Grace Gems for APRIL, 2016

Grace Gems for APRIL, 2016

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A Bag, a Book, and a Bottle!

(Don Fortner)

God takes great care to comfort His people in their many trials and sorrows in this world. One of the goals which He commands His preachers to have, is the comfort of His people. He says, "Comfort, comfort My people." Here are three things described in the Word of God that should be of great comfort to every believer.

1. God has made A BAG FOR OUR SINS. Job said, "My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and you sew up my iniquity."  In ancient times when men died at sea, their bodies were placed in a weighted bag which was sewn together and sealed. Then they were cast into the depths of the sea.

That is what God has done with our sins. They are cast "into the depths of the sea." When Christ died for our sins which were imputed to Him, He put them all away. They were buried in the sea of God's infinite forgiveness, put away never to be brought up again. God almighty will never charge us with sin, impute sin to us, remember our sins against us, or treat us any less graciously because of our sin. That is the forgiveness of God! "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."

2. The Lord has written A BOOK FOR OUR NAMES. Take heart child of God. Your name is written in the book of God! Before the worlds were made, the Lord God inscribed the names of His elect in the Lamb's book of life. In that book God has recorded, not only the names of the chosen heirs of Heaven, but also all things pertaining to them. The Lamb's book of life is the book of God's eternal purpose of grace, predestination, and election. The fact that our names are written in that book means that our salvation is a matter of absolute certainty, and that all things work together for our good by God's arrangement to secure our predestined end, which is perfect conformity to Christ. When our Lord says, "Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven," He is telling us that we have nothing to fear. All is well with those whose names are written in Heaven.

3. Moreover, the Lord God keeps A BOTTLE FOR OUR TEARS. "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book." It was customary at ancient Egyptian funerals for mourners to have a small cloth or sponge to wipe away their tears. Then they were squeezed into a small vial, a tear bottle, and placed in the tomb with the dead, symbolizing the care the mourners had for the one who had died. Even so, the Lord our God, our heavenly Father, our almighty Savior, and our holy Comforter tenderly cares for us. We are the very apple of His eye.

The Lord our God has . . .
  put our sins in a bag and buried them,
  written our names in a book to remember them, and
  placed our tears in a bottle to show His tender care for us.

Could anything be more comforting in this world of sin, sorrow, and death?

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Yes, He is altogether lovely!

(William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles")

"Yes, He is altogether lovely!" Song of Songs 5:16

Jesus is most desirable in Himself — and all things that are desirable are in Him. Beauty is in Christ, bounty is in Christ, riches and honor are in Christ. Jesus Christ is the treasure hidden in the gospel, and the pearl of great price. He is the sun in the firmament of the Scriptures, whom to know is everlasting life. He is . . .
  a spring full of the water of life,
  a hive of sweetness,
  a storehouse of riches,
  a river of pleasures, wherein you may bathe your souls to all eternity!

Oh! He is all fullness and sweetness! "He is the chief among ten thousand!" Song of Songs 5:10

You may go to Heaven . . .
  without health,
  without wealth,
  without honor,
  without pleasure,
  without friends,
  without learning,
but you can never go to Heaven without Christ!
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6

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

All that Christ did and suffered — it is for me!

All that Christ has — is mine!

Christ's love is mine to pity me!

Christ's mercy is mine to save me!

Christ's graces are mine to beautify me!

Christ's power is mine to protect me!

Christ's wisdom is mine to counsel me!

Christ's Spirit is mine to comfort me!

Christ's Word is mine to teach me!

Christ's glory is mine to crown me!

Therefore, a grain of saving grace in the heart, is better than a chain of gold around the neck!

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A man after the devil's own heart!

(George Lawson, "A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs" 1821)

"A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit! Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart!"  Proverbs 26:24-25

An angry man is dangerous — but, if you are on your guard, the danger will soon be over.

The malicious man is far worse, and much more dangerous, for his hatred ferments in his heart, and in the mean time, he is projecting methods for wreaking his malevolence in such a manner as will be safest to himself, and most hurtful to its object. He is not like the dog that barks before it bites — otherwise you might stand to your own defense. But he is a dog that fawns upon you, and, when you are never dreaming of it, viciously attacks you, and inflicts an unexpected and dangerous wound.

Solomon warns you that your safety lies in refusing to trust him, even when he makes the largest professions of friendship. When he speaks charming words, believe him not, although he should swear to the truth of all he says. If you have any reason, from your knowledge of a man's character, or from his former behavior, to think that he is one of this stamp, and capable of such wicked conduct — his ardent professions of love should rather confirm than remove your suspicions of him. For the darkest designs are always covered under the greatest shows of virtue and friendship.

You may as safely believe the devil himself, as one who joins malignity of heart with flattery and caresses — for he is a man after the devil's own heart! His character is a compound of all those vices of the blackest and the vilest kind, which make a consummate villain, and render a man a disgrace to human nature, by his exact resemblance to those infernal fiends who are to be dreaded equally for their malice and subtlety.

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All-wise Providence!

