Grace Gems for February 2003


Thirst again?
(by John MacDuff)

"Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again."
    John 4:13

All creature and 'created good' is inadequate of
itself to satisfy the yearnings of the human soul.

In every breast there is a craving after happiness.
"Who will show us any good?" is the sigh, the
soliloquy, of weary humanity.

There are many streams of 'created' enjoyment.
Some of these lawful, innocent, exhilarating,
which have the blessing and favor of God
resting upon them.  Others are poor, vile,
degraded, unworthy.

But even the best and purest, viewed by
themselves and apart from God, can afford
no permanent bliss or satisfaction.

They do not, cannot quench the immortal thirst.

Pitcher after pitcher may be brought to the well's
mouth; the golden goblet of riches; the jeweled
flagon with the luscious draught of earthly glory;
or the brimming transparent pitcher drawn up by
the silken cord of human affection.

But He who knows the human heart pronounces,
that "thirst again" is the property and characteristic
of them all.

The finite can never be a satisfying portion
for that which was born for the infinite.

Satisfying portion?

Philosophy, with its eagle soarings,
says, "It is not in me!"

The pride of rank, crowns and coronets,
and lordly titles, says, "It is not in me!"

The laurel of conquest, as it withers on
the warrior's brow, says, "It is not in me!"

Gold, with its glittering heaps, laughs its
votaries to scorn, and says, "It is not in me!"

Jesus does not condemn many of these worldly
streams of innocent pleasure, or forbid their
being resorted to. He who knows our frame
would lay no cruel arrest on many objects of
lawful earthly pursuit; the many wells of earthly
happiness. All He says of them is, "If you restrict
your happiness to these, you will not be satisfied;
you will assuredly thirst again. The well of living
waters that I tell you of, is more far lasting than
all earthly sources of supply."

"Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again.
 But whoever drinks the water I give him will
 never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will
 become in him a spring of water welling up to
 eternal life." John 4:13, 14

Earth Worm!
(Jonathan Edwards, "The Justice of God")

What covetousness has been in many of you!

Such has been your inordinate love of the
world, and care about the things of it, that
it has taken up your heart.

For the vanities of the world you have
allowed no room for God; you have minded
the world more than your eternal salvation.

For the vanities of the world you have
neglected reading, praying and meditation.

For the vanities of the world you have cast
God, and Christ, and heaven, behind your back.

For the vanities of the world you have
sold your own soul.

You have as it were drowned your soul in
worldly cares and desires; you have been
a mere earth worm, that is never in its
element but when groveling and buried
in the earth!

Go simply to Jesus!
(Octavius Winslow, "Evening Thoughts")

What is your sorrow?

Has health failed you?

Has property forsaken you?

Have friends turned against you?

Are you tried in your circumstances?

Are you perplexed in your path?

Are providences thickening and darkening around you?

Are you anticipating seasons of approaching trial?

Are you walking in darkness, having no light?

Go simply to Jesus!

He is a tender, loving, faithful Friend, ever near.

He is a Brother born for your adversity.

His grace and sympathy are sufficient for you.

The great secret of a life of faith is . . .
  to hang upon Jesus daily;
  to go to Him in every trial;
  to cast upon Him every burden;
  to take the infirmity, the corruption, the cross,
  as it rises, simply and immediately to Jesus.

You are to set Christ before you . . .
  as your Example to imitate;
  as your Fountain to wash in;
  as your Foundation to build upon;
  as your Fullness to draw from;
  as your tender, loving, and confiding Brother and
Friend, to go to at all times and under all circumstances.

Jesus enriches His bride with gifts!
(Henry Law, "The Heavenly Bridegroom" 1854)

Jesus enriches His bride with gifts! Angels
may marvel, dazzled by the Church's wealth.

He holds back nothing from her. All His
attributes are her grand inheritance!

His wisdom is hers to guide!

His power is hers to uphold!

His love is as the sun to cheer!

His faithfulness and truth are her shield and support!

His Spirit is poured down in unfailing measure
to teach, to solace, and to bless her!

His righteousness is hers, to be her spotless robe.

His heavens are hers, to be her home!

His throne is hers, to be her seat!

