Grace Gems for NOVEMBER 2011

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Theological systems

(Frederick Whitfield, "Christ in the Word" 1869)

"I want to know Christ!" Philippians 3:10

Christianity is not merely a "theological system" — but a person.

It is not only a redemption — but a Redeemer.

What a difference between casting ourselves upon a system, however beautiful — and upon a tender, loving, compassionate Savior!

What a difference between a system of divine principles — and a throbbing bosom on which we may lean, and feel . . .
  every burden lightened,
  every pressure relieved,
  every sorrow softened!

This is what man needs. This is what he will need above everything, when the hour of sorrow, or the hour of death, draws near. Oh, what are systems then, however beautiful — in comparison with the calm consciousness that the arm of Omnipotent Love is thrown around us!

Theological systems
are all but as the small dust of the balance — the foam, the dust, the shadow, the air!

"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear — but now my eye sees You!" Job 42:5

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God leading His people through the wilderness

(James Smith, "Food for Hungry Souls")

"Give thanks to Him who led His people through the wilderness — for His mercy endures forever!" Psalm 136:16

How much we have to be thankful for. Everything short of Hell — is mercy!

Those whom He has chosen for His own, and eternally set apart for His praise.
Those whom He has redeemed from the claims of justice, by His blood.
Those whom He has called out of the world, and consecrated to His service.
Those with whom He has entered into covenant, saying, "I will be your God — and you shall be My people!"
They are His own — in the highest, holiest, and most blessed sense.

THEIR PILGRIMAGE. They are brought into a wilderness. That is, the world becomes a wilderness to them — in consequence of His precious work within them. They have to pass through the wilderness, where they experience spiritual hunger and thirst, and are often sighing for suitable supplies. Nor hunger only — but spiritual weariness, for they have little rest or repose. Many foes meet them, oppose them, and come into conflict with them. Dangers in every direction surround them, and many painful privations are felt by them. These and other things discourage them. But it is the way to the Promised Land!

Egypt has been left,
the wilderness is now being journeyed,
and Canaan with all its glory is before us!

THE MANNER OF GOD'S GUIDING. The Lord leads us by His servants, by His providence, and by His Word. He leads us . . .
  like a faithful shepherd leads a flock — with care, watchfulness, and wisdom;
  like a kind parent leads a little child — with gentle attention and love;
  like a mother eagle, who teaches her young to fly, watches it if there is the least danger, and darts beneath it and carries it on her wings;
  like only a God could — whose patience, love, and grace, are as constant as the day!

Thus the Lord leads us, never taking His eye off us, or remitting His care at any time for one moment.

THE CAUSE OF GOD'S ATTENTIVE LEADING. "His mercy endures forever!"

His mercy fixed upon them — and chose them for His own.

His mercy took charge of them — to conduct them to the promised land.

His mercy continued with them — through the whole of the long, tedious, and trying journey.

His mercy was glorified in them — in its constancy, and power to supply.

In His mercy, He led them . . .
  to try them,
  to prove them,
  to humble them,
  to teach them, and
  to do them the greatest good.

The Lord always makes the worldto be a wilderness to His people. They cannot feel at home in it — nor will it yield them suitable or sufficient supplies. In the wilderness — they learn His ways. They learn . . .
  to trust in Him,
  to look to Him, and
  to expect everything from Him.
In the wilderness — He becomes everything to them!

In the wilderness — He prepares them for 'Canaan'. He . . .
   weans them from the world,
   empties them of self, and
   shows them the insufficiency of all creatures!

All who follow the Lord as their leader — arrive safely in their Heavenly home. He does not lead them by the shortest way, nor by the easiest way — but He leads them in the right way, which is the best way. Following Him, they . . .
   escape dangers,
   find supplies,
   master difficulties,
   overcome their foes, and
   arrive with certainty at their journey's end!

Reader, what is the world to you? Is it a home — or a wilderness?
What are you in the world? Are you a resident — or a stranger and a pilgrim?
Is God leading you through it — or are you making your home in it?

If God is leading you through the wilderness — then do not be surprised if you meet with changes, trials, difficulties, and troubles; they are wilderness fare.

If you can make your home in the wilderness — then do not be surprised if you are excluded from the 'Promised Land'. For only those whom God leads through the wilderness — ever arrive safely there!

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Delight in God!

(James Smith, "Delight in God!")

"Delight yourself in the Lord — and He will give you the desires of your heart!" Psalm 37:4

Sin has taken our attention off of God — and fixed it upon ourselves, and the things around us.
Grace calls our attention off of everything else — to fix it upon God. It directs us to . . .
to the Lord,
  come to the Lord,
  trust in the Lord,
  wait on the Lord,
  hope in the Lord, and
  even delight in the Lord.

"Delight yourself in the Lord." Take delight — not in health, or wealth, or position, or friends, or in anything that is changeable — but in the unchangeable Lord.

Delight yourself in His glorious character — as gracious, merciful, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.

Delight yourself in Him, as . . .
  the father of the fatherless,
  the friend of the friendless,
  the hope of the wretched,
  and the Savior of the lost.

Delight yourself in His gracious covenant, which . . .
  anticipates your needs,
  provides for your needs,
  limits your trials, and
  provides strength for the day, as every day's work requires.

Delight yourself in His paternal relation. He is not only your God — but your Father!
  He cares for you, with a father's care!
  He loves you, with a father's love!
  He pities you, with a father's pity!
  He will receive you to Heaven, as to your father's house!

Delight yourself in His precious promises. They are but drops from His ocean of love! They are intended to . . .
  show His love,
  display His grace,
  manifest His care,
  draw out your confidence,
  banish your fear, and
  assure you of all necessary supplies.

Delight yourself in his special providence. A providence that . . .
  marks your steps,
  directs your paths,
  measures your troubles,
  bounds the rage of your enemies,
  numbers the very hairs of your head, and
  makes all things work together for your good!