(Moral and Religious Anecdotes)

A merchant was one day returning from market. He was on horseback, and his saddlebag was filled with money. The rain fell with violence, and the good old man was wet to his skin. At this he was vexed, and murmured because God had given him such bad weather for his journey.

He soon reached the borders of a thick forest. What was his terror on beholding on one side of the road a robber, with leveled gun, aiming at him, and attempting to shoot him! But the gunpowder being wet by the rain, the gun did not go off — and the merchant, giving spurs to his horse, fortunately had time to escape.

As soon as he found himself safe, he said to himself: "How wrong was I, not to endure the rain patiently, as sent by Divine Providence! If the weather had been dry and fair, I probably would not have been alive at this hour, and my little children would have expected my return in vain. The rain, which caused me to murmur, came at a fortunate moment to save my life and preserve my money!"

And thus it is with a multitude of our afflictions. By causing us slight and short sufferings — they preserve us from others far greater and of longer duration.

"We know 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

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What influence should the gifts of God have upon our hearts!

(George Lawson, "A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs" 1821)

"The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!" Romans 6:23

Gifts have a very strong influence in gaining love. They are like precious stones in the eyes of those who receive them, charming their eyes, and powerfully turning their affections to the giver. The influence of gifts is almost universal, for they work upon the heart of the wise and the benevolent, as well as of the foolish and selfish.

What influence should the gifts of God have upon our hearts! They are more numerous than the hairs upon our head, and far more precious than pearls and diamonds! Surely they must have a constraining influence upon every heart that is not harder than the nether millstone.

"Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:13-14

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

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He who cherishes iniquity — warms the most venomous of serpents in his bosom!

(George Lawson, "A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs" 1821)

"For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them!" Proverbs 1:32

The sins of men, unless pardoned through the blood of Christ, shall be their everlasting destruction. For he who turns away from God — turns his back upon eternal happiness. And he who cherishes iniquity — warms the most venomous of serpents in his bosom!

Lost sinners owe their ruin to . . .
  their willful hardness of heart,
  their abuse of divine mercy, and
  their indifference to God's salvation.

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Remember that you are a king's son!

(George Lawson, "A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs" 1821)

When a young prince asked a certain philosopher to give him a directory for his conduct, all his instructions were comprised in one sentence: "Remember that you are a king's son!"

All Christians are advanced to spiritual honors of the most exalted kind. They are the children of God, and heirs of the eternal kingdom — and ought to resemble their heavenly Father, who is the God of holiness. Their dignity obliges them to a behavior worthy of it, and of Him whose grace has conferred it.

Let Christians remember who they are, and how they came to be what they are — and act in befitting character!

"As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy — so be holy in all you do; for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy." 1 Peter 1:14-16

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The touchstone of friendship!

(George Lawson, "A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs" 1821)

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17

Adversity is commonly reputed the touchstone of friendship. That is the season when our hollow friends forsake us — but a real friend then acts the part of a brother, and reveals his friendship more than ever.

But a true friend is steady in his love and care. Times of prosperity and adversity, honor and dishonor, evil report and good report — make no more difference to him, than the changes of the air to a man of a healthy constitution.

But no friend but Christ deserves our unlimited confidence. In Him the text received, and still receives, its most glorious accomplishment. He remembered us in our low estate, and forgets us not in His own exaltation. Afflictions are the seasons when His kindness is most richly experienced — and our provocations do not alienate His affection from us. This is our Beloved, and this is our Friend. In Him we will trust, and to Him we will devote our hearts!

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Divine Sympathy!

(John MacDuff, "The Rainbow in the Clouds")

"I know their sorrows!" Exodus 3:7

These are God's own words! Man cannot say so. There are many sensitive fibers in the soul, which the best and tenderest human sympathy cannot touch. But the Prince of Sufferers, He who led the way in the path of sorrow, "knows our frame."

When crushing bereavement lies like ice on the heart — when the dearest earthly friend cannot enter into the peculiarities of our grief — Jesus can! Jesus does! He who once bore my sins — also carried my sorrows. That eye, now on the throne — was once dim with weeping!

Israel had long groaned under bondage. God appeared not to know it — or, if He did know it — not to care. He seemed, like Baal, to be "asleep". Yet at that very moment — His pitying eye was yearningly beholding His enslaved people. It was then that He said, "I know their sorrows!"

Just so, He may seem at times thus to forget and forsake us — leaving us to utter the plaintive cry, "Has God forgotten to be gracious?" When all the while, He is bending over us in tenderest love. He often allows our needs to reach their extremity — that He may stretch forth His supporting hand, and reveal the plenitude of His grace! "You can see how the Lord was kind to Job at the end — for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy!" James 5:11

And God fully "knowing" our sorrows — is a blessed guarantee that none will be sent, but those which He sees to be needful. "I will not," says He, "make a full end of you — but I will correct you in measure." Jeremiah 30:11

All the trials which He sends — are precisely meted out —  and wisely apportioned. There is nothing accidental or random or unnecessary — no excess thorn — no superfluous pang!

