Grace Gems for February 2008
You will have many trials and sorrows
(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)
"You may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will
have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33
There is no life into which do not come many things
calculated to cause anxiety and disturbance of mind:
there are great sorrows;
there are perplexities as to duty;
there are disappointments and losses;
there are annoyances and hindrances;
there are chafings and irritations in ordinary life;
there are countless petty cares and frets.
All of these tend to break the hearts' peace and to
disturb its quiet. Yet, there is no lesson which is urged
more continuously or more earnestly in the Scriptures,
than that a Christian should never worry, or let anxious
care oppress his heart. He is to live without disturbance
and with unbroken peace—even in the midst of the
most trying experiences.
"The peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."
~ ~ ~ ~
We will be like Him!
(Octavius Winslow, "Eternal Glorification")
"We know that when He comes we will be like Him,
for we will see Him as He really is." 1 John 3:2
Perfect holiness is the eternal glory of the saints!
The very utterance of the thought seems to awaken
music in the soul. Seeing Christ as He is, and knowing
Him as we are known—we also shall be like Him.
Oh, what a conception! What a thought!
No more elements of evil working like leaven in the soul.
No more traces and fetters of corruption.
No more evil heart of unbelief, perpetually departing from God.
No more desperate depravity.
No more sin warring within.
No more temptation assailing from without.
All is perfect holiness now!
The outline of the Divine image is complete,
for the believer has awakened in the finished
likeness of his Lord!
Extirpate all sin—and you have erased all sorrow!
Complete the grace—and you have perfected the glory!
You then have chased all sadness from the
heart, and have dried all tears from the eye.
That glory will be the glory of unsullied purity.
Nothing of sin remains but its recollection; and that
recollection but heightens our conception of the
preciousness of the blood—that shall have effaced
every stain, and of the greatness and sovereignty
of that grace—which shall have brought us there.
~ ~ ~ ~
Secret meals make fat bodies
(Thomas Brooks, "The Privy Key of Heaven" 1665)
"But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your
door, and pray to your Father who is in secret." Mat. 6:6
Secret duties are the most soul-enriching duties. Look! as
secret meals make fat bodies—so secret duties make
fat souls! And as secret trades brings in great earthly riches,
so secret prayers makes many rich in spiritual blessings and
in heavenly riches. Private prayer is that secret key of heaven
which unlocks all the treasures of glory to the soul. The best
riches and the sweetest mercies, God usually gives to His
people—when they are in their closets upon their knees.
All the graces of the saints are enlivened, and nourished, and
strengthened by the sweet secret influences which their souls
fall under, when they are in their closet-communion with God.
Certainly there are none so rich in gracious experiences—as
those who are most exercised in closet duties.
The tender dew which falls in the silent night makes the
grass and herbs and flowers to flourish and grow more
abundantly—than great showers of rain which fall in the day.
Just so, secret prayer will more abundantly cause the sweet
flowers of grace and holiness to grow and flourish in the soul,
than all those more open, public, and visible duties of religion,
which too, too often, are mingled and mixed with the sun and
wind of pride and hypocrisy.
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."
~ ~ ~ ~
The sparkling diamond in the ring of glory
(Thomas Brooks, "A Cabinet of Choice Jewels" 1669)
"His mouth is most sweet—and He is altogether lovely.
This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song 5:16
That is, His mouth is all sweetnesses—and He is all
lovelinesses, or He is wholly desirable. Alas! says the
spouse, I lack words to express how sweet, how lovely,
how adorable, how desirable, how eminent, and how
excellent Christ is in my eye—and to my soul! All that
is perfect in heaven or earth—is but a dim shadow of His
excellency and glory. Where Christ is—there is heaven.
Heaven itself, in the spouse's eyes, without Christ,
would be but a poor little thing. The spouse looks upon
Christ, as the sparkling diamond in the ring of glory.
"His mouth is most sweet, and He is altogether lovely.
This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song 5:16
~ ~ ~ ~
Sermons without words
(J. R. Miller, "In Green Pastures")
When you are tempted to chafe and repine at
the narrowness of your circumstances, and the
limitations of your sphere—remember that for
thirty years, Jesus found room in a humble
peasant home for worthy living and for service,
not unfitted to His exalted character.
If you can do nothing but live a true Christian
life—patient, gentle, kindly, pure—in your home,
in society, at your daily duty—you will perform
a service of great value, and leave many blessings
in the world. Such a life is a little gospel, telling
in sermons without words—the wonderful story
of the cross of Christ.
