Grace Gems for JUNE 2011
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I will come forth as gold!
(James Smith, "Food for the Soul" 1867)
"When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold!" Job 23:10
The Lord puts all of His people into His furnace! Some are long in melting and refining — and with others the work is quick. But long or short, the Lord will keep His people in the fire — until they are purified! A genuine Christian loses nothing in the furnace, but his dross. He comes forth bettered, purified, refined. He is more humble, his faith is more simple, and his life more spiritual. He shines like molten gold, and reflects the image of the great Refiner.
"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
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I am God's child!
(James Smith, "Food for the Soul" 1867)
"We are the children of God!" Romans 8:16
Never let us forget or lose sight of this — but let us live, walk, and act under the impression that, "I am God's child!"
He knows me — and knows all about me.
He loves me — and loves me with the same love with which He loves His only-begotten Son.
He cares for me — and so cares for me that I ought not to be anxious about anything.
He is with me — and will never for one moment trust me out of His sight, or out of the reach of His hand.
He appoints my daily lot — and will overrule everything for my eternal welfare!
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Now he is comforted!
(James Smith, "Food for the Soul" 1867)
"Now he is comforted!" Luke 16:25
Poor suffering Lazarus had little comfort on earth — but he has plenty in Heaven. The discomfort he suffered here — must make his comfort there tenfold more sweet!
As it was with him, so will it be with us — we shall not lack comfort for long. We have much to comfort us now, even in our worst seasons — but the best is yet to come! The God of all comfort, who sends down drops of comfort now — will soon call us up to enter into the torrents of the fullness of His joy forever! Weeping may endure for a night — but joy comes in the morning. Soon our sufferings and sorrows will be forever ended!
"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain!" Revelation 21:4
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That I may know Him!
(James Smith, "Paul's Seven Wishes" 1856)
Paul desired seven things especially — and they all referred to Christ, and they are all named in his epistle to the Philippians, and I propose to glance at them. Let us compare our desires with his as we go on, and may the Holy Spirit bless our brief meditation on the subject.
First, he says, "that I may KNOW Him!" (Philippians 3:10.) Christ had appeared to Paul, he was revealed in him, and was constantly preached by him. Christ was . . .
the object of his trust,
the subject of his ministry,
and the joy of his heart!
But he knew that there was much in Christ with which he was unacquainted. He knew but in part. He desired, therefore, to know more of . . .
the glory of His person,
the riches of His grace,
the magnificence of His work,
the excellency of His natures,
the majesty of His kingdom!
Everything in Christ interested Paul. Creation was good — and grace was better; but Christ was best of all. He was never wearied . . .
of thinking of Christ,
of speaking of Christ,
of learning of Christ.
He went on with his work, he went on his way — with the desire constantly rising in his heart, "That I may know Him!"
Beloved, how is it with you? Do you sympathize with Paul in this desire of his heart? Is it your daily wish, ardent desire, and constant aim — to know more of Jesus?
Throughout eternity we shall be learning Christ!
He is the lesson placed before us in the church on earth;
and He is the lesson placed before the church in Heaven.
Time is given us to learn Christ — and, blessed be God,
eternity will be given to us to learn even more of Christ!
Nothing endears eternity to me like this — it will be spent in learning, enjoying, and honoring Christ!
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Can we ever reach the promised land?
(James Smith, "Israel's Need — and God's Mercy" 1856)
Life is but a journey — a journey from the present fleeting world, to the eternal world.
"By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night." Exodus 13:21
Israel needed a GUIDE in their journey from the wilderness to the promised land.
They had a long journey before them, which would take them forty years.
They had to travel by a strange path, on which they had never trodden before.
Numerous foes would endeavor to obstruct their progress.
Many dangers lined the way.
And they had evil and deceitful hearts!
Fellow-Christians — is it not even so with us? We are going on a journey to a country of which the Lord our God has told us.
The journey is long and trying. It takes some twenty, some forty, and some sixty years to travel from earth to Heaven.
It is a strange path. A path which no one knows — a path we have never trodden before. A path which by nature we could never find, and from which we are prone to turn aside.
We are surrounded by numerous foes, visible and invisible:
The WORLD frowning as a determined persecutor, or fawning as a base deceiver — is our foe. Now by its sneers, sarcasms, or sword — and then, by its gilded vanities, flesh-pleasing baits, and blandishments — it endeavors to turn us aside from the right ways of the Lord.
SATAN and his hosts — crafty, cunning, cruel, united, persevering and determined — set themselves to terrify and drive us back, or to allure us from the way.
And worst of all, in our own natures, we have a determined foe who is . . .
Yes, the FLESH lusts against the Spirit. We find a law in our members warring against the law of our minds.
The world, the flesh, and the devil all combine to . . .
oppose our progress,
hinder us in our march, and,
if possible, to destroy us in the wilderness!
Then, there are so many dangers:
the towering rocks of presumption,
the quagmires of doubt and fear,
the pitfalls of error,
the ravines of willful sin,
the fiery-flying serpents of temptation,
the scorpions of indulged lust,
the sunshine — and the shade;
the barren sands — and the verdant valleys;
the granite rocks — and the flowing streams
— all of them have dangers concealed in them! Nor can we be trusted alone for one moment — if we are to be safe. Worst of all, there are our distrustful and deceitful hearts!
With . . .
so long a journey,
so strange a path,
such numerous foes,
so many dangers, and
such unbelieving hearts —
can we ever reach the promised land? Can we?
Not if left to ourselves! Not if led only by Moses. We must have a guide . . .
who well knows the road;
who can conquer our many foes;
who can lead us safely through all our dangers,
who can bear with our stubborn hearts and lives!
We need a guide . . .
whose wisdom is perfect,
whose power is almighty,
whose care is constant,
whose patience is immutable,
whose mercy endures forever!
God provided just what the Israelites needed in the wilderness — a guide to lead them by day and night. He went before them — pointing out the road, clearing it of insurmountable difficulties, and conducting them in it.
