Grace Gems for January 2005

Oh heart, heart, what are you?

(John Berridge)

Oh heart, heart, what are you? A mass
of fooleries and absurdities! The vainest,
foolishest, craftiest, wickedest thing in
the world!

And yet the Lord Jesus asks me for this heart,
woos me for it, and died to win it! O incredible
love! Adorable condescension! "O take it, Lord,
and let it be forever closed to all but You!"

An almighty personal Friend!

(J. C. Ryle, "To Whom?" 1880)

"Because of what Jesus said, many of His
 disciples turned their backs on Him and
 stopped following Him." John 6:66

Millions in every age have turned their back on
Christ. The defection is continually going on.
It is an old disease, and must not surprise us.

The heart is always deceitful and desperately wicked;
the devil is always busy, and seeking whom he may devour;
the world is always ensnaring;
the way of life is narrow,
the enemies many,
the friends few,
the difficulties great,
the cross heavy,
the doctrine of the gospel offensive to the natural man.

What thoughtful person need wonder that multitudes
in every age turn back from Christ, throw off all religion,
and perish miserably!

It is only the 'sifting process' which God permits, in
order to separate the wheat from the chaff, through
which we must all pass. The world after all, with . . .
  its pitfalls and snares for the soul,
  its competitions and struggles,
  its failures and successes,
  its disappointments,
  its perplexities,
  its perpetual crop of crude theories and extreme views,
  its mental conflicts and anxieties,
  its extravagant 'free thought',
  its equally extravagant superstition,
—the world is a fiery furnace and ordeal, through
which all believers must make up their minds to pass.

"Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words
 of eternal life!" John 6:68

Where, indeed, could we turn . . .
  for peace of heart,
  for satisfaction of conscience,
  for hope in the world to come,
—if we turn away from Jesus?

To whom, indeed, shall we go for help, strength,
and comfort—if we turn our backs on Christ?

We live in a world of troubles, whether we like it or
not. Our bodies are liable to a thousand ailments,
and our hearts to a thousand sorrows. No creature
on earth is so vulnerable, and so capable of intense
physical as well as mental suffering, as man.

and death,
and funerals,
and partings,
and separations,
and losses,
and failures,
and disappointments,
and private family trials,
which no mortal eye sees, will break in upon us
from time to time; and we desperately need help
to meet them! Alas, where will our thirsty, wailing
hearts find such help—if we leave Christ?

The plain truth is, that nothing but an almighty
personal Friend
will ever meet the legitimate
needs of man's soul—with His daily help,
sympathy, and watchful care.


Sickness, disease, decay, and death

(J. C. Ryle, "Christ in the Sick Room")

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

Sickness, disease, decay, and death are the
common lot of all mankind without exception.

The human body is a most frail and complicated
machine. From the sole of the foot to the crown
of the head, there is not a part of us which is not
liable to disease. When I think of the variety of
ailments which may assail our bodies, I do not
wonder so much that we die at last—as I do that
we live so long.

But whence comes this liability to sickness,
disease, and death?

The fall of man at the beginning has brought
sin into the world, and sin has brought with
it the curse of sickness, suffering, and pain.

God sends sickness in order to do us good. It is
a friendly letter from heaven. It is a knock at the
door of conscience. Happy is he who opens the
letter and reads it, who hears the knock and opens
the door, who welcomes Christ to the sick room.

Regard your sickness as . . .
  a blessing in disguise,
  a good and not an evil,
  a friend and not an enemy.

Are we Christians? Or are we worldlings?

(Horatius Bonar, "Self-Denial Christianity")

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!"
    Amos 6:1

What do we say to . . .
  our self-indulgence,
  our sloth,
  our love of ease,
  our avoidance of hardship,
  our luxury,
  our pampering of the body,
  our costly feasts,
  our silken couches,
  our brilliant furniture,
  our gay attire,
  our braided hair,
  our jeweled fingers,
  our idle mirth,
  our voluptuous music,
  our jovial tables, loaded with every variety of rich viands?

Are we Christians? Or are we worldlings?

Where is the self-denial of the New Testament days?

Where is the separation from a self-pleasing luxurious
world? Where is the cross, the true badge of discipleship,
to be seen—except in useless religious ornaments for the
body, or worse than useless decorations for the sanctuary?

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!" Is not this
the description of multitudes who name the name of
Christ? They may not always be "living in debauchery,
lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable
idolatry." But even where these are absent, there is
'high living'—luxury of the table or the wardrobe
in conformity to 'this present evil world.'

'At ease in Zion!' Yes! there is the shrinking . . .
  from hard service;
  from 'spending and being spent;'
  from toil and burden-bearing and conflict;
  from self-sacrifice and noble adventure,
for the Master's sake.

