Grace Gems for AUGUST, 2016
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What doctrine is more emptying, humbling, and therefore sanctifying!
"God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things . . ." 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
What doctrine is more emptying, humbling, and therefore sanctifying, than predestination? It lays the axe at the root of all human boasting!
In the light of this truth, the most holy believer sees that there is no difference between him and the vilest sinner that crawls the earth — but what the sovereign grace of God has made!
"By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10
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Look at that cold creeping worm!
(Thomas Guthrie, 1803-1873)
Look at that cold creeping worm! The playful child shudders from its touch!
Yet in a few weeks, and with merry laugh and flying feet, that same child over flowery meadow, is hunting an insect that never lights upon the ground, but flitting in painted beauty from flower to flower — drinks nectar from their cups, and sleeps the summer night away in the bosom of their perfumes.
If that is the same boy — this is also the same creature. The change most wonderful!
Yet this is but a dull, earthly emblem of the divine transformation wrought in those who are converted by God!
Fallen though he is, man is capable of undergoing a more wondrous change than the insect when, no longer a worm, no longer crawling on the ground, no longer feeding on garbage — it leaves its shell to spend its happy days in sport, flitting from flower to flower; its food their juices and its bed their leaves.
The spiritual change which we call conversion, is not a mere reform. It is a mighty revolution — a revolution greater than the tomes of profane history. Conversion changes the heart, the habits, and the eternal destiny of an immortal being!
Conversion does not bestow new faculties. Yet our affections, our temperament, our will, our judgment partake of this great and holy change. Thus, the understanding is enlightened; the will is renewed; and our whole temperament is sweetened and sanctified by the Spirit of God.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
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He died — and where then?
(Thomas Doolittle, "Love to Christ Necessary to Escape the Curse at His Coming!" 1693)
"If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ — let him be Anathema! (or accursed)." 1 Corinthians 16:22
Must they be cursed who do not love Christ? Then know that worldly prosperity may co-exist with the curse of God. A man might be prospering in this world — and cursed in the world to come!
Do you see many whose lives declare they have no sincere love to Christ in their hearts — thrive and abound in outward enjoyments?
They do not love Christ — and yet are strong and healthy!
They do not love Christ — and yet are rich!
They do not love Christ — and yet are honored!
What then? Might not a man be in health — and yet be a cursed man? Nay, the more strength he has, the more able he is to serve the devil — and so his strength is a curse unto him. The more worldly trinkets a man has to love — the more he enjoys of the world — and the more he loves it. And so his enjoyments are a curse unto him, when they keep him from placing his love upon Jesus Christ.
God threatens to curse wicked men's blessings: "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them!" Malachi 2:2
Many are apt to call the proud — happy, "But now we call the arrogant, blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape!" Malachi 3:15. The rich, though evil — are thought by many to be blessed. This is a great mistake! All men can see their outward blessings — but they have no eyes to behold the inward curses which lie under those outward blessings.
Is it not a curse to have riches — without saving grace?
Is it not a curse to have our portion and blessings — all in this life?
Is it not a curse to prosper in the world — and to be every moment in danger of falling into Hell?
Do you look upon it to be happiness — to have all for the body, and nothing for the soul? to have much of earth — and nothing of Heaven?
You read of some who "have their portion in this life" — and you read that their portion on earth is a cursed portion! It was so with the rich man spoken of in the gospel — who while on earth had his purple robes, and fine linen, and sumptuous costly dishes every day!
Oh, happy man! But wait until you hear the end. He died — and where then? To Hell! Where is now your happy man? What is his condition there? What! There he finds more pain — than all the fleeting pleasures he had while on earth! There he feels more torment and terror — than he had pleasure and delight all his days on earth! "Abraham said: Son, remember that in your life-time you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented!" Luke 16:25
Remember that your pleasures were short and sweet — but Hell is long and bitter!
Remember that Lazarus is now blessed — and you are now cursed!
Remember that he is eternally happy — and you are eternally miserable!
Behold the change! The world's blessed man — is now God's cursed man! And he who was the miserable man in the esteem of the world — is now the blessed man!
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Christ calls men to carry a cross!
"Then Jesus said to His disciples: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." Matthew 16:24
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever!" 1 John 2:15,17
Any appeal to the public in the name of Christ which rises no higher than an invitation to tranquility — must be recognized as mere humanism, with a few words of Jesus thrown in to make it appear Christian.
Christ calls men to carry a cross — but we call them to have fun in His name.
Christ calls them to forsake the world — but we assure them that if they but accept Jesus, the world is their playground.
Christ calls them to suffer — but we call them to enjoy all the bourgeois comforts modern civilization affords.
Christ calls them to holiness — but we call them to a cheap and tawdry happiness.
We can afford to suffer now — we will have a long eternity to enjoy ourselves. And our enjoyment will be valid and pure, for it will come in the right way and at the right time.
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O learn to look upon sin through the curse!
(Thomas Doolittle, "Love to Christ Necessary to Escape the Curse at His Coming!" 1693)
"If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ — let him be Anathema! (or accursed)." 1 Corinthians 16:22
Would you flee from the curse — and yet run into sin?
