Grace Gems for AUGUST 2008

Pleasure is not happiness

(D. R. Thomason, "Fashionable Amusements" 1831)

"I have seen all the things that are done under the sun;
 all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
     Ecclesiastes 1:14

Happiness is the primary object of human pursuit.
The desire for happiness, urges our weary steps in
the pilgrimage of life.

Have all the scenes of gaiety and mirth, of beauty
and splendor, by which the gaze has been fixed and
fascinated—supplied enjoyment, either equal to the
expectations, or worthy of the wishes of a rational
and immortal being?

Both observation and experience abundantly confirm the
truth of the paradox—that pleasure is not happiness.
Every votary of pleasure knows it. The varied forms of
fascination by which he has been wooed, have successively,
in their very embrace, surprised him by the concession—
"Happiness is not in me!" The thousand images which
imagination creates, have not satisfied him—but have
left in his soul a painful vacuum, and a distressing
sense of longing.

The moral constitution of his mind precludes any other
result of these worldly pursuits. He was designed for a
higher destiny, and for nobler joys. He possesses a
principle, whose kindred elements are not found in
worldly objects, neither in . . .
  honor nor splendor,
  refinement nor luxury,
  revelry nor mirth,
  beauty nor fine taste.
He seeks, with restless desire—the unseen and spiritual
felicities of the eternal world, and aspires to the happiness
which immortality alone can give. He will know neither
rest nor joy—until he shall have heaven for his home, and
sit forever beneath the smiles of that gracious God, who
is at once the author of his existence, and the source of
his felicity.

In order to escape from wearying toils, painful afflictions,
withering disappointments, and disquieting apprehensions
—we must "quit the mirthful delusive scene!" The giddy
mazes of pleasure's enchantment
have long perplexed;
its empty pageants have already disgusted; its sickly joys
have nauseated and cloyed the heart—while the soul seeks
an introduction to holier and happier joys.

What though the siren's song has long ravished its victim,
and led him so widely astray—yet may he not "pause, reflect,
and return?" Yes, true religion will secure peace, and safety,
and hope. Thousands have proved it. Many a hapless voyager
on life's wide ocean
, who had long pursued vain and perilous
wanderings, borne onward by the fluctuating tide of fashion,
or sported with by the fickle winds of worldliness; living a mad
and fearful lifestyle in the wild storm of passion; or floating,
thoughtless and mirthful, with the current of pleasure—to the
distant vortex of damnation—has been rescued from peril and
misery, and has pursued a prosperous course to the distant
land of his heavenly home, repose and felicity.

From the blandishments of ruinous dissipation, therefore—the
votaries of pleasure are invited to the genuine enjoyments of
piety. Here alone will be found repose, satisfaction, and enduring
pleasure! Let the sublime doctrines and virtuous precepts, which
the oracles of truth inculcate—engage their attentive study and
practical regard. The sentiments here exhibited, will present a
striking contrast to the spirit, maxims, and pursuits of the
mirthful world.

Contact with sacred truths must be close and constant,
that the mind may receive their complexion, and frame
its habits of thought and feeling on the sacred model.
The Word of God must be believed; it must, moreover,
be reverenced and loved. In the same proportion, will
the influence of worldly maxims and examples become
weakened, a taste for mirthful pleasures destroyed—
and the bias of the mind rendered serious and devout.

The pleasures of a pious life are indescribably exquisite.
The elevated duties of piety
  its dignified motives;
  its purifying influence;
  the holy restraint which it imposes on the passions;
  the tranquility which it imparts to the conscience;
  the bright and enduring prospects which it offers to hope;
  the sovereign antidote which it supplies to the afflictions of life
—render the inspired declaration emphatically true: "Her ways
are ways of pleasantness—and all her paths are peace."

~  ~  ~  ~

Very precious

(John Fawcett, "Christ Precious")

"Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!"
1 Peter 2:7

Jesus is precious to believers—as the bread of God coming down from heaven, and giving everlasting life to their souls. By Him they are really, constantly, and daily supported, fed and sustained. As bread is sweet and precious to a hungry man—so is Christ sweet and precious to those who live by Him. The entertainment that He gives to them—is a divine, a spiritual feast!

Jesus is precious to believers—as the Sun of Righteousness. The beams of His grace are healing, enlightening, cheering, and full of consolation. If natural light is sweet, if it is a pleasant thing to behold the sun—how much more pleasant to experience the irradiating influences of the Light of life!

Jesus is precious to believers—as the fountain where they bathe their weary souls, and in which they are cleansed from all sin and impurity. He is the tree of life, under the shadow of which, they sit with great delight, and His fruit is sweet to their taste. He is a rock, a strong tower, a hiding-place, where they find protection from every storm, and security from every foe. He was precious to the Psalmist under all these views—"I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength in whom I trust; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."

It is therefore the delight of their lives—to know Him, to love and honor Him with their whole hearts, and to aspire after conformity to His blessed image, and His holy will.

"O blessed Redeemer, I find in you all that my poor helpless soul stands in need of. Though I have the greatest reason for shame and humiliation, on account of what I am in myself—yet in You I behold everything to elevate my hopes, and to afford me relief and encouragement! May my soul magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoice in God my Savior! The characters and relations in which You have revealed Yourself to me in Your Word—exhibit a balm for every wound, and a cordial for every fear.

If I am naked—You are the Lord my righteousness.
If I am soul-sick—You are my physician.
If I am weak and helpless—You are my strength.
If I am neglected and despised—You are my compassionate and faithful friend.
If I am ignorant—You are made unto me wisdom.
If I am polluted and enslaved—You are made unto me sanctification and redemption.
If I am nothing but emptiness and vanity—You are full of grace and truth."

"Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!" 1 Peter 2:7

~  ~  ~  ~

Teach me

(Thomas Reade, "Christian Meditations")

"Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead
in a plain path." Psalm 27:11

"Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me
 where I have been wrong." Job 6:24

O Lord, teach me to know the vanity and
emptiness of the world; its insufficiency to
gratify the desires, or satisfy the longings of
the new born soul; yes, its utter inability to
make its most devoted votaries happy.

Teach me to value the bliss of heaven above
all earthly joys; and to dread the torments of
above all earthly sorrow.

Alas! how often do the pleasures of sense blunt
my sensibilities to those things which are above;
while the troubles of time obliterate from my
mind, the miseries which await the impenitent
and unbelieving.

Teach me, O blessed Savior, cheerfully to refuse
the pleasures of sin, which end in everlasting
torment; and cheerfully to endure those trials,
for Your sake and the gospel's, which terminate
in endless glory!

"Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your
 paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me,
 for You are God my Savior, and my hope is
 in You all day long." Psalm 25:4-5

~  ~  ~  ~

Revive me!

(Octavius Winslow)

"My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according
 to Your Word." Psalm 119:25

"Revive me, Lord—quicken Your work in my soul,
and strengthen that which You have wrought in me.
The love which congeals, the faith which trembles, the
hope which fluctuates, the joy which droops—inspire
with new life, new energy, new power! It is of little
importance what others think of me; Lord, You know
that my soul cleaves to the dust. There is in my heart
more of earth than of heaven; more of self than of
Christ; more of the creature than of God. You know
me in secret—how my grace wanes, how my affections
chill, how seldom my closet is visited, how much my
Bible is neglected, how insipid to my taste are the
means of grace, and how irksome and vapid are all
spiritual duties and privileges. Lord, stir up Yourself to
the revivifying of my soul; quicken, oh, revive me!"

~  ~  ~  ~

A poor, despised, contemptible thing

(Thomas Brooks, "A String of Pearls" 1657)

n Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right
 hand are eternal pleasures!" Psalm 16:11

Most professors live as if there were no heaven;
or else as if heaven were not worth a seeking,
worth a desiring—as if heaven were a poor,
despised, contemptible thing.

But ah, Christians! be much in desiring and longing
to get into that glorious city—where streets, walls,
and gates are all gold—yes, where pearl is but as
mire and dirt; and where are . . .
  all pleasures,
  all treasures,
  all delights,
  all comforts,
  all contentments
—and that forever!

This word "forever" is a bottomless depth, a conception
without end; it is a word which sweetens all the glory
above, and which indeed makes heaven to be heaven!

"And so we will be with the Lord forever!" 1 Thess. 4:17

~  ~  ~  ~

The school of thoughtlessness and vanity

Christian parents and Christian families would do well to
consider, that the tendencies of fashionable amusements
are unfavorable to the cultivation of piety. Our children
and youth are naturally far enough from God. It is both
wise and kind—not to multiply and increase the temptations
and dangers which everywhere lurk around their path, and
beguile them to eternal ruin! The world is vain and alluring
enough already. The way of death is sufficiently enticing,
and abundantly strewed with flowers.

Nothing is more evident—than that a passion for fashionable
banishes all serious regard for true piety, silences
the voice of conscience, and neutralizes the means of grace and
salvation. They may not always prove to be "the school of vice and
profligacy," but they are always "the school of thoughtlessness
and vanity
," where everything else is fortified, rather than serious
thoughts of God and the coming judgment. "What is a man profited,
if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"

Gardiner Spring, New York, March 1, 1831

~  ~  ~  ~

Only a plain, common day

(J. R. Miller, "The Every Day of Life" 1892)

Perhaps the every-day of life, is not as interesting—as are some of the bright special days. It is apt to be somewhat monotonous. It is just like a great many other days. It has nothing special to mark it. It is illuminated by no brilliant event. It bears no record of any brave or noble deed done. It is not made memorable by the coming of any new experience into the life—a new hope, a new friendship, a new joy, and a new success. It is not even touched with sorrow, and made to stand out with the memory of loss or struggle. It is only a plain, common day—with just the same old wearisome routine—of tasks and duties and happenings, which have come so often before.

Yet it is the every-day, which is really the best measure and the test of noble living. Anybody can do well on special occasions. Anybody can be good—on Sundays. Anybody can be bright and cheerful—in exhilarating society. Anybody can be sweet—amid gentle influences. Anybody can make an isolated self-denial—for some conspicuous object; or do a generous deed—under the impulse of some unusual emotion. Anybody can do a heroic thing—once or twice in a lifetime. These are beautiful things. They shine like lofty peaks above life's plains.

But the ordinary attainment of the common days—is a truer index of the life—a truer measure of its character and value—than are the most striking and brilliant things of its exalted moments. It requires more strength to be faithful in the ninety-nine commonplace duties, when no one is looking on, when there is no special motive to stir the soul to its best effort—than it does in the one duty, which by its unusual importance, or by its conspicuousness, arouses enthusiasm for its own doing. It is a great deal easier to be brave in one stern conflict which calls for heroism, in which large interests are involved—than to be brave in the thousand little struggles of the common days—for which it seems scarcely worth while to put on the armor. It is very much less a task to be good-natured under one great provocation, in the presence of others—than it is to keep sweet temper month after month of ordinary days, amid the frictions, strife's, petty annoyances, and cares of home-life.

Thus it is, that one's every-day life is a surer revealer of noble character—than one's public acts. There are men who are magnificent when they appear on great occasions—wise, eloquent, masterly—but who are almost utterly unendurable in their fretfulness, unreasonableness, irascibility, and all manner of selfish disagreeableness, in the privacy of their own homes—to those whom they ought to show all of love's gentleness and sweetness! There are women, too, who shine with wondrous brilliancy in society, sparkling in conversation, winning in manner, always the center of admiring groups, resistless in their charms—but who, in their every-day life, in the presence of only their own households—are the dullest and most wearisome of mortals! No doubt in these cases—the common every-day, unflattering as it is—is a truer expression of the inner life—than the hour or two of greatness or graciousness, in the blaze of the public.