God in His providence, superintends all your affairs, even the most minute — so that nothing can happen to you by 'chance', or inadvertently do you harm!

Delight in creatures — only produces disappointment, dissatisfaction, and discomfort.
Delight in God — ensures satisfaction, comfort, and certainty.

To delight in God, is only to prefer . . .
  the ever-flowing fountain — to the shallow stream;
  the glorious sun — to the dim candle!

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Whose slave are you?

(James Smith, "Whose Slave Are You?")

There are two distinct classes of slaves in the world, and it is important to know to which we belong. The apostle teaches us how to do this when he says, "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slavesyou are slaves to the one whom you obey; whether you are slaves to sin — which leads to death; or to obedience — which leads to righteousness?" Romans 6:16

Who is your Master? There are but two great masters in the world — and we all serve one or the other. Who then, is your master?

Is it SATAN? If so — then sin is your service. You neglect what God requires — and you do what God forbids. You . . .
  indulge the lusts of the flesh,
  enjoy the lust of the eye,
  and walk in the pride of life.

If so, then the world is your home! Only give you enough of the world — and health and opportunity to enjoy it — and you need no more! You would rather have your portion in Paris — than in Paradise!

If so, then Hell will be your wages! For the wages of sin is death. If you obey Satan — you love sin and live in its indulgence. You follow the multitude in the broad road that leads to destruction. You yield to the flesh, and allow it to tyrannize over your conscience and affections.

If you obey SATAN — then you are his slaves. He works in you. He rules over you. He leads you captive at his will. You know nothing of liberty — but are tied and bound by the fetters of sin, and chained with unbelief. You are the property of the devil. He dwells in you. He lays claim to you. He often appoints you to the most degrading services. You are his companion — gladly walking with him in the broad way to eternal destruction. You are Satan's child — and to you the language of Jesus may be applied, "You are of your father the devil — and the lusts of your father you will do!"

Whose slave are you? Christ's or Satan's? To belong to both at the same time is impossible. Therefore Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God and mammon."

Who has our heart?
What engages our thoughts most?
Whom do we habitually aim to please?
If Jesus is our master — then . . .
  He will have our affections,
  around Him our thoughts will gather, and
  our great aim and desire will be to please Him.

Let us then prove to whom we belong. Mere profession proves nothing — but obedience does.

If the will of Jesus is our law,
if the precepts of Jesus are our rule,
if the smile of Jesus is highly prized by us, and
if the approbation of Jesus is sought before anything else —
then there can be little doubt, but that Jesus is our master!

How much then, depends on the question, "Who is your master?"
How plain is the answer, "You are slaves to the one whom you obey."

All the slaves of Satan, will at last be commanded to depart from the Savior — into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his demons!

All the slaves of Jesus, will be invited by the all-glorious King to accompany Him, and take possession of the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.

Do not wonder then, that we press home the question, "Whose slave are you?"

"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slavesyou are slaves to the one whom you obey; whether you are slaves to sin — which leads to death; or to obedience — which leads to righteousness?" Romans 6:16

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Look upon me!

(James Smith, "Food for Hungry Souls")

Humble hearts prize small mercies — and in their prayers they often ask for very simple things. A word or a look from God, or a ray of light from their heavenly Father's loving countenance, is at times, all that they can venture upon asking. It was a sweet prayer presented by the Psalmist, when he cried, "Look upon me, and have mercy on me, as You always do to those who love Your name." Psalm 119:132

The Lord has looked upon His people . . .
  in their natural state — and pitied them,
  when under conviction of sin — and pardoned them,
  when in sadness and sorrow — and comforted them,
  when in confusion and perplexity — and directed them,
  when in trouble and trial — and delivered them,
  when in need — and supplied them,
  when in danger — and shielded them,
  when passing along the last stage of their journey at death — and received them!

Yes, the eye of the Lord has ever been on His people,
His hand has been open to supply them, and
His heart has rejoiced over them, to do them good.

"Look upon me!"
Look, and have mercy — for I am sorely tried.
Look, and sympathize with me — for I am greatly troubled.
Look, and strengthen me — for I am very feeble.
Look, and encourage me — for I am full of fears.
Look, and be a Father unto me — for I long to be treated as one of Your children.
Look upon me, as you did on Peter — and break my heart, for I have sinned.
Look upon me, as you did on Gideon — and give me courage, for like him, I am timid and very fearful.
Look upon me, as you did on Israel — and deliver me, for I also am in difficulty and danger.

It is God's custom to look upon, and  to deal tenderly and graciously with those who love His name; therefore we may plead with Him to deal mercifully with us.
We are brought to where we need mercy;
then we prize mercy;
then we cry for mercy;
then the Lord looks upon us
 — and then we receive mercy!

Beloved, do you ever pray thus? Are you satisfied with the portion of God's poor and afflicted people? The poorest saint — is better off than the richest sinner! The most afflicted believer — is happier than the healthiest and most prosperous unbeliever. One merciful look from the Lord, will turn . . .
  a prison — into a palace;
  a dungeon — into a paradise; and
  a chamber of sickness — into the vestibule of Heaven!

Oh may we gaze upon Your cross,
Until the wondrous sight
Makes earthly treasures seem but dross,
And earthly sorrows light!

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Those whom You have given Me

(James Smith, "Food for Hungry Souls")

"Father, I want those whom You have given Me to be with Me where I am — that they may behold My glory!"

Jesus will come again in His glory. He will come to consummate His marriage with His bride. He will then present her to His Father without spot — all glorious both within and without.

He will satisfy her with His beauty, presence, and love forever! He will put her in possession of the promised inheritance — the kingdom provided for her from the foundation of the world. Then she will be freed from all sorrow, suffering, care, fear, and sin! Then she will behold His glory — and be glorified with Him forever!

"Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!" Revelation 22:20

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And there He hung!