"Let your light shine before men—that they
may see your good deeds and praise your
Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16
~ ~ ~ ~
His little retreat, his shrine and his idol
(James Alexander, "Consolation" 1852)
"In this world you will have trouble." John 16:33
"You are my fortress, my refuge in times of
trouble!" Psalm 59:16
The heart knows its own bitterness; and sometimes
the sharpest arrow is rankling just where others
cannot perceive it. Many are the afflictions of the
righteous—some of the sorest are not cataloged
in books, or rehearsed in sermons.
Times of trouble have not ceased from our world.
In such times, we need some refuge, stronghold
The hiding-places of men are discovered by
affliction. Ungodly men, being afraid of God, and
feeling that they are at enmity with Him, go any
where else for solace in affliction. Some turn to
worldly business, and buy and sell with redoubled
activity; some count up the idols that remain, and
plan new enterprises; some go into vain company,
read vain books, or flutter through the dance of
superfluous amusements; some have been known
to enter the sty of drunkenness.
Troubles drive each one to his refuge. Each has
his little retreat, his shrine and his idol,
which he seeks at such times.
And the child of God has his refuge—and runs into
it in times of trouble! Above the raging of the floods,
when all around is alarm, he hears the voice, as of a
trumpet, saying from the refuge—"Come, My people,
enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed
by." And emerging from the waves, he responds, "Be
merciful to me, O God, be merciful, because I come to
You for safety. In the shadow of Your wings I find
protection until the raging storms are over!" "When
my heart is overwhelmed within me, lead me to the
Rock that is higher than I." "God is our refuge and
strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
That is why we are not afraid even when the earth
quakes or the mountains topple into the depths of
the sea! The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of
Jacob is our refuge!" "You are my hiding place!"
Here is a refuge—to which believers actually resort
in times of trouble.
To the believer, God is not merely a retreat—but an
abode; not a refuge just found out when trouble
surprises—but a habitation to which he has learned
continually to resort; not a temporary shelter—but
a stronghold, where he dwells, and where he loves
~ ~ ~ ~
The Devil's trap!
(Thomas Brooks, "A String of Pearls" 1657)
"Then they may come to their senses and escape
the Devil's trap—having been captured by him
to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:26
It is the common misery of all the unsaved—that the
devil is their god. His drudges they are, and his lusts
they do. However Satan may provide his slaves with
various pleasures—yet it is but to draw them into
endless perdition. O dreadful case!
The serpent comes with the fruit in his mouth, but,
like Eve—you do not see the deadly sting! He who is
now your tempter—will one day be your tormentor!
O that I could but make you see how bad a master
you serve, how merciless a tyrant you gratify; whose
pleasure is to make your perdition and damnation
sure, and to heat the furnace hotter and hotter in
which you must burn for millions and millions of ages!
~ ~ ~ ~
A sermon which Peter never forgot
(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)
See the infinite mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"At that moment the Lord turned and
looked straight at Peter." Luke 22:61
There was a deep meaning in that look.
It was a sermon which Peter never forgot.
The love of Christ toward His people, is a deep
well which has no bottom! Let us never measure
it by comparison with any kind of love of man or
woman. It exceeds all other love—as far as the
sun exceeds the candle light. There is about it
a mine of compassion, and patience, and readiness
to forgive sin—of whose riches we have but a faint
Let us not be afraid to trust that love—when we
first feel our sins. No man need despair, however
far he may have fallen, if he will only repent and
turn to Christ. If the heart of Jesus was so gracious
when He was a prisoner in the judgment hall—we
surely need not think it is less gracious, when He
sits in glory at the right hand of the Father!
~ ~ ~ ~
My malady, my monster, my foe, my viper
(A Puritan Prayer)
Blessed Lord Jesus,
Before Your cross I kneel and see . . .
the heinousness of my sin,
my iniquity that caused You to be made a curse,
the evil that excites the severity of divine wrath.
Show me the enormity of my guilt by . . .
Your crown of thorns,
Your pierced hands and feet,
Your bruised body,
Your dying cries.
Infinite must be the evil and guilt—
which demands such a price! Sin is . . .
my malady, my monster, my foe, my viper,
born in my birth,
alive in my life,
strong in my character,
dominating my faculties,
following me as a shadow,
intermingling with my every thought,
the chain which holds my soul captive.
Sinner that I am, why should . . .
the sun give me light,
the air supply breath,
the earth bear my tread,
its fruits nourish me,
its creatures serve my needs?