On the other hand, there are men who are never heard of on the street, whose names never appear in the newspapers, who do no great conspicuous things, whose lives have no glittering peaks towering high—and yet the level plain of their years—is rich in its beauty and its fruitfulness of love. Likewise, there are women who are the idols of no drawing-rooms, who attract no throngs of admirers around them by resistless charms—but who, in their own quiet sheltered world—do their daily tasks with faithfulness, move in ways of humble duty and quiet cheerfulness, and pour out their heart's pure love, like fragrance, on all around them. Who will say that the uneventful and un-praised every-day of these humble ones—is not radiant in God's sight, though they leave no memorial—but only a world made a little better by their lives?

It is in the every-day of life, that nearly all the world's best work is done. The tall mountain peaks lift their glittering crests into the clouds, and win attention and admiration; but it is in the great valleys and broad plains, that the harvests grow and the fruits ripen—on which the millions of earth feed their hunger. Likewise, it is not from the few conspicuous deeds of life, that the blessings chiefly come, which make the world, better, sweeter, happier—but from the countless humble services of the every-days, the little faithfulnesses which fill long years. By the simple beauty of their own humble lives, by their quiet deeds of self-sacrifice, by the songs of their cheerful faith, and by the ministries of their helpful hands—they make one little spot of this sad earth, brighter and happier!

~  ~  ~  ~

A lost soul speaks

(John Bunyan, "Visions of Heaven and Hell")

    We had not gone much farther, before we saw a wretched soul lying on a bed of burning steel, almost choked with brimstone. He cried out with such dreadful anguish and desperation, and I heard him speak as follows:

    1. First, we undergo a variety of torments. We are tormented here a thousand, no, ten thousand different ways! Those who suffer upon the earth, seldom have more than one affliction at a time. But if they had ulcers, gallstones, headaches, and fever all at the same time—would they not be very miserable? Yet all those together are but like the biting of a flea—compared to those intolerable, sharp pains which we endure. Here we have all the sufferings of hell. Here is an unquenchable fire which burns us; a lake of burning brimstone which ever chokes us; and eternal chains which bind us. Here there is utter darkness to frighten us, and a worm of conscience which gnaws upon us everlastingly. Any one of these is worse to bear—than all the torments that mankind ever felt on earth!

    2. But our torments here are not only various—but are also universal. They afflict every part of the body, and torment all the powers of the soul. This makes what we suffer—the worst of tortures. In those sicknesses which men have on earth, though some members of their bodies will suffer—yet other parts will have no pain. Here it is different; every member of the soul and body suffers at the same time!

    “Our eyes are tormented here with the sight of devils who appear in all the horrible shapes and black appearances which sin can give them. Our ears are continually tormented with the loud continual yellings of the damned. Our nostrils are smothered with sulfurous flames; our tongues with burning blisters; and the whole body is rolled in flames of liquid fire! All the powers and faculties of our souls are also tormented here. The imagination suffers with the thoughts of our present pain, and the memory of the heaven we have lost. Our minds are tormented as we remember how foolishly we spent our precious time on earth. Our understanding is tormented with the thoughts of our past pleasures, present pains, and future sorrows, which are to last forever. And our consciences are tormented with a continual gnawing worm!

    3. Another thing that makes our misery so dreadful—is the sharpness of our torments. The fire which burns us is so violent that all the water in the sea can never quench it. The pains we suffer here are so extreme, that it is impossible for anyone to know them except the damned.

    4. Another part of our misery is the ceaselessness of our torments. As various, as universal, and as extremely violent as they are, they are also continual. We have no rest from them. If there were any relaxation, it might be some relief. But there is no easing of our torments, and what we suffer now—we must suffer forever!

    5. The company we have here, is another part of our misery. Tormenting devils and tormented souls—are all our company. Dreadful shrieks, howlings, and fearful cursings—are our continual conversation because of the fierceness of our pain.

    6. The place we are in also increases our sufferings. It is the epitome of all misery—a prison, a dungeon, a bottomless pit, a lake of brimstone, a furnace of fire which burns to eternity, the blackness of darkness forever; and lastly, hell itself. Such a wretched place as this, can only increase our wretchedness.

    7. The cruelty of our tormentors is another thing which adds to our sufferings. Our tormentors are devils in whom there is no pity. While they are tormented themselves, they still take pleasure in tormenting us!

    8. All those sufferings that I have recounted are very grievous. But that which makes them the most grievous—is that they shall all be forever! All of our intolerable sufferings shall last to all eternity! "Depart from Me, you who are cursed—into everlasting fire!" is continually sounding in my ears. Oh, that I could reverse that fatal sentence! Oh, if there was but a bare possibility of salvation!

This is the miserable situation we are in—and shall be in forever!

~  ~  ~  ~

I have much more to say to you

(J. R. Miller, "The Building of Character" 1894)

"I have much more to say to you—more than you can now bear." John 16:12

All learning is slow. This is true in proportion to the importance of the lessons. We learn some things quickly—but they are not the things which are of greatest value. Mere head-lessons are gotten more easily than heart-lessons. We may memorize the beatitudes in a few minutes—but it takes many years to learn to live them! And in spiritual and moral lessons—living is the only learning which counts. Anyone can memorize a code of ethics by heart, without much effort. But to get the faultless code wrought into conduct, disposition, spirit, and character—is the work of a lifetime!

