Grace Gems for MARCH 2011

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By the fire which burnt down our city!

(Thomas Vincent, "
God's Terrible Voice in the City!" written shortly after the "Great Plague of London" and the "Great Fire of London")

By the fire which burnt down our city — God calls upon London to secure themselves against the fire of Hell!

London's fire was dreadful — but the fire of Hell will be a thousand-fold more dreadful!

The fire of London was kindled by man — but the fire of Hell will be kindled by God Himself! "The breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze!" Isaiah 30:33

The fire of London burnt the houses of the city, and consumed much of the goods; but the fire of Hell will burn the wicked themselves, "Depart, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire!" Matthew 25:41

The fire of London burned most — but not all of the houses in the city; some are yet remaining — but the fire of Hell will burn all of the wicked, not one of them shall escape and remain!

The fire of London was extinguished, and lasted but four days — but the fire of Hell will be inextinguishable, it will burn forever! It is called everlasting fire, in which the damned must lie and burn eternally, without any possibility of ever leaving.

If you had known before of London's fire, where it would begin, and how it would spread and seize upon your houses — surely you would have taken some course for the prevention of it. You surely know now of the fire of Hell — the Word of God has revealed it. O take some course for preventing of it, at least for securing of yourselves against it.

When the fire was burning in London you fled from it, lest it should have consumed your body as well as houses. O fly from the fire of Hell, into which you will be thrown, if you go on in sin! Flee from the wrath which is to come! Flee unto Jesus Christ, who alone can deliver you!


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(Charles Wesley, "The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes" 1750)

"Come and see the works of the Lord — the desolations He has brought on the earth!" Psalm 46:8

Of all the judgments which the righteous God inflicts on sinners here in this world — the most dreadful and destructive is an earthquake. This He has lately brought on our part of the earth, and thereby alarmed our fears, and bid us to "prepare to meet our God!" 

Earthquakes are the works of the Lord, and He alone brings this destruction upon the earth. That God is Himself the Author of earthquakes, and sin the moral cause of earthquakes, (whatever the natural cause may be,) cannot be denied by any who believe the Scriptures. Earthquakes are set forth by the inspired writers — as God's proper judicial act for the punishment of sin.

"He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in His anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble!" Job 9:5-6 

"He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they pour out smoke!" Psalm 104:32 

"Then the earth shook and quaked — the foundations of the mountains trembled; they shook because He burned with anger!" Psalm 18:7

"In His presence the mountains quake, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles, and its people are destroyed. Who can stand before His fierce anger? Who can survive His burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in His presence!" Nahum 1:5-6 

Sin is the cause of God's anger — earthquakes the effect of His anger!

"I will bring disaster on the world, and their own iniquity, on the wicked. I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and will humble the pride of the ruthless. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of His burning anger." Isaiah 13:11, 13

"See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; He will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants! The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken!" Isaiah 24:1, 19 

And again, "The Lord Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire!" Isaiah 29:6

Nothing can be more express than these Scripture testimonies, which determine both the cause and author of this terrible calamity. We cannot conceive that the universe would have been disturbed by these furious disasters, before sin entered. Therefore reason, as well as Scripture, sufficiently assure us that earthquakes are God's works of judgment — the proper effect and punishment of sin.

Nothing can be so affecting as this judgment of an earthquake, when it comes unexpectedly as a thief in the night, when there is no time to flee, or method to escape, or possibility to resist; when no sanctuary or refuge remains; when the earth opens suddenly, and becomes the grave of whole families, towns, and cities — either sending out a flood of waters to drown them, or vomiting out flames of fire to consume them, or closing over them; when parents and children, husbands and wives, and all people, without distinction, in the midst of health, and peace, and business — are buried in a common ruin, and pass all together into the eternal world; and there is only the difference of a few hours or minutes between a famous city — and none at all!

Now, if war is a terrible evil — then how much more an earthquake, which, in the midst of peace, brings a worse evil than the extremity of war! 

If a raging pestilence is dreadful, which sweeps away thousands in a day, and ten thousands in a night; if a consuming fire is an amazing judgment — then how much more astonishing is an earthquake, whereby houses, and inhabitants, towns, and cities, and countries, are all destroyed at one stroke in a few minutes!

For a man to feel the earth, which hangs upon nothing, (as some vast ball in the midst of a thin air,) totter under him — must fill him with astonishing fright and confusion!

History informs us of the fearful effects of earthquakes in all ages; where you may see . . .
  rocks torn in pieces;
  mountains not cast down only, but removed;
  hills raised, not out of valleys only, but out of seas;
  fires breaking out of waters;
  stones and cinders belched up;
  rivers changed;
  seas dislodged;
  earth opening;
  towns swallowed up; and
  many such-like hideous events!

