Grace Gems for MAY 2013

Grace Gems for MAY 2013

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Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living

(J.R. Miller)

Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living — than the habit of getting a verse or phrase of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day's thoughts and words and experiences.

Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us to live — and a good devotional book opens up the precious teachings which are folded up in its words.

A devotional book which takes a Scripture text, and so opens it for us in the morning, that all day long it helps us to live, becoming a true lamp to our feet, and a staff to lean upon when the way is rough — is the very best devotional help we can possibly have. What we need in a devotional book which will bless our lives, is the application of the great teachings of Scripture to common, daily, practical life.

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Spiritual Greatness

(J.R. Miller)

Spiritual Greatness — sanctified character, beauty of soul, the likeness of Jesus upon our lives and hearts — shall endure forever. God wants to train every one of us into this true spiritual greatness.

Many Christians grow sadly disheartened, because they seem never to become any better. Year after year, the struggle goes on with the old bad habits and ugly dispositions, the old selfishness, pride, and hatefulness — and they appear never to be growing victorious.

Yet Christ is a most patient teacher. He never wearies of our slowness and dullness as learners. He will teach the same lesson over and over, until we have learned it. If we only persevere, He will never tire of us, and His gentleness will make us great.

"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go." Isaiah 48:17

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." Psalm 32:8

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Sickness is a greater mercy!

(Letters of John Newton)

"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes!" Psalm 119:71

Health is a blessing and a great mercy, enabling us to relish the comforts of life, and to be useful in our generation. But sickness is a greater mercy to the children of God; for it shall be sanctified . . .
  to wean us more from the present world,
  to raise our thoughts and desires heavenward,
  to quicken us to prayer, and
  to give us more opportunity of knowing the sweetness and suitableness of the promises, and the power and wisdom of a promise-performing God!

Troubles have many uses — when the Lord is pleased to work by them for the good of His children. They are necessary, because we would miss the meaning and comfort of a great part of the Bible without them! I hope the Lord blesses you both with a measure of submission to His will, confidence in His love — and then, with respect to other things you will say, All is well!

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word!" Psalm 119:67

"I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

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A love-letter sent to you from God

(Thomas Watson, "Body of Divinity")

"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." Colossians 3:16

STUDY the Scripture. It is a copy of God's will. Be Scripture-men, Bible-Christians. Search the Scripture as for a vein of gold. This blessed Book will fill your head with knowledge, and your heart with grace!

There is majesty sparkling in every line of Scripture.

There is a melody in Scripture. This is that blessed harp which drives away sadness of spirit. How sweetly does this harp of Scripture sound, what heavenly music does it make in the ears of a distressed sinner, especially when the finger of God's Spirit touches this instrument!

There is divinity in Scripture. It contains the marrow and quintessence of true religion. It is a rock of diamonds — and a manual of piety. The lips of Scripture have grace poured into them. The Scripture speaks of faith, self-denial, and all the graces which, as a chain of pearls, adorns a Christian.

Oh, then, search the Scripture! Had I the tongue of angels, I could not sufficiently set forth the excellency of Scripture. It is a spiritual telescope, in which we behold God's glory! It is the tree of life, the oracle of wisdom, the rule of godliness, the heavenly seed of which the new creature is formed.

'The two Testaments,' says one, 'are the two breasts which every Christian must suck, that he may get spiritual nourishment.' These holy leaves of Scripture are for the healing of our souls.

The Scripture is profitable for all things. If we are downcast — here is spiced wine that cheers the heavy heart. If we are pursued by Satan — here is the sword of the Spirit to resist him. If we are diseased with sin's leprosy — here are the waters of the sanctuary, both to cleanse and cure. Oh, then, search the Scriptures!

Read the Bible with reverence. Think, in every line you read — that God is speaking to you. The ark wherein the Word was put was overlaid with pure gold, and was carried on bars, that the Levites might not touch it. Exodus 25:14. Why was this — but to give reverence to the Word?

Read with seriousness. It is matter of life and death; by this Word you must be tried and judged.

Read the Word with affection. Get your hearts quickened with the Word. Labor that the Word may not only be a lamp to direct — but a fire to warm. Read the Scripture, not only as a history — but as a love-letter sent to you from God, which may affect your hearts. Pray that the same Spirit who wrote the Word, may assist you in reading it; that God's Spirit would show you the wonderful things of His law, so that the Word will become effectual.

"Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97

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When you come to creep into your hole

(Thomas Boston, "Death")

"For I know that you will bring me to death, and  to the house appointed for all living." Job 30:23

Behold the vanity of the world, and of all those things in it, which men so much value and esteem; and therefore set their hearts upon.

The rich and the poor are equally intent upon this fleeting world — they bow the knee to it, yet it is but a clay god. They court the bulky vanity, and run eagerly to catch this shadow.

The rich man is hugged to death in the world's embraces; while the poor man wearies himself in the fruitless pursuit for the world.

But look into the grave, O man! Consider and be wise! Listen to the doctrine of death; and learn, that, hold as hard as you can, you shall be forced to let go your hold of the world at length! "He will take nothing with him when he dies" Psalm 49:17 

Though you load yourself with the fruits of this earth — yet all shall fall off when you come to creep into your hole — the house, under ground, appointed for all living. When death comes, you must bid an eternal farewell to all your worldly enjoyments.

