Grace Gems for June 2003

No spot!

(Henry Law, "The Song of Solomon" 1879)

"You are all beautiful, My love; there is
 no spot in you." Song of Solomon 4:1

There is no spot in the Church, because the
blood of Jesus entirely obliterates each stain.

Omniscience may look for sins, but no more
can they be found. The absence of defect is
the result of her being adorned with His perfect
righteousness. In this no blemish can exist.
Thus she appears righteous, even as God is

This blessed truth must be held fast without
obliterating the knowledge of our own constant
and innumerable transgressions. It cannot be
too often repeated, that in ourselves we are
deformed and loathsome.

The most saintly of saints will ever breathe
the prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner."

But Jesus says of His people, "You are all
beautiful, My love; there is no spot in you.

It is too often a vain unrealized dream!

(John MacDuff, "The Prophet of Fire" 1877)

And Elijah said to the king, "This is what the Lord
says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you
to consult that you have sent messengers to consult
Baalzebub, the god of Ekron? Because you have done
this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on.
You will certainly die!"  So he died, according to the
word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken. 2 Kings 1:16-17

Alas! how much it takes to humble the proud heart.

Apart from divine grace no outward trial can do it.

Impending death itself; that hour when, we might
suppose, all false confidences and illusions might
well be shaken, finds the hardened and impenitent
impervious as ever to saving conviction.

Hence the miserable delusion of those who think that
they will have penitential feelings in their last hours.

It is too often a vain unrealized dream!

As men live, so do men die!

The scorner in life, is a scorner at the last; the
blasphemer in life, is often a wilder blasphemer
at the last. The unjust remain "unjust still" and
the filthy remain "filthy still."

Oh, it is the saddest picture of moral apostasy; the
saddest exponent of the enmity of the unregenerate
heart; when even DEATH, the 'king of terrors' brings
no terror to the seared conscience and the unfeeling,
stubborn, and obdurate soul; the banner of proud
defiance against Christ waved, even when the dreadful
gloom of mortal darkness is closing in all around!

All our care, forethought, and caution

(John MacDuff, "The Prophet of Fire" 1877)

"Wherever we go, there is but a step between
us and death!
" (Matthew Henry)

"One day Israel's new king, Ahaziah, fell through
the latticework of an upper room at his palace in
Samaria, and he was seriously injured." 2 Kings 1:2

King Ahaziah was thus suddenly prostrated in the
very midst of life; while manhood was yet in its glory.

Let us pause for a moment, and read, from the case
of Ahaziah, the impressive lesson, that all our care,
forethought, and caution
, cannot ward off accident,
calamity, and inexorable death.

King Ahaziah was laid low by an accidental fall from
an upper room at his palace. He had probably been
leaning against the screen, or railing, common in Eastern
dwellings; when, overbalancing himself, the slender rail
or latticework had given way. He fell on the tessellated
floor below, stunned and mangled, and he was carried
to a couch from which he was never to rise.

can afford no exemption from such casualties,
and from the last terminating event of all, the
universal doom of dust.

These royal robes encircled a body as perishable
as that of the lowest subject of his realm. The hand
grasping that ivory scepter, as well as the brawny
arm of the strongest menial in his palace, must
moulder to decay.

Poor and rich;
the beggar and the prince;
the slave and his master;
Dives with his purple and gold, and
Lazarus with his crumbs and rags,
are on a level here.

The path of glory and royalty, of greatness
and power, "leads but to the grave."

The lattice on which the strong man leans;
the iron railing of full health and unbroken
energy; may in a moment give way.

Sudden accident or fever may in a few
hours write Ichabod on a giant's strength.

When you are moving through life . . .
  charioted in comforts;
  wreathed with garlands;
  regaled with music,
"Remember you are mortal!"

None dare boast presumptuously of . . .
  strong arm, and
  healthy cheek, and
  undimmed eye.

It is by the mercy of God each one of us is preserved
from the "the terrors of the night, and the dangers of
the day, and the plague that stalks in darkness, and
the disaster that strikes at midday!"

And when accident or affliction does overtake us, it
is our comfort to know that it is by His permission.

It is He who puts the arrow on the bowman's string.

It is He who loosens the railing in its sockets.

It is He who makes the lightning leap
from the clouds on its lethal errand.

It is He who guides the roll of that destroying
billow, that has swept a loved one from the deck
into a watery grave.

It is He who says, (and who can oppose!)
"You shall die, and not live!"

Ah, yes, it is easy for us in health;
when the world goes well;
when life's cup is brimming;
when the white sails are gleaming on its summer seas;
when the music of high holiday is resounding in our ears;
it is easy then to repress from thought the urgency of
more solemn verities.