Of all divine judgments, there is none more horrid, more inescapable, than an earthquake! For where can we think to escape danger, if the most solid thing in all the world shakes!

With what horror are men struck when they hear the earth groan, and feel it trembling beneath them; when houses are loosened from their foundations; when the roofs fall upon their heads, and the pavement sinks under their feet! 

In other evils there is some way to escape; but an earthquake encloses what it overthrows, and wages war with whole provinces; and sometimes leaves nothing behind it to inform posterity of its outrages.
More insolent than the fire — which spares rocks;
more cruel than the conqueror — who leaves walls;
more greedy than the sea — which vomits up shipwrecks
 — the earthquake swallows and devours whatever it overturns!

Therefore, fear God — even that God who can in a moment cast both body and soul into hell! 

When God makes the mountains tremble, and the earth shake — shall not our hearts be moved? "Should you not fear Me?" declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in My presence?" Jeremiah 5:22

Will you not fear Him — who can open the windows of heaven above, or break up the fountains of the deep below, and pour forth whole floods of vengeance when He pleases!

Will you not fear Him — who can "rain upon the wicked — snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest!" Psalm 11:6

Will you not fear Him — who can kindle those earthquakes in the caverns of the earth, and make them force their way to the destruction of towns, cities, and countries!

Will you not fear Him — who can thus suddenly turn a fruitful land into a barren wilderness — an amazing spectacle of desolation and ruin!

O that His fear might this moment fall upon all you who read these words; constraining every one of you to cry out, "My flesh trembles in fear of You — and I am afraid of Your judgments!" Psalm 119:120

O that all might see that His hand is now lifted up, as in act to strike! It is stretched out still — and He shakes His rod over a guilty land, a people fitted for destruction!

God will never lack ways and means to punish impenitent sinners. He has a thousand other judgments in reserve; and if the earth should not open its mouth — yet you shall surely at last be swallowed up in the bottomless pit of Hell! Truly, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" Hebrews 10:31

If the earth just now were to open its mouth and swallow you up — what would become of you? Where would you be?

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Sudden destruction, and that without remedy!

(Thomas Vincent, "God's Terrible Voice in the City". This book was written shortly after "The Great Fire of London" of 1666, which turned the once renowned city of London, into a ruinous heap!)

We read in Psalm 75:8, "The Lord holds a cup in His hand, which is full of foaming wine mixed with spices. He pours out the wine in judgment, and all the wicked must drink it, draining it to the dregs!" He may allow His people to drink the top of it; but the most bitter and dreggish part, which is at the bottom — the wicked shall drink and drain in Hell! If God whips His children with rods — He will scourge His enemies with scorpions!

The wicked will feel what an evil and a bitter thing it is, so audaciously to fly in the face of the great God, by their hideous oaths and blasphemies, by their horrid wickedness and abominations, whereby they do, as it were, challenge God to do His worst against them!

Surely the judgments intended purposely for the ungodly — are yet to come! And they will be exceeding great, because of the more pure and unmixed wrath which will accompany them!

When God draws forth His glittering sword, and makes ready His sharp arrow upon the string; when God clothes Himself with fury as with a garment, and His hand takes hold on vengeance; when their iniquities are grown fully ripe, and the day of their visitation and recompense has come — how then will the wicked be terrified! What amazing horror will then surprise this vile generation! "Can their hearts endure, or their hands be strong — in the day that the Lord shall deal with them?" Ezekiel 22:14

Then the Lord will roar from His holy habitation with such a terrible voice, as shall make their ears to tingle, their hearts to quake and tremble! He will roar like a lion, and tear them in pieces — and there shall be none to deliver!

I suppose they may not now expect judgment, nor fear it — any more than the whole world did their drowning in Noah's day; or Sodom and Gomorrah did their burning — because deceitful sin has hardened their hearts! Long continuance in sin, with impunity — has seared their consciences as with a hot iron! But they are in the greatest danger — when they sleep with the greatest security! When men grow desperately hardened against often and all reproofs — what follows, but sudden destruction, and that without remedy! "When men cry 'peace and safety' — then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail upon a woman with child — and they shall not escape!" 1 Thessalonians 5:3

And if some of this perverse and wicked generation drop away without a remarkable temporal destruction, God will make His righteousness evident to them in the eternal world — when He claps up their souls as prisoners in the lowest dungeon of hell, appointing . . .
  horrid devils to be their jailors;
  flames of fire to be their clothing;
  hideous terrors and woe to be their food;
  other damned tormented spirits to be their companions;
where they must lie bound in the chains of darkness, until the judgment of the great day!

