Grace Gems for APRIL, 2017

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A quiet hour spent alone with God at the beginning of the day

(Thoughts for the Quiet Hour)

"In the morning the Word of the Lord came to me" Ezekiel 12:8

A quiet hour spent alone with God at the beginning of the day, is the best beginning for the toils and cares of the day. A brief season of prayer, looking to God for wisdom and grace and strength, and seeking the assistance of the Holy Spirit — helps us to carry our religion into all of the events of the day. It brings joy and peace within the heart.

And as we place all our concerns in the care and keeping of the Lord, faithfully striving to do His will — we have a joyful trust that however dark or discouraging events may appear — our Father's hand is guiding everything, and will give the wisest direction to all our toils.

"In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:3

"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul." Psalm 143:8

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I am a perverse and unruly patient!

(Letters of John Newton)

I am bound to speak well of my Physician — He treats me with great tenderness, and bids me in due time to expect a perfect cure. I know too much of Him (though I know but little) to doubt either His skill or His promise.

It is true, I have suffered sad relapses since I have been under His care. Yet I confess that the fault has not been His — but my own! I am a perverse and unruly patient! I have too often neglected His prescriptions, and broken the regimen He appoints me to observe. This perverseness, joined to the exceeding obstinacy of my disorders, would have caused me to be turned out as an incurable long ago — had I been under any other hand but His! Indeed — there is none like Him! When I have brought myself very low — He has still helped me. Blessed be His name — I am yet kept alive only by means of His perfect care.

Though His medicines are all beneficial — they are not all pleasant. Now and then He gives me a pleasant cordial; but I have many severe disorders, in which there is a needs-be for my frequently taking His bitter and unpalatable medicines!

We sometimes see published in the newspapers, acknowledgments of cures received. Methinks, if I were to publish my own case, that it would run something like this:
"I, John Newton, have long labored under a multitude of grievous disorders:
    a fever of ungoverned passions,
    a cancer of pride,
    a frenzy of wild imaginations,
    a severe lethargy, and
    a deadly stroke!

In this deplorable situation, I suffered many things from many physicians, spent every penny I had — yet only grew worse and worse!

In this condition, Jesus, the Physician of souls, found me when I sought Him not. He undertook my recovery freely, without money and without price — these are His terms with all His patients! My fever is now abated, my senses are restored, my faculties are enlivened! In a word, I am a new man! And from His ability, His promise, and the experience of what He has already done — I have the fullest assurance that He will infallibly and perfectly heal me — and that I shall live forever as a monument of His power and grace!"

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The crown of universal monarchy!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"He is Lord of lords and King of kings!" Revelation 17:14

Jesus Christ is King in the world today!

The Lord reigns! Let the earth rejoice!

Jesus Christ wears the crown of universal monarchy!

Nothing happens but that which Jesus permits, ordains, and overrules!

Let empires go to wreck — it is Christ who breaks them with a rod of iron and shivers them like potters' vessels.

Let conflagrations burn down cities,
let diseases devastate nations,
let war follow war,
let pestilence follow to famine —
yet still Jesus rules all things well, and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose!

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A great hospital!

(J.C. Ryle)

"All of you shall desert Me!" Mark 14:27

We see in these verses, how well our Lord foreknew the weakness and infirmity of His disciples. He tells them plainly what they were going to do: "All of you shall desert Me." He tells Peter in particular of the astounding sin which he was about to commit, "This night, before the rooster crows twice — you shall deny Me three times."

Yet our Lord's fore-knowledge did not prevent His choosing these twelve disciples to be His apostles. He allowed them to be His intimate friends and companions, knowing perfectly well what they would one day do. With a clear foresight of the melancholy weakness and lack of faith which they would exhibit at the end of His ministry — He granted them the mighty privilege of being continually with Him, and hearing His voice. This is a remarkable fact, and deserves to be had in continual remembrance.

Let us take comfort in the thought that the Lord Jesus does not cast off His believing people because of failures and imperfections. He knows what they are. He takes them, as the husband takes the wife — with all their blemishes and defects; and once joined to Him by faith, He will never leave them. He is a merciful and compassionate High-priest. It is His glory to pass over the transgressions of His people, and to cover their many sins.

He knew what they were before conversion — wicked, guilty, and defiled; yet He loved them.

He knows what they will be after conversion — weak, erring, and frail; yet He loves them.

He has undertaken to save them, notwithstanding all their shortcomings — and what He has undertaken, He will perform.

Let us learn to pass a charitable judgment on the conduct of professing believers. Let us not set them down in a low place, and say they have no grace — because we see much weakness and corruption in them. Let us remember that our Master in Heaven bears with their infirmities — and let us try to bear with them too.

The Church is little better than a great hospital. We ourselves are all, more or less, weak and infirm — and all daily need the skillful treatment of the heavenly Physician. There will be no complete cures until the resurrection day!

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The best evidence of Christianity!

(Frederick Marsh)

Jesus is the chief among ten thousand — the altogether lovely One!

Christ is the Chiefest — or better than the best.

His love is unknowable! Ephesians 3:19

His riches are unsearchable! Ephesians 3:18

His joy is unspeakable! 1 Peter 1:8

His ways are untrackable! Romans 11:33

His grace is inexhaustible! 2 Corinthians 9:8

His peace is unfathomable! Philippians 4:7

And He Himself is unsurpassable! Exodus 15:11  

His character was beautiful with holiness in every detail. Hebrews 7:26

His love was pure and faithful in all its affection. John 13:1

His service was true and beneficent in all its workings. Acts 10:38

His words were tender and true in all their utterances. John 7:45

His life was consistent in every department. Mark 7:37

His aim was single and concentrated in glorifying God. John 17:4

His mission was to benefit all who would trust Him, in dying a death which they deserved. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Christ is Christianity — and the best evidence of Christianity is Christ!