If you lie down on the grass, and stretch yourself at full length, and observe the print of your body when you rise — you may see how much of this earth will fall to your share at last. It may be that you shall get a coffin and a shroud — but you are not sure of that; many who have had abundance of wealth, yet have not had this much when they took up their new house in the land of silence.

It was a sobering lesson, which Saladin, when dying, gave to his soldiers. He called for his standard bearer, and ordered him to take his shroud upon a pole, and go out to the camp with it, and declare that of all his conquests, victories, and triumphs — he had nothing now left him, but that piece of linen to wrap his body in for burial.

This world is a false friend, who leaves a man in time of greatest need, and flees from him when he has most to do. When you are lying on a deathbed, all your friends and relations cannot rescue you; all your substance cannot ransom you, nor procure you a reprieve for one day; no, not for one hour!

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,  and naked I will depart."  Job 1:21

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Prayer is

(Hannah More, "Practical Piety", 1811)

Prayer is . . .
  the application of need, to Him who alone can relieve it;
  the voice of sin, to Him who alone can pardon it;
  the urgency of spiritual poverty;
  the prostration of pride;
  the fervency of penitence;
  the confidence of trust.

Prayer is . . .
  not eloquence, but earnestness;
  not the confession of helplessness, but the feeling of it;
  not figures of speech, but compunction of soul. 

Prayer is the "Lord, save me! I am perishing!" of drowning Peter.

Prayer is the cry of faith to the ear of divine mercy.

Adoration is the noblest employment of created beings.
Confession is the natural language of guilty creatures.
Gratitude is the spontaneous expression of pardoned sinners.

Prayer is the earnest desire of the soul. It is not mere conception of the mind, nor a mere effort of the intellect, nor an act of the memory; but an elevation of the soul towards its Maker; a pressing sense of our own ignorance and infirmity. Prayer is a consciousness . . .
  of the majesty of God,
  of His readiness to hear,
  of His power to help,
  of His willingness to save.

Prayer is the outpouring of the heart unto our loving heavenly Father.

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Only the eternal is important

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

"Set your minds on things above — not on earthly things." Colossians 3:2

Over the doorway of a church is the inscription: "Only the eternal is important".

There are a great many things which are not worth our while to do. Some of us spend our days in poor trivialities which bless no one, and which will add no luster to our crown.

Waste no opportunity.

Despise no privilege.

Squander no moment.

One hour lost will leave a flaw.

There is just enough time for you to live your life well — if you spend every moment of it in earnest, faithful duty. A life thus lived in unbroken diligence and faithfulness, will have no regrets when the end comes. Its work will be completed.

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

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What a beautiful picture of my poor, weak, hungry soul

Theodore Cuyler, "God's Light on Dark Clouds")

God's strength is "made perfect in our weakness." This means that the Divine power is most conspicuous, when our weakness is the most thoroughly felt. We have got first to be emptied of all self-conceit and self-confidence. A bucket cannot hold air and water at the same time. As the water comes in — the air must go out. The reason why God give us some hard trials — is to get the accursed spirit of SELF out of our hearts! When we have been emptied of self-trust, then we are in the condition to be filled with might in the inner man, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A Christian must not only realize his own utter feebleness — but he must give up what worldlings rely on, and admit that "vain is the help of man." That poor woman who had tried all the doctors, and had only grown worse in body, and poorer in purse — is a touching illustration of our invalid souls. She, having despaired of human help — came crouching to the feet of the Son of God. One touch of His garments sent a new tide of health through her veins. Just so — contact with Christ brings currents of the Divine power into our souls — so that we can do all things through Christ who strengths us!

This is the real office of faith. It is simply the linking of our utter weakness — to the omnipotence of Christ! We furnish the weakness — and He furnishes the strength — and that makes the partnership! The baby furnishes a hungry little mouth — and the mother furnishes the nourishing milk. The mother is happy that she can give the full supply — and the rosy darling is happy as it draws in the sweet contentment. What a beautiful picture of my poor, weak, hungry soul — resting on the bosom of the Infinite Love! There is no danger that the supply will ever give out, for my Lord, my Feeder, my Supporter — is constantly saying unto me, "My grace is sufficient for you!" In this way we are strengthened with all might according to His glorious power.

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God's ideal for His children

(J.R. Miller, "The Secret of Gladness")

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

For most of us it is not easy to be always joyful; yet we should learn our lesson so well that whether amid circumstances of sorrow or of gladness — our song shall never be interrupted.

Joy is God's ideal for His children. He means for them to be sunny-faced and happy-hearted. He does not wish them to be heavy-hearted and sad. He has made the world full of beauty and full of music. The mission of the gospel is to start songs wherever it goes. Its keynote is joy — good tidings of great joy to all people. We are commanded to rejoice always.

This does not mean that the Christian's life is exempt from trouble, pain, and sorrow. The gospel does not give us a new set of conditions with the hard things left out. The Christian's home is not sheltered from life's storms — any more than the worldly man's home is. Sickness enters the circle where the voice of prayer is heard, with its hot breath — as well as the home where no heart adores and no knee bends before God. In the holiest home sanctuary, the loving group gathers about the bed of death, and there is sorrow of bereavement.

Nor is grief less poignant in the believer's case, than in that of the man who knows not Christ. Grace does not make . . .
  love less tender,
  the pang of affliction less sharp,
  the sense of loss less keen, or
  the feeling of loneliness less deep.