And when that fearful day has finally come, and the angels have blown the last trumpet, and gathered the elect to the right hand of Christ — then one will be sent with the keys of the bottomless pit, and the infernal prison will be opened for a while; and like so many rogues in chains — they shall, together with all their fellow sinners, be brought forth, and be joined to the dirty flesh of their bodies, which, like a nasty rag, they shall then put on; and with most rueful looks, and trembling joints, and horrible shrieks, and inexpressible confusion and terror — they shall behold the Lord Jesus Christ, whom in their life-time they despised and affronted — come down from heaven in flaming fire, to take vengeance upon them! He Himself will sentence them to the flames of eternal fire, and drive them away from His throne and presence — into the utter darkness of Hell, where they must take up their lodging for evermore!

"It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" Hebrews 10:31

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The time has come for my departure!

(James Smith, "The Better Land")

"The time has come for my departure! I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day!" 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Aged believer, the time of your departure will soon come! Do not let your mind be troubled as to . . .
  where you shall die,
  when you shall die,
  or how you shall die!
These are all minor matters — and ought not to affect you.

Simply look at death as Jesus did: "Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world — and go to His Father!" John 13:1

Why should you regret to leave a poor world like this — where sin, sorrow, pain, grief, disappointment, and anxiety meet you at every turn? Why should you be reluctant to go HOME — to go to your Father?
Do you not want to see His face?
Do you not want to enjoy His company?
Do you not want to be perfectly happy in His presence?

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

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Every creature has some rock

(James Smith, "The Incomparable Rock!" 1860)

"There is no Rock like our God!" 1 Samuel 2:2

As creatures, we all need . . .
  an object of trust,
  one on whom we can lean,
  one in whom we can confide,
  one to whom we may look for defense and safety.
Every creature has some rock — some object of dependence and trust; for without this, there would be recklessness or despair.

Some make a 'rock' of their wealth,
some of their talents,
some of their station,
some of their friends,
some of their good deeds,
some of their religious observances,
some of their name or fame.

But the Christian's rock is his God, that is — God in Christ. Yes, Jesus is . . .
  the foundation of his hopes,
  the source of his strength,
  the anchor of his safety, and
  the fountain that supplies him!

In Christ, his Rock — he finds honey; and this Rock pours out rivers of oil for him, "He nourished him with honey from the Rock, and with oil from the flinty crag." Deuteronomy 32:13. This Rock, Christ — is the Rock of his salvation. This Rock of ages — is the Rock of his strength. Of this Rock, he can sing, "The Lord is my Rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior!" 2 Samuel 22:2-3

Looking around upon all others, he can say, "But their 'rock' is not like our Rock; even our enemies concede." Deuteronomy 32:31.

There is no rock like our Rock:
  none so great,
  none so ancient,
  none so durable,
  none so suited to meet all a sinner's needs.

On this Rock we build for eternity! We have no doubt that our immortal interests are safe. To this Rock, we run for safety, and smile at the opposition of all our foes. In this Rock, we hide, and are safe from the sword of divine justice, as well as the rage of infernal Hell. In this Rock we take shelter, and are uninjured by the windy storm and tempest. From this Rock we look for all our supplies — and we are not, cannot be disappointed. Beneath its shade — we enjoy peace and comfort! In its cleft — we are safe for evermore!

How safe, how happy is the believer — having God for his ROCK; for . . .
  he builds on a foundation that can never decay,
  he trusts in a stronghold that can never be taken,
  he hides in a refuge from which he can never be expelled!

"The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!" 2 Samuel 22:47

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Life quickly glides away!

(James Smith, "The Time is Short!" 1860)

"But this I say, brethren — the time is short!" 1 Corinthians 7:29

Our time on earth is short — and it is daily growing shorter!

Life quickly glides away — and death and eternity rapidly approaches.

In a little while — we shall close our eyes on all the scenes of earth, and be done with all the concerns of time.

Few things fly swifter than time, or teach us more solemn lessons. Yet we slight them, and forget them, or fail to improve them. O for grace to derive comfort, reproof, and stimulus from the brevity of time.

"The time is short!" Then our troubles must be short, for they are all limited to time. They are the offspring of sin, and will not out-live their parent! Every trouble, leaves one the less to be endured. Soon the last trouble will arrive! Let us therefore . . .
  bear them with patience,
  endure them with fortitude, and
 rejoice in the prospect of bidding them an eternal farewell.
Our sharpest, severest trials — will soon be ended! And then, all that will remain, will be eternal peace and joy!

"The time is short!" Then the pleasures of time will soon terminate!

As sweet as they are — they are all fleeting!

Prize them as we may — we must soon part with them. Not one of them will go with us beyond the dying bed. Let us not, then, value them too highly, or set our hearts too much upon them.

Earthly comforts, worldly distinctions and honors — will soon have passed away. The rich and the poor will soon meet together in the graveyard. The peasant and the prince, the beggar and monarch — will alike slumber together in the dust. Let us then, if tempted to think too much of the worldly distinctions, or value too highly the comforts of life — remember that the time is short!

