Grace Gems for DECEMBER, 2017

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So many traps to catch souls!

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

"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear — but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature." Luke 8:14

One caution contained in the parable of the sower — is to beware of the cares of this world. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of many hearers of the Word are like thorny ground. The seed of the Word, when sown upon them — is choked by the multitude of other things, by which their affections are occupied. They have no objection to the doctrines and requirements of the Gospel. They even wish to believe and obey them. But they allow earthly things to get such hold upon their minds — that they leave no room for the Word of God to do its work. And hence it follows that however many sermons they hear — they seem nothing bettered by them. A weekly process of truth-stifling goes on within them. They bring no fruit to perfection.

The things of this world, form one of the greatest dangers which beset a Christian's path. The money, the pleasures, the daily business of the world — are so many traps to catch souls! Thousands of things, which in themselves are innocent, become, when followed to excess — little better than soul-poisons, and helps to Hell!

Open sin is not the only thing that ruins souls. In the midst of our families, and in the pursuit of our lawful callings — we have need to be on our guard. Unless we watch and pray — these temporal things may rob us of Heaven, and smother every sermon we hear. We may live and die as thorny-ground hearers!

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One of the softest pillows upon which the Christian can lay his head!

(Charles Spurgeon)

I am persuaded that the doctrine of predestination is one of the softest pillows upon which the Christian can lay his head — and one of the "strongest staffs" upon which he may lean, in his pilgrimage along this rough road.

"For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will — to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves!" Ephesians 1:4-6

"In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will!" Ephesians 1:11

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He sees the nails and spear in every iniquity!

(Charles Spurgeon)

The heart of Christ became like a reservoir in the midst of the mountains. All the tributary streams of iniquity, and every drop of the sins of His people — ran down and gathered into one vast lake — as deep as Hell and as shoreless as eternity. All these met, as it were, in Christ's heart — and He endured them all!

Sin is horrible to a believer — because it crucified his Savior! He sees the nails and spear in every iniquity!

We cannot bear sin. When it is near us, we feel like a wretch chained to a rotting carcass — we groan to be free from the hateful thing.

A very little sin, as the world calls it — is a very great sin to a true Christian!

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Of all the doctrines of the Bible, none is so offensive to human nature as . . .

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

"I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.
And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed — only Naaman the Syrian."
All the people in the synagogue were filled with rage when they heard this! They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff!" Luke 4:25-29

We learn from these verses — how bitterly human nature dislikes the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. We see this in the conduct of the Jews of Nazareth — when our Lord reminded them that God was under no obligation to work miracles among them.

Were there not many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah? No doubt there were.
Yet to none of them was the prophet sent. All were passed over in favor of a GENTILE widow at Zarephath.

Were there not many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha? No doubt there were.
Yet to none of them was the privilege of healing granted. Naaman the SYRIAN was the only one who was cleansed.

Such doctrine as this was intolerable to the Jews of Nazareth. It wounded their pride and self-conceit. It taught them that God was no man's debtor, and that if they themselves were passed over in the distribution of His mercies — they had no right to find fault. They could not bear His teaching. They were "filled with rage!" They thrust our Lord out of their city — and had it not been for an exercise of miraculous power on His part, they would doubtless have put Him to a violent death by hurling Him off the cliff!

Of all the doctrines of the Bible, none is so offensive to human nature as the doctrine of God's sovereignty. Man can bear to be told that God is great, and just, and holy, and pure. But to be told that "He has mercy on whom He will have mercy" — that He "gives no account of His matters," that it is "not of him who wills, nor of him who runs — but of God who shows mercy" — these are truths which natural man cannot stand. They often call forth all his enmity against God, and fill him with wrath. Nothing, in short, will make him submit to them — but the humbling teaching of the Holy Spirit.

Let us settle it in our minds that, whether we like it or not — the sovereignty of God is a doctrine clearly revealed in the Bible, and a fact clearly to be seen in the world. Upon no other principle can we ever explain why some members of a family are converted — and others live and die in sin; why some quarters of the earth are enlightened by Christianity — and others remain buried in heathenism. One account alone can be given of all this. All is ordered by the sovereign hand of God!

Let us pray for humility in respect of this deep teaching. Let us never doubt that at the last day the whole world shall be convinced, that He who now "gives no account of His matters" has done all things well!

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We shall always find him at church!

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

"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the Word of God. Those along the wayside are the ones who hear — and then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." Luke 8:11-12

The first caution that we learn from the parable of the sower — is to beware of the devil when we hear the Word. Our Lord tells us that the hearts of some hearers are like "the wayside." The seed of the Gospel is plucked away from them by the devil almost as soon as it is sown. It does not sink down into their consciences. It does not make the least impression on their minds.

That malicious devil is unwearied in his efforts to do us harm. He is ever watching for our halting — and seeking occasion to destroy our souls. But nowhere perhaps is the devil so active, as in a congregation of Gospel-hearers! Nowhere does he labor so hard to stop the progress of that which is good — and to prevent men and women being saved. From him, come . . .
  wandering thoughts — and roving imaginations;
  listless minds — and dull memories;
  sleepy eyes — and fidgety nerves;
  weary ears — and distracted attention.
In all these things, Satan has a great hand.

People wonder where they come from, and marvel how it is that they find sermons so dull — and remember them so badly! They forget the parable of the sower. They forget the devil.

Let us take heed that we are not wayside hearers. Let us beware of the devil. We shall always find him at church! He never stays away from public ordinances. Let us remember this — and be upon our guard. Heat and cold, and rain and snow — are often dreaded by church-goers, and alleged as reasons for not going to church. But there is one enemy whom they ought to fear more than all these things together — that enemy is the devil!