(Frederick Whitfield, "Christ Our Life!" 1885)

"He loved me — and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20

Mark the expression, "He loved ME!"
Not my sins;
not my many transgressions;
not my willfulness, waywardness and obstinacy;
not my past life of ingratitude and provocation!
No! He looked upon all these with righteous and holy abhorrence! He hated all these things — but He loved ME — He loved my soul.

And what proof did He give of this? The Apostle answers, "He loved me — and gave Himself for me!" Oh wondrous gift! He did not give . . .
  His kingdom,
  nor His crown,
  nor His glory,
  nor His boundless wealth!
He gave up these indeed, for "though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we, through His poverty, might become rich!" But marvelous grace, "He gave Himself!" He gave Himself . . .
  to Pilate's skewed judgment,
  to Herod's cruel mockery,
  to the soldiers' debased scorn,
  to the people's mad frenzy!

And there He hung between two thieves — His piercing cry rending the blackened vault above, "My God, my God — why have You forsaken Me!"
There He hung — His face marred more than any man's!
There He hung — His head, His hands, and His feet pierced and bleeding, torn and mangled, with the iron fangs and the thorny crown!
There He hung — under the frown of Heaven!
There He hung — cast out by the world — the taunt and sneer of the passer-by, and the song of the drunkard in the street!
He gave Himself to this!

Oh, the love of God! Oh the grace of Jesus! Oh that these words were written on the portals of the sky, in the hues of the rainbow and the brightness of the sun — so that every Christian on earth might read them: "He loved me — and gave Himself for me!" Precious, precious words!

Christian! Perhaps you look back on your past life and see it stained with crimes of the deepest dye. You see your sins — the very thought of which suffuses your countenance with a blush! You see your . . .
  sins against light,
  willful sins,
  secret sins,
  open sins —
a multitude of sins which no man can number, rising like a mountain to your view — and you are ready to exclaim, "Can God love me? Impossible!" Yes, He does — He loves you! He hated all these things — but He loved you, and loves you still. "He loved you — and gave Himself for you!"

The secret of my love to You
By time and change unmoved,
Its spring, its steadfastness, is this:
I know that I am loved!

Forever! Yes, forever loved,
And evermore to be,
In ages past, in days to come,
Throughout eternity!

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If we are quick to perceive blemishes and faults in others

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

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye — and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3

It is strange how oblivious we can be to our own faults and blemishes — and how clearly we can see those of other people! One old writer says: "Men are more apt to use a magnifying glass to behold other men's faults — than a mirror to behold their own!" A man can see a little speck of dust in his neighbor's eye — while utterly unaware of the great plank in his own eye! He observes the most minute fault in his brother — while unconscious of his own far greater faults!

We would say that a plank in a man's eye would so blind him — that he could not see the speck in another's eye. As our Lord represents it, however, the man with the plank, is the very one who sees the speck and thinks himself competent to remove it!

So it is in morals. No man is so sharp at seeing a fault in another — as he who has the same or a similar fault of his own! A vain man — is the first to detect the indications of vanity in another. A bad-tempered person — is most apt to be censorious toward a neighbor who displays bad temper. One with a sharp uncontrolled tongue — has the least patience with another whose speech is full of poisoned arrows. A selfish man — discovers even specks of selfishness in others. Rude people — are the very first to be hurt and offended by the rudeness of a neighbor.

So it is always. If we are quick to perceive blemishes and faults in others — the probability is, that we have far greater blemishes and faults in ourselves! This truth ought to make us exceedingly careful in our judgments, and exceedingly modest in our expressions of censure — for we really are telling the world our own faults! It is wiser, as well as more in accordance with the spirit of Christ — for us to find lovely things in others, and to be silent regarding their faults.

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The greatest unkindness they could possibly do to the child!

(J.R. Miller, "Morning Thoughts" 1906)

"Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod — he will not die. Punish him with the rod — and save his soul from death!" Proverbs 23:13-14

Some parents have such weak hearts, that they cannot bear to correct a child lest they cause it pain.

They forget that to leave an uncorrected fault in a child, or to allow any wrong habit to grow up in its life unchecked — is the greatest unkindness they could possibly do to the child! To leave the roots of weeds growing in the garden among the flowers — is to insure the springing up of those weeds by and by, to mar the beauty of the garden.

No tender feeling should ever prevent a parent from correcting a fault in a child. Love must always seek the best.

"Chasten your son while there is hope — and do not set your heart on his destruction!" Proverbs 19:18

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God is for you!

(James Smith)

"God is for me!" Psalm 56:9

Beloved, the greatest mercy a sinner can enjoy — is to have God on his side, and employed in his most important concerns! In Christ, this mercy is yours!

God is for you!

He chose you in Christ before the world began.
He formed you to show forth His praise.
He preserved you in Christ until He called you by grace.
He quickened you by His Spirit, and led you to Jesus.
He has given you His Son, and promised every additional good.
He has said to you, "You are Mine!" You have said, "I am Yours!"
He is now your refuge and strength! He is . . .
  tenderly concerned for your welfare,
  devotedly attached to your cause,
  and observes every step you take!

He may try your faith — but will certainly supply your needs. He may exercise your patience — but will never turn a deaf ear to your cries, except you indulge iniquity in your heart.

No parent ever felt so deeply interested in the welfare of a beloved child — as God does for all His children. He says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble — I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty — you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression — you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3. Trusting such a promise, who can fail!

"God is the best friend — but the worst enemy!"
Thomas Watson

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His window in all our hearts!

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

"Does He not see my ways, and number all my steps?" Job 31:4

The eye of God had so strong an influence upon Job's heart and life, that it wrought him up to a very high pitch of holiness.

The scholar writes most exactly while his teacher's eye is upon him;
and the child walks most exactly while his father's eye is upon him;
and the servant works most exactly while his master's eye is upon him;
and so certainly, all the sons and servants of the most high God walk most exactly — when they see themselves as in the presence of the great God, who is all sight — who is all eye!

