Grace Gems for NOVEMBER, 2017

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There is no such thing as "chance," "luck," or "accident" in the Christian's journey through this world!

(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)

"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that can do no more.  . . . Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid — you are worth more than many sparrows!" Luke 12:4-7

The last thing that demands our attention in these verses, is Christ's encouragement to persecuted believers. He reminds them of God's providential care over the least of His creatures: "Not one sparrow is forgotten by God!" He goes on to assure them that the same Fatherly care is engaged on behalf of each one of themselves: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered!"

The providential government of God over everything in this world
is a truth of which the Greek and Roman philosophers had no conception. It is a truth which is especially revealed to us in the Word of God. Just as the telescope and microscope show us that there is order and design in all the works of God's hand, from the greatest planet down to the least insect — so does the Bible teach us that there is wisdom, order, and design in all the events of our daily life. There is no such thing as "chance," "luck," or "accident" in the Christian's journey through this world! If we profess to be believers in Jesus Christ — then all is arranged and appointed by God. "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

Let us seek to have an abiding sense of God's hand in all that befalls us. Let us strive to realize that our Father's hand is measuring out our daily portion — and that our every step is ordered by Him.

A daily practical faith of this kind, is one grand secret of happiness — and a mighty antidote against murmuring and discontent!

We should try to feel in the day of trial and disappointment — that all is right, and that all is well done. We should try to feel on the bed of sickness — that there must be a "needs be" for it. We should say to ourselves, "God could keep these afflictions away from me — if He thought fit. But He does not do so, and therefore they must be for my advantage. I will lie still, and bear them patiently. Whatever pleases God — shall please me!"

Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer — without God's ordering and permission.

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You hold me by my right hand!

(James Smith, "The Evening Sacrifice; Or, A Help to Devotion" 1859)

"Nevertheless I am continually with You — You hold me by my right hand.
 You will guide me with Your counsel — and afterward receive me to glory!" Psalm 73:23-24

Continually with the Lord! O what a privilege!
Held fast by my right hand! O what a blessing!
Yet, this privilege and this blessing, have all the saints.

Tonight, while I sleep — tonight, while all is dark about me — tonight, while dangers may fly thick around me — my God will be with me, and I shall be with my God. Never did a tender mother watch beside the couch of her sick and dying child with such love, solicitude, and tenderness — as my God will watch by my bedside tonight. Never did a kind father hold the right hand of his timid or feeble son with such care and sympathy — as my God holds me by my right hand. Well, therefore, may I . . .
  give myself up to His guidance,
  feel safe in His keeping, and
  anticipate my entrance into His glory.

Blessed Lord, I love you, I adore you tonight for Your constant presence with me, and Your watchful care over me. You hold my right hand at this moment — O help me to realize it! And teach me by Your persuasive influence, to yield myself constantly to you.

Here, Lord, I put myself into Your hand anew. I no longer wish to choose my own way, but with all my heart say, "You will guide me with Your counsel — and afterward receive me to glory!"

O my Father, guide me through all the trials and temptations that lie in my path. Guide me through all the snares and dangers found in my way. Guide me into truth and holiness, and fill me with Your joy and peace. Guide, O guide me every step of my journey — and safely across the Jordan of death. Then receive me into Your glorious presence, where I shall see Jesus, and enjoy Your love, and rejoice in Your favor forever!

"Nevertheless I am continually with You — You hold me by my right hand.
 You will guide me with Your counsel — and afterward receive me to glory!" Psalm 73:23-24

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The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible!

(J.C. Ryle)

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus answered him, "What is written in the Law? What do you read there?" Luke 10:25-26

Notice in this passage, the high honor which our Lord Jesus Christ places on the Bible. He refers the lawyer at once to the Scriptures, as the only rule of faith and practice. He does not say in reply to his question, "What does the Jewish Church say about eternal life? What do the Scribes, and Pharisees, and priests think? What is taught on the subject in the traditions of the elders?"

He takes a far simpler and more direct course. He sends his questioner at once to the writings of the Old Testament, "What is written in the Law? What do you read there?"

Let the principle contained in these words, be one of the foundation principles of our Christianity. Let the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, be the rule of our faith and practice. Holding this principle, we travel upon the king's highway. The road may sometimes seem narrow, and our faith may be severely tried — but we shall not be allowed greatly to err. Departing from this principle, we enter on a pathless wilderness. There is no telling what we may be led to believe or do. Forever let us bear this in mind. Here let us cast anchor. Here let us abide.

It matters nothing who says a thing in religion — whether an ancient father, or a modern bishop, or a learned theologian.

Is it in the Bible? Can it be proved by the Bible? If not, then it is not to be believed.

It matters nothing how beautiful and clever sermons or religious books may appear. Are they in the smallest degree contrary to Scripture? If they are, they are rubbish and poison, and guides of no value!

What does the Scripture say? This is the only rule, and measure, and gauge of religious truth. "To the law and to the testimony," says Isaiah, "if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Isaiah 8:20

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Quicken our poor, cold, lifeless souls!