This is just what our good and gracious God does for us! He is really present with us — though unseen by us. He is never far from any one of us. He marks out our road, He removes every real impediment out of our way, and conducts us step by step in the path to the promised land!
Naturally we do not know the right path; left to ourselves, we would choose the short-cut, the smooth path, and well-frequented road. But He leads us in a zig-zag way, by a rough and uneven road — where there are but few fellow-travelers. His choice is best. The way He points out is the only right one. It is to humble us, and test us, and show what is in our hearts. It is that we may walk by faith — and not by sight. It is to teach us our need of Himself — and to lead us to cleave unto Him. "For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even unto death", through death, and beyond it!
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go! I will guide you with My eye!" Psalm 32:8
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That I may WIN Christ!
(James Smith, "Paul's Seven Wishes" 1856)
"That I may WIN Christ!" Philippians 3:8
Paul was not merely satisfied to know Christ, as the property of someone else; he wanted Christ as his own! He was not only willing to receive Christ as a free gift — but he would win Christ as a prize!
Was Christ to be run for — then he would run.
Was Christ to be wrestled for — then he would wrestle.
Were there any means by which Christ could be obtained, however painful, however costly, however difficult — then Paul would use them!
Did he believe? It was that he might win Christ.
Did he pray? It was that he might win Christ.
Did he preach? It was that he might win Christ.
Did he crucify the old man, mortify the flesh, beat his body and make it his slave? It was that he might win Christ.
Did he suffer the loss of all things, and count them but dung and dross? It was that he might win Christ.
Did he subject himself to stripes, imprisonment, hunger, cold, nakedness, and a martyr's death? It was that he might win Christ.
To possess Christ was his one object, his ruling desire!
Reader, is it your main object and desire?
Are you prepared to part with all to win Christ?
Would you take Christ — in exchange for ease, reputation, wealth, labors, sufferings, yes, even death itself? Paul was; and if you are not, his estimates of Christ and yours cannot be the same.
My soul, I charge you — let this be your object, let this be your aim, always and everywhere: to "win Christ!"
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Is this pleasing to God?
(James Smith, "The Proper Aim of a Christian's Life" 1856)
"Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, to do this more and more!" 1 Thessalonians 4:1
In every place,
in every circumstance,
in every undertaking —
the Christian should ask, "Is this pleasing to God?"
God is pleased or displeased . . .
with every thought we think,
with every word we speak,
with every action we perform,
with every emotion we feel.
Perhaps we do not sufficiently realize this. We think, speak, feel, and act — without ever considering whether we are pleasing God, or not. But this ought not to be, for He . . .
gave us our being,
redeemed us from sin and damnation,
called us by His grace, and
has blessed us with innumerable and interminable blessings —
and all that we may glorify Him! And how can we glorify Him — but by habitually aiming to please Him? If we forget or lose sight of this — we forget and lose sight of the principal end of our being, and well-being.
For instance, the manner in which I employ my spare time — the amount of time I give to recreation or entertainment. Many Christians seem never to think whether the way in which they spend their time, is pleasing to God or not. If they did, would they ever go to some entertainments, or indulge in certain pleasures? Would the world have so much of their time, and the prayer-closet so little? How much time is wasted in frivolous ways, which are neither conducive to the health of the body, nor calculated to promote the spirituality of the mind.
Also, how many squander their money on dress, ornaments, or delicacies for the body — who never relieve the poor, or contribute to establish God's cause in the world; or if they do so at all, it is not in due proportion to their means. The pence are given to the Lord — the pounds are spent in the gratification of SELF!
If, when I am going to lay out money in ornaments or dress, or indulgences for the table, I was to ask, "Is this pleasing to God?" — would it not check my lavish expenditure? Would it not often change the course in which my money flows?
"And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way." Colossians 1:10
My object in everything I do — should be to please God. The one grand end of my life, the grand thing I am to aim at — is to please my Heavenly Father. I have . . .
nothing to dread, but His frown,
nothing to fear, but His displeasure,
nothing to seek, but His approbation.
If my Heavenly Father is pleased with me — it is enough.
What a comfort it is to know that my God is easily pleased — that it is not the amount of what I do — but the motive from which I do it, which He looks at! He is pleased with my poorest performances, with my most imperfect services, with only a cup of cold water given to one of His children — if my object is to please Him!
In everything I do, I should ask, "Is this pleasing to God?" If so, all is well.
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do — do it all for the glory of God!" 1 Corinthians 10:31. This is the rule — and we should walk by it.
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It will all end in mercy!
(James Smith, "It Will All End in Mercy!" 1856)
"We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28
If you are a sincere believer in Jesus, whatever may be your present difficult circumstances, however trying, however perplexing, "It will all end in mercy!"
You may not think so now.
You may be writing bitter things against yourself.
You may be misinterpreting the designs of God's providence.
You may be doubting the precious promises of God's holy Word.
But, notwithstanding your mistakes, your doubts, your fears, your false conclusions — "It will all end in mercy!"
You do not think so — nor did Jacob once, nor did Joseph once, nor did Job once, nor did thousands once — who are now in glory!
They were mistaken — and so are you!
They judged by appearances — and so do you!
They changed their minds — and so will you!
All your troubles are appointed in infinite love!
They are all weighed out by sovereign goodness!
They are all limited by perfect wisdom!
There is no 'chance' in what happens to the Christian!
Everything is divinely arranged and appointed!
Cheer up, my poor weary fellow-traveler! You will soon arrive at Home, and then you will see clearly and enjoy sweetly the blessed truth — that to the believer "all will end in mercy!"
Take comfort, poor afflicted fellow-Christian! Your afflictions are God's furnace, in which He is refining you! He is only fitting you to occupy a mansion in Heaven, and to sing the sweet and everlasting song — the theme of which will be, "It all ended in mercy!"