"The time is short!" Then Jesus will soon be here! How will many things appear, which now occupy our time, engross our attention, and steal away our hearts — when Jesus comes?

Believer, "the time is short," lift up your head with joy. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for. . .
  your tribulation will soon cease,
  your sorrow will soon flee away, and
  the days of your mourning shall be ended.

Time is the limit of your trials, temptations, and troubles.

Time is the limit of your conflicts, doubts, and fears.

Time is the limit of your pains, privations, and griefs.

Beyond time — all is . . .
  peace and pleasure,
  purity and perfection,
  happiness and rest!

Lift up then your head with joy, for your redemption, your eternal redemption draws near!

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Our sins forged the nails!

(James Smith, "The Grave of Jesus" 1861)

"When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him." Luke 23:33

What brought Him there?
It was our sins — and His own infinite love.
Our sins alone could not — for He was not involved in them.
His love alone could not — for as innocent, He could not die.
But out of His pure, infinite, and eternal love — He became answerable for our sins. He engaged to bear them, atone for them, and remove them forever!

"He died for our sins."
He suffered — because we had sinned,
He died — because we deserved to die, and
He lay in the grave for a time — that we may not lie in hell forever!

Our sins . . .
  forged the
nails that fastened Him to the tree,
  planted the thorns that pierced His brow, and
  sharpened the spear that was thrust into His heart!

O what an evil must sin be — to bring the Son of God into such a state of suffering and humiliation!

O what love must the love of Jesus be — that induced Him to take our place, and suffer and die in our stead!

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The Lamb of God being roasted in the fire of God's wrath!

(Thomas Watson, "
A Treatise Concerning Meditation")

Meditate much on Hell. Let us go into Hell by contemplation — that we may not go into Hell by condemnation.

How hopeless is the condition of the damned! There is neither intermission nor mitigation in their pains. The ancients fabled of Endymion, that he got permission from Jupiter always to sleep. What would the damned in Hell give for such a license!

The serious meditation on Hell, would make us fear sin as Hell. Sin is Hell's fuel! Sin like Samson's foxes, carries devouring fire in its tail.

Meditation on Hell should cause rejoicing in a child of God. A believer may fear to think of the place of torment — but rejoice to think he shall never come into that place. A child of God, when he thinks of Hell — he rejoices with trembling. A prison is not made for the king's son to be put in. A great naturalist observes that nothing will so soon quench fire — as salt and blood; but I am sure of this — the salt brinish tears of repentance, and the blood of Christ will quench the fire of Hell to a believer.

Christ Himself has felt the pains of Hell for you — the Lamb of God being roasted in the fire of God's wrath! By this burnt-offering, the Lord is now appeased towards His people. Oh how may the godly rejoice! Christ being for a time in the fiery furnace of God's wrath — that fire can do a believer no hurt. The saints have the garment of Christ's righteousness upon them, and the fire of Hell can never singe this garment!

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1

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As many heads as a Hydra — and as many lives as a cat!

(Letters of John Newton, 1775)

My chief and abiding trial lies within; and I hope that the Lord will sanctify it — to make me by degrees 'little' in my own eyes. I long to be able to use Job's words, with the same feeling as I believe Job had when he spoke them, "Behold, I am vile!" (Job 40:4.) The acknowledgment in words is quite easy — but really and in good earnest to "abhor myself" and repent in dust and ashes — is most difficult. I know that I ought to be humbled before Him — but I want to be so indeed.

But that monster SELF has as many heads as a Hydra — and as many lives as a cat! It is more than 25 years since I hoped it was fast nailed to the cross — but alas, it is still very much alive — and still mixing with, and spoiling everything I do!

(N.B. A 'Hydra' is a mythical multi-headed monster, whose heads re-grew after they were cut off.)

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Our thorn!

J. R. Miller, "The Blossoming of Our Thorns" 1905)

"To keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud." 2 Corinthians 12:7

We do not know how much of Paul's rich, beautiful life, and his noble work for his Master — he owed to his thorn. Just so, we do not know how much we are indebted to our sufferings and sorrows. Our richest lessons — are the fruit of pain, of weakness, of sorrow.

There is not one of us who has not his own thorn. With one it may be a bodily infirmity or weakness. With another it is some disfigurement which cannot be removed. It may be some difficulty in circumstances, something which makes it hard to live beautifully.

The Master told Paul that his thorn was necessary to him — to save him from becoming proud. We may think of our thorn, too — as something we need. Instead of allowing it to irritate us or to spoil our life — its mission is to make us sweet, patient, loving. Many people beseech the Lord to take away their thorn. Yet it may be, that the prayer is not answered, will not be answered, should not be answered. It may be, that the thorn is necessary to keep them humble at God's feet.