(James Smith, "The Evening Sacrifice; Or, A Help to Devotion" 1859)

"My soul cleaves unto the dust — quicken me according to Your Word!" Psalm 119:25

What powerful attractions the present world has! How prone we are . . .
  to sink down to its level,
  to become attached to its customs,
  and to cleave to its vanities!
Yet, at the best, it is but dust. There is nothing in the world to satisfy or suit an immortal mind.

Jesus died for us — to deliver us from this present evil world. The Holy Spirit urges us to rise above it, and offers us His divine and all-sufficient aid. He will not force, but only attract or draw. Alas! that we should . . .
  slight His intimations,
  disregard His exhortations,
  and grieve His loving heart!

We are not of the world — and yet how worldly we are! We are born from above — but yet how earthly we remain! Our souls go out after things that are carnal, drossy, dusty, contemptible — to the neglect of things that are spiritual, pure, holy, and invaluable.

Heavenly Father, we confess our folly, we deplore our ingratitude, we condemn our conduct. We feel weak and feeble when we attempt to burst our bonds, and mount upwards to Your throne. O quicken, quicken us! By the power of Your Holy Spirit, and by bringing home Your inspired Word — quicken our poor, cold, lifeless souls!

Have You not promised to be as the dew unto Your people, coming down graciously, gradually, and gently upon them — in order to revive their graces, quicken their devotions, and cause them to grow up into Christ? O come down upon our dry and thirsty souls as the dew — or fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants.

Quicken us — and so will we mount up to Your throne, and do Your righteous will. Quicken us — and so Jesus will be precious to us, and the work of the Lord will be pleasant to us.

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Rich to all eternity!

(Charles Spurgeon)

No matter what your wealth, if you have not Christ — you are miserably poor. "The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him: Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:22-24

But with Christ — you are rich to all eternity! "We have a priceless inheritance — an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4

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The flowers in the Lord's garden are not all precisely alike

(J.C. Ryle)

"She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said.
 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." Luke 10:39-40

Let us observe how different the characters and personalities of true Christians may be! The two sisters of whom we read in this passage were faithful disciples. Both had believed. Both had been converted. Both had honored Christ, when few gave Him honor. Both loved Jesus — and Jesus loved both of them. Yet they were evidently women of very different turn of mind.

Martha was active, stirring, and impulsive, feeling strongly, and speaking out all she felt.
Mary was quiet, still, and contemplative, feeling deeply, but saying less than she felt.

Martha, when Jesus came to her house, busied herself with preparing a suitable refreshment.
Mary's first thought was to sit at His feet and hear His word.
Grace reigned in both hearts, but each showed the effects of grace at different times, and in different ways.

We shall find it very useful to remember this lesson.

We must not expect all believers in Christ to be exactly like one another! We must not set down others as having no grace, because their experience does not entirely tally with our own.

The sheep in the Lord's flock have each their own peculiarities.

The flowers in the Lord's garden are not all precisely alike.

All true Christians agree in the principal things of religion.
All feel their sins.
All trust in Christ.
All repent.
All are led by one Spirit.
All are holy.

But in minor matters, they often differ widely. Let not one despise another on this account. There will be Marthas and there will be Marys in the Church until the Lord comes again!

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Lest we awake to find that we are paupers forevermore!

(J.C. Ryle)

"Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42

We should observe what a high commendation our Lord Jesus Christ pronounced on Mary's choice. There was a deep meaning in these words. They were spoken not only for Mary's sake, but for the sake of all Christ's believing people in every part of the world. They were meant to encourage all true Christians . . .
  to be single-eyed and whole-hearted,
  to follow the Lord fully,
  to walk closely with God,
  to make soul-business immeasurably their first business, and
  to think comparatively little of the things of this fleeting world.

The true Christian's portion is the grace of God. It is the only good thing which is substantial, satisfying, real, and lasting. The grace of God is . . .
  better in sickness — and better in health,
  better in youth — and better in old age,
  better in adversity — and better in prosperity,
  better in life — and better in death,
  better in time — and better in eternity.
No circumstance and no position can be imagined, in which it is not better for man to have the grace of God.

The true Christian's possession shall never be taken from him.
He alone, of all mankind, shall never be stripped of his inheritance.
Kings must one day leave their palaces.
Rich men must one day leave their money and lands — they only hold them until they die.

But the poorest saint on earth has a treasure of which he will never be deprived. The grace of God, and the favor of Christ — are riches which no man can take from him. They will go with him to the grave when he dies. They will rise with him in the resurrection morning, and be his to all eternity!

What do we know of this "better part" which Mary chose? Have we chosen it for ourselves? Can we say with truth that it is ours? Let us never rest until we can. Let us choose life, while Christ offers it to us without money and without price. Let us seek treasure in Heaven — lest we awake to find that we are paupers forevermore!

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You never heard an Arminian prayer!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Free Will, A Slave")

You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer — for the saints in prayer appear as one in word and mind. An Arminian on his knees, would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will — there is no room for it. Imagine him praying:

"Lord, I thank you I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists. Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to you of myself. I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have — then they might all have been saved. Lord, I know You do not make us willing, if we are not willing ourselves. You give grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many who will go to Hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Spirit given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not Your grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal — still I turned the point! I made use of what was given to me, and others did not — that is the difference between me and them."