Yet Your compassion yearns over me,
Your heart hastens to my rescue,
Your love endured my curse,
Your mercy bore my deserved stripes.
Let me walk humbly . . .
in the lowest depths of humiliation,
bathed in Your blood,
tender of conscience,
triumphing gloriously, as an heir of salvation.
~ ~ ~ ~
The children of truly godly parents
Often, the children of truly godly parents,
are acquainted only with the theory of true
religion—but their hearts are far from being
influenced by it. When such leave home, and
family restraints are removed—they generally
yield to the corrupt inclinations of their hearts.
And if they even keep within the bounds of
decency, (which is not always the case) they
gradually adopt the attitudes, manners and
habits of the world.
~ ~ ~ ~
Why is it?
(Arthur Pink, "Fearing God in His Sovereign Majesty")
"An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes!" Psalm 36:1
Why is it that, today, the masses are so utterly unconcerned about spiritual and eternal things, and that they are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God? Why is it that defiance of God is becoming more open, more blatant, more daring? The answer is, because "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18).
Again, why is it that the authority of the Scriptures has been lowered so sadly of late? Why is it that even among those who profess to be the Lord's people, that there is so little real subjection to His Word, and that its precepts are so lightly esteemed and so readily set aside?
Ah! what needs to be stressed today—is that God is a God to be feared! Happy is the person who has been awed by a view of God's majesty, who has had a vision of . . .
God's unutterable greatness,
His ineffable holiness,
His perfect righteousness,
His irresistible power,
His sovereign grace!
Time was, when it was the general custom to speak of a believer as "a God-fearing man". That such an appellation has become extinct—only serves to show where we have drifted. Nevertheless, it still stands written, "Like as a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him!" Psalm 103:13
When we speak of godly fear, of course, we do not mean a servile fear, such as prevails among the heathen in connection with their gods. No! We mean that spirit which Jehovah is pledged to bless, that spirit to which the prophet referred when he said, "To this man will I look—even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word." Isaiah 66:2
Nothing will foster this godly fear, like a recognition of the sovereign majesty of God!
"I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you—this is the One to fear!" Luke 12:4-5
~ ~ ~ ~
One of the most pathetic sights in this world
(Arthur Pink, "The Rest of Christ")
"Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden—and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
"I will give you rest." What a claim to make! To impart rest of soul to another, lies beyond the power of the most exalted creature. Neither Confucius, Buddha, nor Mohammed ever made such a claim as this!
As Christ is the only One who can bestow rest of soul—so there is no true rest to be found apart from Him. The creature cannot impart it. The world cannot communicate it. We ourselves cannot, by any efforts of our own, manufacture it. One of the most pathetic sights in this world, is to behold the unregenerate, vainly seeking happiness and contentment in the things of time and sense—and finding that these are all broken cisterns which can hold no water. They are like the poor woman mentioned in Mark 5:26, who "had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better—she grew worse!"
What is the nature of this "rest" which Christ gives to all who truly come to Him? It is a spiritual rest, a satisfying rest, "rest for the soul" as the Savior declares later in this passage. It is such a rest as this world can neither give—nor take away.
It is a rest from that vain and wearisome quest, which engages and absorbs the sinner, before the Spirit of God opens his eyes to see his folly—and moves him to seek after the true riches. It is indeed pitiful—to behold those who are made for eternity—wasting their time and energies wandering from object to object, searching for that which cannot satisfy them—only to be vexed by repeated and incessant disappointments. And thus it is with all—until they come to Christ, for He has written over all the pursuits and pleasures of this world, "Whoever drinks of this water—shall thirst again!" (John 4:13)
Forcibly was that fact exemplified by the case of Solomon, who was provided with everything which the carnal heart could desire, and who gratified his lusts to the full, only to find that, "Behold, all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind!" (Eccl. 1:14). It is from this vexation of spirit, that Christ delivers His people, for He declares "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him—shall never thirst!" (John 4:14)
~ ~ ~ ~
I would fly away, and be at rest!
(Arthur Pink, "The Rest of Christ")
"Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden—and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
There is also a FUTURE rest beyond any that can be experienced here, though our best conceptions are most inadequate of the glory awaiting the people of God.
In Heaven, there shall be a perfect resting from all of our sins—for nothing shall ever enter there, which could either defile or disturb our peace. The Christian yearns to be done with sin forever—that there may never again be anything in his heart or life dishonoring unto the One who has redeemed him at such infinite cost. He pants for perfect conformity to the image of Christ, and for unbroken fellowship with Him.