In life-teaching, the lessons are given only as fast as they are learned. Our Master will not teach us more rapidly than we can live His lessons. It was in the midst of His most confidential talk with His disciples, that He said He had much more to say to them—more than they could now bear.

Spiritual truths can be received—only as we come to the experiences for which they are adapted. There are many of the divine promises which we can never claim, and whose blessedness we cannot realize—until we come to the points in life, for which they were specially given.

For example: "He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock." This word can mean nothing to the child playing amid the flowers, or to the young man or woman walking in sunny paths—without a care or a trial. It can be understood only by one who is in the depths of trouble. In the days of gladness, when there is no trouble, no pain—there are many of God's Words which seem to have no meaning for us. We do not need them. They are for times of sorrow—and we have no sorrow. They are lamps for the darkness—and we are not walking in darkness. They are for days of pain and loss—and we have no pain, and are called to endure no loss.

There is a large part of the Bible which can be received by us, only when we come into the places for which the words were given. There are promises for weakness—which we can never get, while we are strong. There are promises for times of danger—which we can never know, in the days when we need no protection. There are consolations for sickness whose comfort we can never get, while we are in robust health. There are promises for times of loneliness, when men walk in solitary ways—which never can come with real meaning to us, while loving companions are by our side. There are words for old age—which we never can appropriate for ourselves along the years of youth, when the arm is strong, the blood warm, and the heart brave.

Christ says to us then, "I have much more to say to you—more than you can now bear." We could not understand these lessons now. But by and by when we come into places of need, of sorrow, of weakness, of failure, of loneliness, of sickness, of old age—then He will tell us these other things, these long-withheld things, and they will be full of joy for our hearts!

There are beatitudes for certain conditions. "Blessed are those who mourn—for they shall be comforted." But only those who are in sorrow, can experience the blessedness of divine comfort. Thus all the treasures of the Bible are ready to open to us—the moment we have the experience which the particular grace in them is intended to supply. Hence it is that the Bible is never exhausted. Men read it over and over again, and each time they find something new in it—new promises, new comforts, new revealings of divine love. The reason is, they are growing in experience, and every new experience develops new needs, and brings them to new revealings.

Thus, as life goes on, the meaning of Christ's words come out clearer and clearer, until the child's heedless repetition of them, becomes the utterance of the faith and trust of the strong man's very soul.

This is the great law of divine revealing. We learn Christ's teaching—only as fast as we are able to bear it. So we may wait in patient faith when mysteries confront us, or when shadows lie on our pathway, confident that He who knows all—has in gentle love withheld from us for the time, the revealing we crave, because we could not yet endure the knowledge.

~  ~  ~  ~

Our faithful, unfailing Friend

(J. R. Miller, "The Building of Character" 1894)

"Having loved His own who were in the world,
 He loved them to the end." John 13:1

Christ loves unto the uttermost. His love is not worn
out by our faultiness, our dullness, nor even by our
sinning. Christ bears with us in all our sad failings;
and is patient toward all our weakness, infirmity, and
sin. He is our faithful, unfailing friend, though we
give Him but little love—and that little mingled with
doubts, complainings, murmurings, and ingratitude.
Many of us make it hard for Christ to be our friend;
yet He loves unto the end—unto the uttermost!

"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
   Hebrews 13:5

~  ~  ~  ~

Do not judge!

(J. R. Miller, "Judging Others" 1894)

"Do not judge—or you too will be judged."
Matthew 7:1

It is better to have eyes for beauty—than for blemish. It is better to be able to see the roses—than the thorns. It is better to have learned to look for things to commend in others—than for things to condemn. Of course, other people have faults—and we are not blind to them. But then, we have faults of our own—and this should make us charitable!

We have a divine teaching on the subject. Our Lord Jesus said, "Do not judge—or you too will be judged." We need to understand just what the words mean. We cannot help judging others. We ought to be able to read character, and to know whether men are good or bad. As we watch men's acts—we cannot help forming opinions about them. The holier we grow, and the more like Christ—the keener will our moral judgments be. We are not bidden to shut our eyes—and to be blind to people's faults and sins.

What, then, do our Lord's words mean? It is uncharitable judgment against which He warns us. We are not to look for the evil things in others. We are not to see others through the warped glasses of prejudice and unkindly feeling. We are not to arrogate to ourselves the function of judging—as if others were answerable to us! We are to avoid a critical or censorious spirit. Nothing is said against speaking of the good in those we see and know; it is uncharitable judging and speaking, which Jesus condemns.

One reason why judging is wrong—is because it is putting one's self in God's place. He is the only Judge, with whom every human soul has to do. Judgment is not ours—but God's. "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?" James 4:12. In condemning and censuring others—we are thrusting ourselves into God's place, taking His scepter into our hands, and presuming to exercise one of His sole prerogatives!

Another reason for this command—is that we cannot judge others justly and fairly. We have not sufficient knowledge of them. Paul says: "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts." 1 Corinthians 4:5. Our judgments cannot be anything but faulty, partial and superficial.

~  ~  ~  ~

Just one little day

(J. R. Miller, "The Building of Character" 1894)

"Give us today our daily bread." Matthew 6:11

One secret of sweet and happy Christian life—is in
learning to LIVE BY THE DAY. It is the long stretches
which tire us. We say that "we cannot carry this load
until we are eighty—or that we cannot fight this battle
continually for half a century." But really, there are no
long stretches
. Life does not come to us in lifetimes; it
comes only a day at a time. Even tomorrow is never
oursuntil it becomes today; and we have nothing
whatever to do with it—but to pass down to it a fair
and good inheritance in today's work well done and
today's life well lived

It is a blessed secret—this of living by the day.