That is a prayer for the devil — for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that!

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In love He blessed us with all spiritual blessings!

(James Smith, "The Evening Sacrifice; Or, A Help to Devotion" 1859)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Ephesians 1:3

God's love to us is infinite. He considers nothing too good or too great to confer upon His redeemed children. Having chosen us in His Son, that we may be holy and blameless before Him — in love He blessed us with all spiritual blessings. He gave us . . .
  grace in Jesus,
  grace before the foundation of the world,
  grace for all time,
  grace for all trials,
  grace to be given to us as our circumstances may require.

In going to the throne of grace, therefore — we simply go to receive what our heavenly Father has stored up in Jesus for us. What sweet encouragement is this! Well may the apostle say, "Therefore let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Blessed Lord, we thank You, we praise You, we bless Your glorious name — that You have chosen us and put us into Christ, made provision for us in Christ, and will make us perfectly holy through Christ. Teach us to come with boldness and confidence to Your throne, that we may obtain for our use, all that You have treasured up for us in Jesus. O give us . . .
  more faith in Christ,
  more humility when at your throne,
  more zeal for Your glory when in the world,
  more love to You and Your people; and
teach us to eat, drink, dress, and do everything to Your glory!

O to be thoroughly Christ-like! O to reflect the glory of God on all around us! O to live and act as on the confines of eternity, as if always impressed with this fact, "I shall soon be in Heaven!" Gracious Savior, raise me above this world, fix my affections on Yourself, fill me with Your Spirit, and enable me to lie down tonight with the assurance that all spiritual blessings are mine!

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Dear friends, why do you make your house like Hell?

("Pleasant Readings for the Home" Author unknown)

A traveler one day called at a cottage to ask for a drink of water. Entering, he found the parents cursing and quarreling, with the children trembling and crouched in a corner. Wherever he looked, he saw only marks of degradation and misery. Greeting the family, he asked them, "Dear friends, why do you make your house like Hell?"

"Ah, Sir," said the man, "you don't know the life and trials of a poor man! Do what I can — everything goes wrong!"

The stranger drank the water, and then said softly (as he noticed a Bible in a dark and dusty corner), "Dear friends, I know what would help you, if you could find it. There is a treasure concealed in your house — search for it."

And so he left them.

At first the cottagers thought it a jest, but, after a while they began to reflect. The whole family tried to find the "treasure" — but in vain. Increasing poverty brought only more quarrels, discontent, and strife.

One day, as the woman was thinking upon the stranger's words — her eye fell on the old Bible. It had been a gift from her mother, but since her death long ago — it had been unheeded and unused.

A strange foreboding seized her mind. Could the stranger have meant the Bible? She took it from the shelf, opened it, and found the verse inscribed on the title-page, in her mother's handwriting, "The law of your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver." It cut her to the heart. "Ah!" thought she, "this is the treasure which we have been seeking!" How her tears fell fast upon the pages!

From that time she read the Bible every day, and taught the children to pray — but without her husband's knowledge. One day he came home, as usual, quarrelsome and in a rage. Instead of meeting his angry words with angry replies — she spoke to him kindly and with gentleness. "Husband," said she, "we have sinned grievously. We have ourselves to blame for all this misery, and we must now lead a different life."

He looked amazed. "What are you talking about?" was his exclamation.

She brought the old Bible, and, sobbing, cried, "Here is the treasure. See, I have found it!"

The husband's heart was moved. She read to him of the Lord Jesus, and of His love. She continued to read the Scriptures daily, as she sat with the children around her, thoughtful and attentive.

So time went on.

It was a year later that the stranger returned that way. Seeing the cottage, he remembered the circumstances of his visit, and thought he would call and see this family again. He did so, but he would scarcely have known the place — it was so clean, so neat, so well ordered. He opened the door, and at first thought he was mistaken, for the family came to meet him so kindly, with the peace of God beaming upon their faces.

"How are you, my friends?" said he.

Then they recognized the stranger — and for some time they could not speak. "Thanks, thanks, dear Sir — we have found the treasure which you spoke of! Now the blessing of God dwells in our house — and His peace in our hearts!"

So they said — and their entire condition, and the happy faces of their children, declared the same more plainly!

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Jesus never gave any money!

(J.R. Miller, "Woman's Ministry")

Many shrink from ministering to the poor, because they have no money to give. But money alone is the poorest alms ever bestowed! There are gifts which every true Christian, however poor, has to bestow — which are infinitely better than money.

The apostles gave no money. They had no silver nor gold to bestow.

Jesus never gave any money!
We never read of Him giving a mite to any who were poor or in distress. And yet no man was ever such a lavish giver of beneficence as He. What Christ gave was loving service, pity, sympathy, compassion, tears and personal help.

These are the coins that the Christian should chiefly give. They are coins that bear the stamp of Heaven. The image and superscription of Jesus, our great King, are upon them. They were minted in Heaven! They are better than gold — for money is a poor thing to give, without love. "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames — but have not love, I gain nothing."
1 Corinthians 13:3

Money will neither . . .
  comfort the sad,
  nor cheer the lonely,
  nor lift up the fallen,
  nor strengthen the faint,
  nor support the tempted,
  nor heal the broken-hearted,
  nor soothe weariness,
  nor wipe away tears.