But wait until the 'pillow of pain' receives the aching,
recumbent head; wait until the curtains are drawn,
and the room darkened, and that music is exchanged
for the suppressed whisper, and noiseless footfall;
wait until the solemn apprehension for the first time
steals over the spirit, that the sand glass is running
, life's grains diminishing, and that aweful hour
which we have evaded, dreaded, tampered with,
shrunk from, has come at last! How solemn the
mockery to try then to give to God the dregs and
remnants of a worn existence and a withered love!

How much nobler, wiser, happier to anticipate the
necessities of that inevitable hour, that whether our
summons shall come by the fall from the lattice, or
the gradual sinking and wasting of strength; whether
by sudden accident, or by the gradual crumbling of the
earthly framework; we may be ready, in calm composure,
to breathe the saying of the dying patriarch, "I have
waited for your salvation, O God."

"Wherever we go, there is but a step between
us and death!
" (Matthew Henry)

Every stone in salvation's beauteous fabric
(Henry Law, "Eternal Glory the Ultimate Cause")

"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on
 the throne, and to the Lamb." Rev. 7:10

The Father . . .
  decreed it,
  willed it,
  planned it.

His love chose every one of that vast
multitude in His Son.

His grace gave the whole number to be . . .
  His bride,
  His jewels,
  His crown.

His wisdom contrived the mode by which
they should be cleansed from every stain,
and gloriously enrobed in righteousness;
and by the Spirit's power be purified, fitted,

Every stone in salvation's beauteous fabric
was selected, prepared, and placed by a
loving Father's hand.

"Salvation belongs to our God!"

This cheap Christianity

(J. C. Ryle, "Holiness")

There is a common worldly kind of Christianity
in this day, which many have, and think they
have enough.

This cheap Christianity . . .
  offends nobody,
  requires no sacrifice,
  costs nothing,
  and is worth nothing!


Secrets of Happy Home Life

(J. R. Miller, "Secrets of Happy Home Life")

Home is among the holiest of words.

A true home is one of the most sacred of places.

It is a sanctuary into which men flee from the
world's perils and alarms. It is a resting place to
which at close of day the weary retire to gather
new strength for the battle and toils of tomorrow.
It is the place . . .
  where love learns its lessons;
  where life is schooled into discipline and strength;
  where character is molded.

What are some of the secrets of happy home life?

The answer might be given in one word: Christ.

Christ at the marriage altar;
Christ on the bridal journey;
Christ when the new home is set up;
Christ when the baby is born;
Christ when a child dies;
Christ in the pinching times;
Christ in the days of plenty;
Christ in the nursery, in the kitchen, in the parlor;
Christ in the toil and in the rest;
Christ along all the years.

Christ is the secret of happy home life!

This is a plank which upholds the sinking heart!

(Henry Law, "Cordials in Temporal Troubles" 1873)

"Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward."
    Job 5:7.

Each woman's child is born an heir . . .
  not to a palace or a crown,
  not to broad lands or mines of gold,
  not to ancestral lineage of fame,
  not to high rank among the rich and great,
  not to a soft seat on luxury's lap,
but to the inheritance of a common portion, TROUBLE.

Few are called . . .
  to be honored and caressed,
  to be idols of admiring crowds,
  to outstrip others in the worldly race,
  to enjoy sound health and sinewy strength,
  to overabundance of earthly goods.

But many are called to SUFFERING.

Our usual walk is in a valley of tears.

The billows of affliction swell around
us, and storms of distress, with little
intermission, buffet us.

Where is the eye which rarely weeps?

Where is the breast which seldom sighs?

Bereavements go forth to their daily work.

Pains and diseases do not slumber.

Wails belong not to a scanty class.

We know that the white robed multitude
came out of great tribulations.

Man is indeed endowed with wondrous gifts of
intellect; and mental resources, neither few nor
weak, labor to exclude the entrance of trouble.
But they can erect no fortress which sorrow fails
to scale. They can construct no intercepting bars.
Trouble has a key for every lock, and takes its
seat by every chair.

It is the rich man's shadow,
and lies on poverty's low pallet.

It marches with every camp,
and sails in every fleet.

It is the native of each climate,
and has its root in every soil.

Flight to lonely deserts will not secure escape;
and crowds give no concealment. To be a human
being, is to be linked to trouble.

This truth cannot be controverted, for every
heart confirms it. We read it in the annals
of our race. It is the stamp on history's brow.

In Eden's garden, clear sunshine was a brief delight;
obscuring clouds soon cast a dismal gloom.

Sin came.

All troubles thronged its rear.

The woman hears, "I will greatly increase your
pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth
to children." The man hears, "In sorrow shall you
eat of it all the days of your life."

Trouble is . . .
  our common course,
  our beaten path,
  the well known stream, on which we float.

Earth is a wide Bochim.  "So they called that
place Bochim." (lit. 'weeping'). Judges 2:5

Trouble is largely written on life's page.