Fear not, poor feeble, fickle, faltering follower of Jesus!
Though your faith is weak,
though your fears are strong,
though your doubts are painful,
though you conclude that your case is singular and your condition hopeless — "the year of release is at hand," and then . . .
your doubts will expire,
your fears will flee away,
your groans will be silenced,
your feeble hopes will be realized,
for "It will all end in mercy!"
My brother, are you in poverty, under persecution, or in bodily sickness? Cheer up! Your light shall soon "break forth as the morning!" Write it down in your memorandum book, or impress it upon your memory, or, what is better still — pray the Holy Spirit to give you the sweet inward assurance of the fact, that "It will all end in mercy," for "we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28
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My friend, how is it with you?
(James Smith, "Paul's Seven Wishes" 1856)
"That Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!" Philippians 1:20, 21
Paul's third all-absorbing desire was to MAGNIFY Christ!
Paul desired to exhibit and exalt Christ!
If he wrote — he wrote of Christ.
If he spoke — he spoke of Christ.
If he suffered — he suffered for Christ.
If he sorrowed — it was because professors dishonored Christ.
Christ was to him dearer than the apple of his eye — and more precious than all things in earth or Heaven! He would live — if he could honor Jesus; or he would die for Him — if that would honor Him more.
He felt his obligation to Christ.
He was inflamed with Christ's love.
He was a sacrifice on Christ's altar.
He was a vessel for Christ's honor.
He would go anywhere, he would do anything — if he might but honor Christ. Heartily he would say, "Let the name of Paul perish, if the name of Christ can be magnified thereby!"
To him Christ was, in fact, all and all. He died for Christ; the honor of Christ was the end for which he laid down his life.
My friend, how is it with you?
Does your heart cry, "Oh, that I could honor Christ!"
Does your life make this impression on others: "That person aims to honor Christ!"
Is it your daily cry and prayer: "Let Christ be magnified in me, by me, and through me — in life, in death, in time, and forever!"
Oh my soul, let it be my constant desire and prayer — that Jesus, my Jesus, may be magnified by me!
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Paul desired to be exactly like Jesus!
(James Smith, "Paul's Seven Wishes" 1856)
"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings — becoming like him in His death!" Philippians 3:10
Paul's next all-absorbing desire was to be CONFORMED to Christ! It was not enough to know Christ, to win Christ, to magnify Christ, or to be in Christ; Paul wishes to be LIKE Christ! He would . . .
breathe His spirit,
exhibit His temper,
copy His example, and
be just like Christ!
He desired to be . . .
like Christ in poverty,
like Christ in suffering,
like Christ in death itself!
Paul desired to be exactly like Jesus!
Meek — as Jesus was meek.
Patient — as Jesus was patient.
Loving — as Jesus was loving.
Useful — as Jesus was useful.
In every point resembling Him!
What admiration of Christ is here!
What love to Christ!
What power of grace!
What a wonderful transformation! How unlike 'Saul of Tarsus', the Pharisee of the Pharisees, the persecutor of the church, the blasphemer of the Nazarene! What could be more unlike?
Once he saw no beauty in Christ — now he sees nothing but beauty!
Once he could not bear the mention of His name — now he never seems happy, but when pronouncing it!
Once he was exceedingly violent against Christ and His people — now his heartfelt abiding cry is, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings — becoming like Him in His death!"
Dear reader, have you ever experienced any such change?
Are you panting, praying, striving to be like Jesus?
Are you willing to be anything that Jesus was — that you may be like Him?
Are you willing to suffer even death — that you may be conformed to Him?
My soul, this is a very high attainment — aspire to it! Seek grace day by day at the throne of grace — that you may so love, so admire, so adore the Savior — as to desire to be conformed to Him in life, in death, and forever!
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He felt himself in a great strait!
(James Smith, "Paul's Seven Wishes" 1856)
Paul's next all-absorbing desire was to be WITH Christ!
Paul dearly loved his work.
He was greatly attached to the church — which needed his presence, gifts, and labors.
He deeply sympathized with poor perishing sinners — who needed the gospel.
But such was his love to Jesus, that he felt himself in a great strait, "I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" (Philippians 1:23) He says nothing about place, or employment, the absence of sorrow, or the possession of joy; his heart was fixed on the person of Christ.
To be with Christ — this was his desire.
To be with Christ anywhere — was enough.
To be with Christ forever — was a sufficient Heaven!
Paul was willing to lay down his body — if by doing so, he may be with Christ.
To be with Christ, to him was far better than life with all its comforts.
To be with Christ, to him was far better than the world with all its privileges and pleasures.
To be with Christ! This is . . .
the flower of bliss,
the crown of glory,
the perfection of happiness!
To be with Christ! Paul could desire nothing beyond this!
My friend, can you empathize with Paul here?
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This is a sweet and precious truth!
(James Smith, "The Pleading Savior" 1861)
"I am glorified in them!" John 17:10
That is, I HAVE been glorified . . .
by their faith, for they have exercised confidence in Me;
by their choice, for they have left all and followed Me;
by their ministry, for they went where I sent them, and served as I directed them;
by their self-denial, for they have taken up their cross and have followed Me;
by their perseverance, for they have adhered to Me when others forsook Me;
by their holy character, for they have endeavored to imitate Me.
I SHALL be glorified . . .
in their full redemption and perfect salvation,
in their worship and services,
in their motives and actions,
by their undivided love and practical holiness!
Jesus gets glory by all that He does, or suffers, or procures for His people — and by all that they do and suffer for Him! This is a sweet and precious truth to the believer — full of comfort, and a source of the sweetest joy!
Jesus is glorified by all that He does for me — and by all that I do for Him!
Marvelous mystery! Glorious scheme! Worthy at once of the wisdom, majesty, and grace of God!
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The world's politics, pleasures, and pursuits!