Anyone can carry his burden, however heavy—until
nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard—for
one day. Anyone can live sweetly, quietly, patiently,
lovingly, and purely—until the sun goes down. This
is all the life which we really ever have—just one
little day

God gives us nights to shut down the curtain of
darkness on our little days. We cannot see beyond
—and we ought not to try to see beyond. Short
make life easier, and give us one of the
blessed secrets of noble, happy, holy living.

We ought not to be content to live otherwise—than
beautifully. We can live our life only once. We cannot
go over life again—to correct its mistakes or amend
its faults. We ought therefore to live it well. And to
do this, we must make every day beautiful, as it
passes. Lost days must always remain blanks in the
records; and stained days must carry their stains.
Beautiful days make beautiful years, and beautiful
years make a beautiful life!

"As your days—so shall your strength be."
     Deuteronomy 33:25

~  ~  ~  ~

When I am weak—then I am strong

(J. R. Miller, "The Blessing of Weakness" 1894)

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will glory all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak—then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

There is a blessing in weakness—because it nourishes dependence on God. When we are strong, or deem ourselves strong—we are really weak, since then we trust in ourselves, and do not seek Divine help. But when we are consciously weak, knowing ourselves unequal to our duties and struggles—we are strong, because then we turn to Christ, and get His strength.

Too many people think that their weakness a barrier to their usefulness; or make it an excuse for doing little with their life. Instead of this, however, if we give it to Christ—He will transform our weakness into strength. He says that His
power is made perfect in weakness; that is, what is lacking in human strength—He fills and makes up with divine strength. Paul had learned this, when he said that he now gloried in his weaknesses, because on account of them—the strength of Christ rested upon him, so that, when he was weak—then he was strong—strong with Divine strength.

We need only to make sure of one thing—that we do indeed bring our weakness to Christ, and lean on Him in simple faith. This is the vital link in getting the blessing. Weakness itself is a burden; it is like chains upon our limbs. If we try to carry it alone—we shall only fail. But if we lay it on the strong Son of God—and let Him carry us and our burden, going on quietly and firmly in the way of duty—He will make our very weakness—a secret source of strength. He will not take the weakness from us—that is not His promise—but He will so fill it with His own power—that we shall be strong, more than conquerors, able to do all things through Christ, who strengthens us!

This is the blessed secret of having our burdening weakness, transformed into strength. The secret can be found only in Christ. And in Him—it can be found by every humble, trusting disciple.

~  ~  ~  ~

Our "thorn"

(J. R. Miller, "The Building of Character" 1894)

"Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." 2 Corinthians 12:7

Paul tells us that his "thorn" was given to him—to keep him humble, and save him from spiritual peril. Without it, he would have been exalted above measure and would have lost his spirituality. We do not know how much of his deep insight into the things of God, and his power in service for his Master—Paul owed to this torturing "thorn". It seemed to hinder him, and it caused him incessant suffering—but it detained him in the low valley of humility, made him ever conscious of his own weakness and insufficiency, and thus kept him near to Christ whose home is with the humble.

There are few people who have not
some "thorn" rankling in their flesh—
In one it is an infirmity of speech;
in another an infirmity of sight;
in another an infirmity of hearing.
Or it may be lameness;
or a slow but incurable disease;
or constitutional timidity,
or excessive nervousness;
or a disfiguring bodily deformity;
or an infirmity of temper.
Or it may be in one's home—which
  is cold, unloving, and uncongenial;
or it may be some moral failure;
or it may be a bitter personal disappointment
through untrue friendship or unrequited love.

Who has not his "thorn"?

We should never forget that in one sense, our "thorn" is a "messenger of Satan," who desires by it—to hurt our life, to mar our peace, to spoil the divine beauty in us, and to break our communion with Christ.

On the other hand, however, Christ Himself has a loving design in our "thorn." He wants it to be a blessing to us. He would have it keep us humble—and save us from becoming vain. Or He means it to soften our hearts—and make us more gentle. He would have the uncongenial things in our environment to discipline us into heavenly-mindedness, give us greater self-control, and help us to keep our hearts loving and sweet—amid harshness and unlovingness. He would have our pain teach us endurance and patience; and our sorrow and loss teach us faith.

Thus, our "thorn" may either be a choice blessing to us—or it may do us irreparable harm. If we allow it to fret us; if we chafe, resist, and complain; if we lose faith and lose heart—it will spoil our life! But if we accept it in the faith that in its ugly burden—it has a blessing for us; if we endure it patiently, submissively, unmurmuringly; if we seek grace to keep our heart gentle and true amid all the trial, temptation, and suffering it causes—it will work good for us, and out of its bitterness—will come sweet fruit!

~  ~  ~  ~

These days of sin and temptation

(John Fawcett, "Christ Precious")

"Yes, He is very precious to you who believe!"
1 Peter 2:7

I daily search for Jesus in my retired devotions. There I tell Him all my heart—in secret groans and cries. He knows what my sighs mean, and what are my fears, and my painful sorrows. There I blush before Him—for my secret sins, and pour out the tear of penitential sorrow. There I utter my bitter complaints—of the disorderly passions I daily feel within me. I lament over the vanity of my thoughts, and spread before His eyes—all my soul's sores and diseases. I lay myself low in the dust at His feet, and tell Him with humble confusion of face—how much I have done to dishonor Him, how unworthy I am of His notice, and yet how I long for communion with Him.

O when shall these days of sin and temptation, these tedious seasons of absence and distance from my God and Savior—have an end? I breathe out from time to time, the most earnest desires after Him, and after the endearing sensations of His love.

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42:1-2

~  ~  ~  ~

We are in debt to everybody!

