Grace Gems for APRIL 2010

Our great lesson!

(James Smith, "The Pastor's Morning Visit")

"I will instruct you." Psalm 32:8

At best we know but little—and we are slow to learn. But the Lord has promised to instruct us. The Lord's teaching always produces . . .
  confidence in God,
  zeal for His glory, and
  devotes the heart to His glory!

The Lord's teaching always . . .
  brings us to the feet of Jesus, and
  delivers us from the present evil world.

Under Divine instruction we learn . . .
  the true nature of sin,
  the vanity of the world,
  the emptiness of creatures, and
  the fullness and preciousness of Christ!

Is God willing to instruct us? Then let us be early and often at His throne of grace, praying, as the Psalmist did, "Show me Your ways, O LORD, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me—for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." Psalm 25:4-5. Then shall we exclaim, as Elihu did, "God is exalted in His power. Who is a teacher like Him!" Job 36:22

The Lord will teach us to profit, and sanctify us through the truth He imparts. Christ is our great lesson—and to know Him rightly—is life, peace and joy!

Is Jesus your Teacher? Then . . .
  sit at His feet,
  treasure up His Words,
  and show forth His praise!

He says, "Learn of Me." Learn to . . .
  know Him,
  love Him,
  obey Him, and
  live upon Him!

"Teach me Your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path!" Psalm 27:11

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Poor in self—rich in Jesus!

(James Smith, "The Pastor's Morning Visit")

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

The Lord's people are all poor; they see and feel that sin has stripped them of every excellence; and has left them wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked. They can do nothing of themselves, they can procure nothing for themselves; but free grace has made ample provision for them, and the Gospel informs them that Jesus has everything they need—and that all that He has, is for them!

When they look at, or into themselves—they are discouraged; but when they look to Jesus—they rejoice! He has riches of grace—and riches of glory; and He says, "Every one who asks—receives." He gives liberally, and upbraids not. Here then is the present blessedness of the Lord's poor: Jesus has all they need! And He is their Redeemer and Friend! Those who seek Him shall not lack any truly good thing.

Am I poor? If so, Jesus bids me come to Him—and buy gold, clothing, wine, and milk without price—all that is necessary to comfort and support in time, and render me happy throughout eternity! Poor in self—rich in Jesus! Poor at present—rich in eternity! "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven!"

"All things are yours!" 1 Corinthians 3:21

"And my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 4:19

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There lies his mortal body, moldering into dust—and feeding the worms!

Samuel Davies, "Life and Immortality Revealed in the Gospel"
(A sermon preached at the funeral of a young man, on September 1, 1756)

"It is appointed unto men once to die—but after this, the judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

Do you expect a pleasant eulogy of our deceased young friend? This is not my usual practice—I have things of much greater importance to engage your attention. The dead have received their just and unchangeable doom at a superior tribunal; and besides, our eulogies or censures may be often misapplied. My business is with the living—not to flatter their vanity with compliments, but to awaken them to a sense of their own mortality, and to a preparation for it.

However, if you must have his eulogy—I will draw it for you in the most important and interesting light:

Here was a youth in the bloom of life, in the prime of his strength and health, who seemed as secure from the stroke of death as any of us. Here lies a youth who launched into the world, no doubt, with the usual projects and expectations of a happy old age. But where is he now? Alas! In yonder grave lies the blooming, promising flower—withered in the morning of life! There lies his mortal body, moldering into dust—and feeding the worms!

Come to his grave, you young and mirthful ones, you lively and strong ones, you men of business and bustle; come and learn what you must shortly be! Come and see your own destiny! Thus, shall your limbs stiffen, your blood stagnate, your faces wear the pale and ghastly aspect of death, and your whole frame dissolve into dust and ashes!

Thus shall your all your temporal purposes be broken off, all your schemes vanish like smoke, and all your hopes from this world perish. Death perpetually lurks in ambush for you—ready every moment to spring upon his prey!

"Oh that DEATH!" (said a man of large estate, strong constitution, and cheerful temper,) "I do not like to think of death—he comes in and spoils all."

So he does indeed! He spoils all your thoughtless mirth, all your foolish amusements, and all your great schemes. Methinks it befits you to prepare—for what you cannot avoid! "It is appointed unto men once to die—but after this, the judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

But was our departed friend nothing but an animal, a mere machine of flesh and bones? Is the whole of him putrefying in yonder grave? No! I must draw his character farther. He was an immortal being; and no sooner did he take his last breath—than his soul took wing, and made its flight into the eternal realm. There it now dwells. And what amazing scenes now present themselves to his view! What extraordinary, unknown beings does he now converse with!

