Grace Gems for NOVEMBER 2008

God will not throw away His jewels!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"Lord, I believe—help my unbelief!" Mark 9:24

Lord, I see—but enlighten my darkness!
Lord, I hear—but cure my deafness!
Lord, I move—but quicken my dullness!
Lord, I desire—but help my unwillingness!

Wherever sin proves hateful—it shall not prove hurtful.

What an apology does a sorrowful Savior make for His
sleeping saints!
"The spirit is willing—but the flesh is weak!"

Take a carnal man, and what he can do—that he will not do.
Take a Christian man, and what he would do—that he cannot do.

God will pity impotency—but He will punish obstinacy.

It would be folly, indeed, to think that our fields have
no grain
in them—because there is some chaff about
the wheat; or that the ore had no gold in it—because
there is some dross mixed among it.

In heaven, there is service alone—without any sin.
In hell, there is sin alone—without service.
But on earth, there is sin and service in the same man
—as there is light and shade in the same picture.

Above us—there is light without any darkness.
Below us—there is darkness without any light.
But in this world—it is neither all day nor all night.

Though the lowest believer is above the power of sin—
yet the highest believer is not above the presence of sin!

It is in a living Christian that sin is to be mortified—but
it is only in a dying Christian that sin is to be destroyed.

When the body and the soul—are separated by mortality
—sin and the soul—will then be separated to eternity!

Sin never ruins—but where it reigns!

Sin is not damning—where it is disturbing!

The more trouble sin receives from us
—the less trouble sin does to us.

Sin is only a murderer—where it is a governor!

Our graces are our best jewels—but they do
not yield their brightest luster in this world.

The moon, when she shines brightest—has its spots;
and the fire, when it burns the hottest—has its smoke.

Sin is an enemy at the Christian's back
—but not a friend in his bosom.

Although believers should be mournful—because
they have infirmities; yet they should be thankful
—because they are but infirmities.

It is true, they have sin in them—and that should
make them sorrowful. But it is just as true, that
they have a Savior for them—and that should
make them joyful.

The conduct of a Christian may sometimes
be spotted with infirmity—when the heart is
sound in the love of sanctity.

Jacob halted—and yet was blessed. As his blessing
did not take away his halting—so his halting did
not keep away his blessing.

The heavenly Bridegroom will not put out a believer's
candle—because of the dimness of its burning; nor
will He overshadow a believer's sun—because of the
weakness of its shining.

Though that vice may be found in us—for which God
might justly damn us; yet that grace is to be found
in Him—by which He will justly save us. He does not
come with water to extinguish the fire—but with wind
to disperse the smoke!

As death leaves the body soulless
—so death leaves the soul sinless.

"You of little faith—why did you doubt?" Poor Peter
had faith enough to keep him from drowning—but
not enough faith to keep him from doubting.

As Alexander's painter could find a finger
to conceal the scar on his master's face—so
when Jesus Christ draws the picture of the
saint's excellency—He can find a covering
for all the scars of his infirmities!

God will not throw away His jewels—for
every speck of dirt which may be on them!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Satan's herd of swine!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian")

"You shall not follow a multitude—to do evil."
     Exodus 23:2

The generality of people—are like dead fish,
which float down the stream, wherever it runs.

The 'voice of the people'—is often the voice
of the devil.

Satan's herd of swine—is larger than Christ's
flock of sheep!
Let them be ever so mighty—we
are not to fear them. Let them be ever so many
—we are not to follow them.

If we will not have the people of the world to be
our leaders—we shall be sure to have them as our
troublers. If they cannot seduce us into their evil
ways—they will oppose us in our holy ways. If they
cannot scorch us with their fire—they will try to
blacken us with their smoke. They will speak evil
of us—because we do not run into the same excess
of evil with them. Because we refuse to play the
fool with them—they will say that we are mad.

"Though the people of Israel are as numerous
as the sand on the seashore—only the remnant
will be saved." Romans 9:27. The whole piece
belongs to the Devil—but God cuts off a remnant
for Himself!

The trees of righteousness are thinly
—in the world's orchard.

There are many wicked sinners
—to one godly man!

Pebbles lie abundant in the streets
—but pearls are rare to find.

Sinners are certainly the greatest company
—but they are also the worst company.

Remember, the multitude of people, are like the
droves of cattle
—which go to the slaughter!

Those who follow after others in sinning—will
be sure to follow them in suffering! Alas, the
largeness of the multitude, will not extinguish
the fierceness of the flame! The great number
of those immortal faggots—will but  intensify
the fury of the eternal fire!

 ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

No way!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian")

There is one way to keep a man out of hell—
but there is no way to get a man out of hell.

"Then He will say to those on the left—Depart
 from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal
prepared for the Devil and his angels!"
     Matthew 25:41

"And they will go away into eternal punishment."
     Matthew 25:46

~  ~  ~  ~

Beware of the nail and the hammer!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"Flee from youthful lusts—and pursue righteousness,
 faith, love, and peace." 2 Timothy 2:22

Flee from youthful lusts and worldly delights. These
carry honey in their mouths—but they have a
in their tails! When this Jael brings forth her
and her butter—then beware of the nail and
the hammer!
Death is in the pot—while you are
tasting the soup!

The world always presents a deadly potion—in the
gilded cup
of worldly pleasure. If the cup is sinful
do not taste it; reason forbids you to taste known
poison! The fish is caught upon the hook—by leaping
at the bait! Sin is like a river, which begins in a quiet
—but ends in a tumultuous sea.

 ~  ~  ~  ~

The idol we worship!

(Letters of John Newton)

"People will be lovers of SELF" 2 Timothy 3:2

The passions of discontent, pride, and envy—exert
themselves in each of us. We are fallen into a state
of gross idolatry—and SELF is the idol we worship!