(J. R. Miller, "The Building of Character" 1894)

"Little children, we must not love in word or speech—but in deed and truth." 1 John 3:18

"Do not owe anyone anything—except to love one another." Romans 13:8

We are in debt to everybody! Love is a debt which never can be altogether settled. You may pay it all off today—but tomorrow you will find it as heavy as ever. It is a debt which everybody owes to everybody. Nor can it be paid off with any mere sentimental love. It cost Paul a great deal, to settle his obligations and pay his debts to others.

There is a sort of philanthropic sentiment which some people have, which does not cost them very much. But to pay his debts of love, Paul gave up all he had, and then gave himself up to service, suffering, and sacrifice to the very uttermost. True love always costs! Love's essential quality, is unselfish helpfulness, the carrying of the life with all its rich gifts and powers in such a way—that it may be a blessing to every other life which it touches.

As Christians, we owe love to everyone—and love always serves. Serving is an essential quality of love. The true standard of greatness—is service. It is not what our life is in gifts, in culture, in strength—but what we do with our life, which is the real test of character. Our Lord taught this truth when he said, "Whoever wants to become great among you—must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first—must be slave of all." Mark 10:43-44. He who serves the most fully and the most unselfishly, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Love seeks to give, to minister, to be of use, to do good to others. The true Christian desires to serve others, to minister to their comfort, to be a help and a blessing to them. It is thus, that we should relate ourselves to every person who comes within our influence. Love will lead us to ask concerning everyone who passes before us, "What can I do to help this brother of mine, to add to his happiness, to relieve his trouble, to put him in the way of holiness, to comfort his sorrow?" If this were the habitual attitude of our love, paradise would soon be restored. It would put an end to all our miserable pride, to all our petty tyrannies and despotisms.

Love works most effectively—when it works unconsciously, almost instinctively, inspired from within. That is the best service, which flows out of the heart and life—as light from the sun, as fragrance from a flower. There is no other way of paying our debt of love to others, which is so Christlike as this. We are to be to others—what Jesus would be, if He were in our place!

~  ~  ~  ~

Precarious, insufficient, and ensnaring

John Newton)

All the temporal blessings and accommodations which
God provides to sweeten life, and make our passage
through this wilderness more agreeable—will fail and
disappoint us, and produce us more thorns than roses
—unless we can keep sight of His hand in bestowing
them, and hold and use the gifts in some due
subservience to what we owe to the Giver.

But, alas! we are poor creatures, prone to wander,
prone to admire our gourds, cleave to our cisterns,
and think of building tabernacles, and taking our
rest in this polluted world!

Hence the Lord often sees it necessary,
in mercy to His children . . .
  to embitter their sweets,
  to break their cisterns,
  send a worm to their gourds, and
  draw a dark cloud over their pleasing prospects.

His Word tells us, that all here is vanity—compared
with the light of His countenance. And if we cannot
or will not believe it upon the authority of His Word,
we must learn it by experience.

May He enable you to settle it in your hearts, that
'creature comforts' are precarious, insufficient,
and ensnaring
; that all good comes from His hand;
and that nothing can do us good, but so far as He is
pleased to make it the instrument of communicating,
as a stream, that goodness which is in Him as a

Even the bread which we eat, without the influence
of His promise and blessing, would no more support
us than a stone. But His blessing makes everything
good, gives a tenfold value to our comforts, and
greatly diminishes the weight of every cross.

~  ~  ~  ~

You may get a ticket straight to hell, by express!

(Talmage, "The Abominations of Modern Society", 1872)

If you would lead a pure life—have nothing to do with bad books and impure newspapers. With such immoral literature as is coming forth from our swift-revolving printing-presses, there is no excuse for dragging one's self through sewers of unchastity.

Never read a bad book!
By the time you get through the first chapter, you will see the drift of it. If you find the hoof-prints of the devil in the pictures, or in the style, or in the plot—away with it! You may tear your coat, or break a vase—and repair them again. But it takes less than an hour to do your soul a damage—which no time can entirely repair!

Look carefully over your child's library; see which book he reads after he has gone to bed, with the light turned down. Young man, as you value Heaven, never buy a book from one of those men who meet you in the square, and, after looking both ways to see if the police are watching, shows you a book—'very cheap'. Have him arrested—as you would kill a rattle-snake! Grab him, and shout, "Police! police!"

But there is more danger, I think, from many of the family newspapers. Some of them contain stories of vice and shame, full of evil suggestions, and go as far as they can without exposing themselves to the clutch of the law. On some tables in Christian homes, there lie "family newspapers" which are the very vomit of the pit of hell!

The way to ruin is cheap! It costs three dollars to go to Philadelphia; six dollars to Boston; thirty-three dollars to Savannah. But, by the purchase of a bad paper for ten cents—you may get a ticket straight to hell, by express, with few stopping-places! And the final stop is like the tumbling of the train over a bridge—sudden, dreadful, deathful, never to rise.

O, the power of an iniquitous pen! If a needle punctures the body at a certain point—life is destroyed. But the pen is a sharper instrument—for with its puncture you may kill your soul!

Do not think that that book which you find fascinating and entertaining, is therefore healthful. Some of the worst poisons are pleasant to the taste. The pen which for the time fascinates you—may have been dipped in the slime of impure hearts!

~  ~  ~  ~

I would unmask the devil!

(Talmage, "The Abominations of Modern Society", 1872)

"Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light!"
 2 Corinthians 11:14

Sin, crawling out of the ditch of poverty and shame,
has but few temptations.

Poets and painters have portrayed Satan as a hideous
creature—with horns and hoofs. If I were a poet, I
would describe him with . . .
  manners polished to the last perfection,
  hair flowing in graceful ringlets,
  eye glistening with splendor;
  hands soft and diamonded;
  step light and graceful;
  voice mellow as a flute;
  conversation articulate and eloquent;
  breath perfumed until it would seem that nothing
    had ever touched his lips, but balm and myrrh.