There is conformity to the world, instead of conformity
to Christ! There is a laying down, instead of a taking up
of the cross. Or there is a lining of the cross with velvet,
lest it should gall our shoulders as we carry it! Or there
is an adorning of the cross, that it may suite the taste
and the manners of our refined and intellectual age.

Anything but the bare, rugged and simple cross!

We think that we can make the strait gate wider, and
the narrow way broader, so as to be able to walk more
comfortably to the heavenly kingdom. We try to prove
that 'modern enlightenment' has so elevated the race,
that there is no longer the battle or the burden or the
discipline; or has so refined 'the world and its pleasures',
that we may safely drink the poisoned cup, and give
ourselves up to the inebriation of the Siren song.

'At ease in Zion!' Even when the walls of our city are
besieged, and the citadel is being stormed! Instead of
grasping our weapons, we lie down upon our couches!

Instead of the armor, we put on the silken robe!

We are cowards, when we should be brave!

We are faint-hearted, when we should be bold!

We are lukewarm, when we should be fervent!

We are cold, when we should be full of zeal!

We compromise and shuffle and apologize, when
we should lift up our voice like a trumpet! We pare
down truth, or palliate error, or extenuate sin—in
order to placate the world, or suit the spirit of the
age, or 'unify' the Church.

Learn self-denying Christianity.
Not the form or name,
but the living thing. Let us renounce the lazy, luxurious,
self-pleasing, fashionable religion of the present day!

A self-indulgent religion has nothing in common with
the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; or with that cross of
ours which He has commanded us to take up and carry
after Him—renouncing ease and denying self.

Our time,
our gifts,
our money,
our strength,
are all to be laid upon the altar.

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!" Amos 6:1

All the devil's tricks!

(J. C. Philpot, "Contemplations & Reflections")

"So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for
 we are not ignorant of his schemes." 2 Cor. 2:11

Satan is so wily . . .
  his agents so surround us,
  their designs are so masked,
  their language so plausible,
  their manners so insinuating,
  their appearance often so imposing,
  their arguments so subtle,
  their activity so unwearied,
  their insight into our weaknesses so keen,
  their enmity against Christ and His gospel so implacable,
  their lack of all principle and all honesty so thorough,
that the net may be drawing around us, before we
have the slightest suspicion of these infernal plots
being directed against us!

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able
 to stand against all the devil's tricks!" Ephes. 6:11

God's most stubborn enemy!

(Jonathan Edwards, "Spiritual Pride")

"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

Pride is a person having too high an opinion
of himself.

Pride is the first sin that ever entered into the
universe, and the last sin that is rooted out.

Pride is the worst sin. It is the most secret of
all sins. There is no other matter in which the
heart is more deceitful and unsearchable. Alas,
how much pride the best have in their hearts!

Pride is God's most stubborn enemy! There is no
sin so much like the devil as pride. It is a secret
and subtle sin, and appears in a great many
shapes which are undetected and unsuspected.

"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

Me, the vilest of the vile!

(By Sarah Church, a blind a deaf girl, who was paralyzed
 in one arm and both legs. Sarah died at the age of 23.)

The Lord has again visited me in a most wonderful
manner; so much so that I am lost in wonder, love,
and praise, that He should show me such a revelation
me, the vilest of the vile!

"Christ is all and in all." Colossians 3:11

More joyful tidings cannot possibly reach our ears
than what are contained in these words. Christ is
indeed all and in all. He is all to me as . . .
  the end of the law for righteousness,
  the substance of prophecy,
  the sum of the Gospel,
  the life of the promises.

His wisdom directs me.

His righteousness justifies me.

Jesus is . . .
   the perfection of glory;
   truth, without any defect or error;
   holiness, without the least taint of pollution;
   the chief among ten thousand!

Whatever is desirable on earth,
whatever is attractive in heaven,
all the graces of time,
all the glories of eternity,
meet in Him their proper center,
and flow from Him their first source.

His love—how vast!

His promises—how precious!

His work—how perfect!

His mercy—how boundless!

His truth—how immutable!

His power—how omnipotent!

His grace—-how sovereign!

His counsels—how profound!

His people—how secure!

His presence—how blissful!

His smiles—how transporting!

His Gospel—how free!

His law—how holy!

His precepts—how pure!

Christ is all and in all.

Hunger cannot be satisfied without
the bread of life—Jesus Christ.

Thirst cannot be truly quenched without
that living water—Jesus Christ.

The captive cannot be delivered without
the Redeemer—Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the way—without Him we are wanderers.

Jesus is the truth—without Him we live in error.

Jesus is the life—without Him we are dead in sins.

Jesus is the light—without Him we are in darkness.

Jesus is the vine—those who are not grafted in Him
are withered branches, prepared for the fire.

Jesus is the rock—those who are not built upon Him
will be carried away by the flood of Divine anger.
I am lost in wonder that the Lord should look
down upon such a hell-deserving wretch as I am!
But glory be to His name, He does not deal with
us after our sins!