God sends some of our best blessings to us in our thorns, and it will be a sad thing if we thrust them away and miss them.

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What an amazing word!

(Thomas Watson, "
A Treatise Concerning Meditation")

Meditate on ETERNITY. What an amazing word is eternity!

Eternity to the godly — is a day which has no sun-setting!
Eternity to the wicked — is a night which has no sun-rising!

Eternity is a gulf which may swallow up all our thoughts. Meditate on that scripture, "And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life." Matthew 25:46.

Meditate upon eternal PUNISHMENT. The bitter cup which the damned drink of, shall never pass away from them. The sinner and the furnace shall never be parted. God's vial of wrath will be always dropping upon a wicked man. When you have reckoned up so many myriads and millions of years, nay, ages — as have passed the bounds of all arithmetic, eternity is not yet begun!

This word forever breaks the heart!

If the tree falls hell-ward — there it lies to all eternity! Now is the time of God's long-suffering; after death will be the time of the sinner's long-suffering, when he shall "suffer the vengeance of eternal fire!" Jude 7.

Meditate upon eternal LIFE. The soul that is once landed at the heavenly shore, is past all storms! The glorified soul shall be forever bathing itself in the rivers of pleasure. "You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!" Psalms 16:11. This is what makes heaven to be heaven — "We shall be forever with the Lord!" This makes up the garland of glory!

Meditation on eternity, would make us very SERIOUS in what we do. The thoughts of an irreversible condition after this present life, would make us live as for eternity.

Meditation on eternity, would make us overlook present WORLDLY things — as flitting and fading. What is this present world, to him that has eternity in his eye? It is but nothing. He who thinks of eternity, will despise "the passing pleasures of sin."

Meditation on eternity would be a means to keep us from envying the wicked's prosperity. Here on earth, the wicked may be "dressed in purple and fine linen, and live in luxury every day." But what is this, compared to eternity? As long as there is such a thing as eternity, God has time enough to reckon with all His enemies!

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These are the words which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself employs!

(J.C. Ryle)

Settle it firmly in your mind, that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has spoken most plainly about the reality and eternity of Hell. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus contains things which should make men tremble! But it does not stand alone. No lips have used so many words to express the awfulness of Hell — as the lips of Him who spoke as never any man spoke:
   the damnation of Hell,
   eternal damnation,
   the resurrection of damnation,
   everlasting fire,
   the place of torment,
   eternal destruction,
   outer darkness,
   the worm that never dies,
   the fire that is never quenched,
   the place of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth,
   everlasting punishment —
these are the words which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself employs!

Away with the miserable nonsense which people talk of in this day, who tell us that the ministers of the gospel should never speak of Hell! They only show their own ignorance, or their own dishonesty — when they babble in such a manner! No person can honestly read the four Gospels, and fail to see that those who would follow the example of Christ, must speak of Hell!

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Wise Counsel for Preachers

The year was 1768. A twenty-eight year old preacher by the name of Augustus Toplady, who wrote many of our best hymns, including "Rock of Ages", spent the afternoon in London with Mr. Brewer — an older, veteran Gospel preacher, whom he greatly admired and from whom he learned much. This is what Mr. Brewer said to the young Toplady, as Toplady later recorded in his diary:

I cannot conclude without reminding you, my young brother, of some things that may be of use to you in the course of your ministry:

    1. Preach Christ crucified, and dwell chiefly on the blessings resulting from His righteousness, atonement, and intercession.

    2. Avoid all needless controversies in the pulpit; except it be when your subject necessarily requires it; or when the truths of God are likely to suffer by your silence.

    3. When you ascend the pulpit, leave your learning behind you. Endeavor to preach more to the hearts of your people — than to their heads.

    4. Do not affect too much oratory. Seek rather to profit your hearers — than to be admired by them.

N.B. Christian ministers would do well to print out these four simple principles, tuck them in their Bibles, are refer to them every time they preach!

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("Parental Solicitude" being a letter of James Smith to his children)

My dear children,
As your parent, I feel deeply concerned for both your present and everlasting welfare. Great will be my sorrow and distress — to see you associated with the worldly, the careless, or the profane — and to look forward with the fear of being everlastingly separated from you! O what an idea — to be separated forever! the parent enjoying unutterable blessedness — but the child enduring unspeakable, unending woe!

With all the solemn realities of eternity before me I write, and with the deepest solicitude I beg your attention. Allow me first, my dear child, to call your attention to the infinite value of your immortal SOUL. You have a soul which is immortal, destined to live forever. Live it must, live it will, and live forever; but it is capable of enduring most dreadful, fearful, and never-ending torments!

I tell you from the mouth of God —
  that you have an immortal soul;
  that there is a glorious heaven — and a dreadful hell;
  that one or the other must be your eternal abode;
and I beseech you to consider seriously, reflect in time, and flee from the wrath to come!

