THE CHRISTIAN'S PATHWAY
Or, Upward and Onward!
By John MacDuff, 1858
Those who are anxious to progress in the divine life, will not neglect
the more private exercises of piety, without which those of the
sanctuary will be in a great measure ineffectual. Prayer is the
believer's vital breath; the Scriptures are his spiritual food; and
it is only as the study of their sacred truths is combined with fervent
supplication for every promised grace — that his course will correspond with
the beautiful representation, in which the path of the just is compared to
the shining light — which shines more and more unto the perfect day.
To aid the Christian in his secret devotions, is
the object of this small volume. The writer humbly trusts that it will
especially be of some service to him while engaged in the pleasing and
important duty of meditating upon the divine testimonies. It is his sincere
prayer that the perusal of these daily portions may be accompanied with a
blessing from on high, so that, like the whole of the inspired volume from
which they are taken, they might prove "profitable for teaching, for
rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness — so that the man of
God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
1. The Important Command
"Speak unto the children of Israel — that they go
forward." Exodus 14:15
To enter upon the way of life is one thing; to
advance therein is quite another thing. It is to be feared that many are
satisfied if they have some grounds for hoping that the good work has been
commenced within them; but such need to be reminded that one of the
most conclusive evidences of a change of heart, is an ardent desire after an
increased measure of spiritual prosperity. No true Christian can be
satisfied with his present attainments; his great concern will be to
press onward toward the mark for the prize of his high calling in
Christ Jesus. If we would realize the true blessedness of a pious life — it
is indispensable that we "go forward."
The inhabitants of a certain country, we will suppose,
are in a very woeful plight, suffering the greatest distress, and also
exposed to the most imminent danger. They are told of another land in which,
as soon as they stand upon its shores, they will be safe; and that if they
only travel onward — they will meet with the richest treasures, and an
abundant supply of all that can minister to their happiness. They set out on
their voyage there, and at length they reach it in safety. But, after having
just entered upon its borders, and feeling that they are now delivered from
the dangers to which they had previously been exposed — they settle down,
satisfied with their present lot, and feeling thankful for it. By remaining,
however, where they are, instead of pushing their way into the heart of the
country, they continue to be strangers in a great measure to its teeming
So it is with many, in reference to their spiritual
interests. They have been brought to see the danger of the state of
nature, and they have felt deeply concerned about being delivered from
it. Another state, that of grace and salvation, has been set
before them in the gospel, which they hope they have reached. But how many,
having just reached it, remain towards its outskirts, almost entirely
ignorant of what is to be found farther on. They trust that they have passed
the gulf of separation which divides the city of destruction from the
haven of security and peace; but that is all. Of the fatness
of the land on which they have entered, little or nothing do they know.
How important then is the command, "Speak unto the
children of Israel, that they go forward." Such, reader, is the word of
exhortation we would now address to you. Go forward, and the prospect
will brighten, the air will become more balmy, and the sky more clear and
cloudless every step you take. Go forward, and the soil will become
increasingly fertile; instead of roaming amid sandy waste-lands and rocky
crags — you will find green pastures in which you shall lie down, and
still waters beside which you shall be led like the Psalmist of old.
Go forward, and you will possess a land of unknown wealth, and you
shall enjoy therein a goodly heritage indeed!
Whatever progress we have made in the divine life, our
duty is still to press onward. To the most advanced believer it can
be said, "There remains very much land to be possessed!" Let our motto,
then, be, "Farther, farther yet!" and may we only regard our past
successes — as incentives to renewed exertion!
2. The Promised Presence
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be
dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will
uphold you with My victorious right hand!" Isaiah 41:10
The Divine presence is the believer's strength in
weakness — his support in suffering — his consolation in the hour of death.
The blessed assurance, "I am with you," is sufficient to enliven every scene
— and sweeten every condition. Its realization opens springs of joy in the
cheerless wasteland of this desert world; it dissipates the thickest
darkness, soothes the anguish of the keenest affliction, and lightens the
heaviest load of poverty and distress!
One of the last promises which the Savior gave to His
disciples was, "Surely, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age!"
He had just given them the great commission to go into all the world, and
preach the gospel to every creature — an enterprise difficult and dangerous
in the extreme. The whole world frowned upon them; they had to encounter the
combined prejudices of the Jew and Greek, of the savage and civilized. But
it soon became evident that greater was He who was with them — than all
those who were against them. Through Him who had spoiled principalities and
triumphed over them, they waxed valiant in fight, and went forth conquering
and to conquer. O what a spirit did they manifest, and what wonders did they
perform! All opposition, they trampled under their feet. All secular power
and policy, they defeated. All the wit, and learning, and eloquence which
stood in their way — was baffled by them. In persecutions, and reproaches,
and necessities — they took pleasure. To forsake and forfeit all they had —
they regarded as gain. To be in constant labor and travail — was
their ease. To incur disgrace — was their highest glory. Prisons were
converted by them into palaces in which they sang, even in the dead
of night, the high praises of their God and Savior.
And whence this victory in suffering? Whence this moral
elevation above all the ills of life? Whence this triumphing in tribulation,
and rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God? It was derived from the
presence of their adorable Lord and Master! Having Him by their side —
they were strangers to fear, and they went forth, unarmed, unpatronized — to
upset the kingdom of darkness, and subdue the world to the obedience of
And to all His people now, especially when they have any
arduous duties to discharge — the same promise is given. When entering upon
any responsible undertaking, the believer, deeply conscious of his own
incompetency, is often filled with trembling. But listen, Christian, to what
the voice from the excellent glory proclaims — "Do not be afraid, for I am
with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I
will help you. I will uphold you with My victorious right hand." Should you
not then "thank God, and take courage!"
3. Divine Recognition
"I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at
my right hand — I shall not be moved." Psalm 16:8
It is a very solemn and emphatic statement which is made
by the apostle Paul, when he says in one of his epistles — "Having no hope,
and without God in the world." This is the state not merely of those in
pagan lands, whose understanding is darkened, being alienated from the
life of God, through the blindness of their hearts — but of all the
unregenerate, without any exception of rank or character. There is a
dreadful spirit of atheism pervading the minds of the great mass of mankind.
Follow them wherever they go, and the conviction is forced upon every
impartial observer, that this is their true condition. Upon all their
feelings and sentiments, all their purposes and pursuits, all their dealings
in public, and all their social fellowship in private, may be inscribed,
"Without God in the world." They have no sense of the divine presence;
no realizing impression of Him, in whom they live, and move, and have their
being. They live as if they were indeed the inhabitants of a forsaken and
fatherless world; as if it were the result of mere accident, and that
whatever transpires, whether in the history of nations or individuals, had
no other cause than that of blind, unaccountable chance. Were the
wretched dogma of the atheist demonstrated to be true, they could hardly
exclude all sense of Deity more completely from their minds, than is done by
them at present.
With the pious Psalmist, it was quite the reverse. He
realized the presence of God continually; he felt that He was ever near,
encompassing his path and his lying down, and besetting him behind and
before. He endured, like Moses — as seeing Him who is invisible. If he
looked up to the heavens — he saw Him there; if he surveyed the earth — he
found Him there; if he retired into the secrecies of his own bosom — he felt
Him there. God was emphatically in all his thoughts. And those thoughts were
not a source of pain to him — but of the highest and purest pleasure. They
were the congenial atmosphere of his spiritual being. They were the moral
element which his soul inhaled, and by which he was invigorated, refreshed,
Reader, do you know what it is to have a habitual
sense of the presence of God? Is the desire of your soul to His name,
and to the remembrance of Him? Is it your grief that you are living so far
from Him; that you do think so little of Him; and that you have no more to
do with Him? O, be anxious to possess an abiding consciousness of the great
truth — that the eye of God is ever upon you! "You, God, see me!" was the
solemn — yet sweet and supporting conviction of Hagar; and may you realize
the same devout feeling. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing — set
the Lord always before you. Having Him at your right hand, whatever
difficulties and dangers may surround your path — you shall never be moved!
4. The Voice from Heaven
"Say to the righteous, that it shall be well with him."
The human family is divided into a great variety of
social and artificial distinctions. The various grades of
which society is at present composed are, doubtless, necessary; it is
evident that they are of divine appointment, and flow from the circumstances
and relations in which mankind are now placed. But, in the sight of God —
there are but two classes, into which the multifarious elements of
universal humanity can be resolved. There are only the righteous —
and the wicked; those who serve God — and those who serve Him
not. Concerning one of these classes the voice from heaven proclaims that it
shall be well with them; while above the other it pronounces a solemn
woe, and they are assured that recompense shall be given to them.
That it shall be well with the righteous, appears from
many considerations. He is reconciled to God, and has peace
with Him, through our Lord Jesus Christ. In their natural state — all men
are God's enemies; the carnal mind is enmity against God; with such,
therefore, it must bode dreadful. What makes the condition of a wicked man
to be so fearful, is the solemn fact that God is against him! And
what makes that of the righteous to be so blessed, is that God is for
him! "If God is for us — who can be against us?" All the divine
attributes are arrayed against the impenitent sinner — but when he becomes a
saint, they all join to take his part. Such being the case, having the
eternal Jehovah in all his boundless perfections on his side, it cannot be
otherwise than well with him.
It shall be well with the righteous, not merely in
life — but in death. It is appointed, by the irrevocable decree
of heaven — that all men must die. There is no discharge in that war — no
release from that mortal struggle!
Wealth has no bribe which death will receive.
Wisdom has no art by which death can be avoided.
Power has no defense against death.
Beauty has no charm to death's eye.
The voice of eloquence is lost to death's ear.
Even religion has no security from death's stroke!
Here the mightiest conqueror is vanquished — and the
proudest of monarchs finds himself a slave! From its ruthless grasp —
no age, no condition can escape! Those who are in the bloom and freshness of
youth cannot escape — for "man, at his best estate, is altogether vanity."
The great and prosperous cannot escape — for "the rich man also died — and
was buried." The wicked cannot escape — he is driven, yes, dragged
away in his wickedness; the most fearful of all deaths is his — that of
dying in his sins! Neither can the righteous escape — he must go the way of
all the earth, and become a tenant of the silent grave!
But, at that solemn season, it shall be well with him.
When the last sands of the numbered hour are running out; when his earthly
friends will be compelled to leave him; when the cold dews of death will be
standing in large drops upon his pallid brow; when every nerve and vein may
be racked and wrenched in fearful agonies by the irresistible power of
the grim tyrant; even then it shall be well with him. The dying strife
will soon be over, and through death's gloomy portals — he will enter upon
that blessed state where all is peace and bliss forever!
O, my soul, seriously ask yourself the question, what is
my spiritual state and character? Am I one of the righteous, who is
reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and who seek to walk before him
in all well-pleasing? Do I know of the blessedness of the man whose
transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered?