A natural religiosity

(J. C. Philpot, "Contemplations & Reflections")

There is in some people a natural religiosity—that is,
a disposition to be religious. If they had been born in
Turkey, they would have been devout Muslims; if in
Italy, they would have become priests, monks, or nuns,
and as ready to burn a heretic as their fathers; if born
and bred in England, they would be devout churchmen,
pious dissenters, and so forth—just as the various
circumstances of birth and education, habits and
associations, might dispose or determine.

Now to these naturally religious minds, when fully
ripened and blended with a stern spirit of self-denial,
which usually accompanies and grows up with it, no
system so thoroughly adapts itself as that of Popery
—for it just meets and gives full play to that habit of
mind which yields, like clay, to every object of
groveling, superstitious veneration.


Spoiled children!

(J. C. Ryle, "The Duties of Parents")

Train your children to a habit of obedience. No habit,
I suspect, has such an influence over our lives as this.
Parents, determine to make your children obey you
—though it may cost you much trouble—and cost them
 many tears! Let there be no questioning, and reasoning,
and disputing, and delaying, and answering back. When
you give them a command, let them see plainly that you
will have it done.

It ought to be the mark of well-trained children, that they
cheerfully do whatever their parents command them. Where,
indeed, is the honor which the fifth commandment enjoins,
if fathers and mothers are not obeyed cheerfully, willingly,
and at once?

Parents, do you wish to see your children happy?
Take care, then, that you train them to obey when
they are spoken to—to do as they are told.

To my eyes, a parent always yielding—and a child
always having its own way—are a most painful sight!
Painful, because I feel sure the consequence to that
child's character in the end will be self-will, pride,
and self-conceit!
Parents, if you love your children, let obedience be a
motto and a watchword continually before their eyes!

Learn to say "No" to your children. Show them that you
are able to refuse whatever you think is not fit for them.
Show them that you are ready to punish disobedience,
and that when you speak of punishment, you are not
only ready to threaten, but also to perform. Do not
merely threaten. Threatened folks, and threatened faults,
live long. Punish seldom, but really and earnestly. Frequent
and slight punishment is a wretched system indeed.

Beware of letting small faults pass unnoticed under the
idea "it is a little one." There are no little things in training
children—all are important. Little weeds need plucking up as
much as any. Leave them alone, and they will soon become
Parents, if there be any point which deserves your attention,
believe me, it is this one. It is one that will give you trouble,
I know. But if you do not take trouble with your children when
they are young—they will give you trouble when they are old!
Choose which you prefer.

Do not be afraid, above all, that such a plan of training will
make your child unhappy. I warn you against this delusion.
Depend on it, there is no surer road to unhappiness than
always having our own way. To be indulged perpetually is
the way to be made selfish—and selfish people and spoiled
, believe me, are seldom happy.


Some creature steals away your heart

(Charles Spurgeon)

Do you not find yourselves forgetful of Jesus?

Some creature steals away your heart, and you
are unmindful of Him upon whom your affection
ought to be set.

Some earthly business engrosses your attention
when you should have your eye steadily fixed
upon the cross.

It is the incessant round of world, world, world;
the constant din of earth, earth, earth—which
takes away the soul from Christ.

Oh! my friends, is it not too sadly true that we can
recollect anything but Christ, and forget nothing so
easy as Him whom we ought to remember? While
memory will preserve a 'poisoned weed', it allows
the 'Rose of Sharon' to wither.

Why do we forget Christ? 

Because we have a worm in the heart, a pest-house,
a charnel-house within. Lusts, vile imaginations, and
strong evil passions, which, like wells of poisonous
water, send out continually streams of impurity.

I have a heart, which God knows, I wish I could wring
from my body and hurl to an infinite distance; a soul
which is a cage of unclean birds, a den of loathsome
creatures, where dragons haunt and owls congregate,
where every evil beast of ill-omen dwells; a heart too
vile to have a parallel—"deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked."

This is the reason why I am forgetful of Christ.


The only oasis amid barren deserts

(J. C. Ryle, "The Lord's Garden")

"A garden enclosed is My sister, My bride."
    (Song of Solomon 4:12)

Jesus calls His people a garden, because they
are altogether different from the men of the world.
The world is a wilderness—it brings forth little but
thorns and thistles—it is fruitful in nothing but sin.
The children of this world are an untilled wilderness
in God's sight. With all their . . .
  arts and sciences,
  intellect and skill,
  eloquence and statesmanship,
  poetry and refinement,
—with all this they are a wilderness—barren of
repentance, faith, holiness, and obedience to God.

Jesus' believing people are the only green spot on
the earth—the only oasis amid barren deserts.
They are His garden.