His glory is hers, to be her crown!

His eternity is hers, that she may rejoice forever!

Oh what a treasure is Christ!
(Winslow, "Evening Thoughts")

A feast for the worms!
(Thomas Boston, "Death")

"Like sheep, they are led to the grave,
 where death will be their shepherd.
 Their bodies will rot in the grave,
 far from their grand estates." Psalm 49:14

Do not value yourselves on your BEAUTY, which
"rots in the grave."  Remember the change which
death makes on the fairest face, "You always
overpower them, and then they pass from the
scene. You disfigure them in death and send
them away." Job 14:20.

Death makes the greatest beauty so loathsome,
that it must be buried out of sight!

And what though the body be gorgeously arrayed?

The finest clothes are but badges of our sin and
shame; and in a little time will be exchanged for
a shroud, when the body will become a feast for
the worms!

Laws of nature?
(John MacDuff, "Memories of Patmos")

"In an instant, I, the Lord Almighty, will come
 against them with thunder and earthquake
 and great noise, with whirlwind and storm
 and consuming fire." Isaiah 29:6

Winds, and earthquakes, and tempests are not
the capricious outbreaks of unregulated mechanical
force. The laws of nature are, in the loftiest sense,
the exponents and expressions of God's higher will.

Let us not dethrone and undeify the great Maker
and Sustainer, by substituting for His sovereign rule
what are called the laws of nature.

The world's vast machinery, with all its varied
and intricate movements, is under His supervision
and control.

"He holds the winds in His fists."

"He gathers the waters in the hollow of His hand."

"He makes the clouds His chariot."

"He directs the snow to fall on the earth,
 and tells the rain to pour down."

This offers a lesson of soothing consolation
to many a stricken heart. That lightning which
struck down my child was an arrow out of
the quiver of God!

That wave which swept him from the vessel's
side; or that hurricane which overthrew my
dwelling, and buried loved ones in the ruins,
had their pathway marked out by God!

He brings forth the lightning out of His treasuries!

He gives the sea its decree!

He walks on the wings of the wind!

All things are subservient to the controlling
will and purposes of the Most High God.

"Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
 that both calamities and good things come?"
Lamentations 3:38

A delicious poison?
(Hannah More, "Practical Piety")

Human applause is a delicious poison which
infuses itself into the purest Christian service.
This yearning for fame and exaltation gradually
tarnishes the purity of the best actions.

A particular, personal, special love!
(John MacDuff)

"The sheep listen to His voice. He calls his own
 sheep by name and leads them out." John 10:3

The Good Shepherd knows all His sheep
individually and personally. He knows . . .
  their names;
  their circumstances;
  their trials;
  their sorrows;
  their joys.

He calls them . . .
  His friends,
  His brethren,
  His peculiar treasure.

"I have called you by your name; you are mine!"

Yes! let us not lose the unutterable comfort of this!

God takes a special oversight and supervision
of His creatures and their actions, of the minute
circumstances and accidents of their daily life.

His is a particular, personal, special love!

The individual is not lost in the mass or the aggregate.

Believer! He loves you as if you stood alone in
His world, and as if He had none other but you
on whom to lavish His solicitudes!

Most comforting and consoling truth!

Jesus, the Shepherd Savior, is ever preceding me;
marking out all that befalls me; appointing and
controlling the minutest events in my personal
history, and loving me with an affection of which
earth's tenderest relationships afford the feeblest

See the mother seated by the couch of her suffering
child! Watch her tender unremitting care; the hours
and nights of sleepless vigilance she bends over the
cherub form; smoothing its pillow, and moistening
its fevered lips.

What a picture! It is earth's most touching symbol
of love and sacred affection. God points to that
watchful parent and says, "Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!"

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and
 have no compassion on the child she has borne?
 Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"
  Isaiah 49:15

Why do our hearts grow so cold?
(Winslow, "Love at the Foot of the Cross")

Beloved, why do our hearts grow so
cold in their affections towards Jesus?

The influence of the world will chill it!

The encroachments of temporal engagements
upon the study of God's Word and the devout
transactions of the closet, will chill it.

The society of cold, worldly professors will chill it.