The principle of SELF is deep-rooted in every heart,
and is the spring of every action—until grace infuses
a new principle, and SELF, like Dagon, falls before
the Lord Almighty!

 ~  ~  ~  ~

Break through the snares of vanity!

(Letters of John Newton)

Dear fellow pastor,
I would earnestly press both of us—
  to follow the Lord fully;
  to aim at a life of self-denial;
  to renounce self-will; and
  to guard against self-wisdom.

The less we have to do with the world—the better!
Unless we watch and pray—we shall often be ensnared!

Time is precious, and opportunities once gone—are gone
forever! Even by reading, and what we call studying—we
may be comparatively losers. The best way to study—is
to be closely waiting upon God in humble, secret, fervent
prayer. The treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in
His hands—and He gives bountifully, without upbraiding!

Whatever we may undertake with a sincere desire
to promote His glory—we may comfortably pursue.
Nothing is trivial—which is done for Him.

Pray for me, that I may be enabled to break through
the snares of vanity
which lie in my way; that I may
be crucified with Christ—and live a sincere life of faith
in Him who loved me, and gave Himself for me!

John Newton
June 29, 1757

~  ~  ~  ~

A heathenish habit

(Theodore Cuyler, "God's Light on Dark Clouds")

"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty,
 reigns!" Revelation 19:6

In nothing are we all apt to make more terrible blunders,
than in looking at God's providential dealings. Even
some Christians have a heathenish habit of talking
about "good luck" and "windfalls" and "bad fortune,"
and other expressions which convey the idea that this
life is a mere game of chance!

Blind unbelief
may be expected to err, and to scan God's
work as either a riddle or a muddle. But a Christian ought
to know better! "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the
Almighty, reigns!" Revelation 19:6

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

In view of God's mercy

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian")

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"
    2 Corinthians 9:15

What could Jesus do more—than to die for us!
What can we do less—than to live for Him!

You cannot fathom all the good which He has
bestowed upon you—nor all the evil which He
has forgiven you!

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of
 God's mercy
—to offer your bodies as living
 sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God!"
     Romans 12:1

          ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

No wonder if Satan gets into the saddle!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"Avoid every kind of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22

He who now gives way to the least sin—may yet be given up to the greatest sins. We are never far enough from lust—while we are on earth; or near enough to Christ—while we are out of heaven. O, stand far off from the devil's mark—unless you would be hit by his arrows!

The drawing near to the appearance of evil—is the first step to the accomplishment of the most enormous evil. A spark—will easily catch a box of tinder on fire. Little streams—will find a passage to the great sea. Christian reader! Why should you venture on slippery places—when you can scarcely stand upon the firmest ground? Who will pity that man whose house is blown up with gun-powder—if he stores it in the chimney corner?

Such is the monstrous wickedness of men, that though the streams and currents of their own lusts carry them too swiftly already—yet they hoist up sails to catch the devil's winds!

The fowler spreads his net—but the wings of the bird carry her into it! If you would not step into the harlot's house—you should not go by the harlot's door! If you would not gather the forbidden fruit—then beware how you look on the luscious tree!

To pray against temptations, and yet to rush into occasions to sin—is to thrust your fingers into the fire—and then pray that they might not be burnt! If you hold the stirrup for him—no wonder if Satan gets into the saddle!

"Watch and pray—so that you will not fall into temptation." Matthew 26:41. That man who is the most watchful—is the least sinful. A soul without its watch—is like a city without its wall, exposed to the attack of all its enemies!

Those who would not fall into the river—should beware how they approach too near to its banks. He who crushes the egg—need not fear the biting of the serpent. He who would not drink of the wine of divine wrath—let him not touch the cup of sinful pleasure.

A person who carries gun-powder with him—can never stand too far from the fire. If we accompany sin one mile—it will compel us to go two. Sin swells like Elijah's cloud, from the size of a man's hand to such an expansion, as to cover the whole sky.

"Let him who thinks he stands—take heed, lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12. You will quickly lose your standing—if you are fearless of falling.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

It will be bitter in your belly!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"The wages of sin—is death." Romans 6:23

The 'ways of sin' may have popular approval—but they shall also have divine abhorrence marked upon them.

This Delilah may please us for a time—but she will betray us at last!

Though Satan's apples may have a fair skin—yet they certainly have a bitter core!

Methinks the flaming sword in one hand, and the golden scepter in the other hand—should guard us from the forbidden tree; and make our hearts like wet tinder to all the sparks of Satan!

Reader, if you behold nothing but pleasure in the commission of sin—you will experience nothing but the most dreadful pain in the conclusion of sin! "The wages of sin—is death." All workmen should have their wages; and it is only reasonable that those who employ you—should pay you. But, however you may delight in the works of sin—you will by no means relish the wages of sin! Ah, what wise man would toil so long in sin's drudgery—whose wages are no better than eternal misery!

Though all sins are not equal in their nature—yet all sins are in their very nature, deadly. "The wages of sin—is death." The candle of man's life is blown out—by the wind of his lusts! The corruption of nature—tends to the dissolution of nature. Reader, you began to be sinful—when you began to be mortal. If you had never had anything to do with sin—death could never have had anything to do with you.

It is at that vile enemy, SIN—which God shoots all His arrows!

Sin is like a serpent in your bosom—which stings you! Sin is like a thief in your closet—who plunders you! Sin resembles poison in the stomach; or a sword to the heart—both of which tend to death! Like John's little book—sin may be sweet in your mouth—but it will be bitter in your belly!

The foul dregs—lie at the bottom of the vessel. The golden cup of sin—is filled with the most poisonous ingredients! Sinner, that which is now like a rose flourishing in your bosom—will in a very little time be like a poisoned dagger at your heart!