(James Smith, "The Wondrous Love of Christ, as Displayed in His Intercessory Prayer!" 1861)
The world and the Church are essentially and eternally distinct — and they ought to be distinguishable. The Church ought not to mix with the world — but to bear a practical testimony against it, that its works and ways are evil. All through our Lord's prayer, He keeps up the distinction, and twice over He asserts of His disciples, "They are not of the world — even as I am not of the world!"
Believers are not of the world. They are born from above, and possess a nature far superior to that of the world — which unfits them for its pleasures and pursuits, and qualifies them for the enjoyments and employments of the Heavenly world.
They are delivered from the thraldom of the world — and are raised above its pursuits and its joys.
They will not be conquered by the world — but overcome it by faith.
They will not be judged with it — but with Christ will sit in judgment upon it.
They will not be punished like it — neither in the present nor in the future state.
True believers are not of the world!
Look at the world's state — condemned; and theirs, justified!
Look at its condition — wretched; and theirs, happy!
Look at its character — enemies to God; and theirs, the friends of God!
Look at its course — sin; and theirs, holiness!
Look at its god — Satan, the most degraded, depraved, and despicable being in existence; and theirs, Jehovah, the high and lofty one, the holy and happy one, the great and glorious one!
Look at its end — destruction; and theirs, salvation.
The world is darkness — they are light.
The world is corrupt — they are purified.
The world is in chains — they are free.
We are not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world!
If we are poor — let us not, then, envy the world.
A saint in rags — is preferable to a sinner in robes!
A believer in a hovel — is happier than a worldling in a palace!
A Christian at the worst — is far better off than a worldling at the best!
Whatever we have — we have with God's blessing!
Whatever the world has — it has with God's curse!
We are training for greatness and grandeur!
The world is preparing for shame and everlasting contempt!
The world is no model for a Christian! We should . . .
not dress so expensively,
nor furnish our homes so extravagantly,
nor live so luxuriously — as the world does!
But as strangers and pilgrims in the world — we should abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.
Let us not be dejected — if we are stripped of what we now have. We are not of the world — we do not have our portion here. We need but little of this world's goods, and our Heavenly Father will see to it that we have enough. He will not allow us to lose anything that is essential to our holiness or happiness. As our lives are insured by our Heavenly Father — so all our needs are anticipated, and provided for. Lose what we may — we shall never lose . . .
our title deed to our glorious inheritance, or
our place at the marriage supper of the Lamb!
Let us not be much troubled about the world. As we are . . .
chosen out of it,
redeemed from it, and
shall soon leave it —
we should not allow ourselves to be very much affected by any of its affairs. The world's politics, pleasures, and pursuits — should be looked upon by us with the eye of a foreigner — for we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, as all our fathers were. We arrived in the world but yesterday — and we leave tomorrow!
Let us not, therefore, mix up with the world, or be much taken up with its schemes and cares, its speculations or its prospects.
Let us always keep up our distinction from the world. Not in a spirit of pride or self-righteousness, as if conscious of some supposed superiority in ourselves. But in a meek, lowly, and loving spirit — let us avoid all that is really evil, and abstain from what has the appearance of evil.
Heavenly Father, as You have chosen us out of the world — give us grace to live above the world, and enable us to glorify You in the world! Make us like your beloved Son, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Oh, to live in this world as strangers and pilgrims — as those whose treasure is above — and whose hearts are there also!
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The divine Gardener
(J. R. Miller, "How to Live a Beautiful Christian Life" 1880)
We may think that our lot is especially hard — and may wish that it were otherwise. We may wish that we had a life of ease and luxury, amid softer scenes — with no briers or thorns, no worries or provocations. We think that then we would be always gentle, patient, serene, trustful, happy. How delightful it would be — never to have a care, an irritation, a trouble, a single vexing thing!
But the fact remains — that the place in which we find ourselves — is the very place in which the Master desires us to live our life! There is no haphazard in God's world. God leads every one of His children by the right way. He knows where and under what influences, each particular life will ripen best.
One tree grows best in the sheltered valley, another by the water's edge, another on the bleak mountain-top swept by storms. Every tree or plant is found in the precise locality to enhance its growth. And does God give more thought to trees and plants — than to His own children? No!
He places us amid the circumstances and experiences in which our life will grow and ripen the best. The peculiar trials to which we are each subjected — is the exact discipline we each need to bring out the beauties and graces of true spiritual character in us. We are in the right school. We may think that we would ripen more quickly — in a more easy and luxurious life. But God knows what is best for us — He makes no mistakes!
There is a little fable which says that a primrose growing by itself in a shady corner of the garden, became discontented as it saw the other flowers in their mirthful beds in the sunshine, and begged to be moved to a more conspicuous place. Its prayer was granted. The gardener transplanted it to a more showy and sunny spot. It was greatly pleased — but a change came over it immediately. Its blossoms lost much of their beauty, and became pale and sickly. The hot sun caused them to faint and wither. So it prayed again to be taken back to its old place in the shade. The wise gardener knows best, where to plant each flower.
Just so, God, The divine Gardener, knows where His people will best grow into what He would have them to be. Some require the fierce storms; some will only thrive in the shadow of worldly adversity; and some come to ripeness more sweetly under the soft and gentle influences of prosperity — whose beauty, rough experiences would mar. The divine Gardener knows what is best for each one!
There is no position in this world in the allotment of Providence, in which it is not possible to be a true Christian, exemplifying all the virtues of godliness. The grace of Christ has in it, potency enough to enable us to live godly — wherever we are called to dwell. When God chooses a home for us — He fits us for its peculiar trials.
God adapts His grace to the peculiarities of each one's necessity. For rough, flinty paths — He provides shoes of iron. He never sends anyone to climb sharp, rugged mountain-sides, wearing silken slippers. He always gives sufficient grace. As the burdens grow heavier — the strength increases. As the difficulties thicken — He draws closer. As the trials become sorer — the trusting heart grows calmer.