But some are . . .
  new born of God,
  the children of eternal love,
  the heirs of never ending life,
  the sheep of Christ's pasture,
  His appointed spouse,
  the purchase of His blood,
  the called of His Spirit,
  His joy, His portion, His delight.

On them . . .
  the eye of God beams lovingly;
  His power protects;
  His wisdom guides;
  His angels encamp around them.

Will not their course be constant sunshine?

Will they not soar where trouble cannot come?

Such a conclusion would be a fallacy. Their precious
privileges bring not such immunity. It is forever true,
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous." "We must
through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

The time of trouble is the time of thought. They
suffer, and they ponder. Their eyes look inward
and above. They ask, "Whence comes this trial?"

The reply is obvious.

It is not the working of blind chance.

God's will designs; His hand inflicts it!

It is ordered in the courts of heaven.

It is prearranged in the covenant of grace.

Who will repine when he endures according
to a Father's will? It is a precious word,
"As many as I love I rebuke and chasten."

This is a plank which upholds the sinking heart!

This is an anchor which keeps it steady in the
roughest waves.

The spirit cannot faint which tastes this cordial.

The trouble does not dismay, which is
fringed with shining evidence of heavenly
mission. Then welcome trials. They subserve
spiritual welfare, or they would not be sent!

This cheating and deluding scene.

(Henry Law, "The Song of Solomon" 1879)

"Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
 leaning on her Beloved?
" Song 8:5

A form is seen coming up from the wilderness;
but not alone, not unsupported. There is another
near, and on Him all weight is laid. The truth is
clear. We see the Christian deriving support from
his Lord. They proceed together along a path
leading up from the wilderness.

The believer is called . . .
  to leave all for Christ;
  to come out from a fallen and polluted world;
  to shun its pleasures;
  to turn from its smiles;
  to disregard its frowns;
  to close the ear to its enticing voice;
  to reject its fascinating cup;
  to trample on its principles and maxims;
  to feel that the world in its every pulse is opposed to Christ.

Such views are the true teachings of the Spirit. The
believer, a pupil in this school, arises and departs.

But there is no profit in what he abandons.

The world, when truly seen, is a waste wilderness.

It is no fair garden of Eden, fragrant with delicious
flowers. It is no vineyard, in which grapes hang down
in luxuriant clusters. It is no peaceful meadow, free
from incursions of devouring beasts. It is no lovely
grove, in which the melody of cheerful birds delights
the ear. It is no path, in which surrounding prospects
give enchanting views.

It is a desert: wild, dismal, and unsatisfying.

It is an enemy's land, beset with perils and
encompassed with malignant foes. Here no
manna falls, and no refreshing streams trickle
by the side.

Its food is poison. To taste is to imbibe death.

What is its produce? Thorns! Thistles! Briers!

It yields no nurture; but disappointment, misery,
and woe. The believer is called to come up from
this cheating and deluding scene.

But how can the Christian obey? He is weak and
powerless in himself. But a mighty arm is near!
Jesus says, "I will strengthen you; yes, I will help
you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of
My righteousness." He extends the arm of His
omnipotence and cries, "Come, lean on Me!"

As without Jesus the first step cannot be taken,
so without Him advance cannot be made. But
He is ever near, willing, able.

The heavenward path is a steep ascent. It requires
strong limbs to climb. But leaning on Jesus, the
upward race may be run without loitering.

The path, also, through life's course is slippery.
Our feet are liable to stumble. Snares also, and
pitfalls are before us. But leaning on Him we are
upheld, and safely guided.

Thus let us pass through life leaning on our Beloved.

Let us lean on Him as we pass through the valley
of the shadow of death. His rod and staff will surely

Let us enter heaven leaning on the same arm.

"Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
 leaning on her Beloved?
" Song 8:5

Too wise a physician to make any mistakes

"Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick,
 He stayed where He was two more days."
     John 11:6

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of John" 1873)

Christ knows best at what time to do anything
for His people. He purposely delayed His journey,
and did not come to Bethany until Lazarus had
been in the grave four days. No doubt He knew
well what was going on. But He never moved
until the time came which He saw was best.

The children of God must constantly school their
minds to learn the great lesson now before us.
Nothing so helps us to bear patiently the trials of
life as an abiding conviction of the perfect wisdom
by which everything around us is managed.

Let us try to believe not only that all that happens
to us is done well, but that it is done . . .
  in the best manner,
  by the right instrument,
  and at the right time.

We are all naturally impatient in the day of trial.
We are apt to say, like Moses, when beloved ones
are sick, "Heal her now, Lord, we beseech You."

We forget that Christ is too wise a physician to
make any mistakes
. It is the duty of faith to say,
"My times are in Your hand. Do with me as You will,
how You will, what You will, and when You will. Not
my will, but Yours be done." The highest degree of
faith is to be able to wait, sit still, and not complain.