Would you escape the curse — and yet live in sin?
What is this, but that you would drink poison — and hope that you shall live?
That you would run into the fire — and imagine that you shall not be burned?
Do you cry out under the curse as a grievous pain — and yet look upon sin as the greatest pleasure?
Is the curse dreadful — and do you look upon sin as delightful?
Is the curse intolerable — and can sin be profitable?
O learn to look upon sin through the curse — and then sin will appear to be a cursed thing indeed!
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Ten thousand times more precious!
(William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles")
"To you who believe — He is precious!" 1 Peter 2:7
Christ is MOST precious! Oh, sirs! angels are precious, saints are precious, friends are precious, Heaven is precious — but Christ is ten thousand times more precious than these!
A believer had rather have Christ without Heaven — than Heaven without Christ! "Whom have I in Heaven but You? and there is none on earth that I desire besides You!" Psalm 73:25. Let a believer search Heaven and earth — and yet he will find nothing comparable to Christ. To be like to Him — is our happiness! To draw near to Him — is our holiness! You see, beloved, life is precious, freedom is precious, health is precious, peace is precious, food and clothing are precious, gold and silver are precious, kingdoms and crowns are precious. Indeed they are, in their places — but nothing is as precious as Jesus Christ!
Mark, sirs, what the apostle says, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ!" Philippians 3:7-8.
The believer is the only blessed man, the only happy man, the only rich man. Revelation 21:7, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things." Oh what a glorious inheritance are they born to — who are new-born! All things are theirs — and they shall inherit all things! What can they desire, more than all? All that Christ has, is theirs!
His wisdom is theirs to teach them,
His love is theirs to pity them,
His Spirit is theirs to comfort them,
His righteousness is theirs to justify them,
His power is theirs to protect them, and
His glory is theirs to crown them!
Oh, sirs! Christ cannot but be most precious to a believer — because all his precious comforts come from Christ. The Lord Jesus is . . .
fairer than the fairest,
sweeter than the sweetest,
nearer than the nearest,
dearer than the dearest,
richer than the richest, and
better than the best!
"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved — and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
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Death, to the believer!
"I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" Philippians 1:23
Death, to the believer, is but passing out of a world of sorrow and of sin — and entering upon a world of indescribable glory!
If we lived more in anticipation of the happiness that waits us — earth would have less hold on our hearts' best affections.
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ — set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above — not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2
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Infinite wisdom directs every event!
(John Dagg, 1857)
"The Lord does whatever pleases Him — in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:5-6
It should fill us with joy, that God's infinite wisdom guides the affairs of the world!
Many of its events are shrouded in darkness and mystery, and inextricable confusion sometimes seems to reign.
Often wickedness prevails, and God seems to have forgotten the creatures that He has made.
Our own path through life is dark and devious, and beset with difficulties and dangers.
How full of consolation is the doctrine, that infinite wisdom directs every event, brings order out of confusion, and light out of darkness — and, to those who love God, His infinite wisdom causes all things, whatever their present aspect and apparent tendency is, to work together for good!
"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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Let us try and not attend to its gewgaws!
"They are not of the world any more than I am of the world." John 17:14
The world and its 'nothings' are often a sad snare to God's saints! Oh that by faith we may overcome it all, and keep close to Jesus! We are not of the world — let us try and not attend to its gewgaws! Keep a more steadfast, unwavering eye upon Christ. He has gone a little before us, and stands beckoning us to follow Him.
Live for eternity! Let go of your hold upon the world! Receive this exhortation from an aged pilgrim, who, as she nears the solemn scenes of eternity, and more realizes the inexpressible joys that await us there — is anxious that all the believers who are traveling the same road might have their hearts and minds more disentangled from earth and earthly things, and themselves unreservedly given to Christ. Let us aim in all things to follow Him who, despising this world's show, left us an example how we should walk. Have your lamp trimmed and brightly burning, for every day and every hour brings us nearer and nearer to our eternal home!
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." John 17:16
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Moral and spiritual parasites!
There are moral and spiritual parasites which throttle, kill, injure, or retard the growth of the spiritual life!
1. The parasite of sloth will hinder the grace of watchfulness, as it did the five virgins. Matthew 25:5
2. The parasite of worldliness will kill the grace of devotion, as it did in Demas. 2 Timothy 4:10
3. The parasite of pride will devastate the grace of humility, as it did with the Devil. 1 Timothy 3:6
4. The parasite of unbelief will keep down the grace of faith, as is seen in the children of Israel. Hebrews 3:17-19
5. The parasite of prestige will kill the grace of self-denial, as is stated of Diotrephes. 3 John 9
6. The parasite of covetousness will strangle the grace of generosity, as is evidenced in Achan. Joshua 7:21
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We need a lot of chipping!
"They will be Mine — in the day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17
"We need a lot of chipping!" So said a saint as we were talking about the Lord's gracious dealings with His people. The saying suggested to my mind — the Lord Jesus as the loving Sculptor at work upon the marble of our fallen humanity. There is an angel in the marble — because the pierced hand of the Sculptor has it in His mind, and brings it out by His skill. But there is a "lot of chipping" to be done before the beautiful image of His holy character stands out, displaying the perfection of His work.