"If sin is pardoned, I'm secure,
Death has no sting beside;
The law gives sin its damning power,
But Christ, my ransom, died!"
Very soon will the solemn summons be issued; even now the
Judge stands at the door; and when the midnight cry is heard, "Behold the
bridegroom comes, go out to meet Him!" — shall I be found among those who
are ready to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb? Of one thing let us
be well assured — that it is only as we are clothed in that righteousness
which is unto all and upon all those who believe; that it is only as we are
covered with the wedding garment — that spotless, stainless, seamless robe,
which alone can hide our spiritual deformity — that we shall be acknowledged
as those who are worthy to have an inheritance among them that are
"Blessed Jesus! this is my petition and this is my
request, that I may be found in You, not having my own righteousness, which
at best is only filthy rags. Make me righteous through Your righteousness,
and lovely through Your loveliness. Being found by You in peace, without
spot and blameless, I shall be able to lift up my head amid the groans of
dissolving nature, and, leaving a weltering world on fire, I shall mount
aloft, shouting with all your saints — Lo, this is our God; we have
waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for
him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
5. The Mystical Union
"Christ in you — the hope of glory." Colossians
The believer's present and everlasting well-being, is
secured in virtue of his union with the Lord Jesus. If Christ is in
him — then no evil can befall him; he can welcome the greatest sorrows and
sufferings; he can triumph in tribulations, and rejoice in anticipation of
the glory to be revealed. If Christ is in him — he can say to Satan,
"Do your utmost; exert all your hellish rage; I do not fear you!" If Christ
is in him, he can say to death, "Come, O messenger of my Father's
love — I cannot escape your stroke — but your sting being
extracted, I am not dismayed!" If Christ is in him — all will be well: in
sickness and in health, in prosperity and in adversity, in time and
"My Beloved is mine — and I am His!" Song of Songs 2:14.
This is the language of the Christian in the book of Canticles. How great is
the blessedness involved, in such an assurance! My beloved Jesus is mine . .
in the dignity of His person;
in the suitability of His offices;
in the immensity of His love;
in the efficacy of His atonement;
in the riches of His abounding grace!
His righteousness is mine — to justify me,
His Spirit is mine — to sanctify me,
His power is mine — to defend me,
His wisdom is mine — to guide me, and
His heaven is mine — to receive me!
And what does Christ say to the believer in return? "I am
yours — and all that I have is yours! I have boundless and unsearchable
riches — and those riches are for you! I have happiness to
bestow, such as the mind in its largest grasp has never been able to
conceive — and that happiness is for you! I have crowns and scepters at My
disposal — and all those honors are for you! Yes, to him who
overcomes, I will grant to sit with me on My glorious throne!"
The Christian's exaltation and bliss is not a matter of
doubtful disputation. And what makes it so certain? It is the blessed truth
that the union which exists between him and Christ — is an indissoluble
union! All other relations, however close and endearing, must be broken.
That union of husband and wife, and soul and body — has no power to resist
the assault of death, the great destroyer. But hear what the voice
from heaven proclaims: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord!"
Not merely did they live in Him — but they die in Him; the
union remains undisturbed!
All earthly ties must then be severed. But death,
which breaks every other bond — only strengthens the bond between the
Christian and Christ! Death, which quenches every other love — only
kindles that of the believer for Jesus, into a purer and intenser
flame! Death, which snatches every other object from our grasp — only brings
us to the full enjoyment of Him, who is the fountain of life, the great
center and source of all blessedness.
Christian, rejoice in your union with Jesus! The
changes of time cannot touch it; the storms of life cannot injure
it; the sword of persecution cannot sever it; the damps of death
cannot affect it; the malice of hell cannot move it. It is a
union which will last forever. It follows, therefore, that you, if a
partaker of it — will be rich forever, safe forever,
dignified forever, and blessed forever!
6. Serving the Lord
"Lord, what will you have me to do?" Acts 9:6
To prove the sincerity of our love to the Lord Jesus is
something vitally important. Such as we are, as regards our feelings
towards Him — that we are as to our acceptance at the high court of
heaven. Without love to Christ — we cannot be the friends of Christ; and if
we are not His friends — we are His enemies, and the day is coming when it
will be said in a voice louder than ten thousand thunders, "Those enemies of
Mine, who would not have Me reign over them — bring them here, and
slay them in My presence!"
It is by obedience to His commands, and a spirit
of consecration to His service — that we are to show that we are His
true friends and followers. "If you love Me — keep My commandments." In
reference to all that He commands, we should seek to possess a spirit
of cheerful, unreserved, and universal compliance. When He calls us — our
language should be, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!" Should He
bid us depart, even to earth's remotest bounds, this should be our instant
reply, "Here I am Lord — send me!" Were He even to demand our lives as an
offering; if He required our heart's blood to be poured as a libation at His
feet; we should strive to say, with His servant of old, "Yes, and if I am
offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice!" Such,
doubtless, will true love to Christ ever be in its tendency; and,
sustained by all-sufficient grace, such it will be, if necessary, in
actual operation. It will make us to be martyrs in spirit —
even if we are not called upon to be martyrs in real fact.
In general, however, the Savior's requirements are not
difficult to be complied with; and without being either missionaries or
martyrs, we may promote His cause, and glorify His adorable name. We can
sincerely serve the Lord Christ — without moving in an extensive sphere, or
occupying any prominent and public position. What we need is a spirit that
will lead us to devote ourselves to His service, according to the
opportunities we enjoy. All true Christians will do something, even the
poorest and youngest. It often happens that the influence of many are
very great, when they appear to have little, or none at all. "That child,"
said Pericles, pointing to his boy at play, "rules the world; and,"
he added, "I will tell you how: he rules his mother; his mother rules me; I
rule the Athenians; the Athenians rule Greece; and Greece rules the world."
Such was the power, for good or for evil, which that little one possessed.
Yes, the feeblest and most insignificant can do something, more in general —
far more than they themselves imagine.
But, whatever be the measure of our ability, it is
certain that the Savior deserves the utmost of our services. When we think
of what He has done for us, and what we have done for Him — shame and
confusion of face should be felt even by the most active and devoted. How
appropriate is the inquiry, and how worthy of being seriously pondered,
"And is this all that you can do,
For Him who did so much for you?"
Who can think of the sacrifices Christ made, of
the sufferings He endured, and of the cruel death which He
died — without consecrating talents, opportunities, wealth, influence, all
the faculties of our souls, and all the members of our bodies, to the
service of Him who displayed love so amazing, so divine; love which
originated the whole interposition of mercy on our behalf; love which still
glows in His breast, uncooled by distance, and undiminished by the matchless
splendors which now surround Him; love, concerning which, when imagination
is wearied, and all language is utterly exhausted, we can truly say that it
is — as ancient as eternity, as boundless as eternity, as
endless as eternity!
"Eternity, too short to speak His praise,
Or fathom this profound of love to man!"
7. The Patriarch's Piety
"Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took
him." Genesis 5:24
The general strain of the chapter in which these words
are found, is calculated to fill the mind with mournful reflections. It
contains a record of the antediluvian patriarchs; and although the period of
their earthly existence was greatly protracted, we are here shown that they
were a mortal race after all. The concluding statement in reference
to each is, "And he died." They were, doubtless, men of note in their
respective generations; but whatever the sphere in which they moved, and the
stirring scenes through which they passed — yet all that is said of them is,
that they lived so many years, begat sons and daughters, and then died.
Their biography is closed in succession with the same brief epitaph, "And
he died." All their love and hatred, all their doings and sufferings,
But while the mind is oppressed with emotions of sadness
in perusing these annals of the early inhabitants of the world — we feel no
little relief when we reach Enoch, of whom something truly refreshing
is recorded. All is melancholy and monotonous in the previous accounts; but
when the inspired historian comes down to him, for the first time, the dry
uniformity of the narrative is broken, and a flood of glory is poured upon
his memory, which has made it precious to the church of God in all ages.
"Enoch walked with God!" What a beautiful
representation! Seldom have words so brief, embodied anything so important
and comprehensive. The sacred writer might have enlarged upon the
diversified particulars of the patriarch's conduct. As a devoted biographer
he might have told us of his various excellencies, whereby he shone so
brilliantly in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. He might have
told us of his abhorrence of all that was evil, and how his righteous soul
was vexed from day to day with the filthy lives of the ungodly. He might
have told us how he soared above the world with all its vanities and pomps,
and how he carried into all the engagements of life, a spirit which seemed
to breathe only of heaven. He might have told us how his own will was
swallowed up in the divine will, and how entire was his consecration to the
divine glory. In accurate detail, and in imposing array — he might thus have
delineated the various features which characterized his memorable career.
But, at whatever length he might have enlarged, could he in reality have
said more than is contained in the simple record before us? All the other
particulars are clearly embraced in this one, comprehensive, emphatic,
and most instructive statement.
By the course of life, which this eminent saint
pursued, he honored God; and, according to His accustomed method, God, in
return, honored him. He took him to Himself, not through the ordinary course
of death — but by a supernatural and glorious translation. And you, reader,
if your present course is that of walking humbly with your God — shall not
go unrewarded. He will receive you to His own bosom, although not in the
same manner; and you shall be numbered with Enoch and all the saints, in
everlasting glory! Let then the daily breathing of your soul be —
"O, for a closer walk with God,
A light to shine upon the road,
A calm and heavenly frame;
That leads me to the Lamb!"
8. The Comfort of Love
"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the
Holy Spirit who is given unto us." Romans 5:5
The various graces which dignify and adorn the
Christian's character, are only so many modifications of his love to God.
What is repentance — but love giving vent to its emotions in tears of
godly sorrow. What is faith — but love receiving the testimony that
God has given concerning His Son, and resting implicitly upon it for life
and salvation. What is zeal — but the fire of love, the Christian
being led, under the influence of redeeming love — to live no longer to
himself — but to Him who died for him, and rose again. What is holiness
— but love assimilating the whole character to the likeness of Him who is
its great object. What is resignation — but love receiving the cup of
sorrow from a Father's hand, and saying in gentle accents, "May Your will be
done." And so with all the other fruits of the Spirit; we behold in them a
living embodiment of this crowning grace of love to God — and a
practical manifestation of its diversified operations.
This love exists in very different degrees in the hearts
of true Christians. In some — it is full of life and vigor; while it is in a
low and languishing condition, in others. As regards the latter, how
important is it, that their love should be kindled afresh; for, if the
preceding representations are correct — where love decays, it will
affect the spiritual life in all its branches.
It is true that an apparent weakening of the mere
feeling, or sensible enjoyment of love, is no decisive evidence of its
actual decline. There is a distinction to be observed between the passion
of love and the principle of love; and it is quite possible for
the one to be strong and deep — while the other seems to be somewhat faint
and feeble. In proof of this, a familiar illustration may be employed.