Your nature is entirely depraved, and always has been! You were conceived in sin, shaped in iniquity, and brought forth under the curse of God! You have grown up hitherto in a sinful state:
   every thought of your heart,
   every word you have spoken,
   every action you have performed,
is more or less sinful.

Your heart is a fountain so corrupt, that nothing pure can possibly proceed from it. God, says of your heart, my child, that it is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked!" Every variety of sin and wickedness lurks there! It may be concealed from your view, but yet it is there; and if temptation should present itself, or the Lord takes off his restraints — it would soon make its dreadful appearance.

There never was a sin committed by the vilest malefactor, or a crime perpetrated by the greatest monster of iniquity — but the seed of that sin or crime is to be found in your heart! "For from within, out of the heart," says Jesus, "proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, thefts, covetousness, wickedness; deceit, lust, an evil eye, pride, blasphemy, foolishness! All these evil things come from within and defile a man!" Well then may the Apostle say, "The carnal mind is enmity against God — for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be! So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God!"

Do you think that it is possible, my dear child, for anything good to come from a heart like this? But just such a heart is yours — and the reason you do not know it, is because spiritual darkness and ignorance are spread over your soul; the eyes of your understanding are darkened, and you are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin!

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The glorious effects produced by it

(James Smith, "Paul's Determination" 1861)

Most men have some favorite subject — and Paul had his. Many subjects were embraced in his ministry — but one fixed his eye, filled his heart, and occupied most of his attention. We may be sure, from the wisdom he generally displayed, and the abundance of grace that he possessed — that it was an important and worthy subject. It was "Christ crucified!" Therefore alluding to his first visit to Corinth, he said, "I determined to know nothing while I was with you — except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2. What a wondrous subject! What a wondrous Savior! Paul had seen glorious effects produced, by preaching it elsewhere. He knew that if this doctrine would not win them, and bring them back to God — nothing could.

We have been preaching and writing about Christ crucified for many years. We have also seen the glorious effects produced by it. We have seen . . .
  the hardened — melted down into penitence and love;
  the miserable — made happy;
  the sorrowful — filled with comfort;
  the guilty — put in possession of pardon;
  the filthy — made pure and holy;
  the troubled — made calm and peaceful;
  and the cruel — made kind and gentle!

What an honor God confers upon you, by sending a message to you at all, especially such a message. It is . . .
a message of mercy — to miserable sinners;
a message of grace — to unworthy sinners;
a message of provision made — for very poor and needy sinners;
a message of comfort — for desponding sinners;
a message to alarm — for careless sinners;
a message to solemnly warn — for obstinate sinners;
an invitation to backsliders to return — that they may once more be happy and holy;
a message of encouragement, direction, and winning love — to those who believe in Jesus.

"I determined to know nothing while I was with you — except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

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The believer's happiness

(James Smith "The Loved One Absent" 1860)

"Oh, that I knew where I might find HIM!" Job 23:3

The believer's happiness consists very much in the presence of God, and a sense of His love. His happiness is not in place, or circumstances, or friends — but in God Himself as revealed in Jesus.

at any time,
in any condition,
alone or in any company,
we can be happy — if we realize that God is present, and can enter into communion with Him.

Real religion always . . .
  centers in God,
  feasts on God, and
  is satisfied with God alone.

The teachings of the Holy Spirit brings us away from other sources of peace and satisfaction — to God alone. And in God, as made known in Jesus — we find . . .
  all we want
  all we wish,
  all we can enjoy!

"You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!" Psalm 16:11. Oh, blessed thought! Having been brought to set our hearts on God, to find our happiness in God — soon, very soon, we shall enjoy His perfect, perpetual presence; and shall never more sigh, or cry, "Oh, that I knew where I might find HIM!"

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

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Beloved, are you in the fire?

(James Smith, "Daily Bible Readings for the Lord's Household")

"Glorify the Lord in the fires!" Isaiah 24:15

The fires are afflictions. These are intended . . .
  to try us,
  to purify us, and
  to endear the Lord Jesus to us.

Every saint must pass through the fire, and our only concern should be to pass through honorably and usefully.

Beloved, are you in the fire?
Is the fire in your business?
Is the fire in your family?
Is the fire in your body?
Is the fire in your soul?

Wherever it is — let it be your one desire to glorify God in it. You may do so . . .
  by patiently enduring,
  by trusting the Lord's Word,
  by speaking of His character and love,
  by expecting His support and supplies,
  by holding fast your integrity.

Beware that you do not lose the benefit of the affliction — but cry mightily to God that it may be sanctified.

Have you never been in the fire? If you belong to Christ, you will be! "He will sit as a Refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver!" Malachi 3:3

They who are not purified in the furnace of affliction on earth — will be cast as reprobate silver into the fire of hell forever!

