Grace Gems for FEBRUARY 2004

The great design of God

(Thomas Reade, "The Believer's Path to Glory")

It is one of the Lord's dealings with His
beloved children, to make them feel . . .
  their weakness and His power;
  their pollution and His holiness;
  their nothingness and His all sufficiency.

The more we are brought under the teachings
of the Holy Spirit, the more we shall find the
truth of this remark.

It is the great design of God . . .
  to humble our naturally proud hearts,
  to bring down our naturally self righteous spirit,
  to root out our naturally idolatrous affections.



The great secret

(Octavius Winslow, "Morning Thoughts")

"Without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5.

Oh, that each Christian would but realize this
truth: that simpler, closer, more experimental
views of Jesus would essentially strengthen
the tone of inward spirituality and comfort!

The great secret of all comfort in seasons of
affliction, is to take the affliction, as it comes,
simply to Christ.

And the great secret of all holiness is to take
the corruption, as it rises, simply to Christ.

It is this living upon Christ for all he needs,
this going to Christ under all circumstances,
and at all seasons, which forms the happy
and holy life
of a child of God.

Christ must be all in all to him. Friends,
domestic comforts, church privileges, means
of grace; nothing must suffice for Jesus.

And why does the Lord so frequently discipline
the soul? Why remove friends, why blight domestic
comforts? Oh, why? but to open a way through
which He Himself might enter the believer, and
convince that lonely, bereaved, and desolate
, that He is a substitute for everything,
while nothing shall ever be a substitute for Him.

He will have the supreme affection of His people;
they shall find their all in Him. And to this end He
sends afflictions, crosses, and disappointments-
to wean them from their idols and draw them
to Himself


Who can come out of the battle alive?

(J. C. Philpot, "The Word of God's Grace" 1846)

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

We know little of ourselves, and less
of one another. We do not know . . .
  our own needs,
  what is for our good,
  what snares to avoid,
  what dangers to shun.

Our path is . . .
  bestrewed with difficulties,
  beset with temptations,
  surrounded with foes,
  encompassed with perils.

At every step there is a snare!

At every turn an enemy lurks!

Pride digs the pit,
carelessness blindfolds the eyes,
carnality drugs and intoxicates the senses,
the lust of the flesh seduces,
the love of the world allures,
unbelief paralyzes the fighting hand and the praying knee,
sin entangles the feet,
guilt defiles the conscience,
and Satan accuses the soul.

Under these circumstances, who can come out of
the battle alive?
Only he who is kept by the mighty
power of God. "Hold me up, and I shall be safe!"


Walking dirt?

(Charles Spurgeon)

The more grace we have, the less we shall
think of ourselves; for grace, like light,
reveals our impurity. At best, we are . . .
  but clay,
  animated dust,
  mere walking dirt.

But viewed as sinners, we are monsters indeed.

Let it be published in heaven as a wonder,
that the Lord Jesus should set His heart's
love upon such as we are!


(J. C. Philpot, "The Lord's Merciful Look Upon His People")

"Look upon me, and be merciful unto me." Ps. 119:132

When shall we ever get beyond the need of God's mercy?

We feel our need of continual mercy . . .
  as our sins abound,
  as our guilt is felt,
  as our corruption works,
  as our conscience is burdened,
  as the iniquities of our heart are laid bare,
  as our hearts are opened up in the Spirit's light.

We need . . .
  mercy for every adulterous look;
  mercy for every covetous thought;
  mercy for every light and trifling word;
  mercy for every wicked movement of our depraved hearts;
  mercy while we live;
  mercy when we die;
  mercy to accompany us every moment;
  mercy to go with us down to the portals of the grave;
  mercy to carry us safely through the swellings of Jordan;
  mercy to land us safe before the Redeemer's throne!

"Look upon me, and be merciful unto me."

Why me?
Because I am so vile a sinner.
Because I am so base a backslider.
Because I am such a daring transgressor.
Because I sin against You with every breath that I draw.
Because the evils of my heart are perpetually manifesting themselves.
Because nothing but Your mercy can blot out such
iniquities as I feel working in my carnal mind.

I need . . .
 inexhaustible mercy,
 everlasting mercy,
 super-abounding mercy.

Nothing but such mercy as this can suit such a guilty sinner!

A flowery path?

(J. C. Philpot, "Treasures of Darkness" 1853)

Does the road to heaven lie across a smooth,
grassy meadow, over which we may quietly
walk in the cool of a summer evening, and
leisurely amuse ourselves with gathering of
flowers and listening to the warbling of the birds?