Let us think of an affectionate father, who has to labor
hard to gain a livelihood for his family. After he has finished his daily
duties he returns home to his humble dwelling; his children gather around
him, and their innocent prattle, and the many winning ways in which they
court his smiles, call forth his tenderest affection. On the following
morning he goes forth to his work, and bears cheerfully the heat and burden
of the day; and why? It is that he might have something to supply the needs
of his wife and little ones. Now it is very probable that he did not feel
his love operate during the labors of the day in so sensible a manner,
as he did the evening before. Having had many things to do, he may have
passed several hours without once thinking of them. But this is no proof
that he does not then love them; the fact that for their sakes he willingly
undergoes so much toil, evinces quite the contrary. And were he, even in the
midst of his exertions, to hear of any injury being done to them, he would
instantly feel emotions as strong, if not stronger, than ever!
Now so it may be, with the child of God. There are times
when he does not feel his love operating in so lively a manner as
formerly; he has not that glow and fervor which he experienced
at other seasons; but even then, his love may have suffered no diminution.
The passion may be less excited — but the principle may
continue in all its vitality.
These remarks are not designed for the cold and carnal
professor of religion — but for the encouragement of the feeble-minded, who
are apt to suspect the genuineness of their piety, simply because their
feelings are not always as animated as they would desire.
At the same time, there is such a thing as real
declension in the Christian's love, and in all his other graces. The
charge brought against the Ephesian believers is one, it is to be feared,
that can be brought against many who bear the name of Christ in the present
day — "Nevertheless I have something against you, because you have left your
first love." They had not openly turned their backs upon God and His cause;
they had not, it may be, neglected His ordinances, or profaned His courts by
any outward improprieties; but His love in their hearts had greatly cooled,
and they were now very declined from what they once were.
Reader, has the love of God been shed abroad in your
heart? And if you have some grounds for concluding that such has been the
case — it is most important for you to ascertain whether it is now in a
flourishing, or decaying state. Be this your frequent, fervent
prayer, "Lord, increase my love; may I be more firmly rooted and grounded
therein from day to day; and thus prepare me for that blessed world where
all Your people not merely see You as You are — but where they
love You as they ought!"
9. The Present Help
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in
times of trouble." Psalm 46:1
While God has promised never to forsake His people — He
has especially manifested Himself to them in seasons of distress. The
sacred volume is full of instances confirmatory of this encouraging truth.
Take the case of Paul, when he was summoned to stand before Nero. That
emperor, it is well known, was a cruel, bloody monster, and his palace was
looked upon by the people just as they would have looked upon a leopard's
den. Before him, however, the apostle was ordered to appear, and he had to
appear alone. He must have had many friends in the imperial city; but, if "a
friend in need — is a friend indeed," their friendship, when brought to the
test, was found sadly lacking. They probably gathered around him when there
was no special danger to be apprehended; but now they thought it prudent not
to identify themselves publicly with him and his cause.
They were friends, unfortunately, of the swallow brood,
who retire in the winter and return in the spring — a race which is yet by
no means extinct. They were of that class whose appropriate emblem is the
shadow on the sundial. When the sky is clear the shadow is there; but in the
cloudy and dark day it disappears. But, if they proved faithless, there was
One who continued true. He did not desert His faithful servant in the trying
hour; and enjoying His presence, neither the ravening wolf on the throne,
nor the thirsty bloodhounds around him, made the apostle for a single
instant to falter or fear. "At my first answer no man stood with me — but
all forsook me: I pray God it may not be laid to their charge.
Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, and I was
delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from
every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom."
In the experience also of the Old Testament saints we
have innumerable examples of an equally striking nature. From such we may
select the case of David on the occasion of the unnatural rebellion
of Absalom. It was with him, then, in all respects, a most trying time. His
own son had risen up against him; his chief counselor betrayed
him; the hearts of thousands of his people were seduced away from him. See
him, not as when in the freshness and vigor of his early days, he
encountered the lion and the bear; not as when he stood undismayed, although
single and alone, before the uncircumcised Philistine, who had defied the
armies of the living God: but behold him — old and grey-headed, the fire of
his youth damped by the infirmities of advanced years. Under such
circumstances, after being driven from his own palace, view him ascending
the steeps of Olivet, with his head uncovered and his feet bare, weeping
bitterly as he goes along. There he is — an exile in his own kingdom,
wandering from place to place in imminent peril of his life. But, although
troubled on every side, and deeply perplexed — yet he was not in despair.
His enemies spoke against him, saying, "God has forsaken him; persecute and
take him, for there is none to deliver him!" But it was not so; he had an
Almighty helper at hand, and hence he could say, "I am as a wonder unto
many; but you are my strong refuge." In his distress he called upon the name
the Lord, who heard the voice of his supplication, and thus proved Himself
to be a present help in time of need.
Reader, make Him your only trust; in all your troubles —
repair to Him! Cast your every burden, whether light or heavy — upon Him.
His name is a strong tower; the righteous man runs there — and is safe. And
if you will make the Most High your habitation, and take shelter beneath the
shadow of His wings, you will be safe — safe now, and safe forever!
10. Spiritual Declension
"Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,
for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God." Revelation
The personal piety of many, there is great reason to fear
— is in a very feeble and languishing condition. It has lost much of its
hold upon their hearts and consciences — as an elevating, purifying, and
satisfying reality. How few there are, who know what it is — to delight in
God, to rejoice in the dying love of Christ, and to exult in a clear and
unclouded prospect of heaven! How little is there of spirituality of mind,
of mortification of sin, of habitual watchfulness, and of wrestling prayer!
There may be no gross or glaring immorality — but in the absence of what
would be deemed publicly disgraceful in religious professors, there
is, in instances not a few, a manifest decline in vital and experimental
There is something exceedingly insidious,
pertaining to a state of spiritual declension; and hence it is a common
thing, for those who are under its influence — to be in a great measure
unconscious of the fact. It is said of Ephraim, "Strangers have devoured his
strength — and he knows it not! Yes, grey hairs are here and there upon him
— yet he knows it not!" Hosea 7:10. So it is, alas! with many a professor in
the present day. Instead of his soul being in a vigorous and thriving state,
there has been a woeful decline — yet he knows it not. Others know it; they
cannot fail to observe what an altered man he is now when compared with what
he was a few years ago. They clearly perceive that the world has been
gaining the ascendancy over him; that the conversation and company of the
people of God are now but little relished; and that he is far less attentive
to his pious duties than he was formerly. But while this is so palpable to
others, it is, if not altogether, yet to a considerable extent — unknown to
This may be accounted for by the fact, that declension
generally comes on in a gradual manner. Had the person passed all at
once into such a state, the transition would have been so great, that he
could not fail to perceive it. But it stole over him imperceptibly,
and thus he knew it not.
Another cause of this ignorance, is the neglect of
self-examination. There are very few who rigidly scrutinize their own
hearts, and it is, therefore, no wonder that their piety should decline
without their knowing it. It is with many in spiritual things, as it is with
some in reference to their temporal affairs; they take it for granted that
all is going on well. Many a tradesman, had he examined his books in time,
might have been preserved from bankruptcy; and many a spiritual bankruptcy
might have been avoided, had the secrecies of the inner man been thoroughly
scrutinized, with a full determination to know how matters really were.
Reader, seek to know yourself — for all wisdom centers
there. Be honest with yourself, and do not allow plausible appearances to
impose upon you. Be continually jealous over yourself, and that with a godly
jealousy. The fruits of self-confidence have been truly disastrous;
while a befitting dread of self-deception has produced the happiest
results. With the Royal Psalmist, then, let your daily prayer be, "Search
me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out
anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting
life." Psalm 139:23-24
11. The Great Concern
"We labor, that we may be accepted of Him." 2 Corinthians
Before we shall ardently desire, and strenuously seek any
object, we must be brought to see its worth, and feel its importance; and
what object can be compared with that after which the apostle aspires in
these words? To be "accepted of Him," was the one thing about which he was
concerned, being fully convinced that without it — all else would be in
Reader, it will matter but little what you may possess —
if you live and die destitute of this great blessing! Were you to attain
everything that mankind regard as enviable; were all the treasures of the
globe to be heaped upon you; were you endowed with all knowledge, so
that the wisest sages should think it an honor to sit at your feet; were the
most magnificent titles to be conferred upon you, and your fame
to ring to earth's remotest bounds; were you raised to the heights of
universal empire, having all the nations of the world as your willing
subjects; in a word, had you all that the most unbounded ambition in her
loftiest heights and most extravagant wishes ever panted after — what would
the whole be if, instead of being accepted of God, you were disowned and
rejected by Him, and exposed to His everlasting wrath!
But, enjoying His favor, which is life; and His
loving-kindness, which is better than life — it matters but little whether
we are rich or poor; whether the sun of prosperity shines — or the clouds of
adversity lower; whether we are reveling in health — or stretched upon beds
of languishing; whether we are toiling as slaves — or wearing crowns and
diadems. After a few more rising and setting suns — it will not matter a
single straw — what our earthly lot may have been! The only matter of
importance then — will be whether we have been accepted of God.
This high privilege is now attainable! To be accepted of
Him is not an impossibility. Every barrier which stood in the way has been
removed. The ever-blessed Son of God assumed our nature, and was made under
the law — to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the
adoption of sons. He is the only medium of access to the Father, and all who
are reconciled to Him are accepted in the Beloved, to the praise of the
glory of His grace.
For the rebel angels no such way has been
provided. No messenger of mercy has been commissioned to wing his way with
an offered reconciliation to them. No multitude of the heavenly host ever
burst in the brightness of their glory upon their dark and desolate abodes,
chanting the glad anthem of peace and goodwill. That song was sung for us!
The peace was to be on earth, and the good-will unto sinful men. It
was for us that Jesus suffered; for us He languished, groaned,
and died! "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for
our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was laid upon
him; and with his stripes we are healed!"
Reader, we would have you to be intensely solicitous
about securing the precious treasure of which we have been speaking. Let its
importance on the one hand, and its attainableness on the
other hand — stimulate and encourage you in its pursuit. It is placed within
your reach; it lies at your very door. O neglect, despise, refuse it not,
lest you should be guilty of the dream of those who judge themselves
unworthy of everlasting life; a dream which will require eternity to
comprehend, and eternity to deplore!
12. Communion with God
"And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with
his Son Jesus Christ." 1 John 1:3
It is said of Moses that "the Lord spoke to him face to
face, as a man speaks to his friend." Now there is an important sense in
which the words may be applied to every true believer. He is favored with
intimate and endearing fellowship with his Heavenly Father. View him on his
bended knees, in the secrecy of his closet, having shut out the world for a
while, with its manifold anxieties. How sweet the privilege he enjoys — that
of making all his requests known by prayer and supplication unto God! Is he
conscious of his own weakness, of the temptations which
surround him, and the many foes which beset him? His earnest cry is,
"Hold me up — and I shall be safe!" Well, God is there, being ever near to
those who call upon Him in truth, and says to him in return, "Do not be
afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine!
