Grace Gems for August 2003


(John MacDuff, "The Immutability of Christ" 1874)

"Behold! I have engraved you on the palms
 of My hands!"  Isaiah 49:16

"Behold," says Immutable One, "I have engraved
you on the palms of My hands." Not on the mountains,
colossal as they are, for they shall depart; on no page
of nature's vast volume, for the last fires shall scorch
them; not on blazing sun, for he shall grow dim with
age; not on glorious heavens, for they shall be folded
together as a scroll. But on . . .
  the hand which made the worlds,
  the hand which was transfixed on Calvary,
  the hand of might and love;

I have engraved you there! No corroding power
can efface the writing, or obliterate your name!

You are Mine now, and Mine forever!

"Behold! I have engraved you on the palms
 of My hands!"  Isaiah 49:16


Sin grasps each mother's son in its vile arms

(Henry Law, "Forgiveness of Sins" 1875)

Sin is inborn. It is a hereditary disease.

The seeds of every evil are innate in each heart.

Let this monster now be boldly faced
. . .
let its hideous features be narrowly scrutinized;
let it be stripped of its deceiving mask;
let the cheating tinsel disappear;
let it be viewed in its naked deformity;
let its essence and character, and work,
    and guilt be traced unsparingly.

Sin grasps each mother's son in its vile arms,
and stops not its assaults while time endures.

Sin moves with the mind's first movement;
in the cradle it begins to stir.

Sin grows with man's growth; it
walks beside him in his every path.

Sin adheres as the very skin, and
lingers in each dying chamber.

There is no lofty dwelling, and no lowly hut,
which sin does not frequent. There is no period
of day or night which can repel its step.

Sin is a universal and life long plague!

Let it be repeated, that each natural
heart is from the cradle, a hive of sin!

Why is this dark picture thus exhibited?

There is no intent to leave any trembling,
dismayed, cast down, fast bound in shackles
of despair. The true desire is to show in lovelier
form the Gospel's smile; and to win readier
acceptance for the tidings, "But the Lord our
God is merciful and forgiving, even though we
have rebelled against Him." Daniel 9:9

Sin's vile brand is upon all; but to all
the Gospel comes, with cheering voice.

A way is opened, in which, without infringement
of any holy attribute, He can pardon, restore to
favor, and remit sin's curse. Full, free, complete,
everlasting forgiveness has come forth from the
courts of heaven!

This forgiveness of sins is the cornerstone
and glory of the Gospel. Gaining validity
through Christ's death, the Gospel . . .
  remits all penalties of the believer,
  abrogates all demands,
  relaxes all bonds,
  cancels all debts,
  blots out every accusing charge,
  silences all threats,
  blunts every weapon of wrath,
  extracts the sting of vengeance,
  averts all miseries,
  removes all apprehensions,
  opens the prison doors,
  loosens all chains,
  closes hell,
  makes a straight path to heaven,
  and crowns an innumerable multitude
     with blessings of celestial favor!


How many more years will I live?

(John MacDuff, "Sunsets on the Hebrew Mountains")

The king said to Barzillai, "Come over with me and
stay with me in Jerusalem, and I will provide for you."
But Barzillai answered the king, "How many more
years will I live
, that I should go up to Jerusalem
with the king?" 2 Samuel 19:33-34

PLEASURE, shaking in her hands her crowns,
cries, "Come over with me!"

MAMMON, clinking his bags of gold, cries,
"Come over with me!"

AMBITION, pointing to the hazy mountaintop,
and her coveted palace gleaming in the sun,
cries, "Come over with me!"

The day will come when these things will yield
no pleasure; when they shall be seen in their
true light, as the empty baubles of an hour!

Oh, what though you may have all that now
caters to the pride of life . . .
  success in business,
  "gaining the whole world;" are you imperilling
or impoverishing your immortal soul?

But Barzillai answered the king, "How many
more years will I live
, that I should go up to
Jerusalem with the king?" 2 Samuel 19:34

What a solemn question for us all, amid the daily
occurring proofs of our frailty and mortality. Oh,
what a motto to bear about with us continually
amid the wear and tear of life!

YOUNG MAN! with the flash of young hope in your
eye; existence extending in interminable vista before
you; pause ever and always on the enchanted highway,
and put the solemn question to yourself, "How many
more years will I live?

MAN OF BUSINESS! in availing yourself of new openings
in trade, accepting new responsibilities and anxieties,
involving yourself in new entanglements, have you
stopped at the threshold and probed yourself with
the question, "How many more years will I live?"

CHILD OF PLEASURE! plunging into the midst of
foolish excitement; the whirl of intoxicating gaiety;
have you ever, in returning, jaded, and weary, and
from the heated ballroom, flung yourself on your
pillow, and sunk into a feverish dream, with the question
haunting you, "How many more years will I live?"

FRUITLESS PROFESSOR! who, with the mere form of
godliness, are yet destitute of every practical active
Christian virtue; you who have lived a useless life.
Have you ever seriously pondered the question,
"How many more years will I live?"