The hard stone of unbelief,
the rough points of self-will,
the prominence of worldly ambition,
the sharp angles of pride,
the ugly faults of temper,
the stubborn marks of bad habits,
and the dark veins of selfishness —
are some of the things He removes!
"Those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!" Romans 8:29
"God cuts and polishes His jewels in order to make them shine more brightly and beautifully in the crown of His glory in Heaven. All of God's jewels need polishing!" (Richard Newton)
"God has many sharp-cutting instruments and rough files for the polishing of His jewels. Those He especially loves and means to make the most resplendent — He most often uses His tools upon!" (Robert Leighton)
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"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1 John 2:15-17
1. Worldliness is evil in its nature. Galatians 1:4
2. Worldliness is downward in its tendency. Ephesians 2:1-4
3. Worldliness is contaminating in its influence. James 1:27
4. Worldliness is antagonistic to God. James 4:4
5. Worldliness is corrupting in its association. 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 2:20
6. Worldliness is unsatisfying in its pleasures. 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17
7. Worldliness is hateful in its opposition. 1 John 3:13
Separation from the world is the Lord's clear and definite direction. To be specific in our desires and efforts to be separate from the world — the following rules should be followed:
1. Go to no place where the Lord would not take you.
2. Be found in no company that is not helpful to your Christian life.
3. Be no party to any transaction upon which you cannot seek your Lord's approval.
4. Listen to no voice which would lead you away from the truth of God's Word.
5. Allow no pleasure to interfere with your attendance at the means of Grace.
6. Whatever you do — do all to the glory of God!
Strive to do the will of God, as found in His Word — nothing less, nothing more, nothing else!
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No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined!
(Thomas Doolittle, "Love to Christ Necessary to Escape the Curse at His Coming!" 1693)
"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
The lovers of Christ have great preparations made by God Himself, for their happiness in the eternal world.
For all the lovers of the world, and sin, and vanity — wrath and Hell are prepared!
But for the lovers of Christ, such things are prepared as transcend . . .
the most refined mind to conceive,
the most eloquent tongue to express,
or the ablest pen to describe!
The eye of man has seen admirable things, coasts of pearl, golden mines, stately monuments, kingly palaces — but never has eye seen such things as God has prepared for those who love Him.
The mind of man can conceive more than the eye has seen, or the ear has heard. It can imagine . . .
all pebbles to be pearls,
all the earth to be a silver heap,
the sea to be liquid gold,
the air to be transparent crystal,
and every candle to be a star!
And if all these were so — they would be but as . . .
a grain of sand, compared to a mountain,
a beam of light, compared to the sun,
a drop, compared to the ocean,
a grain, compared to a golden mine —
when compared with the things that are prepared for such as love God and Christ! For those things are . . .
so great — that they cannot be measured;
so many — that they cannot be numbered;
so precious — that they cannot be valued;
so durable and lasting — that they can never be ended!
They exceed our faith! They are beyond our hope — and above our desires! They might be possessed hereafter — but they cannot be comprehended here, because . . .
for sublimity — they are incomprehensible,
for transcendence — they are inexplicable,
for glory — they are unutterable,
for sweetness — they are inconceivable,
for sureness — they are unquestionable,
for fullness — they are immeasurable,
for firmness — they are unmovable,
for lastingness — they are unchangeable!
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Oh, what a blessed formula for us!
"Simon replied: Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.
Nevertheless at Your Word I will let down the net!" Luke 5:5
"Nevertheless, at Your Word!" Oh, what a blessed formula for us!
This path of mine is dark, mysterious, perplexing! Nevertheless, at Your Word I will go forward.
This trial of mine is cutting, sore for flesh and blood to bear! It is hard to breathe through a broken heart, "May Your will be done!" But, nevertheless, at Your word I will say, "Even so, Father — for this is Your good pleasure!"
This besetting sin or bad habit of mine — is difficult to crucify. It has become part of myself — a second nature! To be severed from it would be like the cutting off of a right hand, or the plucking out of a right eye! Nevertheless, at Your Word I will lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles me! This idol, I will utterly abolish!
"You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed!" Psalm 119:4
"Help me understand Your instruction — and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart!" Psalm 119:34
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When the knife cuts deep and the pain is sore!
"My Father is the gardener!" John 15:1
It is comforting to think of trouble, in whatever form it may come to us — as a heavenly messenger, bringing us blessing from God. In its earthly aspect, it may seem hurtful, even destructive; but in its spiritual outworking, it yields blessing.
Many of the richest blessings which have come down to us from the past, are the fruit of sorrow or pain. We should never forget that redemption, the world's greatest blessing — is the fruit of the world's greatest sorrow.
In every time of sharp pruning, when the knife cuts deep and the pain is sore, it is an unspeakable comfort to read, "My Father is the gardener!"
One tells of being in a great hothouse where luscious clusters of grapes were hanging on every side. The owner said, "When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clean down to the stalk. He did, and we had no grapes for two years — but this is the result."
There is rich suggestiveness in this illustration of the pruning process, as we apply it to the Christian life. Pruning seems to be destroying the vine, the gardener appears to be cutting it all away; but he looks on into the future and knows that the final outcome will be the enrichment of its life and greater abundance of fruit.