When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When
you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk
through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will
not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your
Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3
Does he feel sorely perplexed as to the course he
should pursue, when conflicting claims are pressing upon him? He looks
upward, and says in the language of the Psalmist, "Teach me your way, O
Lord; and lead me in a plain path because of my enemies." And what answer
does God unto unto him? "I will instruct you, and teach you in the way which
you shall go; I will guide you with my eye." "I will lead you in paths that
you have not known; I will make darkness light before you, and crooked
things straight; these things will I do unto you, and not forsake you."
Is he oppressed under a deep sense of his exceeding
sinfulness, his iniquities being set in fearful array against him, staring
him in the face, and covering him with shame and confusion? He knows,
however, what it is to look to Him whom he has so often found to be
gracious; he therefore prays, "Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all
my iniquities!" And God remembers him with the favor which he bears to His
people, and in the plenitude of His compassion He proclaims, "I, even I, am
He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember
your sins!" "I will be merciful to your unrighteousness, and your sins and
your iniquities, will I remember no more."
Sometimes the child of God is in great trouble concerning
his temporal needs, his earthly prospects being dark and gloomy. But
knowing that He who is the God of grace, is also the God of
providence, he draws near to the divine footstool for himself and
family, and he there cries, "Remember us, O God, for good; oh! leave us not
destitute." And He who hears the young ravens, hears him, and says to him,
"Fear not, my poor child; no evil shall befall you, and no plague shall come
near your dwelling. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those
who trust in the Lord will never lack any good thing."
Sometimes, looking forward to the future, he says, "Do
not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone."
And the voice from heaven proclaims, "I created you and have cared for you
since before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime —
until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I
will carry you along and save you!"
And so with all his needs, and all his wishes — he draws
near to God, and God draws near to him, and thus sweet fellowship is enjoyed
There are some who are disposed to sneer at the idea of
spiritual communion with God. But let them sneer as they may; let them
regard it, if they are so disposed, as a dream of enthusiasm. The believer,
however, is not to be laughed out of his enjoyments. Fellowship with God
is a privilege with which he would not part for ten thousand worlds! Of
all precious things, it is to him the most precious. He regards it as the
dawn of eternal day, and feels it to be glory begun below! Fellowship
with God is to him, like the grapes of Eshcol which were brought down to
the wilderness; it is a draught from those crystal streams which make glad
the city of the Most High; it is a flower plucked from the amaranthine
bowers of the Paradise above. In a word, fellowship with God is the
prelude and pledge of the fullness of joy which is at God's right hand, and
in which consists the very essence of that transporting bliss which will be
realized by saints and angels forever and ever! And while he gazes upon the
toilsome pursuits of men for the things which perish in their using, his
language is —
"Let others stretch their arms like seas,
And grasp in all the shore;
Grant me the visits of your grace,
And I desire no more!"
Christian, is there any ambition in your breast?
Here is a noble field for its display! O how unspeakable the honor of
holding familiar fellowship with the King of kings! And this honor has, not
only the more favored servants of God — but all the saints! This is
the hidden manna they have to eat — of which the world knows nothing.
This is the joy they possess, which a stranger cannot understand. This is
the honor they realize, which comes from God alone. They may be poor and
afflicted; they may be frowned upon by an ungrateful and ungodly world; but
this makes amends for all — "they have fellowship with the Father, and with
His Son, Jesus Christ."
13. The Contented Spirit
"But godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy
Reference is made in one of the epistles, to "Whatever is
noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable." And among the several
virtues which deserve to be thus characterized, that of Christian
contentment can be particularly specified. The believer is frequently
exhorted to cultivate such a feeling, and there are many considerations by
which the duty may be enforced.
One thing is very evident — that there is no condition
in the present world, which is free from trouble! Let us pitch our tent
wherever we may — we shall be sure to find something to annoy us! And if
there is no situation without some inconvenience, had we not better make up
our minds to be satisfied with that condition in which we are now placed?
We are too much in the habit of judging by outward
appearances. Things are often very different in reality — to what
they appear to be. The sun appears to rise and set — but we
know that it does neither the one nor the other. The earth appears as if it
were a vast extended plain; and when we used to hear in our childhood that
there were people who lived on the under-side of it — we were greatly
puzzled. But since then we have learned that above and below
are only relative terms, and the mystery concerning the people on the
other side of the earth, walking, as we imagined, with their feet upwards —
does not puzzle us any longer. In winter, again, all the plants and flowers
appear to be dead; experience, however, has taught us to think otherwise.
Notwithstanding the deadness which appears on every hand during the
winter — we look forward with confidence to the coming spring, and we expect
to see animation where all before was torpor, and life where everything had
borne the aspect of death. So wide is the difference between objects in
their outward appearance, and what they are in reality.
As it is with things — so it is also with
people. If we judge according to appearance, we shall be led to regard
the most prosperous — as the happiest individuals. But we are
assured by universal experience that to be great is one thing, and
that to be truly happy is altogether another thing! Under the
glittering robes of the proudest nobilities — there are hearts pierced with
anguish, and wrung with grief! In splendid palaces there are not a few
broken hearts to be found. To sit upon thrones may seem to be something very
fascinating; but, as the poet remarks, "Uneasy lies the head — which wears a
crown!" This is a truth which receives from every passing year, fresh
confirmation. Let us not then regard those who occupy the high places of the
earth, with feelings of envy. Instead of envying them — it befits us
rather to pity them and pray for them!
Reader, learn to distinguish between things that differ;
and be well assured that things as they appear outwardly, and as they
are really — do often differ, and that very substantially! Such
knowledge will tend, under the divine blessing, to make you more
contented with your present lot, notwithstanding its trials and
privations. It is not unusual — to be exposed to things which are grievous
and hard to be borne. This is not some strange thing that is happening to us
alone — but what is constantly happening to our brethren. Let us lay aside,
therefore, all murmurings and complainings, and ever remember that God's
arrangements are the wisest and the best!
14. The Savior's Commendation
"She has done what she could, and has
anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I assure you, wherever the Good
News is preached throughout the world, this woman's deed will be talked
about in her memory." Mark 14:8-9
Pious women are set forth in the word of God, in a
very pleasing light. Among those who were devoted to the Savior during His
sojourn upon earth, a prominent place is assigned to certain pious women.
Who was it that ministered to Him of their substance? Who was it that sat at
His feet, and received with eagerness, the gracious words which fell from
His lips? Who was it that washed His blessed feet with tears, and wiped them
with the hair of their head? Who was it that followed Him wherever he went,
through evil and good report? Who was it that attended Him in His dying
moments, when His disciples had forsaken Him and fled? Who was it that
showed such anxious concern about His precious bodily remains, after He had
bowed His head and given up the Spirit? These questions, to which only one
reply can be given, reflect no little credit upon the softer gender,
and the respect they paid to the Savior should lead us to give due honor to
them. Of woman it is said —
"She ne'er with traitorous kiss her Savior stung,
Nor thrice denied him with a lying tongue:
She, when apostles shrank, could danger brave,
Last at his cross — and earliest at His grave!"
Of the many striking testimonies contained in the gospel
narratives concerning women, that which is given of Mary in the words before
us, is not the least interesting or instructive. It was not much that she
could do — but she did what she could! She could not stem the
prejudices of the people; she could not silence the clamors of the priests;
she could not prevent the base treachery of Judas; she could not rescue her
Lord from the custody of the guards; she could not protect Him from the
cruelty of Herod; she could not save Him from the ignominy of the cross; she
could not pull out one thorn from the crown which pierced His sacred brow;
she could not remove nor lighten the load which sunk Him down to death. But
what she could do — she did; she anointed His head with her costly ointment,
and thus paid Him the highest tribute of her reverence and love.
We are to remember, that it is not the total amount
of what we do — which God looks at — but rather its proportionate or
relative amount. Solomon, for example, built a house for Him, which was the
wonder of the world. Such was his offering to that great and glorious Being,
whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain; an offering which casts that of
Mary, when viewed in its intrinsic value, completely into the shade. She,
again, with her precious ointment, very costly as it is called, far outdid
the poor widow, with her two mites, which made a penny. But in God's
great register — the three are set down at the same valuation!
Solomon did what he could; Mary did what she could; the widow
did what she could. To Him they were alike fragrant, and were equally
accepted by Him. O let us aspire after the honor of doing in connection with
the Savior's cause — what we can! The poorest among us — can do that! The
highest archangel that stands before the everlasting throne — can do no
"If the willingness is there," says the apostle,
"the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he
does not have." "O Lord, grant me that willing heart — a heart prepared to
serve You to the utmost extent of my ability, limited though it be. You do
not despise the day of small things — but have often employed the feeblest
means and the most insignificant instruments, for the accomplishment of Your
vast designs — that no flesh should glory in Your presence. Keep me from
being an unprofitable servant; and, remembering that You are not a hard
master, may I be stimulated and encouraged by the hope of hearing from Your
lips those gracious words — You have been faithful over a few things, I will
make you ruler over many things; enter into the joy of Your Lord!"
15. The Faithful Promiser
"For he is faithful, who promised." Hebrews 10:23
The faithfulness of God is a favorite theme with
the inspired writers. No attribute of the divine character, is more
prominently set forth or more devoutly celebrated. Of this the glowing
strains of the Royal Psalmist may be adduced as a specimen. "I will
sing," he says, "of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I
make known your faithfulness to all generations." "All heaven will
praise your miracles, Lord; myriads of angels will praise you for your
faithfulness." "O Lord God Almighty! Where is there anyone as mighty as
you, Lord? Faithfulness is your very character?" It was thus he
ascribed faithfulness unto God; and by harping again and again upon the same
string — he shows what sacred joy he realized in its contemplation.
Not merely are we furnished with general representations
of this interesting subject — but we have innumerable instances set before
us, which clearly confirm the above statements. In the history of the church
from the earliest ages, what striking monuments of the divine
There was Abraham, to whom God promised a child in
his old age. His faith was severely tested by the mighty obstacles which
stood in the way, and his patience also by the lengthened period which
intervened between the prediction and its fulfillment; but at length the
child of promise appeared.
Think of the Israelites in Egypt. They were long
there in a state of cruel bondage — but their deliverance at the appointed
time took place. And just so — with their possession of the promised land,
of which God had said that He would give it to them. That there was a
performance of all He had declared, the dying appeal of Joshua to the
assembled tribes most convincingly shows: "I am now going the way of all the
earth, and you know with all your heart and all your soul that none of the
good promises the Lord your God made to you has failed. Everything was
fulfilled for you; not one promise has failed."