Let us turn from the passage with a settled
determination to trust Christ entirely with all
the concerns of this world, both public and private.
Let us believe that He by whom all things were
made at first, is He who is managing all with
perfect wisdom.

The affairs of kingdoms, families, and private
individuals are all alike, overruled by Him.

He chooses all the portions of His people.

When we are sick, it is because He knows it
to be for our good. When He delays coming
to help us, it is for some wise reason.

The hand that was nailed to the cross is too
wise and loving to smite without a 'needs be',
or to keep us waiting for relief without a cause.

Where lions have their dens and panthers prowl

(Henry Law, "The Song of Solomon" 1879)

"Come with Me from Lebanon, My bride. Come
down from the top of Mount Amana, from Mount
Senir and Mount Hermon, where lions have their
dens and panthers prowl
." Song of Solomon 4:8

An earnest invitation is here, couched in tenderest
terms. The call seems to be addressed to one, who
pauses and lingers on the bleak and barren peaks of
the lofty range which parted Israel from the Gentile
world. In the recesses of these cliffs, ravenous beasts
formed their retreats, and rioted in vicious work.

In this call we hear the voice of Christ summoning
us to separate from a world, which lies beyond
His peaceful kingdom.

This range is infested by beasts delighting in savagely
torturing the prey. The emblem is dark in warning. The
summits of this range are bleak and barren.

Such is this cold world.

It is warmed by no gentle and genuine and generous
feelings. It looks with chilling indifference on the need
and misery of others.

It has no heart to sympathize.

It extends no hand to help.

Selfishness congeals the flow of tender emotion.

It cares little what the poor and needy suffer.

It seeks mainly its own contracted interests.

The mountain top is thus the portrait of this
wintry world.

The world, also, is a barren spot.

No pleasing verdure clothes this scene.

No flowers shed their fragrance.

No goodly fruits are ripened to refresh.

Briers and thorns are its poor produce.

Here we look in vain for the fertility of holy
words and works. Christ calls His people to
come apart, and to unite themselves to Him.

But these summits are not only scenes of frost
and unproductiveness. They have inhabitants,
who delight in cruelty and craftiness.

See the lion tearing the prey!

See the panther crouching to take the fatal spring.

Here again are the children of this world.

Cruelly they ruin souls.

With subtlety they lay wait to ensnare.

"Come with Me from Lebanon, My bride. Come
down from the top of Mount Amana, from Mount
Senir and Mount Hermon, where lions have their
dens and panthers prowl
." Song of Solomon 4:8

But God also prepared a worm!

(John MacDuff, "The Prophet of Fire" 1877)

"And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made
it to come up over Jonah, and soon it spread its
broad leaves over Jonah's head, shading him from
the sun. This eased some of his discomfort, and
Jonah was very grateful for the gourd.
But God also prepared a worm! When the morning
rose the next day, it smote the gourd so that it soon
died and withered away." Jonah 4:6-7

There is surely great comfort in the thought that
the bounds of our life are divinely appointed . . .
  Our lots in life,
  our occupations,
  our positions,
  our dwellings,
  what the fatalist calls 'our destinies',
  what heathen mythology attributed to 'the Fates';
all this is marked out by Him who "sees the end
from the beginning."

It is He who takes us to a place of solitude.
It is He who takes us from solitude.

It is He who takes us to our sweet shelters of
prosperity, with their sparkling brooks of joy.

It is He who, when He sees fit, sends the worm.

Oh, it is our comfort to know, in this mysterious,
raveled, varied life of ours
, that the Great Craftsman
has the threads of our existence in His own hands;
weaving the complex pattern, evolving good out of
evil, and order out of confusion.

My own special treasure

(Octavius Winslow, "Pisgah Views" 1873)

"They will be My people," says the Lord Almighty.
"On the day when I act, they will be My own
 special treasure
." Malachi 3:17

Not one of the sheep given by the Father to
the Son shall perish.

Not a sinner redeemed by His blood shall be lost.

Not a child adopted by His grace shall be absent.

Not a jewel excavated from nature's mine by His
grace shall be missing in that day when the Shepherd
shall gather together His flock, and the Father shall
bring home His family, and the Savior shall cluster
around Him His redeemed.

In that day when the King of Zion shall appear, His
diadem studded, and His breastplate blazing, with the
precious stones of His especial and particular treasure.

"The Lord has declared today that you are His people,
 His own special treasure, just as He promised." Dt. 26:18

"How sweet is your love, My treasure, My bride!" Song 4:10

God's knife!

(Henry Law, "Comfort for Mourners")

"Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes
 so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2

God's knife is sharp, but it removes encumbering
branches. The process is not purposeless.

Lasting impressions come from heavy blows.