There also, my friends, you and I must before long be! We too must be initiated into those grand mysteries of the invisible world, and mingle in this assembly of immortal beings. We must share with angels in their bliss and glory—OR with devils in their agonies and terrors!

And our eternal destiny shall be according to our present character. "The hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth; those who have done good—unto the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil—unto the resurrection of damnation!" John 5:28

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Well, trifle a little longer!

(Samuel Davies, "The Danger of Lukewarmness in Religion")

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold—I am going to vomit you out of My mouth!" Revelation 3:15-16

Are lukewarmness and indifference a suitable temper with respect to a HAPPINESS far exceeding the utmost bounds of our present thoughts and wishes; a happiness equal to the largest capacities of our souls in their most improved and perfect state; a happiness beyond the grave, when all the enjoyments of this transitory life have taken an eternal flight from us; a happiness that will last as long as our immortal spirits, and never fade or fly from us?

Or are lukewarmness and indifference a suitable temper with respect to a MISERY beyond expression, beyond conception dreadful; a misery inflicted by a God of almighty power and inexorable justice upon all obstinate, incorrigible rebels for numberless, willful and daring provocations; inflicted on purpose to show His wrath and make His power known? A misery proceeding from the united fury of divine indignation, of the turbulent passions of a guilty conscience, of malicious tormenting devils? A misery (who can bear up under the horror of the thought!) that shall last as long as the eternal God shall live to inflict it—as long as sin shall continue evil to deserve it—as long as an immortal spirit shall endure to bear it—a misery that shall never be mitigated, never intermitted, never, never, never see an end?

And remember, that a state of eternal happiness or misery is not far remote from us—but near us, just before us! The next year, the next hour, or the next moment—we may enter into it!

Oh, sirs, does an apathetic, careless attitude befit us in such a solemn situation? Is a state of such eternal happiness—or such misery; is such a state which we must shortly enter—a matter of indifference to us? Oh, can you be lukewarm about such matters? Was such a exceeding stupidity ever seen under the canopy of heaven, or even in the regions of hell—which abound with monstrous and horrid beings? No! the vilest demons below cannot make light of these things! Mortals! can you trifle about them?

Well, trifle a little longer—and your trifling will be over, forever! You may now be indifferent about the improving of your time; but time is determined to continue its rapid course, and hurry you into the ocean of eternity, though you should continue sleeping and dreaming through all the passage!

Therefore awake, arise—before your doom is unchangeably fixed!

Let the criminal, condemned to die tomorrow, be indifferent about a pardon; let a drowning man be careless about catching at the only plank that can save him; but oh do not be careless and indifferent about eternity—and such amazing realities as heaven and hell!

If you disbelieve these things—you are infidels.
If you believe these things, and yet are unaffected with them—you are worse than infidels! Not even hell itself can find a precedent of such a conduct. The devils believe—and tremble! You believe—and trifle with things whose very name strikes solemnity and awe through heaven and hell.

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This is the 'hell' of hell

(Samuel Davies, "The Resurrection of Damnation")

"Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out; those who have done good—unto the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil—unto the resurrection of damnation!" John 5:28-29

Alas! Multitudes shall come forth from their graves, not to the resurrection of life—but to the resurrection of damnation! What terror is in the words!

See them bursting into life from their subterranean dungeons! Horror throbs through every vein—and glares wildly and furiously in their eyes. Every joint trembles and every countenance looks downcast and gloomy! Now they see that tremendous Day of which they were warned in vain—and shudder at those terrors of which they once made light. They now experientially know the grand business of the Day and the dreadful purpose for which they are roused from their slumbers in the grave:
  to be tried,
  to be convicted,
  to be condemned, and
  to be dragged away to execution!

"And they will go away into eternal punishment!" (Matthew 25:46) They must go away into the bottomless pit! There they are confined in chains of darkness, and cast into the burning lake of fire and brimstone forever and ever!

In that dreadful word "forever" lies the epitome of torment! This is the 'hell' of hell. If they might be but released from suffering, though it were by annihilation after they have wept away ten thousand millions of ages in extremity of pain—it would be some mitigation, some encouragement. But, alas! When as many millions of ages are passed as the stars of heaven, or the sands on the seashore, or the atoms of dust in this huge earthly globe—their punishment is as far from an end—as when the sentence was first pronounced upon them!