No child of God ever found the way to heaven
a flowery path. It is the wide gate and broad
way which leads to perdition. It is the strait
and narrow way, the uphill road, full of . . .
  and enemies,
which leads to heaven, and issues in eternal life.

But our Father manifests mercy and grace. He never
leaves nor forsakes the objects of His choice. He . . .
  fulfills every promise,
  defeats every enemy,
  appears in every difficulty,
  richly pardons every sin,
  graciously heals every backsliding,
  and eventually lands them in eternal bliss!


An apple in exchange for a paradise!

(Thomas Brooks, "Precious Remedies
 Against Satan's Devices" 1652)

"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for
 we are not ignorant of his devices." 2 Cor. 2:11

Satan has . . .
  snares for the wise, and snares for the simple;
  snares for hypocrites, and snares for the upright;
  snares for generous souls, and snares for timorous souls;
  snares for the rich, and snares for the poor;
  snares for the aged, and snares for youth.

Happy are those souls that are not taken
and held in the snares that he has laid!

Satan's first device to draw the soul into sin is . . .
to present the bait, and hide the hook;
to present the golden cup, and hide the poison;
to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit
that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin,
and by hiding from the soul the wrath and misery
that will certainly follow the committing of sin.

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the
woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it
your eyes will be opened, and you will be like
God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4-5

Your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods!
Here is the bait, the sweet, the pleasure, the profit.
Oh, but he hides the hook- the shame, the wrath,
and the loss that would certainly follow!

Thus Satan cheats them; giving them
an apple in exchange for a paradise!

Satan tempts us by his golden baits, and then
he leads us and leaves us in a fool's paradise.

He promises the soul honor, pleasure, profit;
but pays the soul with the greatest contempt,
shame, and loss that can be.


Toys and playthings of the religious babyhouse

(J. C. Philpot, "The Good Shepherd and His Work")

"I will feed My flock." Ezekiel 34:15

The only real food of the soul must be of God's
own appointing, preparing, and communicating.

You can never deceive a hungry child. You may
give it a plaything to still its cries. It may serve
for a few minutes; but the pains of hunger are
not to be removed by a doll. A toy horse will not
allay the cravings after the mother's breast.

So with babes in grace. A hungry soul
cannot feed upon playthings.

painted windows,
intoning priests, and
singing men and women;
these dolls and wooden horses; these toys
and playthings of the religious babyhouse
cannot feed the soul that, like David, cries out
after the living God. (Psalm 42:23)

Christ, the bread of life, the manna that
came down from heaven, is the only food
of the believing soul. (John 6:51)


The last dreg of wrath!

(Henry Law, "Christ is All" 1854)

Jesus crowns Himself with thorns, that
He may crown His people with glory!

He is made a curse for us!

The sword of vengeance to the very
hilt is sheathed in His breast!

The last dreg of wrath is drained by Him!

Not one drop remains for His people!


But oh, the struggle! oh, the conflict!

(J. C. Philpot, "The Threefold Overthrow of Self"
 This one is a bit longer, but it is choice.)

"I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it
 shall be no more."  Ezekiel 21:27

Jesus wants our hearts and affections. Therefore
every idol must go down, sooner or later, because
the idol draws away the affections of the soul from
Christ. Everything that is loved in opposition to Him
must sooner or later be taken away, that the Lord
Jesus alone may be worshiped. Everything which
exacts the allegiance of the soul must be overthrown.

Jesus shall have our heart and affections, but in
having our heart and affection, He shall have it . . .
  solely, and
He shall have it entirely for Himself.
He shall reign and rule supreme.

Now, here comes the conflict and the struggle.
SELF says, "I will have a part." Self wants to be . . .
  bowed down to.
Self wants to indulge in, and gratify its desires.
Self wants, in some way, to erect its throne in
opposition to the Lord of life and glory.

But Jesus says, "No! I must reign supreme!"

Whatever it is that stands up in opposition to Him,
down it must go! Just as Dagon fell down before
the ark, so self must fall down before Christ . . .
  in every shape,
  in every form,
  in whatever subtle guise self wears,
down it must come to a wreck and ruin before
the King of Zion!

So, if we are continually building up SELF,
Jesus will be continually overthrowing self.

If we are setting up our idols,
He shall be casting them down.

If we are continually hewing out "cisterns
that can hold no water," He will be continually
dashing these cisterns to pieces.

If we think highly of our knowledge,
we must be reduced to total folly.

If we are confident of our strength,
we must be reduced to utter weakness.