These rigid means are now astir . . .
  to wean you from the world, whose ways are death;
  to unmask the hollow treachery of 'creature charms';
  to expose the utter vanity of earth's delights.

The lesson is now taught, that all is 'fleeting
emptiness' apart from God. He, and He only, is . . .
  the unfailing portion;
  a cup of overflowing joy;
  a garden in which calm happiness is
ever blooming, ever fragrant, ever new.


View well the monster in true light!

(Henry Law, "Comfort for Mourners")

You witnessed DEATH accomplishing its work;
irresistible; unrestrained; mocking all opposing
means. It came and conquered. At its touch . . .
  the strength declined,
  the vital powers ebbed,
  the luster of the eye grew dim,
  the color faded,
  the senses laid aside their functions,
  the fluttering pulse stood still,
  animation was no more,
  the heart no longer moved,
  the spirit fled its tenement of clay.

Nothing remained, but . . .
  a stranded wreck,
  a tenantless abode,
  an empty casket,
  a deserted shell.

Death displayed its ruthlessness and might.
It put forth its barbed sting and laughed
resistance into nothingness.

It is instructive now to ask, "How is death
armed with this tremendous sway? What
furbished, what supplied its weapons? What
placed a helpless world beneath its conquering
feet? Whence its commission to give the
inhabitants of the palace and the hut alike,
a banquet to devouring worms?"

Now ponder the enlightening reply.

SIN is the origin of death. "By one man sin
entered into the world, and death by sin,
and so death passed upon all men, for all
have sinned."

Learn that sin slew your friend, and all who ever died.

Sin locks earth's offspring in its foul embrace,
and so consigns them to the arms of death.

Survey the lifeless frames from Abel to this hour.
Huge is the pile! the whole is piled by sin! SIN . . .
  digs all graves,
  constructs all vaults,
  peoples each cemetery.

In all the tears which have bedewed the dying
and the dead; in all the mourning which now racks
your heart, and has made earth the home of sighs;
behold the work of death through sin. You see it
now in your own house. Oh! see it rightly, and
you will largely gain.

Profit will not be small, if henceforth you hate
sin with deadlier hate. View well the monster in
true light
; the enemy of God; the enemy of man.

Sin changed fair Eden into a wilderness of thorns,
and blackened angels into fiends of hell.

Never give truce to such a foe. Cry for the Spirit's
help to drive it from each corner of your heart.

Unless you slay it, it will be your ruin.

Nail it to the Savior's cross.

It will fight hard, and struggle long; but cease
not the encounter. Take courage. Play the man.
The believer can do all things through Christ who
strengthens him. Grace will expand, while, thus
abhorring sin, you steel your breast in earnest

Safe in the Almighty Shepherd's hands

(John Fawcett)

"He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will
 carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close
 to His heart. He will gently lead the mother
 sheep with their young." Isaiah 40:11

Jesus is the Shepherd of His flock,
  to conduct, guard and defend them,
  to feed them in the green pastures of His grace,
  to cure and heal their diseases,
  to restore them when they wander,
  to gather the lambs with His arm,
  to carry them in his bosom, and
  gently to lead those that are with young.

His power, His care and compassion are infinite.

His followers are as sheep in the midst of wolves.
We hear one of them saying, "My soul is among
lions!" These lions may gape and roar, they may
seek to devour. But the sheep are safe in the
Almighty Shepherd's hands
; for He has said,
"I know My sheep, they follow Me, and I give
them eternal life; and they shall never perish,
neither shall any pluck them out of My hand."

Such a Shepherd must be precious.


Dark and mysterious providences

(Octavius Winslow, "No Night There")

Our journey is often dark, long, and weary.

In the present life our path is at times draped
with gloomy, painful, and inexplicable clouds.

"God moves in a mysterious way
 His wonders to perform."

So strange in shape, somber in hue, and
crushing in effect, are often the events and
circumstances of our personal history, that
we are stunned and appalled, paralyzed and
awed at the 'thick darkness' in which our God
moves; at the overshadowing cloud which He
makes His chariot; wondering where the scene
will end.

What prophet will explain to us the handwriting
upon the wall? Who will interpret the symbols of
an event that has suddenly plunged us in a world
of mystery?

God is speaking to us from the 'secret place
of thunder.'  He has . . .
  nipped the bursting bud,
  plucked the lovely flower,
  broken the graceful sapling,
  uprooted the strong oak,
sowing life's landscape with the snowflakes of
winter, congealing all its flowing springs, and
tincturing all its sweet rivers with the bitterness
of Marah.

Like Moses, we are awed into silence by these
dreadful emblems of His majesty and power, and
wrapping our faces in our mantle, bow our heads
in reverence to the ground.