In the same way, there are blessings we can never have — unless we are ready to pay the price of pain. There is no way to reach them, but through suffering.
"Every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2
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The tempting worms hanging on the lips of the old serpent the devil!
(James Smith, "Handfuls on Purpose")
"The deceitfulness of sin!" Hebrews 3:13
The "fishing-frog" has been named the "sea-devil" — because it is supposed to allure and catch little fish by means of worm-like appendages at its mouth.
How many delusive appendages has the devil dangling at its mouth! Silly men catch at these, and get devoured!
The attractions of sin are but the tempting worms hanging on the lips of the old serpent the devil. Be not deceived.
"So that Satan will not outwit us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes." 2 Corinthians 2:11
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("Comfort for the Desponding — Words to Soothe and Cheer Troubled Hearts!" 1864)
"Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you!" 1 Peter 5:7
The Christian's life is very much made up of cares and comforts.
Cares spring from earth — comfort comes from Heaven.
Cares prove him a sinner — holy comforts prove him a saint.
Cares flow in from a variety of quarters — true comfort from only one quarter.
Cares come naturally — but comforts come supernaturally.
We shall be sure to have earthly cares — but shall we have divine comfort?
This depends on God's grace, which gives it — and our faith, which receives it. Cares must be cast on our God — or they will prove a burden too heavy for us. They will depress us, bewilder us, and make us wretched. But here is our comfort — we have always ONE to care for us, and the very One which of all others we would wish to do so, "The Lord cares for you!"
God cares for whom?
For you, who are born again by the Spirit.
For you, who are strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For you, who are placed in humble circumstances, being numbered with the poor of this world.
For you, who are compassed about with so many cares, and who enjoy so few comforts.
For you, who are surprised at your many fiery trials, as though some strange thing had happened unto you.
For you, who are worried and harassed by Satan, who, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour.
For you, who are persecuted by the world, and hated by men for your Savior's sake.
For you, to whom Christ is precious — as He is to every one who truly believes in Him.
God's care extends to every Christian . . .
the young and the aged,
the weak and the strong,
the poor and the wealthy,
the doubting and the confident.
Believer, He cares for you!
Who is it that cares for us?
It is the Lord, the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy;
who is so great — that we have no adequate conception of His greatness;
who is so good — that it is impossible fully to set forth His goodness;
who is so glorious — that no sinner can see His face and live.
It is He who created all things with His word, who governs all by His wisdom, and upholds all by His power.
His resources are infinite,
His compassion is exquisite, and
His patience is surprisingly great.
He enters into all the circumstances of His redeemed people, is ever present with them, and rejoices over them to do them good. The angels obey Him, the seraphim adore Him, and all creation glorifies Him!
But though He is so exalted, so holy, and so unspeakably great . . .
He cares for you — as base as you are.
He cares for you — as sinful as you are.
He cares for you — as depressed and discouraged as you are.
He cares for you. He cares for you individually, and according to the circumstances in which you are placed.
What does He do?
He cares for you!
He thinks of you!
He watches over you!
He sympathizes with you!
He feels the deepest interest in you!
He ever seeks your welfare!
He infallibly secures your good!
Your misery touches His heart,
your needs lie open to His view,
and your cries enter into His ears!
He cares for you more than for the proudest monarch on his throne!
He cares for you — and His care is CONSTANT! It is not fitful or occasional — but ever the same.
He cares for you — and His care is PATERNAL! It is the care of a father for his child — the child whom he tenderly loves, and for whose welfare he feels the deepest concern.
He cares for you, and His care is PERPETUAL! He will never care for you less than He does at present.
When old age weakens you,
when poverty pinches you,
when death appears just before you —
He will care for you as much as He does at this moment.
He cares for you — and His care is BENEFICIAL! It prevents innumerable evils — and secures the greatest possible amount of good. His care is more advantageous than the care of the kindest father, though that father were monarch of the mightiest empire, and possessed unbounded wealth. The care of God is of more value than the care of all His creatures combined.
He cares for you — but His care is MYSTERIOUSLY EXERCISED! It benefits us certainly — but secretly. It conceals itself behind the blessings it brings, and the evils it prevents.
He cares for you — and His care is SPECIAL! It is not the care which He has for the beasts which perish, or the unbelieving sinners who die under His frown.
He cares for you — and His care is PARTICULAR. It is care which extends to the very hairs of your heads, which, are all numbered — and to all the events and occurrences of your life, however minute or commonplace!
Beloved, here is our comfort. We may lose the care of an earthly relative or dear friend by death — but the Lord ever lives; and while He lives, He . . .
ever loves us,
thoroughly knows us, and
never ceases to care for us!
Here is the ground of our confidence for the future. We know not where we shall be, nor what we shall be — for we know not what a day may bring forth. But this we know, that God will care for us, and, caring for us — He will fulfill His precious promises to us.
If God cares for us, then . . .
let us cast all our cares upon Him;
let us live in daily fellowship with Him;
let us seek all our supplies from Him.
If God cares for us — let us not dishonor Him by nursing our doubts, or encouraging our fears — but let us trust in Him at all times, for . . .