Unfitting levity of spirit will chill it.

Trifling with sin will chill it.

Carnal pursuits will chill it.

An idolatrous love of the creature will chill it.

Fretting against the Lord, murmuring at His
dealings, rebellion against His authority and
chastenings, will chill it.

Alas! how much there is to produce deep and
sad declension in the love of our hearts to the
Lord. How easily its warm, flowing current
chills and congeals!

Oh that our hearts should so soon grow cold
in their affections towards Him whose love to
us is ever so warm, who ransomed us from
hell with His own heart's blood!

Let shame and confusion of face cover us.
Let deep humiliation, tender, holy contrition,
prostrate us beneath the cross, that we should
for one moment gaze coldly upon so divine and
gracious, so lovely and precious a Redeemer!

Heavenly homesickness?
(Spurgeon, "Nunc Dimittis" #1014)

Have you ever felt heavenly homesickness?

Surely, when your heart has been full of the
Bridegroom's beauty, and your soul has been
ravished with his dear and ever precious love,
you have said: "When shall the day break,
and the shadows flee away? Why are His
chariots so long in coming?"

You have swooned, as it were, with love
sickness for your precious Savior, thirsting
to see Him as He is, and to be like Him.

The world is black when Christ is seen in
His beauty.  The world is a poor heap of
ashes when Jesus is altogether lovely to us.

The grand distinction?
(by Thomas Reade)

Supreme love to the Lord Jesus Christ is
the governing principle of every believer.

This sacred attachment to the Savior forms
the grand distinction between the children
of God, and the children of the wicked one.

Everything you had struggled to gain
(Newman Hall, "The Choice of Moses" 1867)

Christian, what is the value of all that which
you relinquish to follow Christ? Grant all that
may be urged in its favor. Let money, and
luxury, and fame, and power, and the pleasures
of sin in their fairest forms and largest measure,
be combined in one great mountain of attractive
fascination; and the question arises, "How long
will all this last?"

You know the story of the Eastern king, one
of whose courtiers, surveying the magnificence,
flatteringly asked, "What is lacking here?" The
monarch replied, with a sigh, "Continuance."

Yes! a worm is hidden in the loveliest blossom,
a serpent creeps amid the fairest flowers,
the wealthiest summer beckons winter frosts, and
the longest and the brightest days close in night.

Of what avail is it to say, "Soul, you have plenty of
good things laid up for many years; take your ease;
eat, drink, and be merry;" when the message is given,
"This night your soul shall be required of you!"

What will be your remorse at death if you shall have
chosen, as your chief portion, that which thus perishes?

How terrible to find everything you had
struggled to gain slipping from your grasp . . .
all retreating and leaving you alone!

Was it for this you refused the enduring
riches, and the endless delights of piety?

Alas! what multitudes in the unseen world now
regret, when it is too late, so mad a choice! What
to them is every remembrance of the pleasures of
sin, but fuel added to the fire of their remorse?

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused
to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He
chose to be mistreated along with the people of
God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for
a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of
Christ as of greater value than the treasures of
Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward."
Hebrews 11:24-26

Weakness and helplessness?
(Hannah More, "The Love of God")

The weakness and helplessness of the
Christian resemble that of an infant.

By attempting to walk alone we discover our
weakness. The experience of that weakness
humbles us, and every fall drives us back to
the sustaining hand whose assistance we
vainly flattered ourselves we no longer needed.

Our spiritual life does not become strong,
vigorous, and full grown at once, but through
a long and often painful course. This keeps
up a sense of dependence, and accustoms
us to lean on the hand which fosters us.

A powerful and ever sleepless foe!
(Octavius Winslow, "Hoping in the Lord")

The world is a powerful and ever sleepless
foe! Prayerfully and vigilantly guard against
its every subtle influence.  Beware of . . .
  its friendships,
  its pursuits,
  its recreation and
  its religion.