If we highly esteem our attainments, or in
any measure are resting upon the power of
the creature
, the power of the creature must
be overthrown, so that we shall stand weak
before God, unable to lift up a finger to deliver
our souls from going down into the pit.

In this way does the Lord teach His people the
lesson that Christ must be all in all. They learn . . .
  not in the way of speculation,
  nor in the way of mere dry doctrine,
  not from the mouth of others, but
they learn these lessons in painful soul-experience.

And every living soul that is sighing and longing after
a manifestation of Christ and desiring to have Him
enthroned in the heart; every such soul will know,
sooner or later . . .
  an utter overthrow of self,
  a thorough prostration of this idol,
  a complete breaking to pieces of this beloved image,
that the desire of the righteous may be granted, and
that Christ may reign and rule as King and Lord in him
and over him, setting up His blessed kingdom there, and
winning to Himself every affection of the renewed heart.

Are there not moments, friends, are there not some
few and fleeting moments when the desire of our souls
is that Christ should be our Lord and God; when we are
willing that He should have every affection; that every
rebellious thought
should be subdued and brought into
obedience to the cross of Christ; that every plan should
be frustrated which is not for the glory of God and our
soul's spiritual profit?

Are there not seasons in our experience when we can
lay down our souls before God, and say "Let Christ be
precious to my soul, let Him come with power to my
heart, let Him set up His throne as Lord and King, and
let self be nothing before Him?" But oh, the struggle!
oh, the conflict!
when God answers these petitions!

When our plans are frustrated
, what a
rebellion works up in the carnal mind!

When self is cast down, what a rising up of
the fretful, peevish impatience of the creature!

When the Lord does answer our prayers, and
strips off all false confidence; when He does
remove our rotten props, and dash to pieces
our broken cisterns, what a storm; what a
takes place in the soul!

But He is not to be moved; He will take His own way.
"I will overturn, let the creature say what it will. I will
overturn, let the creature think what it will. Down it
shall go to ruin! It shall come to a wreck! It shall be
overthrown! My purpose shall be accomplished, and
I will fulfill all My pleasure. Self is a rebel who has
set up an idolatrous temple, and I will overturn and
bring the temple to ruin, for the purpose of manifesting
My glory and My salvation, that I may be your Lord and
your God."

If God has overturned our bright prospects, shall we say
it was a cruel hand that laid them low? If He has overthrown
our worldly plans
, shall we say it was an unkind act? If He
has reduced our false righteousness to a heap of rubbish,
in order that Christ may be embraced as our all in all, shall
we say it was a cruel deed?

Is he an unkind father who takes away poison from
his child, and gives him food? Is she a cruel mother
who snatches her boy from the precipice on which he
was playing? No! The kindness was manifested in the
act of snatching the child from destruction!

So if the Lord has broken and overthrown our purposes,
it was a kind act; for in so doing He brings us to nothing,
that Christ may be embraced as our all in all
, that our
hearts may echo back, "O Lord, fulfill all Your own promises
in our souls, and make us willing to be nothing; that upon the
nothingness of self, the glory and beauty and preciousness
of Christ may be exalted!"

A snake, a monkey, an onion, a bit of rag

(J. C. Philpot, "The History of an Idol, its
Rise, Reign and Progress" October, 1855)

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." 1 John 5:21

is a sin very deeply rooted in the human heart.

We need not go very far to find the most convincing
proofs of this. Besides the experience of every age
and every climate, we find it where we would least
expect it—the prevailing sin of a people who had the
greatest possible proofs of its wickedness and folly;
and the strongest evidences of the being, greatness,
and power of God.

It is true that now this sin does not break out exactly
in the same form. It is true that golden calves are not
now worshiped—at least the calf is not, if the gold is.
Nor do Protestants adore images of wood, brass, or

But that rank, property, fashion, honor, the opinion
of the world, with everything which feeds the lust of
the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life;
are as much idolized now, as Baal and Moloch were
once in Judea.

What is an idol?

It is that which occupies that place in our esteem
and affections, in our thoughts, words and ways,
which is due to God only. Whatever is to us, what
the Lord alone should be—that is an idol to us.

It is true that these idols differ almost as widely
as the peculiar propensities of different individuals.
But as both in ancient and modern times, the grosser
idols of wood and stone were and are beyond all
calculation in number, variety, shape, and size.
So is it in these inner idols, of which the outer
idols are mere symbols and representations.

Nothing has been . . .
  too base or too brutal,
  too great or too little,
  too noble or too vile,
from the sun walking in its brightness—to a snake,
a monkey, an onion, a bit of rag
—which man has
not worshiped. And these intended representations
of Divinity were but the outward symbols of what
man inwardly worshiped
. For the inward idol preceded
the outward—and the fingers merely carved what the
imagination had previously devised. The gross material
idol, then, is but a symbol of the inner mind of man.