His love is true,
His care is constant, and
His knowledge is perfect.
We shall never be without a divine friend — however trying our circumstances may be. We shall never be without a divine guide — however perplexing or difficult our path may be. The care of God is more than the care of all the angelic hosts. If the care of God is not sufficient to preserve, supply, and satisfy us — then nothing is.
May the Lord help me to believe this precious truth, to realize it daily, and to pass through the present world under the impression, "I am the object of God's tender, paternal, and ceaseless care!"
"Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous fall!" Psalm 55:22
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Take this medicine!
(Thomas Adam, "Private Thoughts on Religion" 1824)
In pain, sickness and trouble, methinks I hear God say: "Take this medicine! It is exactly suited to your case, prepared and weighed by My own hands, and consists of the choicest drugs which Heaven affords!"
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Put it into practice!
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice!" Philippians 4:8-9
You see the perfection of the Apostle's method. In verse 8 he has dealt with the realm of thought. Ah, but the Apostle knows the subtle danger that is always confronting us . . .
the danger of being content with theoretical knowledge,
the danger of being satisfied with doctrine only,
the danger of failing to put into practice, that which we know.
You can be a great student even of the Bible — and live a life that is utterly contrary to it!
It is the masterpiece of Satan to make us put theory and practice into separate watertight compartments — to make men so interested in the Book, that they forget to apply its teaching. "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me," says Paul, "put it into practice!"
"If you know these things — blessed and happy are you if you DO them." John 13:17
"It is not the knowing, nor the talking, nor the reading man, but the doing man — who at last will be found the happiest man!" Thomas Watson
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The Almost Christian!
(Matthew Mead, "The Almost Christian Discovered; Or, The False Professor Tried!" 1661)
"You almost persuade me to become a Christian!" Acts 26:28
How far a man may go in the way to heaven — and yet be but almost a Christian? This shown in twenty various steps:
1. A man may have much knowledge — and yet be but almost a Christian.
2. A man may have great and eminent spiritual gifts — and yet be but almost a Christian.
3. A man may have a high profession of religion, be much in external duties of godliness — and yet be but almost a Christian.
4. A man may go far in opposing his sin — and yet be but almost a Christian.
5. A man may hate sin — and yet be but almost a Christian.
6. A man may make great vows and promises, strong purposes and resolutions against sin — and yet be but an almost Christian.
7. A man may maintain a strife and combat against sin — and yet be but almost a Christian.
8. A man may be a member of a Christian church — and yet be but almost a Christian.
9. A man may have great hopes of Heaven — and yet be but almost a Christian.
10. A man may be under visible changes — and yet be but almost a Christian.
11. A man may be very zealous in matters of religion — and yet be but almost a Christian.
12. A man may be much in prayer — and yet be but almost a Christian.
13. A man may suffer for Christ — and yet be but almost a Christian.
14. A man may be called by God and embrace his call — and yet be but an almost Christian.
15. A man may have the Spirit of God — and yet be but almost a Christian.
16. A man may have faith — and yet be but almost a Christian.
17. A man may have a love to the people of God — and yet be but almost a Christian.
18. A man may obey the commands of God — and yet be but almost a Christian.
19. A man may be sanctified — and yet be but almost a Christian.
20. A man may do all the external duties and worship which a true Christian can — and yet be but almost a Christian.
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The world, so fair, so fascinating!
(Hetty Bowman, "Life, Its Duties and Discipline" 1861)
It is possible that these words may meet the eye of some whose hearts are still set on the world, and the things of the world.
Firm are the meshes in which the world entangles the heedless footstep!
Potent is the spell which the world weaves around the thoughtless and unwary!
The mazes of pleasure firmly enslave the soul!
The world, so fair, so fascinating! How shall it be given up? How shall the fingers be unclasped from that bright cup which seems so full of happiness?
Says the worldling, "Surely the sacrifice need not be made yet! The world and its pleasures need not yet be exchanged for the cross of self-denial and sacrifice! Not yet! Not yet!"
But listen, dear reader, and if the words seem harsh — remember that they are the words of Him whose heart yearns with tenderness, pity, and compassion for the lost and the perishing:
"No man can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Money." Matthew 6:24
"If any man loves the world — the love of the Father is not in him."
"Friendship with the world is enmity with God."
What shall we say to these things? Shall we, speak peace to you — when there is no peace? Shall we flatter you with the hope that all may yet be well? Shall we point you to a crown of unfading glory — while your heart still rebels against the light and easy yoke of the Crucified One? Nay!
Rather would we remind you of the solemn warning, that "The end of these things is death!" A day will come when your eye will grow dim, and the death-damp gather on your brow, and your feet enter the dark valley. Where, then, will be your hope? Where, then, will be your refuge?
And when that day has passed, and another, yet more terrible, has dawned — when the eternal throne shall be set, and the books opened, and the dead, small and great, stand before God — then where will you conceal yourself, that you will not hear the awful sentence, "Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into everlasting fire!"
It is because we would save you from such a fearful doom — a doom which, as surely as the Word of God is true, will overtake all, however naturally amiable and cordial they may be, yet reject the Savior's offered mercy — that we would earnestly entreat you in Christ's stead, "Be reconciled to God!"