FOREVER! There is no exhausting of that word! When it is affixed to the highest degree of misery—the terror of the sound is utterly insupportable!

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The bitterest ingredient in the 'cup of divine displeasure'

(Samuel Davies, "Unseen Things to Be Preferred to Seen Things")

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen—but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary—but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

VISIBLE things are perishable—and may soon leave us. When we think that they are ours—they often fly from our embrace!

Riches may vanish into smoke and ashes—by an accidental fire!

We may be thrown down from the pinnacle of honor—and sink into utter disgrace!

Sensual pleasures often end in excess and disgust—or in sickness and death!

Our friends are torn from our bleeding hearts by the inexorable hand of death!

Our liberty and property may be wrested from us by the hand of tyranny, oppression, or fraud!

In a word, there is nothing which we now enjoy—but we may quickly lose!

On the other hand, our miseries here on earth are temporary. The heart receives many a wound—but it heals again. Poverty may end in riches. A blemished character may be cleared up; and from disgrace—we may rise to honor. We may recover from sickness. And if we lose one comfort—we may obtain another.

But in ETERNITY—everything is everlasting and unchangeable! Happiness and misery are both without end—and the subjects of both well know that this is the case.

It is this eternality and perpetuity, which completes the happiness of the inhabitants of heaven; the least suspicion of an end—would intermingle itself with all their enjoyments, and embitter them; for the greater the happiness, the greater the anxiety at the expectation of losing it. But oh, how transporting for the saints on high, to look forward through the succession of eternal ages, with an assurance that they shall be happy through them all, and that they shall feel no change—but from glory unto glory!

On the other hand, this is the bitterest ingredient in the 'cup of divine displeasure' in the future state—that the misery is eternal! Oh, with what horror does that despairing cry, "Forever! Forever! Forever!" echo through the vaults of hell!

And now, need I offer anything further to convince you of the superior importance of invisible and eternal things—to visible and temporary things? Can you need any arguments to convince you that an eternity of the most perfect happiness—is rather to be chosen than a few years of sordid, unsatisfying sinful pleasures?

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The causes of the stupid unconcernedness

(Samuel Davies, "Unseen Things to Be Preferred to Seen Things")

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen—but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary—but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

Among all the causes of the stupid unconcernedness of sinners about true religion, and the feeble endeavors of saints to improve in it—there is none more common or more effectual, than their not forming a due estimate of the things of time—in comparison to those of eternity!

Our present affairs engross all our thoughts, and exhaust all our activity—though they are but transitory trifles; while the solemn realities of the future world are hid from our eyes by the veil of flesh and the clouds of ignorance. Did these unseen eternal realities break in upon our minds in all their tremendous importance, they would . . .
  annihilate the most desired vanities of the present state,
  obscure the glare of all earthly glory,
  render all its pleasures insipid, and
  give us a noble resignation under all its sorrows.

A realizing view of these eternal realities, would . . .
  shock the worldling in his thoughtless career,
  tear off the hypocrite's mask, and
  inflame the devotion of the languishing saints!

The concern of mankind would then be how they might make a safe exit out of this world—and not how they may live happy in their earthly state. Present pleasure and pain—would be swallowed up in the prospect of everlasting happiness—or misery hereafter! Eternity, solemn eternity, would then be our serious contemplation. The pleasures of sin would strike us with horror—as they issue in eternal pain! And our present afflictions, however tedious and severe, would appear but light and momentary—if they work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!

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All will be pure, unmingled happiness—or pure, unmingled misery!

("Life's Shortness and Vanity", A funeral sermon by Samuel Davies)

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment—but the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46

In this present world, our good and evil are blended. Our happiness has some bitter ingredients, and our miseries have some agreeable mitigations.

But in the eternal world, good and evil shall be entirely and forever separated! All will be pure, unmingled happiness—or pure, unmingled misery!

But what gives infinite importance to these joys and sorrows is—that they are enjoyed or suffered in the eternal world, and they are themselves eternal. Eternal joys! Eternal pains! Joys and pains that will last as long as the King eternal and immortal will live to distribute them! As long as our immortal spirits will live to feel them! Oh what joys and pains are these!