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

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Return unto your rest, O my soul!

(Edward Griffin, 1770-1837)

"Return unto your rest, O my soul — for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." Psalm 116:7

To rest in God, is  . . .
  to be satisfied with Him as our portion,
  to take Him for our supreme good, and
  to feel that we have enough and abound while possessing Him — though everything else is taken away.

"Give me," says the believer, "the enjoyment of my God — and I desire no more. Allow me to feast on heavenly truth — and I shall never complain that I am poor. Let worldlings divide the globe among themselves — let emmets contend for this little heap of dust; I have God — and I ask no more. Come wars and pestilence, come poverty and death — you cannot rob me of my portion."

Must it not be substantial rest . . .
  to have the infinite God for a portion,
  to have all the restless desires of the mind composed,
  to feel no anxious apprehension for the future,
  to know that if everything which time or death can destroy, were removed — the whole of one's portion would remain;
  to feel that nothing can injure, nothing impoverish, nothing perplex or disturb?

Ah, give me this portion — instead of thrones and kingdoms!

"Whom have I in Heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26

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Look! Gaze! See! Behold!

(Charles Spurgeon)

The doctrine of the death of Christ for our sins, should inspire us with greater love for the Lord Jesus.

Can you look at His dear wounds — and not be wounded with love for Him?
Are not His wounds as mouths which plead with you to yield Him all your heart?

Can you gaze upon His face bedewed with bloody sweat — and then go away and be ensnared with the world's painted beauties?

Oh, for the vision of the Crucified!

When shall we see the face that was so marred for us?

When shall we behold the hands and feet which bear the nail-marks still — and look into the wounded side bejeweled with the spear-wound?

Oh, when shall we leave all our sins and griefs — forever to behold Him?

Our hope, our solace, our glory, our victory — are all found in the blood of the Lamb, to whom be glory for ever and ever! Amen.

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You keep track of all my sorrows!

(The Preacher's Book)

"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

Not a single sigh for past sins, escapes His ears;
not a groan of the heart, but is heard by Him;
not a tear falls to the ground, but He puts it into His bottle!

Not a breathing of the soul after His holiness;
not a loathing of our own unholiness;
not an act of self-abasement, or humbling ourselves for sin;
not a yearning of the soul for a purity which it has not;
not a single act of mercy;
not one act of self-denial;
every fragment of our poor sorrow and service —
God gathers and stores up! Nothing is forgotten or lost!

"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

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Dear wife, farewell!

(An excerpt from a letter by Christopher Love, to his wife, on the morning of his execution)

My most gracious beloved,
I am now going from a prison to a palace! I have finished my work. I am now to receive my wages. I am going to Heaven! Rejoice in my joy. The joy of the Lord is my strength. O, let it be yours also!

Dear wife, farewell! I will call you wife no more! I shall see your face no more! Yet I am not much troubled — for now I am going to meet the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom I shall be eternally married!

Your dying, yet most affectionate friend until death,
Christopher Love
August 22, 1651, the day of my glorification!

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His own Father!

(David Harsha, "The Crucifixion")

"My God, my God — why have You forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46

He drinks the bitter cup of God's wrath due to sin.

The powers of darkness fiercely assail Him.

He enjoys no sensible communion with Heaven. It is the gloomiest period in His whole life.

But at length His agony is so piercing that He is constrained to utter the most touching words of grief, "My God, my God — why have You forsaken Me?"

His Father — His own Father, in whose bosom He had lain from eternity! His Father, by whom He was always beloved — has withdrawn the light of His countenance from Him! And from His cross arises a most piercing and agonizing cry, "My God, my God — why have You forsaken Me?"

Oh, how mysterious, how solemn, how affecting is this cry! It is the most doleful that ever came from the lips of Christ during His sorrowful sojourn from the manger to the cross.

Ah! Why does He hang on yonder cross, uttering these doleful words 'with strong crying and tears'?

It was not the nails which pierced His hands and feet, nor the agony of a crucifixion, which caused this mournful cry. He was now offering Himself a sacrifice for sins. As our Surety, He suffered all that divine justice required to bring the sinner back to God and to glory.

Here is the great mystery of Godliness: the Father bruises the Son, and puts Him to grief for our sakes! All those cries, and tears, and groans of Him whom the Father appointed to accomplish our salvation — were for us.

On His shoulders was laid the enormous load of our guilt.

Oh, what can we render to our Divine Savior, for His amazing and unparalleled love to us?

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God can take the most sin-soiled soul!

(J.R. Miller)

Queen Victoria stopped one day at a paper-mill near Windsor Castle, and was shown through it by the foreman. He did not know who she was, as she was alone and was plainly dressed. The queen was intensely interested in every process of the paper-maker's art. She was conducted at last to a place where a number of rag-pickers were emptying out the dirty rags which they had gathered from the gutters and alleys of the great city. There was a large pile of these filthy, blackened rags, which looked as if they never could be made clean. The queen asked the foreman what he would do with these. To her amazement, he told her that he would make them into the finest, whitest paper.

When the queen had gone, the foreman learned who she was. Some days after, there was received at the palace — a package of the purest, most delicate paper, having the queen's likeness stamped upon it, with a note from the foreman of the mill, telling her that this paper was made from the very rags she had seen on her visit!
In the same way, the Holy Spirit takes human lives, ruined and blackened by sin — makes them whiter than snow, and stamps upon them the holy image of Jesus!

No life is hopeless in its ruin — which the transforming grace of God renews.

God can take the most sin-soiled soul — and give to it radiant beauty!

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

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When that monster of a man hung!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"O Lord, there is none like You!" 1 Chronicles 17:20

Truly, our God is without a parallel!