Love-gifts are what the poor, suffering, and sorrowing most need.
And these heavenly coins, the poorest Christian may scatter!

Jesus asked nothing nobler on earth than this — and He has made these lowly ministries forever glorious and divine.

Let Christians go out into the world, and repeat everywhere the tender, beautiful, helpful ministry of Jesus — and they will do more to bless the world, than if they opened a mine of wealth and made thousands rich!

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Unbelief is not simply an infirmity of fallen human nature

(Arthur Pink)

"The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son." 1 John 5:10

Unbelief is not simply an infirmity of fallen human nature
, it is a heinous crime against God! Scripture everywhere attributes it to . . .
  love of sin,
  obstinacy of will,
  hardness of heart.

Unbelief has its root in a depraved nature — in a mind which is enmity against God.

"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36

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The Almighty paid no attention to him, of course

(A.T. Pierson)

Some time ago, an infidel got up in the presence of some atheistic companions, and defied the God of heaven to show Himself in battle. He swung his sword to and fro, and challenged the Almighty to meet him in single combat.

The Almighty paid no attention to him, of course
but He just commissioned a little gnat, so small that it could scarcely be seen, to lodge in his windpipe and choke him to death!

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, their deeds are vile." Psalm 14:1 

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I would recommend all parents to get this kind of Bible

(J.R. Miller)

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path!" Psalm 119:105

In many houses you will see beautiful Bibles bound handsomely in morocco leather, with gilt edges, and full of bright pictures. I love to see a beautiful Bible in a home — especially if it is not kept too clean and unsoiled. But the most beautiful form in which a household Bible can be bound, is in the holy life of godly parents. There is no tinted, gold-edged paper so lovely — as the pages God gives us on which to write our daily record.

The precepts and lessons of the inspired Word sound very sweetly when read out of a richly-covered volume — but they sound far more sweetly, when the child can spell them out of the parent's daily life.

It is well for a parent to read to his child from the inspired page about the beauty of holiness; but it is better still when the child can see that beauty shining out transfigured in every feature of his parent's character.

It is well for him to read of the patience, gentleness, meekness, forbearance, and love of Christ; but it is better when he exemplifies all of these traits.

It is well for him to teach the child what the Bible says about lying, profanity, intemperance, and all sins; it is better when his life proclaims all these lessons.

No family Bible is so well printed and bound, as the one that is printed on the heart, and bound up in the life of a godly parent. I would recommend all parents to get this kind of Bible — and to keep the dust off it always by constant use. This is the best kind for a lamp to the children's feet.

A beautiful Christian life is a living epistle written by the hand of God — which the youngest child can read before it has learned to spell out the shortest words of the language. It is a sermon that preaches Christ all day long — seven days in the week!

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Our dim eyes cannot read the dark pages!

(J.R. Miller)

"You do not know now what I am doing — but later you will understand." John 13:7

Peter could not understand why Jesus should so condescend as to wash his feet. It perplexed and puzzled him, and he shrank from submitting to it. Jesus said, "You do not know now what I am doing — but later you will understand." And so it proved. There came days afterwards when he understood it all, when he knew why his Master had done it — and when he truly saw beauty, wisdom, love, richest instruction, and divine necessity in it.

And the same principle applies all through our life. There are many things in the providence of God which at the time appear dark and obscure — but which the future makes clear and plain. The Lord lays us aside in the midst of our usefulness, He desolates our homes, He breaks our harp-strings, He pours bitterness into our cups of sweetness. Our lives are full of strange, perplexing things — and we do not know what they mean.

Our dim eyes cannot read the dark pages.
Our dull ears cannot hear the voice of love which speaks out to us from every adverse circumstance.
Our heavy hearts cannot perceive the love which throbs with full pulse in every darksome event.

But there will come a day when every dark page in our life's history shall be explained — when all the tangle and confusion shall be unraveled, and the web shall lie before us woven through unto the end, warp and woof, with threads of gold and silver.

This word of Christ is the key to all the dark and strange providences in the life of every believer: "You do not know now what I am doing — but later you will understand."

One reason for the present obscurity — is our ignorance, or limited knowledge. We know now, only in part. We see now, only through a glass darkly. We are all scholars in God's school. The lessons set for us seem at first like the pages of an unknown language. We cannot pronounce the words. We cannot understand their meaning. They confuse and perplex us. We see no wisdom, no beauty, no love in them.

But the passing years bring riper wisdom and fuller knowledge. We shall then be able to read them off with ease. Then we shall see that every line held a golden lesson for our hearts — that every dark providence in our lives was one of God's precious love-thoughts written out for us — and the whole page will glow with divine beauty!

Only fuller knowledge is needed to explain to us much of the mystery of our lives. In the cloudless light and perfect revelation of Heaven — every shadow of mystery will vanish, and the strangest providences will seem as plain and easy as childhood's first lessons are to ripened and cultured manhood.