And these eternal joys or pains, my friends—are awaiting every one of us! These pleasures, or these pains—are felt this moment by all our friends and acquaintances who have died before us! And in a little, little while—you and I must feel them!

Alas! What then, have we to do with time and earth? Are the pleasures and pains of this world—worthy to be compared with eternal pleasures and pains? "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" The enjoyments and sufferings, the labors and pursuits, the laughter and tears of the present state—are all nothing in comparison. What is the loss of an estate, or of a dear relative—compared to the loss of a blissful immortality?

And if our heavenly inheritance is secure—what does it matter, even if we should be reduced into Job's forlorn situation? What does it matter, even if we are poor, sickly, racked with pains, and submerged in every human misery? Heaven will more than make amends for all!

But if we have no evidences of a title to heaven, the sense of these transitory distresses may be swallowed up in the fear of the horrible miseries of eternity!

Alas! What does it avail—that we play away a few years in mirth and gaiety, in grandeur and pleasure—if when these few years have fled, we lift up our eyes in hell, tormented in eternal flames!

Oh what are all these transitory things—to a candidate for eternity! An heir of everlasting happiness—or everlasting misery!

If we spend our immortality in eternal misery—what sorry comfort will it be that we laughed, and played, and frolicked away our few years upon earth!

As Christians, we are to be nobly indifferent to all the little amusements and pleasures of so short an earthly life.

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment—but the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46

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There is no one on earth like him!

(Joseph Caryl, "Practical Observations on the Book of Job")

"Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him! He is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." Job 1:8

We ought not to be satisfied with low degrees of grace; or content ourselves to be like others in grace. We should labor (if it is possible) to go beyond all others in grace. It did not satisfy Job that he had gotten to such a degree, to such a frame and temper of heart, to such a course of holiness—as his neighbors or brethren had attained unto; but he labored to go beyond them all, "There is no one on earth like him!"

It is a holy ambition—to labor to exceed all others in grace and godliness.

We have a great many in the world who desire to be so rich—as none should be like them; to be so luxurious in their apparel—as none should be like them; or to be so beautiful—as none should be like them. But where are those who desire and endeavor to have such a portion or stock of grace—that none should be like them; to be above others in holiness—as Job was?

True grace never rests in any degrees or measures of grace—but labors to increase. He who has any grace—always desires to have more grace. Do not think it enough when you are like others in holiness—you ought to labor to be beyond others!

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What was wrong with him?

(Arthur Pink)

"One thing you lack" Mark 10:21

Those words addressed by our Lord to the rich young ruler who had approached Him with such apparent eagerness and earnestness, and in whom there were some admirable qualities which are rarely found in young men, especially those of affluence.

Yet there was a fatal defect, for the sequel informs us that he turned from Christ, and "went away sad" (Mark 10:22). What was wrong with him? "'One thing you lack—Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.' At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Mark 10:21-22).

There was a struggle between his convictions and his corruptions; he desired to serve two masters—God and mammon; and when Christ told him that was impossible, he was chagrined.

His fatal deficiency may be described in a variety of ways. He had no conviction that he was a ruined, lost and Hell-deserving sinner, no consciousness that he was a spiritual leper in the sight of God, no realization of his utter helplessness to better his condition. Though religious, he was still in nature's darkness, and therefore, his affections were not raised above the vanities of this world. There was no love for God within him; and consequently, he was unwilling to deny himself, abandon his idols, and give God His rightful place in his life—serving, pleasing, and enjoying Him. He lacked a real and unreserved surrender of his heart to God.

Is that the case with you, dear reader?

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Something peculiar, distinct, and different from other people

(J. C. Ryle, "Old Paths")

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

Does anyone ask me what we may expect to see in a true conversion? I reply—there will always be something seen in a converted man's . . .
  and daily life.

You will not see perfection in him; but you will see in him—something peculiar, distinct, and different from other people.

You will see him . . .
  hating sin,
  loving Christ,
  following after holiness,
  taking pleasure in his Bible,
  persevering in prayer.

You will see him . . .

These, at any rate, will be his aims—these are the things which he will follow after, however short he may come of perfection.

In some converted people you will see these things more distinctly—in others less. This only I say—wherever there is true conversion, something of this kind will be seen.