God does not give joy to His children by making them incapable of suffering. Divine grace makes the heart all the more tender, and the capacity for loving all the deeper; hence it increases rather than lessens the measure of sorrow when afflictions come.

But the joy of the Christian is something which lies too deep to be disturbed by the waves and tides of earthly trouble. It has its source in the very heart of God. Sorrow is not prevented by grace, but is swallowed up in the floods of heavenly joy. That was what Jesus meant when He talked to His disciples of joy just as He was about to go out to Gethsemane. He said their sorrow would be turned into joy, and that they would have a joy which the world could not take from them; that is, a joy which earth's deepest darkness could not put out. God's joy is not the absence of sorrow, but divine comfort overcoming sorrow — sunshine striking through the black clouds, transfiguring them!

"You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy!" John 16:20

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The divinest ministries

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

We must not make the mistake of thinking that Christian service consists merely in prayers, devotions, and acts of worship.

The divinest ministries of each day are the small services of love which God sends across our way. The half-hour the busy man takes from his business . . .
  to comfort a sorrow,
  to help a discouraged brother to start again,
  to lift up one who has fainted by the way,
  to visit a sick neighbor and minister consolation, or
  to give a young person needed counsel —
is the half-hour of the day that will shine the most brightly when the records of life are unrolled before God.

The secret of abundant helpfulness, is found in the desire to be a help, a blessing, to all whom we meet. We begin to be like Christ only when we begin to wish to be helpful. Where this desire is ever dominant, the life is an unceasing benediction. Rivers of water are pouring out from it continually to bless the world.

"Serve one another in love." Galatians 5:13

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It is not your work that He wants most — it is you!

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

"Arise, My darling, My beautiful one, and come with Me!" Song of Songs 2:10

"He said to them, "Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place" Mark 6:31

G. Campbell Morgan tells of a friend of his who had a little daughter that he dearly loved. They were great friends, the father and daughter, and were always together. But there seemed to come an estrangement on the child's part. The father could not get her company as formerly. She seemed to shun him. If he wanted her to walk with him, she always had something else to do. The father was grieved and could not understand what the trouble was.

His birthday came and in the morning his daughter came to his room, her face radiant with love, and handed him a present. Opening the parcel, he found a pair of exquisitely made slippers.

The father said, "My child, it was very good of you to buy me such lovely slippers."

"O father," she said, "I did not buy them — I made them for you!"

Looking at her he said, "I think I understand now, what long has been a mystery to me. Is this what you have been doing for the last three months?"

"Yes," she said, "but how did you know how long I have been at work on them?"

He said, "Because for three months I have missed your company and your love. I have wanted you with me — but you have been too busy. These are beautiful slippers — but next time buy your present, and let me have you all the days. I would rather have my child herself, than anything she could make for me."

Just so, we are in danger of being so busy in the Lord's work that we cannot be enough with the Lord in love's fellowship. He may say to us, "I like your works, your toils, your service — but I miss the love you gave Me at first."

There is real danger that we get so busy in striving to be active Christians, so absorbed in our tasks and duties, our efforts to bring others into the church — that Christ Himself shall be less loved, and shall miss our communing with Him.

Loyalty to Christ means first of all devotion. Has Christ really the highest place in your heart? It is not your work that He wants most — it is you! It is beautiful to do things for Him — it is still more beautiful to make a home for Him in your heart.

A young man, at great cost, brought from many countries the most beautiful materials he could find, and built an exquisite little chapel as a memorial to his dead wife. Only a few men could do anything so rare, so lovely. But the poorest of us can enthrone Jesus in our hearts — making a little sanctuary in our hearts for Him.

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love!" Revelation 2:4

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A mother's prayers

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

We do not realize what the daily home-life means in the future of the children. A consistent and godly example is most important.

A Christian man tells of what happened in his own childhood home over and over again. As he lay quietly at night in his little room before sleep came on, there would be gentle footsteps on the stairs, the door would open noiselessly, and in a moment the well-known form, softly gliding through the darkness, would appear at his bedside.

First, there would be a few gentle and affectionate inquiries, gradually deepening into words of counsel. Then kneeling, her head touching his, the mother would begin in gentle words to pray for her boy, pouring forth her whole soul in desires and supplications. Mothers will know how her pleadings would run, and how the tears would mingle with the words. "I seem to feel the tears still," he writes in advanced years, "where sometimes they fell on my face.

Rising, then, with a good-night kiss, she was gone. The prayers often passed out of thought in slumber, and did not come to mind again for years — but they were not lost. They were safely kept in some most sacred place of memory, for they reappear now with a beauty brighter than ever. I truly believe that my mother's prayers secretly preserved me while I moved carelessly amid numberless temptations, and walked on the brink of vice and crime."

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Another says of his mother: "My mother's habit was, every day, immediately after breakfast, to withdraw for an hour to her own room, and to spend that hour in reading the Bible, in meditation and in prayer. From that hour, as from a pure fountain, she drew the strength and the sweetness which enabled her to fulfill all her duties, and to remain unruffled by all the worries and pettinesses which are so often an intolerable trial in a home with many children. As I think of her life, and of all that it had to bear, I see the absolute triumph of Christian grace in the lovely ideal of a Christian mother. I never saw her temper disturbed; I never heard her speak one word of anger, or of complaint, or of idle gossip. I never observed in her any sign of a single sentiment unfitting to a soul which had drank of the river of the water of life, and which had fed upon manna in the barren wilderness."