But we need not dwell on this part of the subject.
There is another form of idolatry much nearer home;
the idolatry not of an ancient Pagan, or a modern
Hindoo—but that of a Christian.

Nor need we go far, if we would but be honest
with ourselves, to each find out our own idol . . .
  what it is,
  how deep it lies,
  what worship it obtains,
  what honor it receives,
  and what affection it engrosses.

Let me ask myself, "What do I most love?"

If I hardly know how to answer that question, let
me put to myself another, "What do I most think
upon? In what channel do I usually find my thoughts
flow when unrestrained?"—for thoughts flow to the
idol as water to the lowest spot.

If, then, the thoughts flow continually to . . .
  the farm,
  the shop,
  the business,
  the investment,
  to the husband, wife, or child,
  to that which feeds lust or pride,
  worldliness or covetousness,
  self-conceit or self-admiration;
that is the idol which, as a magnet, attracts
the thoughts of the mind towards it.

Your idol may not be mine, nor mine yours; and
yet we may both be idolaters! You may despise or
even hate my idol, and wonder how I can be such
a fool, or such a sinner, as to hug it to my bosom!
And I may wonder how a partaker of grace can
be so inconsistent as to love such a silly idol
as yours! You may condemn me, and I condemn
you. And the Word of God, and the verdict of a
living conscience may condemn us both.

O how various and how innumerable these idols
One man may possess a refined taste and
educated mind. Books, learning, literature, languages,
general information, shall be his idol. Music—vocal
and instrumental, may be the idol of a second—so
sweet to his ears, such inward feelings of delight
are kindled by the melodious strains of voice or
instrument, that music is in all his thoughts, and
hours are spent in producing those harmonious
sounds which perish in their utterance. Painting,
statuary, architecture, the fine arts generally, may
be the Baal, the dominating passion of a third.
Poetry, with its glowing thoughts, burning words,
passionate utterances, vivid pictures, melodious
cadence, and sustained flow of all that is beautiful
in language and expression, may be the delight of
a fourth. Science, the eager pursuit of a fifth.
These are the highest flights of the human mind.
These are not the base idols of the drunken feast,
the low jest, the mirthful supper—or even that less
debasing but enervating idol—sleep and indolence,
as if life's highest enjoyments were those of the
swine in the sty.

You middle-class people—who despise art and science,
language and learning, as you despise the ale-house,
and ball field—may still have an idol. Your garden, your
beautiful roses, your verbenas, fuchsias, needing all the
care and attention of a babe in arms, may be your idol.
Or your pretty children, so admired as they walk in the
street; or your new house and all the new furniture; or
your son who is getting on so well in business; or your
daughter so comfortably settled in life; or your dear
husband so generally respected, and just now doing so
nicely in the farm. Or your own still dearer SELF that
needs so much feeding, and dressing and attending to.

Who shall count the thousands of idols which draw
to themselves those thoughts, and engross those
affections which are due to the Lord alone?

You may not be found out. Your idol may be so hidden,
or so peculiar, that all our attempts to touch it, have left
you and it unscathed. Will you therefore conclude that you
have none? Search deeper, look closer; it is not too deep
for the eye of God, nor too hidden for the eyes of a tender
conscience anointed with divine eye-salve.

Hidden diseases the most incurable of all diseases.
Search every fold of your heart until you find it. It may
not be so big nor so ugly as your neighbor's. But an idol
is still an idol, whether so small as to be carried in the
coat pocket, or as large as a gigantic statue.

An idol is not to be admired for its beauty, or loathed
for its ugliness—but to be hated because it is an idol.

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." 1 John 5:21


The mother and mistress of all the sins

(J. C. Philpot, "PRIDE" 1853)

"I hate pride and arrogance." Proverbs 8:13

"The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure
 of this: They will not go unpunished." Prov. 16:5

Of all sins, pride seems most deeply imbedded in the
very heart of man
. Unbelief, sensuality, covetousness,
rebellion, presumption, contempt of God's holy will and
word, deceit and falsehood, cruelty and wrath, violence
and murder—these, and a forest of other sins have
indeed struck deep roots into the black and noxious
soil of our fallen nature; and, interlacing their lofty
stems and gigantic arms, have wholly shut out the
light of heaven from man's benighted soul.