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A needed book

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

"I have put my hope in Your Word."
    Psalm 119:81

So long as there are . . .
  tears and sorrows,
  and broken hearts,
  and crushed hopes,
  and human failures,
  and lives burdened and bowed down,
  and spirits sad and despairing—
so long will the Bible be a needed book.
It is full of inspiration, light, help and strength for earth's weary ones.

"The law of the LORD is perfect—reviving the soul.
 The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy—making wise the simple.
 The precepts of the LORD are right—giving joy to the heart.
 The commands of the LORD are radiant—giving light to the eyes.
 The fear of the LORD is pure—enduring forever.
 The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more desirable than gold—even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey—even honey dripping from the comb.

By them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."
    Psalm 19:7-11

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Go, take your fill!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

"In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures!" Psalm 16:11

Your happiness arises from that object on which your affections are placed.  Where your treasure is—there will your heart be also. If your affections are placed upon a poor empty creature; or, if like Judas, your heart is so depraved, that you desire only the money-bag; or, like Reuben, you are content, for worldly convenience, to continue on this side Jordan—then remember that you are bartering eternal life for a mere fantasy, and deceiving yourself into irretrievable and endless ruin!

If you will be content with . . .
  a breath of honor,
  a blaze of pleasure,
  a snare of riches, or
  a parcel of vanity,
then go, take your fill! But know assuredly—that the end of these things is death!

When you shall draw your last breath,
when honor will appear only as air,
when your deathless soul shall be forever ensnared
—then you will greatly lament your past conduct,
and wish you had never been born!

But now, O true Christian, if you are risen with Christ from the dead, and are looking at unseen and eternal realities—then for you is prepared . . .
  a golden crown,
  a celestial harp,
  a glorious mansion,
  and eternal hallelujahs!
You shall enjoy the presence of God and the Lamb forever and ever! You shall gaze on the incomparable brightness of God, and forever contemplate the wonders of redemption!

Lord, if this is my happiness—then let others enjoy the things of this world! For my part, I am content to deny myself, and take up my cross and follow You!

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O think upon your dignity!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

Christian! You are a child of God's love, an heir of His glory, and reckoned among His favorites! O think upon your dignity, and consider:

Will an Emperor live like a beggar?

Is it befitting for those who are clothed in scarlet—to wallow in the mire?

Am I born of God—and shall I live like a beast?

Has God raised my soul to the purest excellencies—and shall I stain my dignity with the world's filth?

May I feed upon Christ—and shall I feed upon empty vanities?

Shall I who am to judge the world—be a drudge to the world?

Has Christ prepared for me a mansion in the heavens—and shall I be groveling in earthly mire?

Am I a child of light—and shall I commit the works of darkness?

No! I am born to greater and higher things—than to be a slave to lust, and a drudge to the world!

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O stand amazed at His free grace!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

O precious saint! Three questions call for your answer:
   1. What were you?
   2. What are you?
   3. What shall you be?

1. What were you?
Dead in your transgressions and sins,
a rebel to your God,
a prodigal to your Father,
a slave to your lust,
the devil's captive,
on the highway to hell.

2. What are you?
Redeemed by Christ,
a royal child of God,
the spouse of Christ,
the temple of the Holy Spirit,
the heir of a priceless eternal inheritance!

3. What shall you be?
A glorious saint,
a companion of angels,
a triumphant victor,
a crowned king,
an attendant on the Lamb,
a participant in those soul-ravishing and ineffable excellencies that are in God! You shall behold the King of Glory face to face—and enjoy immediate communion with Jesus Christ! Nay more, you are made one with Him:
  clothed with His excellencies,
  enthroned with His glories,
  crowned with His eternity,
  and filled with His felicity!

"No eye has seen,
 no ear has heard, and
 no mind has imagined . . .
 what God has prepared for those who love Him!"
1 Corinthians 2:9

O stand amazed at His free grace—and render all the glory to God!

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The one is drawn in pomp to hell—
while the other swims in tears to heaven!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings;
Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

The wicked have their heaven here—and their hell hereafter.

But the righteous have their hell here—and their heaven hereafter.

Dives had his good things in this life—and Lazarus his evil things.
Now Lazarus is comforted—and Dives is tormented!

I will not, therefore, envy the prosperity of the wicked,
nor be cast down at the afflictions of the righteous;
seeing the one is drawn in pomp to hell—
while the other swims in tears to heaven!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire!'

But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime—you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things; but now he is comforted here—and you are in agony!'" Luke 16:19-25

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The Christian's choice

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" Ecclesiastes 1:2

I am frail—and the world is fleeting; but
my soul is immortal—and God is eternal.