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A Christian man said that the evening family worship had saved his home and its affection. The days were full of little frictions and irritations. He was a man of quick temper and hasty speech, and often was the home music jangled and unhappy. But the evening prayer set all things right again. The father and mother knelt, side by side, with their little children, and as they prayed, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us," they were drawn close together again in love. The little strifes were healed, and their domestic joy was saved. The sun was not allowed to go down upon their differences. This is one of the blessings of family prayer. Christ comes to us beside the sacred home altar, diffuses His love, and speaks His word of peace.

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A mother and her child

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

A mother and her child sat side by side. Both love Christ and are following Him.

The teenage girl is sweet and beautiful, a picture of gracefulness. She never has known a struggle, has scarcely ever been called to make a sacrifice, has never found it hard to do right. Her face is unblemished, without a line.

The mother has had many cares, struggles, and fights with evil. She has endured wrongs, has carried burdens, has suffered, has had bitter sorrows, has been misunderstood, has poured out her life in love's sacrifices.

One would say that the child is the more beautiful — the lovelier in her life and appearance. But as the two appear in the eyes of Christ, while both are beautiful, the mother wears the holier loveliness. She has learned in the furnace of suffering. She has grown stronger through her enduring of struggle. The lines of her face, which seem to be blemishes on her fair beauty, are the refining marks of Jesus Christ.

"I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!" Isaiah 48:10

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Eat into the very soul of the Bible

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Your words were found, and I ate them; and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart!" Jeremiah 15:16

Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God — and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it — so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord — not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it until we have taken it into our inmost parts! It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetic expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last . . .
you come to talk in Scriptural language,
your very life is fashioned upon Scripture models, and,
what is better still, your mind is flavored with the words of the Lord.

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God!" Matthew 4:4

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As we grow older

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

"Even to your old age and gray hair I am He; I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!" Isaiah 46:4

As we grow older, there should be a constant gaining, never a losing in our spiritual life. Every year should find us living on a higher plane than the year before. Old age should always be the best of life, not marked by spiritual emptiness and decay — but by nobler fruitfulness and more gracious beauty. Paul was growing old, when he spoke of forgetting things which are behind, and reaching forth to things ahead. His best was yet to be attained. So it should always be with Christian old age. We must ever be turning heavenward, toward nobler life and holier beauty!

"The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green!" Psalm 92:12-14

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A place of spiritual refreshment

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters" Psalm 23:2

A young Christian who had been for many weeks in a hospital, undergoing a painful operation and then slowly recovering, wrote me in the days of her convalescence, "I have found my little white bed here in the hospital a bit of God's green pasture." Not only had it proved a place of rest and peace to her — but also a place of spiritual refreshment.

The hard things are not meant to mar our life — they are meant to make it all the braver, the worthier, the nobler. Adversities and misfortunes are meant to sweeten our spirits, not to make them sour and bitter.

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word." Psalm 119:67

"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes." Psalm 119:71

"I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

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Nothing noble is attained easily

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

"These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?"
"These are those who have come out of the great tribulation!" Revelation 7:13-14

In John's vision the noble saints, shining in white garments and bearing the symbols of battle and victory, had come, not out of ease and soft circumstances; not out of experiences of luxury, from cosy homes, from favored spots and congenial conditions. Rather they had won their nobleness . . .
  in hard circumstances,
  in fierce struggles,
  in sharp temptations,
  in bitter sorrows,
  in keen sufferings.

Some of us grow impatient of our difficulties and hardships. We brood over them, and come to think that we have not been fairly dealt with by God. Some of us resent our trials, and think that God has not been kind or just with us.

A young man told of his hard trials and losses, his sore bereavements and sorrows, his severe disappointments and struggles, and of the wrongs and injustices he had suffered from those who ought to have been his friends. But all that had seemed so hard, meant an opportunity for this young man to grow into manly strength and heroic Christ-like character.

Those who have the battles and the trials, and overcome in them, shall wear white robes and carry palm branches. They shall be among the victors at the last. Nothing noble is attained easily. The crowns of life, can only be won on the fields of struggle!

"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life!" Revelation 2:10

"All who overcome will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be My children!" Revelation 21:7

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My poor child, you are so ugly that no one will ever love you!

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

The story is told of a distinguished woman, that when she was a girl she was so homely that even her mother said to her one day: "My poor child, you are so ugly that no one will ever love you!" The cruel words fell deeply into the child's heart — but instead of making her bitter, they had just the opposite effect. She determined that if her face was homely, she would make her life so beautiful that people would love her. She began to be kind to everybody, to be loving, thoughtful, gentle, and helpful. She never became lovely in features — but she did become the good angel of the community in which she lived. It was love in her heart which transformed her life and saved her from utter disheartenment.