But his heart I would encase with the scales
of a monster, then filled . . .
  with pride,
  with beastliness of lust,
  with recklessness,
  with hypocrisy,
  with death,
  with damnation!

In my next portrait—I would unmask the devil
—until his two eyes would become the cold orbs of
the adder; and on his lip would come the foam of
raging intoxication; and to his feet, the spring of the
panther; and his soft hand would become the clammy
hand of a wasted skeleton; and in the smooth lisp of
his tongue, would come the hiss of the worm which
never dies; while suddenly from his heart would burst
in all-devouring fury—the unquenchable flames of hell!

But, until unmasked, I would describe him as nothing but
myrrh, and balm, and ringlet, and diamond, and flute-like
voice, with pleasant and mirthful conversation.

"So that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are very
 familiar with his evil schemes." 2 Corinthians 2:11

~  ~  ~  ~

An amazing and humbling difference

(John Newton's Letters)

There is an amazing and humbling difference
between the conviction we have of the beauty and
excellence of Divine truths—and our actual experience
of their power ruling in our hearts. We are poor
inconsistent creatures, and find we can do nothing as
we ought—but only as we are enabled by God's grace.

~  ~  ~  ~

The great attraction of heaven!

(Plumer, "Sinners Saved by Unmerited Kindness")

"Your heart must not be troubled. In My Father's
 house are many dwelling places. I am going away
 to prepare a place for you. I will come back and
 receive you to Myself, so that where I am—you
 may be also!" John 14

"I desire to depart and be with Christ, which
 is better by far!" Philippians 1:23

The great attraction of heaven is the Lord Jesus
He Himself is the object chiefly enjoyed. To
be with Jesus, and like Jesus, and to behold His glory
—constitute the heaven which true believers desire!
They long to behold that blessed face which was
buffeted for them! Their eternal anthem is, "All
praise to Him who loves us and has freed us from
our sins by shedding His blood for us! Give to Him
everlasting glory! He rules forever and ever! Amen!"
Revelation 1:5-6

~  ~  ~  ~

The outward dress and garb of religion

Thomas Brooks, "The Privy Key of Heaven" 1665)

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
 You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you
 have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice,
 mercy and faithfulness." Matthew 23:23

Take heed of spending too much of your precious time about
circumstantials, about the minor things of religion—as "mint,
dill, and cummin;" or in searching into the circumstances of
worship, or in standing stoutly for this or that ceremony, or
about inquiring what fruit it was which Adam ate in paradise,
or in inquiring after things which God in His infinite wisdom
has concealed.

It is one of Satan's great designs, to hinder men in the great
and weighty duties of religion, by busying them most about
the lowest and least matters of religion. Satan is never better
pleased, than when he sees Christians puzzled and perplexed
about those things in religion, which are of no great consequence
or importance. Such as are more busied about ceremonies, than
substances; about the form of godliness than the power. Such are
more taken up with the outward dress and garb of religion,
than they are with the spirit, power, and life of religion.

There cannot be a surer nor a greater character of a hypocrite,
than to make a great deal of stir about little things in religion, and
in the mean while, neglect the great and main things in religion. 

~  ~  ~  ~

To get another trinket!

(Talmage, "The Abominations of Modern Society", 1872)

Excessive devotion to "fashion" is destructive to the soul.
I have known some, who have no regard for their character,
or their momentous and eternal interests—exasperated by
the shape of a shirt-button! What is the matter with that
sad woman?
O, her hat is out of fashion!

Worse than all—this folly is not satisfied until it
has extirpated every moral sentiment, and blasted
the soul. A "wardrobe" is the rock upon which many
a soul has been dashed to hell.

The striving for a luxurious life, has been the vortex
which has swallowed up more souls—than the sea
has ever devoured!

What room is left for elevating themes—in a heart
filled with trivial and petty things? Who can wonder
that in this haste for gilded baubles—that men
should tumble into eternal ruin?

There are some people who will risk their eternity to
obtain a worldly trifle! They will forfeit the splendors
of heaven—to get another trinket!

In the wild tumult of the last day—the mountains falling,
the heavens flying, the universe assembling; amid the
boom of the last great thunder-peal, and under the
crackling of a burning world—what will become of all
this fop and fashion?

"But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we
 brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing
 out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content
 with these. But those who want to be rich fall into
 temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires,
 which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love
 of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it,
 some have wandered away from the faith and pierced
 themselves with many pains!" 1 Timothy 6:6-10

~  ~  ~  ~

Christian amusements

(J. R. Miller, "In Green Pastures" 1890)

Amusement must never become an end in life. It
must always be a means, a help on the way—just
as sleep is, just as rest is. An hour's amusement,
should be to you, just what a night's sleeping is. It
should make you stronger, clearer-headed, braver,
calmer-souled, more hopeful, more earnest, more
enthusiastic—inspiring you for godly living.

Anything which leaves a taint of impurity upon the
life, or starts a thought of impurity in the mind,
anything which degrades or debases the soul—is
an unfit and unworthy amusement for a Christian.
Christian amusements
must be such, as do not
harm spiritual life; they must be means of grace.

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever
you do—do everything for God's glory!" 1 Cor. 10:31

~  ~  ~  ~

The old monks intently gazed upon the crucifix

(J. R. Miller, "In Green Pastures" 1890)

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and
 perfecter of our faith." Hebrews 12:2

Keeping the heart upon Christ—transfigures the life.

The old monks intently gazed upon the crucifix,
thinking that the print of the nails would come in their
hands and feet, and the thorn-scars in their brow—as
they gazed.