Heaven bids us look beyond the present scene
of suffering and sorrow to that glorious world
where shall be no drapery of dark and mysterious
. In that glorious world, we shall . . .
  read all the lessons of His love,
  interpret all the symbols of His providence,
  understand all the mysteries of His dealings.

How wise will then appear all the
way our covenant God led us . . .
  through the wilderness,
  across the desert,
  home to Himself!

We shall then see that . . .
  every dispensation was right,
  every stroke needed,
  every step an advance in our heavenly ascent,
  and that every cloud that veiled God's love,
was one of its truest and holiest expressions.

And until this 'night of mystery' passes, ushering
in the 'perfect day' whose sunny sky no providential
clouds will ever darken; let us resolve all our
Heavenly Father's dealings into infinite wisdom,
rectitude, and goodness
, fully assured that,
"as for God, His work is perfect."

The flowers in the Lord's garden

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of John" 1873)

"Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb
to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got
there first. He stooped and looked in and saw
the linen cloth lying there, but he didn't go in.
Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside."
    John 20:3-6

We are taught in these verses, that there are
widely different temperaments in different believers.

This is a point which is curiously brought out in
the conduct of Peter and John, when Mary told
them that the Lord's body was gone. We are
told that they both ran to the sepulcher; but
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, outran
Peter, and reached the empty grave first. Then
comes out the difference between the two men.

John, of the two more gentle, quiet, tender,
reserved, retiring, deep feeling, stooped down
and looked in, but went no further. Peter, more
hot, and zealous, and impulsive, and fervent,
and forward, cannot be content without going
down into the sepulcher, and actually seeing
with his own eyes.

Both, we may be sure, were deeply attached
to our Lord. The hearts of both, at this critical
juncture, were full of hopes, and fears, and
anxieties, and expectations, all tangled together.

Yet each behaves in his own characteristic fashion.

We need not doubt that these things were
intentionally written for our learning. Let us
learn, from the case before us, to make
allowances for wide varieties in the inward
character of believers.
To do so will save us
much trouble in the journey of life, and prevent
many an uncharitable thought.

Let us not judge brethren harshly, and set
them down in a low place, because they do
not see or feel things exactly as we see and
feel, and because things do not affect or
strike them just as they affect and strike us.

The flowers in the Lord's garden are not
all of one color and one scent, though they
are all planted by one Spirit.

The subjects of His kingdom are not all exactly
of one tone and temperament, though they all
love the same Savior, and are written in the
same book of life.

The Church of Christ has some in its ranks who
are like Peter, and some who are like John; and
a place for all, and a work for all to do. Let us
love all who love Christ in sincerity, and thank
God that they love Him at all.

The great thing is to love Jesus!


Under the influence of strong temptation

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of John" 1873)

The best Christians know but little
of their own hearts.

We see the disciples professing loudly, "Now
You speak plainly; now we are sure; now we
believe." (John 16:30) Brave words these!
And yet the very men that spoke them, in a
very short time were scattered like timid
sheep, and left their Master alone.

We need not doubt that the profession of the
eleven was real and sincere. They honestly meant
what they said. But they did not know themselves!
They did not know what they were capable of doing
under the pressure of the fear of men, and of strong
temptation. They had not rightly estimated . . .
  the weakness of the flesh,
  the power of the devil,
  the feebleness of their own resolutions,
  the shallowness of their own faith.

All this they had yet to learn by painful experience.

Like young recruits, they had yet to learn that
it is one thing to know the soldier's drill and
wear the uniform, and quite another thing to
be steadfast in the day of battle.

Let us mark these things, and learn wisdom.

None of us, perhaps, have the least idea how
much we might fall if placed suddenly under
the influence of strong temptation.

The true secret of spiritual strength
is 'self distrust' and deep humility.

"For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Living in a world full of disease and death

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of John")

"Lord, the one You love is very sick." John 11:3

True Christians may be sick and ill as well as
others. We read that Lazarus was one "whom
Jesus loved." Yet Lazarus was sick, even unto
death! The Lord Jesus, who had power over all
diseases, could no doubt have prevented this
illness, if He had thought fit. But He did not
do so. He allowed Lazarus to be sick, and in
pain, and weary, and to languish and suffer

like any other man.

The lesson is one which ought to be deeply
engraved in our memories. Living in a world
full of disease and death
, we are sure to
need it some day.

Sickness, in the very nature of things, can never
be anything but trying to flesh and blood. Our
bodies and souls are strangely linked together,
and that which vexes and weakens the body can
hardly fail to vex the mind and soul.

But sickness, we must always remember, is no
sign that God is displeased with us; no, more,
it is generally sent for the good of our souls.

It tends to draw our affections away from this
world, and to direct them to things above.

It sends us to our Bibles, and teaches us to pray better.

It helps to prove our faith and patience, and
shows us the real value of our hope in Christ.

It reminds us that we are not to live always, and
tunes and trains our hearts for our great change.