Just so, there are those whose lives have been hurt in some way, and who seem doomed to carry their marring or wounding through all their days — but whom the love of Christ can yet restore to beauty and strength. There is no ruined life, which He cannot build up again into loveliness. There is no defect, which He cannot turn into usefulness. To know that Christ on His throne of glory sympathizes with our weaknesses and our infirmities — puts into the heart a new secret of joy which will transform the dreariest life into Heavenly gladness.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight!" 1 Peter 3:3-4 

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Eighty years of plain, simple, humble, Christlike goodness

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

Not long ago, an aged Christian woman closed her earthly life. She had lived always in very plain circumstances. She had very little education. She had no peculiar gift for any distinct form of Christian activity. She had never taught a Sunday-school class, nor led a woman's prayer meeting, nor taken part in a missionary society, nor been connected with any sort of Christian association.

But for sixty of her eighty years she had been a true, earnest and sincere Christian. She had been a faithful wife, and a loving, self-denying mother. She had brought up her family in the fear of the Lord. She had lived a quiet, patient, gentle Christian life.

Around her coffin there sat a large circle of her descendants — her own children and grandchildren. Her life-story was a record, not of any great deeds, nor of any fine things done — but of eighty years of plain, simple, humble, Christlike goodness. Yet it never can be known until the Judgment Day, when the books shall be opened, what blessings that humble life left at its close in the world. Its silent, unconscious influence poured out through all the long years into other lives, making them nobler, happier, holier, sweeter.

Such a ministry of goodness is within the reach of every Christian. It requires no brilliant gifts, and no great wealth. It is a ministry which the plainest and the lowliest may fulfill. Its influence is incalculable!

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What shall we ask God to do?

(J.R. Miller, "The Glory of the Commonplace")

"We do not know what we should pray for as we ought" Romans 8:26

A minister sat with a father and mother by the bed of a child, who was hovering between life and death. He was about to pray for the little sufferer, and turning to the parents he asked, "What shall we ask God to do?" After some moments the father answered, with deep emotion: "I would not dare to choose. Leave it to God."

Would it not be better always to leave the decision to God, letting Him choose what it is best for Him to do for us or to give to us? We are not in the world to always have ease and pleasure, to always succeed, to do great things — we are here to grow into strength and beauty of life and character, to accomplish the will of God, and to have that will wrought out in our own life. Ofttimes . . .
  the present must be sacrificed for the future,
  the earthly given up to gain the Heavenly, and
  pain endured for the sake of spiritual refining and enriching.
Christ does not seek to take away the burden — rather, He would make us strong and brave to bear it.

If we are willing to let God choose for us, and accept what He gives — we shall never fail to receive the best. Perhaps not what the world would call the best — but always God's best. We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, and we had better leave it to God.

We should be content to leave the guidance and choices of our lives in His hands. Think how wise He is — knowing all things, knowing how to choose the best for us. Who does not know that this is better, safer, wiser than if we were to choose the way for ourselves?

The truest prayer is ofttimes that in which we creep into the bosom of God and rest there in silence. We do not know what to ask, and we dare not say even a word, lest it might be the wrong word, hence we simply wait before God in quietness and confidence. We know that what is best — our Father will do, and we trust Him to do what He will.

We are sure that God could relieve us of the things which are so hard for us to bear — could, if He desired to. This is God's world, and nothing can get out of His hands. All we have to do is to lay our need before the throne of mercy, and to let God answer us as He will.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Heterodox in life

(Charles Spurgeon)

As precious liquors are best kept in clean vessels — so sound doctrine is best kept in a pure heart and life. Who, indeed, would knowingly pour a choice wine into a tainted cask? It would be foolish to do so.

When we hear of men living in sin, and yet claiming to be children of God — we are disgusted with their pretenses, but we are not deceived by their professions.

In the same manner, we care little for those who are orthodox Christians in creed — if it is clear that they are heterodox in life. He who believes the truth — should himself be true. How can we expect others to receive our religion — if it leaves us foul, false, malicious, and selfish?

We sicken at the sight of a dirty dish, and refuse even good food when it is placed thereon. So pure and holy is the doctrine of the cross, that . . .
  he who hears it aright, will have his ears cleansed,
  he who believes it aright, will have his heart purged, and
  he who preaches it aright, will have his tongue purified.
Woe unto that man who brings reproach upon the gospel — by an unholy life!

Lord, evermore make us pure vessels fit for Your own use, and then fill us with the pure wine of the grapes of sound doctrine and wholesome instruction. Do not allow us to be such "foul cups" — as to be only fit for the wine of Sodom!

"For the grace of God . . . teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires — and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" Titus 2:12

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

How, then, shall I spend this short life?

("Solitude Sweetened" by James Meikle, 1730-1799)

"What is your life? You are a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away!" (James 4:14)

What is all this struggle in the world for? Why so many attempts to be something, and have something — in the sphere of nothing?

This struggle for passing vanities, is as if the foam and bubbles should contend for station on the rapid stream — but in a moment they are are gone!

We forget that we are but of yesterday — and tomorrow we are no more. It is a shame to think so much about these few fleeting days — and so little of endless ages of eternity!

Let me look to the generations past. How few of our deceased acquaintances are remembered! And how soon, like them, shall we also be forgotten!

How frail is our life! It is likened to a pile of grass, a withered leaf, dry stubble, a flower, a breath, brittle clay, fading flesh!

How swift is our life! It is likened to a weaver's shuttle, an eagle, a ship, a wind that passes away, and comes not again!

How short is our life! It is likened to a moment, a breath!

Surely I need not be so anxious about . . .
  a life so short,
  a state so uncertain,
  and a world so vain
 — where I am only a stranger, a pilgrim, a sojourner — and shortly leaving everything below.