Ah friends! as ever you would be high in holiness — have a serious apprehension of God's presence! Set yourselves daily as in His sight, as under His eye. Remember, though a man may easily baffle his conscience, and deceive others — yet he shall never be able to baffle or deceive God's omniscient eye! God has His window in all our hearts, and He exactly and precisely observes all that is done within us, and all that is done by us!

If the serious consideration of His sharp, piercing, all-seeing eye will not influence us to labor after the highest degrees of holiness — then I know not what will.

"I have kept Your precepts and decrees — for all my ways are before You." Psalm 119:168

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Old heads on young shoulders

(J.C. Ryle)

Let us settle it in our minds, that grace must have a beginning in every believer's heart; and that we have no right to say a person has no grace, because it does not come to full ripeness at once. We do not expect a child to do the work of a full-grown man — though he may one day, if he lives long enough. Just so, we must not expect a new Christian to show the faith, and love, and knowledge of an old soldier of the cross. He may become a mighty champion of the truth by and by. But at first we must give him time. There is great need of wisdom in dealing with all young disciples.

Kindness, and patience, and gentleness, are of the first importance. We must not try to pour in the new wine too quickly, or it will run over. We must take them by the hand and lead them on gently. We must beware of frightening, or hurrying them, or pressing them on too fast. If they have only got hold of the main principles of the Gospel — let us not set them down as godless, because of a few lesser matters. We must bear with much weakness and infirmity — and not expect to find old heads on young shoulders, or ripe Christian experience in those who are only babes.

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The Good Shepherd

(James Smith, "Manna in the Wilderness" 1863)

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!" John 10:11

Jesus does not drive His sheep before Him — but draws them after Him. "He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young!" Isaiah 40:11. Our Shepherd has . . .
   a quick eye to see danger,
   a kind heart to help and feed, and
   a strong arm to defend and save!

He leads His sheep into green pastures — and beside the still waters. Beneath the shadow of a great rock — He causes them to rest at noon. He leads them on as they are able, and does not allow one to be over-driven or neglected. He calls all of His sheep by their names, and leads them in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Beneath His care — they are safe, happy, and honorable! He will give unto them eternal life — and will not allow one of them to perish!

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The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

(James Smith, "Manna in the Wilderness" 1863)

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!" Galatians 6:14

In the cross we see . . .
  the rights of divine justice maintained,
  the designs of divine mercy revealed;
  sin appearing exceedingly sinful;
  the law magnified and honored, and
  the law-breaker pardoned and delivered!

At the cross, God and sinners meet — and a reconciliation takes place.
Here, man drops the weapons of rebellion — and God lays aside the sword of divine displeasure.
Here, the works of Satan are destroyed — and the gates of paradise are thrown open.
Here, the creditor is discharged, his every crime is atoned for — and everlasting righteousness is completed!
Here, God is "just, and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus."

At the cross . . .
  mercy takes the throne,
  justice guards her rights,
  holiness maintains her prerogative,
  the sinner has hope, and
  iniquity is forever atoned for!

At the cross . . .
  we are stripped of self — and clothed with Christ;
  we lose our fears — and obtain the sweetest comforts;
  we find paradise restored — and have a foretaste of glory;
  Jehovah is revealed as the sinner's friend;
  death is destroyed as the believer's foe;
  Satan's . . .
    folly is published,
    designs are frustrated, and
    character is exposed to perpetual shame.

At the cross . . .
  all the truths of revelation center,
  all the perfections of Deity unite,
  and the way to eternal life is opened!

The Cross of Jesus! May it be . . .
  the emblem of my faith,
  the subject of my song,
  the antidote of my sorrows,
  and the glory of my soul!

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!" Galatians 6:14

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Reader, are you taught of God?

(James Smith, "Manna in the Wilderness" 1863)

"I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you — and leads you along the paths you should follow." Isaiah 48:17

God teaches all of His people the true nature, and awful consequences of sin — and instructs them "to flee from the wrath to come." His teaching makes them wise unto salvation — and holy in heart and life. Under His instructions, they . . .
  withdraw from the world,
  enjoy private devotion,
  unite with the saints, and
  abound in every good work.

"Behold, God is exalted in His power. Who is a teacher like Him?" Job 36:22. The truth which he unfolds to the understanding — He impresses upon the heart. His scholars learn to imitate Him.

Untaught by Him, we are . . .
  vain, ignorant, and wicked;
  estranged from God, and
  hastening to eternal perdition!

To His divine teaching — we owe all that we know of self, sin, salvation, and eternal felicity.

He teaches freely and variously — but always effectually.

His children cry, "Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing!" Psalm 143:10. He graciously answers, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go! I will guide you with My eye." Psalm 32:8

Reader, are you taught of God? Has he taught you . . .
  to hate sin — and flee from it,
  to know Christ — and love Him,
  to discover the beauty of holiness — and pant to possess it?

"Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior!" Psalm 25:4-5

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Behold your God!

(James Smith, "The Attributes of God" 1863)

The more we have to do with man — the more his littleness, fickleness, and emptiness appear.
But the more we read, think, or have to do with God — the more His greatness, majesty, and infinite sufficiency is discovered! He proclaims Himself, "the Great and Mighty God, the Lord Almighty is His name — great in counsel and mighty in work!" Infinity, omnipotence, and eternity — find a home and a center only in Him.

"His Greatness is unsearchable!" There is more in the works of His hands — than even the angels have ever discovered! There is more in the words of His mouth — than mortals ever conceived. His glory is great unto and above the heavens. "Behold your God!" Isaiah 40:9

Look at His goodness — it runs an endless circuit supplying millions, and supporting all created existences. O how great is His goodness!

Look at His grace
saving innumerable multitudes from Hell;
saving them at the greatest expense — in the freest possible way;
saving them to the highest honor and greatest glory!
O the exceeding riches of His grace!

Look at His judgments
He sweeps the ancient world with His broom of destruction!
He makes the cities of the plain into a Hell on earth!
He overthrows Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea!
He encaverns Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their households in the belly of the earth!