It was but an utter fiction—yet in the fiction there is
a spiritual truth. Gazing by faith upon Christ—the lines
of His beauty indeed imprint themselves on our hearts!
That is the meaning of Paul's words—"We all, with
unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of
the Lord—are transformed into the same image!"

The gospel is the mirror. There we see the image of
Christ. If we earnestly, continuously, and lovingly
behold it—the effect will be the changing of our own
lives into His likeness. The transformation is wrought
by the Holy Spirit, and we are only to behold, to
continue beholding, the blessed beauty! As we sit
before Christ—His image is imprinted on our soul.

~  ~  ~  ~

The motto of all His beautiful years

(J. R. Miller, "In Green Pastures" 1890)

"For the Son of Man did not come to be served—but
 to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
     Mark 10:45

The life of Jesus Christ, was the noblest life ever lived.
No earthly king ever attained such splendid, such real
royalty—as did He. No hero on battle-field ever did
deeds of such inherent greatness—as those wrought
by the hands of the Carpenter of Nazareth!

What was the ruling spirit of His life? Was it not service?
"Not to be served—but to serve"—was the motto of all
His beautiful years
. He lived wholly for others. He
never had one thought for Himself, never did the smallest
act for Himself. At last He poured out His very blood—in
the greatest of all His acts of service.

Shall we not learn from our Lord's example—that the
truest life in this world, is one of self-forgetting love?
Selfishness anywhere mars and spoils the beauty of
the rarest deed. We must get the spirit of Christ—and
then our lives shall be Christ-like.

"Leaving you an example, so that you should follow
 in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

~  ~  ~  ~

Walking with God

(J. R. Miller, "In Green Pastures" 1890)

"Direct my footsteps according to Your Word;
 let no sin rule over me." Psalm 119:133

This is a prayer which should always be on our lips.
We should get our direction from God, not once in
our life only, when we first give ourselves to Him;
not at the opening of each day only, as we go forth
to the day's task; not merely at the beginning of
each new piece of work or of each fresh task—but
every moment
, for each step.

That is what "walking with God" means.

We may make this so real, that we shall look up
into God's face continually, asking, "What next,
dear Lord? What shall I do now? Which course
shall I take today? How shall I do this duty?"

If we can but have God's guidance and help for
the little short steps—we need not fear for the
long miles—the great stretches of road. If each
is of His directing—the long miles will be
paths of His choosing.

"Direct my footsteps according to Your Word;
 let no sin rule over me." Psalm 119:133

~  ~  ~  ~

We will be like Him!

(J. R. Miller, "In Green Pastures" 1890)

"We know that when He appears—we
 will be like Him!
" 1 John 3:2

As the beauty of Christ's character glows before us
in the light of the Gospels—we should say, "That is
what I am to be some day! I am now very far from
it—but I am to reach it. That is my assured destiny!"

Such a hope cherished in the heart, has a wondrous
uplifting power.

Since we are so soon to be like Christ—we should
seek to grow continually in grace and virtue. We
should daily be getting a little more like Christ
in character, in temper, in disposition, in affection.
Our aim should be to bring every thought, and
every emotion, and every desire—into sweet
subjection to Christ.

We should not only cherish the blessed vision
—but should seek daily to grow into its divine
beauty! "We know that when He appears—we
will be like Him!
" 1 John 3:2

~  ~  ~  ~


(J. R. Miller, "In Green Pastures")

"Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble
 in heart." Matthew 11:29

We all fail in the life-lessons which our great
Teacher sets for us. The hardest school-tasks are
easily mastered—in comparison with the lessons of:
  sweet temper,

Even at best—we can learn these lessons but slowly.
And though but little seems to come from our yearnings
and strugglings after Christ-likeness
—yet God honors the
yearning and the striving. While we sit in the shadows of
weariness, disheartened with our failures—He carries on
the work within us, and with His own hands produces
the divine beauty in our souls.

~  ~  ~  ~

Loving the unseen Christ

(J. R. Miller, "In Green Pastures")

Holy thoughts in the heart, transfigure the life.
Your daily thoughts—build up your character.
Our hearts are the quarries where the blocks are
fashioned, which we build into our life-temple. If
our thoughts and meditations are holy, beautiful,
true, pure, loving, and gentle—our life will grow
into Christ-likeness.

Drummond tells of a young girl whose character
ripened into rare beauty—"one of the loveliest lives,"
he says, "that ever bloomed on earth!" She always
wore around her neck a little locket. But no one was
ever allowed to open the locket or to know what it

Once, however, in a time of dangerous illness, she
permitted a friend to look within it, and there she
saw the words, "Whom having not seen—I love."
That was the secret of the dear child's transfiguration
of character—loving the unseen Christ. The same
love—warm, tender, earnest, glowing in the heart
year after year—will transfigure any life into
heavenly beauty!

~  ~  ~  ~

We shall leave this staff at heaven's door

(Thomas Watson , "A Divine Cordial" 1663)

Love is the most abiding grace. This will stay with us,
when other graces take their farewell. In heaven we
shall need no repentance—because we shall have no
sin. In heaven we shall not need patience—because
there will be no affliction. In heaven we shall need no
—because faith looks at unseen things (Heb. 11:1).
Then we shall see God face to face; and where there is
vision, there is no need of faith.

But when the other graces are out of date—love continues.
And in this sense the apostle says that love is greater than
faith or hope—because it abides the longest. "Love will last
forever!" (1 Cor. 13:8). Faith is the 'staff' which we walk
with in this life. "We walk by faith" (2 Cor. 5:7). But we
shall leave this staff at heaven's door
—and only 'love'
shall enter. Thus love carries away the crown from all the
other graces. Love is the most long-lived grace—it is a
blossom of eternity. How should we strive to excel in this
grace, which alone shall live with us in heaven, and shall
accompany us to the marriage supper of the Lamb!