Jesus always sees His disciples, when they are toiling in the waves — and at the right moment He comes to deliver them. Thus it becomes possible to live a true and victorious life — in any circumstances.
Christ can as easily enable Joseph to remain pure and true in heathen Egypt — as Benjamin in the shelter of his father's love. The sharper the temptations — the more of divine grace is granted. There is, therefore, no environment of trial, or difficulty or hardship — in which we cannot live beautiful lives of Christian fidelity and holy conduct.
Instead, then, of yielding to discouragement when trials multiply and it becomes hard to live right, or of being satisfied with a very faulty life — it should be our settled purpose to live, through the grace of God — a patient, gentle and unspotted life — in the place, and amid the circumstances, He allots to us. The true victory is not found in escaping or evading trials — but in rightly meeting and enduring them.
The questions should not be, "How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the distractions that continually harass me?" There is nothing noble in such living.
The questions should rather be, "How can I pass through these trying experiences — and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles — and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these testings of my temper — and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?" This is the true problem of Christian living.
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(James Smith, "The Physician!" 1855. This one is longer — but choice!)
"Those who are whole do not need a physician — but those who are sick!" Matthew 9:12
The world is one vast hospital. Jesus is the only physician in it; He has healed thousands, He will heal thousands more. But multitudes reject Him; they imagine they can do without Him; they think that they are whole — and therefore do not need a physician.
Sin is the disease of the soul. The sinner's state, is a diseased state. He is sick — mortally sick. His sickness is hereditary. He inherited it from his parents. He brought it into the world with him. That is true of all — which was spoken by David of himself, "Behold I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me!"
Sin is increased by wicked habits. We go astray from the womb, speaking lies. We contract the habit of sinning — so that to sin becomes as natural to us, as to breathe.
The disease of sin is contagious. We contaminate others — and others increase our sickness. "Bad company corrupts good character."
The progress of this disease is constant — it spreads daily — almost insensibly, and especially from neglect.
Sin produces great weakness, so that the sinner cannot of himself, do anything really good.
Sin not only makes us weak, but stupid — so that we become careless and foolish. We are dying of disease — but are unconcerned about it! There is a skillful physician at hand — but we refuse to apply to Him!
Sin has destroyed all our moral beauty — and left us loathsome, unsightly, and wretched! It produces innumerable and horrendous pains — and surrounds us with sorrows, cares, and woes!
Sin brings us to death — not only separating the body from the soul — but separating the soul from God!
Sin is the forerunner of eternal and unmitigated weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth!
There is no sickness like sin — yet this disease is universal. All are sick! "Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good — not even one!" Romans 3:9-12
This disease affects every part of man, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it — only wounds and bruises and putrefying sores!" Isaiah 1:5, 6. Man is one mass of moral disease! Every power and faculty is disordered. All the elements of destruction are within himself. He deeply needs a physician, for he is dreadfully sick; so sick, that there is but a step between him and damnation!
My dear reader, this is your state! The Holy Spirit has given your portrait in the passages you have just read.
Can you recognize the likeness? If not — your eye is diseased!
Do you feel alarmed at the representation? If not — your conscience is diseased!
Are you determined at once to apply to the physician? If not — your heart is diseased!
The plague spot is upon you! You are very far advanced in a moral and spiritual cancer — which is secretly hurrying you to eternal death and damnation! O may the Lord . . .
open your eyes — that you may see your dreadful state;
enlighten your conscience — that you may be alarmed at your condition;
and quicken your soul — that you may flee to Jesus and receive health, healing, and everlasting soundness from His hands!
Jesus is the best physician. His work is to heal souls. He is every way qualified for His work.
He is a wise and skillful physician. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him — and He employs them for the good of souls. He has been employed in healing sinners for six thousand years — His skill has never been baffled, nor has one patient died under His hand yet!
He is a kind and tender physician. Not one harsh word is ever spoken by Him, to a poor broken-hearted sinner; nor does He ever refuse to attend to any case. His kindness is such — that He weeps with those who weep! And His tenderness is so great — that it is said in reference to all His patients, "In all their afflictions — He is afflicted."
He is a friendly and faithful physician. There is nothing forbidding or austere in His manner, nor does He ever deceive. Friendship has erected her throne in His heart, and built her mansion in His bosom; and He is ever faithful to His word, and to the poor sick sinner who applies to Him.
He is a willing and accessible physician. Willing to heal anyone who is willing to be healed by Him — and to go anywhere to perform His miracles of mercy. As when applied to of old, He said "I will come and heal him!" Just so now! He stoops to the beggar in the dust, and visits the needy on the dunghill. He is always ready at hand. You need no messenger to send and fetch Him — He is within hearing! He is nearer than anyone else — He can hear the softest whisper of the heart!
He is the great physician, no one can be compared to Him for qualifications or success.
He is the good physician, no one beside Him can be found — who so kindly, so freely, and so effectually heals every applicant! His blood is the true balm of Gilead.
It is not only His work — but His delight to heal sin-sick souls! And He heals them all freely, certainly, and perfectly! His terms are, "No Money! No Price!" Those whom He restores to health — will enjoy health forever. He makes every one of His patients immortal — and surrounds them with all that can make them holy and happy forever!
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Will this please God?
(James Smith, "The Voice of Mercy in the House of Affliction!" 1855)
"So we make it our goal to please Him." 2 Corinthians 5:9
Our principal business on earth is to please God.
This is the grand end of our creation — we were formed to glorify Him.
This was the great design in our redemption — to show forth His praise.
On this one object — our attention should be fixed!
To this one end — all our efforts should be directed!
In every enterprise, our first inquiry should be — Will this please God? And after every engagement, the point we should strive to ascertain is — Have I pleased God in this?
And if this is true — then how have we been living? Day after day has passed away — and we have never once thought about pleasing God! One engagement has followed another — but it has never been our aim to please God! In this we are truly guilty!