What it will mean to be delivered from indwelling corruptions—no mortal tongue can tell. The plague of their hearts is a constant occasion of grief to the saints—as long as they are left in this wilderness of sin. It is a burden under which they groan, and from which they long to be delivered. The closer a believer's walk with the Lord, and the more intimate his communion with Him—the more bitterly he bewails that sin within him, which is ever fighting against his endeavors after holiness. Therefore it was, that the Apostle cried out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death!" (Romans 7:24) But blessed be God, we shall not carry this burden beyond the grave—the hour of death will free us from all indwelling evil.
In Heaven, there will be perpetual rest from all our afflictions. Though afflictions are needful for us in this present scene, and when sanctified to us are also profitable; nevertheless they are grievous to bear. But a day is coming when such tribulations will no longer be necessary, for all the dross shall have been purged from the gold. The storms of life will all be behind, and an unbroken calm shall be the believer's portion forever and ever!
Where there shall be no more sin—there shall be no more sorrow! "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes! And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever!" Revelation 21:4
"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then I would fly away, and be at rest!" Psalm 55:6
~ ~ ~ ~
The advantages and blessings of family worship
(Arthur Pink, "Family Worship")
"Pour out Your wrath on the heathen that do not acknowledge You—and on the families that do not call upon Your name!" Jeremiah 10:25
We wonder how many of our readers have seriously pondered these awe-inspiring words! Observe what fearful threatenings are pronounced against those who disregard family worship! How unspeakably solemn to find that prayerless families are here coupled with the heathen, who do not acknowledge the Lord.
How loudly should these words speak to us! It is not enough that we pray as private individuals; we are required to honor God in our families as well. Each day, the whole household should be gathered together to bow before the Lord—to confess their sins, to give thanks for God's mercies, to seek His help and blessing. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with this duty—all other domestic arrangements are to bend to it. The head of the house is the one to lead the devotions. If he is absent—or seriously ill—or an unbeliever, then the wife should take his place. But under no circumstances, should family worship be omitted. If we would enjoy the blessing of God upon our family—then let its members gather together daily for praise and prayer. "Those who honor Me—I will honor" is His promise.
All our domestic comforts and temporal mercies, issue from the loving-kindness of the Lord. The least we can do in return, is to gratefully acknowledge together, His goodness to us as a family. Excuses against the discharge of this sacred duty—are idle and worthless! Of what avail will it be when we render an account to God for the stewardship of our families—to say that we had no time available? The more pressing are our temporal duties—the greater our need of seeking divine help. Nor may any Christian plead that he is not qualified for such a work—gifts and talents are developed by use—and not by neglect.
Family worship should be conducted reverently, earnestly and simply. It is then, that the little ones will receive their first impressions, and form their initial conceptions of the Lord God. Great care needs to be taken, lest a false idea of the Divine Character be given to them.
The advantages and blessings of family worship are incalculable! First, family worship will prevent much sin. Daily prayer in the home, is a blessed means of grace for allaying those unhappy passions to which our common nature is subject. It awes the soul, conveys a sense of God's majesty and authority, and sets solemn truths before the mind. How can those who neglect the worship of God in their families—look for peace and comfort therein?
Personal piety in the home is the most influential means, under God, of conveying piety to the little ones. Children are largely creatures of imitation, loving to copy what they see in others.
Finally, family prayer gains for us the presence and blessing of the Lord. There is a promise of His presence which is peculiarly applicable to this duty, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name—I am there among them." Matthew 18:20. Many have found in family worship, that help and communion with God—which they sought for with less effect in private prayer.
~ ~ ~ ~
A perfect pattern for us to follow
(Arthur Pink, "The Example of Christ")
"Learn of Me—for I am gentle and humble in heart."
"Learn of Me." Christ is not only the great Teacher of His Church—but He is also the grand Exemplar set before His people. Christ did more than proclaim the Truth—He Himself was the living embodiment of it. He did more than utter the will of God—He was the personal exemplification of it. The Divine requirements were perfectly set forth in the very character and conduct of the Lord Jesus.
Not only was there no error whatever in His teaching—but there was not the slightest blemish in His character—or flaw in His conduct. Thus, the very life that He lived, presents to us a perfect standard of holiness—a perfect pattern for us to follow. "He has left us an example—that we should follow His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
The best of men—are but men at the best. They all have their errors and defects, and therefore, wherein they differ from Christ—it is our duty to differ from them. No mere man, however wise or holy he may be—is a perfect rule for other men. The standard of perfection is found in Christ alone. He alone, is the rule of every Christian's way and walk.