O if we could look into Hell, or listen for a moment at the door of the bottomless pit — how dreadful would His judgments appear! We cannot fathom them — but we must exclaim with the apostle, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!"

Look at His power. He speaks a world into existence, sustains it, supports every creature upon it — and perhaps millions of worlds beside it. All these things are alike easy for Him. Difficulty is with man — not with God. "Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the Heaven and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for You!"

Look at His wisdom. It is infinite. Read it in creation's ponderous folio! Then turn to the glorious plan of grace. Here is a display of "the manifold wisdom of God." Angels are learning it — and we can scarcely make out its alphabet at present! But we have . . .
  God for our teacher,
  eternity for our duration, and
  Heaven for the place where we shall fully learn the greatness of the wisdom of God.

Look at His holiness. It is so bright that no mortal eye has seen, or can see it — in its unveiled glory! "Now we see but a poor reflection!" We have but some faint discoveries — for He is . . .
  glorious in holiness,
  fearful in praises,
  constantly doing wonders!

Look at His mercy. It is a boundless ocean — without bottom, bank or shore!
The manifestations of mercy are innumerable!
The proofs of His mercy are like mountains piled on mountains, reaching to the heavens!
The overflowing of His mercy has supplied the needs of unnumbered multitudes.

"Who is so great a God as our God?"

He is a mighty and awesome God — yet so glorious and kind that the feeblest petitioner need not fear!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

How is it?

(James Smith, "Manna in the Wilderness" 1863)

When we look around upon people and observe their ways, we see that there is . . .
  not a sin prohibited — but they willfully commit it;
  not a duty prescribed — but they cheerfully neglect it;
  not a mercy bestowed — but they wickedly abuse it;
  not an attribute of God's nature discovered — but they daringly insult it;
and that they have altogether become abominable, filthy, and condemned!

We ask, "How is it that the all-knowing, righteous and omnipotent Jehovah — bears with such daring, hardened, impenitent, and rebellious creatures; and instead of cutting them off, and consigning them to misery and despair — still supplies their needs, and continues His bounties?"

The answer is, that God appeared in human nature — to save His people from their sins! He labored, and suffered, and died, the just for the unjust — to bring us to God with honor, and to Heaven with certainty. Jesus has . . .
  made an infinite atonement;
  completely paid His people's debt;
  blotted out the handwriting that was against them;
  overcome the world;
  spoiled principalities and powers;
  opened the way into the holiest by His blood;
  procured the Holy Spirit to be the quickener, sanctifier, and teacher of His people;
  and ascended to Heaven, to plead their cause — and silence their accusers!

The Holy Spirit comes in the name of Jesus, to honor His work by calling His people "out of darkness into His marvelous light."
Under His quickening — they live;
by His teaching — they become wise unto salvation;
through His operations — they are washed, sanctified, and justified.
He makes them His temples — and fits them to be the dwelling place of the Father and the Son. He . . .
  exalts Christ before them,
  honors Christ in them, and
  endears Christ unto them! "Unto you therefore who believe — He is precious!"

Thus the Father draws the plan of salvation,
the Son executes it, and
the Holy Spirit applies it.

The Father chooses His people,
the Son dies for their redemption,
and the Spirit sanctifies and fits them for Heaven.

The Father gives them to His Son,
the Son ransoms them at an infinite price, and
the Holy Spirit claims them as personal property.

The Father employs His wisdom,
the Son sheds His blood, and
the Holy Spirit exerts His power.

The Father draws them,
the Son receives them, and
the Holy Spirit leads them into truth.

The work of salvation is wholly of God!

It is entirely of free and sovereign grace!

So also, our many deliverances as we travel through this 'wilderness' — are of the Lord. He delivers us . . .
  from guilt,
  from fear,
  from Satan,
  from the world, and
  from the power of sin!

His eye is upon us for good,
His heart beats towards us with love, and
His hand is stretched out to help, relieve and befriend us!

He saves by . . .
  His wisdom,
  His power,
  His providence,
  and His graces!

For we are saved . . .
  from despondency and despair — by hope;
  from the world and the fiery darts of Satan — by faith;
  from indifference and carnal security — by love.

"Salvation is of the Lord!" Jonah 2:9

He is the author, worker, applier, and end of our Salvation!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Jellyfish Christianity

(J.C. Ryle)

"The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!" 1 John 1:7

One plague of our age, is the widespread dislike to sound doctrine. In the place of it, the idol of the day is a kind of jellyfish Christianity — a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew — without any distinct teaching about the atonement, or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the way of peace with God — a vague, foggy, misty Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem to be, "You must be liberal and kind. You must condemn no man's doctrinal views. You must think everybody is right — and nobody is wrong."

And this spineless kind of religion, we are told, is to give us peace of conscience! And not to be satisfied with it in a sorrowful, dying world — is a proof that we are very narrow-minded! Satisfied, indeed! Such a religion might possibly do for unfallen angels! But to tell sinful, dying men and women to be satisfied with it — is an insult to common sense and a mockery of our distress. We need something far better than this. We need the sin-atoning blood of Christ!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~ 

The grand lever which overthrew the Pope's power

(J.C. Ryle, "Practical Religion" 1878)

The history of the middle ages is one of ignorance and superstition! Darkness covered the whole professing Church — even a darkness that might be felt. The doctrines of the Gospel lay buried under a dense mass of human traditions!
saint-worship, and
worship of the Virgin Mary
 — formed the sum and substance of most people's religion!
The church was made an idol!
The priests usurped the place of Christ!

And by what means was all this miserable darkness cleared away? The grand lever which overthrew the Pope's power, was the translation of the Bible into the native languages!