Above all, there was the great crowning promise — that of
the coming of Christ. Prediction had been given after prediction, and
prophets, and kings, and righteous men looked and longed from age to age for
His appearing. But, although the promise tarried — yet it did not fail. In
the fullness of time — God sent forth His Son for the rescue of our lost and
The works of God speak the same language in
reference to this particular, as His revealed word. Day and night in
their orderly succession; the revolutions of all the stars and planets
moving with undeviating uniformity in their appointed courses through the
skies; the seasons as they come and go, following each other as they have
done, even from the beginning of the creation — all bear testimony to God's
faithfulness! Spring with its life and loveliness, the buds appearing
on the leafless branches, the peeping plants and the blooming flowers; and
summer and autumn with their teeming abundance, the valleys
covered with grain, the pastures with flocks, and the little hills rejoicing
on every side — in most impressive language do they proclaim this blessed
Rejoice, then, in the Lord, you righteous ones, and give
thanks at the remembrance of His faithfulness. Abundant grounds have you for
placing unbounded confidence in Him. What He has promised He is able to
perform, and He will do for you exceeding abundantly above all you can ask
or think. He may lay affliction upon you; as a wise as well as a
gracious Father, He may have to chastise you for your evil doings,
visiting your transgressions with the rod, and your iniquities with stripes.
But this is the sweet assurance he gives — "Nevertheless my loving-kindness
will I not utterly take from them, nor allow my faithfulness to fail."
16. Harmony Restored
"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:3.
There are three expressions employed by the inspired
writers concerning the Christian's walk, in reference to God.
Sometimes we read of walking after God, as
in the prophecies of Hosea. "They shall walk," it is said, "after the Lord."
This supposes God to be the leader of His people, and they follow
Him, even as the sheep follow their shepherd. It also implies that He is
their pattern, and that it is their duty to be imitators of Him,
according to the injunction of the apostle — "Be, therefore, followers of
God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us."
Again, we read of walking before God. He is
behind us to observe all our movements and watch all our ways. The command
given to Abraham was — "I am the Almighty God, walk before me, and be
perfect." And the Psalmist, after acknowledging the obligations he was under
to his great Benefactor for having delivered his soul from death, his eyes
from tears, and his feet from falling, made this resolution — "I will walk
before the Lord in the land of the living."
But we also read of walking with God; it
being said of one of the most eminent of the antediluvian saints — "And
Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." And Micah says —
"He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of
you — but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your
It is evident that walking together presupposes a state
of friendship. Where enmity exists between individuals, there is an
invincible barrier to everything like true fellowship. If people under the
influence of hostile feelings are compelled to meet, it will be with
reluctance; the hour that brings them into contact will be dreaded when
distant, and hated when it comes, and the moment that terminates their
meeting, will be hailed as the harbinger of delight. In such a case there
cannot of necessity be that warm and welcome fellowship which attends the
meeting of those whose minds are cemented by affection and esteem; there
will be the entire absence of that cordiality and confidence which a habit
of free and friendly communion implies.
Now this state of feeling between man and man, is a true
parallel to that which exists between man and God. All men in their
unregenerate condition are enemies to Him. There is in the human heart a
natural repugnance to God — a repugnance which justifies to the very letter
the strong language of the apostle — "For the carnal mind is enmity against
God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Now to
have communion with God while such enmity lasts, is altogether impossible.
It must be not merely lessened — but abolished and destroyed. Not partially
subdued — but uprooted and slain — before spiritual fellowship can be
It is a blessed truth, that we, however sad our state is
by nature, can be brought to enjoy the divine friendship and favor. The
adorable Redeemer has been set forth as a propitiation, and through faith in
His blood — God and man can once more become friends! There is no other way
of reconciliation, nor has there been any other since the period when the
fruit of the forbidden tree was plucked, which brought death and innumerable
woes into our world. It is by the exercise of simple faith in the one
Savior, and the one sacrifice which He offered — that our guilty persons can
be accepted, and our wicked hearts be renewed. Justified through His atoning
merits and washed in His precious blood, we shall have peace with God, and
be enabled to look up to Him as our Father and Friend.
O my soul, has your enmity been slain? Can you be
addressed as one with those to whom the apostle said — "And you who were
once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works — yet now has he
reconciled." O Lord, give me to feel that the quarrel has been made up; that
the old dispute has been forever settled; and may I walk henceforth in the
light of Your countenance, and rejoice in Your name all my days.
17. The Cheering Assurance
"God has said — Never will I leave you; never will I
forsake you." Hebrews 8:5
All the promises of God are faithful and true,
and have never been forfeited yet. They are called precious promises,
and while there are many particulars which render them such, their absolute
certainty is one of the chief.
"God has said" — He is not a man that He would
lie, or change His mind. He with whom saying and doing, promising and
performing — as far as sureness is concerned — are one and the same. Man,
weak, fickle, faithless man, may deceive us; but if we make the Great
Unchangeable our trust, disappointment is a thing altogether impossible.
But what has He said? "Never will I leave you; never will
I forsake you." The believer is thus assured that God will be with him at
all times, and under all circumstances, and that He will especially be with
him in every time of need. His presence shall go with him when he is called
to the performance of any arduous duties; it shall go with him when he has
to pass through the furnace of affliction; and, above all, it shall go with
him when he has to enter the dark valley, and bid a final adieu to all
things here below. "Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be
dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will
uphold you with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41:10
We might confidently conclude that God will be then with
the Christian, even had no express intimation been given us on the subject.
It is not likely that He who was with him during the whole of his voyage, to
preserve him from the winds and waves, the rocks and quicksands — will
forsake him when the vessel is entering the port. It is not likely that He
who shielded him during the heat of the battle — will desert him when the
victory is about to be won. It is not likely that He who was with him
through his wanderings in the desert, supplying all his needs, delivering
him from all his enemies, and directing him during the entire course of his
pilgrimage — will abandon him when he treads the verge of Jordan, and
beholds beyond its foaming billows the brightness and the beauty of the
promised land. The thing is not for a single moment, to be supposed! God's
love and compassion, as well as His faithfulness and truth, forbid the
entertainment of such a thought.
Reader, will you accompany us to the chamber where the
Christian awaits his death? It is a favored spot, being privileged beyond
the common walks of life. Draw aside that curtain, and you see a countenance
which, notwithstanding its paleness, is lighted up with joy and peace in
believing. His friends are weeping around him — but he is calm and composed.
And from whence does this arise? Is it from the softness of the couch on
which he languishes? Is it from the attentions and sympathies of surrounding
friends? Is it from a retrospective survey of his past life? Is it from
indulging a fond hope that health and strength may yet return? Not so! It
arises from the Divine presence! This is the secret of his happy frame of
mind — "For You are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
"Grant, O, Lord, Your gracious presence to me. May I feel
that You are near, in health and in sickness, in affluence and in poverty,
in life and in death. Having You, no one can pass my humble door and say —
There dwells a friendless person. Having You, I have all — a
sure defense, a constant guide, a never-failing portion. I shall then be
able to take down my harp from the willows, and sing in joyful strains —
"In your presence I am happy,
In your presence I'm secure;
In your presence all afflictions
I can easily endure:
In your presence, I can conquer,
I can suffer, I can die;
Far from you, I faint and languish
O my Savior, keep me nigh."
18. The Day of Trouble
"Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you,
and you shall glorify me." Psalm 50:15
We are told that the word of the Lord is tried;
and what is true of it as a whole, is especially true of this portion of it.
It has been tested in thousands of instances, and in all cases the result
has been alike satisfactory.
In the 107th Psalm, we are furnished with several
representations, which strikingly show how this promise has been fulfilled.
We have, first, an account of a company of desolate wilderness
wanderers, surrounded by a boundless expanse of burning sand. In the
course of their wanderings they lose their way, and they roam to and fro in
search of a place where they can encamp in safety. Their situation is most
deplorable; they are on the point of perishing, and on the verge of despair.
But there is one alternative left them, and of that they wisely availed
themselves; it is that of calling upon Him who has promised to be a very
present help in time of need; and they did not call in vain. "Some wandered
in the desert, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died.
'Lord, help!' they cried in their trouble, and He rescued them from their
distress. He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live."
The second instance is that of a number of poor
captives, who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and are
bound with fetters of iron. In a condition so helpless, what can they do?
Even they can lift up their cries to Him, who hears the groanings of the
prisoners, and who executes judgment for the oppressed. This they did; they
cried to God for help, and that help was not withheld. "Lord, help! they
cried in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He led them
from the darkness and deepest gloom; He snapped their chains."
We have a third instance in the case of certain
afflicted ones, who were brought so low that they abhorred all
manner of food, and were near to the gates of death. They also do what the
others did, and the result is still the same. "Lord, help! they cried in
their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He spoke, and they
were healed — snatched from the door of death!"
And, finally, we have the poor mariners,
when overtaken by a terrific storm. "Some went off in ships, plying the
trade routes of the world. They, too, observed the Lord's power in action,
His impressive works on the deepest seas. He spoke, and the winds rose,
stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and sank again
to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like
drunkards and were at their wits' end. 'Lord, help!' they cried in their
trouble, and He saved them from their distress! He calmed the storm to a
whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as He
brought them safely into harbor!"
We have thus, successive witnesses adduced for the
purpose of showing that the saying before us, is "a faithful saying." "Call
upon me in the day of trouble," is the command; "I will deliver you," is the
subjoined promise. But has it been according to His word? Yes — is the
instant and unfaltering reply of these various classes. "He delivered us,
when we called upon Him!" is the language of the wanderers in the wilderness
desert. "He delivered us also!" say the poor captives, liberated from their
dismal dungeons. And the afflicted ones, raised from the borders of the
grave, and the sinking mariners, rescued from the yawning billows, add
likewise that He heard their cry, and came to their timely deliverance!
And with Him whom they sought, there is no variableness,
nor shadow of turning. He is still the same — with His ear as ready to hear,
and His arm as powerful to deliver! Not merely was He formerly — but He is
still near to all who call upon Him in truth. Reader, invoke His aid; cry
unto Him, even from the lowest depths in which you may be plunged; and be
fully assured that God's children never seek Him in vain.
19. Light out of Darkness
"All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, to all
those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees." Psalm 25:10.
Many of the Lord's dispensations are deeply mysterious.
His way is often in the sea, and His path in the great waters, and His
footsteps are not known. Though "clouds and thick darkness
surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne."
He does all things well — a consideration which should make us fully
satisfied with His arrangements, however mysterious and troubling
they may now appear. If we only wait patiently for Him, He will, in His
own good time, bring us to see that they all work together for the present
and everlasting well-being of His people.