She had been plucked from
the burning fires of Sodom!

(John MacDuff, "Sunsets on the Hebrew Mountains")

"But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar
 of salt. Genesis 19:26

"Remember what happened to Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32


How many there are who, like Lot's wife have apparently
set out to the Zoar of safety, yet who linger and perish
in the plains of Sodom!
They hear the terrors of the law;
they are roused by the threat of the coming conflagration.
They think of fleeing; they have actually set out.

But the world they have left has too many attractions
and fascinations!
Like Demas, they give the preference
to these. They look back to Sodom and perish!

Beware of yielding to temptation!

She had gotten out of reach of the summonings and jeers
of her evil companions; she had reached the brow of the hill,
and was apparently all safe; she had been rescued from the
idolatries of Chaldea, the superstitions of Egypt; she had
been plucked from the burning fires of Sodom
; and yet
she perished notwithstanding!

How sad it is, to see a soul . . .
  that had set out on the way to heaven;
  that had escaped the temptations of youth;
  that got rid of worldly entanglements;
  that got out of Sodom and was on its way to Zoar,
yet perishing with salvation in sight!

"But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar
 of salt. Genesis 19:26

"Remember what happened to Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32


The consolations of Christ

(John MacDuff, "Sunsets on the Hebrew Mountains")

"Is there no Balm in Gilead?
 Is there no Physician there?"

Jeremiah 8:22

There is not a wounded bosom on earth for which
there is not Balm in Gilead, and a Physician there.
Christ is "the God of all consolation." He has . . .
  a remedy for every evil;
  an antidote for every sorrow;
  a cordial for every fainting heart;
  a hand of love to wipe every weeping eye;
  a heart of tenderness to sympathize with every sorrowful bosom;
  an arm of power to protect;
  a rod of love to chasten;
  immutable promises to encourage on earth;
  an unfading crown to bestow in heaven;
  strength to bestow in the hour of weakness;
  courage in the hour of danger;
  faith in the hour of darkness;
  comfort in the hour of sorrow;
  victory in the hour of death!

What are the world's consolations in comparison
to this? Test them in the time when they are needed
most, and they will be found to be the first to give
way; broken reeds; the sport of every tempest that
desolates the heart.

O tempest tossed one, Jesus is your Balm!

The consolations of Christ are those alone which
are independent of all times and circumstances;
all vicissitudes and changes; which avail alike . . .
  in prosperity and adversity,
  in joy and sorrow,
  in health and sickness,
  in life and death.

The drearier the desert, the sweeter and more
refreshing are the streams of consolation of
which He calls us to partake.

We have not piety enough

(William Law, "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life")

Let us not vainly content ourselves with
the common disorders of our lives . . .
    the vanity of our expenses,
    the folly of our diversions,
    the pride of our habits,
    the idleness of our lives,
    and the wasting of our time,
fancying that these are such imperfections as we
fall into through the unavoidable weakness and
frailty of our natures.

But let us be assured, that these disorders of our
common life are owing to this: we don't  sincerely
intend to please God in all the actions of our life.

So that the fault is not that we desire to be holy, but
through the weakness of our nature fall short of it.
But it is because we have not piety enough to intend
to be as holy as we can, or to please God in all the
actions of our life.

She that spends her time and money in the unreasonable
ways and fashions of the world, does not do so because
she lacks power to be wise and religious in the management
of her time and money; but because she has no intention
or desire of being so.

The reason why you see . . .
  no real mortification or self denial,
  no eminent charity,
  no profound humility,
  no heavenly affection,
  no true contempt of the world,
  no Christian meekness,
  no sincere zeal,
  no eminent piety
in the common lives of Christians, is this,
because they do not so much as intend to
be exact and exemplary in these virtues.


How are we to walk safely along such a path?

(Frances Ridley Havergal, "Morning Bells" 1880)

"Hold me up, and I shall be safe." Psalm 119:117

The path is not easy.

There are many rough stones over which we may
stumble, if we are not walking very carefully.

There are places which look quite smooth, but
they are more dangerous than the rough ones,
for they are slippery.

There are little holes, hidden under the flowers,
which may catch our feet and give us a bad fall.

There are muddy ditches, into which we
may slip and get sadly wet and dirty.

How are we to walk safely along such a path?

We need a strong, kind hand to hold us up,
and to hold us always; a hand that will hold
ours tightly and lovingly.

Yes! Christ's loving hand is able to keep us from falling.

"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 do not live the lives of Christians!

(William Law, "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life")

If our common life is not a common course of . . .
  self denial,
  renunciation of the world,
  poverty of spirit,
  and heavenly affection,
we do not live the lives of Christians!

But yet though it is thus plain that this, and this
alone, is Christianity: a uniform, open, and visible
practice of all these virtues. Yet it is as plain, that
there is little or nothing of this to be found, even
among the better sort of people.