"You keep track of all my sorrows! You have collected all my tears in Your bottle! You have recorded each one in Your book!" Psalm 56:8. Each one is counted and recorded — drop by drop — tear by tear! Tears are sacred things among the treasures of God!

Suffering believer, the iron may have entered deeply into your soul; yet rejoice! Jesus, a sorrowing, sympathizing Jesus — "knows" your aching pangs and burning tears, and He will "come down to deliver you!"

And of this divine sympathy, we are also assured in the New Testament, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tested in every way, just as we are!" Hebrews 4:15. What an elevating truth! We have the Sympathy of the God-Man-Mediator in our sorrows! What a source of exalted joy, to the stripped and desolate heart! What a green pasture to lie down upon, amid the windy storm and tempest, or in the dark and cloudy day!

The sympathy of man is cheering and comforting — but "thus far shall you go, and no farther." Man's sympathy is finite — limited — and often selfish! There are nameless and numberless sorrows on earth, which are far beyond the reach of all human alleviation!

The sympathy of Jesus alone, is . . .
  removed from all taint of selfishness!

Jesus has Himself passed through every experience of woe. There are no depths of sorrow or anguish into which I can be plunged — but His everlasting arms are lower still! He has been called "The great sympathetic nerve of His Church, over which the afflictions and oppressions, and sufferings of His people continually pass!"

Child of Sorrow! A human heart beats on Heaven's Throne — and He has your name written on that heart! He cares for you as if no other claimed His regard — as if you were the only object of His care!

He "has been tested in every way, just as we are!" Blessed assurance! I never can know a sorrow into which the "Man of Sorrow" cannot enter. Ah rather, in the midst of earth's most lacerating trials — let me listen to the unanswerable challenge from the lips of a suffering Savior, "Was there ever any sorrow, like unto My sorrow!" Yet He willingly drank the cup of wrath! He did not shrink back from the appointed cross! And even when He hung upon the bitter tree — He refused the sour wine which would have assuaged the rage of thirst and mitigated physical suffering.

Are we tempted at times to murmur under God's afflicting hand? "Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart!" Shall we hesitate to bear any cross which our Lord and Master sees fit to lay upon us — when we think of the infinitely weightier Cross He so meekly and willingly carried for us?

Jesus has some wise and gracious purpose in every mysterious chastisement. His language is, "Hear the rod — and Him who has appointed it!" Micah 6:9. He has too kind and loving a heart — to cause us one needless or superfluous pang to His redeemed children!

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A far-off Hell is the dread of no man!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)
"The stars, those vast globes of light, by reason of the great distance between us and them — seem but as so many sparks in the sky. Just so, we have but a weak sight of things which are at a great distance, and their effect on us is usually but small."
Hence the need of faith, by which spiritual realities are brought near to us, and made to stand out in their reality.
A far-off Hell is the dread of no man
— and a far-off Heaven is scarcely desired by anyone. God Himself, while thought of as far away — is not feared or reverenced as He should be. If we did but ponder upon the matter, we would soon see that a mere span of time divides us from the eternal world, while the Lord Almighty is nearer to us than our souls are to our bodies!
Strange that the brief time which intervenes between us and eternity, should appear to the most of men to be so important — while eternity itself they regard as a trifling matter. They use the microscope to magnify the small concerns of time. O that they would use the telescope of faith upon the vast matters of eternity!
How differently would they order their lives, if the day of judgment were felt to be at their doors! How eagerly would they seek to escape from infinite wrath, if they felt it to be near!
Lord, arouse me to a due estimate of eternal matters! Enable me to project my soul into the infinite. Break me free of this narrow present — and launch my soul upon the wide and open sea of the infinite ages to come. You are in eternity, and let my soul even now dwell there with You.

"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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One of the most loathsome sights in the world!

(Don Fortner)

"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals — but you do not take care of the flock!" Ezekiel 34:2-3

One of the most loathsome sights in the world, is a self-serving preacher!

No work is so great,
no labor is so noble,
no burden is so heavy,
no honor is so humbling —
as preaching the gospel of the grace of God to eternity bound sinners!

Let every man called of God to preach the Gospel, disentangle himself from the affairs of this world — with determined consecration to Christ, His Gospel and His Church, addicting himself to prayer, study and preaching.

"He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord." Colossians 4:7

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O, it was one word that I saw in your book which troubles me!

(George Burder, "Heaven and Hell!")

"And these shall go into eternal punishment — but the righteous into eternal life!" Matthew 25:46

The very word ETERNITY ought to fix our attention on this great subject! O that it may have as good an effect upon you, as it had upon the following lady:

A lady, who was fond of gaiety, spent the whole afternoon and evening at a card party and other vain amusements. Returning home late at night, she found her maid diligently reading a religious book. Happening to look over her shoulder, she saw what it was, and said: "Poor melancholy soul, why do you sit here so long poring over your book?"

After this she retired to bed, but could not sleep — she lay sighing and weeping for several hours. Being repeatedly asked by her maid what was the matter, she burst into tears and said, "O, it was one word that I saw in your book which troubles me — there I saw the word ETERNITY!"