How wonderful were the divine dealings as they are set
forth in the history of Joseph. He was hated by his brethren; he was
sold to mercenary men; he was taken to a distant and friendless land; he was
calumniated by a shameless and chasteless woman; and at length he was
incarcerated in a gloomy dungeon. What must his feelings have been, during
his long confinement in prison? How often would he be likely to ask, "Why
were my brothers permitted to sell me to strangers, and thereby pierce with
anguish my father's heart, and expel me from my fondly cherished home? Why
was that vile woman permitted to rob me of my character, by her slanderous
accusations? Why was the butler, whose dream I so readily solved, unmindful
to redeem his promise?"
Many questions of this kind, we can easily suppose, would
be likely to start up in his mind. How strange, how dark —
would the ways of God appear to be! We have every reason to believe that he
submitted without murmuring, to all that he had to endure; but, undoubtedly,
he knew not what to make of it; nor would we have known — had we been in his
situation. Let, however, a few years revolve, and the clouds are
dispersed, and the mystery is made known. Look at him as the governor
in the whole land — as the monarch's distinguished favorite — as the
appointed almoner of God's bounty to perishing thousands — and, especially,
as the preserver and support of his aged and revered parent, who had
received him as life from the dead. When Joseph is thus viewed — all
the divine purposes are unfolded and made plain!
The language of Jacob was — "You have deprived me of my
children! Joseph has disappeared, Simeon is gone, and now you want to take
Benjamin, too. All these things are against me!" O mistaken saint! instead
of being against you — they are all, from first to last, for
you! And, old as you are, you shall live to see that such is the case!
See Jacob settled in the land of Goshen, living in the
enjoyment of peace and plenty, his last days being by far the happiest of
his whole life. And if there was anything to mar his enjoyment — t would be
the recollection, not of the troubles through which he had passed — but the
hard thoughts he may have entertained of that gracious Being who had
overruled them all, for bringing about so blissful a consummation.
And what effect, O timid and troubled Christian, should
the consideration of these things produce upon you? Should not fear be
banished from your mind? Should not patience and submission be
exercised? Should not a feeling of simple, child-like confidence be
nourished? Should not a lively hope be indulged? O never yield to
despondency, even under the most gloomy circumstances! Continue to trust in
Him — who can bring light out of darkness, and who has declared that what we
don't now now — we shall know hereafter.
20. The Heavenly Race
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but
only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1
In running the race which is set before us, it is not
sufficient for us to make a good start; unless we hold on, in spite of every
hindrance — all will be in vain. Who are they, who will be saved? None but
such as endure unto the end. Who are to receive the crown of life?
None but those who are faithful unto death. Who will attain the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? Only those who are pressing
onward toward the mark, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching
forth, with quenchless ardor, unto the things which are ahead!
It is, alas! no uncommon thing for people to run well for
a time — and then to turn back to the beggarly elements of this world. Such
there were formerly, and such there are still. "From that time many of his
disciples went back, and walked no more with him." "All those who are in
Asia," says the apostle, "have deserted me." It appears that he had a high
opinion of Demas at one period, for in the close of his epistle to
the Colossians, he is ranked among the saints; and we find Demas sending his
greetings to the distant brethren in the Lord. But before long, Paul had
occasion to change his note, and with deep emotion, he says, "Demas has
forsaken me — having loved the present world!"
The resolution of Peter, was, in itself, an admirable one
— "Though all should forsake you — yet I never will!" Reader, make the same
resolve — but not in the same spirit. Let it be your firm determination, in
reliance upon Him who gives power to the faint, and to those who have no
might increases strength — to cleave to Christ with full purpose of heart.
Every encouragement have we to do so. That grace, which is all-sufficient,
is promised; and having your heart established therewith, you have nothing
to fear. Looking unto Jesus, trusting in Him, and strengthened by Him — you
shall reach the goal in safety!
Where are now the mighty cloud of witnesses? Where are
the patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles? Where are those heroic spirits,
"who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained
promises, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,
waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens?"
Where are those faithful martyrs, "who had trial of cruel mockings and
scourgings, yes, moreover of bonds and imprisonments, who were stoned, who
were sawn asunder, who wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being
destitute, afflicted, tormented"? Where are they now? They are before the
Throne, with, crowns upon their heads, and waving palms in their hands,
ascribing salvation to God and the Lamb! O think of that blessed band! Let
the thought that they were sustained by God in the midst of all their
struggles, and that their faith and patience have issued in so large a
reward — impart both encouragement and stimulus to you — to hold fast the
beginning of your confidence, steadfast unto the end!
21. The Heart Established
"For it is a good thing that the heart is established
with grace." Hebrews 13:9
The benefits which flow from the possession of grace, are
numerous and exceedingly important. It is only as our hearts are established
with grace — that we shall be preserved from departing from the living God;
that we shall successfully resist the temptations of our spiritual
adversaries; and, especially, that we shall be able to exercise a spirit of
unmurmuring submission under the afflictive dispensations of divine
providence. The inquiry of the prophet is — "Why does a living man complain,
a man for the punishment of his sins?" To complain, however, under what is
trying and painful — is what human nature always did, and is, doubtless,
what it ever will do. How is it with nature, under crosses? It is like a
goaded and wounded animal — it skulks, and groans, and growls. But how is it
with grace? She kisses the hand that is uplifted; the stroke she meekly and
uncomplainingly receives, and says with him of old — "It is the Lord; let
him do what seems good unto Him." The language of nature is — "This evil is
from the Lord; why should I wait for him any longer?" But what is the
language of grace? It is — "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and
shall we not receive evil?" The evil referred to, being not moral —
but penal evil. The language of nature is that of Job's wife — "Curse
God, and die!" But what is the language of grace? It is that of the
afflicted patriarch himself, when, with uplifted hands and eyes, he
exclaimed, "Though he slays me — yet will I trust in him!"
It is quite certain, that there can be no murmuring when
grace is in lively operation. If it cannot do as Job did, saying,
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the
Lord;" it will do as Aaron did, of whom it is said, that "he held his
peace." It will silently submit — if it cannot bless and
But we cannot do better than point to the Great Head,
as an example of patience and suffering affliction. Never were there sorrows
like unto His. But if His sufferings were great, He was full of grace, and
it was not by measure, that the Spirit, in His diversified gifts and graces,
was given to Him. And how did that great grace operate under the extremity
of grief which He bore in our stead? It was in a spirit of entire
resignation to the divine will. Had He to endure the opposition of His
enemies, and the fickleness of His friends? Had He to endure the malice of
hell, and, especially, the dread indignation of heaven? But, in the midst of
all, there was no murmuring. "When they hurled their insults at Him — He did
not retaliate; when He suffered — He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted
Himself to Him who judges justly."
Christian, are you for bearing your sufferings — as the
Savior bore His? If you are, seek that grace which, not only was strikingly
exemplified by Him — but which also dwells in unbounded plenitude in Him. It
has pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; and happy are
those who can say, "Of his fullness have we received, and grace for grace."
At an examination of the deaf and dumb, in one of those
excellent institutions, where such of our afflicted fellow-creatures are
taught, the following incident is recorded as having taken place. To one of
the children, a gentleman present put the question, Who created the world?
The little creature wrote in reply on his slate, "In the beginning God
created the heaven and the earth." Who redeemed mankind? was the next
question; and no sooner was it asked, than the answer was given — "For God
so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in him should not perish — but have everlasting life." And who was
it, was the third question, who made you deaf and dumb? At this unexpected
inquiry, the little one was deeply affected, and burst into a flood of
tears; but, after having in a measure recovered himself, he wrote with a
trembling hand, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight." Dear
boy! he had learned an important lesson — and well would it be for you,
reader, to learn the same; so that under every affliction and distress,
whether in mind, body, or estate, your language might be, "Even so, Father,
for so it seemed good in your sight." Possessing such a spirit, you will
derive from the most painful dispensations, those peaceable fruits which
they were intended to produce — and God will be glorified thereby!
22. Rejoicing in God
"They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of your
countenance; in your name shall they rejoice all the day; and in your
righteousness shall they be exalted." Psalm 89:15, 16.
The happiness of the believer, consists in the enjoyment
of God's approbation. In His favor is life — and in His frown
is death. The one is realized in full perfection by the saints in heaven;
the other in, perhaps, equal perfection by the lost in hell. The one are
rejoicing under His smiles, and the other are withering under His frowns;
and it is in this that their respective happiness and misery emphatically
consist. But God is now angry with the wicked every day, and He is also
pleased with His people, over whom He rejoices with joy, even as a
bridegroom rejoices over his bride. Thus, while the smiles of God constitute
the happiness of heaven, the believer, while walking in the light of His
countenance, has his heaven begun below. His joy is of the same nature, and
emanates from the same source, as that of the perfected spirits above.
Should we not be anxious, therefore, to partake of the Christian's joy?
"Many are asking — 'Who can show us any good?' Let the light of your face
shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when
their grain and new wine abound."
Glad, indeed, may be he who is blessed with such a
blessing. How reasonable is it that he should rejoice in the divine name —
who possesses the divine favor. His outward circumstances may be anything
but prosperous; he may meet with numerous reverses, and be exposed to the
greatest distress. But what says the prophet? "Even though the fig trees
have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive
crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die
in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the
Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!"
It is a common prejudice against true religion, that it
is associated with gloom and sadness, and that its requirements are
incompatible with happiness. Those who entertain such a view allow that it
leads to heaven hereafter — but they regard it as being little better than
penance here. They admit that it conducts its possessors to the
realms of bliss — but it is by a way, they imagine, as gloomy as the shadow
of death. Some pious people, by their austere spirit and mournful aspect,
have, doubtless, helped to foster such an impression; but it is evident that
the tendency of true religion is to make its subjects at once, both holy
and happy. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are
And what a ground for rejoicing is furnished by the
statement — "In your righteousness shall they be exalted." This is the best
robe in which returning prodigals are clad; it is the wedding garment which
qualifies the believer for sitting down at the marriage supper of the Lamb;
it is the fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints.
Clothed in this pure and spotless dress, we shall be highly exalted —
exalted from a state of alienation — to be friends, yes, heirs of God and
joint-heirs with Christ — exalted from the tribulations and frailties of
time — to the thrones and palaces of eternity. Such is the blessedness
realized by, and such the glorious destiny in reserve for, all who know the
joyful sound. O my soul, do you know it? Has the gospel come to you, not in
word only — but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much
assurance? If so, you may well rejoice, even with exceeding joy!