Then let us be patient and cheerful when we are
laid aside by illness. Let us believe that the Lord
Jesus loves us when we are sick, no less than when
we are well.

Degrees and varieties of grace

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of John")

Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus."
    John 11:5

This verse teach us that Christ loves all
who are true Christians.

The characters of these three people seem
to have been somewhat different. Of Martha,
we are told in a certain place, that she was
"anxious and troubled about many things,"
while Mary "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His
word." Of Lazarus we are told nothing distinctive
at all.

Yet all these were loved by the Lord Jesus. They
all belonged to His family, and He loved them all.

We must carefully bear this in mind in forming
our estimate of Christians. We must never forget
that there are varieties in character, and that the
grace of God does not cast all believers into one
and the same mold.

Admitting fully that the 'foundations' of Christian
character are always the same, and that all God's
children repent, believe, are holy, prayerful, and
Scripture loving; we must make allowances for
wide varieties in their temperaments and habits
of mind.
We must not undervalue others because
they are not exactly like ourselves.

The flowers in a garden may differ widely,
and yet the gardener feels interest in all.

The children of a family may be curiously unlike
one another, and yet the parents care for all.

It is just so with the Church of Christ.

There are degrees of grace, and varieties of
; but the least, the weakest, the feeblest
disciples are all loved by the Lord Jesus.

Then let no believer's heart fail because of his
infirmities; and, above all, let no believer dare
to despise and undervalue a brother.

The monopolizer!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Altogether Lovely")

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my
Beloved, and this is my Friend." Song 5:16

Jesus is to the true saint, the only
altogether lovely one in the world.

There is no loveliness anywhere else.

Christ has engrossed all the beauty and
all the loveliness in the entire universe.

Jesus is the monopolizer of all loveliness,
and the engrosser of all that is admirable
in the entire universe!

As all the rivers meet in the sea, so
all beauties unite in the Redeemer.


Sanctified affliction

(Thomas Reade, "On Affliction")

Sanctified affliction has a twofold effect.

Like the wintry blast, it kills the noxious
weeds of . . .
  pride, and

While, like the genial warmth of summer, it
nourishes all the kindly graces of the Spirit . . .
  and love.

When affliction renders a man humble, and
resigned to the will of God; when it tends to
wean him from the world, and produces a
change in his whole spirit and conduct; it is
because the God of all grace is employing it
as a means whereby to lead him, through
the accompanying power of the Spirit, to
true holiness.


We seem to see a child

(Henry Law, "Deuteronomy" 1858)

"The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in
 safety by Him." Deut. 33:12

Survey the picture. It is lovely in repose.
We seem to see a child without one care
seated securely by a parent's side. No
anxious fears disturb. Undoubting trust
spreads its calm influence. A Father, strong
and watchful, is at hand. An arm is ready to
defend. The happy child knows it, and confides.

The image tenderly depicts the true believer's
blessed state. He sits in peace beside his God.
Faith's wings have borne him upwards. His heart
and thoughts have settled in a tranquil realm.
The restless wanderings of former days are past.

There was a time, when he was tossed about on
stormy waves. He wandered hopelessly in search
of peace. But now he rests in God. His home is by
his Father's side. "The beloved of the Lord shall
dwell in safety by Him."

With filial confidence bring each . . .
to your Father's ear.

God is near . . .
  to cheer,
  to bless,
  to wipe the weeping eye,
  to soothe the wounded heart,
  to raise the drooping spirit,
  to send the pilgrim singing on his way.

"The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in
 safety by Him." Deut. 33:12


Is a man's general character godly?

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of John")

We are often too ready to be deceived by
an 'appearance of GOOD'. We are in danger
of rating some men as very good Christians,
because of a little outward profession of
religion, and a decent Sunday formality;
because, in short, they talk the language
of Canaan, and wear the garb of pilgrims.

We forget that all is not good that 'appears
good', even as all is not gold that glitters,
and that daily practice, choice, tastes,
habits, conduct, private character, are
the true evidence of what a man is.

We are too ready, on the other hand, to
be deceived by the 'appearance of EVIL'.
We are in danger of setting down some
men as not true Christians, because of a
few faults or inconsistencies.

We must remember that the best of men
are but men at their very best
, and that the
most eminent saints may be overtaken by
temptation, and yet be saints at heart after
all. We must not hastily suppose that all is
evil, where there is an occasional appearance
of evil.

The holiest man may fall sadly for a time, and
yet the grace within him may finally get a victory.

Is a man's general character godly?

Then let us suspend our judgment when
he falls, and hope on.

Expulsive power!

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of John")

The woman left her water jar beside the well
and went back to the village and told everyone,
"Come and meet a man who told me everything
I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?" John 4:28-29

She had left her home for the express purpose
of drawing water. She had carried a large vessel
to the well, intending to bring it back filled.