While such a 'Judas' kisses—he kills! While the ivy twines round the oak—it eats out its sap.

If sin were not so delightful—it would not be so deceitful. Like a cunning angler—sin shows the bait, but conceals the hook! If you, O man, are found nibbling at the bait—you may justly expect the hook! O think, you who now boast in nothing so much as sin—that there is a time approaching, when you will be ashamed of nothing but sin! You will be eternally sinful—but you cannot be eternally joyful. In hell, all that sugar will be melted, in which this bitter pill of sin was wrapped! Hell is too hot a climate—for wanton delights to live in!

The pleasures of sin are but for a season—but the torments of unpardoned sin are of an eternal duration! Death will turn all the waters of pleasure—into blood! The serpent of sensual delight—always carries a deadly sting in its tail! All the blaze of worldly pomp—will soon end in midnight darkness and horror!

It is better to make your lodgings in a bed of snakes—than in the forbidden bed of sinful lusts!

When the pale horse of death goes before—the red horse of wrath follows after! When the sinner's body goes to the worms to be consumed—then his soul goes to hell to be tormented! A wise man knows, that it is far better to forego the pleasures of sin here—than to undergo the pains of wrath hereafter!

"There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed, feasting lavishly every day." What pleasure does Dives now reap in hell, from all the choice banquets he sat down to, on earth? "I am in agony in this fire!" The stench and torment of everlasting burnings—will take away the sweetest perfumes which ever covered sin!

 ~  ~  ~  ~

A flower which never grew in the world's garden!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little—and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13

Every man has received more good—than he has deserved. He should therefore be contented, though he sees but little good. And he should not be discontented, though he suffers much evil.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money—and be content with what you have." When a wicked man's purse grows light—his heart grows heavy. When he has something without to afflict him—he has nothing within to support him.

Repenting is the act of Christian men—but repining is the act of carnal men. Though their estates are like a fruitful paradise—yet their hearts are like a barren wilderness. Such people are like those spiders—which suck poison out of the sweetest flowers—and by an infernal chemistry, extract dross from the purest gold!

Outward prosperity cannot create inward tranquility. 'Hearts-ease' is a flower which never grew in the world's garden! The ground of a wicked man's trouble, is not because he has not enough of the creature—but because he cannot find enough in the creature to satisfy him! His possession is great enough—but his disposition is not low enough.

Our worldly comforts would be a sea to drown us—if our crosses were not a plank to save us!

Contentment is the best food to preserve a sound man—and the best medicine to restore a sick man. It resembles the gilt on bitter pills, which makes a man take them—without tasting their bitterness. Contentment will make a lowly cottage—look as fair as a grand palace. He is not a poor man—who has but little; but he is a poor man—who desires much. In this sense, the poorest are often the richest—and the richest the poorest.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain." Contentment is too precious a flower to grow in every soil. Though every godly man may not always be contented—yet every truly contented man is godly. "The Lord is my shepherd—I have everything I need!" Such a Scripture will bring us plenty in scarcity; and fullness out of emptiness.

Never complain of your hard condition, Christian—so long as Jesus is your friend! Let your condition be ever so flourishing—it is a hell without Him. Let your condition be ever so fluctuating—it is a heaven with Him. Can that man truly lack anything—who enjoys Christ; or can he be said to truly enjoy anything—who is without Christ?

 ~  ~  ~  ~

These streams of defilement!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

Until we taste the bitterness of our own misery—we will never relish the sweetness of God's mercy. Until we see how foul our sins have made us—we will never pay our tribute of praise to Christ for washing us.

Outward acts are most scandalous among men—but inward lusts are most atrocious before God!

Reader! if you would know the heart of your sin—then you must know the sins of your heart! "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a man!" Matthew 15:19-20. These streams of defilement which appear in your lifedo but show what a fountain of wickedness there is in your heart! Even the "thought of foolishness is sin!" There is no sin so little—as not to kindle an eternal fire!

"When sin has conceived—it brings forth death!"
Sin's first-born is death—and its last-born is hell.

 ~  ~  ~  ~

The peacock of pride

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

He is the most lovely Christian—who is the most lowly Christian. As incense smells the sweetest when it is beaten smallest—so saints look loveliest when they lie lowest. God will not allow such a weed as pride to grow in His garden, without taking some course to root it up.

Pride is a sinner's torment—but humility is a saint's ornament. "Be clothed with humility." The garment of humility—should always be worn on the back of Christianity. Where humility is the corner-stone—there glory shall be the top-stone.

God many times places a thorn in the flesh—to pierce the balloon of pride. He makes us feel a sense of our misery—that we may sue for His unmerited mercy. The first Adam was for self-advancement—but the second Adam is for self-abasement. The former was for having SELF deified—the latter is for having SELF crucified.

We live—by dying to ourselves; and die—by living to ourselves. There is no proud man—who is not a foolish man; and scarcely is there any foolish man—who is not a proud man. It is the night-owl of ignorance, which broods and hatches the peacock of pride.

"I hate pride and arrogance!" Proverbs 8:13. God abhors those people worst—who adore themselves most. Pride is not a Bethel—that is, a house where God dwells; but a Babel—that is, a stinking dungeon in which Satan abides. Pride is not only a most hateful evil—but it is a radical evil. As all other lusts are found lodging in it—so they are found springing from it. Pride is a foul leprosy, in the face of morality; and a hurtful worm, gnawing at the root of humility. Pride is a cancer within, and a spreading plague without!

"Clothe yourselves with humility, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
1 Peter 5:5

~  ~  ~  ~

The puddle of their own merit!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

Many have passed the rocks of gross sins—who have suffered shipwreck upon the sands of self-righteousness.