Let the world, then, go with me as it will. This shall not trouble me, who am daily going through the world, and shall in a little while — go entirely out of the world, to return no more!

How, then, shall I spend this short life, my few winged moments, which are all appointed to me? Surely, in nothing better, than in looking out, and laying up for eternity!

"This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever." 1 John 2:17

"Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away!" 1 Corinthians 7:31

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:2

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

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

And there reader, you are going!

(William Thoseby, "Foot-prints on the Sands of Time" 1869)

"It is appointed unto man once to die; but after death the judgment." Hebrews 9:27

"In Adam all die." 1 Corinthians 9:15

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" Romans 5:12

"On this side, and on that, men see their friends drop off, like leaves in autumn."

Memories of the dearly departed, crowd in upon us all, and often "fill the haunted chambers of the night." Who has not some friend or family member among the past deceased millions?

What is our life?
"It is even as a vapor which appears for a little while, and then vanishes away!" Nothing can exempt us from the common lot of humanity.

What is the history of our race? It is a lengthened bill of mortality — a vast Aceldama (field of blood), on whose gates are written, "Lamentation, mourning and woe!"

What are the words that apply alike to all? It is the solemn sentence — "Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return!" Everywhere we meet with the grim and ghastly triumphs of death. In every language you may hear his hoarse, bass voice calling — "Return O children of men!" The pyramids of Egypt, while they are a monument of human labor — are likewise a monument of human mortality. The thickening grave-stones in our cemeteries preach to us their reminder, "Remember death!"

The brief allusions of the inspired writers to the ravages of death are fitted to arrest the attention of our readers:
"How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear!" Job 14:1-2
"We finish our years like a sigh. Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away!" Psalm 90:9-10
"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass!" Isaiah 40:6-7

These are but a few, out of the many, of the ever recurring cries of humanity, respecting the ravages of death. Into how many of our homes has the "King of Terrors" and the terror of kings entered unbidden and smitten down some of our nearest, dearest, and best of friends! May we not ask:

Where is the husband who stood by you at the altar, and under the protection of whose arm you felt secure?

Where is the wife with whom you took sweet counsel, and walked to the house of God, to whose accents you surrender your soul, and to whose language of affection you desired to listen forever?

Where is the father who toiled for you with his brawny arms, and loved you with a manly heart?

Where is the mother who watched over your infancy, hushed you to sleep on her gentle bosom, and tended your sick-bed through many a fevered dream?

Where are the children, those angels of your home over whom you shed your hottest tears?

Are they not gone, some of them at least, to the cold damp bed, the grave, where there is . . .
  no pillow but the cold clay;
  no covering but the sod;
  no curtain but the dark coffin lid;
  no companion but the worm!

And there reader, you are going!

But death is not your final resting-place.

"It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

As death leaves you — so judgment shall find you!
As the judgment finds you — so shall eternity keep you!

"Prepare to meet your God!" Amos 4:12

"Like crowded forest trees we stand,
 And some are marked to fall;
 The axe will smite at God's command,
 And soon will smite us all!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Love photographs them in the heart!

(William Thoseby, "Foot-prints on the Sands of Time" 1869)

"The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death!" Isaiah 57:1-2

It is true there are strong consolations and compensations in Divine providence, but even the Christian consolations cannot drink up all the heart's sorrow in the hour of separating death. We cry with truth, but yet in tears, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" "Yes in all these things we are more than conquerors," but we are conquerors with bleeding wounds and scars of the conflict upon us.

When a dear life is taken from the near presence of our own life, no antidote of reasoning, nor cordial of promise even, can make us oblivious of the loss. In the moment of most entire submission and most exultant faith — we feel the pang of separation. Our affections grope and wander uneasily in the vacancy that has been made, and we return home companionless and sorrowing. We are awed by the voiceless room, and the vacant chair affects us with sadness. Every relic and memorial of the life that is ended, tells us that it is ended indeed. The dearly departed live in the chambers of our soul. We see their lovely forms, hear their sweet voices, feel their tender touch, and almost grasp their hands. Love photographs them in the heart!

When therefore a dear life is taken, the person who is left must suffer. And since so it is, we come, through "many a winding maze" to conclude that thus it ought to be. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" "Now we see through a glass darkly."

But in our ignorance and blind unbelief, we are too apt to arraign the rectitude of the Divine procedure, exclaiming:
How bewildering is this afflictive dealing!
How baffling is this mystery!
Where is now my God?
This sickness — why prolonged?
This thorn in the flesh — why still buffeting?
This family blank — why permitted?
Why the most treasured and useful life taken — the blow aimed where it cut most severely?

Hush the secret atheism! — for the day is coming when every dark hieroglyphic in the Roll of Divine Providence, will be made plain and clear. When what are called . . .
"dark providences"
"harmful calamities"
"strokes of misfortune"
"unmitigated evils"
trials, sorrows, crosses, losses, adversities, sicknesses —
  the emptied cup,
  the withered gourd,
  the lingering illness,
  the early grave,
  the useful lives taken,
  blossoms prematurely plucked,
  spiritual props removed,
  benevolent schemes blown upon
 — over all these, will not this grand motto be written as in characters of living light — which may be read on anguished pillows and aching hearts, yes, on the very portals of the tomb itself, "This also comes from the LORD almighty; He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom!" Isaiah 28:29

Let us "be still and know that He is God." "We know" says the apostle, "that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

We do not always see the bright light in the clouds, but it "shall come to pass that at evening time, it shall be light!"