You see them often at Church, and pleased with
fine preachers. But look into their lives, and you see
them just the same sort of people as others are, who
make no pretenses to devotion. They have . . .
  the same taste of the world,
  the same worldly cares, and fears, and joys;
  the same turn of mind,
  equally vain in their desires.

You see . . .
  the same fondness for state and equipage,
  the same pride and vanity of dress,
  the same self love and indulgence,
  the same foolish friendships, and groundless hatreds,
  the same levity of mind, and trifling spirit,
  the same fondness for diversions,
  the same idle dispositions, and vain ways of
spending their time as the rest of the world,
who make no pretenses to Christianity.

The common character of mankind?

(by David Black)

Selfishness, or inordinate self love,
is the common character of mankind.

While men are strangers to the regenerating
power of divine grace, they are almost wholly
guided by it. Even their boasted benevolence,
is little better than refined selfishness.

The world they pursue as their chief good.

Its honors, its riches, or its pleasures, are,
in their estimation, of the highest importance;
so that, regardless of the glory of their Maker
and of the ultimate end of their being, they
only consult the desires of present selfish

"How am I to worship God?"

(by Horatius Bonar)

Man asks, "How am I to worship God?" and
he has answered it also in his own way. In the
gorgeous temple, in the pillared cathedral, with
incense, and vestments, and forms, and ceremonies,
and processions, and postures, he says.

But these performances are the 'will worship' of
self righteousness, not the obedient service of
men worshiping God in ways of His own choosing.

Man cannot teach man how to worship God. When
he tries it he utterly fails. He distorts worship; he
misrepresents God, and he indulges his own sensuous
or self righteous tastes. His "dim religious light" is
but a reflection of his own gloomy spirit, and an
ignorant misrepresentation of Him "who is light."

God's answer to man's question is given in the
Lord's words, "those who worship Him must worship
Him in spirit and in truth."

The vestments may or may not be lovely; that matters not.

The music may or may not be beautiful.

The knees may or may not be bent.

The hands may or may not be clasped.

The place of worship may or may not be
a cathedral, or a consecrated building.

These are immaterial things; mere
adjuncts of religion, not its essence.

The true worship is that of the inner man; and all
these other exterior things are of little importance.

As it is with love, so it is with worship.

The heart is everything!

God can do without the bended knee,
but not without the broken heart!


Put to death by His own creatures!

(Spurgeon, "The Great Mystery of Godliness")

The condescension of Christ became most
extraordinary when, at last, our Lord stooped
to be put to death by His own creatures!

Arraigned before human tribunals, condemned
as guilty of the gravest crimes, He is fastened
to the accursed wood, and put to a death of
deepest shame, and bitterest torture.

What a wondrous sight was the dying Redeemer! 

Jesus comes to save His people from their sins,
by taking the sins of His people upon Himself! 

This is a mystery surpassing all comprehension!

O you whose loving eyes have looked upon the
ensanguined rills which gush from the wounds
of your bleeding Lord, and have delighted to
behold the Lily of the valleys reddened into the
Rose of Sharon with the crimson of His own blood;
behold in the writhing form of the Crucified Man
at once the vengeance and the love of God.

Behold divine power sustaining the load of
human guilt, and divine compassion enduring
such agonies for rebels so ill deserving!

Who can count the hideous specters?

(Henry Law, "Forgiveness of Sins" 1875)

"He forgives ALL my sins." Psalm 103:3

Satan will often strive to bring our sins
to remembrance.
They readily appear in
frightful mass, in vast accumulation.

They swarm in all periods of life. . .
  in childhood's dawn;
  in blooming youth;
  in the prime of manhood; and
  when the shadows of declining age cast gloom.

Our sins haunt us . . .
  openly committed or allowed in secret,
  acted in every condition and relationship of life,
  at home,
  in the family,
  in solitude,
  in the busy haunts of men,
  in the sanctuary,
  in the closet,
  in prayer uttered or neglected,
  in ignorance,
  in clear intention,
  when conscience slumbered,
  and when its voice gave warning,
  amid misgiving, and in daring audacity,
  in defiance of convictions,
  in disregard of resolves and vows!

Who can count the hideous specters which
are ready to revive and terrify the conscience?

But when all sins in all their aggravations
threaten, the multitudinous array may be
confronted with this relieving word, "He
forgives ALL my sins.
" Psalm 103:3

Let the emphatic monosyllable "all" be prized.

It is not said some, or few, or many; but "all."

God so completely pardons, that not
one iniquity remains unpardoned!

We are never beyond the reach of His care!

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Mark" 1857)

"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Mark 6:50

Mark how our Lord sees the troubles of His
believing people, and in due time will help them.

We read that when "the ship was in the midst
of the sea, and He was alone on the land," He
"saw His disciples toiling in rowing," came to
them walking on the sea; cheered them with the
gracious words, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be
afraid," and changed the storm into a calm.

There are thoughts of comfort here for all true
believers. Wherever they may be, or whatever
their circumstances, the Lord Jesus sees them!