He calls them His garden, because they are sweet
and beautiful to His mind!
Believers are vile in their
own eyes, and feel themselves to be miserable sinners.
Yet Jesus says, "You are all beautiful! Sweet is your
voice! Your countenance is lovely!"

Oh, the depths! It sounds incomprehensible
and almost incredible—but it is true!



These modern playthings

(A. W. Tozer, 1897-1963)

"After He had sent the multitudes away, He went up
 into the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening
 had come, He was there alone." Matthew 14:23

Modern civilization is so complex as to make the
devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out
by multiplying distractions, and beats us down by
destroying our solitude, where otherwise we might
drink and renew our strength before going out to
face the world again.

Where is the solitude to which we can retire today?

Science, which has provided men with certain material
comforts, has robbed them of their souls by surrounding
them with a world hostile to their existence. "Commune
with your own heart upon your bed and be still" is a wise
and healing counsel. But how can it be followed in this
day of the newspaper, the telephone, the radio and the
television? These modern playthings, like pet tiger-cubs,
have grown so large and dangerous that they threaten
to devour us all!

No spot is now safe from the world's intrusion!

"After He had sent the multitudes away, He went up
 into the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening
 had come, He was there alone." Matthew 14:23


Home trials
 (J. C. Ryle, "Without Clouds")
 What careful reader of the Bible can fail to see
 that Adam, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac,
 and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses, and Samuel
  —were all men of many sorrows—and that those
 sorrows chiefly arose out of their own homes!
 The plain truth is, that home trials are one of
 the many means by which God sanctifies and
 purifies His believing people.
 These trials are spiritual medicines, which
 poor fallen human nature absolutely needs.
 By them He keeps us humble.
 By them He draws us to Himself.
 By them He sends us to our Bibles.
 By them He teaches us to pray.
 By them He shows us our need of Christ.
 By them He weans us from the world.
 By them He prepares us for "a city which
 has foundations," in which there will be
 no disappointments, no tears, and no sin.
 The believer looks forward to the final
 gathering of a perfect family in which
 there shall be . . .
   no unsound members,
   no defects,
   no sin,
   no sorrow,
   no deaths,
   no tears!



Overcoming the world!

(J. C. Ryle, "Victory!")

"Everyone who has been born of God
 overcomes the world."
1 John 5:4

Our three great spiritual enemies are . . .
  the world,
  the flesh, and
  the devil,

It is hard to say which does most harm to the soul.
The last day alone will settle that point. But I venture
boldly to say, that at no former period has "the world"
been so dangerous, and so successful in injuring Christ's
Church, as it is just now. Every age is said to have its
own peculiar epidemic disease. I suspect that "worldliness"
is the peculiar plague of Christendom in our own era.

The subtle influence of the world, nowadays, seems to
infect the very air we breathe! It creeps into families and
leads myriads captive, who never know that they are slaves!

The enormous increase of English wealth, and consequent
power of self-indulgence, and the immense growth of a
passionate relish for recreations and amusements of all
kinds—all these strange phenomena of our age give the
world an amazing additional power, and make it doubly
needful for Christ's ministers to cry aloud, "Beware of
the world!"

In the face of this aggravated danger, we must never
forget that the Word of the living God does not change!

"Do not love the world!"

"Do not be conformed to this world!"

"Friendship with the world is enmity with God!"

These mighty sayings of God's statute-book remain still
unrepealed. The true Christian strives daily to obey them,
and proves the vitality of his religion by his obedience.

It is as true now as it was eighteen hundred years ago,
that the man "born of God" will be a man who, more or
less, resists and overcomes the world. Though "in" the
world, he is not "of" the world. He uses it, but does not
abuse it. He is not wholly absorbed either in the business
or the pleasures of life—as if they were the sum total of
existence. Even in innocent things he keeps the rein on
his tastes and inclinations, and does not let them run
away with him. He does not live as if life was made up
of recreation, or money-getting, or politics, or scientific
pursuits—and as if there were no life to come! He can
neither be bribed, nor frightened, nor allured into
neglecting his soul.

To be at peace with the world is to be at enmity with God,
and in the broad way that leads to destruction! We have
no choice or option. We must fight or be lost. We must
conquer or die eternally. "Everyone who has been born
of God overcomes the world."
1 John 5:4

I charge and entreat all who are inclined to make peace with
the world, to awake to a sense of their danger! Awake and
cast aside the chains which indolence, or love of popularity,
are gradually weaving round you! Awake before it is too late
—before repeated worldly acts have formed habits—and habits
have crystallized into character—and you have become a
helpless slave!

The "fetters of the world" are often invisible. We are dragged
downward insensibly, and are like one who sleeps in a boat,
and knows not that he is drifting, gently drifting, towards the
falls. There is no slavery so bad as that which is unfelt. There
are no chains so really heavy as those which are unseen.