O that we could impress upon you a lasting idea of Eternity!

Suppose all the vast ocean to be distilled by single drops, and a thousand years to pass between every drop — how many millions of years would it take to empty it.

Suppose the whole world to be made up of grains of sand, and one grain only to be taken away in a thousand years — how many millions of years would it take to remove the whole? We cannot count how long — yet we suppose it may be done in a most immense length of time.

Suppose it done. Suppose the ocean emptied, drop by drop. Suppose the globe reduced, grain by grain, to the last sand. But would eternity be lessened? No, not at all. It is a whole eternity still — and the torments of the damned would be as far from an end, as when they began!

A minute bears some proportion to a million years — but millions of millions of years bear no proportion to eternity.

O how would the damned in Hell rejoice, if ten thousand years might finish their miseries! But it is for ETERNITY! Do you startle at the word? It is Christ's word. Christ says in the text, "These shall go away into eternal punishment!"

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Endeavor to realize the solemn scene!

(George Burder, "Death and Judgment!")

"If anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the Lake of Fire!" Revelation 20:15

Retire a little from the hustle and bustle of the world, and from the company of the mirthful. Endeavor to realize the solemn scene! O think of the tremendous day, and the poor miserable state of poor Christless sinners. Those who are then found Christless — will also be speechless, helpless, and hopeless! How will their heads hang down, and their knees knock together! O what pale faces, quivering lips, and fainting hearts! O dreadful day, when . . .
  the earth shall be trembling,
  the stars falling,
  the trumpet sounding,
  the dead rising,
  the elements melting,
  and the world on fire!

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Our trials!

(Don Fortner)

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything!" James 1:2-4

Our trials teach us the vanity of this life.

Our trials prove our faith.

Our trials give us patience.

Our trials make Christ precious to us.

Our trials have a way of detaching us from this world.

Our trials teach us to pray.

"Trials make the promise sweet,
 Trials give new life to prayer;
 Trials bring me to His feet,
 Lay me low and keep me there!"

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The Providence of God!

(Don Fortner)

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Predestination is the sovereign, eternal, immutable, unalterable purpose of God almighty, by which He ordained and ordered, according to His own will and good pleasure, all things that come to pass in time.

Divine providence is the daily, constant, sovereign rule of our God over all things for the accomplishment of His eternal purpose of grace in predestination. Divine providence is the accomplishment of God's sovereign will and purpose. Providence is God bringing to pass in time (sovereignly, absolutely, and perfectly) what He purposed in eternity.

Predestination is God's purpose.
Providence is God's execution of His purpose.

Nothing in the universe happens by luck, chance, fortune, accident or by blind fate! Everything that comes to pass in time — was purposed by our God in eternity, and is brought to pass by His wise, adorable, good Providence.

Nothing comes to pass in time — that God did not purpose in eternity, in sovereign predestination.
Nothing comes to pass in time — except that which God sovereignly brings to pass in His Providence.

And that which God predestined in eternity and brings to pass in his Providence is for the good of His elect, and the glory of His name. This is clearly and incontrovertibly the teaching of Holy Scripture (Psalm 76:10; Proverbs 16:4, 9, 33; 21:1; Daniel 4:34, 35, 37; Isaiah 46:9-11; Romans 11:33-36).

Providence is God's government of the universe. If we have a proper view of God's Providence, we will see the hand of God and the heart of God in everything — in all the experiences of our lives. Believers ascribe their sorrows, and even the cursing of their enemies — to the hand of their heavenly Father's wise and good Providence (Job 1:21; 1 Samuel 3:18; 2 Samuel 16:11-12).

God is not idle. He never needs to rest, recuperate, or regroup. God almighty, our God and heavenly Father — is always at work, governing the world. I have frequently heard preachers and religious leaders speak of sickness, poverty and war, sin, crime and cruelty, famine, earthquakes and death — as things over which God has no control. Nonsense!

God's Providence is as 'minute' as it is 'mysterious' (Matthew 10:30). Our God has ordained the number of hairs on the heads of all. Not even a worthless sparrow falls to the ground without His decree.

God's Providence is 'all inclusive'. God rules everything, great and small, everywhere, and at all times.

He who created all things, rules all things!

Nothing in God's universe breathes or wiggles contrary to God's decree (Isaiah 46:9-13).

As a wise, skilled pharmacist mixes medicine — so our heavenly Father wisely mixes exactly the right measure of bitter things and sweet, to do us good.
Too much joy would intoxicate us.
Too much misery would drive us to despair.
Too much sorrow would crush us.
Too much suffering would break our spirits.
Too much pleasure would ruin us.
Too much defeat would discourage us.
Too much success would puff us up.
Too much failure would keep us from doing anything.
Too much criticism would harden us.
Too much praise would make us proud.
Our great God knows exactly what we need. By His grace, if we are His — we will bow to His Providence, accept it, and give thanks for it.

God's Providence is always executed in the 'wisest manner' possible. We are often unable to see and understand the reasons and causes for specific events in our lives, in the lives of others, or in the history of the world. But our lack of understanding does not prevent us from believing God. We bow to His will, which is evident in His works of Providence, and say, "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!"