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He prayed earnestly!
"Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly . . . " James 5:17
The thing which made Elijah pray as he did, was the man that he was. When our Great High Priest comes with the lighted torch of His grace, and ignites the wood of our being into a holy flame — then the sweet-smelling fragrance of our requests ascend acceptably to God, and bring down the benediction of His love.
The art of prayer, is a sense of desperate need! There must be a sense of need, and an earnest desire to have that need met.
"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast."
Prayer is a sin-killer. No one can sin and pray; for prayer will either make us cease from sin — or sin will make us cease from prayer.
Prayer is a power-bringer. It is the hand which touches the hem of the garment of Divine grace, and causes the life which is in the Divine One to flow into us.
Prayer is a victory-giver. Bunyan's Christian found that the weapon of "all-prayer" was sufficient to wound and defeat the adversary who would stop him in his progress as a pilgrim.
Prayer is a holiness-promoter. It is like the gentle dew which falls upon the thirsty plants and causes them to be refreshed and to fructify.
Prayer is a dispute-adjuster. Let any two brethren who are at loggerheads get on their knees, and ask the Lord about any disputed matter — and they will find the Lord saying to their troubled spirits, "Peace, be still."
Prayer is an obstacle-remover, as Peter found when an angel came in answer to the prayers of the saints, and delivered him from the prison of Herod's hate.
Prayer is a Christ-revealer, for it clarifies our vision, and enables us to see unseen spiritual realities.
Prayer is the secret of a holy life! We cannot do without prayer. The spiritual life is born in prayer — and it flourishes, and is strong, as it lives in that same atmosphere!
It is not the arithmetic of our prayers — how many they are;
nor the rhetoric of our prayers — how eloquent they are;
nor the geometry of our prayers — how long they are;
nor the music of our prayers — how sweet our voice may be;
nor the logic of our prayers — how proper they may be;
nor the method of our prayers — how orderly they may be;
nor even the theology of our prayers — how good the doctrine may be,
which God cares for. It is only fervency in prayer, which will make a man prevalent with God. Fervent prayer hits the mark, and pierces the walls of Heaven! "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much!" James 5:16
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He shall bring forth from us the sweet music!
Mendelssohn, on one occasion, hearing an organ being played — asked permission to play it for a few minutes. The organist reminded Mendelssohn that he was a total stranger to him — and that strangers were not allowed to touch the valuable instrument.
At last permission granted, and then Mendelssohn brought forth such music from the organ as to make the organist weep! Ah! But before the music came forth, there were two things necessary:
the first was, the instrument had to be abandoned to Mendelssohn;
and the second, Mendelssohn had to take control of it.
The same is true with us in the spiritual realm. There must be the entire surrender to Christ first — and then He shall bring forth from us the sweet music of . . .
a holy heart,
a lovely character,
a gentle disposition,
a surpassing peace,
a sweet humility,
a lowly service,
a beautiful sympathy,
and a Christlike life!
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship!" Romans 12:1
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His testing room of suffering!
"I have tested you in the furnace of affliction!" Isaiah 48:10
I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit, and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point, and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain. He knew just what they would bear if placed in a great ship, or building, or bridge. He knew this, because his testing room revealed it.
It is often so with God's children. God does not want us to be like fragile vases of glass or porcelain. He would have us like these toughened pieces of steel — able to bear twisting and stretching and crushing to the uttermost, without collapse.
He wants us to be, not hot-house plants — but storm-beaten oaks. He wants us to be, not sand dunes driven with every gust of wind — but granite rocks withstanding the fiercest storms! To make us such, He needs to bring us into His testing room of suffering.
Many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God's testing room of faith. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds — because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3
"When He has tested me — I will come forth as gold!" Job 23:10
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Desires after Christ!
(John Flavel, "The Fountain of Life" 1691)
"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
"Whom have I in Heaven but you? Earth has nothing I desire besides You!" Psalm 73:25
Christ is the very essence of all delights and pleasures — the very soul and substance of them! As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is the meeting-place of all the waters in the world — so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet!
Are our desires for Christ ARDENT? Has Christ the supreme place in our hearts? Do we esteem all things but dung that we may win Christ and be found in Him?
Are our desires for Christ UNIVERSAL? Is everything about Christ desirable in our eyes? The hypocrite is for a divided Christ. The true believer loves . . .
both His government and His grace,
both His sovereignty and His mercy,
both His Lordship and His priesthood.
Do our desires after Christ lead us to EFFORT — to use all the means of grace to accomplish His will?
He is revealed in His Word — do we read it?
He is preached in the gospel — do we hear it?
He will be found by those who seek Him — do we earnestly seek Him?
Are our desires after Christ PERMANENT — or only a sudden fit of emotion, fear or impulse? If our hearts and our longing for communion with Him — we will only be satisfied when we awake with His likeness. Nothing that this world affords can possibly take us from this goal!
Do our desires after Christ spring from a DEEP SENSE OF OUR NEED of Christ? Has conviction of sin opened our eyes . . .
to see our misery,
to feel our burden of sin,
to understand our inability, and
to make us sensible that the only remedy lies in the Lord Jesus Christ?