"Learn of Me." Christ, then, teaches His disciples not only by precept—but by example; not only by word of mouth—but chiefly by His own perfect life of obedience and submission to the Father's will.
"Learn of Me—for I am gentle and humble in heart." He Himself was giving a personal exemplification of gentleness and humility. O what a perfect Teacher, showing us in His own utter selflessness, what these lovely graces really are! Gentleness and humility revealed themselves in all that the Redeemer said and did.
Those heavenly graces, which are the roots from which all other spiritual excellencies spring—can only be learned from Christ. The colleges and seminaries cannot impart them; preachers and churches cannot bestow them; no self-culture can attain unto them. They can only be learned experimentally and vitally—at the feet of Christ, as we take our proper place in the dust before Him. They can only be learned as we commune with Him day by day, and drink more deeply of His spirit. They can only be learned as we ponder the details of His recorded life, and then follow the example which He has left us. They can only be learned as we turn those pondering into earnest prayers that we may be more fully conformed unto His holy image.
"Learn of Me." It is not merely to an intellectual learning of Him, which Christ here calls us—but to an experimental, practical, effectual, and transforming learning. Christianity is far more than an orthodox creed and ethical code—it is a being practically conformed to the image of God's Son. The gentleness and humility of Christ, must be the pattern of our character and conduct.
~ ~ ~ ~
God's sovereign election
(Arthur Pink, "The God of Jacob")
"Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works, but by Him who calls—she was told, 'The older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved—but Esau I hated.'" Romans 9:10-13
Jacob supplies us with the clearest and most unmistakable illustration of God's sovereign election to be met with in all the Bible. The case of Jacob gives the most emphatic refutation to the theory that God's choice is dependent upon something in the creature—something either actual or foreseen—and shows that the eternal election of certain individuals unto salvation—is due to no worthiness in the subjects—but results solely from God's sovereign grace. The case of Jacob proves conclusively, that God's choice is . . .
wholly gratuitous, and
based upon nothing but His own good pleasure.
The God of Scripture then, is the God who chooses one—and passes by another. He is the One who exercises and exhibits His own sovereign will. He is one who shows Himself to be the Most High God, ruling in heaven and earth and disposing of His creatures according to His own eternal purpose. He is the One who singles out the most unlikely and unworthy objects—to be fashioned into vessels of glory. Yet, He is the One who necessarily always acts in harmony with His own divine perfections.
Election is not as some have supposed—harsh and unjust—but is a most merciful provision on the part of God. Had He not from the beginning, chosen SOME to salvation—ALL would have perished! Had he not before the foundation of the world chosen certain ones to be conformed to the image of His Son—the death of Christ would have been in vain, so far as the human race is concerned!
Reduced to its simplest terms, ELECTION means that God chose me—before I chose Him. Our Lord said, "You have not chosen Me—but I have chosen you." (John 15:16) We love Him—because He first loved us. Election means that before I was born, yes, before the foundation of the world—I was chosen in Christ and predestined unto a place in God's family! Election means that we believed—because He made us willing in the day of His power. Election then,
strips the creature of all merit,
removes all ground of boasting,
strikes us helpless in the dust,
and ascribes all the glory to God!
~ ~ ~ ~
A saving 'coming to Christ'
(Arthur Pink, "The Call of Christ")
"Come unto Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden—and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
What did our Lord here signify, when He bade all the weary and heavy laden to come unto Him?
It is quite evident that coming to Christ is something more than a physical act. Coming to Christ in the sense He here invited, is a going out of the soul after Him, a desire for Him, a seeking after Him, a personal embracing of and trusting in Him. It is the heart turning from the love of sin—to the love of holiness; from SELF—to the Savior!
A saving coming to Christ denotes a turning our backs upon the world—and turning our hearts unto Him as our only Hope and Portion. It is the abandoning of every idol—and the surrendering of ourselves to His Lordship. It is the repudiation of our own righteousness and every dependency, and the heart going out to Him in loving submission and trustful confidence. It is the entire going out of SELF with all its resolutions and performances, to cast ourselves upon His grace and mercy. It is the will yielding itself up to His authority to be molded by Him, and to follow Him wherever He may lead.
