousand sermons would have been without the Spirit. The penitent apostle would be sure to weep—when he recollected the Savior's full forgiveness, which restored him to his former place. To think that we have offended so kind and good a Lord—is more than sufficient reason for being constant weepers. Lord, smite our rocky hearts, and make the waters flow!
July 30 — Evening
"The one who comes to Me—I will never cast out." John 6:37
No limit is set to the duration of this promise. It does not merely say, "I will not cast out a sinner at his first coming," but, "I will never cast out." The original reads, "I will not, not ever cast out," or "I will never, never cast out." The text means, that Christ will not at first reject a believer; and that as He will not do it at first, so He will not to the last.
But suppose the believer sins after coming? "If any man sins—we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." But suppose that believers backslide? "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely—for My anger is turned away from him." But believers may fall under temptation! "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it."
But the believer may fall into sin as David did! Yes—but He will "Purge them with hyssop, and they shall be clean; He will wash them and they shall be whiter than snow"; "From all their iniquities I will cleanse them."
"Once in Christ, in Christ forever,
Nothing from His love can sever."
"I give unto My sheep," says He, "eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand!" What do you say to this, O trembling feeble mind? Is not this a precious mercy, that coming to Christ, you do not come to One who will treat you well for a little while, and then send you about your business—but He will receive you and make you His bride, and you shall be His forever! Receive no longer the spirit of bondage again to fear—but the spirit of adoption whereby you shall cry, Abba, Father! Oh! the grace of these words, "I will never cast out!"
July 31 — Morning
"I in them." John 17:23
If such be the union which exists between our souls and the person of our Lord, how deep and broad is the channel of our communion! This is no narrow pipe through which a thread-like stream may wind its way, it is a channel of amazing depth and breadth, along whose glorious length a ponderous volume of living water may roll its floods.
Behold, He has set before us an open door, let us not be slow to enter. This city of communion has many pearly gates, and every gate is of one pearl, and each gate is thrown open to the uttermost that we may enter, assured of welcome. If there were but one small loophole through which to talk with Jesus, it would be a high privilege to thrust a word of fellowship through the narrow door; how much we are blessed in having so large an entrance!
Had the Lord Jesus been far away from us, with many a stormy sea between, we would have longed to send a messenger to Him to carry Him our loves, and bring us tidings from His Father's house. But see His kindness, He has built His house next door to ours, nay, more, He takes lodging with us, and tabernacles in poor humble hearts, that so He may have perpetual fellowship with us. O how foolish must we be, if we do not live in habitual communion with Him.
When the road is long, and dangerous, and difficult—we need not wonder that friends seldom meet each other—but when they live together, shall Jonathan forget his David? A wife may, when her husband is upon a journey, abide many days without holding converse with him—but she could never endure to be separated from him if she knew him to be in one of the chambers of her own house. Why, believer—do you not sit at His banquet of wine? Seek your Lord, for He is near; embrace Him, for He is your Brother. Hold Him fast, for He is your Husband; and press Him to your heart, for He is of your own flesh!
July 31 — Evening
"And these are the singers... they were employed in that work day and night." 1 Chronicles 9:33
Well was it so ordered in the temple that the sacred chant never ceased—for evermore did the singers praise the Lord, whose mercy endures forever. As mercy did not cease to rule either by day or by night—so neither did music hush its holy ministry.
My heart, there is a lesson sweetly taught to you in the ceaseless song of Zion's temple, you too are a constant debtor—see you to it that your gratitude never fails. God's praise is constant in heaven, which is to be your final dwelling-place, learn to practice the eternal hallelujah. Around the earth as the sun scatters his light, his beams awaken grateful believers to tune their morning hymn, so that by the priesthood of the saints, perpetual praise is kept up at all hours, they swathe our globe in a mantle of thanksgiving, and belt it with a golden belt of song.
The Lord always deserves to be praised for what He is in Himself, for His works of creation and providence, for His goodness towards His creatures, and especially for the transcendent act of redemption, and all the marvelous blessing flowing therefrom.
It is always beneficial to praise the Lord; it cheers the day and brightens the night; it lightens toil and softens sorrow; and over earthly gladness—it sheds a sanctifying radiance which makes it less liable to blind us with its glare. Have we nothing to sing about at this moment? Can we not weave a song out of our present joys, or our past deliverances, or our future hopes? Earth yields her summer fruits—the hay is housed, the golden grain invites the sickle, and the sun tarrying long to shine upon a fruitful earth, shortens the interval of shade that we may lengthen the hours of devout worship. By the love of Jesus—let us be stirred up to close the day with a psalm of sanctified gladness!