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More than being our friend, helper, or benefactor!

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

"I will be to them a God!" Hebrews 8:10

That is, to all His redeemed people.

I will be . . .
  the object of their adoration and trust,
  the subject of their meditation,
  and the source of all their happiness.

To be our GOD — is more than being our friend, helper, or benefactor (creatures may be so to us). He engages to do us good according to His all-sufficiency; to bestow upon us blessings which none else can!

He will pardon us — and pardon like a God!

He will sanctify us — and sanctify us like a God!

He will comfort us — and comfort us like a God!

He will glorify us — and glorify us like a God!

If He is our God — He is our All.

And all that He has is ours! He is our inheritance, and a glorious inheritance He is.

Consider, when . . .
  in danger,
  in darkness,
  in distress,
  in temptation,
  in duty, or
  in affliction —
God will be to you a God . . .
  delivering you,
  enlightening you,
  comforting you,
  strengthening you,
  sanctifying you.

Make a God of Him! Look to Him for all that He has promised — which is all that you need! Adore His Divine perfections, and rejoice that they are all engaged to make you eternally blessed.

Live to His glory, walk by His Word — and He will glorify Himself in your present and everlasting welfare. He rejoices to do good unto His people, He delights to bless them!

"I will be to them a God!" Hebrews 8:10

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The Divine eye!

(J. R. Miller, "Come with Me" Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ, 1890)

"Zechariah and Elizabeth were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." Luke 1:6

This is a beautiful thing to have said of them. Yet, after all, that is the test which every life must endure. It is not enough to have human commendation. The question is — how do we stand before God? How does our life appear — to Him?

It does not matter how men praise and commend us — if God sees that we are living wrong. The Pharisees were righteous before men; but if you would see how they stood in God's eye, read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew.

We are in reality — just what we are before God — nothing less, nothing more. The question we should always ask ourselves is, "What does God think of me?" If we would meet His approval, we must first have our hearts right, and then we must be blameless and true in every part of our life.

We should live just as purely and beautifully in secret — as in the glare of the world's gaze.

There really is no such thing as secrecy in this world. We imagine that no eye is looking — when we are not in the presence of men. But really, we always have a spectator; we are living all our life in the presence of God Himself! We should train ourselves, therefore, to work for the Divine eye in all that we do, that our work may stand the Divine inspection, and that we may have the approval and commendation of God Himself.

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A pound of grace

(Letters of John Newton)

Though the end we propose is simple and sincere — SELF, unless watched as narrowly as a cat watches a mouse, will interpose.

If an ounce of grace, so to speak — will suffice to uphold us on in public life; it may require a pound of grace — to keep us quiet and sweet in the home life!

We can only be happy and holy — provided we . . .
  give ourselves up to Him without reserve,
  depend upon Him, and
  lie low in the dust before Him.

The Lord abhors pride and self-importance. The seeds of these evils are in the hearts of His own children; but rather than allow that which He hates to remain in those He loves — He will in mercy, pound them as in a mortar, to beat it out of them, or to prevent its growth.

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Expect others to be absolutely guided by our rules

(Letters of John Newton)

It seems to me, that no one person can adjust the standard, and draw the line exactly for another. There are so many particulars in every situation, of which a stranger cannot be a competent judge; and the best human advices and models are mixed with such defects — that it is not right to expect others to be absolutely guided by our rules. Nor is it safe for us — to implicitly adopt the decisions or practices of others.

But the Scripture undoubtedly furnishes sufficient and infallible rules for every person, however circumstanced; and the throne of grace is appointed for us to wait upon the Lord for the best exposition of His precepts. Thus David often prays to be led in the right way.

By frequent prayer, and close acquaintance with the Scripture, and a habitual attention to the frame of our hearts — there is a certain delicacy of spiritual taste and discernment to be acquired. Yet love is the clearest and most persuasive indicator: and when our love to the Lord is in lively exercise, and the rule of His Word is in our eye — we seldom make great mistakes.

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God's children run home when the storm comes on!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"O that I knew where I might find Him!" Job 23:3

In Job's uttermost extremity — he cried after the Lord. Just so, the longing desire of an afflicted child of God — is once more to see his Father's face! His first prayer is not, "O that I might be healed of the disease which now festers in every part of my body!" Nor even, "O that I might see my children restored from the jaws of the grave, and my property once more brought from the hand of the spoiler!" But the first and uppermost cry is, "O that I knew where I might find HIM who is my God! O that I might come even to His presence!"

God's children run home when the storm comes on! It is the heaven-born instinct of a gracious soul — to seek shelter from all troubles, beneath the wings of Jehovah. "He who has made God his refuge," might serve as the title of a true believer.