If you love your souls, hold the world at arm's length.

"Everyone who has been born of God
 overcomes the world."
1 John 5:4


Their little hearts are so full of sin!

(J. C. Ryle, "The Duties of Parents")

It is painful to see how much corruption and evil
there is in a young child's heart—and how soon it
begins to bear fruit!

Violent tempers,
a terrible aptness to learn what is bad,
a painful slowness to learn what is good,
a readiness to pretend anything in order to gain
their own ends—all these things, or some of them,
you must be prepared to see, even in your own
children! In little ways, they will creep out at a
very early age!
It is almost startling to observe
how naturally they seem to spring up.

Children require no schooling to learn to sin.

You must not think it a strange and unusual thing,
that their little hearts are so full of sin. It is the
only portion which our father Adam left us; it is that
fallen nature with which we come into the world; it
is that inheritance which belongs to us all.

Never listen to those who tell you your children are good.
Think rather that their hearts are always inflammable as
tinder. At their very best, they only need a spark to set
their corruptions on fire! Parents are seldom too cautious.
Remember the natural depravity of your children, and
take care.


They will copy what you are!

(J. C. Ryle, "The Duties of Parents")

Parents, train your children remembering continually
the influence of your own example!
Instruction, and advice, and commands will profit little—
unless they are backed up by the pattern of your own life!

Your children will never believe you are in earnest,
so long as your actions contradict your counsel.

Tillotson made a wise remark when he said, "To give
children good instruction, and a bad example, is but
beckoning to them with the head to show them the
way to heaven, while we take them by the hand
and lead them in the way to hell!"
We little know the force and power of example.

No one of us can live to himself in this world. We are
always influencing our children
, in one way or another,
either for good or for evil—either for God or for sin.

They see our ways.

They mark our conduct.

They observe our behavior.

And never does example show so powerfully
as it does in the case of parents and children.
Fathers and mothers, do not forget that children learn
more by the eye than they do by the ear. No school will
make such deep marks on 'character' as home. The best of
school-teachers will not imprint on their minds as much as
they will pick up at your fireside. Imitation is a far stronger
principle with children than memory. What they see has a
much stronger effect on their minds than what they are told.
Take care, then, what you do in front of your child. It is a
true proverb, "He who sins before a child, sins double!"

Strive rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your
families can read, and that plainly too. Be an example of
reverence for the Word of God, and reverence in prayer.

Be an example . . .
  in words,
  in temper,
  in diligence,
  in temperance,
  in faith,
  in charity,
  in kindness,
  in humility.

Do not think your children will practice what they do not
see you do. You are their model picture—and they will
copy what you are!
Your reasoning and your lecturing,
your wise commands and your good advice—all this they
may not understand. But they can understand your life!
Children are very quick observers—very quick in seeing
through some kinds of hypocrisy, very quick in finding out
what you really think and feel, very quick in adopting all
your ways and opinions. You will often find as the father
is, so is the son.

Your children will seldom learn habits which they see you
despise; or walk in paths in which you do not walk yourself.

The parent who tries to train without setting a good example
is building with one hand, and pulling down with the other!


A louder witness

(Philpot, "Contemplations & Reflections")

"Be an example to other believers in your
 speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and
 purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

A godly life is a louder witness against the
inconsistent conduct of loose professors,
than scolding reproofs.

There should be . . .
  a tenderness of spirit,
  a holy prudence,
  a godly awe of the word of truth, and
  a reverent walking before God;
all of which speak plainly against the light,
easy, loose, slip-shod profession of the day.

"Be an example to other believers in your
 speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and
 purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Precious and glorious

(J. C. Philpot, "Contemplations & Reflections")

All that Jesus is and has, all that He says
and does is precious and glorious . . .
  His miracles of mercy, while here below;
  His words so full of grace, wisdom, and truth;
  His going about doing good;
  His sweet example of patience, meekness and submission;
  His sufferings and sorrows in the garden and on the cross;
  His spotless holiness and purity;
  His tender compassion to poor lost sinners;
  His atoning blood and justifying obedience;
  His dying love, so strong and firm;
  His lowly, yet honorable burial;
  His glorious resurrection;
  His ascension and present reign and rule;
  His constant intercession for His people.

What beauty and glory shine forth in all these
divine realities! A view of His glory and a foretaste
of the bliss and blessedness it communicates has
a transforming effect upon the soul.

We are naturally . . .
  grievously entangled in various lusts and passions,
  prone to evil,
  averse to good,
  easily elated by prosperity,
  soon dejected by adversity,
  peevish under trials,
  rebellious under heavy strokes,
  unthankful for daily mercies of food and clothing,
and in other ways ever manifesting our base nature.