In short, coming to Christ is the whole soul of a guilty and self-condemned sinner—turning unto a whole Christ, in the exercise of all our facilities, responding to His claims upon us, prepared to unreservedly trust, sincerely love, and devotedly serve Him.
~ ~ ~ ~
The breakdown and breakup of "Civilization"
(Arthur Pink, "The Destruction of Dagon" 1943)
The "march of progress" from 1920 onwards, was, if measured by the standards of righteousness and decency, steadily downwards. Those with the least sense of decency were determined to drag the whole of the rising generation, down into the gutter. An orgy of licentiousness was widely entered into. Night-clubs were multiplied, gambling spread like wild fire, and debauchery abounded on every side. The beaches lowered their bathing restrictions—and modesty became a thing of the past. Youth was allowed to have its fling, unrestrained.
The novels and magazines of the last decade have been filled with obscenities and blasphemies. A friend of ours in the publishing business recently wrote to us, "Today we have shops stacked with books which, had they been published when we were boys—the authors and publishers would have been put in jail!" Censorship has long since been reduced to a farce. The great majority of our children have their ideas formed by the pictures they saw at the "movies" and the debasing productions of a degenerate press. As a recent writer said, "The best-sellers of today, are often books whose morals are of the barnyard, whose language is of the sewer and whose ethics are of the pit!"
The breakdown and breakup of "Civilization" appears in such things as the decay of the sanctity of marriage—as evidenced by the multiplication of divorces, and the abandonment of large numbers of babies; juvenile delinquency and immorality among the young; the vandalism which is now so rife; such widespread pilfering—and the flimsy efforts of the authorities to deal with such evils! Thousands of culprits who ought to be sent to prison, are given nominal fines. Law and order is almost reduced to a farce!
We do what we do—because we are what we are. There is always a rigid consistency between character and conduct. The thin coating of "civilized" varnish has worn off, and twentieth-century character stands exposed.
~ ~ ~ ~
(An excerpt from a letter from Legh Richmond to one of his daughters)
My dear daughter,
May my dear child be preserved from the defilements of a vain, dangerous, and destroying world. You know not, and I wish you never may know—its snares and corruptions!
I send you the following applications of my sermon on Ephesians 5:15-16, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
On circumspection of walk, redemption of time, and general sincerity of character:
1. Adhere most scrupulously to Scriptural truth; and labor to preserve the strictest integrity, simplicity, and sincerity.
2. Engage in no pursuit in which you cannot look up unto God, and say, 'Bless me in this, my Father!'
3. Strive to be as kind, forbearing, and forgiving as you can—both to friends and foes. Never speak evil of anyone.
4. Strive to recommend true religion by the courtesy, civility, and humble character of your conduct.
5. Watch against irritation, pride, unkind speaking, and anger—study and promote love.
6. Mortify all lusts, sensuality and sloth.
7. Never speak well of yourself. Keep down pride; let it not be indulged for a moment—but watch against it.
8. Shut out evil imaginations and angry thoughts.
9. Let it be your sole business here to prepare for eternity. Consider every moment of time in that view.
10. Remember that you have to contend with . . .
a legion of devils;
a heart full of deceit and iniquity;
and a world at enmity with God.
11. Pray that you may ever rejoice in the advancement of Christ's kingdom, and the salvation of sinners; and labor in every way to promote these objects.
12. Prayer is the only weapon which can subdue your corruptions, and keep you in close fellowship with God. Cultivate prayer.
The love of Christ is the only safe ground of all motives, and of all conduct. Where this is established, all is well. The life-blood of Christianity then circulates through every vein of the soul; and spiritual health, strength, and purity of mind is the happy result. Fall down upon your knees before God, my dear, praying that He would pour that love into your heart, until it becomes a constraining principle for the government of your thoughts and actions. The love of Christ is the only remedy for all the diseases of the soul.
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(An excerpt from a letter from Legh Richmond to his daughters. This one is longer—but it is choice. Must reading for parents and their children.)
My dear daughters,
With a heart full of affection, I sit down to express a few sentiments and intimations of my wishes, as connected with your conduct. Keep them constantly with you, and let them be read over, at least once a week. May God render them useful to you!
AMUSEMENTS. Plays, balls, concerts, cards, dances, etc., etc.
Serious, consistent Christians, must resist these things, because the dangerous spirit of the world and the flesh is in them all. They are the 'pomps and vanities of this wicked world,' so solemnly renounced by God. To be conformed to these seductive and more than frivolous scenes—is to be conformed to this world, and opposed to the character and precepts of Christ. Those who see no harm in these things—are spiritually blind; and those who will not hear admonition against them—are spiritually deaf. Shun, my dear girls, the pleasures of sin—and seek those pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore. You cannot love both!