Child of sorrow! Mourning over the withdrawal of some beloved object of earthly affection — dry your tears! An early death has been an early crown! The tie sundered here, links you to the throne of God. You have a Christian parent, a brother, a sister, in Heaven! You are the relative of a redeemed saint. "He shall enter" (he has entered) "into peace" — the "rest which remains for the people of God!"

We can only see one side of a Christian's death — the setting side, the expiring breath, the vanishing life, the cold clay corpse. We cannot see the risings on the other side — the angel convoy, Heaven's open gate, the Savior's welcome of the enraptured departed one. Yet it is none the less real.

Death to the Christian, is a birth into heavenly life — a life more real, more sweet, more calm, more pure than could be enjoyed on earth.

"Beloved! think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, but rejoice!" Soon you shall hear the sweet chimes wafted from the towers of the heavenly Jerusalem, "Enter into the joy of your Lord!" "The Lord God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces!"

Christian Mourner! Do not go to the grave to weep there. The devourer shall be devoured! The resurrection shall restore to you, all that death snatches away. And then, Oh! joyous hope, "death shall be swallowed up of life!" Glorious day! "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Reader, turn aside and see this great sight!

(William Thoseby, "Foot-prints on the Sands of Time" 1869)

"When you pass through the waters — I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers — they will not sweep over you!" Isaiah 43:2

John Bunyan writes in his Pilgrim's Progress: "Now I further saw that between the pilgrims and the gate of the Celestial City, was a river — but there was no bridge to go over, and the river was very deep. At the sight of this river, the pilgrims were much stunned; but those who went with them, said, 'You must go through — or you cannot come to the gate.' The pilgrims then began to despond in their minds, and looked this way and that, but no way could be found by them, by which they might escape the river."

How true and touching is this description. There is no way from this world to the Celestial City, but through the river of death. Whether men go to eternal glory or to eternal gloom — they have to ford its depths. There is no way of reaching the Celestial City, without crossing the narrow stream of death. When the summons for our departure arrives, we must enter the deep dark waters. None can disregard the call, nor choose any other mode of transit. But it is given to the Christian pilgrim to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd sounding like sweet music in the intervals of storm, "It is I, do not be afraid!" Jesus may allow you to hear some touches of richest music, and feel some waftings of balmiest air. It has even seemed to some of the pilgrims, that their very names were called; and then with new thrillings of the inner sense, they have joyfully answered, "We are coming — we are coming home!"

But as we near the banks of the river, the prospect of parting with beloved relatives and friends is sometimes deeply affecting. It was a touching scene in ancient Israel — "When all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for him thirty days." Oh, there is a luxury in tears! The tears of tenderness, are the jewelry of our humanity. The man who never sheds a tear, is by no means to be envied. Have we not heard of the weeping Savior? Reader, turn aside and see this great sight — the Creator of all worlds — in tears! "Jesus wept!" John 11:35. And those tears formed one of the most touching episodes in His sacred story.

Looking along the line of coming years, the Savior had before Him the believing bereaved of all ages — a picture gallery of the world's aching hearts — a far and wide spread view of all the deserted chambers, vacant seats and open graves — down to the end of time. Therefore, weeping believer, your anguished heart was included in the Savior's tear drops!

"Shudder not to pass the stream,
 Venture all your care on Him,
 Him whose dying love and power
 Stilled its tossing, hushed its roar.
 Not one object of His care,
 Ever suffered shipwreck there;
 See the haven full in view;
 Love Divine shall bear you through!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Jesus knows!

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

"I know your works, your labor, your patient endurance. You have persevered and have endured hardships, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary!" Revelation 2:2-3

It is a great consolation to the Christian to know that his Savior is omniscient — that He knows . .  .
  his every thought,
  his every desire,
  his every motive,
  everything concerning him.

For, although he is conscious of much imperfection and sin — he is conscious also of the sincerity of his desire after holiness and for the glory of God. And his Savior knows this too. He can appeal to that Omniscient One, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and can say, "Lord, You know all things! You know that I love You!" And he hears the sweet response, "I know your works, your labor, your patient endurance. You have persevered and have endured hardships, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary!"

Jesus knows what others do not. He knows the difficulties you have to encounter, both from within and from without. He knows all the temptations you have to suffer. He knows the amount of labor and patient endurance those things cost. Oh! let this encourage you on your way to the kingdom of glory — Jesus knows all your trials along the way!

Great stress is here laid upon the patient endurance of the saints. Christ especially notices their patient labor, their continuance in well-doing, their going on from year to year in their labor of love, for His name's sake. He knows, too, that it is not their own glory which they are seeking, but His. He says, "I know that you have labored for My name's sake!"

Jesus knows
that you have not become weary, that you have persevered, that you are persevering, and that you will persevere unto the end. From His throne in glory, where He has provided a place for you to sit with Him, He says, "I know your works, your labor, your patient endurance. You have persevered and have endured hardships, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The dearest idol I have known

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love!" Revelation 2:4

Notwithstanding the comfort we may take from the glimpse we had of our glorified Savior's omniscience in our last meditation; in that Jesus knows the sincerity of His people's motives, the greatness of their temptations, and the extent of their patient endurance and labor for His name's sake; yet we must not stop short of the other part of His address to His people, namely, that He knows also their backslidings, their wanderings, their faithlessness to Him who has done so much for them.