A model marriage
(Spurgeon, "The Saint One with His Savior" #961)

Sometimes we have seen a model marriage, founded
in pure love and cemented in mutual esteem. Therein
the husband acts as a tender head; and the wife, as a
true spouse, delights in her husband, in his person, his
character, his affection. To her he is not only the chief
and foremost of mankind, but in her eyes he is all in all,
her heart's love belongs to him and to him only. She
finds sweetest contentment and solace in his company,
his fellowship, his fondness. He is her little world, her
paradise, her choice treasure. To please him she would
gladly lay aside her own pleasure, to find it doubled in
gratifying him. She is glad to sink her individuality in his.
She seeks no name for herself; his honor is reflected
upon her, and she rejoices in it. She would defend his
name with her dying breath, safe enough is he where
she can speak for him.

The domestic circle is her kingdom. That she may there
create happiness and comfort is her lifework, and his
smiling gratitude is all the reward she seeks. Even in
her dress she thinks of him, without constraint she
consults his taste, and thinks nothing beautiful which
is obnoxious to his eye. A tear from his eye, because
of any unkindness on her part, would grievously torment
her. She asks not how her behavior may please a stranger,
or how another's judgment may be satisfied with her
behavior; let her beloved be content and she is glad.
He has many objects in life, some of which she does
not quite understand, but she believes in them all,
and anything that she can do to promote them she
delights to perform.

He lavishes love on her and she on him. Their object
in life is common. There are points where their
affections so intimately unite that none could tell
which is first and which is second. To see their
children growing up in health and strength, to see
them holding posts of usefulness and honor, is
their mutual concern; in this and other matters
they are fully one. Their wishes blend, their hearts
are indivisible. By degrees they come very much
to think the same thoughts. Intimate association
creates conformity; we have known this to become
so complete that at the same moment the same
utterance has leaped to both their lips.

At last the two are so welded, so engrafted on one
stem, that their old age presents a lovely attachment,
a common sympathy, by which its infirmities are greatly
alleviated, and its burdens are transformed into fresh
bonds of love. So happy a union of will, sentiment,
thought, and heart exists between them, that the
two streams of their life have washed away the
dividing bank, and run on as one broad current of
united existence, until their common joy falls into
the main ocean of felicity.

Happy woman and happy man!

If heaven be found on earth they have it!

Such a sight may not be commonly seen,
but it is inexpressibly beautiful.

His ear is ever open to your cry.
(Thomas Reade, "Christian Meditations")

Do you love God?

Then rejoice in the sweet assurance, that nothing
shall be able to separate you from His love.

Do not fear.

He, who fills all space with his presence is your Friend.

His arm encircles you.

His power protects you.

His eye is ever upon you.

His ear is ever open to your cry.

Nothing can harm you without His permission;
for He will make all things work together for
your good; He will supply all your needs,
according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Everyone desires to be saved from the pit
(Spurgeon, "Our Watchword" #1013, Psalm 70:4)

The unsaved sinner loves a salvation from hell.

The true Christian loves a salvation from sin.

Everyone desires to be saved from the pit,
but it is only a child of God who pants to be
saved from every false way.

We love the Gospel because it saves us . . .
  from selfishness,
  from pride,
  from lust,
  from worldliness,
  from bitterness,
  from malice, and
  from sloth.

Common or priceless?
(Spurgeon, "Praises and Vows Accepted in Zion")

We have our common mercies. We call them
common, but, oh, how priceless they are!

Health to be able to come here and not to
be stretched on a bed of sickness, I count
this better than bags of gold.

To have our reason, and not to be confined
in yonder asylum; to have our children still
about us and dear relatives spared still to us;
to have bread to eat, and clothing to put on;
to have been kept from defiling our character;
to have been preserved today from the snares
of the enemy! These are godlike mercies!

Get rid of God!
(Bonar, "Man's Dislike of a Present God")

They say to God, "Leave us alone! We have
 no desire to know Your ways." Job 21:14

The men who speak thus are not atheists.
They do not say there is no God. They may
be scoffers, blasphemers, ungodly; but
they are not atheists.

They whom Job describes are worldly
men. God seems to them as a dark
shadow overclouding all their joy.

The world, with its riches, its possessions,
its pleasures, its friendships, is their all.

They have nothing beyond it, and they do not
wish anything beyond it. They are satisfied.
They love the world, and are resolved to make
the best of it that they can. When anything
comes in between it and them, or threatens
to prevent their enjoying it, such as pain, or
sickness, or death, they thrust it away.