And this, while it proves our depravity — also accounts for our unhappiness. We never can be happy — but as we have a well-grounded conviction that we are pleasing God!
Reader, has pleasing God been the main object of your life? Have you been habitually aiming at this one end? Or, rather have you not entirely forgotten it, and busied yourself about almost everything beside?
"That you may live a life worthy of the Lord, and may please Him in every way." Colossians 1:10
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O what a dwelling!
(James Smith, "The Alarm and Inquiry!" 1855)
"The sinners in Zion are terrified! Trembling grips the godless! Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" Isaiah 33:14
These 'sinners in Zion' represent professors of religion.
Many profess the Christian religion — who are not really Christians!
They are strangers to the new birth.
They have never passed from death unto life.
Their opinions perhaps are changed — but their hearts remain just as they were.
Their lives may be moral — but their hearts are not spiritual.
They are enemies to God — though they profess to be His friends!
They are rebels against the government of Jesus — while they profess to be His loyal subjects.
Commending the Savior with their lips — they withhold their heart from Him.
In professing Christ — they cry, "Hosanna to the Son of David!"
But by living in sin — they cry, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!"
They are not struggling with sin — but sternly attached to sin!
It is not weakness which causes their conduct — but inveterate wickedness!
They are hypocrites — that is, they wear a mask! They pretend to be what they well know they are not. With their mouths they show much love to Christ — but their hearts go after their lusts!
Reader, it is a dreadful thing . . .
to be a hypocrite;
to be found among the Lord's people — while not really of them;
to profess Christ — and not to possess Christ!
You may deceive men — but you cannot deceive God!
You may be bold and fearless now — but when God shall unmask you, and expose the nakedness of your soul — then you will be afraid; fearfulness and trembling will seize upon you suddenly!
If you are indulging in any known sin, under a profession of religion — then you are a 'sinner in Zion' — and your state is most dangerous!
The time is coming, when the 'sinners in Zion' shall be afraid. God has threatened them. He has threatened them with His sorest judgments. He is true and faithful to His Word. His wrath is eternal — for it is His just displeasure against sin, it is His righteous opposition to the sinner. He hates all sin. But He especially hates deception! Hypocrisy is odious in His sight. He has pronounced the most dreadful woes against all such. They will not find any mercy at His hands — if they persevere in their hypocrisy!
How will they be able to lift up their faces before Him in judgement — whose eyes are as a flame of fire, who has been witness to all their hypocrisy, and who hates all the workers of iniquity! In the prospect of that day, God proposes the most solemn QUESTIONS:
"Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?" Fire inflicts the most dreadful pains. It is used by the Lord to represent the punishment that is to be inflicted upon all ungodly people. It is not merely fire — but consuming fire. Fire in its strength! Fire raging as it does when well fed with fuel! O how dreadful to be tormented in that flame! To be surrounded by that fierce, scorching, destructive element! Sinner! think of devouring fire, a lake of devouring fire — it is the due desert of your sins!
Then, there are everlasting burnings! "Who of us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" There is a fire that never shall be quenched! There are torments that shall never, never, never end! Yes, while God lives to punish, while the cause of punishment remains — the sinner must be punished!
The torments of Hell will not purify. The lost are never sanctified by their sufferings in Hell. They will sin yet more and more — and justice requires that punishment should continue to be inflicted.
Impenitent sinners are to dwell with everlasting burnings. Hell is to be their unchangeable residence, their eternal portion. O what a dwelling! What a doom! What a destiny! And yet it is just — strictly just!
My reader, God directs you to put the question to your own conscience: "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burnings?"
Ah! What if you should!
What if your profession should end in this doom!
What if your hope should prove like the spider's web?
It may! It is possible. Is it probable? Search and look!
A mistake here is fearful, it is fatal, it is irremediable!
Deceitful and deceiving professor — ponder these solemn questions. They are especially addressed to you. Every false covering will soon be stripped off. Your heart and your life will be laid bare — by the holy, sin-hating, sin-punishing God!
Do not even dream of redemption from the devouring fire, when once in it — or of the everlasting burnings being quenched! That is the greatest folly. It is an invention of the father of lies — to deceive your souls, and secure your damnation! If you persevere in sin, if you continue to practice hypocrisy — I solemnly warn you, that you shall surely perish!
Hell will be opened to meet you at your death,
the fierce flames of damnation will curl around you,
the doors of the horrid prison of despair will close upon you
— and you will be lost, lost, lost forever!
We must sound the alarm! We would alarm you — to prevent your ruin!
Your sin deserves Hell. It demands punishment. It appeals to the justice of God — and its appeal will be regarded. A just God must punish the impenitent sinner. Hear then, the warning voice! Flee from the wrath to come! Hasten and escape from the consuming fire — from the everlasting burnings! Flee, flee for refuge, and lay hold of the hope set before you in the gospel.
Flee, flee, flee from the everlasting burnings!!!
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To fill Heaven with Hells!
(Thomas Brooks, "The Crown and Glory of Christianity,
or, HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness" 1662)
"Man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil
like water!" Job 15:16
A wicked man is a sin-lover; he is a sin-maker,
he lives in sin upon choice.
All profane people . . .
give up themselves to wickedness,
wallow in ungodliness,
delight themselves in filthiness,
commit wickedness with greediness,
draw iniquity and sin with cords of vanity,
weary themselves to commit iniquity, and
are so desperately set upon wickedness —
that neither the rod of God, the lashes and checks of
their own consciences, nor the flashes of Hell upon their
souls — can stop them! They are resolved that they will
gratify their lusts — though they damn their souls; and
that will live wickedly — though they perish eternally!
By custom in sin, they have destroyed all conscience
of sin, and contracted such desperate hardness upon
their own hearts, as neither . . .
God's smiles, nor frowns,
God's promises, nor threatenings,
life, nor death,
Heaven, nor Hell,
can possibly hinder them!