Alone, or in company;
in sickness or in health;
by sea or by land;
in perils in the city;
in perils in the wilderness
the same eye which saw the disciples
tossed on the lake, is ever looking at us!

We are never beyond the reach of His care!

Our way is never hidden from Him!

He knows the path that we take, and is still
able to help. He may not come to our aid at
the time we like best, but He will never allow
us utterly to fail.

He who walked upon the water never changes!

He will always come at the right time to uphold
His people. Though He tarry, let us wait patiently.

Jesus sees us, and will not forsake us.

"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Mark 6:50

A great hospital

"All of you will desert Me," Jesus told them.
     Mark 14:27

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Mark" 1857)

We see in this verse, how well our Lord foreknew
the weakness and infirmity of His disciples. He
tells them plainly what they were going to do.
"All of you shall desert Me."

Let us take comfort in the thought that the
Lord Jesus does not cast off His believing
people because of failures and imperfections.

He knows what they are.

He takes them, as the husband takes the wife, with
all their blemishes and defects
, and, once joined to
Him by faith, will never leave them. He is a merciful
and compassionate High priest. It is His glory to pass
over the transgressions of His people, and to cover
their many sins.

He knew what they were before conversion:
wicked, guilty, and defiled; yet He loved them.

He knows what they will be after conversion:
weak, erring, and frail; yet He loves them.

He has undertaken to save them, notwithstanding
all their shortcomings. And what He has undertaken
He will perform.

Let us learn to pass a charitable judgment on the
conduct of professing believers. Let us not set them
down in a low place, and say they have no grace,
because we see in them much weakness and
. Let us remember that our Master in
heaven bears with their infirmities, and let us try
to bear with them too.

The Church of Christ is little better than a great
. We ourselves are all, more or less, weak,
and all daily need the skillful treatment of the
heavenly Physician. There will be no 'complete
cures' until the resurrection day.


What a debt of love we owe Him

(Mary Winslow)

How wondrous that we are not lost, and lost forever,
living in a world lying in the wicked one! No power
short of Omnipotence could preserve us from his
malice, or foil his deeply laid schemes for our ruin.

How tenderly is Jesus watching over us!

His sleepless eye of love ever upon us.

He is a Friend to guide us through the wilderness,
encircled, as we are, by a host of beasts of prey.

What a debt of love we owe Him who, seeing
our danger, ran to our rescue, and undertook our
eternal salvation!


The noblest ecclesiastical edifice

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Mark" 1857)

As He was leaving the temple, one of His
disciples said to Him, "Look, Teacher! What
massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"
"Do you see all these great buildings?" replied
Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another;
every one will be thrown down." Mark 13:1-2

We are naturally inclined to judge things by the
outward appearance, like children who value flowers
more than grain. We are too apt to suppose that
where there is . . .
  a stately ecclesiastical building;
  and a magnificent ceremonial;
  and carved stone;
  and painted glass;
  and fine music;
  and gorgeously dressed ministers,
that there must be some real religion.

And yet there may be no true religion at all.

It may be all form, and show, and appeal to the senses!

The ministers may perhaps be utterly ignorant of
the Gospel, and the worshipers may be dead in
trespasses and sins. We need not doubt that God
sees no beauty in such a building as this
. We need
not doubt the Parthenon had no glory in God's sight
compared to the dens and caves where the early
Christians worshiped; or that the lowest room where
Christ is preached at this day, is more honorable in
His eyes than St. Peter's Cathedral at Rome.

Let it be a settled principle in our religion, however
beautiful we make our churches, to regard pure doctrine
and holy practice as their principal ornaments. Without
these two things, the noblest ecclesiastical edifice is
radically defective. It has no glory if God is not there.
With these two things, the humblest brick cottage
where the Gospel is preached, is lovely and beautiful.
It is consecrated by Christ's own presence and the
Holy Spirit's own blessing.


In that region of unsullied happiness

(Thomas Reade, "Christian Experience")

The Good Shepherd guides His flock in safety
to the fold above. He alone can strengthen us
for the trials of the way. He alone can support
us under the last conflict with sin and death.

The stream through which we shall have to pass
may be tempestuous, but its waves shall not be
allowed to overwhelm us. Jesus will carry us in
His bosom, and, through His faithfulness and
will safely land us on the heavenly shore.

And oh! what bliss will await us there!

No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no heart has
conceived, the glory which shall be revealed in us,
as the ransomed of the Lord.

We shall be heirs of God! We shall posses Him as our
portion, who is the possessor of heaven and earth!

We shall be joint heirs with Christ!

Though now compassed about with infirmities,
we shall then be like the sun in his strength!

Though now allied to the dust, we shall
then be made kings and priests unto God!

We shall sit with Christ upon His throne, and
forever drink the living waters of purity and joy!

Our toils will there be exchanged for rest.

In that region of unsullied happiness...
  Satan cannot reach us;
  wicked men cannot harm us;
  grief cannot distress us;
  sin cannot defile us.