Fallen man has no liking for God or His ways.
He looks on Him as...
  an obstruction,
  an unpleasant visitor,
  a dark cloud,
  a spoiler of his pleasure.

Man has a desire to get rid of God; to
thrust Him into a corner of His universe,
where He will least disturb him.

At the bottom of all this feeling is the love
of the world. It is this that prompts men to
seek to get rid of God.

An abstraction, a creed, a system of theology,
they bear with, because it does not interfere
with their worldliness; but God Himself can
only be tolerated as a shadowy, impalpable,
far distant being.

Thus the age tries to get rid of God. It does
so, because it dreads Him; it has no relish for
Him; His presence is a gloomy shadow; His
nearness would interfere with all worldly
schemes and pleasures.

They say to God, "Leave us alone! We have
 no desire to know Your ways." Job 21:14

A weeping band?
(by John MacDuff)

"The days of your mourning shall be ended."
    Isaiah 60:20

Christ's people are a weeping band, though
there be much in this lovely world to make
them joyous and happy. Yet when they think
of their sin, need we wonder at their tears
in their pilgrimage in this "valley of tears?"

Bereavement, sickness, poverty, and death
follow the track of sin, adding to their
mourning experience; and with many of
God's best beloved, one tear is scarce
dried when another is ready to flow!

Mourners! rejoice! When the reaping time
comes, the weeping time ends! When the
white robe and the golden harp are bestowed,
every remnant of the sackcloth attire is removed.

The moment the pilgrim, whose forehead is here
furrowed with woe, bathes it in the crystal river
of life; that moment the pangs of a lifetime of
sorrow are eternally forgotten!

Reader! if you are one of these careworn ones,
the days of your mourning are numbered! A few
more throbbings of this aching heart, and then
shall sorrow, and sighing, and mourning, "be
no longer!"

"The days of your mourning shall be ended."
    Isaiah 60:2

Worm Jacob!
(John MacDuff, "Help for the Feeble")

"Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob!, O little Israel,
 for I Myself will help you," declares the Lord, your
 Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:14

Worm Jacob!

What weakness!

What insignificance!

What unworthiness!

Yet it is this helpless, groveling "worm,"
that receives God's sympathy, and has the
assurance of His almighty aid.

Believer, beaten down it may be, with a great
fight of affliction; or trembling under a sense
of your unworthiness and guilt; mourning . . .
  the coldness of your faith,
  the lukewarmness of your love,
  the frequency of your backslidings,
  the fitfulness of your best purposes, and
  the feebleness of your best services;
your God draws near to you; He remembers
that though you are a worm, still you are
"worm Jacob!" His own beloved one.

"I Myself will help you!" Yes, poor, weak,
trembling one; the Lord, your Redeemer,
the Holy One, loves to draw near to His
people in the extremity of their weakness.

"I Myself will help you" is enough for all
the emergencies of the present, and all
the contingencies of an untried, and, it
may be, a dark future.

A state of vanity
(Octavius Winslow, "Evening Thoughts")

The world through which the Christian is passing
to his rest, may be emphatically called a state of
vanity. How perpetually and forcibly are we
reminded of Solomon's exclamation, "Vanity of
vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit."

"Surely every man walks in a vain show."

His origin, the earth;
his birth, degenerate;
his rank, a bauble;
his wealth, but glittering dust;
his pomp, an empty pageant;
his beauty, a fading flower;
his pursuits, an infant's play;
his honors, vexations of spirit;
his joys, fleeting as a cloud;
his life, transient as a vapor;
his final home, a grave.

Surely "man at his best state is altogether vanity."

And what is his religion but vanity?
His native holiness, a vain conceit;
his natural light, Egyptian darkness;
his human wisdom, egregious folly;
his religious forms, and rites, and duties,
    "a vain show in the flesh;"
his most gorgeous righteousness, "filthy rags."
In the impressive language of Scripture, of him
it may be said, "That man's religion is vain."

What have I to be proud of?
(John MacDuff, "Infinite Condescension")

What have I to be proud of?  Nothing!