He could dash His enemies to Hell with one word, and drive them to despair. But instead of this, He constantly provides for them — and many of them are fed by Him with the richest blessings of His providence. He . . .
  spreads their tables,
  supplies their needs, and
  pours His favors upon them abundantly — though they . . .
blaspheme His name,
despise the mention of His grace, and
bid Him to depart from them, in disdain!

He preserves them from a variety of dangers, which would otherwise hurry them out of time into eternity.

He bears with them from day to day, and does not allow their wickedness to arouse His ire, to their immediate destruction. Who, besides Jehovah, would thus feed, preserve, warn, and bear with such obstinate, careless, provoking wretches? Surely none!

"What base rebellious wretches they;
 And God as strangely kind!"

When, in His own time, any of His enemies are brought to discover their wickedness, feel their danger, desire to escape their deserved doom, and apply to Him — He freely pardons them, and forgets all their past unkindness!

When that monster of a man hung by the side of Jesus on the cross, mocking His dying agonies, reviling His dear name, and endeavoring to add to His tremendous sorrows — Jesus was as silent as one who heard not, as patient as one who felt not, and as kind as one who had been treated with all possible respect! For, no sooner does the bold blasphemer cry, "Lord remember me!" than Jesus answers, "Today you shall be with Me in paradise!"

And can you, O my Savior, freely and fully pardon such a wretch as that? Can you take him in Your arms, to paradise? Can you forget his scarlet crimes, the insults he offered, and the daring wickedness manifested by him but a few minutes before? "O Lord, there is none like You!"

The vile thief enters Heaven, to . . .
  the astonishment of angels,
  the confusion of devils,
  the wonder of glorified saints, and
  the honor of the dear, dear Redeemer!

Jesus not only fully pardons the penitent — but He cordially accepts him! He receives him as one of the dear objects of His love, and says to each and every one such, "I have blotted out your sins as a cloud, and your iniquities as a thick cloud!"

He kindly visits them, as though they had never acted unkindly toward Him; and constantly blesses them with spiritual, holy, and eternal blessings. He . . .
  clothes them with the garments of His righteousness,
  beautifies them with the graces of His Spirit,
  comforts them with the promises of His love,
  acknowledges them at His throne of grace,
  defends them against their cruel and malicious foes,
  tenderly expostulates with them when they wander from Him,
  mercifully warns them of their dangers and foes,
  kindly exhorts them to cleave close to Himself,
  wisely corrects them when they wickedly stray, and
  will crown them with glory at the end of their race!

And what returns does He frequently get for His kindness and love? Alas! alas! Too often, ingratitude, rebellion, hardness of heart, alienation of affection, forgetfulness of His mercies, and following after other lovers rather than Himself!

"O Lord, there is none like You!" 1 Chronicles 17:20

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Behold the image of the Lord Jesus!

(J.R. Miller)

"He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:17

We should so live, that those who know us shall recognize the unmistakable lineaments of Christ in us.

Retzsch, a German sculptor, made a wonderful statue of the Redeemer. For eight years it was his dream by night, and his thought by day. He set it before a child of five or six years old. There were none of the usual emblematic marks designating the Savior about the figure — no cross, no crown of thorns, nothing by which to identify it. Yet when the child was asked who it was — she replied that it was the Lord Jesus.

This was a wonderful triumph of art, this putting so much divinity into the face of the model, that even a little child recognized the artist's thought.

Just so, we should exhibit in our life and character such a reproduction of the holiness and beauty of Christ, that everyone who looks upon us and sees our life may instinctively recognize the features of the Master, and say, "Behold the image of the Lord Jesus!" There is no other way of magnifying the Lord, which so witnesses to the world.

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ!" 1 Corinthians 11:1

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This, and nothing but this, is true Christianity!

(Edward Griffin, 1770-1837)

"You do not belong to yourself — for God bought you with a high price!" 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

All that you are and have — are His. You owe Him your whole selves!

The Lord Jesus Christ, who created you and redeemed you from eternal damnation — is your Proprietor, Master, and King.
Whom else then should you serve?
To whom else should you devote your lives?
Whose interest should you rather seek?

"For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself. For if we live — we live for the Lord; or if we die — we die for the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die — we are the Lord's." Romans 14:7-8

Our religion is exactly in proportion as we cease to live for ourselves — and live for God alone. We have just as much religion — as we have of self-denial. The only evidence of attachment to Him on which we can rely — is that we make it our design and care to promote His glory and the accomplishment of His benevolent purposes, not now and then, but in the general tenor of our lives.

To live for God, is to regard His will as the rule and ground of our conduct, and His glory as our supreme object. Not merely one day in a week — but in our general course to act from a reference to His authority.

To live for God, is to choose our calling, to pursue our business, to frame our habits, to regulate our actions from hour to hour — from a regard to His will and honor.

To live for God, is to feel and act as those who are not at liberty to live to themselves, but have their work daily assigned them by a heavenly Master.

To live for God, is to live under a sense that we are not our own — not our own masters, not our own proprietors, not at our own disposal.

To live for God, is to live as though our time, talents, influence, property, and all that we are and have — are God's.

To live for God, is to hold everything in readiness to use for Him, or resign all things to Him as He shall direct.

To live for God, is to to be submissive under afflictions, and willing to be at His disposal in all our trials.

To live for God, is to to be ready to deny ourselves for Him in every way which His Word or Providence may point out.

To live for God, is to desire life chiefly that we may serve Him.

To live for God, is to make Him the center in which all the lines of our life shall meet.

To live for God, is to make it the business of our lives to please Him and not ourselves.

The very core of all true religion, is not to live for ourselves — but for God; not to consider ourselves our own — but the property and the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ; not to feel as though we are set up in the world to work for ourselves, to spend the most of our time in pursuing what is termed our innocent gratifications — but to hold our time, powers, influence, and property as talents entrusted to us to be used for Christ — keeping our eye on His Word to learn His will, and aiming habitually to please and honor Him.

