The Christian's Pathway
John MacDuff, 1858
Let your light shine!
"Let your light shine before men, so that they may
see your good works and give glory to your Father
in heaven." Matthew 5:16
There are many things connected with the Christian's
pathway—which worldlings cannot comprehend. They
know nothing of the high and hidden walks of spiritual
experience. What is said of the workings of the divine
life in the soul—is regarded by them as foolishness
Its internal principles,
its constraining motives and impulses,
its heavenly aspirations,
its rapturous bliss, and
its agonizing struggles—are things which
these strangers cannot comprehend!
But still, there is much which they are able to
understand—such as . . .
whatever is consistent in character;
whatever is honest and straightforward between men;
whatever is kind and compassionate in behavior;
whatever is forbearing and forgiving under insults
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 profess to
be Christians, should be distinguished by an exhibition of
these practical fruits of righteousness.
What if a small band of Christians were placed in some
locality, by whom the principles of the gospel were fully
lived 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. Selfishness, pride, resentment,
censoriousness—have no place among them. 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.
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!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I am with you always
"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." Is. 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 waste
of this desert world. The Divine presence . . .
dissipates the thickest darkness,
soothes the anguish of the keenest affliction, and
lightens the heaviest load of poverty and distress.
Reader, be anxious to possess an abiding consciousness
of the great truth—that the eye of God is ever upon you!
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 not be moved.
"Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to
the end of the age." Matthew 28:20
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
All this, and unspeakably more!
"Receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of
your souls." 1 Peter 1:9
The full and final salvation of our souls, embraces
the whole of what God has in reserve for His people
through eternity! It includes 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!
The full and final salvation of our souls, includes . . .
whatever the infinite wisdom of God can devise;
whatever the infinite love of God can prepare;
whatever the infinite power of God can secure;
complete deliverance from the bondage of corruption;
entire emancipation from the power of every foe;
the body of sin and death forever left behind;
every grace, grown to perfect maturity;
all the ineffable treasures of eternal glory;
all this, and unspeakably more!
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
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We shall be sure to find something to annoy us!
"But godliness with contentment is great gain."
1 Timothy 6:6
The believer is frequently exhorted to cultivate
contentment, 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. But things are often very different in
reality—to what they appear to be.
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 many
broken hearts to be found. To sit upon thrones may
seem to be something very fascinating; but, "uneasy lies
the head—which wears a crown!" This is a truth which
receives fresh confirmation, from every passing year.
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 really are—do often differ, and that very
substantially! Such knowledge will tend, under God's
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 which is happening to us alone. Let us lay aside,
therefore, all murmurings and complainings—and ever
remember that God's arrangements are the wisest
and the best!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
His chastising hand
"I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right,
and that You have afflicted me in faithfulness."
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! By afflictions:
they were 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;
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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"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 3:2
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 godliness.
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 himself.
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
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It will not matter a single straw!
"We labor, that we may be accepted of Him." 2 Corinthians 5:9
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 would 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!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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 between them!
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."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Love to God
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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Too short to speak His praise
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 only say that it is—as
ancient as eternity, as boundless as eternity, as
endless as eternity. "Eternity is too short to speak
His praise, or fathom this profound of love to man!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"My beloved is mine—and I am His," is the
language of the Christian in the book of Canticles.
How great is the blessedness involved, in such an
assurance! "My beloved is mine"—
mine in the dignity of His person;
mine in the suitability of His offices;
mine in the immensity of His love;
mine in the efficacy of His atonement;
mine 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!
His heaven is mine to receive me!
And what does Christ say to the believer in return?
He says, "I am yours—and all that I have. 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
dignities are for you! Yes, to him who overcomes,
I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, even as I
also overcame, and have sat down with My Father
on His throne."
Death, which quenches every other love, kindles that
of the believer for Jesus—into a purer and intenser flame!
Death, which snatches every other object from our grasp,
brings us to the full enjoyment of Him, who is the fountain
of life, the great center and source of all being and of all
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! If
you are a partaker of it—you will be . . .
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From its ruthless grasp
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 it
can be avoided; power has no defense, and even religion
has no security from its stroke. Beauty has no charm to
its eye; the voice of eloquence is lost to its ear. 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, for "man, at his best
estate, is altogether vanity." The great and prosperous
cannot, for "the rich man also died and was buried." The
wicked cannot; 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 will be 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 assurance forever!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Beset with difficulties
"Conflicts on the outside, fears within." 2 Corin. 7:5
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!
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.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
At all times, and under all circumstances
"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
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!
~ ~ ~ ~
Character is the product of daily, hourly actions, words and thoughts:
daily sacrifices for the good of others,
daily struggles against temptation,
daily submissiveness under trial.
It is these, like the blending of colors in a picture — which constitute the person's character.
~ ~ ~ ~
Seek to make life henceforth a consecrated thing; that so, when the sunset of life is nearing, with its murky vapors and lowering skies — the very clouds of sorrow may be fringed with golden light. Thus will the song in the house of your pilgrimage be always the truest harmony. It will be composed of no jarring, discordant notes. But with all its varied tones, it will form one sustained, life-long melody; dropped for a moment in death, only to be resumed with the angels, and blended with the everlasting cadences of your Father's house!
~ ~ ~ ~
Trust God's heart — when you cannot see His hand. Do not try to penetrate the cloud He brings over you; rather look to the rainbow that is on it. The mystery is God's — the promise is yours.
~ ~ ~ ~
Seek to . . .
mingle gentleness in all your rebukes;
bear with the infirmities of others;
make allowance for constitutional frailties;
never say harsh things, if kind things will do as well.
~ ~ ~ ~
The very voices of the night, sounding like the moan of the tempest, may turn out to be the disguised yet tender voices of God — calling away from all earthly footsteps, to mount with greater singleness of eye and ardor of aim — the alone ladder of safety and peace upward, onward, heavenward, homeward.
~ ~ ~ ~
Prejudice is the conjuror of imaginary wrongs — strangling truth, over-powering reason, making strong people weak, and weak people weaker. God gave us the large-hearted charity which "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things," which "thinks no evil!"