The day will forever shed its brightness over
us, for the Lamb will be our everlasting light,
and our God our glory.

We shall then be made like unto Jesus, and
shall follow Him, as the trophies of His victory,
wherever He goes.

O! transporting thought, to be made like unto Jesus!

This will form the most blessed ingredient in the
happiness of heaven. The glorious image of Christ
will never be defaced, but the beautiful lines of the
new creature will forever shine in the perfection of
beauty, to the praise of redeeming love.

Here on earth, we are struggling with imperfection,
infirmity, and sin. But there, the happy spirit, disengaged
from every weight, will ascend, with lightsome wing, to
the bosom of its God and Savior!

When we come into that happy world above, to be
clothed in the white attire of innocence, it will be
impossible for one evil thought to slide into our minds.

In that region of perfection there will be...
  perfect light in our understandings;
  perfect rectitude in our wills;
  perfect purity in our affections.

In heaven, we shall enjoy eternal communion with
God. He will reveal Himself in all the splendor of
His glory, in all the fullness of His love.

There, with fullness of grace in our hearts, with
diadems of glory on our heads, and with the high
praises of God upon our tongues, we shall surround
His throne, and shall reign with Him forever and ever!

Thus our bliss will be perpetual; it will be an Eternal Joy!

"Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!"


Three rules for a happy marriage

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Mark" 1857)

Of all relationships of life, none ought to be regarded
with such reverence, and none taken in hand so
cautiously as the relationship of husband and wife.

In no relationship is so much earthly happiness
to be found, if it be entered upon discreetly,
advisedly, and in the fear of God. In none is so
much misery seen to follow, if it be taken in hand
unadvisedly, lightly, wantonly, and without thought.

>From no step in life does so much benefit come to
the soul, if people marry "in the Lord." From none
does the soul take so much harm, if fancy, passion,
or any mere worldly motive is the only cause which
produce the union.

There is, unhappily, only too much necessity
for impressing these truths upon people. It
is a mournful fact, that few steps in life are
generally taken with so much levity, self will,
and forgetfulness of God as marriage. Few are
the young couples who think of inviting Christ
to their wedding!

It is a mournful fact that unhappy marriages
are one great cause of the misery and sorrow
of which there is so much in the world. People
find out too late that they have made a mistake,
and go in bitterness all their days.

Happy are they, who in the matter
of marriage observe three rules:

The first is to marry only in the Lord, and
after prayer for God's approval and blessing.

The second is not to expect too much from their
partners, and to remember that marriage is, after
all, the union of two sinners, and not of two angels.

The third rule is to strive first and foremost
for one another's sanctification. The more holy
married people are, the happier they are.

A common, old, subtle, and most soul ruining sin.

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Mark" 1857)

"they had been arguing about which of
 them was the greatest." Mark 9:34

It is an dreadful fact, that pride is one of the
commonest sins
which beset human nature.
We are all born Pharisees.

We all naturally think far better of ourselves
than we ought. We all naturally imagine that
we deserve something better than we have.

Pride is an old sin. It began in the garden of
Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they did
not have everything that their merits deserved.

Pride is a subtle sin. It rules and reigns in
many a heart without being detected, and
can even wear the garb of humility.

Pride is a most soul ruining sin. It prevents
repentance; keeps men back from Christ; checks
brotherly love; and nips in the bud spiritual desires.

Let us watch against it, and be on our guard.

Of all garments,
none is so graceful,
none wears so well, and
none is so rare,
as true humility.

The training and education of children.

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Mark" 1857)

"For from within, out of a person's heart, come . . .
  evil thoughts,
  sexual immorality,
  eagerness for lustful pleasure,
  pride, and
All these vile things come from within;
they are what defile you and make you
unacceptable to God."  Mark 7:21-23

The heart is the chief source of defilement and
impurity in God's sight. Our original sinfulness and
natural inclination to evil are seldom sufficiently

The wickedness of people is often attributed to . . .
  bad examples,
  bad company,
  peculiar temptations, or
  the snares of the devil.

It seems forgotten that everyone carries
within him
a fountain of wickedness.

We need no bad company to teach us, and no devil
to tempt us, in order to run into sin. We have within
the beginning of every sin under heaven.

We ought to remember this in the training and
education of children.
In all our management we
must never forget, that the seeds of all mischief
and wickedness are in their hearts.

It is not enough to keep boys and girls at home,
and shut out every outward temptation. They
carry within them a heart ready for any sin
and until that heart is changed they are not
, whatever we do.

When children do wrong, it is a common practice to
lay all the blame on bad companions. But it is mere
ignorance, blindness, and foolishness to do so. Bad
companions are a great evil no doubt, and an evil to
be avoided as much as possible. But no bad companion
teaches a boy or girl half as much sin as their own
hearts will suggest to them.

The beginning of all wickedness is within!

If parents were half as diligent in praying for their
children's conversion as they are in keeping them
from bad company, their children would turn out
far better than they do.