This, and nothing but this, is true Christianity! Whatever our creed is — if this is not our character — then all our religion is vain!

"So we make it our goal to please Him — whether we are at home in the body or away from it!" 2 Corinthians 5:9

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Look to the rock from whence you were hewn, and to the pit from whence you were dug!

(Edward Payson, 1783-1827)

"Look to the rock from whence you were hewn, and to the pit from whence you were dug!" Isaiah 51:1

It is profitable for the children of God often to . . .
  reflect on what they formerly were,
  meditate on their once wretched and helpless condition,
  look to the rock whence they were hewn, and to the pit whence they were dug.

Look back, then, Christians, to the time when you were . . .
  the enemies of God,
  the despisers of His Son,
  the willing slaves of the father of lies,
  and children of disobedience!

Look back to the time when . . .
  your hearts were as hard as the nether millstone;
  your understandings were darkened;
  you were alienated from the life of God;
  your wills were stubborn, perverse and rebellious;
  your affections were madly bent on the pleasures of sin;
  every imagination of the thoughts of your heart were only evil, and continually evil!

Look back with shame and self-abhorrence to the time when you . . .
  lived without God in the world,
  drank in iniquity like water,
  served various lusts and vanities,
  fulfilled the sinful desires of the flesh and mind,
  cast God's holy law behind your backs,
  stifled the remonstrances of conscience,
  quenched the influences of the Spirit,
  neglected the Holy Scriptures, and
  mocked God with pretended worship, while your hearts were far from Him.

A rebel against God,
 a resister of the Spirit,
 a slave of Satan,
 a child of wrath,
 an heir of Hell —
such, O Christian, was once your character!
Nothing was then before you, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation!

Admire the God of free grace — who save you from such a dreadful plight!

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It was not human misery — but divine love!

(James Smith, "Streams in the Desert" 1849)

"You are to name Him JESUS — because He will save His people from their sins!" Matthew 1:21

This verse teaches that Jesus came into the world having . . .
  a definite people in His mind,
  a definite work in His hand, and
  a definite principle in His heart.

He had a definite PEOPLE in His mind!
They are simply called "His people." He had . . .
  a special interest in them,
  a special right to them, and
  a special concern for them.

They were given to Him as a pledge of His Father's love — to be His associates, joy and delight — His crown and glory. They were . . .
  sunk in sin and wretchedness,
  under the condemnation of the law,
  the captives of the prince of darkness!

They were His sheep — but lost sheep!

They were His jewels — but jewels in a heap of rubbish!

They were His  bride — but in a state of adultery!

He had . . .
  the eye of His omniscience watching them,
  the love of His heart pursuing them, and
  the arm of His omnipotence protecting them!

His eye was upon them . . .
  when in Heaven in His Father's bosom,
  and when enclosed in Mary's womb!
His eye ever was — and ever will be on them — from the beginning to the end of time — to save and to bring them safely to glory!

He had a definite WORK in His hand!
It was a work for His Father — and a work for His people.
He had . . .
  the law to fulfill,
  justice to satisfy,
  sin to remove,
  Heaven to open,
  Satan to conquer,
  death to destroy!

This work He proceeded to perform — until in triumph He exclaimed, "It is finished!"

He had a definite PRINCIPLE in His heart.
And what was that powerful principle, which brought Him . . .
  from Heaven — to earth,
  from glory — into contempt,
  from unutterable bliss — into inconceivable sorrow?

It was LOVE! Love,
  the ruling attribute of His nature,
  the prominent feature of His character,
  the rule of His conduct towards His people!
It was love which . . .
  eternally existed in His bosom,
  fanned His heart, and
  directed His ways!

It was . . .
  eternal love,
  immutable love,
  omnipotent love,
  unconquerable love,
  unfathomable love!

It was this sacred principle which led Jesus into our world — and conducted Him through all the stages of His redemptive work!

His name then, is 'Jesus' — because He loves and saves all of His people!

Never think that it was merely human misery, or the doleful cries of suffering mortals — which brought Jesus to our world; for if these would move Him — then He would assuredly empty Hell itself!

It was not human misery — but divine love!

It was not man's cries — but His own glory, which brought Jehovah Jesus into suffering circumstances and a miserable condition!

O the love! O the depth of the love of Jesus!

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I am in eternity — and you are on the brink!

(James Smith, "A Solemn Admonition" 1859)

Passing through a country graveyard the other day, an inscription on a head-stone struck my eye. The stone was by the side of the path, where everyone could see it, and it was placed there in memory of a young man who died at the age of seventeen. It was —

   "Reader, one moment,
    Stop, and think:
    That I am in eternity!
    And you are on the brink!"

In eternity! A young man, only seventeen years of age, in eternity!

In a fixed, a changeless, an eternal state!

In Heaven — or in Hell!

Saved with an everlasting salvation — or damned forever!

If it should be the latter — what a fearful supposition! And yet many have gone to Hell — before they have been seventeen years of age!

"I am in eternity — and you are on the brink!" Yes, though you may be young, apparently healthy, full of life and vigor — you are on the brink of eternity! A slight accident, or a few days illness — and you are in eternity! What a solemn thought!

What will eternity be to you?

Where will you be in eternity?

Are your sins pardoned?
Are you reconciled to God by the death of His Son?
Are you sanctified by the Holy Spirit — and thus made fit for Heaven?

If not, remember that in Hell, there is . . .
  no gospel,
  no means of grace,
  no way of escape from the wrath of God!
Once there — and your doom is fixed forever!

Think, O think . . .
  Of the dreadful consequences of dying in your sins!
  Of going down to the grave in an unconverted state!
  Of dying under the curse of God!

"Behold, now is the accepted time!
 Behold, now is the day of salvation!"