It was the saying of one, that he "would swim through a sea of brimstone—if he might but arrive safely at heaven." Ah, how would natural men soar to heaven—upon the pinions of their own merit! The sunbeams of Divine justice—will soon melt such weak and wax wings!

He who has no better righteousness than what is of his own providing, shall meet with no higher happiness than what is of his own deserving. "They disregarded the righteousness from God—and attempted to establish their own righteousness." They are determined to sail in their own ship—though they sink in the ocean!

We are so far from paying the utmost farthing, that at our utmost—we have not even a farthing to pay! That man will be a miserable spectacle of vanity—who stands upon the lame feet of his own ability!

Duties are but dry pits, though ever so meticulously wrought—until Christ fills them. Reader, I would neither have you be idle in duties—nor make an idol of duties.

What are duties without Christ—but like a fine cabinet without a jewel—or a golden cup without a cordial? The most diligent saint—has been the most self-distrusting saint, "that I may gain Christ and be found in him—not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." If you are found in your own righteousness, you will be lost by your own righteousness. That garment which was worn to shreds on Adam's back—will never make a complete covering for you.

Duties may be good crutches to go upon—but they are bad Christs to lean upon. It is the greatest disparagement that professors can offer to Christ—to put their services in the scale with His sufferings. The beggarly rags of the first Adam—must never be put on with the princely robe of the second Adam!

Man is a creature too much inclined to warm himself by the sparks of his own fire—though he lies down in eternal flames for kindling them! Though Noah's dove made use of her wings—yet she found no rest, but in the ark. Duties can never have too much of our diligence—or too little of our confidence. A believer does not perform good works to live—but he lives to perform good works.

He shall have hell as his debt—who will not take heaven as a gift. "We boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh." A true Christian stands at as great distance from trusting in the best of his services—as in the worst of his sins! He knows that the greatest part of his holiness—will not make the least part of his justifying righteousness. He has unreservedly subscribed to that sentiment, "that when we have done all—we are only unprofitable servants."

When we have kept all the commandments, there is one commandment above all to be kept; that is, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags!" In most of our works—we are abominable sinners; and in the best of our works—we are unprofitable servants. "O Sovereign Lord, I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone!" You see, beloved, the righteousness of Christ is to be magnified—when the righteousness of a Christian is not to be mentioned.

It is hard for us to be "nothing in ourselves" amidst all our works; and to be "all things in Christ," amidst all our weakness. To undertake every duty—and yet to overlook every duty—is a lesson which none can learn, but Christ's scholars.

Our obedience, at best, is like good wine—which relishes of a bad cask. The 'Law of God' will not accept ninety-nine for a hundred. It will not accept the coin of our obedience, either short in quantity—or base in quality. The duty it exacts—is as impossible to be performed in this our fallen state; as the penalty it inflicts—is intolerable to be endured in our eternal state!

We do not sail to glory in the salt sea of our own tears—but in the red sea of the Redeemer's blood! The Cross of Christ—is the only key of paradise! We owe the life of our souls—to the death of our Savior. It was His going into the fiery furnace—which keeps us from going into the devouring flames! Man lives—by death: his natural life is preserved by the death of the creature; and his spiritual life is gained by the death of the Redeemer.

Those who carry their vessel of hope to the puddle of their own merit—will never draw the water of comfort, from the fountain of God's mercy!

 ~  ~  ~  ~

The sheep's clothing will soon be
 stripped from the wolf's back!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"Having a form of godliness—but denying its power."
2 Timothy 3:5

Formality frequently takes its dwelling near the chambers of integrity, and so assumes its name; the soul not suspecting that hell should make so near an approach to heaven. A rotten post, though covered with gold, is more fit to be burned in the fire, than for the building of a fabric. Where there is a pure conscience—there will be a pure conversation. The dial of our faces does not infallibly show—the time of day in our hearts. The humblest looks may enamel the face—while unbounded pride governs the heart!

A hypocrite may be both the fairest creature—and the foulest creature in the world! He may be fairest outwardly in the eyes of man—and foulest inwardly in the sight of God. How commonly do such unclean swans cover their black flesh with their white feathers! Though such wear the mantle of Samuel—they should bear the name of Satan!

Many appear righteous—who are only righteous in appearance. But while they are deceiving others with the false shows of holiness—they are also deceiving themselves with the false hopes of happiness. The hypocrite would not willingly appear evil—and yet would inwardly be evil. He would gladly be accounted godly—and yet would not be godly.

Man, either appear what you are—or be what you appear. What will the form of godliness do for you—if you deny the power thereof? Those who have the power of godliness, cannot deny the form; while those who have the form of godliness, may deny the power.

Hypocrites resemble looking-glasses—which present faces that are not in them. Oh, how desirous are men to put the fairest gloves—upon the foulest hands; and the finest paint—upon the rottenest posts!

Hypocrites are better in show—than in substance. They are like painted tombs—which enclose decayed bones. That is a sad charge, which the God of truth brings against certain false professors, "I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not—but are the synagogue of Satan!" A false friend—is worse than an open enemy. A painted harlot is less dangerous—than a painted hypocrite. A treacherous Judas is more abhorred by God—than a bloody Pilate!

Professors! Remember—the sheep's clothing will soon be stripped from the wolf's back! The velvet plaster of profession—shall not always conceal the offensive ulcer of corruption. Neither the ship of formality nor hypocrisy—will carry a person to the harbor of felicity. The blazing lamps of foolish virgins may light them to the bridegroom's gate—but not into His chamber. Either get the nature of Christ within you—or take the name of Christ away from you.