But she found at the well a new heart,
and new objects of interest.

She became a new creature!

Old things passed away!

All things became new!

At once everything else was forgotten for the time.
She could think of nothing but the truths she had
heard, and the Savior she had found. In the fullness
of her heart she "left her water jar," and hastened
away to tell others.

We see here the expulsive power of the grace
of the Holy Spirit. Grace once introduced into
the heart drives out old tastes and interests.
A converted person no longs cares for what
he once cared for!

A new tenant is in the house!

A new pilot is at the helm!

The whole world looks different!

All things have become new!

Conduct like that here described is doubtless
uncommon in the present day. Rarely do we
see a person so entirely taken up with spiritual
matters, that attention to this world's affairs is
made a secondary matter, or postponed.

And why is it so?

Simply because true conversions to God are
Few really feel their sins, and flee
to Christ by faith. Few really pass from death
to life, and become new creatures.

Yet these few are the real Christians of the world.

What are WE ourselves? This is the question, after
all, which demands our notice. Do we feel the supreme
importance of spiritual things, and the comparative
nothingness of the things of the world?

Where is the reality of OUR Christianity?

Let us take heed lest we awake too late, and find
that we are lost forever, a wonder to angels and
devils, and, above all, a wonder to ourselves,
because of our own obstinate blindness and folly.


There is nothing too trivial

(Octavius Winslow)

"And even the very hairs of your head are all
Matthew 10:30

Christ thus teaches us that our Heavenly Father
takes cognizance of the minutest events and
circumstances of our individual history; and that
there is nothing too trivial or common to be
beneath His interest and control.

And thus, although the heaven and heaven of
heavens cannot contain Him, yet He seeks a
dwelling place amid the sighs and groans and
of a humble, broken, and contrite heart.

And all the interests of that heart; its . . .
    faintest desire,
    gentlest sigh,
    softest prayer,
are entwined with the purposes, thoughts,
and affections of His heart.

Our heavenly Father is concerned with the most
infinitesimal event and incident of our history!

"And even the very hairs of your head are all
Matthew 10:30


He will warm, soften, and fill it with His love.

(Mary Winslow, "Life in Jesus")

If your heart appears cold, hard, and insensible,
take it to Jesus, and tell Him how it is with you.

He will warm, soften, and fill it with His love.

Let nothing come between you and your best Friend.

In all your fears, failures, and discouragements,
go to Him, and tell Him all.

Let us, in this world of trial, cling close to Him,
and lean more upon Him as little helpless children.

Keep a constant communion with Him.

Tell Him all you feel, or wish, or need.

God's chisel

(John MacDuff, "The Night Dream of the Desert")

God deals in love with all His spiritual children.

The rod is required in some, more than in others . . .
  to subdue the defiant and obdurate will,
  to put an end to all schemings and compromise,
  and gain the heart to an unconditional surrender.

The Divine Sculptor, with each successive stroke
of the chisel, has the great end in view of bringing
out His own image in the soul, and deepening in it
His love of goodness, truth, purity, and kindness.

And while not one stroke of that chisel is an
unnecessary one, He will not cease His work
until the spiritual marble has been fashioned
so as to reach perfectly and forever, His own


Come and display your treasure!

(Henry Law, "Deuteronomy" 1858)

Ah! wretched worldling, when will you be wise!

Come and display your treasure!
Your best is but . . .
   a fading flower;
   a fleeting shadow;
   a tottering reed;
   a failing brook.

And how long can your hands retain it?

How long?

You startle.
You tremble.
You turn pale.

How long?

It perishes, while you strive to grasp it!

What will then follow?

Hell is at hand to answer!


Potsherds of earth covered with silver dross?

(Thomas Reade, "Christian Meditations")

True religion is seated in the heart.

The understanding may be well furnished
with Gospel truth, and yet the heart remain
destitute of Gospel grace.

A man may have very clear notions of the
doctrines of grace, but if the grace of those
doctrines does not influence his heart, and
shine forth in a holy life, all his knowledge
will profit him nothing.

A person may speak well and fluently upon
religion; and yet be quite dead to the power
of that Gospel, on which he speaks so well.

Something more is requisite to form the true
Christian than 'head knowledge' and religious

Many who now shine in their circle of religious
friends, will, at last, be found no better than
potsherds of earth covered with silver dross.

A person, living in a round of external duties,
may be esteemed first by many who look only
at the outward appearance, while he is viewed
as last by the Searcher of hearts.

A talkative forward professor may attract attention,
and gain admirers; but it is the humble, meek, self
denying believer, who studiously avoids all public
notice, while he is laboring with all his might to
advance the interests of the Gospel, that will be
owned by Jesus in that great day, when true faith
will be made manifest by its genuine fruits.