Bread and wine are made necessary by hunger and thirst. Christ is only precious to those who need Him!
"My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for You!" Isaiah 26:9
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Lord, smite this sin!
(Thomas Watson, "The Godly Man's Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil)
"Your Word is completely pure, and Your servant loves it." Psalm 119:140
Do we love the holiness of the Word? The Word is preached — to beat down sin, and advance holiness. Do we love it for its spirituality and purity? Many love the Preached Word only for its eloquence and notion. They come to a sermon as to a performance (Ezekiel 33:31,32) or as to a garden to pick flowers — but not to have their lusts subdued or their hearts purified. These are like a foolish woman who paints her face — but neglects her health!
Do we love the convictions of the Word? Do we love the Word when it comes home to our conscience and shoots its arrows of reproof at our sins? It is the minister's duty sometimes to reprove. He who can speak smooth words in the pulpit — but does not know how to reprove, is like a sword with a fine handle, but without an edge! "Rebuke them sharply!" (Titus 2:15). Dip the nail in oil — reprove in love — but strike the nail home!
Now Christian, when the Word touches on your sin and says, "You are the man!" — do you love the reproof? Can you bless God that "the sword of the Spirit" has divided between you and your lusts? This is indeed a sign of grace, and shows that you are a lover of the Word.
A corrupt heart loves the comforts of the Word — but not the reproofs: "You hate the one who reproves — and despise him who tells the truth!" (Amos 5:10). "Their eyes flash with fire!" Like venomous creatures that at the least touch, spit poison! "When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him!" (Acts 7:54). When Stephen touched their sins — they were furious and could not endure it.
How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word?
When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience.
When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart — we would have it found out, and executed! We do not want sin covered — but cured!
When we can open our heart to the sword of the Word and say, "Lord, smite this sin!"
When we are thankful for a reproof. "Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it." (Psalm 141:5). David was glad for a reproof.
Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot the lion and save the man — would he not be thankful? Just so, when we are in the mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to death — shall we not be thankful?
A gracious soul rejoices, when the sharp lance of the Word has pierced his abscess of sin! He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: "Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear." (Proverbs 25:12).
To conclude, it is convicting preaching which must do the soul good. As a nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring — so a nipping reproof prepares the soul for comfort!
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The cup of wrath!
(Andrew Bonar, "The Cup of Wrath!")
"In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of red wine mixed with spices! He pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs!" Psalm 75:8
There has been only One who has ever drunk this cup down to its very dregs!
Cain has been drinking it for 5,000 years and finds that his punishment greater than he can bear — but has not come to the dregs.
Judas had been drinking it for some 2000 years, often crying out with a groan that shakes Hell, "Oh that I had never been born! Oh that I had never seen or heard of the Lord Jesus Christ!" But he has not reached the dregs.
The fallen angels have not come near the dregs!
The only One who has taken, tasted, drunk, and wrung out the bitterest of the bitter dregs — has been the Judge Himself, the Lord Jesus!
You know how often, when on earth, He spoke of it. "Are you able to drink the cup that I shall drink of?" (Matthew 20:22). "The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).
The universe saw Him with it at His lips. It was our cup of trembling — the cup in which the wrath due to His people was mixed. What wrath, what woe! A few drops made Him cry, "Now is my soul deeply troubled!" In the garden, the sight of it wrung out the strange, mysterious words, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death!" Though God-man, He staggered at what He saw, and went on trembling.
The next day, on Calvary, He drank it all! I suppose the three hours of darkness may have been the time when He was drinking it down the very dregs; for then arose from His broken heart, the wail which so appealed to the heart of the Father, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!" As He drank the last drop, and cried out, "It is finished!" we may believe that the holy angels felt an inconceivable relief — and even the Father Himself! So tremendous was the wrath and curse! — the wrath and curse due to our sin!
Jesus drank that cup as the substitute for His innumerable people, who were given to Him by the Father; and thereby freed them from ever tasting even one drop of that fierce wrath, that "cup of red wine, mixed with spices," with its dregs — its unknown terrors!
"Death and the curse were in our cup,
O Christ, 'twas full for Thee!
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
'Tis empty now for me!"
"Once it was mine, that cup of wrath,
And Jesus drank it dry!"
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The Minimum Christian!
(C.H. Spurgeon, "Sword and the Trowel" 1876)
The minimum Christian! And who is he? The Christian who is going to heaven at the cheapest rate possible. The Christian who intends to get all of the world he can — and not meet the worldling's doom. The Christian who aims to have as little religion as he may — without lacking it altogether.
The minimum Christian goes to worship in the morning; and in the evening also — unless it rains, or is too warm, or too cold, or he is sleepy, or has the headache from eating too much at dinner. He listens most respectfully to the preacher, and joins in prayer and praise. He applies the truth very judiciously — sometimes to himself, oftener to his neighbors.