A bad man is certainly the worst—when he is seemingly the best. We must not account everyone a soldier—who swaggers with a sword. A rusty sword—may frequently be found in a highly decorated scabbard. What good is it to have our hands as white as snow—if our hearts are as black as the bottomless pit! Such professors resemble soap bubbles—smooth and pretty without—yet only filled with air!

A man may wear the Savior's livery—and yet be busied in Satan's drudgery! The skin of an apple may be fair—when it is rotten at the core! Though all gold may glitter—yet all is not gold that glitters. The worst hypocrite may have the color of gold—but not the value of gold!

~  ~  ~  ~

Judas the preacher!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian")

"If you know these things—you are blessed if you do them." John 13:17

To obey the truth, and not to know it—is impossible.
To know the truth, and not obey it—is unprofitable.

For, "Not everyone who says unto me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven—but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." Saving knowledge is not as the light of the moon—to sleep by; but as the light of the sun—to work by. It is not a loiterer in the market-place—but a laborer in the vineyard.

A man may be a great scholar—and yet be a great sinner. Judas the traitor—was Judas the preacher! The snake which has a pearl in its head—has poison in its body! The tree of knowledge has often been planted, and flourished—where the tree of life never grew! All abilities and gifts—without grace and holiness—are but like Uriah's letters, which were the death warrants of those who carried them!

Mere head knowledge will be as unhelpful to the soul, in the judgment day—as a painted fire is unhelpful to the frozen body, in a cold day. Theoretical knowledge may make the head giddy—but it will never make the heart holy. How many professors are there, who have light enough to know what should be done—but have not love enough to do what they know! Give me the Christian who perfectly sees the way he should go—and readily goes the way he sees!

That is barren ground—which brings forth no fruit. "To him who knows to do good, and does it not—to him it is sin." The sins of ignorance are most numerous—but the sins of knowledge are most dangerous! That sinner's darkness will be the greatest in hell—whose light was the clearest on earth!

There are many who set a crown of glory upon the head of Christ by a good profession, and yet put a crown of thorns upon his head by an evil conversation. By the words of our mouth—we may affect to adore religion; but it is by the works of our lives—that we adorn religion.

As trees without fruits are unprofitable—so knowledge without good works is abominable! Leah and Rachel are fit emblems of knowledge and obedience. Knowledge, like Rachel—is beautiful. But obedience, like Leah—is fruitful.

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The nails which pierced Christ's hands!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian")

Though repentance is the act of man—yet it is the gift of God. It requires the same power to melt the heart—as to make it. As we are deeply fallen from a state of innocence, so we should rise to a state of penitence. Those sins shall never make a hell for us—which are a hell to us. Some people have sin enough for all their sorrows—but not sorrow enough for all their sins. Their eyes are windows to let in lusts—when they should be flood-gates to pour out tears!

When godly sorrow takes possession of the house—it will quickly shut sin out of doors. There must be a falling out with our lusts—before there can be a genuine falling off from our lusts. There must be a sincere loathing of sin in our affections—before a true leaving of sin in our actions. It is a hearty mourning for our transgressions, which makes way for a happy funeral of our corruptions!

Sinner, you have filled the book of God with your sins—and will you not fill the bottle of God with your tears? Remember, that when Christ draws the likeness of the new creature, His first brush is dipped in water: "Unless you repent—you shall all likewise perish!" Is it not better to repent without perishing—than to perish without repenting? Godly sorrow is such a grace, that without it—not a soul shall be saved; and with it—not a soul shall be lost! Is it not therefore better to swim in the water-works of godly repentance—than to burn in the fire-works of divine vengeance? Do not think that the tears which are shed in hell—will in the least abate the torments which are suffered in hell!

He who lives in sin, without repentance—shall die in sin, without forgiveness. There is no coming to the fair haven of glory—without sailing through the narrow strait of repentance. We must mourn for sin on earth—or burn for sin in hell! It is better traveling to heaven sadly—than to hell merrily!

It is the coldness of our hearts—which kindles the fire of God's anger. "They will look on Me whom they have pierced—and shall mourn!" Zechariah 12:10. Christians! The nails which pierced Christ's hands—should now pierce your hearts! You should now be deeply wounded with godly sorrow—for having so deeply wounded Him with your ungodly sins!

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It is better to be preserved in
brine—than to rot in honey!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian")

Above every evil, we should consider sin as the greatest evil—as it is the fountain and origin of all evils. Sin is the only target—at which all the arrows of divine vengeance are shot! Sinners are those spiders which weave their own webs—and are afterwards entangled in them! Our own destruction—is but the fruit of our own transgression. There is more real evil in a particle of corruption—than in an ocean of tribulation!

The evil of suffering is transient—but the evil of sin is permanent. The consistent Christian will always choose the worst of sorrows—before he will commit the least of sins!

The wicked entirely reverse this—for they prefer the greatest sin—to the least sufferings! This is to leap out of the hot pan—into the consuming fire! By seeking to shun an external calamity—they rush into eternal misery! This is as if a man should lose his head—to preserve his hat!

As the works of sin are dishonorable; so the wages of sin are deadly! "The wages of sin—is death." The corruption of nature is the cause of the dissolution of nature. The candle of our lives—is blown out by the wind of our lusts! Were it not for sin—death would never have had a beginning! Were it not for death—sin would never have an ending!

What is so sweet a good as Christ? And what is so great an evil as lust? Sin has brought many a believer into suffering—and suffering has instrumentally kept many a believer out of sin! It is better to be preserved in brine—than to rot in honey! The bitterest medicine is to be preferred—before the sweetest poison! The consistent Christian will always choose the worst of sorrows—before he will commit the least of sins!

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Those doltish children!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian")

Sin is pleasant—but unprofitable.
is unpleasant—but profitable.