The God of Providence rules all things well. How we ought to trust Him! Ever remember, our heavenly Father is God all wise, good, and omnipotent. He is. . .
  too wise to err,
  too good to do wrong,
  and too strong to fail!

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All the Hell that you shall ever have!

("The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod" or, "The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes" by Thomas Brooks, 1659)

Consider Christian, that all your . . .
  trials and troubles,
  calamities and miseries,
  crosses and losses,
which you meet with in this world — is all the Hell that you shall ever have!

Here and now, you have your Hell.
Hereafter, you shall have your Heaven!

This life is the worst of your condition — the best is yet to come!

Lazarus had his Hell first — and his Heaven last.
Dives had his Heaven first — and his Hell at last.

You have all your pangs, and pains, and throes here — that ever you shall have!
Your ease, and rest, and pleasure — is yet to come.

Here you have all your bitters — your sweets are yet to come!

Here you have your sorrows — your joys are yet to come.

Here you have all your winter nights — your summer days are yet to come!

Here you have your evil things — your good things are yet to come.

Death will put an end to all your sins — and to all your sufferings!

Death will be an inlet to those joys, delights, and comforts — which shall never have an end!

Who can seriously meditate upon this, and not be silent under God's most smarting rod?

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These are not suggestions about what God's people ought to be

(Don Fortner)

"We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

Since God has ordained that His people walk in good works, we are assured that God will graciously cause them to do so by the sweet constraint of His grace.

Grace experienced, makes Christians gracious.
Mercy tasted, makes Christians merciful.

Faith bestowed, makes Christians faithful.

Kindness known, makes Christians kind.

Forgiveness enjoyed, makes Christians forgiving.

Love felt, makes Christians loving.

These are not suggestions about what God's people ought to be
, but statements of fact about what all true believers are.

Believers are a people who, being saved by grace, ruled by love, and motivated by gratitude — seek the will and glory of God in all things.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" Titus 2:11-12

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Our only rule of faith and practice!

(Don Fortner)

Our only rule of faith and practice is the Word of God. We have . . .
  no creed to defend,
  no denomination to maintain, and
  no confession to bind our minds.

"What do the Scriptures teach?" That is and must be our only concern. If the plain teachings of Holy Scripture appear to destroy or contradict our understanding of any doctrine — then let us relinquish the doctrine, or acknowledge the fact that our minds are both depraved and minuscule — and bow to the revelation of God.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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The black horse of trouble!

(Don Fortner)

"He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation." Psalm 107:7

Oh, how merciful, how gracious, how wise, how good our God is to His redeemed people! How gracious He has been to our souls in hedging up our way, bringing into our lives disappointments, pains, afflictions, and sorrows — by which He has sweetly and irresistibly forced us to return to Him!

No trial endured by God's child would ever cause a murmuring thought to rise in his heart — if he knew God's reason for sending it. God's way always leads His chosen people in this world, through a dark, troubling wilderness — but God's way is always "the right way."

Within the rough shell of sorrow, we find a sweet kernel of grace.

Even when His providence brings great pain and sorrow — our heavenly Father's eye is ever watching over us to do us good.

Our heavenly Father often sends His tender mercies, on the black horse of trouble!

As winter prepares the earth for spring — so our afflictions prepare our souls for glory!

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A remedy against all our troubles!

(Thomas Watson, "The Art of Divine Contentment")

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need." Philippians 4:11-12

Contentment sweetens every condition.

Christ turned the water into wine. Just so, contentment turns the bitter waters of Marah, into spiritual wine.

Contentment is a flower which does not grow in every garden.

You would think it were excellent, if I could prescribe a remedy or antidote against poverty. Behold, here is that which is more excellent — for a man to be poor, and yet have enough! Contentment teaches a man how to abound — in the midst of poverty!

Have I but little? Yet it is more than I deserve.

Do I meet with some crosses? My comfort is, if they are heavy — I have not far to go!

My cross is light — in comparison with the weight of glory.

Has God taken away my comforts from me? It is well — the Comforter still abides with me.

Thus contentment, as a honeycomb, drops sweetness into every condition.

Discontent is a leaven which sours every comfort; it puts vinegar into every mercy; it doubles every cross. But the contented spirit sucks sweetness from every flower of providence. Contentment is full of consolation.

Contentment is . . .
  a remedy against all our troubles,
  an alleviation to all our burdens,
  the cure of to every worry.

As medicine works disease out of the body — so contentment works trouble out of the heart. Holy contentment keeps the heart from fainting. Contentment is the golden shield, which beats back all discouragements.

Contentment, though it is  not properly a grace (it is rather, a disposition of mind,) yet in it there is a happy mixture of all the graces. Contentment is a most precious compound! The ingredients put into it are faith, patience, meekness, humility, etc.

Wicked men are often disquieted in the enjoyment of all things.
But the contented Christian is joyful in the lack of all things! He may have little in the world — yet be perfectly content.