Another reason why many of the Lord's ways seem so strange to us, is because we see them only in their incompleteness. We must wait until they are finished, before we can fully understand what God is doing.

The work of sanctification is the process of painting the features of spiritual and divine beauty on human souls. And in this process, the Divine Artist oftentimes employs trials as His instruments. He first seems to destroy — but tribulation works patience. Many a man learns submission — when the Father's hand rests so heavily upon him, that he cannot rise.

Many a feature of beauty in the soul — is brought out in the darkness of affliction. The process seems to be destructive — but afterwards it yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Not at the time — but afterwards. When God finishes His work — then it is beautiful and very good.

In the bitterness of his soul Jacob cried out, "All these things are against me!" But these things were not against him — God had not yet finished His work. The final result had not yet been wrought out. All things seemed against him — but he lived to praise the Lord for all the strange providences which appeared so cruel at that hour. These were but the crude blocks out of which God was building up a beautiful home for his old age, and with which He was laying the foundation of future greatness and glory for his family. They were links in a golden chain of blessing.

So it ever is, "You do not know now what I am doing — but later you will understand." Wait until God has completed His work — and then all shall be well. You may see it even on the earth. Before you close your eyes in death — you may see the good brought out of the seeming evil of your life. But if not, if you die with the mystery still unsolved — then one moment in Heaven will explain all! Then you shall see all things completed. You shall see the web out of the loom — all its beautiful figures perfect, not one thread dropped or tangled. You shall see the temple finished — every block in its place, and the whole adorned with glory. You shall see the picture when the artist has put the last touches to it — and when it appears no more marred and spoiled, as you thought it would be by so much trial — but perfect and beautiful, bearing the likeness of Christ in every feature.

Then you shall see all the dark providences of your life carried out to their final result. You shall see . . .
  both the discipline — and its blessing;
  both the affliction — and its rich fruits;
  both the furnace-fires — and the brilliant gold!

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The glittering toys of life!

(Harriet Newell)

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Hebrews 11:13

We are pilgrims — we are strangers in a barren land. This world is not our portion — it is incapable of satisfying our desires. The glittering toys of life are not calculated to afford real enjoyment.

There is nothing in Heaven or earth that can delight our hearts and ease us of the heavy load of sin, but God.

Let us not be satisfied with the groveling pursuits of time — but let us look to the unchangeable Jehovah for a supply of His soul-refreshing grace.

How much has God done for us individually! He has made us partakers of His grace and redeemed us from eternal destruction. What shall we render to Him for this abundant mercy? O let our future lives evince gratitude — and let our praises unceasingly flow to His throne.

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul!" 1 Peter 2:11

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What punishment then can be too great — for so great an evil?

(Ralph Venning, "The Plague of Plagues!" 1669)

The worst on this side of Hell, is mercy — and the worst of and in Hell, is but justice!

Cain could say that his punishment was intolerable — but he could not say that it was unjust.
Though his punishment was greater than he could bear — yet it was not greater than he deserved.

Repeatedly, when the judgments of God are spoken of in Revelation, they are said always to be just and true and righteous (Revelation 15:3; 16:7). Though God's ways are unsearchable — yet they are true and just and righteous.

Death is but the due wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Therefore it is said, "Their damnation is just!" (Romans 3:8). Every sin has its just punishment (Hebrews 2:2).

Consider the nature of sin. It is Deicide — God-murder! Thus it is just for God to do with sinners, what they would unjustly do with Him. That is, take away from them all good and glory, displease and destroy them — because they would do so to Him.
If sin had accomplished its intention and desire — horror of horrors! — God would have been no more!

If we consider the person who is sinned against, and that the aim of sin is to ungod God — then what punishment can be thought bad enough?

Sin is an infinite evil. What punishment then can be too great — for so great an evil?

As none but infinite power can pardon sin — so none but infinite power can punish it sufficiently.

Just as sin's aim is infinite — so is its desert. Therefore, though sin's punishment is infinite — yet it is but just.
Seeing sin contains all evil — it is fitting that its punishment should be answerable and proportionate.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

It is unwise to try to carry next week's burdens today

(J.C. Pittman, 1917)

"Do not worry about anything — but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

There is no harm in looking ahead — but it is unwise to try to carry next week's burdens today. There is nothing wrong in looking ahead, but needless worry in regard to the future, is not only useless but injurious — besides evidencing lack of implicit trust in our heavenly Father's care for His redeemed people. Worry looks tremblingly ahead — but never accelerates, and always hinders the speed in life's race.

Yet many drag through life weighted with all sorts of needless cares — and are never in their element unless looking for still more trouble. They are always watching for clouds — and are never content to bask in the sunshine.

Paul has a word concerning the sin of worrying. "Do not worry about anything." The reason is because we are in God's world, and He is able and willing to take care of all His people. "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."

Never bear more than one kind of trouble at once.
Some people bear all three kinds of trouble at once:
  all they have had,
  all they have now, and
  all they expect to have.

John Wesley said: "I dare not worry — any more than I dare curse and swear!"

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Now I am accursed indeed!