By affliction, the Lord separates the sin that He hates—from the soul that He loves. He sends affliction—to take the dirt of the world out of the hearts of His children! "Before I was afflicted I went astray—but now I keep Your word!" Psalm 119:67

As waters are purest, when they are in motion—so saints are generally holiest, when in affliction. Some Christians resemble those doltish children, who will learn their lessons—no longer than while the rod is on their backs! In the greatest affliction—the Lord has sealed the sweetest instruction, "It was good for me to be afflicted—so that I could learn Your statutes!" Psalm 119:71

Many Christians are not bettered by the judgments they see—when they have bettered by the judgments they have felt. The gold is refined—by being in the furnace! Likewise, with the Christian, "I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10

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Such a brat of hell as I!

(John Warburton)

Some will talk wonderfully about the Doctrines of Grace, but have never known what it is to water the Throne of grace with their tears—that God the Holy Spirit would cause His doctrines to drop as the rain, and His still small voice to distill in their souls as the dew. Poor things! They know nothing about these things by soul experience, for they are hidden from these wise and learned professors, and only revealed unto babes. The dear Savior thanked His Father that this was the case: "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned—and revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure." Matthew 11:25-26

And why, O my soul, are you not among them? Is it because you have merited His favor more than they? O no! It is because it pleased the God and Father of all mercies and all comfort, that it should be so! Blessings and honors be unto You, O holy Father—that ever Your love and choice was fixed upon such a brat of hell as I!

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God's mowing-machine

(Theodore Cuyler, "God's Light on Dark Clouds")

"I have refined you in the furnace of affliction."
 Isaiah 48:10

Some afflictions are sent by God—to purify character. God sits as a Refiner beside His furnace. He heats it until the metal melts—and the dross surfaces and is taken away. He keeps His silver in the furnace—until He can see His own face reflected in the clear metal of the heart. Then the affliction has done its work. There is such a wretched amount of self-will and pride and covetousness and unbelief even in the best of Christians—that they require the refining-furnace very often.

It is a wholesome process—to be "mowed down" occasionally. The grass in every lawn requires to be cut down by a mower. The oftener it is mowed—the richer and the thicker is the growth. The lawn never looks so beautiful, as after the sharp-edged mower has gone over it. I have observed that some Christians have never appeared so attractive in their humility and heavenly-mindedness, as when God's mowing-machine has been passed over them!

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I would have been perfectly submissive!

(Theodore Cuyler, "God's Light on Dark Clouds")

None of us has any trouble in accepting the doctrine of God's sovereignty—as long as things go to our liking! We are perfectly satisfied to let God have His way—as long as He does not cross us! We all believe in His administration, and are ready to "vote God in as our governor" as long as our business thrives, and our crops are plentiful, and everyone around our own table is healthy and happy.

As long as His mercies are poured out in sweet wine—we drink of them gladly. But as soon as the same cup begins to taste of wormwood—we push it away in disgust, or cry out piteously, "Let this cup pass from me! Any other cup I would have swallowed—but not this one! If God had only tried me with the loss of property, and spared my health—I could have borne it! Or if He had sent the sickness at some other time—I would not murmur so! Or if His blow had struck me somewhere else but in my most tender spot—I would not cry out so bitterly! In short, if God had only consulted me as to the medicine I should take, and as to which branch His pruning knife should lop off—I would have been perfectly submissive!"

As some of our readers may just now be smarting under God's strokes of discipline, or letting their hearts fester into rebellion—let me whisper this precious truth into their ears: our Heavenly Father never afflicts one of His children—but for a wise purpose. He never strikes at random—or deals one blow in cruelty!


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Our sins—His mercies

(Letters of John Newton)

"Where sin abounded—grace did much
more abound!" Romans 5:20

March 18, 1767.
Dear friend,
You have one hard lesson to learn, that is—the evil of your own heart. You know something of it—but it is needful that you should know more; for the more we know of ourselves—the more we shall prize and love Jesus and His salvation. The more you know Him—the better you will trust Him. The more you trust Him—the better you will love Him. The more you love Him—the better you will serve Him. This is God's way. You are not called to buy—but to beg; not to be strong in yourself—but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. He is teaching you these things, and I trust he will teach you to the end.

Do not be surprised to find yourself poor, helpless, and vile. All whom God favors and teaches—will find themselves so. The more grace increases—the more we shall see to abase us in our own eyes!

I hope what you find in yourself by daily experience, will humble you—but not discourage you. For if our Physician is almighty—our disease cannot be desperate. Our sins are many—but His mercies are more. Our sins are great—but His righteousness is greater. When our sins prevail, remember that we have an Advocate with the Father, who is able to pity, to pardon, and to save to the uttermost! Think of the names and relations which Jesus bears to us. Does He not call Himself—a Savior, a Shepherd, a Friend, and a Husband? Has He not made known unto us His love, His atoning sacrifice, His righteousness, His promises, His power, and His grace—and all for our encouragement? It is better to be admiring the compassion and fullness of grace which is in our Savior—than to dwell and pore too much upon our own poverty and vileness.

Remember that He has loved you with an everlasting love—and therefore in loving-kindness has drawn you to Himself. He will surely accomplish that which He has begun. Nothing which can be named or thought of—shall ever be able to separate you from Him! This persuasion will give you strength for the battle! This is the shield which will quench the fiery darts of Satan! This is the helmet which the enemy cannot pierce! Be strong, therefore—not in yourself—but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom—but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed—but surely. Many suns, showers, and frosts, pass upon it before it comes to perfection. And in winter, when it seems to be dead—it is gathering strength at the root. Be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means, and endeavor to look through all, and fix your eye upon Jesus—and all shall be well. I commend you to the care of the good Shepherd.