By the reading of the Bible, the public mind became gradually pervaded with the principles of true religion.
Men's eyes became thoroughly open.
Their spiritual understandings became thoroughly enlarged.
The abominations of popery became distinctly visible.
The excellence of the pure Gospel became a rooted idea in their hearts.
It was then in vain for Popes to thunder forth excommunications. It was then useless for Kings to attempt to stop the course of Protestantism by fire and sword. It was all too late! The people knew too much! They had seen the light. They had heard the joyful sound. They had tasted the truth. The sun had risen on their minds. The scales had fallen from their eyes. The Bible had done its appointed work within them — and that work was not to be overthrown. The clock could not be turned back. A mental and moral revolution had been effected by God's Word!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~ 

Let but the trough be full — and the swine are happy!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Multitudinous Thoughts and Sacred Comforts" 1869)

If man were a mere animal
— his joy and sorrow would depend entirely upon outward things. Let but the trough be full — and the swine are happy! Let the pasture be abundant — and the sheep are content! In the sunshine — every sparrow will be twittering on the trees; but let the heavens weep — and every wing is drooping. In long drought, or severe frost, or pinching famine — the animal creation languishes and pines.

You cannot, however, be sure of making a man happy — by surrounding him with abundance. Nor can you plunge a Christian into wretchedness — by any deprivations which you may cause him.

Man's greatest joy or sorrow — must arise from inner springs. The mind itself is the lair of misery — or the nest of happiness. Thoughts are the flowers from which we must distill the essential flavorings of life. Paul and Silas sing in the stocks, because their minds are at ease; while Herod frets on his throne, because of an accusing conscience.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~ 

Thanksgiving is never out of season!

(James Smith)

"In everything give thanks!"
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Everything we enjoy, should be viewed as coming from the gracious and liberal hand of our sovereign God.

All was forfeited by our sin.

All that we receive is by His grace.

The providence that supplies us — is the wisdom, benevolence, and power of God in operation for us — as expressive of His infinite love and unmerited grace!

Our talents to provide supplies,
our opportunities to obtain them,
and our abilities to enjoy them,
 — are alike from the Lord.

Every mercy increases our obligation — and deepens our debt to free grace!

Thanksgiving is never out of season
, for we have always much to be grateful for.

We must view all things as . . .
  arranged by His wisdom,
  dependent on His will,
  sanctified by His blessing,
  according with His promises,
  and flowing from His love!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~ 

There is another road to Hell quite as sure!

(J.C. Ryle, "Practical Religion" 1878)

"Strive to enter in at the narrow gate: for many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able!" Luke 13:24

"STRIVE" teaches that a man must expect many adversaries and a hard battle — if he would have his soul saved. And this, as a matter of experience, is strictly true. There are no "gains without pains" in spiritual things — any more than in temporal things. That roaring lion, the devil — will never let a soul escape from him without a struggle. The heart which is naturally sensual and earthly — will never be turned to spiritual things without a daily fight. The world, with all its opposition and temptations — will never be overcome without a conflict.

I warn you to take heed that you do not perish forever — for lack of "striving." Do not suppose that it needs some great scarlet sin to bring you to the pit of eternal destruction! You have only to sit still and do nothing — and you will find yourself there at last. Yes! Satan does not ask you to walk in the steps of Cain, and Pharaoh, and Ahab, and Judas Iscariot. There is another road to Hell quite as sure — the road of spiritual indolence, spiritual laziness, and spiritual sloth!

Satan has no objection to your being a respectable member of the Christian Church. He will allow you to sit comfortably in church every Sunday you live. He knows full well, that so long as you do not "strive" — that you must come at last to the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched! Take heed that you do not come to this end. I repeat it, you have only to do nothing — and you will be eternally lost!

Think, think above all things, what a state this is to die in! Your life is but a vapor. A few more years at most — and you are gone! Your place in the world will soon be filled up; your house will be occupied by another.
The sun will go on shining;
the grass and daises will soon grow thick over your grave;
your body will be food for worms,
and your soul will be lost to all eternity!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

My jewels!

(James Smith, "The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior's Grace Displayed!")

"They shall be Mine, says the Lord Almighty — in the day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17

Jewels are of themselves costly and are highly valued by their owners.

We, though worthless in ourselves — cost our adorable Savior an immense price! To procure our release, to purchase our freedom — He left His Father's bosom, came into our world, labored, suffered, bled, and died! He gave Himself for us! We are bought at a very high price! We are His purchased possession, intended . . .
  to deck His mediatorial crown,
  to reflect His praise, and
  to shine to His glory for evermore!

He highly values us. "Since you were precious in My sight!" He says. We are valued not according to our intrinsic excellence — but according to His estimation of us.

For our safety — He employs . . .
  His watchful eye,
  His powerful arm,
  His numerous angelic hosts!

For our security and preservation — He arranges, directs, and controls all things; so that all things work together for the best, to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.

Soon we shall shine as the gemstones of His crown!

How strange, that He should value us so highly! That He should compare us to all that is beautiful, desirable, or costly in nature! But He really does so!

We are not only His subjects — His friends — His children — His brethren — His bride — but His ornaments — His jewels!

Men may despise us — the Savior will not!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I believe it to be a public duty to warn people against cheats, quacks, and impostors!

(J.C. Ryle, "HAPPINESS" 1878)

Happiness is what all mankind want to obtain — the desire for it is deeply planted in the human heart. All men naturally dislike pain, sorrow, and discomfort. All men naturally like ease, comfort, and gladness. All men naturally hunger and thirst after happiness. As the sick man longs for health — so does poor mortal man long to be happy.

But, alas, how few consider what they really mean, when they talk of happiness! How vague and indistinct and undefined are the ideas of most people are upon the subject! They think some are happy — who in reality are miserable; they think some are gloomy and sad — who in reality are truly happy. They dream of a happiness which in reality, would never satisfy their nature's needs.

I want to expose some common mistakes about the way to be happy.

There are several roads which are thought by many, to lead to happiness. In each of these roads, tens of thousands of men and women are continually traveling. Each imagine that if they could only attain all that they want — that they would be happy. And all alike seem ignorant that they are hunting shadows!