O the rare art, or rather — miracle of contentment!

A Christian finds contentment distilled out of the breasts of the promises. He is poor in purse — but rich in promise. There is one promise which brings much sweet contentment into the soul: "Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." (Psalm 34:10) If the thing we desire is good for us — we shall have it. If it is not good — then the not having is good for us. The resting satisfied with the promise, gives contentment.

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God's love-tokens!

Thomas Brooks, "Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod" 1659)

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

A gracious soul secretly concludes: As stars shine brightest in the night — so God will make my soul shine and glisten like gold, while I am in this furnace — and when I come out of the furnace of affliction. "He knows the way that I take; and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold!" Job 23:10

Surely, as the tasting of honey opened Jonathan's eyes — so this cross, this affliction, shall open my eyes. By this stroke, I shall come to have a clearer sight of my sins, and of myself, and a fuller sight of my God!

Surely this affliction shall proceed in the purging away of my dross!

As surely as plowing the ground kills the weeds, and harrowing breaks hard clods — so these afflictions shall kill my sins, and soften my heart!

As surely as the plaster draws out the infectious core — so the afflictions which are upon me shall draw out . . .
  the infectious core of pride,
  the infectious core of self-love,
  the infectious core of envy,
  the infectious core of earthliness,
  the infectious core of formality,
  the infectious core of hypocrisy!

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will crucify my heart more and more to the world — and the world to my heart!

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will keep pride from my soul!

Surely these afflictions are but the Lord's pruning-knives, by which he will bleed my sins, and prune my heart, and make it more fertile and fruitful. They are the means by which He will rid me of those spiritual diseases and maladies, which are most deadly and dangerous to my soul!

Affliction is such a potion, as will carry away all soul-diseases, better than all other remedies!

Surely by these afflictions, I shall be made more a partaker of God's holiness!

As black soap makes white clothes — so does sharp afflictions make holy hearts.

Surely by these, God will communicate more of Himself unto me!

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will draw out my heart more and more to seek Him! "In their afflictions they will seek me early!" Hosea 5:15. In times of affliction, Christians will industriously, speedily, early seek unto the Lord.

Surely by these trials and troubles, the Lord will fix my soul more than ever upon the great concernments of the eternal world!

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will work in me more tenderness and compassion towards those who are afflicted!

Surely these afflictions are but God's love-tokens! "As many as I love — I rebuke and chasten!" Revelation 3:19. So says the holy Christian, "O my soul! be quiet, be still — all is sent in love, all is a fruit of divine favor."

Afflictions abase the carnal attractions of the world, which might entice us.

Affliction abates the lustiness of the flesh within, which might else ensnare us!

By all of the above, affliction proves to be a mighty advantage unto us.

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(James Smith, "HEAVEN!" 1858)

"You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!" Psalm 16:11

HEAVEN! What is it?
It is . . .
  God's residence,
  the Savior's home,
  our Father's house,
  a paradise of pleasure,
  a temple of worship, and
  the residence of perfect purity and peace!

There . . .
  God unveils His glory,
  the Savior exhibits His charms,
  the angels perform their service, and
  the saints are entirely happy with their God.

In Heaven . . .
  sin is banished,
  holiness is perfected,
  life is a continual feast, and
  mortality is swallowed up in life!

From Heaven . . .
  all pain is banished,
  all enemies are excluded, and
  all causes of sorrow are shut out!

In Heaven . . .
  all our prayers are answered,
  all our desires are gratified, and
  all our needs are supplied.
There is no weeping, wailing, or wishing there.

In Heaven . . .
  our knowledge will be perfect,
  our happiness will be abiding,
  our pleasures will be ever new.

In Heaven we shall . . .
  see Jesus,
  be with Jesus, and
  be like Jesus, forever!

HEAVEN! Who are there?
All tried and tempted followers of Jesus are there.
All doubting and fearing disciples of Jesus are there.
All poor and despised believers are there.
Multitudes, who felt totally unworthy of such glory, and feared they would never reach the place — are there.

All who were chosen by the Father,
all who were redeemed by the Son, and
all who were sanctified by the Holy Spirit — are there.

HEAVEN! What do they enjoy there? Who can answer this question — but one who has been there; and he would need a new language to state, and new figures to represent the enjoyments of Heaven. They enjoy rest from their pains — and a full supply of all their needs. They enjoy perfect satisfaction, a fullness of joy, and pleasure forevermore. They see all that they believed, realize all that they hoped for, and possess all that they loved. They have . . .
  health — without sickness;
  pleasure — without pain;
  and holiness — without sin.
Every sense is gratified, every power is pleasurably employed — and they are perfectly and perpetually happy!

O Heaven, in you there is . . .
  no tempting devil,
  no ensnaring world,
  no indwelling corruption,
  no doubts, fears, or misgivings!
  And best of all, there is no sin!

O Heaven, in you I shall see my God, possess my Savior, and enjoy the fullness of the Holy Spirit! O my God, in Heaven I shall be satisfied — for I shall be with You, serving and enjoying You without weariness or cessation!