The characters of people, are speedily discerned by their choice of books. I trust that you will never sacrifice time, affection, or attention to novels. Do not be ashamed of having never read the fashionable books and novels of the day. A Christian has no time, and should have no inclination for any reading which has no real tendency to improve the heart. There are too many valuable books on a variety of worthy subjects, which ought to be read—to allow for time to be dedicated to unwholesome and useless ones!
Shun all the wretched foolishness and corruption—of light, silly, and amorous songs; on the same principle that you would shun books of the same nature. Sacred music is the true refuge of the Christian. I wish your ears, your hearts, and your tongues were often tuned to such melodies. The play-house, the opera, and the concert-hall—have deluged our society with perversions of the heavenly art of music. Music was designed to lead the soul to heaven—but the depravity of man has greatly corrupted God's merciful design for music.
Aim at great neatness and simplicity. Shun finery and show. Do not be in haste to follow new fashions. Remember, that with regard to dress—that Christians ought to be decidedly plainer, and less showy than the people of the world. I wish it to be said of my daughters, "With what evident and befitting simplicity, are the daughters of Mr. Richmond attired."
BEHAVIOR IN COMPANY.
Be cheerful—but not gigglers.
Be serious—but not dull.
Be communicative—but not overbearing.
Be kind—but not servile.
In every company support your Christian principles, by cautious consistency.
Beware of silly or thoughtless speech—although you may forget what you say—others will not.
Remember! God's eye is in every place, and His ear is in every company!
Beware of levity and familiarity with young men; a sincere, yet modest reserve, is the only safe path. Grace is needful here; ask for it—you know where.
Strive to preserve a praying mind through the day—not only at the usual and stated periods—but everywhere, and at all times, and in all companies. Prayer is your best preservative against error, weakness and sin.
Always remember that you are in the midst of temptations; and never more so than when most pleased with outward objects and people.
Pray and watch; for though the spirit is willing—yet the flesh is deplorably weak.
Keep ever in mind—that you have a Christian profession to sustain—both in pious and worldly company. Be firm and consistent in them both. Many eyes and ears are open to observe what you both say and do—and will be, wherever you go. Pray to be preserved from errors, follies, and offenses, which, bring an evil name upon the ways of God.
You may sometimes hear ridicule, prejudice, and censure assail the godly—it ever was, and will ever be so! But, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven!" Do not be ashamed of Christ here—and He will not be ashamed of you hereafter.
Initiate and encourage serious conversation, with those who are truly serious and conversable. Never go into pious company, without endeavoring to improve the souls of others. Whenever you can find a congenial friend, talk of heaven and eternity, and your soul and your Savior. This will be as a shield to your head—and your heart!
ESTIMATE OF THE CHARACTER OF OTHERS.
Look first for grace. Do not disesteem godly people on account of their foibles, or deficiencies in matters of little importance. Gold, even when unpolished, is far more valuable than the brightest brass. Never form unfavorable opinions of religious people hastily, "love hopes all things." Prize those families where you find consistent family prayer; and suspect evil and danger, where it is avowedly unknown and unpracticed. Always remember the astonishing difference between the true followers of Jesus, and the unconverted world—and prize them accordingly, whatever be their rank in society.
Good manners and piety form a happy union; but poverty and piety are quite as acceptable in the eyes of God; and so they ought to be in our eyes. Experience proves that the proportionate number of the truly godly among the poor, is much greater than the corresponding proportion of numbers among the rich.
Your affectionate father,
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A pretty, cultured sort of evangelism
(Legh Richmond, "Domestic Portraiture" January 6, 1825)
For the most part, we are a nation of Christians by profession—and a nation of heathens in practice.
There is to be found in the religious world—what may be termed—a pretty, cultured sort of evangelism, which too well combines luxurious ease, and serving of the world, and the flesh—not to say of the devil also. But such kind of religion will not prepare the soul for sickness, death, and eternity. At best, it will leave the soul a prey to the most fearful delusions of false peace. The way that leads to eternal life is much more narrow than many of our modern professors are aware of—the gate is too straight to allow all their trifling, and self-will, and worldliness, and carnal-mindedness, to press through it.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14
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(An excerpt from a letter of Legh Richmond to his son)
"The teaching that promotes godliness." 1 Timothy 6:3
"The knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness." Titus 1:1
It is much easier to be a 'Bible scholar'—than a sincere Christian. It is much easier to be a 'theologian'—than a true pastor. Theology itself, important as are its themes—sinks into a mere science of literary attainments, unless accompanied by an earnest and devotional application of its principles to the soul.