The minimum Christian is very friendly to all good works. He wishes them well, but it is not in his power to do much for them. The Sunday-school he looks upon as an admirable institution — especially for the neglected and ignorant. It is not convenient, however, for him to take a class — his business engagements are so pressing during the week that he needs the Sabbath as a day of rest; nor does he think himself qualified to act as a teacher. There are so many persons better prepared for this important duty — that he must beg to be excused. He is very friendly to home and foreign missions, and colportage, and gives his mite — but he is quite unable to aid in the management, for his own concerns are so excessively important. He thinks there are "too many appeals;" but he gives, if not enough to save his reputation, pretty near it — at all events he aims at it, and never overshoots the mark.
The minimum Christian is not clear on a number of points. The opera and dancing, the theater and card-playing, and large fashionable parties give him much trouble. He cannot see the harm in this, or that, or the other popular amusement. There is nothing in the Bible against it. He does not see why a Christian may not dance or go to the opera. He knows several excellent persons who do so — at least, so he says. Why should not he? He stands so close to the dividing-line between the people of God and the people of the world — that it is hard to say on which side of it he is actually to be found.
Ah, my brother, are you making this attempt? Beware, lest you find at last that in trying to get to Heaven with a little religion — you miss it altogether; lest without gaining the whole world — you lose your own soul. True godliness demands self-denial and cross-bearing — and if you have none of these, you are making a false profession!
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How has the fine gold become dim!
(Hetty Bowman, "Separation From the World" 1861)
If some of the holy men of a former generation could once more return to the scene of their labors and sorrows — what would they find among those who profess to follow in their steps? Would they witness . . .
the same decision,
the same faithfulness,
the same unyielding adherence to principles which involve contempt and scorn,
the same resolute separation from everything that is even questionable in its tendency
— which characterized their own walk in the world?
Would they not rather be grieved by the levity, the trifling, the inconsistency which are too often displayed — even by those whose names are enrolled in the list of professing Christians?
Would they not be amazed at the slender barrier which divides those who are in the world — from those who say that they have renounced it?
Would they not be bewildered by the strange mixture of good and evil which is presented by many who bear the name of Christ; one day to be found in the committee-room of some religious society — and the next day at a dance; one day at a prayer-meeting — and the next day at a concert?
Deeply would their hearts be saddened by these things, and mournfully would they exclaim, "How has the fine gold become dim!"
It is to be feared that the religion of the day is, in many respects, of too easy a nature. We know . . .
little of sacrifice,
little of deliberate counting the cost,
little of forsaking all for Christ's sake!
Truly the Church of God in these latter days, has need to watch that she be not found lingering in the plains of Sodom — instead of pressing forward, with girded loins and hastening step, to the Zoar which she has set out to seek.
Let her take heed, lest He who "walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," visits her suddenly with the rod of His wrath — and lest her slumber be broken by the unlooked-for coming of the Bridegroom!
Believer! Seek to know your place in your Father's heart of love — and then no earthly thing will tempt you thence. Oh, leave the broken cisterns of this poor world, which can never quench your spirit's fevered thirst. Cast yourself upon the fullness of God's grace and mercy, and pray that His own hand may satisfy you with the riches that are treasured up in Christ!
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Break the chains of this ensnaring habit!
(Hetty Bowman, "Life — its Duties and Discipline" 1861)
"The time is short!" 1 Corinthians 7:29
"Redeeming the time!" Ephesians 5:16
We believe that, to go back to the good old custom of calling things by their right names — the charge of idleness might very truthfully be brought against many professors. I mean the habitual wasting of the fragments of time, "Those parings of precious time — those leavings of days and remnants of hours, which so many sweep out into the waste of existence!"
We feel constrained, in all Christian faithfulness, to lift up our voice against this great evil. It is more than an evil — it is a sin most displeasing in the sight of God! It mars the usefulness, and leaves an unsightly blemish on the character of many an otherwise lovely Christian. It will demand a solemn reckoning in the great day of account. You have no more right, reader, to the time which you thus foolishly and sinfully squander — than you have to your neighbor's goods. Time is not your own, nor was it given you to be employed as you yourself think proper. It is a trust committed to you by God! Oh, see that you do not abuse it! You are wasting what millions, now in the regions of eternal despair, would give worlds to buy back again — what you yourself will regret with tears of bitter repentance, when, on a deathbed, you look back upon a life in which so little has been done.
Be warned! Break the chains of this ensnaring habit before they are wound so closely about you that you cannot get free from them! Remember that every day these chains of indolence are riveted more firmly. They are light and easy now — but before long, they will grow into iron fetters! Your only hope of safety is in casting them from you at once, with the determination of a renewed will, and the heaven-imparted strength given to all who truly seek it.
Remembering that you were not "redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" — you should pass the time of your sojourning here as strangers and pilgrims, looking for a better country — a heavenly one!
A Christian's fingers need never be unoccupied. He may always have on hand some profitable reading — to fill up the little moments that might otherwise run to waste. Idleness is, more than anything else (considered in connection with the consequences to which it often leads) disgraceful to a Christian!
"Tis not for man to trifle! Life is brief,
And sin is here.
Our age is but the falling of a leaf,
A dropping tear.
We have no time to sport away the hours,
All must be earnest in a world like ours.
"Not many lives, but only one, have we,
One, only one!
How sacred should that one life ever be,
That narrow span!
Day after day filled up with blessed toil,
Hour after hour still bringing in new spoil."
"So teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12