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The playhouse

(Letters of John Newton, 1767)

I am thoroughly convinced, that if there is any practice in this land which is sinful, attendance on the playhouse is eminently so! The theaters are fountains of vice, by which the god of this world blinds the eyes of multitudes! These haunts of Satan are to be shunned as pest-houses, and dangerous nuisances to precious souls!

The Gospel opens a source of purer, sweeter, and more substantial pleasures! We may well bid adieu to these perishing pleasures of sin! We may well pity those who can find pleasure in those amusements where God is shut out; where His name is only mentioned to be profaned; where His commandments are not only broken—but insulted; where sinners proclaim their shame as in Sodom, and attempt not to hide it; where, at best, wickedness is wrapped up in a disguise of entertainment, to make it more insinuating!

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The Good Shepherd

(Letters of John Newton)

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep! I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:11, 28

Every part of our salvation, requires the exertion of infinite wisdom and almighty power. Jesus is the Shepherd of all who believe in Him. We depend upon Him—and He gives us the effectual help which we need. He is intimately acquainted with us—and knows every thought and intent of our hearts. He has His eye always upon us. His ear is always open to us. His arm is ever stretched out for our relief. We can receive nothing—but what He bestows upon us. We can do nothing—but as He enables us. Nor can we stand a moment—but as He upholds us!

It is amazing to me—that I do not find my heart all on fire with love to Jesus—when I consider—from what misery I am redeemed; to what happiness I am called; and what a price was paid for my soul! Alas! alas! my guilt and grief are that my thoughts of Jesus are so faint, and so infrequent; and that my commendations of Him are so lamentably cold and disproportionate to what they ought to be!

Yet—if the heart is right with God, and sincerely affected with the wonders of redeeming love—our gracious High Priest, who knows our weakness—will pity and pardon what is amiss, and accept our poor efforts!

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(Letters of John Newton)

"The Lord reigns! Let the earth rejoice!" Psalm 97:1

My dear madam,
He who once bore our sins, and carried our sorrows—is seated upon a throne of glory, and exercises all power in heaven and on earth! Thrones, principalities, and powers, bow before Him! His providence pervades and manages the whole universe, and is as minutely attentive to every part—as if there were only a single object in His view! From the tallest archangel—to the smallest ant or fly—all depend on Him for their being, their preservation, and their powers. He directs the sparrows where to build their nests, and where to find their food. He over-rules the rise and fall of nations; and bends, with an invincible power, and unerring wisdom—all events to His sovereign will! So that while many intend other outcomes—their designs all concur and coincide in the accomplishment of His holy will.

Jesus restrains with an almighty hand—the still more formidable efforts of the powers of darkness. Satan with all his hosts cannot exert their malice a hair's-breadth beyond the limits of His permission!

This omnipotent Savior is the head and husband of His believing people. How happy are those whom it is His good pleasure to bless! How safe are those whom He has engaged to protect! How honored and privileged are those to whom He is pleased to manifest Himself, and whom He enables and warrants to claim Him as their Friend and eternal portion!

Having redeemed them by His own blood—He esteems them as His treasure, His jewels; and protects them as the pupil of His eye! They shall not lack any good thing. They need not fear. His unerring eye is upon them in every situation; His ear is always open to their prayers; and His everlasting arms are under them for their sure support! On earth He guides their steps, controls their enemies, and directs all His dispensations for their spiritual good. While in heaven He is pleading their cause, preparing a glorious home for them, and communicating down to them reviving foretastes of the glory which they shall shortly enter into!

We sinful worms were once blind to His beauty, and insensible to His love, and would have remained so to the last—had He not revealed His goodness and grace to us!

"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!" Revelation 19:6

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Your poor little boy!

(Letters of John Newton)

July 4, 1777.
My dear Sir,
Your poor little boy! It is mercy indeed, that he recovered from such a severe burn. The Lord wounded—and the Lord healed. I ascribe what the world calls accidents—to Him, and believe, that without His permission, for wise and good ends—a child can no more pull a bowl of boiling water on itself—than it could pull the moon out of its orbit!

Why does God permit such things? He does these things—to remind us of the uncertainty of life and all creature-comforts; to make us afraid of cleaving too close to pretty toys, which are so precarious, that often while we look at them—they vanish; to lead us to a more entire dependence upon Himself; that we might never judge ourselves or our concerns safe from outward appearances only—but that the Lord is our keeper, and were not His eye upon us—a thousand dangers, and painful changes, which we can neither foresee nor prevent—are lurking about us every step, ready to break in upon us every hour!

"Men are but children of a larger growth." How many are laboring and planning in the pursuit of things, the outcome of which, if they obtain them, will be but like pulling scalding water upon their own heads! They must have the bowl by all means—but they are not aware what is in it—until they feel it!

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The poor man who catches a poisonous wife!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies!" Proverbs 31:10

Our friend is very busy seeking that precious piece of furniture, called a wife. May the Lord direct and bless his choice. In Captain Cook's voyage to the South Sea, some fish were caught which looked as well as others—but those who ate of them were poisoned! Alas! for the poor man who catches a poisonous wife! There are many such to be met with in the matrimonial seas, who look passing well to the eye. But a marriage to them proves baneful to domestic peace, and hurtful to the life of grace.

I know several people, including myself, who have great reason to be thankful to Him who sent the fish, with the money in its mouth, to Peter's hook. He has secretly instructed and guided us where to angle; and if we have caught prizes, we owe it not to our own skill, much less to our deserts—but to His goodness!

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised!" Proverbs 31:30

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Defects and defilements

(Letters of John Newton)

Dear friend,
You say that you are conscious of defects and defilements. But your heart could not be right—if you did not feel these things. To be conscious of them, and humbled for them—is one of the surest marks of grace; and to be more deeply sensible of them than formerly—is the best evidence of growth in grace!