You should not only study the Scriptures—but always be pondering some searching experimental book, as a bosom companion. A love of such reading—proves a useful test of pious character. There are many books about religious matters, which, after all—do not bring home vital piety to the heart.
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Letter to a dying teenager
(Excerpt from a letter of Legh Richmond to his dying teenage son, 1824)
My ever dear son,
You are never out of my thoughts—but there is an eye which beholds and watches over you, in a way that I cannot do. To Him I confide and commend you, for sickness and health, for time and eternity.
What a word, what a thought, is ETERNITY! What prospects does it set before us! What inconceivable mysteries are involved in it! How does it make the things of time dwindle into insignificance! What questions of unspeakable importance, are involved in it!
Sin, a corrupt nature, a broken law, an offended God, eternal punishment, conscience, guilt, regeneration, salvation by Christ, faith, hope, love, free grace, undeserved mercy, justification, effectual calling, adoption into God's family, pardon of sin, consolation in Christ, heaven and glory! These, and a thousand accompaniments, are all connected with the idea and the reality of ETERNITY!
What a sad proof of the depravity of our heart—is our indifference towards thinking upon things which belong to our everlasting peace; and which, if neglected, involve our eternal ruin! We need warnings—and the Lord sends them in many ways. Sickness, pain, bereavements, losses, disappointments —all bring their message with them.
The great question between our souls and God is not whether we admit the truths of the Scripture into our understandings—but whether they are so applied to our hearts—so as to have wrought a change, and become vital principles of faith and practice. Nothing short of this can afford evidence of a saved and safe condition.
Be much in prayer and self-examination. The more we see of ourselves—the more we see our sin. And the more we see our sin—the more we flee to the death and righteousness of Christ—for pardon, deliverance, and hope! Let nothing interrupt you in this continual work of self-examination; and let self-examination lead you to earnest and ardent prayer. Let no pursuits of literature, no delights of sense, no passing occurrences, no debility of body, no inferior subjects of recreation, prevent you from keeping your thoughts close to God and to eternity!
You have arrived at an age when many dangerous temptations will assail you, and you will be put to the test—whether your heart is right with God. You are thrown upon the world and its seductions, and you will find indeed, that it lies in wickedness— multiplied, subtle, and appalling wickedness! May God preserve you, my dear son—and may you never wander from the way in which you have been trained!
Keep a continual watch over your disposition, temper, and thoughts. Pride in every form—must be brought low.
Do not wonder, that I cannot rest contented with superficial religion—but that I look for a deeply experimental life of God in your soul. I place time and eternity before me in holy imagination. I strive, as it were, to penetrate the veil which separates them—and to look earnestly at those things which belong to your everlasting peace!
Lay all these things to heart; make them the subject of unceasing petition at that throne—whence no believing supplicants are ever sent empty away.
I commend you to Him, who has all events in His hands, whose consolations are neither few nor small, who gave his Son to die for your sins, and whose compassions never fail. The precious Redeemer shall protect, guard and comfort you. But seek Him aright—do not trifle with the great concerns of your soul.
Adieu for the present, my child, my friend—and, in Christ, my brother,
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(A letter from Jonathan Edwards, to his daughter Mary)
My dear child,
You may well think it is natural for a parent to be concerned for a child at so great a distance away, so far out of view, and so far out of the reach of communication; where, if you should be stricken with any dangerous sickness, which should issue in death—you might probably be in your grave before we would hear of your danger. But yet, my greatest concern is not for your health, or temporal welfare—but for the good of your soul.
Though you are at so great a distance from us—yet God is everywhere. You are much out of the reach of our care—but you are in His hands every moment! We have not the comfort of seeing you—but He sees you! His eye is always upon you. And if you may but live sensibly near to God, and have His gracious presence, it is no great matter if you are far distant from us. I had rather you should remain hundreds of miles distant from us—and have God near to you—than to have you always with us, and live at a distance from God.
And if the next news we would hear of you, would be of your death, though that would be very sad; yet, if at the same time we had the best grounds to hope, that you had died in the Lord—how much more comfortable would this be to us—than if you died without the grace and favor of God!