If I choose earthly pleasures—I shall reap nothing but vanity and dissatisfaction.

If I aim at mammon, the god of this world—then shall I resemble the rich fool, who, for earthly gain, sacrificed his immortal soul; and, in consequence, went to eternal perdition!

But if I choose God for my portion, then mercy and goodness shall follow me while I live—and glory and eternal pleasure shall crown me when I die!

I will therefore now forsake that which I shall soon lose,
so that I may embrace that which I shall always enjoy!

You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are eternal pleasures!" Psalm 16:11

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Would Jesus do it?

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

"I have set you an example—that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:15

When anything presents itself, think: if He were alive and in my place—would Jesus do it? Or if I were about to die—would I still do it?

I must walk—as He has walked; and I must live—as I intend to die. If the thing in question is not Christ's will—it is my sin. And if I die in that sin—it will be my ruin.

I will therefore in every action so conduct myself—as if Christ were on the one hand—and death on the other!

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

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If this is happiness—then give me misery!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen, and lived in luxury every day." Luke 16:19

How apt are many at the sight of a rich worldling—to envy him for what he has. But, for my part, I rather pity him for what he lacks!
He has a talent—but it lacks improvement;
he has a lamp—but it lacks oil;
he has a soul—but it lacks grace;
he has the creature—but he lacks the Creator;
he has a mansion—but he lacks heaven.

In his life, he floats upon a torrent of vanity—which rolls along into an ocean of vexation!

And after death, it will be said of him, "Take this unprofitable servant, bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness! Consign his soul to the eternal lake of fire and brimstone!"

Where now is the object of your envy?

It is not his gold that can then rescue him,
nor his mansion that can then satisfy him,
nor his friends that can then comfort him.

Therefore, if he is worth the envying—then who can be worth the pitying?

If this is happiness—then give me misery!

Lord, rather make me poor with a holy heart—than rich with an evil heart of unbelief!

"Have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue—because I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:24

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment—but the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46

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Affliction prepared for and improved

(Thomas Sherman, "Aids to the Divine Life—A Series of Practical Christian Contemplations" 1680)

"It was good for me to be afflicted—so that I might learn your decrees." Psalm 119:71

As it is the duty of God's children to prepare for affliction before it comes; so it is also their duty to improve affliction when it does come.

If we do not prepare for affliction—we shall be surprised by it;
and, if we do not improve it—we are likely to increase it.

He who would prepare for affliction, must beforehand:
(1.) resign all to God,
(2.) strengthen his graces,
(3.) store up divine promises,
(4.) and search out secret sins.

And he who would improve affliction when it does come, must labor to see:
  sin more and more in its filthiness—so as to mortify it;
  his heart in its deceitfulness—so as to watch over it;
  the world in its emptiness—so as to be crucified to it;
  grace in its amiableness—so as to prize it;
  God in His holiness—so as to revere Him; and
  heaven in its desirableness—so as to long after it.

He who takes more care to avoid afflictions—than to be fitted for them; or is more solicitous to be delivered from them—than to be bettered by them; is likely to come soonest into them—and to live longest under them!

"God disciplines us for our good—that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:10-11

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A whole Christ must be received—with the whole heart

(Thomas Sherman, "Aids to the Divine Life—A Series of Practical Christian Contemplations" 1680)

"Yet to all who received Him . . . He gave the right to become children of God" John 1:12

A whole Christ must be received—with the whole heart.

Some in their understanding, assent to the way of salvation—yet do not consent to it with their will. In judgment they are for Christ—but in affection they are for other things. There is only a part of their soul that is for Christ. Others would have the benefits that are from Christ—but have no love for the person of Christ.

Some would have Christ only as a Savior—but not as a Lord. They desire Him only as a Priest to offer a sacrifice for their sins—but not as a Prophet to instruct them, nor as a King to rule over them. So that it is but part of Christ, that they would receive.

But both of these courses are equally dangerous; for, if we would be saved, we must cleave to Christ with all the faculties of the soul—with will, judgment, affection, etc. And so, again, we must cleave to the whole of Christ—Christ in His natures, person, offices, etc. If, therefore, you would rightly receive Christ, see that your whole soul receives a whole Christ.