(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

To be Anathema is to be cursed really — sentenced to real pains and real torments. These will be . . .
  so great,
  so grievous,
  so many,
  so extreme,
  so continual,
  and so universal —
that they shall wring out a confession from you: "Now I am accursed indeed!"

To lie in these flames which cannot be quenched, to burn in this fire in which I cannot be consumed — is such a curse, and so intolerable, that will make you curse the day in which you were born, and curse the time you ever lived in this world — because not better improved, to escape that curse you lie under in Hell.

You shall cry out and roar, "Woe is me — a poor miserable wretch! I am tormented in this place, and cannot have one drop of water to refresh and cool my parched tongue! Woe is me — a poor cursed scoundrel! I am in pain — in extremity of pain — and have no ease! Alas! I toss and tumble in this bed of flames, and cannot rest! If I wander from one side of Hell unto another — I cannot find one corner where I might have a little rest! Oh! cursed creature, that I did not love Christ! If I had loved Christ as much above the world, as I loved the world above Christ — then I might have been among the blessed saints, and not in the midst of such a cursed crew! Had I loved Christ so much more than sin, as I loved sin more than Christ — then I might have been a blessed one. But because I did not love Christ — I am now this cursed wretch! I am as cursed as cursed can be! I was told that, for lack of love to Christ — this would be my accursed state. And now, for lack of love to Jesus — it is my accursed state forever! I was told that if I do not love Christ — I would be Anathema! I did not love Christ — and now I am Anathema!"

   ~  ~  ~  ~

God's School!

(Francis Bourdillon, "Alone with God — Helps to Thought and Prayer, for the Use of the Sick")

"Teach me what I do not see." Job 34:32

I am now especially in the school of God. He has taken me aside to teach me. The whole world is a training place, and all of God's dealings with His redeemed children are to teach and discipline them. But God is giving me more than general teaching now. He has taken me aside from the great school of the world, to speak to me alone — doubtless because I need this special teaching.

It is my earnest desire to learn of God. It is my great wish that this time of severe illness may not be sent to me in vain. Lord, give me a humble and teachable heart. Let no pride or hardness or carelessness of mine — come between me and Your teaching, nor hinder me from receiving the impressions of Your grace.

"Teach me what I do not see." There is much that I do not see.
There is much in the Word of God that has, I am sure, a deeper and more spiritual meaning than I have yet attained to seeing.
I am not fully acquainted with my own heart.
I have but a faint and shallow knowledge of the riches of God's grace in Christ Jesus.

I do not fully see His precise purpose in sending me this present illness. I know that it comes to me for good, and that He takes me aside to teach me — but I would know His gracious will more clearly and distinctly, so that I may learn the very lessons which He is teaching me, and receive the very blessing which He designs for me.

"Teach me what I do not see!" Lord, I turn to You as my teacher. I am blind and ignorant — but You know all. All that it would be for my soul's good to see and know — graciously teach me. Open my heart to understand the Scriptures — may Your Spirit unfold Your Word to me.

Teach me to know myself — let me see myself, not in the light of self-esteem, or in that of the world's opinion, but as I am in Your sight.

Reveal Christ to me more fully. Let me know more of His unsearchable riches. Cause my heart to be more deeply affected with His dying love, and teach me to clearly see the infinite value of His great atonement.

Whatever special fault You mean to correct by this chastisement — enlighten my conscience to see it.

Whatever in my way of life You would have me to change, as contrary to Your will — oh, show it to me now for Your mercy's sake.

"Teach me." I might read books, or I might ask man's advice. I do not disregard either. But now, O my God, that You have taken me thus aside — now I turn to You as my teacher. Who teaches like You? Oh, teach me now — teach me by Your Spirit — teach me Yourself.

Teach me, as You alone can teach — in my heart. Let me not only understand Your holy will — but experience it and follow it. Let me not only have an insight into Your truth and Your dealings — but let me receive a deep and lasting experience of Your grace, and may my every thought be brought into subjection to You.

Teach me by whatever means You may see good to use. I do not ask so much that this time of trial may be shortened, and that Your chastening hand may be removed — as that I may receive all the blessings of such a time, and profit fully by Your chastening.

Lord, I would not choose — choose for me. Order all for me. Keep all in Your own gracious hand. Deal with me after Your own wisdom and love. Only "Teach me what I do not see" — yes, all that I ought to see and know for my soul's health. By Your dealings, by Your Word, by Your Spirit — graciously teach me!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The bosom of Jesus

(Octavius Winslow, "The Loving, and the Loved" 1864)

"This was the one who had reclined on Jesus' bosom at the supper . . . " John 21:20

The bosom of Jesus still pillows the head of the weary, loving disciple of the Lord. There is no real rest for the soul, but in Jesus.

Where should the Christ-loved, the Christ-loving disciple lean, with his sins and sorrows, with his weariness and want — but upon the bosom of his Lord? It is the place of repose, of faith, and of love.

There is room for you there amid the countless ones who fly to it for consolation, safety, and repose. Go and lean with your burden, your grief, and your sin — where the beloved disciple reclined; and you shall realize the blessedness of the oneness, confidence, and affection which exist between Jesus and all the disciples whom He loves.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

I am sure they would not admit you to their fellowship!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25

If you wait until you find a perfect church — then you must wait until you get to Heaven.