I am dependent continually on Your bounty.

My existence;
my health;
my strength;
my reason;
are all a loan from You the Great Proprietor,
who can, in the twinkling of an eye, . . .
  paralyze strength,
  dethrone reason,
  arrest the pulses of joyous life,
and write upon all I have, "Ichabod,
the glory has departed!"

I am a pensioner from hour to hour on
redeeming grace and love! But for Jesus,
I would be lost forever!

O God, destroy every pedestal of pride in my
heart. Make me humble; keep me humble.

Refuge for the soul
(Newman Hall, "The Shadow of the Almighty" 1867)

The desert is dreary.

The way is long.

Heavily burdened, a weary traveler slowly drags
onward his wounded feet. Faint by reason of the
fiery blaze which smites him from the unclouded
sky and the scorching sand, he eagerly looks
around for shelter. He pants for even the muddiest
pool where he may quench his raging thirst.

In such "a weary land," how welcome "the shadow
of a great rock," and the clear, cool fountain gushing
up within its rugged clefts!

But where can such a refuge for the soul be found . . .
  weary with wandering,
  crushed by care,
  groaning under guilt?

Where can . . .
  its burden be taken off,
  its sorrows soothed,
  its mighty thirst assuaged?

"And a Man shall be as a hiding place from the
 wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers
 of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a
 great rock in a weary land." Isaiah 32:2

The parent of numberless sins?
(Newman Hall, "Follow Jesus")

Pride is the parent of numberless sins.

High notions of what we deserve
from God, or from men, produce . . .
  strife, and
  all uncharitableness.

Lord, give me a humble heart. Conscious
that I deserve nothing good from You, may
I receive joys with thankfulness, and sorrows
with submission.

Forever beholding fresh beauties!
(Newman Hall, "Follow Jesus")

When we get to heaven, what joy will it be to
rehearse the events of the journey, and to see
how the path was strewn all along with mercies.

How blessed will be . . .
  rest after toil,
  safety after peril,
  victory after conflict.

Jesus will still lead us into fresh pastures,
to higher and yet higher regions of . . .
  purity, and

No carnal desires will drag us down.

No sinful habits will cling to and entangle us.

The flesh will no longer lust against the spirit.

No enemies will beset the road, to allure
us from it, or check our advance.

We shall forever follow Jesus . . .
  forever beholding fresh beauties in His countenance,
  forever discovering new glories in His character,
  forever experiencing fresh raptures in His love!

This unravels the mystery!
(Octavius Winslow, "Christ, the Counselor")

The path of providence is often paved with
difficulties, and beset with perplexities with
which we can ill cope.

Our way to heaven is through an intricate
wilderness and across a circuitous desert.

To many even of the Lord's people this is
literally the case. Visit their abodes, and
ponder the struggle passing within! All is . . .
  poverty and discomfort,
  penury of bread,
  scantiness of clothing,
  pining sickness,
  loathsome disease,
  excruciating suffering,
  with no human friends,
  no soothing alleviation,
  no earthly comforts.

And yet not entirely unrelieved is this dark picture.

Christ dwells in that obscure abode!

God's eye is watching over it!

There is....
  gnawing poverty, and yet boundless wealth;
  deep need, and yet a rich supply;
  acute suffering, and yet exquisite pleasure;
  keen sorrow, and yet unspeakable joy.

And why these paradoxes? How are we
to understand these strange contradictions?

The apostle gives us a clue in a page of his own history.
"As unknown, and yet well known;
as dying, and, behold, we live;
as chastened, and not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, yet possessing all things."

This unravels the mystery!

The possession of Christ explains it! He who
has Christ in him, and Christ with him, and the
hope of being forever with Christ in glory, is not
a poor, nor a sorrowful, nor a suffering, nor a
lone man. He can say, "I am not alone, for my
Father is with me. I am not poor, for all things
are mine. My body is diseased, but my soul is
in health. I have all and abound."

Can we for a moment doubt His perfect power
  to undertake all the cares,
  to cope with all the difficulties,
  to solve all the doubts, and
  to disentangle all the perplexities brought to
Him by His saints in all places and at all times?