"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love!" The Lord says, "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals. I remember how zealous you once were for My glory, how fervent were your prayers, how strong and ardent your affection for Me. Once you would not have been content with such short and formal prayers; once you would not have listened so carelessly to My Gospel; once you meditated with joy unspeakable on the heavenly home to which I am bringing you. Once you loved Me supremely."

But, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." Now your thoughts of Heaven are few and cold. Instead of exclaiming, "Oh! what has Jesus bought for me!" etc., you are fearful lest you should be called too soon from this wilderness world, to your happy heavenly home.

Examine yourselves, prove your own selves, watch the first signs of spiritual declension; fear nothing so much as wanderings of heart from Jesus, growing cold towards Him, and fixing your affections too much on the creature.

Often ask yourselves, "Is this the amount of love I shall be satisfied with, when I see Him who has loved me and given Himself for me? When my faith shall be turned to sight — shall I love Jesus thus coldly?"

Endeavor to realize the presence of Jesus now — that will rekindle your fainting love. Endeavor to realize the love of Jesus to your souls — and that will revive your languid affection. Look back on the affection for Jesus which you once experienced, remember from whence you are fallen, and repent and do the first works!

"The dearest idol I have known,
 Whatever that idol be,
 Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
 And worship only Thee!"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Are we willing this very night to leave all on earth, and go to Jesus?

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

"Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him!" Revelation 1:7

Who is it that will come one day, and whom every eye shall see? The Lord Jesus, the Savior of sinners, the Judge of all men! Every eye shall see Him. My eye shall see Him too! Will it be with fear and terror — that I shall behold the King of kings coming to judgment? Or will my gaze be that of admiration and love for my adorable Redeemer?

All Christians rejoice in the expectation of His second coming, when faith shall be turned to sight. How can we fear the realization of our fondest hopes, the accomplishment of our best desires? The more we look to Jesus now, by faith — the less shall we fear death and judgment. For how, indeed, can we fear to meet our best and dearest Friend?

Paul assures us that there is a crown which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give at His coming — to all who love His appearing. Let us not shrink, then, from meditation on the glorious coming of Christ, but rather look for and expect it as the end of all our sins, sufferings and trials — and the beginning of perfect and eternal happiness!

Let us ask ourselves, "Are we willing this very night to leave all on earth, and go to Jesus?" If we could really see Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and saying to us this very night, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!" — I am quite sure that nothing on earth could detain us!

"He who testifies to these things says: Surely I am coming quickly!
 Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" Revelation 22:20

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Notice their humility

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

"The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created!"
Revelation 4:10-11

The Church triumphant is represented by the twenty-four elders. Notice their humility. They fall down, and cast their crowns before the Throne, saying, "You are worthy!" They have been learning to do this on earth. When the Holy Spirit begins His work in the soul of man — when He begins to prepare a stone for the spiritual temple, He begins with a lesson of humility, and convinces of sin. And still, as that stone is more and more hewn and fitted for the temple above — deeper and deeper grow the convictions of his own unworthiness, until at length he is taught to abase himself utterly, and give all glory to the Lord.

Are you in this manner becoming every week more fitted for Heaven? Let this glimpse of Heaven lead you to ask, "Do I now abase myself — and exalt my God?"

In this is the true Christian distinguished from the hypocrite. Whatever may be the failings of the Christian, he acts and speaks from a desire to glorify Him. Though self-esteem and self-exaltation are often mixed with his endeavors, still his aim is that God may be glorified, even though it be by his own abasement. The more he is enabled to glorify God — the greater is his humility. And the deeper his self-abasement — the more likely is he to bring honor and glory to his God.

O my soul, let this glimpse of glory forever set aside all notions of self-exaltation. Be now what you will be in Heaven — a humble creature of God, redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb, living to glorify His name!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!" Revelation 7:17

Although it is true that "whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives" — still we are not all called upon to suffer great tribulation. God appoints for each, the discipline needed to prepare him for glory. With some He deals gently, for "He knows how much the weak can bear." He sees the tenderness of their spirits, the gentleness of their nature. With others He may appear to deal more harshly — He alone knows how hard and stubborn is their will, how great their backslidings, how needful all this seeming severity. He also permits great tribulation to fall upon some, that they may be examples to His Church; examples of love, of patience, of long-suffering — and is not this an honor? Shall we not count it all joy to be thus tried?

And has not God promised to proportion His consolations to the sufferings of His people? With what powerful comfort will such a passage as that which we are meditating upon, come home to the deeply-tried Christian — to him whose tears are wrung from him by pain of body, loss of friends, one bitter affliction after another: "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!"

The anticipation of suffering is often a cause of greater anguish than suffering itself; for though we are told not to worry about anything — still, the anxious mind will often distress itself with gloomy forebodings while in this valley of tears. But in Heaven, we shall have no fear of evil — no cause for fears. God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes:
  the tear of sympathy,
  the tear of pity,
  the tear of separation,
  the tear of pain,
  the tear of godly sorrow for sin,
  the tear of disappointed hope,
  the tear of wounded affection
 — shall flow no more!
"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!"