But these and their associate evils do not seem so
thoroughly interwoven into the very constitution of
the human heart, nor so to be its very life-blood,
as pride. The lust of the flesh is strong, but there
are respites from its workings. Unbelief is powerful,
but there are times when it seems to lie dormant.
Covetousness is ensnaring, but there is not always
a bargain to be made, or an advantage to be clutched.

These sins differ also in strength in different individuals.
Some seem not much tempted with the grosser passions
of our fallen nature; others are naturally liberal and
benevolent, and whatever other idol they may serve,
they bend not their knee to the golden calf.

But where lust may have no power, covetousness no
dominion, and anger no sway—there, down, down in
the inmost depths, heaving and boiling like the lava
in the crater of a volcano, works that master sin—
that sin of sins, pride!

Pride is the mother and mistress of all the sins;
for where she does not conceive them in her ever-
teeming womb, she instigates their movements,
and compels them to pay tribute to her glory.

The 'origin of evil' is hidden from our eyes. Whence
it sprang, and why God allowed it to arise in His fair
creation, are mysteries which we cannot fathom. But
thus much is revealed—that of this mighty fire which
has filled hell with sulphurous flame, and will one
day envelop earth and its inhabitants in the general
conflagration, the first spark was pride!

Pride is therefore emphatically the devil's own sin.
We will not say his darling sin, for it is his torment,
the serpent which is always biting him, the fire which
is ever consuming him. But it is the sin which hurled
him from heaven, and transformed him from a bright
and holy seraph, into a foul and hideous demon!

How subtle, then, and potent must that poison be,
which could in a moment change an angel into a devil!
How black in nature, how concentrated in virulence
that venom—one drop of which could utterly deface
the image of God in myriads of bright spirits before
the throne—and degrade them into monsters of
uncleanness and malignity!


The best of saints

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

Then Peter began to call down curses on himself
and he swore to them, "I don't know the Man!"
    Matthew 26:74

Let us mark Peter's history, and store it up in our

1. It teaches us plainly that the best of saints
are only men
, and men encompassed with many
infirmities. A man may be converted to God, have
faith, and hope, and love towards Christ, and yet
be overtaken in a fault, and have dreadful falls.

2. It shows us the necessity of humility. So long
as we are in the body we are in danger. The flesh
is weak, and the devil is active. We must never
think, "I cannot fall."

3. It points out to us the duty of charity towards
erring saints
. We must not set down men as
graceless reprobates, because they occasionally
stumble and err. We must remember Peter, and
"restore them in the spirit of meekness." (Gal. 6:1)


His providences may change, His heart cannot.

(Octavius Winslow, "Morning Thoughts")

"I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is
 why you descendants of Jacob are not already
 completely destroyed." Malachi 3:6

The immutability of God forms a stable foundation
of comfort for the believing soul. Mutability marks
everything outside of God.
Look . . .
  into the church,
  into the world,
  into our families,
  into ourselves,
what innumerable changes do we see on every hand!
A week, one short day, what alterations does it
produce! Yet, in the midst of it all, to repose calmly
on the unchangeableness, the faithfulness of God.

To know that no alterations of time, no earthly changes,
affect His faithfulness to His people. And more than this;
no changes in them, no unfaithfulness of theirs, causes
the slightest change in God. Once a Father, always a
Father; once a Friend, always a Friend.

His providences may change, His heart cannot.

He is a God of unchangeable love. Peace then, tried
believer! Are you passing now through the deep waters?
Who kept you from sinking when wading through the last?
Who brought you through the last fire?
Who supported you under the last cross?
Who delivered you out of the last temptation?
Was it not God, your faithful, unchangeable God?

This God, then, is your God now, and your God forever
and ever! And He will be your guide even unto death!



They open their eyes in hell, being in torments!

(Thomas Reade)

It is to be feared that thousands, who call themselves
Christians, will never be acknowledged as such in that
great day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be
revealed, and the real character of every professor
of godliness distinctly known.

Too many, it is to be feared, substitute a 'general
acknowledgment of the truths of the Bible', for that
faith in those truths which purifies the heart, and
assimilates the soul to the image of Jesus.

So long as thousands, who bear the Christian name,
live in all the gayeties and follies of the world;
neglecting the Gospel, and manifesting a spirit in
direct opposition to it; we cannot wonder that such
multitudes, carried away by the potent stream of
public example, rest satisfied with a faith which
passes current in the world, which attaches no
transformation to the character, which requires
no self denial, no painful sacrifices on the part
of its possessors.

Many, no doubt, live in what they term the innocent
gayeties of life, and the delights of fashionable
extravagance. These people pride themselves on their
superior wisdom in being able to grasp both worlds at
once; to acknowledge the importance of Christianity,
and yet to enjoy those carnal gratifications which give
such a zest to their existence.