Editor's note:
Reader! The above was written over 150 years ago.
All who then read this little piece — are now in eternity!
All who now read this little piece — are on the brink!

   "Reader, one moment,
    Stop, and think:
    That I am in eternity!
    And you are on the brink!"

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Made for frivolities?

(Charles Spurgeon, "The One Thing Needful")

Were you made only to be a machine for digging holes, laying bricks, or cutting out pieces of wood? Were you created only to stand at a counter and measure or weigh out goods? Do you think your God made you for that and that only?

Is this the chief end of man — to earn so many dollars a week, and try to make ends meet?

Is that all immortal men were made for?

As a man with a soul, capable of thought and judgment — and not a mere animal like a dog, nor a machine like a steam engine; can you stand up and look at yourself, and say, "I believe I am perfectly fulfilling my destiny"?

God has made man that he may glorify him — and whatever else man accomplishes, if he attains not to this end, his life is a disastrous failure!

Others are lovers of pleasure. They are merry as the birds, their life is as the flight of a butterfly, which lightly floats from flower to flower, according to its own sweet will.

It cannot be that an immortal spirit was made for frivolities — spending all its time on the playthings of the world.

So great a thing as an immortal soul could not have been made by God — with no higher object than to spend itself upon trifles as light as air.

Oh, pause a while, you careless, godless one! There is something more than the fool's laugh. All things are not a comedy. Death and Heaven and Hell are serious — and should not life be?

The charms of music, the merriment of the mirthful assembly, the beauties of art, and the delights of banqueting — there must be something more for you than these. Something more must be required of you than that you should waste your precious time from morn to night upon nothing but to please yourself!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

An unerring chart by which to steer through the dangerous sea of life!

(Arthur W. Pink, "The Attributes of God")

God has placed His Word in our hands for an intensely practical purpose — namely, to direct our walk and to regulate our deportment. The primary purpose for which God gave the Scriptures, is to make a practical use of them — ordering the details of our lives by its rules and regulations.

"Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105. The metaphor used here is taken from a man walking along a dangerous road on a dark night, in urgent need of a lantern to show him where to walk safely and comfortably, to avoid injury and destruction.

God, in His infinite condescension and transcendent grace, has given us His Word for this very purpose, so that we need not stumble along blindly, ignorant of what pleases or displeases Him — but that we might know His mind. That divine Word is not given to us simply for information, but . . .
  to regulate our conduct,
  to enlighten our minds,
  and to mold our hearts.

The Word supplies us with an unerring chart by which to steer through the dangerous sea of life. If we sincerely and diligently follow, it will deliver us from disastrous rocks and submerged reefs — and direct us safely to the heavenly harbor. That Word has all the instructions we need for every problem, and every trouble we may be called upon to face. That Word has been given to us "that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:17. How thankful we should be, that God has favored us with such a Word!

This world is a dark place, and it is only as we take heed to the Word, to the light God has given us, that we shall be able to perceive and avoid "the broad road which leads to destruction," and discern the narrow way which alone "leads unto eternal life."

Our first duty, and our first aim, must be to take up the Scriptures to ascertain what is God's revealed will for us — what are the paths He forbids us to walk, what are the ways pleasing in His sight.

The Scriptures are not given us, primarily, for our intellectual gratification, nor for emotional admiration, but for life's regulation. Nor are the precepts and commands, the warnings and encouragements contained therein, simply for our information. They are to be reduced to practice — they require unqualified obedience. He who treasures the divine precepts in his heart, and diligently seeks to walk by their rule, will escape those evils which destroy his fellows.

Thus the great business of the Christian is to regulate his life by, and conform his conduct to — the precepts of the written Word, and the example left us by the Incarnate Word. As he does so, and in proportion as he does so, he is
  emancipated from the darkness of his natural mind,
  freed from the follies of his corrupt heart,
  delivered from the mad course of this world,
  and escapes the snares of the devil.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity!

(J.C. Ryle)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 5:3

The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are poor in spirit. He means the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased. He means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God's sight. These are those who are not "wise in their own eyes and holy in their own sight." They are not "rich and increased with goods." They do not imagine that they need nothing. They regard themselves as "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Blessed are all such! Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity! We must begin low, if we would build high.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4

The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who mourn. He means those who sorrow for sin, and grieve daily over their own short-comings. These are they who trouble themselves more about sin than about anything on earth. The remembrance of it is grievous to them. The burden of it is intolerable. Blessed are all such! "The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite spirit." One day they shall weep no more! "They shall be comforted."

Let us learn how entirely contrary are the principles of Christ — to the principles of the world. It is vain to deny it. They are almost diametrically opposed! The very characters which the Lord Jesus praises — the world despises. The very pride, and thoughtlessness, and high tempers, and worldliness, and selfishness, and formality, and unlovingness, which abound everywhere — the Lord Jesus condemns!

Let us learn how unhappily different is the teaching of Christ from the practice of many professing Christians. Where shall we find men and women among those who go to churches and chapels, who are striving to live up to the pattern we have read of today? Alas! there is much reason to fear, that many baptized people are utterly ignorant of what the New Testament contains!

Above all let us learn how holy and spiritual-minded all believers should be. They should never aim at any standard lower than that of the Beatitudes. Christianity is eminently a practical religion. Sound doctrine is its root and foundation — but holy living should always be its fruit. And if we would know what holy living is, let us often think who they are that Jesus calls "blessed."

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Here — put your troubles here!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Cast your burden on the Lord — and He will sustain you." Psalm 55:22

Cast your troubles where you have cast your sins. You have cast your sins onto Jesus — cast your troubles there also!

As soon as the trouble comes, quick, the first thing — tell it to your heavenly Father! Remember, that the longer you take telling your trouble to God — the more your peace will be impaired. The longer the frost lasts — the more likely the ponds will be frozen.