The workings of grace in the heart

(by J. C. Ryle)

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear
its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes
from or where it is going. So it is with everyone
born of the Spirit." John 3:8

The workings of grace in the heart are
utterly mysterious and unsearchable.

We cannot explain why the Word produces
effects on one person in a congregation, and
not upon another.

We cannot explain why, in some cases; with
every possible advantage, and in spite of every
entreaty; people reject the Word, and continue
dead in trespasses and sins.

We cannot explain why in other cases; with every
possible difficulty, and with no encouragement;
people are born again, and become decided Christians.

We cannot define the manner in which the Spirit
of God conveys life to a soul, and the exact process
by which a believer receives a new nature.

All these are hidden things to us.

We see certain results, but we can go no further.

This is deeply instructive. It is humbling no
doubt to ministers, and teachers of others.
The highest abilities,
the most powerful preaching,
the most diligent working,
cannot command success.

God alone can give spiritual life.

But it is a truth at the same time, which supplies
an admirable antidote to excessive anxiety and
despondency. Our principal work is to sow the seed.
That done, we may wait with faith and patience for
the result. We may leave our work with the Lord.
He alone can, if He thinks fit, give success.




(Henry Law, "Family Devotion" 1884)

"To the saints in Ephesus." Ephesians 1:1.

The word 'saints' imports people who are set apart
and consecrated to the service and glory of God.

They are no more of the world.

They reject its hollow and selfish principles.

They scorn its debasing maxims.

They turn from its ungodly ways.

They despise its vain pursuits.

They rise high above its miscalled pleasures.

Their one desire is increasing conformity
to the will and image of God.

They no longer live unto themselves, but unto
Him who loved them and gave Himself for them.


Why was His soul troubled?

(Octavius Winslow, "CONSIDER JESUS" 1870)

"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow
 to the point of death." Mark 14:34

In this lay our Lord's greatest suffering:
His soul sorrow. Compared with this . . .
  the lingering, excruciating tortures of the cross,
  the extended limbs,
  the quivering nerves,
  the bleeding wounds,
  the burning thirst;
were, as nothing.

So long as our blessed Lord endured the gibes
and insults and calumnies of mere men, not a
complaint escaped His lips.

But, when the wrath of God, endured as the
Substitute of His people, entered within His
holy soul, then the wail of agony rose strong
and piercing, "My God, My God, why have
You forsaken Me?"

Why was His soul troubled?

He was now bearing sin and, consequently,
the punishment of sin; the wrath of God
overwhelming His soul.
Divine justice, finding
the sins of God's elect meeting on His holy soul,
exacted full payment and inflicted the utmost

He sees you, haggard, hunger stricken

(John MacDuff, "CLEFTS OF THE ROCK" 1874)

"So he got up and went to his Father.  But while he
was still a long way off, his Father saw him and was
filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son,
threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20

Reader, you may have reached the momentous time
in your spiritual history, when conscience has awoke
with quickened sensibility; when forgotten sins are
brought before you in vivid memorial; the obligations
of a misspent life flashing upon you the reality of a
hopeless bankruptcy. And you feel how utterly vain
is the plea with which you have long sought to delude
yourself, "Have patience with me, and I will pay You all."

You may feel that in yourself, you are the most
worthless and abandoned of prodigals
; that you
have righteously forfeited a place within the Father's
eternal halls! But, He is waiting your return. He sees
you, haggard, hunger stricken
; sick at heart. He
watches the first indications of penitential sorrow.
While yet "a great way off," He is ready with the
fond embrace and the kindly welcome.

Wondrous tenderness, surely, do these His own
words describe, in that surpassingly touching parable,
"But while he was still a long way off, his Father saw
him and was filled with compassion for him; He ran to
His son, threw His arms around him and kissed him."

The riotous living!
The spendthrift life!
The debasing companionship!
All forgotten?

Yes! by that one kiss of forgiveness,
all is buried in everlasting oblivion!

With another it may be the burden of declension and
backsliding; the guilt of apostasy from a first love;
the decay of the inner life. Permitted sin and allowed
have brought on spiritual languor and
lethargy. You are not what once you were . . .
  you have lost tenderness of conviction;
  you have blunted the fine edge of conscience;
  the old ardor in the divine race is gone!

You have allowed the tooth of earthly cares to corrode;
and petty vexations and annoyances to eat out the kernel
of religion. "The little foxes" have entered unchallenged
the soul's vineyard and spoiled the grapes!

None more bruised and broken than you!

The candle, once burning clear, gives forth now
nothing but noxious smoke; polluting and poisoning
the atmosphere of your spiritual being!

Do not despond!

The forgiving love and tenderness of Christ can meet
your case! Burdened one, He your Shepherd is willing
gently to lead you also. He will rekindle these smouldering
ashes of a dying love. He will "strengthen the things
which remain that are ready to die."