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Bring nothing but your sins and miseries

(Thomas Wilcox)

When you come to Christ—you must leave behind you:
  all your own righteousness,
  all your own holiness,
  all your own sanctification,
  all your own duties,
  all your own tears,
  all your own repentings, etc.
Oh, this is hard!

You must bring nothing but your sins and miseries to
Him. Otherwise, Christ is not fit for you—nor you for Christ!

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You are a filthy pauper!

(Arthur Pink, "Identification of the Godly")

"For this is what the high and lofty One says—He who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place—but also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit." Isaiah 57:15

A humble spirit or heart, is an infallible sign of regeneration; for the unregenerate are proud, self-satisfied, self-righteous.

Yet the very mention of the word "humility" seems to cut off many Christians. As they examine themselves, they discover so much pride at work within, that they are quite unable to persuade themselves that they have a humble heart. It seems to them—that humility is one thing they most evidently lack. Now it will no doubt be a startling statement—but we unhesitatingly affirm that the great majority of God's people are far more humble than they suppose!

FIRST, that the Christian reader possesses a humble heart, is plain from the fact that he confesses himself to be a Hell-deserving sinner. We do not have in mind what you say of yourself when in the company of your fellows—but rather what you feel and say of yourself when alone with God. Whatever pretenses you are guilty of before men—when in the presence of the Omniscient One—you are real, sincere, and genuine.

Now, dear reader, be honest with yourself: When on your knees before the Throne of Grace, do you freely and frankly acknowledge that if you received your lawful due, you would—even now—be suffering the dreadful fires of Hell? If so, a miracle of grace must have been wrought within you. No unregenerate person will or can honestly make such a confession to God—for he does not feel he has done anything deserving of eternal punishment.

SECOND, if you own that "all your righteous acts are like filthy rags," that is proof you possess a humble heart. Of course, we mean much more than your merely uttering those words as a parrot might, or even singing them during some religious service. We mean that when you are in the presence of the Lord—which is always the surest test—you personally realize that you have not a single meritorious deed of your own to commend you to His favorable regard.

We mean that, when bowed in His presence, in the calmness and quietness of your prayer-closet, you own without any qualification, that your best performances are defiled by sin—and that in yourself, you are a filthy pauper!

If that is indeed your language before God—it most certainly issues from a humble heart. The heart of the natural man thinks and feels the very opposite, and can no more loathe himself—than transform himself into a holy angel.

THIRD, if you receive everything in the Scriptures as a little child—that is another proof that a miracle of grace has been wrought within you and that you now possess a humble heart. By nature, all are "wise and prudent" in their own esteem.

The enmity of the proud carnal mind rises up against the sovereignty of God—making one vessel to honor and another to dishonor; against the spirituality and strictness of the Divine Law—which curses all who deviate the slightest from its holy demands; and against the endless punishment of all dying out of Christ. But the regenerate, though there is much they do not understand, accept without murmur or question—all that is revealed in the Word. If you do, that is proof that your pride has been abased before God.

How thankful we should be that Scripture does not say that God dwells only in those who have complete victory over sin, or those who enjoy unbroken and unclouded communion with Him. Had those been the distinguishing features named—then every one of us might well despair!

But every regenerate person has a humble heart. And if you, my reader, measuring yourself by what has been pointed out above, can discern such fruits and evidences of  humility—then so far from its being presumptuous for you to look upon yourself as one saved and indwelt by God—it would be most wicked presumption for you to do otherwise.

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It is finished!
 (J. C. Ryle)
 "It is finished!" John 19:30
 Let us turn from the story of the crucifixion, every time we read it—with hearts full of praise.
 Let us praise God for the confidence it gives us, as to the ground of our hope of pardon. Our sins may be many and great—but the payment made by our Great Substitute far outweighs them all!
 Let us praise God for the view it gives us of the love of our Father in heaven. He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all—will surely with Him give us all things!
 Not least, let us praise God for the view it gives us of the sympathy of Jesus with all His believing people. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows what suffering is. Jesus is just the Savior that an infirm body, with a weak heart, in an evil world, requires!

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I live now more as a little helpless infant

(Letters of Mary Winslow)

"The world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever!" 1 John 2:17

May you be unceasingly led to see, that this world is not worthy of one anxious thought! It is all passing away, and we shall soon stand before the great white throne!

Realize more and more your glorious inheritance, and do not covet the poor trifles of time and sense.

Time is short!

You have much to do for God in a little space.