Thus they go on, like the rich man in the parable,
faring sumptuously every day; and never find out
their dreadful mistake, until, like him, they open
their eyes in hell, being in torments!


The black chariot of Christ!

(Spurgeon, "The Saint and His Savior")

Oh, sweet trouble, which brings Jesus
nearer to us! Affliction is the black chariot
of Christ, in which He rides to His children!



I needed no monkish rules then.

(Philpot, "The Falling Rain and the Budding Earth")

A man may . . .
  have a consistent profession of religion,
  have a sound, well ordered creed,
  be a member of a Christian church,
  attend to all ordinances and duties,
  seek to frame his life according to God's word,
  have his family prayer, and private prayer,
  be a good husband, father, and friend,
  be liberal and kind to God's cause and people,
and yet with all this bear no fruit Godwards.

What is all this but pitiful self-holiness?

Real gospel fruit is only produced by the word
of God's grace falling into the heart, watering
and softening it. Without this there is . . .
  not one gracious feeling,
  not one spiritual desire,
  not one tender thought,
  not one heavenly affection.

We have tried, perhaps, to make ourselves holy.
We have watched our eyes, our ears, our tongues;
have read so many chapters every day out of God's
word; continued so long upon our knees; and so
tried to work a kind of holiness into our own souls.

Many years ago, I used to try to pray for the better
part of an hour; and I am ashamed to say, I have
been glad to hear the clock strike. What was this
but a monkish, self-imposed rule, to please God
by the length of my prayers?

But when the Lord was pleased to touch my conscience
with His finger, He gave me a remarkable spirit of grace
and supplication; I needed no monkish rules then.

It is nothing else but human folly

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

Hate and despise all human glory,
for it is nothing else but human folly.

It is the greatest snare, and the greatest
betrayer, that you can possibly admit into
your heart.

Love humility in all its instances; practice
it in all its parts, for it is the noblest state
of the soul of man. It will set your heart
and affections right towards God, and fill
you with every temper that is tender and
affectionate towards men.


The strong man sinks down into a babe!

(J. C. Philpot, "The Seed of Israel, Justified in Christ")

"The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
 my God, my strength, in whom I will trust." Psalm 18:2

As long as a man has any strength of his own, he will
never have any strength in the Lord; for the strength
of Jesus is made perfect in our weakness.

Oh, what a painful lesson we have to learn to find
all our strength is weakness. There was a time
when we thought we had strength, and could . . .

  resist Satan,
  overcome the world,
  endure persecution,
  bear the reproach of man,
  mortify and keep down pride, and the evils of our heart.

Have we found ourselves able to carry out our fancied
strength? What has been our experience in this matter?
That we have discovered more and more our own weakness;
that we cannot stand against one temptation; the least
gust blows us down!

Our besetting lusts, our vile passions, and the wicked
desires of our hearts, so entice our eyes and thoughts;
so entwine themselves around our affections; that we
give out in a moment
, unless God Himself holds us up!
We cannot stand against sin; our heart is as weak as

Thus we learn our weakness, by feeling ourselves
to be the very weakest of the weak, and the very
vilest of the vile.

As the Lord leads a man deeper down into the
knowledge of his corruptions, it makes him more
and more out of conceit with his righteous, pious,
holy self
. The more the Lord leads a man into the
knowledge of . . .
  his besetting sin,
  the power of his corruptions,
  the workings of his vile nature;
the more deeply and painfully he learns what
a poor, helpless, weak, powerless wretch he is.

As the Lord is pleased to unfold before his eyes the
strength, power, and fullness lodged in Jesus Christ;
He draws him, leads him, brings him, encourages him,
and enables him to come to this fullness. And by the
hand of faith he draws supplies out of that fullness.

As the Lord enables the soul to look to Jesus, His
blessed strength is communicated and breathed into
his soul. Then the 'poor worm Jacob' threshes the
mountains, beats down the hills, and makes them
fly before him as chaff. When the Lord strengthens
him, he can . . .

  stand against temptation,
  overcome sin,
  bear persecution,
  subdue the evils of his heart, and
  fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

When the Lord leaves him, he is like Samson with
his locks cut. He sinks into all evil, and feels the
helplessness of his fallen nature. Let the Lord but
remove His gracious presence, and the strong man
sinks down into a babe!
And he that in the strength
of the Lord could thresh the mountains, falls down
as weak and helpless as a little child.

Thus the Lord painfully and solemnly teaches us, that
being nothing in ourselves, and feeling our weakness,
helplessness, and wretchedness; in Him alone we
have strength.