23. The Sure Hope
"And has given us everlasting consolation and good hope
through grace." 2 Thessalonians 2:16
The Christian's hope well deserves the appellation given
to it here. It rests upon a good foundation, being built, not on the
shifting sand — but on the rock of ages! O blessed hope! a hope that is sure
and steadfast. It cannot be overthrown by all the malice of men, or all the
rage of devils. The tempests of time cannot destroy it, neither can
the waters of death quench it. It defies the war of elements,
triumphs amid the wreck of matter, and smiles at the crash of worlds! Its
most glorious anticipations will be realized on that great day, when the
hope of the wicked will be extinguished in the blackness of darkness
"And hope," says the apostle, "makes not ashamed;" but it
is only to this good hope that the words will apply. Those who possess it
will not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. Men may raise
expectations which will never be accomplished; but "God is not a man that he
should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent." How decisive are the
declarations of His word as to the absolute certainty of those things which
He has promised to His people. "In hope of eternal life, which God, who
cannot lie, promised before the world began." "Wherein God, willing more
abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His
counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it
was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have
fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." Having such
assurances, our language may well be, "It is enough!" How clearly do they
show that the expectation of the righteous shall not be cut off, and that
his hope will never be as the giving up of the Spirit.
Reader, it befits you to look well to the nature and
grounds of your hope. For it to disappoint you at last, will be sad indeed.
We ask then —
"What is your hope? Will it stand the test
Of nature's expiring hour?
Like armor of proof, will it shield your breast,
Against the grim tyrant's power?
Will it gladden your soul, and dispel the gloom,
The horrors of darkness which veil the tomb,
When the damps of death to your brow shall start,
And the life-blood ebbs from your freezing heart?
Away with it else! — it is worse than vain
To cherish a hope that will fail you then!
But you hope in Christ! to a dying hour
This hope sweet assurance brings,
When worldly preferments, and wealth, and power,
Shall all be forgotten things.
Yes, you hope in Christ, though a feeble worm,
And your soul shall be safe, and your confidence firm;
You shall traverse in triumph the gloomy abyss,
Which divides the eternal world from this;
And consigning in hope your frail flesh to the sod,
Your soul shall ascend to your Savior and God!"
24. Trusting in Christ
"That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first
trusted in Christ." Ephesians 1:12
Trusting in Christ is, in the most emphatic sense, one of
"the things which accompany salvation." All who are strangers to it have no
part or lot in those spiritual blessings which are in Him. How important is
it, then, that we should have proper views of its nature; for to err in
reference to such a subject cannot fail to affect our eternal safety.
Our trust in Christ, in order to be availing, must be
exclusive. Of this many appear to be ignorant, or unmindful, for
they think it necessary to mix up some supposed worthiness of their
own with His finished work. But this will never do. Like the feet in
Nebuchadnezzar's image, partly of iron and partly of clay — such diverse
ingredients, possessing no property of coherence, cannot possibly stand. No,
the word has gone forth and shall not return; the counsels of eternity have
settled it, and every page of the inspired volume in the most explicit
manner declares it — that "no one can lay any other foundation than the one
we already have — Jesus Christ."
Let us see to it, then, as we value our soul's salvation,
that Christ is our only trust. Merits of our own we have none. Of
this the true believer is fully conscious, and hence his language is —
"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to your cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Guilty, to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die!
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill your law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
You must save, and you alone!"
In the next place, our trust in Christ must be
implicit. This feature may be illustrated by a familiar comparison.
A physician is sent for, to visit a sick person, and after examining the
case, he writes out a prescription. The patient, however, tells him that he
will not take a single spoonful of the medicine unless he is informed of
what it is composed, how the various ingredients are likely to act, and what
effects they are intended to produce. If the explanations are satisfactory,
and the course to be pursued meets his approbation, he promises to follow
the advice given. The physician informs him that he is not accustomed to do
anything of the kind, and that no reasonable man would expect it from him.
"I always take it for granted," he says, "that I know what to prescribe for
my patients better than they do themselves; and if you have no confidence in
me, the sooner my visits are discontinued the better." Now such language
commends itself at once as just and appropriate; for every person possessed
of the least grain of common sense must acknowledge that to place implicit
trust in his medical adviser, is one of the first duties which a patient
owes to him. And that earthly physician's claim is demanded by Christ, the
great Physician of souls. He requires of us to trust Him — to trust His
skill, His wisdom, His power, His tenderness, His fidelity — and that with a
full and unquestioning acquiescence. And what ample grounds have we for
We would further observe that our trust in Him should be
continuous. An unspeakable importance belongs to what the
apostle calls, "the beginning of our confidence;" but such an act must be
again and again repeated. The Christian's life is throughout a life of
faith; by whatever his pathway may be distinguished, this is one of its most
prominent features. And as trust is either an essential element of faith, or
its inseparable adjunct, it follows that it is to be exercised during the
believer's whole career. Through life and in death his language should be,
"Into your hands I commit my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of
Happy is the man who thus trusts in Him; he will not be
ashamed nor confounded, world without end. Reader, may His happiness be
yours; and rest not until you can say, "I know whom I have trusted, and am
persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him
against that day."
25. The Needful Duty
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith;
test yourselves." 2 Corinthians 13:5
We are frequently called upon to look backward —
to look to the rock from whence we were hewn, and the whole of the pit from
whence we were dug; and such a retrospect will be likely to fill us with
deep humility on the one hand, and with, fervent gratitude on
At other times we are exhorted to look forward;
and in proportion as we are under the influence of that faith which is the
substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen — we
shall undoubtedly do so; it being the special province of that divine
principle, not merely to make hidden objects visible — but to bring
distant objects near.
We are likewise often directed to look upward.
Owing to our proneness to cleave to the dust, and earthly things, the voice
from heaven proclaims in our ears, "If you then are risen with Christ — seek
those things which are above."
But in the words before us we are commanded to look
inward; it is an exhortation which calls upon us to turn our attention
from all outward objects, in order to cultivate a closer acquaintance with
In enforcing this duty two expressions are employed. The
first is, "Examine yourselves;" let a diligent and impartial search be made
into your spiritual state and character. But it is added, "test yourselves;"
in allusion, probably, to the manner in which metals are tested for the
purpose of ascertaining whether they are pure or alloyed. We, in like
manner, should bring our motives, principles, tempers, language, and actions
— to the test, that we may find out whether they are false or true,
counterfeit or genuine.
The test by which we are to prove ourselves is the word
of God. This is one of the special purposes to which the scriptures should
be applied. They have many other uses, all of which are of the most
important kind. An excellent — but somewhat eccentric minister observed on
one occasion in the application of his discourse, that his subject might be
improved in four different ways. First, as a whetstone; secondly, as
a loadstone; thirdly, as a milestone; and fourthly, as a
touchstone. And what he thus quaintly said of the special topic on which
he had been insisting, can be applied to divine truth at large. It is a
whetstone, sharpening our dullness, and giving a keener edge to all our
feelings and exercises. It is a loadstone, drawing us from our
distance from God, and attracting our desires and affections from the
objects of time and sense — to heaven and heavenly things. It is a
milestone, not merely pointing out the way of life — but telling us of
the progress we have made in our journey; whether we are advancing towards
the shining city, or whether we are going backward, or standing still. And
it is especially a touchstone, evincing what we really are; whether
our coin is of celestial currency, or whether it can be said of us,
"Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord has rejected them."
Reader, dread above all things — the thought of
self-deception. How dreadful it would be — for you to imagine that
you are justified before God — and yet to remain under the condemning
sentence of His righteous law! To take it for granted that you are renewed
by the washing of regeneration — and yet to have no part or lot in the
matter, being still in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity! To
suppose that you are traveling to heaven — and yet to be approaching,
day after day, nearer and nearer to hell! May God, in His infinite
mercy, preserve you from such a state!
26. The Arduous Struggle
"Conflicts on the outside, fears within." 2 Corinthians
Says Peter, "if the righteous is saved with difficulty."
The words clearly show that the Christian's pathway is beset with
difficulties; and that it is not that easy work, which many seem to imagine,
to get to heaven. How startling is the announcement — "For our struggle is
not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the
authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual
forces of evil in the heavenly realms!" Christian! all the armed legions of
hell are against you! And if, with all their combined energies, they can
keep you out of heaven — out of heaven you will assuredly be! No diligence
will be lacking on their part to draw you astray, and prevent you from ever
reaching that blessed abode. And were you properly to realize the solemn
fact that such mighty and malicious foes surround you, and that their
sleepless aim and object is to effect your destruction — it would be
impossible for you to be lukewarm or unconcerned! "Be careful! Watch out for
attacks from the devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a
roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!"
And then there is the flesh, with its deceitful
lusts, which war against the soul. There is the world also, with its
pomps and pleasures, its smiles and frowns! The world in various ways
endeavors to win our affections; or by its cares to engross our thoughts.
And saved we cannot be — unless we overcome the world, unless we crucify the
flesh, and unless we resist and defeat the devil.
It is said in the book of Revelation, "And there appeared
a great wonder in heaven." There will, doubtless, be innumerable wonders
there. "I believe," says one, "that heaven will be a place of eternal
surprise." We may be quite certain that it contains countless objects which
cannot fail to excite such a feeling. But, whatever its wonders may be — to
see a sinner there will be, perhaps, the greatest of all. If we only
think of the many storms he has to weather, the determined enemies he has to
subdue, the many formidable oppositions and difficulties which he has to
encounter; and he, in himself, weaker than the bruised reed, which the
feeblest breath might destroy: it will truly be a marvelous thing to see
such a one —
"Safely landed on that peaceful shore,
Where pilgrims meet to part no more."
When the spirit of righteous Abel was admitted through
the everlasting gates, it might with truth have been said, "There appeared a
great wonder in heaven." And in reference to all who followed him — followed
him in the conflict here, and in the triumphant entrance there — the same
words could be repeated. God grant that you, reader, may appear as an object
of eternal wonder in that blessed world! But that cannot be unless you are
made a monument of His wondrous grace on earth, being brought out of
darkness into the marvelous light of the gospel. You will then be even now,
as was the Psalmist, "a wonder unto many;" and especially will you be a
wonder unto yourself! If you have any grounds to believe that such is the
case, it is your reasonable service to magnify His adorable name, who is
"glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders." All His works,
which are great and marvelous, praise Him; but His saints, with all their
powers of heart and tongue, should bless Him. Then,
"Give to our God immortal praise;
Mercy and truth are all his ways:
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat his mercies in your song!"
27. Gracious Dealings
"I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that
you have afflicted me in faithfulness." Psalm 119:75
The character of the Divine Being as "excellent in
counsel, and wonderful in working," has been strikingly exemplified in His
dealings with many of His suffering saints. Of this we have a memorable
instance in the case of the patriarch Job. Great indeed were his
trials, and the previous state of prosperity which he enjoyed, rendered them
exceedingly difficult to be borne. And they all came upon him suddenly!