Eternity will be quite long enough to rest!

I am near my eternal home. Jesus is very precious, and His presence is sensibly with me. I live now more as a little helpless infant upon Christ, than ever I did in my long life.

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A mixed condition

(Thomas Brooks, "The Crown and Glory of Christianity, or, HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness", 1662)

The condition of God's people in this life is a mixed condition.
In this life they have . . .
  their rejoicing times—and their mourning times,
  their laughing times—and their weeping times,
  their singing times—and their sorrowing times, etc.

It is true, in heaven there is . . .
  all joy—and no sorrow,
  all gladness—and no sadness.

And in hell there is . . .
  all sorrow—and no joy,
  all grief—and no gladness,
  all howling—and no singing,
  all madness—and no mirth.

But in this present life it is otherwise, for if there would be nothing but joy—many would look for no other heaven. And if there should be nothing but sorrow—most would look for no other hell.

If men should have nothing but joy—how sadly would they be puffed up! And if they should have nothing but sorrow—how easily would they be cast down! But now, by a divine hand, our sorrows being mixed with our joys—our hearts come to be the more effectually weaned from the vanities of this life, and to long more earnestly after the pure and unmixed joys in the world of glory!

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The grace of gentleness

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me—for I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29

There are some Christians who seem never to have learned love's secret of gentleness. There is nothing that this sad, sorrowing, sinning world needs—more than gentleness; like that of Him of whom it is written, that He would not break a bruised reed. We need to pray for the grace of gentleness that we may walk softly among men, never hurting another life by harsh word or ungentle act.

"We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children." 1 Thessalonians 2:7

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2

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Overcoming the world

(Arthur Pink, "Faith as an Overcomer")

"For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4

One of the fruits of the new birth, is a faith which not only enables its possessor to overcome the sensual and sinful customs, and the carnal maxims and policies by which the profane world is regulated—but also the lying delusions and errors by which the professing world is fatally deceived.

The only thing which will or can "overcome the world" is a God-given—but self-exercised faith.

Faith overcomes the world firstly, by receiving into the heart God's infallible testimony of the world. He declares that "the world" is a corrupt, evanescent, hostile thing, which shall soon be destroyed by Him. His Holy Word teaches that the world is "evil" (Galatians 1:4); that "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father—but is of the world" (1 John 2:16); that "the whole world lies in wickedness" (1 John 5:19) and shall yet be "burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). As faith accepts God's verdict of the world, the mind is spiritually enlightened; and its possessor views it as a worthless, dangerous, and detestable thing!

Faith overcomes the world secondly, by obeying the Divine commands concerning it. God has bidden us, "Do not be conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2); "Do not love the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15); and warns us that "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world, becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4). By heeding the Divine precepts, its magic spell over the heart is broken.

Faith overcomes the world thirdly, by occupying the soul with more glorious, soul-delighting and satisfying objects. The more the substance of the heavenly world engages the heart—the less hold will the shadows of this earthly world have upon it. "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10).

Faith overcomes the world fourthly, by drawing out the heart unto Christ. As it was by fleeing to Him for refuge, that the soul was first delivered from the power and thraldom of this world—so it is throughout the Christian life. The more we cultivate real communion with Christ—the less attraction will the baubles of this world have for us! The strength of temptation lies entirely in the bent of our affections, "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). While Christ is beheld as "the chief among ten thousand" (Song 5:10) and as "altogether lovely" (Song 5:16) —the things which charm the poor worldling, will repel us.

The world gains the victory over the unregenerate by captivating their affections and capturing their wills. But the Christian overcomes the world, because his affections are set upon Christ and his will yielded to Him.

Here—then, we have a sure criterion by which we may determine our Christian progress or spiritual growth. If the things of this world have a decreasing power over me—then my faith is becoming stronger. If I am holding more lightly the things most prized by the ungodly—then I must be increasing in an experimental and soul-satisfying knowledge of Christ. If I am less cast down when some of the riches and comforts of this world are taken from me—then that is evidence they have less hold upon me.

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What a family has He to bear with!

(Letters of John Newton)

"The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion!" Numbers 14:18 

What a family has He to bear with!

Those whom he has graciously saved, have secret idols in their hearts!

His friends hold a secret correspondence with His enemies!

His children repine against Him, and quarrel one with another!

His servants (ministers) serve themselves!

"But You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness!" Psalm 86:1