Our righteousness is in Jesus alone; and our hope depends, not upon the exercise of grace in us—but upon the fullness of grace and love in Him, and upon His obedience unto death.

It is a mighty manifestation of His grace indeed—when it can live, and act, and conquer in such hearts as ours; when, in defiance of an evil nature and an evil world, and all the force and subtlety of Satan—a weak worm is still upheld; when a small spark is preserved through storms and floods!

In these circumstances, the work of grace is to be estimated, not merely from its imperfect appearance—but from the difficulties it has to struggle with and overcome. Therefore our holiness does not consist in great attainments—but in spiritual desires, in hungerings, thirstings, and mournings; in humiliation of heart, poverty of spirit, submission, and meekness; in hearty admiring thoughts of Jesus, and dependence upon Him alone for all we need. Indeed these may be said to be great attainments; but they who have most of them are most sensible that they, in and of themselves, are nothing, have nothing, can do nothing—and see daily cause for abhorring themselves and repenting in dust and ashes!

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The prosperity of the wicked

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"For I envied the arrogant—when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Psalm 73:3

We should never judge the inward conditions of men—by the outward dispensations of God. The greatness of our estates—is no argument of the goodness of our hearts. To prize ourselves by what we have—and not by what we are; is to estimate the value of the jewel—by the box which contains it. Grace and gold can live together; but the smallest degree of grace in the heart—is preferable to a thick chain of gold around the neck.

Lest riches should be accounted evil in themselves—God sometimes gives them to the righteous; and lest they should be considered as the chief good—He frequently bestows them on the wicked. But they are more generally the portion of God's enemies—than His friends.

Here on earth, it is sometimes evil with the righteous—and well with the wicked. Those who live most upon God, sometimes fare worst from the world. You cannot read the wrath of God—in the black lines of adversity; or the love of God—in the white lines of prosperity.

God often gives a full cup of temporal blessings to wicked men—though there are dregs at the bottom! They may be fruitful vines—and yet only laden with sour grapes. It is seldom that the sparkling diamond of a great estate—is set in the golden ring of a pious heart. Riches have made many good men—worse; but they never made any bad man—better.

Though a Christian is made happy in the world—yet he is not made happy by the world. There are many who are temporally happy, who will be eternally miserable; and many are now temporally miserable, who will be eternally happy.

"God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good—and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:45. The sun of prosperity shines upon the dunghill—as well as upon beds of spices. The rain of adversity falls upon the fruitful garden—as well as the barren wilderness. The abundance of the infidel is a golden chain—to bind him to the earth; and the apparent miseries of the believer are as fiery chariots—to convey him to heaven!

If we look for a saint, he is not always to be found upon a bed of down—but sometimes he has been seen on a heap of dust. Poor Lazarus rises up to heaven—and rich Dives sinks down to hell. We must not infer the absence of God's affections—from the presence of numerous afflictions. A saint is glorious in his misery—but a sinner is miserable amidst all his glory.

"Judge nothing according to appearance—but judge righteous judgment." That apple which has the fairest skin—may have the rottenest core. The most choice pearls—are often enclosed in the most hideous shells.

"Deliver my soul from the wicked—who have their portion in this life." Psalm 17:14. The things of the world—are the only happiness of the men of the world. A man's estate in this world may be great—and yet his state for the eternal world may be fearful. God may say to him as to Pharaoh, "For this purpose have I raised you up—that I might show My power upon you." The same hand which now pours abundance on ungodly men like oil—will soon pour down wrath upon them like fire! Under all their wealth—their hearts are sinful; and after all the riches have fled—their situation will be doleful!

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A beautiful face—under a black mask!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"What! Shall we receive good at the hand of God—and shall we not receive evil?" Job 2:10

The consistent Christian speak well of God—whatever evil he receives from God. To bless God for mercies—is the way to increase them; to bless God for miseries—is the way to remove them.

Did not the possession of riches sometimes draw away our hearts—then the loss of them would not break our hearts!

"The Lord gives—and the Lord takes away; blessed be the Name of the Lord." Job 1:21. God gives before He takes—and He takes only what He gives!

The hour-glass of outward happiness soon runs out! Today Job is the richest man in all the east; tomorrow Job is the poorest man in all the world. Yet his heart was like a fruitful paradise—when his estate was like a barren wilderness! Though God burnt up his houses—yet his palace (his heart) was left standing.

Outward mercies are like the tide—which ebbs as well as flows. They are like the sky—which sometimes is clear, and at another time clouded. They are like a budding flowerwhich opens on a warm day, and shuts on a cold day. If God bless us in taking—as well as in giving; let us bless Him for taking—as well as for giving.

That is a choice artist—who can play well upon a broken instrument. To be impatient with our affliction—and patient with our corruption; is to be angry with the medicine which heals us—and in love with the poison which kills us! Beloved, it is sometimes a mercy to us—that God removes outward mercies from us! He never wounds a saint to kill him—but to heal him! God does but take that out of your hands—which would thrust Him out of your heart!

Too many think that God is cutting down the whole tree—when He is but lopping off its wasteful branches. They imagine that He is demolishing the superstructure, when He is only laying a right foundation. Poor souls, He is not nipping the flowers—but plucking up the weeds! He is not laying your land fallow—but ploughing the field!

God's Providence
has a beautiful face—under a black mask! God has the fairest ends—in the foulest ways! The sheep may be dipped in water to wash it—when there is no design in the Good Shepherd to drown it!

Christian reader, you may read the marks of a kind Father—in the severe stripes of His children. Every twig of His black rod of affliction—is but to draw His lovely image upon you!