"O Israel, My faithless people, come home to Me again,
 for I am merciful. I will not be angry with you forever.
 Only acknowledge your guilt. Admit that you rebelled
 against the Lord your God and committed adultery
 against Him by worshiping idols under every green
 tree. Confess that you refused to follow Me. I, the
 Lord, have spoken!" Jeremiah 3:12-13

Weary and footsore, panting, and burdened

(John MacDuff, "The Tenderness of Jesus" 1874)

"I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29

These are not the virtues which the world values.

Some of the self laudations of the world are . . .
  I am great!
  I am rich!
  I am courageous!
  I am cultured!
  I am learned!

The old Pagan qualities eulogized were bravery,
manliness, heroism, and the like. Humility,
meekness and gentleness
were unknown in
their calendar of virtues.

"He had no curses," says an eloquent divine, "for
His foes; no blows for His enemies. Such was His
gentleness, that when He might have shaken the
earth and rocked the thrones of tyrants, and made
every idol god totter from its blood stained throne,
He put forth no such physical power, but still stood
with melting heart and tearful eyes, inviting sinners
to come to Him; using no lash but His love; no
weapon of war but His grace."

As we watch the crowds of helpless and diseased,
sick and fevered, orphaned, friendless, and dying,
who thronged the way wherever He went, we see
how the tenderness of His words was endorsed
and countersigned by His equally tender deeds.

In the climax of His own humiliation, when nailed
to the cross of Calvary, how tenderly does He
commit His dearest earthly relative to the keeping
of His dearest human friend!

How tenderly in the extremity of anguish and soul
desertion, does He speak words of heart cheer to
the dying thief at His side!

How tenderly does He plead for those who had
entwined the 'thorn crown' around His bleeding
brow, and driven the rough iron into those hands
which had never been employed except to cure;
never uplifted except to bless!

Reader, do you know this tenderness of Jesus?
Amid the rough blasts of life, have you taken
shelter in the gentleness of Him whose love is
better, truer, more enduring, than that of the
kindest and most loving of earthly friends?
Have you learned to sing amid the moanings
of the storm,
"Jesus, Refuge of my soul,
Let me to Your bosom fly;
When the waters o'er me roll,
While the tempest still is high?"

Do you know what it is, as one of the sheep of
His pasture, when weary and footsore, panting,
and burdened
; to run to this infinitely gracious
Shepherd, who delights to carry the lambs in His
arms and gently to lead His burdened ones?

"I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29


There is but one, abiding,
unchanging Sympathizer!

(John MacDuff, "The Sympathy of Jesus" 1874)

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable
 to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we
 have one who has been tempted in every way,
 just as we are." Hebrews 4:15

How varied were the methods by which Jesus,
when on earth, expressed His sympathetic love
and thoughtful compassion! He was the world's
good Samaritan
, binding up the wounds of
aching humanity!

The sympathy of Christ is a comprehensive and
particular sympathy; embracing not only all His
Church, but every individual member of it.
It takes in the whole range of . . .
  human infirmities,
  outward troubles,
  inward perplexities,
  and unspoken griefs,
with which a stranger dare not meddle.

No trial,
no pang,
no tear,
escapes His eye.

With a microscopic power "He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust," as if we stood
alone in the world, and individually engrossed
all His solicitudes.

The world's sympathy is often short lived. It
cannot penetrate the depths and recesses of the
smitten heart. It cannot make allowances for
intense grief. It offers its tribute of condolence
at the moment; but if the heart wounds remain
unhealed, it has its own harsh verdict on
'inordinate sorrow'.

Sorrowful anniversaries come back, but they are all
unnoted, except by the bereft one, who has learned
to lock up these sacred griefs, and to weep alone.

There is but one, abiding, unchanging Sympathizer!
The Immutable Savior! The moss may gather over
the tombstone, and almost obliterate the lettering;
but no corroding hand of time or of years,
"Can ever efface us from His heart,
 Or make His love decay."

The sympathy of the dearest earthly friend may be
evanescent. Brother may be estranged from brother;
sister from sister; friend from friend. But "there is a
Friend that sticks closer than a brother." There is
but one, abiding, unchanging Sympathizer!

This baffles all our comprehension!

(John MacDuff, "Clefts of the Rock" 1874)

"So the Word became human and lived
 here on earth among us." John 1:14

What a transition!

What a stoop for that Infinite Being who proclaimed
Himself the Alpha and the Omega; for "The Ancient
of days" to assume the nature and take the form of
a cradled infant, sleeping on a virgin mother's breast!

We have no plumb line to sound the depths of that
humiliation. We have no arithmetic by which it can
be submitted to any process of calculation.

If we can entertain for a moment the shocking
supposition of the loftiest created spirit in heaven
abjuring his angel nature, and becoming an insect
or a worm; we can, in some feeble degree, estimate
the descent involved in the transformation.

But, for the Illimitable, Everlasting Jehovah,
Himself to become incarnate . . .
  the Creator, to take the nature of the created;
  the Infinite, to be joined with the finite;
  Deity, to be linked with dust;
this baffles all our comprehension!