HEAVEN! Who will yet get to Heaven? Who? Ah, perhaps many we little think of! We shall miss many whom we expected to find there — and find many whom we never expected would reach that glorious place!

Who will go to Heaven? That poor man who is striving against sin, mourning over corruption, and loathing himself before God. That poor woman, who sighs because she sins, pants for perfect holiness, and clings to the cross of Jesus. Do you see that poor soul on his knees, confessing his transgressions, pleading for pardon, and seeking grace to sanctify his nature — he will go to Heaven. Do you see that lowly Christian, who is visiting the sick, pointing sufferers to the cross, and trying to alleviate human woe, out of love to Jesus — he will go to Heaven. Do you see that Sunday School teacher, who, after a hard week's work, is regularly in his class, speaking loving words, in tender tones, to win the little ones for the Savior — he will go to Heaven. Do you see that preacher who exalts Christ in his ministry, honors the gospel in his life, and travails in birth for souls — he will go to Heaven.

Heaven will be peopled by all who believe in Jesus, love the brethren, and worship God in Spirit and in truth. There will be a numberless multitude there — all deeply indebted to free mercy, washed in the Savior's blood, and sanctified by the Spirit's grace!

Reader, there is a way — but only one way to Heaven! Only those found in that way will ever reach it! You yourself, may be within an hour or two of either Heaven or Hell — do you know which? If called away suddenly — to which would you go? You have a Heaven to obtain, or a Hell to endure — to all eternity! Which shall it be? O that you were wise, that you properly realized this, that you would consider your latter end!

Heaven with all its glories — or Hell with all its horrors — must be your eternal portion! If you despise the Savior, make light of the Gospel, and neglect God's great salvation — then Hell, an eternal Hell, with all its unspeakable horrors — is your portion!

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

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It takes a long and painful process to purge it out!

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

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

The love of Jesus will not preserve His people from trials — but rather, assures them of trials! All whom He loves — He chastens! He has a furnace to purge our dross, and refine our souls. His Word and the Spirit reveal to us our defilement and impurity — and His grace and providence co-operate to remove them. "I am the Lord God, who sanctifies you."

It is divine love which . . .
  prepares the furnace,
  kindles the flame,
  brings the Christian into it,
  superintends the whole process, and
  brings him out as gold, seven times purified!

"From all your filthiness and from all your idols, I will cleanse you!" He cleanses them in the laver of the Word by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit. But He also cleanses them by a variety of afflictive dispensations, through which He causes them to pass.

Our sin calls for trials — His love sends them!

Our nature repines at trials — but grace submits to them!

Our flesh is enraged at trials — but the Spirit sanctifies them to our good, and our Savior's glory.

He makes His people choice ones — in the "furnace of affliction!" He says, "I will put you into the fire — and will purely purge away your dross."

Believer, never repine at your trials, nor be over-anxious for their removal. They are appointed by Jesus as your Purifier — and are choice blessings in disguise!

Seek their sanctification,
wrestle with God that you may see His love in every stroke, and
look to Jesus that you may enjoy His presence when passing through the flame!

Nothing can hurt you — while Jesus is near you; and He is never nearer to you — than when you are in the furnace! For He sits right there as the Refiner . . .
  watching the process,
  regulating the heat, and
  waiting to effect a gracious deliverance — when the ends of His love are answered.

He is only preparing you for fresh manifestations of His glory — and fitting you for larger communications of His love.

In the furnace, you will lose nothing that is worth keeping — but you will obtain what is truly valuable!

The flesh and the soul need constant cleansings — for corruption is so deeply rooted in our nature, that it takes a long and painful process to purge it out! But in reference to the furnace, your Lord says, "The Lord did this to purge Israel's wickedness, to take away all her sin!"

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The more bloody — the more lovely!

(Thomas Watson, "The Loveliness of Christ")

"Yes, He is altogether lovely!" Song of Solomon 5:16

Lost men cannot see the stupendous beauty of Christ. All sparkling beauties are found in Him, but they lack eyes!

He is infinitely and superlatively lovely! All that we could ever say about Jesus falls infinitely short of His matchless worth. He is pure, unspotted beauty! There is an infinite resplendency, a sparkling luster to His beauty!

Jesus is most lovely in His sufferings, when He made an atonement for our sins. What, lovely in His sufferings? Lovely when He was buffeted, spit upon, and besmeared with blood?

Oh yes, He was most lovely upon the cross, when He showed most love to us.

He bled love at every vein!

Those drops were love drops!

The more bloody — the more lovely!

Oh how lovely ought a bleeding Savior be to our eyes! Let us wear this blessed crucifix always in our heart!

The cross of Christ is the key that opens paradise to us!

How beautiful is Christ on the cross!

The ruddiness of His blood, took away the redness of our guilt!

Christ's crucifixion, is our coronation!

He left His Father's bosom, that hive of sweetness, to come and live in this poor world. Truly, He exchanged the palace for the dunghill.

"The unsearchable riches of Christ!" Not even the angels can dig to the bottom of this mine! They adore Christ, being ravished with His amazing beauties!