Oh! It is a happy way of smoothing sorrow, when we can cast our burden upon the Lord. Oh, you agitated Christians, do not dishonor your religion by always wearing a 'frown of concern'. Come, cast your burden upon the Lord.

I see you staggering beneath a weight which He would not feel.
What seems a crushing burden to you — would be nothing but a bit of dust to Him!

See! The Almighty bends His shoulders, and He says: "Here — put your troubles here!"

"Cast all your cares upon Him — because He cares about you!" 1 Peter 5:7

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The sheep do not choose their own pasture!

(Francis Bourdillon, "Bedside Readings" 1864)

"He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters." Psalm 23:2

"He makes me lie down in green pastures." That is, He supplies the needs of our souls. He . . .
  gives us the food of the Word of God,
  strengthens us with His grace, and
  makes us to find our rest in Him.

"He leads me beside the still waters." That is, He . . .
  refreshes us when we are weary,
  revives our hearts by His promises,
  cheers us by His presence,
  gives us His Holy Spirit, and
  enables us to rejoice in His salvation.

Amidst all our trials and troubles — He comforts us and gives us fresh hope.

Some may say, "Why should I have trouble at all? Why does the good Shepherd send me anything besides comfort and pleasure? Why am I poor or sad or sick?"

The sheep do not choose their own pasture — the shepherd chooses for them. In the same way, the disciple does not choose his own lot in life — it is appointed for him. His Shepherd knows best what is good for him. The best is not always what is the most pleasant at the moment — but what is most profitable in the end.

Our Shepherd sometimes leads us through what seem to us dry and stony places — but they lead to the Heavenly pastures! And even along the way, He feeds us and comforts us with all a shepherd's care. Never is our Shepherd nearer to us, than when we are in need or danger.

"My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:27-28

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The suffering Christian!

(Francis Bourdillon, "Affliction, Light and Short!" 1864)

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment — is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we do not look at the things which are seen — but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary — but the things which are not seen are eternal!" 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Few people will call their present affliction light — and few are disposed to call it short. For while it lasts, it seems hard to bear — and a time of suffering generally appears long. Yet the apostle Paul writes thus about his affliction: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment."

Paul's afflictions were not, in themselves, light — few men have gone through more hardships and trials than he did. Nor were they, in themselves, short — for wherever he went he found them; they continued, more or less, to the end of his life.

It was only when he compared his present affliction with the glory that was so soon to follow — that it seemed to him light and short. Then he could say, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment."

We must always try to look at our afflictions in this way. If we look at them alone — they will be enough to overwhelm us! But if we think also, and even more, of the eternal rest and happiness and glory which lie ahead of us — then our view of our present afflictions will be greatly changed.

"True," we shall feel, "true, my sorrows are many; my sickness is sore; my pain is great; long have I lain upon a bed of suffering. Yet before me lies a home of perfect rest, where pain and sickness and sorrow cannot come. My Savior has promised it to me and has gone before to prepare it for me. In a little while, I shall be there!"

With thoughts such as these, the suffering Christian should comfort himself — and thus weigh present affliction against future glory. For what are all things here below, but short? Joys and sorrows, health and sickness, affliction and prosperity — all the things that pain and that please, "the things which are seen" — all these things are but for a time.

Whereas "the things which are not seen are eternal." What we hope for, what Christ has purchased for us and gone before to prepare for us — that is forever! Our pains and sorrows will soon end — but our pleasures will never end! Our affliction is but for a little while — but our comforts, our Savior's presence, our Heavenly home, will be ours always!

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away — yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day!" 2 Corinthians 4:16

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Leave us alone! We do not desire to know Your ways!

(Edward Payson, 1783-1827)

Sinners do not like to retain God in their knowledge — because He is omniscient and omnipresent. In consequence of His possessing these attributes, He is a constant witness of their motives and conduct, and is perfectly acquainted with their hearts. This must render the thoughts of His holiness still more disagreeable to a sinner — for what can be more unpleasant to him, than the constant presence and inspection of a holy being . . .
  whom he cannot deceive,
  from whose keen, searching gaze he cannot for a moment hide,
  to whom darkness and light are alike open, and
  who views his conduct with the utmost displeasure and abhorrence?

Even the presence of our fellow creatures is disagreeable, when we wish to indulge any sinful propensity which they will disapprove. How exceedingly irksome, then, must the constant presence of a holy, heart-searching God be to a sinner! No wonder, then, that sinners banish a knowledge of Him from their minds, as the easiest method of freeing themselves from the restraint imposed by His presence.

"They say to God: Leave us alone! We do not desire to know Your ways!" Job 21:14

   ~  ~  ~  ~

I am somewhat like that bird!

(James Smith, "
Sighing for Jesus!" 1858)

"As the deer pants for streams of water — so my soul pants for you, O God! My soul thirsts for God, for the living God! When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42:1-2

I have just been reading of the last days of a true believer, and his whole dying experience was comprehended in one sentence, "I am sighing for Jesus!" He did not sigh for life, nor for ease — but he was sighing for Jesus.

I cannot help observing, how much of my experience now, is expressed in those words, "I am sighing for Jesus." Yes, yes, I can do without riches, or fame, or the honor which man confers. I am pretty well content with what providence sends me — and yet I often sigh, and sigh deeply too. Some would think me unhappy — but I am not. Some may conclude I am discontented with my situation in life — but I am not. Yet I sigh — I often sigh.

I have read of a bird, which if caught and caged — never ceases to sigh, until it obtains its liberty, or dies. I am somewhat like that bird, and I expect I shall continue to sigh — until I obtain my desire.

I have had a glimpse of Jesus — and I sigh for a full view of Him.

I have tasted the sweetness of communion with Him — and I sigh for uninterrupted fellowship.