To be brought from under the power of these abounding
evils, we need to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Now, this can only be by beholding His glory by faith.
"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror
the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same
from glory to glory!" 2 Corinthians 3:18

It is this believing view of the glory of Christ which
supports under heavy trials, producing meekness and
resignation to the will of God.

Only in the infant's class?

(J. C. Ryle, "Our Profession")

Let us thank God that there are not a few to be found in
every part of Christendom who really are what they profess
to be—true, sincere, earnest-minded, hearty, converted,
believing Christians. Some of them, no doubt, belong to
churches in which their souls get little help. Some of them
have very imperfect knowledge, and hold the truth in its
vitals, with a mixture of many defective views.

But they all have certain common marks about them:

They see the value of their souls
and really want to be saved.

They feel the sinfulness of sin—and hate it,
and fight with it, and long to be free from it.

They see that Jesus Christ alone can save
—and they trust only in Him.

They see that they ought to live holy and godly
—and in their poor way they try to do it.

They love their Bibles, and they pray, though both
their reading and their praying are very defective.

Some of them, in short, are in the highest grade of
Christ's school, and are strong in knowledge, faith,
and love. Others are only in the infant's class, and
in everything are weak and poor.

But in one point they are all one. Their hearts are
right in the sight of God; they love Christ; their faces
are set towards heaven, and they want to go there!

One great secret of unhappiness
 (J. C. Ryle, "Without Clouds")
 Let us learn not to be surprised or fret when trials
come. It is a wise saying of Job, "Man is born to
 trouble as the sparks fly upward." (Job 5:7). Some,
 no doubt, have a larger cup of sorrows to drink than
 others. But few live long without troubles or cares
of some kind. The greater our affections—the deeper
 are our afflictions. The more we love—the more we
 have to weep.
 The only certain thing to be predicted about the
lying in his cradle is this—if he grows up, he
 will have many troubles, and at last he will die.
 Let us learn not to expect too much from anybody
 or anything in this fallen world. One great secret
 of unhappiness
is the habit of indulging in
 exaggerated expectations.
 From money,
 from marriage,
 from business,
 from houses,
 from children,
 from worldly honors,
 from political success—
 people are constantly expecting what they never
 find—and the great majority die disappointed.
 Selfish feeding on our own troubles, and continual
 poring over our sorrows—are one secret of the
 melancholy misery in which many spend their lives.
 Let us never give way to a fretting, murmuring,
 complaining spirit. Let us firmly believe at the
 worst of times—that every step in our lives is
 ordered by the Lord, with perfect wisdom and
 perfect love, and that we shall see it all at last.

The great robber of our loves and joys

(Horatius Bonar, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ")

"No one can live forever; all will die. No one can
 escape the power of the grave." Psalm 89:48

We cannot but hate DEATH, even when we have
ceased to fear it, and know that for us its sting
has been extracted. We hate it, and thrust it from
us. We loath its advances, and wage daily war with
it. We seek by every contrivance of skill to overcome
it and ward off its stroke. We hate it because of its
darkness, and its coldness, and its silence. We hate
it as the great robber of our loves and joys—who
gives nothing, but takes everything!

Death cuts so many ties.

Death rends so many hearts.

Death silences so many voices.

Death thins so many firesides.

Death comes with its dark veil, its screen of ice . . .
  between friend and friend,
  between soul and soul,
  between parent and child,
  between husband and wife,
  between sister and brother.

Of human sympathies, death has none.

Death concerns not itself about our joys or sorrows.

Death spares no dear one, and restores no lost one.

Death is pitiless and silent.

Death is as powerful as it is inexorable.

Death strikes down the weak, and wrestles with
the strong until they succumb and fall.

Death is, in God's eyes, even more than in ours . . .
  an enemy,
  a destroyer,
  a demon,
  a criminal,
  a robber!

For six thousand years death has been . . .
  the fulfiller of God's purposes,
  His rod for the chastisement of His saints,
  His scourge for clearing earth of His enemies
—yet He hates it! And as soon as His ends with
it are accomplished, He will show His displeasure
against it by casting it into the lake of fire!

"And death and the grave were thrown into the
 lake of fire!" Revelation 20:14

We look beyond the tomb and see the glory! Our eye
rests not upon corruption, but upon incorruption! We
shall arise! The reign of death is hastening to a close,
the reign of life about to commence its eternal gladness!
Our true life is coming! The conqueror is on His way!
He will redeem His own people from the power of the
grave, and swallow up death in victory!

"Behold, I am coming soon!" He cries.

We respond, "Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

"But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will
 snatch me from the power of death!" Psalm 49:15

The eye shall not be dim, and the ear shall not be dull,
and the brow shall not wrinkle, nor the hair be gray, nor
the limbs totter, nor the memory fail. There shall be no
more curse, nor death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain;
for the former things have passed away! The Lamb who
is in the midst of the throne shall lead us to the living
fountains of waters, and God Himself shall wipe away
all tears from our eyes!