A hypocrite, when afflicted by God, resents the infliction and, like a slave, would run from the Master who has scourged him! But not so with the true heir of heaven — he kisses the hand which smote him — and seeks shelter from the rod, in the bosom of the God who frowned upon him!

Job's desire to commune with God was intensified, by the failure of all other sources of consolation. The patriarch turned away from his sorry friends, and looked up to the celestial throne — just as a traveler turns from his empty water bottle, and betakes himself with all speed to the well. He bids farewell to earth-born hopes, and cries, "O that I knew where I might find my God!"

Nothing teaches us so much the preciousness of the Creator — as when we learn the emptiness of all created things. Turning away with bitter scorn from earth's hives, where we find no honey — but many sharp stings; we rejoice to turn to Him whose faithful Word is sweeter than honey from the honeycomb.

In every trouble, we should first seek God's presence with us. Only let us enjoy His smile — and we can bear our daily cross with a willing heart, for His dear sake!

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We are all born proud!

(J. C. Ryle)

Humility is one of the strongest evidences of the indwelling of the Spirit of God. We know nothing of humility by nature — for we are all born proud.

To convince us of sin,
to show us our own vileness and corruption,
to put us in our right place,
to make us humble and self-abased
 — these are among the principal works which the Holy Spirit works in the soul of man.

Few of our Lord's sayings are so often repeated as the one which closes the parable of the Pharisee and Tax-collector, "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled — and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:14) To have great gifts, and do great works for God, is not given to all believers. But all believers ought to strive to be clothed with humility.

"All of you — clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5

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12 Time-wasting thieves!

(Richard Baxter)

"Redeeming the time." Colossians 4:5

"That you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way." Colossians 1:10

Thief 1. One of the greatest time-wasting sins, consists of idleness or sloth.

Thief 2. The next thief or time-waster, is excess of sleep.

Thief 3. Another time-waster, is an inordinate adorning of the body.

Thief 4. Another time-wasting thief, is unnecessary pomp and extravagance in household furniture and domestic entertainments.

Thief 5. Another time-wasting sin, is needless feastings, gluttony, and drinking.

Thief 6. Another time-waster, is idle talk.

Thief 7. Another thief which would steal your time, is vain and sinful company.

Thief 8. Another notorious time-wasting thief, is needless, inordinate sports and games — which are masked with the deceitful title of recreations.

Thief 9. Another time-wasting thief, is excess of worldly cares and business.

Thief 10. Another time-waster, is vain, ungoverned and sinful thoughts.

Thief 11. Another dangerous time-wasting sin, is the reading of worthless books, plays, romances, and novels. And also unprofitable studies, undertaken but for pride and vain-glory, or the pleasing of a carnal or curious mind.

Thief 12. But the master-thief that robs men of their time, is an unsanctified, ungodly heart; for this loses time, whatever men are doing — because they never intend to do anything for the glory of God.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do — do it all for the glory of God!" 1 Corinthians 10:31

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I will look up!

(James Smith, "Daily Bible Readings for the Lord's Household")

"In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice. In the morning I lay my requests before You — and I will look up!" Psalm 5:3

This was the Psalmist's determination in the morning — and it should be ours.

Preserved and protected through the night — we should look up with gratitude, and praise our God for His goodness.

Aware of our dependence and needs — we should look up and beg mercies of our Almighty God for the new-born day.

Sensible of our foes and dangers — we should look up and pray to be kept, guided, and sanctified by our ever-present God.

If we look within — it will dispirit us;
if we look around — it may distract us;
if we look back — it may awaken fears;
if we look forward — it may arouse foreboding!
But if we look UP to God — it will preserve . . .
  the head from swimming,
  the heart from sinking,
  the feet from slipping, and
  the hands from hanging down!

Beloved, let us look up!
There our loving Father is!
There our interceding Savior is!
There all our supplies are!
There our everlasting home is!

Let others look where they will, "I will look up!"

If we look up to God in faith — then He will look down upon us in mercy; and looking, He will supply all our needs!

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It is like the passing cloud on the summer's day!

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

"Your sorrow shall be turned into joy!" John 16:20

The sorrow of the Christian must be transient. It is like the passing cloud on the summer's day; or the chill of winter which must give place to the genial warmth of spring.

Beloved, if you now have sorrow — then your sorrow also shall soon be turned into joy; for joy is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.

Heaviness may endure for the night — but joy comes in the morning.

The SIN that causes your sorrow — shall be pardoned and subdued.

The FOES that disturb your peace — shall be converted or destroyed.

The CLOUDS that obscure your sun — shall soon dissolve in showers of blessing on your favored head.

The hard and weary road between you and your eternal home — will soon be passed! The days of your mourning will be ended, and those who now go forth weeping, bearing precious seed — shall soon return with songs of everlasting joy!

"Your sorrow shall be turned into joy!" John 16:20