He was cast down in a single day from the summit of prosperity — to the
lowest depths of poverty and distress. His property was destroyed;
his children perished in the hour of carnal festivity; his body
was covered with a loathsome disease, which led his own friends to
loathe and despise him. Some of his former companions went to comfort him;
but, misunderstanding his case, they became his tormentors. His wife also,
who, it might be supposed, as the only one left of his family, would afford
him some comfort; but she advised him to curse God and die. The favor of all
around him he had once enjoyed; nobles and princes maintained the most
respectful silence in his presence; when he passed along the streets the old
and young stood up to testify their esteem; when the ear heard and the eye
saw him, they blessed him. But now contempt is poured upon him from every
quarter; the vilest people scorn him; they make him their song and by-word,
and even spit upon him as he passes by! His friends and kinsfolk forget him,
and his very servants no longer answer to his call. But, above all, the hand
of God was upon him; His power was crushing him, and His ears seemed closed
to all his cries. Such was the state to which he was reduced,
notwithstanding his preeminent piety; for he is called perfect and upright,
one who feared God and eschewed evil.
"You have heard," says James, "of Job's perseverance and
have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of
compassion and mercy." In the season of his calamity he might have asked,
and not without apparent reason, "Will the Lord cast off forever? and will
he be favorable no more?" But to whatever doubts he may have given way, "the
end of the Lord" showed that he was not forsaken, however sorely he was
chastised. All that he passed through, worked together for his good, and
issued in a state of prosperity greater than that with which he was at first
favored; for "the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him
twice as much as before!"
Christian, cherish high thoughts of God in all His
dealings towards you. Should your trials be great, still hold fast your
confidence, and yield not to a complaining or desponding spirit. Remember
that it is for the profit of His people, that God afflicts them; and,
however hard to be borne at the time, they have been brought to see at
length that they had cause to reckon their severest sorrows as the chief of
their mercies. They were thereby weaned from the world; their affections
were more ardently fixed upon heavenly things; their souls were purified,
even as gold in the fire; the preciousness of Christ was realized as it had
never been before; and they were led to live, not merely nearer to Him — but
more entirely upon Him, and also much more for Him! May our afflictions
produce such happy results; we shall then have abundant reason to bless God
for His chastising hand.
28. Growth in Grace
"May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely." 1
Sanctification differs from justification in many
respects, especially in its progressive character. We are as fully
justified the first moment we believe in Christ as we shall ever be;
such is the perfection of the act of justification, that it will not receive
any addition — even in heaven.
But with sanctification it is far otherwise. It
has, it is true, a completeness of parts, for in all its subjects every
fruit of the Spirit is found, and a principle of resistance to every evil is
implanted. Still the work, even in the holiest saint in the present life, is
defective. He has to mourn continually over the remains of indwelling
corruption, and at times he exclaims in bitter anguish, "O wretched man that
I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
It is, therefore, a blessed thing for this sanctifying
process to be carried on, and for all the powers of the mind to be brought
more and more under its influence. Hence our daily prayer should be that the
Lord would increase our faith, our love, our humility, our patience, and
make us abound in all those fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus
Christ, to the divine praise and glory.
Strange to say, some have denied the progressiveness
of this important work. "We are told by certain people," says Mr. Jay,
"that there is no such thing as growth in grace. As if Christians could not
be more wise, more humble, more patient, more zealous — than they are. As if
Paul's commendation of the Thessalonians was a falsehood, when he told them
that their faith grew exceedingly, and the charity of everyone of
them towards each other abounded. As if Peter enjoined an absurdity,
when he admonished believers to grow in grace, and in the knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As if God himself mocked or trifled,
when he said, 'The righteous shall hold on his way, and he who has clean
hands shall wax stronger and stronger.'" Let us, however, not merely
believe the doctrine of progressive sanctification — but be anxious to
realize it in our own experience. We shall thus be enabled practically to
refute such an unscriptural notion.
O Lord; if the good work is commenced in my soul — carry
it on by the effectual working of Your blessed Spirit. Deliver me from the
power and practice of every sin — and incline my heart more and more unto
Your testimonies. Enlighten my understanding; rectify my motives;
elevate my desires; spiritualize my affections; and thus
prepare me for that holy state where nothing which defiles can enter, and
where all the pure in heart dwell forever in Your immediate presence.
29. Christian Consistency
"Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of
Christ." Philippians 1:27
"By their fruits," says the Savior, "you shall know
them." It is not by our profession, however blazing, nor by our
zeal, however ardent, that we can evidence whose we are and whom we
serve; but rather by abounding in whatever things are lovely and of good
report. It is by an exhibition of the practical fruits of righteousness,
that we are to "let our light shine before men, so that they may see our
good works and give glory to our Father in heaven!" Matthew 5:16
There are many things connected with the Christian's
pathway which worldlings cannot comprehend. Of the high and hidden walks of
spiritual experience they know nothing. What is said of the workings of the
divine life in the soul, is regarded by them as foolishness and fanaticism.
Its internal principles, its constraining motives and impulses, its heavenly
aspirations, its rapturous bliss and agonizing struggles — are things with
which these strangers cannot comprehend. But still there is much that they
are able to understand. Whatever is consistent in character; whatever is
honest and straightforward between man and man; whatever is kind and
compassionate in behavior; whatever is forbearing and forgiving under
insults and injuries; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing —
but contrariwise, blessing. Such features, when unostentatiously exhibited,
excite their attention, and, generally, call forth their praise. The manner
in which the ordinary duties of life are discharged, is something so
tangible that it lies within the province of their own observation. These
things they can understand; and it is of the highest importance that all who
make a profession of religion, should be distinguished by such practical
qualities as these.
What if a small band of Christians were placed in some
locality, by whom the principles of the gospel were fully carried out; what
a powerful effect, we may suppose, would their simple presence produce! Let
them be connected with those around them by the ordinary engagements of life
— but without employing any direct means to promulgate their Christian
views. There they are — "blameless and pure, children of God without fault
in a crooked and depraved generation." Their hearts are filled, not merely
with love to God — but with sincere and ardent affection for all by whom
they are surrounded, whose welfare they seek to promote in every possible
way. All the evil propensities of their nature are subdued; selfishness,
pride, resentment, censoriousness, have no place among them; and their
entire spirit and deportment are influenced and controlled by those noble,
and generous, and god-like sentiments and feelings which Christianity
inculcates and inspires. The holy religion they profess, would appear in its
true character and beneficent tendency, and men would be constrained by the
good works which they beheld, to glorify God.
It was a favorite prayer of the excellent Mr. Berridge,
that he might be conducted "safely and honorably through the world." Reader,
let such be your daily petition and request. Be willing to endure any
privations rather than dishonor that blessed name by which you are called,
and thus give occasion to the enemy to blaspheme. And may the Lord
strengthen you with all might, according to His glorious power — "that you
may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing
fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God!"
30. The Glorious Appearing
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a
Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him
to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so
that they will be like his glorious body!" Philippians 3:20-21
in Scripture, the people of God are frequently
represented as looking for the Savior's appearance. And when we think of the
joys and honors which they will then realize — the wonder is that they do
not long for that blessed hope with a far more intense and ardent longing!
How transporting will be their bliss when, at the voice of the archangel and
the trumpet of God — they shall meet their Lord in the air, to welcome Him
as He descends with the streaming myriads of angels, who swell the triumph
of His train! While all the unbelievers on earth shall mourn, and smite
their breasts — they will be enabled to rejoice with joy unspeakable and
full of glory.
It is true that the Redeemer has promised to appear to
His people on earth — and often have they gone forth to meet Him in the
chambers of His ordinances. They have met Him in His house; and while
feasting there upon His grace, their griefs have been forgotten, and their
strength has been renewed. They have met Him at His table, while, at the
breaking of the bread, He has manifested Himself to them — as He does not
unto the world. They have met Him at His footstool, and He has sweetly
communed with them from the mercy seat. But in the great day it will be
said, in another and far higher sense, "Behold the Bridegroom comes! Go
forth to meet Him!" It will be to meet Him, not in the means of grace — but
on the throne of His glory! To meet Him, not for a transient visit — but to
dwell forever in His immediate presence, to gaze upon His matchless
beauties, and to join with saints and angels in chanting His endless praise!
Christian, will your love to Christ, stand this
test? Are you looking and longing for His return? Are you often asking, "Why
is His chariot so long in coming?" O should such an event, so glorious in
its nature, so blissful in its results, be unlonged for? Shall He be an
unwelcome intruder when He comes? Such He will be — to the world of the
ungodly — the language of whose hearts is now, "Delay Your coming; stop Your
chariot wheels; we do not need You, for other matters occupy our thoughts,
and engross our affections" But if such will not bid Him welcome when He
comes, far otherwise ought it to be with us, who profess to be His followers
and friends. Should not our whole lives be spent in anticipation of that
great event! Should not our daily, hourly cry be, "Come, Lord Jesus, come
31. The Blissful Consummation
"Receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of
your souls." 1 Peter 1:9
Many blessings are now possessed by the Christian; but
salvation, in its full realization, is yet future. It embraces the
whole of what God has in reserve for His people through eternity! Does
heaven include the enjoyment of those pleasures, which no sin can
ever pollute, which no sorrow can ever becloud, which no time
can ever impair, which no change can ever affect, which no
calamity can ever destroy? Does it include whatever the infinite love
of God can prepare, whatever the infinite wisdom of God can
devise, and whatever the infinite power of God can secure? Whatever
it includes, is embodied in this expression. If only the salvation of our
souls be secured — all the blessings of grace are ours here — and all
the ineffable treasures of glory will be our heritage hereafter!
An aged saint was once asked by a Christian friend, "What
are you now doing?" "Waiting, sir," was his reply. "And for what are you
waiting?" "For the appearing of my Lord." "And what makes you long for His
appearing?" "O, sir," did he say, his languid eyes brightening as he uttered
the words, "I expect great things then!" Well might he have said so, and
well may every true believer adopt the same language. He does expect, and he
has ample grounds for expecting "great things then!"
In the full and final salvation of our souls — all those
great things are embraced. It is nothing less than complete deliverance from
the bondage of corruption; entire emancipation from the power of every foe;
the body of sin and death forever left behind; the good work, begun in the
day of conviction, fully finished; every grace, however defective at
present, grown to perfect maturity; all this, and unspeakably more, is
involved in that end of his faith, for which the child of God is encouraged
to look forward.
"Better," says the wise man, "is the end of a
thing than the beginning." To the commencement and subsequent
progress of the Christian's faith, no small importance appertains;
but the end of his faith will be the best of all. Welcome shame and
sorrow, if such an end shall at length be ours! The ungodly world may
despise us; even our nearest friends may forsake us; yet we can well afford
to bear their opposition without a single murmur, if we are only permitted
to cherish the hope — that our course will eventually terminate in so
blissful a consummation!