I have felt a little of the cleansing influence of His precious blood, and Holy Spirit — and I sigh for a thorough cleansing, that I may be perfectly and forever holy.

I sigh for Jesus — that I may . . .
  know Him more perfectly,
  love Him more entirely, and
  enjoy Him uninterruptedly!

I sigh to be exactly like Jesus!

I sigh to be forever with Jesus!

I believe that if I were just like Him, and always with Him — that I would sigh no more; and I think that nothing else will put a complete stop to my sighing.

Yes, the day is coming, and it may be very near — when the days of my mourning will be ended, and when I shall heave the last sigh, and begin the never-ending song! My sorrows will soon end, and my sighing will forever cease! I shall soon be with Jesus, like Jesus, and everlastingly employed in praising Jesus! And then, I shall sigh no more!

"The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away!" Isaiah 51:11

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The sufferings of this present time!

(James Smith, "
No Comparison!" 1862)

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time — are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!" Romans 8:18

Paul compares present sufferings — with future glory.

Believers are exposed to all kinds of suffering, and instead of obtaining an exemption from afflictions — they are assured that it is through much tribulation that they must enter into the kingdom of God.

Some endure inward suffering, with which no one is fully acquainted but God Himself. They have such darkness, gloom, distress, agitation, trouble, and sorrow — as would not be easy to describe.

Some suffer much in body, from the stressed and disordered state of the nervous system, from chronic diseases, or deformities in the physical frame. They seldom move without suffering, and for years together have but little freedom from weakness and pain. They live a life of suffering, a kind of dying life — and think much of Heaven as of a place where there is no more pain.

Some suffer much financially. Scarcely anything seems to prosper with them — losses, crosses, and opposition meet them at every turn. And though they live honestly, and conduct their business honorably — they are thwarted, hindered, and filled with perplexity. No one can tell what they suffer from financial trials and difficulties.

Others suffer from reproach, misrepresentation, strife, and persecution in the world, or in the Church — or both! No one seems to understand them, or is prepared to sympathize with them; they are like "a sparrow alone upon the house-top." False friends and open enemies unite to trouble and distress them, so that they often sigh, and say, "O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest!"

Others in the domestic circle, or from some of the relationships of life — are called to suffer long and seriously.

But whether from trouble of mind, sickness of body, trials in business, family difficulties, or persecution for Christ's sake — all suffer, and most believers suffer much!

But compare their present sufferings — with their future glory:
Glory which will exclude all pain and suffering, all sin and sorrow!
Glory beyond the reach of all foes and the cause of all trouble!
Glory which includes happiness — perfect, perpetual, never-ending happiness!
Glory which includes honor — the highest, holiest, and most satisfying honor!
Glory, or splendor — which will fill the soul, clothe the body, and dignify the entire person forever!

Filled with light, peace, and joy; clothed with beauty, brightness, and magnificence — they will appear with Christ in glory — filling them with wonder and unutterable delight!

This glory will be possessed by us — as part of our marriage portion and inalienable inheritance. But we can form no adequate idea of that glory, for "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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

An arm that can never be broken!

(J. R. Miller, "A Life of Character")

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!" Deuteronomy 33:27

The picture suggested, is that of a little child, lying in the strong arms of a father who is able to withstand all storms and dangers.

At the two extremes of life, childhood and old age — this promise comes with special assurance.

"He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom" (Isaiah 40:11), is a word for the children.

"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He; I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!" (Isaiah 46:4), brings its blessed comfort to the aged.

The thought of God's embracing arms is very suggestive. What does an arm represent? What is the thought suggested by the arm of God enfolded around His child?

One suggestion, is protection. As a father puts his arm about his child when it is in danger — so God protects His children. Life is full of peril. There are temptations on every hand! Enemies lurk in every shadow — enemies strong and swift! Yet we are assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God. "Underneath are the everlasting arms!"

Another thought, is affection. The father's arm drawn around a child — is a token of love. The child is held in the father's bosom, near his heart. The shepherd carries the lambs in his bosom. John lay on Jesus' bosom. The mother holds the child in her bosom, because she loves it. This picture of God embracing His children in His arms — tells of His love for them — His love is tender, close, intimate.

Another thought suggested by an arm, is strength. The arm is a symbol of strength. His arm is omnipotence. "In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength" (Isaiah 26:4). His is an arm that can never be broken! Out of this clasp — we can never be taken. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" (John 10:28)

Another suggestion is endurance. The arms of God are "everlasting." Human arms grow weary even in love's embrace; they cannot forever press the child to the bosom. Soon they lie folded in death.

A husband stood by the coffin of his beloved wife after only one short year of wedded happiness. The clasp of that love was very sweet — but how brief a time it lasted, and how desolate was the life that had lost the precious companionship!

A little baby two weeks old — was left motherless. The mother clasped the child to her bosom and drew her feeble arms about it in one loving embrace; the little one will never more have a mother's arm around it.

So pathetic is human life with — its broken affections, its little moments of love, its embraces that are torn away in one hour. But these arms of God — are everlasting arms! They shall never unclasp!

There is another important suggestion in the word "underneath." Not only do the arms of God embrace His child — but they are underneath — always underneath! That means that we can never sink — for these arms will ever be beneath us!

Sometimes we say the waters of trouble are very deep — like great floods they roll over us. But still and forever, underneath the deepest floods — are these everlasting arms! We cannot sink below them — or out of their clasp!

And when death comes, and every earthly thing is gone from beneath us, and we sink away into what seems darkness — out of all human love, out of warmth and gladness and life — into the gloom and strange mystery of death — still it will only be — into the everlasting arms!

This view of God's divine care is full of inspiration and comfort. We are not saving ourselves. A strong One, the mighty God — holds us in His omnipotent clasp! We are not tossed like a leaf on life's wild sea — driven at the mercy of wind and wave. We are in divine keeping. Our security does not depend upon our own feeble, wavering faith — but upon the omnipotence, the love, and the faithfulness of the unchanging, the eternal God!