We can only lie in adoring reverence, and
exclaim with the apostle, "O the depth!"

"Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth!"

The deep ingredient of the wicked heart

(Henry Law, "Psalms")

"In his pride the wicked does not seek Him;
 in all his thoughts there is no room for God."
      Psalm 10:4

The Spirit proceeds to draw a full blown
portrait of sin. The mask is withdrawn.

The monster is dragged forth to light.

The hideous features are revealed.

The Spirit's pen cannot exaggerate.

The dark colors are not too dark.

The deep ingredient of the wicked heart is pride.


The Sovereign Grace of God!

(by Horatius Bonar)

Man's entire apostasy and death in sin,
so that he cannot save himself; and God's
entire supremacy, so that He saves whom
He will; are doctrines exceedingly distasteful
to human pride. But they are Scriptural.

Why was one thief saved and the other lost? 

"Even so Father for so it seemed good in Your sight."

God was not bound to save the one,
and He had power enough to have saved the other,
and neither could save himself.

What made the difference?

The Sovereign Grace of God!


I am with you always

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Matthew" 1856)

"And surely I am with you always, to the
 very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

It is impossible to conceive words more . . .
, and
than these.

Though left alone, like orphan children in a cold,
unkind world
, the disciples were not to think they
were deserted. Their Master would be ever "with
them." Though commissioned to do a work as hard
as that of Moses when sent to Pharaoh, they were
not to be discouraged. Their Master would certainly
be "with them."

No words could be imagined more consolatory
to believers in every age of the world. Let all
true Christians lay hold on these words and
keep them in mind.

Christ is "with us" always.

Christ is "with us," wherever we go.

He came to be "Emmanuel, God with us," when
He first came into the world. He declares that He
is ever "Emmanuel, God with us," when He comes
to the end of His earthly ministry and is about to
leave the world. He is . . .
  with us daily to pardon and forgive;
  with us daily to sanctify and strengthen;
  with us daily to defend and keep;
  with us daily to lead and to guide;
  with us in sorrow, and with us in joy;
  with us in sickness, and with us in health;
  with us in life, and with us in death;
  with us in time, and with us in eternity.

What stronger consolation could believers desire
than this? Whatever happens, they at least are
never completely friendless and alone. Christ is
ever with them.
They may look into the grave,
and say with David, "though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil,
for You are with me." They may look forward
beyond the grave, and say with Paul, "we shall
ever be with the Lord."

We could ask nothing more. None have . . .
  such a King,
  such a Priest,
  such a constant Companion, and
  such an unfailing Friend,
as the true servants of Christ.

He has said it, and He will stand to it, "and surely
I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
"I will never leave you and never forsake you."




(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Matthew" 1856)

"For the love of money is at the root of all kinds
of evil. And some people, craving money, have
wandered from the faith and pierced themselves
with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:10

The love of money is one of the greatest snares
to a man's soul.
The history of the Church abounds
in illustrations of this truth. For money Joseph was
sold by his brethren. For money Samson was betrayed
to the Philistines. For money Gehazi deceived Naaman,
and lied to Elisha. For money the Son of God was
delivered into the hands of wicked men.

Let us all be on our guard against the love of money .

The world is full of it in our days.

The plague is abroad.

Thousands who would abhor the idea of worshiping
idols, are not ashamed to make an idol of gold. We are
all liable to the infection, from the least to the greatest.

We may love money without having it, just as
we may have money without loving it.

It is an evil that works very deceitfully.

It carries us captives before we are aware of our chains.

Once let it get the mastery, and it will harden, paralyze,
scorch, freeze, blight, and wither our souls.
It overthrew
an apostle of Christ. Let us take heed that it does not
overthrow us.

One leak may sink a ship.

One unmortified sin may ruin a soul.

We ought frequently to call to mind the solemn words,
"What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world,
and lose his own soul?" "We brought nothing into this
world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." Our
daily prayer should be, "Give me neither poverty nor
riches. Feed me with the food that is needful for me."

Our constant aim should be to be rich in grace.

Those who "will be rich" in worldly possessions often
find at last that they have made the worst of bargains.
Like Esau, they have bartered an eternal portion for a
little temporary gratification. Like Judas Iscariot, they
have sold themselves to everlasting perdition!



When disappointed in the creature!

(Mary Winslow)

Oh how lovely, how good, exceedingly good,
is Jesus Christ to unworthy me! He is enough
to satisfy my soul.

When disappointed in the creature, and I turn
with a sickening feeling from the world to Christ,
I find here no disappointment; here is . . .
   fullness of joy,
   an ocean of love,
   a heart to feel and sympathize,
   an eye to pity,
and a power, an infinite power . . .
   to supply all my needs,
   to comfort my drooping spirits,
   to refresh my fainting heart, and
   lift me with joy and peace in believing.

Jesus is an all satisfying portion,
and He is my portion, O my soul.