A wilderness of 'bitter sweets'

(Mary Winslow, "Life in Jesus")
With all its hopes and glory, this is but a
poor world, even if we could possess the
whole of it. Take this world in its best attire,
it is but a wilderness of 'bitter sweets'.

I increasingly feel that this poor
world is not my rest; it is polluted!

Go where he may, rest where he will,
trials and crosses await the Christian.

Save me, and I shall be saved!

(Philpot, "The Sick Man's Prayer and the Sinner's Cry")

"Save me, and I shall be saved!" Jeremiah 17:14

This implies salvation from the power of sin;
the secret dominion sin possesses in the heart.

O, what a tyrannical rule does sin sometimes
exercise in our carnal minds! How soon are we
entangled in flesh-pleasing snares! How easily
brought under the secret dominion of some hidden
corruption! And how we struggle in vain to deliver
ourselves when we are caught in the snares of
the devil, or are under the power of any one lust,
besetment, or temptation!

The Lord, and the Lord alone can save us from all
these things. He saves from the power of sin by . . .
  bringing a sense of His dying love into our hearts,
  delivering us from our idols,
  raising our affections to things above,
  breaking to pieces our snares,
  subduing our lusts,
  taming our corruptions, and
  mastering the inward evils of our dreadfully fallen nature.

Here is this sin! Lord, save me from it.

Here is this snare! Lord, break it to pieces.

Here is this temptation! Lord, deliver me out of it.

Here is this lust! Lord, subdue it.

Here is my proud heart! Lord, humble it.

None but the Lord can do these things for us . . .
  nothing but the felt power of God,
  nothing but the putting forth of His mighty arm,
  nothing but the shedding abroad of His dying love,
  nothing but the operations of His grace upon our soul,
can deliver us from the secret power of evil.

"Save me, and I shall be saved!"

Unfathomable! Unsearchable! Unmeasurable!

(Octavius Winslow, "Morning Thoughts")

"This is real love! It is not that we loved God,
 but that He loved us and sent His Son as a 
 sacrifice to take away our sins." 1 John 4:10

"This is real love!" That God should punish the
innocent for the guilty; that He should exact the
blood of His Son to cancel the guilt of His rebels;
that He should lay an infinite weight of wrath on
Jesus' soul, in order to lay an infinite weight of love
on ours; that He should sacrifice His life of priceless
value, for our worthless, forfeited, and doomed life;
that He should not only give His Son, but should
bruise Him, put Him to grief, afflict Him, and
make His soul an offering for sin; that the 'Lord
of Glory' should become a 'man of sorrows'; that
the Lord of Life should die.

Oh depth of love unfathomable!

Oh height of love unsearchable!

Oh length and breadth of love unmeasurable!

Oh love of God, which passes knowledge!

Their tears are all in His bottle!

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

"I am poor and needy; yet the
Lord thinks upon me." Psalm 40:17

Christ cares for all His believing people,
and never forgets them. Forgotten and
despised by the world, perhaps, they are
never forgotten by their Savior. He knows
where they dwell, and what their trials are.

A book of remembrance is written for them.
Their tears are all in His bottle! Their names
are engraved on the palms of His hands.

He notices all they do for Him in this evil
world, though they think it not worth notice.

Let believers remember this.

In their worst estate they may boldly say
with David, "I am poor and needy; yet the
Lord thinks upon me." Psalm 40:17

Crush its viper head with the heel of our boot!

(Philpot, "The Walk in the Fields and among the Vineyards")

"Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself,
 and take up his cross and follow Me" Mark 8:34

To deny and renounce self lies at the very foundation
of vital godliness.

It is easy in some measure to leave the world; easy
to leave the professing church; but to go forth out of
self, there is the difficulty, for this "self" embraces
such a variety of forms.

What varied shapes and forms does this monster
assume! How hard to trace his windings! How
difficult to track this wily foe to his hidden den; drag
him out of the cave; and immolate him at the foot of
the cross, as Samuel hewed down Agag in Gilgal.

Proud self,
righteous self,
covetous self,
ambitious self,
sensual self,
deceitful self,
religious self,
flesh-pleasing self.

How difficult to detect, unmask, strip out of its
changeable suits of apparel, this ugly, misshaped
, and then stamp upon it, as if one would
crush its viper head with the heel of our boot!

Who will do such violence to beloved self, when every
nerve quivers and shrinks; and the coward heart cries
to the uplifted foot, "Spare, spare!"