These vile bodies of ours!

(Bonar, "Coming of the Perfect, Departure of the Imperfect")

"He will take these vile bodies of ours and change
 them into glorious bodies like His own!" Phil. 3:21

Our bodies shared the ruin into which sin brought
our race. Mortality and corruption took possession
of them. They became subject to weariness, and
pain, and disease—in every organ and limb.

The one drop of poison coming from Adam's sin
has spread itself out and pervaded every part of us.
The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.

We begin with pain—and we end with it.

Our flesh, from the cradle to the tomb, is feeble,
broken, ready to faint—the cause and the inlet
of a thousand sorrows!
It is truly a frail body,
in which we groan, being burdened; a vile body,
needing such perpetual care, and food, and
medicine, and rest—yet, after all, incapable of
being preserved—which, in spite of all our
pamperings, is hastening on to the sick-bed,
and the separation from its guest, the soul.

But look beyond the tomb and see the glory!

This head shall ache no more! These hands and
feet shall be weary no more! This flesh shall throb
with anguish no more! God Himself shall wipe
away all tears from these eyes—and there shall
be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying!

"He will take these vile bodies of ours and change
 them into glorious bodies like His own!" Phil. 3:21

"For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed
 into heavenly bodies that will never die!" 1 Cor. 15:53

That was more than His holy soul could bear!

(Philpot, "The Love of Christ in Giving Himself for the Church")

Thousands have died in greater bodily agony than the
Lord, for He only suffered in body for six hours. But of
all the generations of men, none have ever felt what
the Lord endured in his soul; for He had to suffer in His
soul what the elect would have had to suffer in hell, if
He had not suffered it for them.

What is the body? That is not the chief seat of suffering.
Martyrs have rejoiced in the flames. It is the soul that feels.
It was so with Jesus. His body, it is true, was racked and
torn; but it was the racking of His soul in which lay His
chief agonies. And the greatest of all was the final stroke
God reserved to His last moments—the last drop of the
cup in all its bitterness—which was hiding His face from
His Son. Nothing else but this last bitter drop extorted
the cry of suffering from His lips!

But when, to crown all the scene of suffering, the Father
hid His face from Him—that was more than His holy soul
could bear!
That extorted from Him the dolorous cry—such
a cry as earth never before or since heard—a cry which made
the sun to hide its face as if in sackcloth; the solid earth
to shake; and the very graves to open their mouths as if
they could no longer hold their dead!

"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Mt. 27:46

The world's haunts of vanity

(Horatius Bonar, "The Church Dwelling Alone")

"Even now you are filled with a glorious, inexpressible joy!"
    1 Peter 1:8

Christian! You do not need to borrow joy from the world!

O child of God, is not the joy of God enough for you?

Do you require . . .
  the pleasures of sin,
  the gaieties of the ballroom,
  the excitement of the theater,
  the music of the opera,
  the frivolities of the world's card-table,
  the stolen pleasures of the dance,
to make up for 'deficiencies' in what God has given you?

If He has not given enough joy, go tell Him, and He will
give you more. But do not go to His enemies to borrow!
Do not go to the world's haunts of vanity, where the
lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride
of life are cherished!

Christian, be separate! Do not seek the joys of the world!
Don't you know that the friendship of the world is enmity
with God? If you have any sympathies with that world—if it
contains attractions for you—if God, and the things of God,
are not enough for you—there is something wrong!

Do not love the world! Do not seek its friendship! Seek
the things above! Beware of the fascinations of worldly
company, and the spells of worldly gaiety. Do not be
whirled away
into the tossing current of mirthful society!

Be separate! That is your security, your strength, your
influence. Let the world see that you are not of it—and
that you do not need it!


One saving sight of the cross!

(Horatius Bonar, "The Cross of the Lord Jesus")

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord
 Jesus Christ, through which the world has been
 crucified to me
, and I to the world!" Galat. 6:14

The cross crucifies the world!

To the believer, the world is a crucified thing.

There is now enmity, not friendship; hatred, not love;
between the woman's seed and the serpent's seed.

The cross has produced the enmity! It has slain the
world, and made it altogether unlovable. One saving
sight of the cross
strips the world of its false beauty
and attractiveness!

Hard lessons to learn!

(Letters of William Tiptaft)

"God knows best!" and "May Your will
be done!" are hard lessons to learn!

Loaf, putter, play, doze and run about

(A. W. Tozer, 1897-1963)

One trap into which the preacher is in danger of falling,
is that he may do what comes naturally, and just take
it easy. I know how sensitive this matter is and, while
my writing this will not win me friends, I hope it may
influence people in the right direction.

It is easy for the minister to be turned into a paid idler,
a social parasite with an open palm and an expectant look.