No power in the universe can snatch us out of His hands! Neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come — can separate us from His everlasting arms!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Flinging gold coins and diamonds into the sea!

(J.R. Miller, 1898)

"Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise — making the most of your time!" Ephesians 5:15-16

If you saw a man standing by the shore, and flinging gold coins and diamonds into the sea — you would say that he was insane. Yet God sees many people continually doing something very like this. Not gold and precious stones, do they this throw away — but minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years of time — possessions which are of greater worth than any gems of earth!

If we knew the intrinsic value of time — we would not allow a moment of it ever to be wasted!

It is said that in the mints, where gold is coined, that the sweepings of the floors are gathered and passed through the fire, and that in the course of a year large amounts of gold are saved from the mere dust of the precious gold which flies from it as it passes through the various processes of minting.

In the same way, what vast values would be saved if there were some way of gathering up all the little fragments of the days and hours — the golden dust of time, which people let drop amid the wastes!

Then think how much most of us would really add to the length of our life, if we had learned to use every hour and moment. We talk seriously of the brevity of life. We are often heard complaining about the shortness of the days, wishing they had many more hours in them. Probably the majority of people waste one-half of their time, and have made only one-half as much of their life as they might have done — if they had only used their time with wise economy, and had not squandered any of it.

There are many ways of wasting time. Many people waste a great deal of time in little fragments — five minutes here, ten minutes there, half an hour today, and an hour tomorrow. Those who understand the true value of time, and have learned the secret of using it, always have something worth while to fill up all the little interstices. They have a good book to read when they find a few minutes to spare; or on any occasion of delay.

Time is also well spent, in which we get a beautiful thought, an important fact or a suggestion of a lesson into our mind. Or the fragments of time may be filled with little acts of helpfulness or kindness. It is one of the finest secrets of life, to know how to redeem the minutes from waste, and to make them bearers of blessing, of cheer, of encouragement, of good, to others. Then the whole world is sweeter, because of every kindness done or good word spoken.

Much time is wasted in useless activities — in doing things which are not worth while. There are things which are not regarded as sins — but which are of no value to anyone, and bring no benefit to him who spends his time in doing them.

There is a great deal of reading that is not worth while. You go through book after book, and from all the pages you do not get one enriching thought, one helpful inspiration, or one impulse toward a holier life. All you have at the end of a year of such reading, is only a confused memory of exciting sensations, unwholesome incidents, and unreal experiences. You would better have spent the time in sleep or in sheer idleness, than in going through such worthless books!

There is altogether too much of such reading done. There are good novels, great works of fiction, which teach splendid lessons, which show magnificent character and noble conduct, which inspire their readers to truer, holier living. But there are novels which give unworthy and unwholesome thoughts of life, which leave in the mind of readers a residuum of unholy thoughts, false ideals, the trail of the serpent. Then there are novels which, if they are not positively evil in their spirit and tendency — are inane, senseless, with nothing in them to make any one truer, holier, or sweeter-spirited.

A great deal of the popular reading of our day is but a waste of time, if not worse! If instead of it people would read only that which is worth while — how much richer they would be at the end of their life!

No problem that comes before us is more important than this — what to do with time. In youth, we learn how to live. The habits we form then, will go with us to the end of our days. If we learn then the value of moments, and form the habit of giving every minute something worthy to do — we shall have found a secret of successful living.

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

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Strewing flowers on a dead corpse!

(Thomas Watson, "The Beatitudes" 1660)

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8

External morality is not heart-purity. A person may be clothed with great moral virtues, such as justice, charity, prudence, and temperance — and yet go to Hell.

We must not rest in mere outward morality.
A swine may be washed — yet be a swine still.
does but wash a man — grace changes him.
Morality may shine in the eyes of the world — but it differs as much from purity, as a pebble differs from a diamond!

Morality is but strewing flowers on a dead corpse!

A man who is but highly moral — is but a tame devil!

How many have made 'morality' their savior!
Morality will damn — as well as vice!
A boat may be sunk with gold — as well as with dung!

The moral person, though he will not commit gross sins — yet he is not sensible of heart sins. He is not troubled for unbelief, hardness of heart, vanity of thoughts. He abhors gross-sins — not gospel-sins.

The snake has a fine appearance — but has a deadly sting! Just so, the moral man is fair to look on — but has a secret antipathy against the holy ways of God.

Morality is not to be rested in. The heart must be pure.
God would have Aaron wash the inner parts of the sacrifice. Leviticus 9:14
Morality does but wash the outside — the inside must be washed.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Plato's wish!

(J.R. Miller, "The Shining Life" 1911)

"You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved; there is no flaw in You!" Song of Songs 4:7

Plato expressed a desire that the moral law might become a living personage — that men seeing it thus incarnate, might be charmed by its beauty.

Plato's wish was fulfilled in Jesus Christ! The holiness and the beauty of the divine law were revealed in Him. The Beatitudes contain an outline of the ideal life — but the Beatitudes are only a transcript of the life of Christ Himself! What He taught about love — was but His own love stated in a course of living lessons for His friends to learn. When He said that we should be patient, gentle, thoughtful, forgiving, and kind — He was only saying, "Follow Me!"

If we could gather from the most godly people who ever have lived, the little fragments of lovely character which have blossomed out in each, and bring all these fragments into one personality — we would have the beauty of Jesus Christ!

In one person you find gentleness, in another meekness, in another purity of heart, in another humility, in another kindness, in another patience. But in the holiest of men, there are only two or three qualities of ideal beauty — along with much that is stained and blemished, mingled with these qualities.

In Christ, however, all that is excellent is found, with no flaw!

"You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved; there is no flaw in You!" Song of Songs 4:7