Even if you could find a perfect assembly on earth, I am sure they would not admit you to their fellowship, for you are not perfect yourself.

Find out those people who are nearest to the Scriptures, who hold the truth in doctrine and in practice, and are most like the New Testament church — and then cast in your lot with them, and you will be blessed in the deed.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

In everything give thanks!

(Thomas Watson, "All Things for Good")

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

See what cause the saints have to be frequent in the work of thanksgiving! In this, Christians are defective; though they are much in supplication — yet they are little in thanksgiving. The apostle says. "In everything give thanks!" 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Why so? Because God makes everything work together for our good.

We thank the physician, though he gives us a bitter medicine which makes us nauseated — because it is to make us well. We thank any man who does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God — who makes everything work for good to us?

God loves a thankful Christian! Job thanked God when He took all away: "The Lord has taken away — blessed be the name of the Lord!" Job 1:21. Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He takes away, because he knew that God would work good out of it.

We read of saints with harps in their hands — an emblem of praise. Revelation 14:2. Yet we meet many Christians who have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths! But there are few with their harps in their hands — who praise God in affliction.

To be thankful in affliction — is a work peculiar to a saint.
Every bird can sing in spring — but few birds will sing in the dead of winter!
Everyone, almost, can be thankful in prosperity — but a true saint can be thankful in adversity!

Well may we, in the worst that befalls us, have a psalm of thankfulness — because God works all things together for our good. Oh, be much in giving thanks to God!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The grace of God exempts no one from trouble!

(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)

"And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years." Luke 1:6-7

Let us mark in this passage, the heavy trial which God was pleased to lay on Zachariah and Elizabeth. We are told that they had no child. The full force of these words can hardly be understood by a modern Christian. To an ancient Jew, they would convey the idea of a very weighty affliction. To be childless, was one of the bitterest of sorrows. (1 Samuel 1:10)

The grace of God exempts no one from trouble! As righteous as this holy priest and his wife were — they had a "crook in their lot." (Ecclesiastes 7:13)

Let us remember this, if we serve Christ — and let us not count trials as strange things. Let us rather believe that a hand of perfect wisdom is measuring out all our portion; and that when God chastises us — it is to make us "partakers of His holiness." (Hebrews 12:10)

If afflictions drive us nearer to Christ, the Bible, and prayer — then they are positive blessings. We may not think so now. But we shall think so, when we wake up in the eternal world.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

A subtle leaven which the heart is always ready to receive!

(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)

"Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees — which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be made known." Luke 12:1-2

The first thing that demands our attention in these verses, is Christ's warning against hypocrisy.

This is a warning of which the importance can never be overrated. It was delivered by our Lord more than once, during His earthly ministry. It was intended to be a standing caution to His whole church in every age, and in every part of the world.

It was meant to remind us that the principles of the Pharisees are deeply ingrained in human nature — and that Christians should be always on their guard against them. Hypocrisy is a subtle leaven which the heart is always ready to receive! It is a leaven which once received into the heart, infects the whole character of a man's Christianity. Of this leaven, says our Lord, in words that should often ring in our ears — of this leaven, beware!

Let us ever nail this caution in our memories, and bind it on our hearts. The plague is around us on every side! The danger is at all times. What is the essence of Romanism, and formalism, and ceremonialism? What is it all, but the leaven of the Pharisees under one shape or another? The Pharisees are not extinct! Pharisaism lives still.

If we would not become Pharisees — then let us cultivate a 'heart religion'. Let us realize daily that the God with whom we have to do, looks far below the outward surface of our profession, and that He measures us by the state of our hearts. Let us be real and true in our Christianity. Let us abhor all part-acting, and affectation, and semblance of devotion — put on for public occasions, but not really felt within.

Our hypocrisy may deceive man, and get us the reputation of being very religious — but it cannot deceive God. "For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be made known."

Whatever we are in religion — let us never wear a cloak or a mask of religion.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account!" Hebrews 4:13

  ~  ~  ~  ~

What is the best remedy against the fear of man?

(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)

"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" Luke 12:4-5

One thing that demands our attention in these verses, is Christ's warning against the fear of man. "Do not be afraid," He says, "of those who kill the body and after that can do no more."

But He not only tells us whom we ought not to fear — but of whom we ought to be afraid. "Fear Him," Jesus says, "Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" The manner in which the lesson is conveyed is very striking and impressive. Twice over the exhortation is enforced. "Fear Him!" says our Lord. "Yes, I tell you, fear Him!"

The fear of man is one of the greatest obstacles which stand between the soul and Heaven. "What will others say of me? What will they think of me? What will others do to me?" How often these little questions have turned the balance against the soul, and kept men bound hand and foot by sin and the devil! Thousands would never hesitate a moment to storm a breach — who dare not face the laughter of relatives, neighbors and friends.

Now if the fear of man has such influence in these times — then how much greater must its influence have been in the days when our Lord was upon earth! If it is hard to follow Christ through ridicule and scornful words — then how much harder must it have been to follow Him through prisons, beatings, scourgings, and violent deaths! All these things our Lord Jesus knew well. No wonder that He cries, "Do not be afraid!"