The hearts and ways of wicked men are full of
Hells; and therefore to fill Heaven with such
men — would be to fill Heaven with Hells!
Certainly God will shut the gates of glory upon
such workers of iniquity. These souls are . . .
sadly abandoned by God, and
woefully blinded by Satan, and
fully ripened for eternal ruin!
"All will be damned who have not believed the truth, but
have delighted in wickedness." 2 Thessalonians 2:12
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The mercy of God
"I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever!" Psalm 52:8
Meditate a little on the mercy of God.
It is tender mercy. With gentle, loving touch, He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds. He is as gracious in the manner of His mercy — as in the matter of it.
It is great mercy. There is nothing little in God; His mercy is like Himself — infinite. You cannot measure it. His mercy is so great — that it forgives great sins of great sinners, after great lengths of time; and then gives great favors and great privileges, and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great Heaven of the great God!
It is undeserved mercy, as indeed all true mercy must be, for deserved mercy is only a misnomer for justice. There was no right on the sinner's part, to the saving mercy of the Most High God. Had the rebel been doomed at once to eternal fire — he would have justly merited the doom; and if delivered from wrath, sovereign love alone has found a cause, for there was none in the sinner himself.
It is rich mercy. Some things are large — but have little efficacy in them — but this mercy is:
a cordial to your drooping spirits;
a golden ointment to your bleeding wounds;
a heavenly bandage to your broken bones;
a royal chariot for your weary feet;
a bosom of love for your trembling heart!
It is manifold mercy. As Bunyan says, "All the flowers in God's garden are double." There is no single mercy. You may think you have but one mercy — but you shall find it to be a whole cluster of mercies.
It is abounding mercy. Millions have received it — yet far from its being exhausted, it is as fresh, as full, and as free as ever!
It is unfailing mercy. It will never leave you. If saved by sovereign mercy — mercy will be . . .
with you in temptation — to keep you from yielding;
with you in trouble — to prevent you from sinking;
with you in living — to be the light and life of your countenance; and
with you in dying — to be the joy of your soul when earthly comfort is ebbing fast!
"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever!" Psalm 89:1
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What God has prepared for those who love Him!
"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
Oh! what enlightenment, what joys, what consolation, what delight of heart — is experienced by him who has learned to feed on Jesus — and on Jesus alone. Yet the realization which we have of Christ's preciousness is, in this life, imperfect at the best. As an old writer says, "Tis but a taste!" We have but tasted "that the Lord is gracious," but we do not yet know how good and gracious He is; although what we know of His sweetness, makes us long for more. We have enjoyed the first fruits — and they have set us hungering and thirsting for the fullness of the heavenly vintage! Here on earth, we are like Israel in the wilderness, who had but one cluster from Eshcol — but there, we shall be in the vineyard!
We are but beginners now in spiritual education; for although we have learned the first letters of the alphabet, we cannot read words yet, much less can we put sentences together! As one says, "He who has been in heaven but five minutes — knows more than all the theologians on earth!"
We have many ungratified desires at present — but soon every wish shall be satisfied! All our powers shall find the sweetest employment in that eternal world of unbounded joy.
O Christian, within a very little time, you shall be rid of all your trials and your troubles! Your eyes which are now suffused with tears — shall weep no longer. You shall gaze in ineffable rapture upon the splendor of Him who sits upon the throne! Nay, more — you yourself shall sit upon His throne! The triumph of His glory shall be shared by you! His crown, His joy, His paradise — these shall be yours! You shall be co-heir with Him who is the heir of all things!
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Fleeting earthly comforts and worldly trinkets!
(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book — a Year's Daily Readings")
"Unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" Ephesians 3:20
God often does better for us — than we ask.
We go to Him — with our little requests.
We are in need — and ask for temporal relief.
We are suffering — and ask that our pain may cease.
We are poor — and ask Him for more money.
We are just like the beggar, holding out our hands for paltry alms to eke out the day's need. Then God looks down upon us and says, "My child, are these little trifles all you want Me to give to you — daily bread, clothing, fuel for your fire, medicine for your sickness, comfort for your grief? The small things to supply your common needs — are these the only gifts and blessings you want and ask from the hand of your heavenly Father, who has infinite treasures to give to you?"
Yet thousands never get beyond just such requests in their praying! Bowing daily before a God of infinite power and love, in whose hands are unsearchable riches — they never ask for anything but fleeting earthly comforts and worldly trinkets! They ask only for things for their bodies, or to beautify their homes — making no requests for the heavenly and spiritual gifts that God has for their souls! We should learn to ask for the best things in all God's treasure house!
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2
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Nothing is so filthy, so impure, so loathsome!
(James Smith, "The Voice of Mercy in the House of Affliction!" 1855)
"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!" Psalm 51:2
"Create in me a clean heart, O God!" Psalm 51:10
A clean heart is one that is . . .
purified from guilt — by the blood of Jesus; and
cleansed from filth — by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our hearts by nature, are all unclean. They are the most unclean things in existence! Nothing is so filthy, so impure, so loathsome — as the human heart!
The awakened sinner discovers that he is unclean, that his heart is unholy — and he desires to be thoroughly cleansed. He is not, he cannot be satisfied with outward reformation; he wants inward renovation. No promise in God's book suits him so well as, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws!" Ezekiel 36:25-27
"O Lord," he cries, "fulfill this precious promise in my experience. Give me the new heart, and take away the stony heart from me. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquities, and cleanse me from my sin. Make me holy — whatever I may suffer in the process."
The clean-hearted person . . .
shrinks from sin, and
longs for entire freedom from sin!
But if the heart is not changed, the only thing feared is punishment, and the only thing sought is happiness.
The Holy Spirit alone can give us such views of sin — as will lead us to hate it; and He alone can give us such views of our own hearts — as will prompt us to cry, "Create in me a clean heart, O God! Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!"