I will mention by name some of the principal delusions about happiness. I do it in love, and charity, and compassion to men's souls. I believe it to be a public duty to warn people against cheats, quacks, and impostors! Oh, how much trouble and sorrow it might save my readers, if they would only believe what I am going to say! 

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Of all weary, flat, dull and unprofitable ways of spending life!

(J.C. Ryle, "HAPPINESS" 1878)

It is an utter mistake to suppose that PLEASURE-SEEKING and AMUSEMENTS alone can give happiness. Of all roads that men can take in order to be happy, this is the one that is most completely wrong! Of all weary, flat, dull and unprofitable ways of spending life — this exceeds all! To think of a sinful, dying creature, with an immortal soul, expecting happiness . . .
  in feasting and reveling,
  in dancing and singing,
  in dressing and visiting,
  in ball-going and card-playing,
  in races and fairs,
  in hunting and shooting,
  in crowds, in laughter, in noise, in music, in wine!
Surely it is a sight that is enough to make the devil laugh and the angels weep!

Even a child will not play with its toys all day long! But when grown up men and women think to find happiness in a constant round of amusement — they sink far below a child! 

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Look at the smiling beauty in the ball-room!

(J.C. Ryle, "HAPPINESS" 1878)

True happiness does not consist in laughter and smiles. The face is very often a poor index of the heart. There are thousands who laugh loud and are merry in company — but are wretched and miserable in private! On the other hand, there are hundreds who are grave and serious in their demeanor — whose hearts are full of solid peace. Smiles are worth but little: "A man may smile and smile — and be a villain!"

The eternal Word of God teaches us that "even in laughter, the heart may be sorrowful." (Proverbs 14:13.) Tell me not merely of smiling and laughing faces! I want to hear of something more than that, when I ask whether a man is happy. A truly happy man no doubt will often show his happiness in his countenance; but a man may have a very merry face — and yet not be happy at all!

Of all deceptive things on earth — nothing is so deceptive as mere worldly gaiety and merriment! It is a hollow empty show, utterly devoid of substance and reality! Listen to the brilliant talker in society — follow him to his own private room, and you will very likely find him plunged in melancholy despondency. Colonel Gardiner confessed that even when he was thought most happy — he often wished he was a dog! Look at the smiling beauty in the ball-room, and you might suppose that she knew not what it was to be unhappy; see her next day at her own home, and you may probably find her out of temper with herself and everybody else besides!

Oh, no! Worldly merriment is not real happiness! There is a certain pleasure about it, I do not deny. There is an animal excitement about it, I make no question. There is a temporary elevation of spirits about it, I freely concede. But do not call it by the sacred name of 'happiness'. When glass is called diamond, and tinsel is called gold — then, and not until then, those people who can laugh and revel will deserve to be called happy people.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The Restless Bed

(James Smith, "Food for Hungry Souls")

What is sown now — will be reaped in eternity.

Eternal life is the free gift of a gracious God.

Eternal punishment is the just wages of eternal sin.

We deserve Hell now — but we may escape it by fleeing to Jesus. If we refuse to do so — then we can only expect to reap the fruit of our folly.

Heaven is the gift of God's grace — but Hell is the wages of sin.

Every sinner makes his own Hell. In this light, let us look at the words of the Psalmist, "If I make my bed in Hell." Psalm 139:8 


WHAT is Hell?

Hell is the prison — in which the prisoners of God's justice are confined.

Hell is where punishment is inflicted on all who die at enmity with God.

Hell is the place where Satan acts the part of the chief tormentor.

Hell is the place where conscience, armed with terrible power, torments the guilty soul.

Hell is the place where reflection, aided by a strong and tenacious memory, afflicts without mercy or cessation.

Hell is the place where God frowns justly and eternally on the naked soul.

Hell is the place where everything calculated to . . .
satiate with terror,
fill with agony, and
torture with pain, exist.

While everything calculated to inspire hope, give pleasure, or impart relief — is excluded forever.

WHO is in Hell?

Satan and his demons — all those foul, wicked, and degraded spirits — who are filled with envy, malice, and enmity against God and man.

All unrepentant sinners — of all classes, creeds, places, and periods.

All who have . . .
stained the world with their crimes,
afflicted others with their cruelties, and
degraded themselves by their vices.

All the lowest, vilest, and basest of the human race!

God is there too, in his glorious majesty, almighty power, impartial justice, and awesome holiness! O how it will aggravate the sufferings of the lost — to have God's eye always fixed upon them, and the justice, holiness, and majesty of God ever shining before them!

WHAT is in Hell?

Justice with its flaming sword — is there.

Memory stored with the whole history of ones life — is there.

The worm that gnaws the vitals of the soul, but never dies — is there.

The fire that cannot be quenched, which tortures but never destroys our nature — is there.

But there is no Bible there.

There is no gospel with its joyful sound.

There is no gentle, loving Savior.

There is no loving friend or dear relation.

There is nothing to lessen or alleviate suffering!

Hell concentrates in itself, all the elements of misery, degradation, wretchedness and woe! 

THE REST. "My bed." "If I make my bed in Hell." Rest in Hell? A bed in Hell? What kind of a bed could that be?

A bed composed of the thorns of bitter reflection.

A bed made up of the terrible inflictions of incensed justice.

A bed embracing . . .
the horrors of a guilty conscience,
the blackness and darkness of despair,
the ceaseless outpouring of the vials of the wrath of God!

This bed is . . .
ever heaving — like the restless ocean;
ever sinking — like a millstone, in the bottomless depths;
ever burning — like a lake of liquid brimstone; and
ever inflicting torments — beyond description or conception.

"MY bed" — the bed I procured by a life of sin.

"MY bed" — the bed I deserve for rejecting the Savior, and neglecting the great salvation.

"MY bed" — the bed awarded me by a just and holy God.

My OWN bed —
the only bed I can claim;
the only bed I can expect;
that bed for which I labored; and
which is the righteous wages of my sin.

My OWN bed — the only bed I shall have forever!