He has no boss within sight; he is not often required to
keep regular hours, so he can work out a comfortable
pattern of life, that permits him to loaf, putter, play,
doze and run about
at his pleasure. And many do
just that!

To avoid this danger the minister should voluntarily impose
upon himself a life of labor as arduous as that of a farmer.

No pastor has any right to a way of life less rugged
than that of the workers who support him.

"You therefore must endure hardship, as a good
 soldier of Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 2:3

"Endure hardship. Devote yourself completely
 to your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:5

Jelly-fish Christianity

(J. C. Ryle, "One Blood")

One plague of our age is the widespread dislike
to sound doctrine. In the place of it, the idol of
the day is a kind of jelly-fish Christianity—a
Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew—
without any distinct teaching about the atonement
or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the
way of peace with God—a vague, foggy, misty
Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem
to be, "You must be liberal and kind. You must
condemn no man's doctrinal views. You must
think everybody is right, and nobody is wrong."


What a sin-killing, self-abasing sight!

(From the autobiography of Frances Wernham)

One evening, when wrestling hard with God in prayer,
my soul was silenced by these words being applied
with power to my soul—"This is My beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased; hear Him!"

I was instantly led by the blessed Spirit in the exercise
of faith to look on Him whom my sins had pierced, and
exclaimed, "This is my beloved Savior, I want no more!
This is my Friend and my Brother, my Lord and my God!"

What a sin-killing, self-abasing sight! Every high thought
and towering imagination fell down flat before Him like
Dagon before the ark. When I saw, by the eye of faith,
His pierced hands and feet, and that He shed His blood
for me—so interesting did the sight appear that I was
lost to every other thought—as if I were the only sinner
in the world that had been the procuring cause of His
sufferings. Now I could say—"Lord, I have heard of You
many times by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye
sees You; therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust
and ashes!"

Then did the Lord bind up my wounded spirit by pouring
in oil and wine as fast as I could receive it, one passage
of Scripture after another being applied to my soul so
fraught with comfort and divine consolation


The transforming power of the Spirit!

(J. C. Ryle, "The Lord's Garden")

"To all those in Rome who are loved by God
 and called to be saints." Romans 1:7 

Believers are separated from the world by the
effectual working of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit
calls them out from the world, and separates
them as effectually as if a wall were built
between them and it. He puts in them . . .
  new hearts,
  new minds,
  new tastes,
  new desires,
  new sorrows,
  new joys,
  new wishes,
  new pleasures,
  new longings.

He gives them . . .
  new eyes,
  new ears,
  new affections,
  new opinions.

He makes them new creatures. They are born
again—and with a new birth they begin a new
existence. Mighty indeed is the transforming
power of the Spirit!


A bottomless, boundless, endless ocean!

(Anne Dutton's Letters on Spiritual Subjects)

God's love is . . .
  great, and

The happy objects of His love can never,
never be separated from it! Neither . . .
  death nor life,
  heights nor depths,
  things present nor things to come,
shall ever be able to separate those
upon whom it is fixed!

The love of God to His people is a bottomless,
boundless, endless ocean
, which swallows up their
innumerable and mountainous sins in its infinite

The love of God to His people overflows . . .
  all their great provocations,
  all their vilest ingratitude,
  all their utmost unworthiness,
and ever flows in its triumphant strength, and
according to its infinite riches, to the full supply
of all their necessities—until it has . . .
  loved its beloved objects into its own image;
  loved all sin out of them;
  loved all grace into them;
  freed them from all death and misery;
  raised them into itself as the element of their life!

And then the love of God will be to these 'vessels of
mercy' an infinite ocean of joy and glory, where they
shall live, and bathe, and dive to the praise of the glory
of infinite love, to the endless ages of a blessed eternity!

But oh, neither the tongues of men nor angels can express,
much less the lispings of a babe set forth—the thousandth
part of the infinite glories, and the ineffable and endless
bliss, of God's everlasting love!


(Jonathan Edwards, "Resolutions")

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but
to improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance
in eating and drinking.

Resolved, never henceforward, until I die, to
act as if I were any way my own; but entirely
and altogether God's.

Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as
I think I would do, if I had already seen the
happiness of heaven, and the torments of hell.

The original Hebrew or Greek

(J. C. Philpot)

I cannot say that I am fond of alluding to the original
Hebrew or Greek
of the Bible—or of finding fault with
the translation. Such 'petty criticism' is more often
employed to display one's own shallow knowledge, than
to edify the people of God. This has often had the evil
effect of unsettling the minds of Christ's people, and
of opening a door to the assaults of the enemy.


I remember two things

 At age 82, John Newton, the author of the hymn,
 'Amazing Grace', said, "My memory is nearly
 gone, but I remember two things—that I am a
 great sinner—and that Christ is a great Savior!"