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(Arthur Pink "Sleepy Saints!" 1948)
"So then, we must not sleep, like the rest — but we must stay awake and be serious!" 1 Thessalonians 5:6
What an anomaly! Drowsing on the verge of eternity!
A Christian is one who, in contrast to the unregenerate, has been awakened from the sleep of death in trespasses and sins, made to realize the unspeakable awfulness of endless misery in Hell, and the ineffable joy of everlasting bliss in Heaven; and thereby brought to recognize the seriousness and solemnity of life! A Christian is one who has been experientially taught the worthlessness of mundane things — and the preciousness of divine things! He has turned his back on Vanity Fair and has started out on his journey to the Celestial City.
Nevertheless, it is sadly possible . . .
for him to suffer a relapse,
for his zeal to abate,
for his graces to languish,
for him to leave his first love, and
become weary of well-doing.
Yes, unless he is very much on his guard, drowsiness will steal over him — and he will fall asleep!
Corruptions still indwell him — and sin has a stupefying effect!
He is yet in this evil world — and it exerts an enervating influence!
Satan seeks to devour him, and unless resisted steadfastly — will hypnotize him!
Thus, the menace of this spiritual "sleeping sickness" is very real.
Slumbering saints! What an incongruity!
Taking their ease, while threatened by danger!
Lazing, instead of fighting the good fight of faith!
Rusting, instead of wearing out in His service!
Trifling away opportunities to glorify their Savior, instead of redeeming the time!
How startling and reprehensible is a careless Christian, who has departed from God, bewitched by a world which is doomed to eternal destruction!
"It is high time to awake out of sleep!" Romans 13:11
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A sedative to all sorrows — and a solace under all sharp afflictions
(Theodore Cuyler, "Beulah-Land" or, Words of Cheer for Christian Pilgrims)
"After a little while — you will see Me!" John 16:17
Those sweet tender words, "After a little while," have deep thoughts in them, like the still ocean at the twilight — thoughts too deep for our fathoming. They breathe some precious consolations to those believers whose burdens are heavy — either with care, or poverty, or sickness. Neither shall the mourner weep much longer, or God's poor children carry the pains and privations of poverty much longer. The daily toil to earn the daily bread, the carking care to keep the barrel from running low and the scanty "cruse" from running out — will soon be over. Cheer up, my brother! "After a little while — you will see Me!" says your blessed Master, "for I am going to prepare a place for you!"
Oh the infinite sweep of that glorious transition! A few years here in a poor dwelling, whose rent it is hard to pay — and then infinite ages in the palace of the King of kings! Here a scanty table and coarse clothing — and yonder a robe of resplendent light at the marriage-supper of the Lamb! Let this blissful thought put new courage into your soul, and fresh sunshine into your countenance!
I sometimes go into a sick chamber where the godly are suffering with no prospect of recovery. Perhaps the eyes of some of those chronic invalids may fall upon this article. My dear friends, put under your pillows these sweet words of Jesus, "After a little while — you will see Me!" It is only for a little while — that you are to serve your Master by patient submission to His holy will. That chronic suffering — will soon be over. That disease which no earthly physician can cure — will soon be cured by your Divine Physician, who by the touch of His messenger death, will cure you in an instant, and bring you into the perfect health of Heaven! You will exchange this weary bed of pain — for that crystal air in which none shall ever say, "I am sick;" neither shall there be any more pain.
Not only to the sick and to the poverty-stricken children of God, do these tender words of our Redeemer bring solace. Let these words bring a healing balm to hearts that are smarting under unkindness, or wounded by neglect, or pining under privations, or bleeding under sharp bereavements. I offer them as a sedative to all sorrows — and a solace under all sharp afflictions. "After a little while — you will see Me!" The sight of Him shall wipe out all the memories of the darkest hours through which you made your way through this wilderness world — to mansions of glory!
"A few more struggles here,
A few more conflicts more,
A little while of toils and tears —
Then we shall weep no more!"
May God help us all to be faithful — only for a little while — and then comes the unfading crown of glory!
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The blindness of ministers!
(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)
"Jesus told them this parable: Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into the pit?" Luke 6:39
See the great danger of listening to false religious teachers. Our Lord compares such teachers and their hearers, to the blind leading the blind; and asks the reasonable question, "Will they not both fall into the pit?"
The subject which our Lord brings before us, deserves far more attention than it generally receives. The amount of evil which unsound religious teaching has brought on the Church in every age is incalculable! The man who hears such a false teacher runs a fearful risk himself of being lost eternally! "Will they not both fall into the pit?"
If we would escape the danger against which our Lord warns us, we must not neglect to prove the teaching that we hear, by the holy Scriptures. We must not believe things merely because ministers say them. We must not suppose, as a matter of course, that ministers can make no mistakes!
We must remember the advice of Paul and John "Test all things." "Test the spirits, whether they are of God." With the Bible in our hands, and the promise of guidance from the Holy Spirit to all who seek it — we shall be without excuse if our souls are led astray.
The blindness of ministers is no excuse for the darkness of the people! The man who from indolence, or superstition, or affected humility — refuses to test the teaching of the minister whom he finds set over him, however unsound it may be — will at length share his minister's portion!
If people will trust blind guides — then they must not be surprised if they are led to the pit!
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The problem of living in this world
(J. R. Miller, "Things to Live For" 1896)
The problem of living in this world, is to pass through life's vicissitudes without being harmed by them — growing into more and more radiant and beautiful Christly life, whatever our circumstances and experiences may be.
It is in this phase of our living, that we need Christ most of all. We cannot escape meeting temptation; but we are so to meet it as not to be hurt by it, coming from it rather with new strength and new radiancy of soul.
We cannot find a path in which no sorrow shall come into our life — but we are to pass through sorrow without having our life marred by it.
None but Christ can keep us thus unhurt — amid the manifold perils through which we must move continually. It is only by committing our life into the hands of Christ, that there ever can be absolute safety in this world so full of evil, or that our life ever can reach its holiest possibilities.