My OWN bed — on which there can be no rest day nor night. Ever wakeful, ever weary, ever cursing and condemning myself — here on my infernal bed — I am doomed, and justly doomed to lie forever! 

THE EMPLOYMENT. "If I make my bed in Hell." Every man makes his own bed, and on the bed he makes for himself — he must forever lie.

What are sinners on earth doing? Making their bed in Hell!

Drunkard — you are making your bed in Hell, and a terrible bed it will be!

Dishonest man, by your tricks in trade, and various dishonest practices — you are making your bed in Hell, and an awful bed it will be!

Liar, by your falsehoods and deception — you are making your bed in Hell — and a liar's bed will burn with brimstone and with fire!

Profane swearer — you also are preparing for yourself, a dreadful couch!

Promiscuous man — the lusts you indulge now, will entwine about your soul like serpents, and sting and poison you, on your bed in Hell forever!

Hypocrite, pretending to be religious, when you know that you are not — I suppose few will have a more racking or torturing bed to lie on forever — than you will!

Careless sinner — you are making your bed in Hell, and you will perhaps repent of it when it is too late.

Trifling professor, worldly-minded church member — you too are making your bed in Hell, and it is to be feared that many will go from the church of God on earth — to be tormented forever on a bed in Hell!

There is a Hell — an eternal Hell. Justice provided it originally for the devil and his demons — but there is room in it for rebellious men, and if they die impenitent — they will be forever doomed to it!

No one will have a place in Hell, who does not richly merit and deserve it. Hell is just wages — for present sinful work. "The wages of sin is death" — eternal death. O terrible thought, to be working so hard on earth — only to receive the wages of eternal punishment in Hell!

"If I make my bed in Hell."

Young man — what if you should make your bed in Hell? It will be your own act and deed.

Young woman — what if you should make your bed in Hell? And you may — for the dance, the ball-room, pride of dress, and neglect of God, without any grosser vices — will be sufficient to prepare for you a bed in Hell!

Aged man — what if you should make your bed in Hell? What a dreadful close — to a long and trying life on earth.

Aged woman — is it possible that you should make your bed in Hell? It is — and more than possible!

Religious man — what if you should make your bed in Hell? What if after all your prayers, sacraments, and contributions to religious societies — your bed should be in Hell! And it will — if you are not found in Christ!

It does not matter — whether young or old, whether professor or profane —
unless you are washed in the blood of Jesus;
unless you are sanctified by the Spirit of God;
unless you are reconciled to God by the death of His Son
 — you will certainly make your bed in Hell.

Look well to it, then, I beseech you — that you have saving faith in Christ, and that you are regenerated by the Holy Spirit — for without true holiness, no one can see the Lord. Without holiness — you will certainly make your bed in Hell!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Profiting from the Scriptures
by J.C. Ryle

(1) For one thing, begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing — is to do it; and the way to read the Bible — is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it — which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read it to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears — the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.

(2) For another thing, read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to imagine, that all is done if they advance so many chapters every day, though they may not have a notion what they are all about, and only know that they have pushed on their bookmark ahead so many pages. This is turning Bible reading into a mere ritual form. It is almost as bad as the Popish habit of 'buying indulgences' — by saying an astounding number of 'Ave-Marias' and 'Pater-nosters' (Hail-Mary's and Our-Father's — on their 'rosary beads'.) It reminds one of the poor Hottentot who ate up a Dutch hymn-book because he saw it comforted his neighbors' hearts! Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood — is a Bible that does no good! Say to yourself often as you read, "What is this all about?" Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold.

(3) For another thing, read the Bible with child-like faith and humility. Open your heart — as you open God's book, and say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!" Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own desires and prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth — whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit into which some readers of the Bible fall — they receive some doctrines because they like them; and they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some relation, or friend. At this rate, the Bible is useless! Are we to be judges of what ought to be in God's Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind — that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand — you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray — that you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But, remember, when you read Scripture — that God is speaking to you, and you are not to "dictate," but to listen!

(4) For another thing, read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and self-application. Sit down to the study of it with a daily determination that you will . . .
live by its rules,
rest on its statements,
and act on its commands.

Consider, as you travel through every chapter, "How does this affect my thinking and daily conduct? What does this teach me?" It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity, and for speculative purposes — in order to fill your head and store your mind with mere opinions; while you do not allow the book to influence your heart and life. That Bible is read best — which is practiced most!

(5) For another thing, read the Bible daily. Make it a part of every day's business to read and meditate on some portion of God's Word. Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls — as food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday's food will not feed the laborer today; and today's food will not feed the laborer tomorrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst part of your time! But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and God's Word every day.

(6) For another thing, read all of the Bible — and read it in an orderly way. I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is to say at the least, a very presumptuous habit. "All Scripture is profitable." (2 Timothy 3:16.) To this habit may be traced that lack of well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common in this day. Some people's Bible-reading is a system of perpetual 'dipping and picking'. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going through the whole book.

This also is a great mistake. No doubt in times of sickness and affliction, it is allowable to search out seasonable portions. But with this exception, I believe it is by far the best plan to begin the Old and New Testaments at the same time — to read each straight through to the end, and then begin again. This is a matter in which every one must be persuaded in his own mind. I can only say it has been my own plan for nearly forty years, and I have never seen cause to alter it.

(7) For another thing, read the Bible fairly and honestly. Determine to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning — and regard all forced interpretations with great suspicion. As a general rule, whatever a verse of the Bible seems to mean — it does mean! Cecil's rule is a very valuable one, "The right way of interpreting Scripture is to take it as we find it, without any attempt to force it into any particular theological system."

(8) In the last place, read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture, is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament deliverers are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ's sufferings, and of Christ's glory yet to come.
The first coming and the second;
the Lord's humiliation and His glorious kingdom;
His cross and the crown
shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!

I might easily add to these hints, if space permitted. Few and short as they are — you will find them most profitable when implemented.