But unless there is this self crucifixion, there is
no walking hand in hand with Christ, no heavenly
communion with Him; for there can no more be a
partnership between Christ and self, than there
can be a partnership between Christ and sin.


Poor, moping, dejected creatures

(J. C. Philpot, "Daily Words for Zion's Wayfarers")

We are, most of us, so fettered down by . . .
  the chains of time and sense,
  the cares of life and daily business,
  the weakness of our earthly frame,
  the distracting claims of a family, and
  the miserable carnality and sensuality of our fallen nature,
that we live at best a poor, dragging, dying life.

Many of us are poor, moping, dejected creatures.
We have . . .
  a variety of trials and afflictions,
  a daily cross and
  the continual plague of an evil heart.

We know enough of ourselves to know that in SELF
there is neither help nor hope, and never expect a
smoother path, a better, wiser, holier heart. As then . . .
  the weary man seeks rest,
  the hungry man seeks food,
  the thirsty man seeks drink,
  and the sick man seeks health,
so do we stretch forth our hearts and arms that we
may embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and sensibly
realize union and communion with Him.

He discovers the evil and misery of sin that we may
seek pardon in His bleeding wounds and pierced side.

He makes known to us our nakedness and shame,
and, as such, our exposure to God's wrath, that we
may hide ourselves under His justifying robe.

He puts gall and wormwood into the world's choicest
draughts, that we may have no sweetness but in and
from Him.



We have wolves in our own hearts!

(John MacDuff, "The Shepherd and His Flock")

"Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it."
  John 10:12

The wolf coming and scattering the sheep, is a
pertinent symbol of the fierce temptations with
which His people in every age might expect to
be assailed. Who can attempt to describe these
wolf-like temptations?

Apart from those more peculiar to the world around
us; the countless absorbing influences and interests
of sense and time; a man's worst foes are too
often those in his own bosom. We have wolves
in our own hearts, lurking insidiously; fettered
vices, longing to burst their bands, and go forth
on missions of death and ruin.

There are the wolves of temper . . .
each hidden in his den; crouching in his lair; ready
to make the spring when temptation offers.

Covetousness, the wolf with the golden fleece, how
it has strewed earth's highway with the bones of men!

Even our daily business and avocations may become
to us a dangerous foe. Our very prosperity may turn
into a ravening wolf.

Wherever we look, the world is bristling with
temptations. Wolves lurk on every side, "The lust
of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride
of life," each the leader of a hungry pack waiting
for their prey!

Let these wolf temptations drive you closer to the Shepherd.


A holy familiarity

(Mary Winslow, "Life in Jesus")

My dear friend, have constant transactions with
your precious Savior. A holy familiarity with Him
will tend much to conform to His likeness.

This simple living upon Jesus has a most sanctifying,
purifying tendency upon the whole inner man; and thus . . .
  sin grows more hateful,
  and the world less attractive,
  and the pleasures of sense increasingly distasteful,
  and we are better fitted to sustain the trials of life.



What a battlefield is the heart

(J. C. Philpot, from his "Memoirs")

I have so much opposition within, so many
temptations, lusts, and follies; so many
snares and besetments; and a vile heart,
dabbling in all carnality and filth.

I am indeed exercised "by sin and grace."

Sin or grace seems continually uppermost;
striving and lusting against one another.
What . . .
  lustings, sorrowings;
  fallings, risings;
  defeats, and victories.

What a battlefield is the heart, and there
the fight is lost and won. When sin prevails,
mourning over its wounds and slaughter.
When grace and godly fear beat back
temptation, a softening into gratitude.

One simple test
(by J. C. Ryle)

"Lord, You know all things." John 21:17

There is something unspeakably solemn in the
thought that the Lord Jesus knows all things.

There is an eye that sees all our daily conduct.

There is an ear that hears all our daily words.

All things are naked and opened unto the
eyes of Him, with whom we have to do.

Concealment is impossible.

Hypocrisy is useless.

We may deceive ministers.

We may fool our family and neighbors.

But the Lord sees us through and through.

We cannot deceive Christ!

We ought to endeavor to make practical use of
this truth. We should strive to live as in the Lord's
sight, and, like Abraham, to "walk before Him."

Let it be our daily aim . . .
  to say nothing we would not like Christ to hear; and
  to do nothing we would not like Christ to see.

Let us measure every difficult question as to right
and wrong by one simple test, "How would I
behave, if Jesus was standing by my side?"

Such a standard is not extravagant and absurd.

It is a standard that interferes with no duty or
relation of life. It interferes with nothing but sin.

Happy is he that tries to realize his Lord's presence,
and to do all and say all as unto Christ.