Jesus is the very extract and quintessence of beauty. He is a whole paradise of delights!

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The devil's chapel!

(William S. Plumer, "The Ten Commandments")

"I will set before my eyes no vile thing!" Psalm 101:3

"The theater is an evil place. In this vortex of vice
  the first step is to the theater,
  the next is to the bar,
  the next is to lewd company,
  the next is to the brothel,
  the next is to disease,
  the next is to death, and
  the last step is to HELL!"

Augustine: "Stage-plays are the subverters of goodness and honesty — the destroyers of all modesty and chastity."


Bernard: "All true soldiers of Jesus Christ abominate and reject all stage-plays, as vanities and false frenzies."

Seneca: "Nothing is so destructive of good manners or morals — as attendance on the theater."

Gregory Nazianzen: "Play-houses are the lascivious shops of all filthiness and impurity."

Tillotson: "The play-house is the devil's chapel, a nursery of licentiousness and vice; a recreation which ought not to be allowed among a civilized nation, much less a Christian people."

The American Congress, October 12th, 1778: "Whereas, true religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness: Resolved, that it be, and is hereby earnestly recommended to the several States — to take the most effectual means for the suppressing of theatrical entertainments, horse-racing, gambling, and such other diversions, as are productive of idleness, dissipation, and a general depravity of principles and manners."

[Editor's note: One can only imagine what the above authors would say about much of the debased media which professing Christians now amuse themselves with!]

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If God withheld His mercy

(George Lawson, "A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs" 1821)

The holiest of men need preservation from the worst sins, for they are conscious that they might fall into the deepest mire of iniquity — if God withheld His mercy.

"Hold  me up — and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117

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A dead dog sinner!

(David Eddmenson)

Upon arriving to services one Wednesday evening to my surprise there was an old, mangy, rejected, and forsaken dog sitting on the front porch of the church building. I was appalled and repulsed at the dog's sad appearance and horrible condition. This poor creature was in bad shape, yet all I can remember thinking was, "I wish this dog would go away."

I am so grateful that when my merciful, gracious, and compassionate Savior looked upon me, that His attitude was not like mine. "What is Your servant, that You should look upon such a dead dog as I am?" In my sight that poor dog was in bad shape — but how much worse do I, a dead dog sinner appear in God's sight?

"Christ died for the ungodly!"
Romans 5:6

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The Book of Life!

(George Burder, "Death and Judgment!")

"If anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life — he was thrown into the Lake of Fire!" Revelation 20:15

The Book of Life contains a list of all the names of the people of God — those who were . . .
  chosen by the Father to salvation;
  redeemed by the blood of Christ; and
  called, renewed, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Here will be found the names of those people who were convinced of their sin and misery; humbled on account of their abominations; and who, being enlightened in the knowledge of Christ — came to Him by precious faith, for life and salvation; and who proved the truth of their faith, by the holiness of their lives and conduct.

What watchfulness, what seriousness, befits us! Let us be concerned to be always ready — daily walking humbly and closely with God — sitting loose to all created objects, from which death may so suddenly separate us — and having our affections set on heavenly things, to which death will so readily transmit us!

Look on death as a disarmed foe — a serpent which may hiss, but cannot sting!

Look on judgment as a most desirable event — when soul and body being united, and made perfect in holiness, shall be  forever made happy in the full enjoyment of Christ to all eternity!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

What a hell must it be to his own soul!

(George Lawson, "A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs" 1821)

"Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death!" Proverbs 19:18

How painful must it be to the heart of a parent who neglected the training of his child, to see the that child walk in the paths of wickedness. Every wicked act in such a child must be a wound in the heart of his cruel father, who by his cruel negligence, left his child to be a prey to the devil — and, carried captive by that cruel tyrant, to be employed in his hellish drudgery!

If the father lives to see him die in such a situation, what a hell must it be to his own soul! Even the agonies of a wounded conscience are unequal to the torment of reflecting that, in spite of all the obligations of nature — he allowed his poor child to be carried away by Satan to the Lake of Fire; where he is now justly cursing the parent who brought him into the world, because he never used the proper means for preventing that horrible misery, to which he is now reduced.

"He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." Proverbs 13:24

"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." Proverbs 22:15

"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

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The consummate April Fool!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world!" Psalm 19:1-4

He who looks up to the heavens and then writes himself down as an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar! The Atheist is the fool preeminently, and a fool universally! To say there is no God is . . .
  to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy;
  to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity;
  to stifle consciousness, which is madness.

If the sinner could by his atheism destroy the God whom he hates, there would be some sense, although much wickedness, in his infidelity. But as denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it — so doubting the existence of God will not stop the omnipotent Judge from destroying the rebel who breaks His laws. Nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes God, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it!

"The fool says in his heart: There is no God!" Psalm 14:1

The world we live in, is a world of fools! (John Jamieson)

Who in the world is a greater fool, a more ignorant, wretched person — than he who is an atheist? (Jeremy Taylor)

"Take heed, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise?" Psalm 94:8