What is the best remedy against the fear of man?
How are we to overcome this powerful feeling, and break the chains which it throws around us? There is no remedy like that which our Lord recommends. We must supplant the fear of man by a higher and more powerful principle — the fear of God. We must look away from those who can only hurt the body — to Him who has all dominion over the soul. We must turn our eyes from those who can only injure us in the life that now is — to Him who can condemn us to eternal misery in the life to come. Armed with this mighty principle, we shall not play the coward. Seeing Him that is invisible — we shall find the lesser fear melting away before the greater, and the weaker fear before the stronger.

"I fear God," said Colonel Gardiner, "and therefore there is no one else that I need fear." It was a noble saying of martyred Bishop Hooper, when a Roman Catholic urged him to save his life by recanting at the stake, "Life is sweet and death is bitter. But eternal life is more sweet — and eternal death is more bitter!"

  ~  ~  ~  ~

The voyage of life!

(John Newton's Autobiography, "Out of the Depths!")

All true believers walk by the same rule, and mind the same things:
   the Word of God is their compass,
   Jesus is both their polar star and their sun of righteousness,
   their hearts and faces are all set Zion-ward.
Thus far they are as one body, animated by one spirit. Yet their experience, formed upon these common principles — is far from being uniform.

The Lord, in His first call, and His following dispensations, has a regard to the situation, temper, and talents of each — and to the particular services or trials which He has appointed them for. Though all believers are tried at times — yet some pass through the voyage of life much more smoothly than others. But he "who walks upon the wings of the wind, and measures the waters in the hollow of His hand," will not allow any of whom He has taken charge, to perish in the storms — though, for a season, perhaps, many of them are ready to give up all hopes.

We must not, therefore, make the experience of others, in all respects — a rule to ourselves.
Nor are we to make our own experience — a rule to others.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

The way to do good is to amuse people!

(J.C. Ryle, 1884)
A great change has taken place in the last forty years. A quantity of church work is continually being carried on both by clergymen and laymen, which, however well-meant, can hardly be called Christian — and in reality has a painful tendency to throw true Christian work into the background, if not to throw it entirely out!

No one, for instance, can fail to observe that a large number of professors are spending all their time and strength on church music, church decorations, church programs, and an incessant round of church attractions. Others are equally absorbed in social work, feeding the poor, and improved dwellings for everyone. Others are incessantly getting up popular concerts, secular lectures, and evening recreations. They proclaim everywhere, that the way to do good is to amuse people!

Others are always occupied with secular guilds, and societies, and associations — and think you very wrong and heathenish if you do not join them. Myriads of professors are restlessly busy about such things from one end of the land to the other; and superficial observers are often saying, "What a great deal of church-work there is in these days!"

Now I would not for a moment be supposed to mean that all the things I have just mentioned are wrong and wicked. Yet I doubt whether the present state of things is altogether healthy. I doubt whether the work of the Holy Spirit on hearts and consciences, is not insensibly being left out in the cold and neglected. Amidst the incessant hustle and bustle about matters of entirely secondary importance — I doubt whether the sort of direct spiritual work to which the Apostles wholly gave themselves, receives as much attention as it ought.

It is quite certain that musical services, and church decorations, and concerts, and bazaars, and social work, and the like — will not save souls.

It is equally certain that, without repentance, and faith, and holy living, and practical, self-denying, kindly charity — no one is fit for Heaven. Do these simple, old-fashioned graces fill the place which they ought to do, in the daily proceedings of many so-called church-workers in this day? I confess I doubt it exceedingly.

I certainly see on every side a vast increase of what people call "church-work." But there is little or no increase of true religion. There undoubtedly is more show and glitter and display. But I extremely doubt whether there is more spiritual reality, and more growth of practical godliness.

  ~  ~  ~  ~
 In this precious Book!
(John Newton)
 "From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness — that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work!" 2 Timothy 3:15-17
 Set a high value upon the Word of God. All that is necessary to make you wise to salvation is there — and there alone.
 In this precious Book, you may find . . .
   a direction for every doubt,
   a solution of every difficulty, and
   a promise suited to every circumstance you can be in.
 There you may be informed of your disease caused by sin — and the remedy provided by grace.
 In the Scriptures, you may be instructed to know . . .
   Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,
   the wonders of redeeming love,
   the glories of the Redeemer's person,
   the happiness of the redeemed people,
   the power of faith, and
   the beauty of holiness.
 All are here fully and clearly represented.
 Nothing is lacking in the Scriptures to make . . .
   life useful and comfortable,
   death safe and desirable, and
   to bring down something of Heaven upon earth.
 But this true wisdom can be found nowhere else. If you wander from the Scriptures, in pursuit either of present peace, or future hope — then your search will surely end in disappointment.
 This is the fountain of living waters! If you forsake it, and give the preference to broken cisterns of your own devising — then they will fail you when you most need them.
 Rejoice, therefore, that such a treasure is put into your hand — but rejoice with trembling. Remember this is not all you need — unless God likewise gives you a heart to use the Scriptures aright — then your privilege will only aggravate your guilt and misery.