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(J.C. Ryle)

"But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked: Lord, don't You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" Luke 10:40

Let us observe what a snare to our souls the cares of this world may be — if allowed to take up too much attention. It is plain from the tone of the passage before us, that Martha allowed her anxiety to provide a suitable entertainment for the Lord, to carry her away. Her excessive zeal for temporal provisions — made her forget, for a time, the things of her soul.

She brought down on herself a solemn rebuke, and had to learn a lesson which probably made a lasting impression. Alas! how great a matter is kindled by a little fire! The beginning of all this, was a little over-anxiety about the innocent household affairs of this world!

The fault of Martha should be a perpetual warning to all Christians. If we desire to grow in grace, and to enjoy soul-prosperity — then we must beware of the cares of this world. Unless we watch and pray, they will insensibly eat up our spirituality, and bring leanness on our souls.

It is not open sin, or flagrant breaches of God's commandments alone, which lead men to eternal ruin. It is far more frequently an excessive attention to things which are in themselves lawful. It seems so right to provide for our own! It seems so proper to attend to the duties of our station! It is just here that our danger lies! Our families, our business, our daily callings, our household affairs, our interaction with society — all, all may become snares to our hearts, and may draw us away from God. We may go down to the pit of Hell from the very midst of lawful things!

Let us take heed to ourselves in this matter. Let us watch our habits of mind jealously, lest we fall into sin unawares. If we love life — then we must hold the things of this world with a very loose hand, and beware of allowing anything to have the first place in our hearts, excepting God. Let us mentally write "Poison!" on all temporal good things. Used in moderation they are blessings, for which we ought to be thankful. But permitted to fill our minds, and trample upon holy things — they become an inevitable curse. Profits and pleasures are dearly purchased — if in order to obtain them we thrust aside eternity from our thoughts, abridge our Bible-reading, become careless hearers of the Gospel, and shorten our prayers.

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Sentenced to Hell by this one Scripture!

(John Flavel)

"I will place My Spirit within you, and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances." Ezekiel 36:27

The design and end of God in the infusion of the Spirit of grace, is practical holiness and obedience. The indwelling Spirit of God . . .
  elevates their minds,
  sets their affections upon heavenly things,
  purges their hearts from earthly dross, and
  fits them for a life of holiness and obedience.

None are more forward to claim the privileges of religion — than those who reject the duties of it. Multitudes hope to be saved by Christ — who yet refuse to be governed by Him. But such hopes have no Scripture warrant to support them — yes, they have many Scripture testimonies against them!

"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." 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10

O how many thousand vain hopes are laid in the dust, and how many thousands of souls are sentenced to Hell by this one Scripture!

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He goes to the forest — and chooses the most suitable 'rod' to correct us!

(James Smith, "Divine Chastening" 1859)

"You shall also consider in your heart, that, as a man chastens his son — so the Lord your God chastens you." Deuteronomy 8:5

Our heavenly Father loves us just as much when He frowns — as when He smiles upon us.

The Lord Himself chastens His children. He never allows His children to be flogged by others, nor keeps a drill-sergeant to do it. He Himself chastens every redeemed child.

He selects the instrument. He does not take up a rod that may 'by chance' lay before Him�just because it comes first to hand. No, no! He goes to the forest — and chooses the most suitable 'rod' to correct us! Proud man always imagines that God . . .
  has chosen the wrong rod,
  or strikes on the wrong place,
  or corrects at the wrong time.
But depend upon it — it is all right. If He . . .
  strikes the body,
  or seizes the property,
  or removes the family member,
  or alienates the friend,
  or afflicts the soul
it is all done in infinite wisdom, and perfect love.

He numbers His strokes. Not one too many, nor one too few — but just the right number is appointed. LESS would not humble the proud heart, bend the stubborn will, or turn back the wandering feet. MORE would unduly depress, give Satan an occasion against us, or harden our hearts. Believer, you shall never have one more stroke than your Heavenly Father has appointed — nor will He appoint one more than is necessary!

He marks the effects of the rod. He watches to see the effect produced by every stroke. If we fall at His feet, humble ourselves before Him, confess our sins, and appeal to His mercy — we take hold of His strength, and the chastisement soon ceases.

Sanctified correction always . . .
  embitters sin,
  brings us nearer to God,
  softens our spirits,
  humbles our hearts,
  produces penitence, and
  leads us to admire the wisdom and love of God.

Chastisement is designed to improve our characters — these, at best, are very imperfect. In order therefore to make us more watchful, prayerful, diligent, and devout — our heavenly Father uses the rod. And, if at any time we are left long without it, we become . . .
  conformed to the world,
  and carnally minded.

When the tear of penitence is seen in our eye — the rod soon drops from His hand! Or, if the discipline is continued — then such comfort, peace, and meekness flow into the soul — that we call it sweet affliction, and bless His dear name for it.

Nor can we then pray for the removal of the rod — but only for its deeper sanctification. We creep close to His feet, look up in His paternal face, catch His loving eye — and almost swoon with pleasure, humility, and love!

He makes  the rod beneficial to us. He corrects us, not for His pleasure — but for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. He uses the rod . . .
  to convince us of our folly,
  to keep us sensible of His authority,
  to make us smart for our inconsistencies,
  to bring us to repentance, and
  to make us cautious, tender, and humble.

Whatever end He fixes upon — is beneficial; and whatever end He fixes upon — He will bring to pass. So that we may well say, even when smarting under the rod, "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

He loves us too well, to give us any unnecessary painand He is too wise to allow our follies to go uncorrected.

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The devil's old delusion!

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

"John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire!" Luke 3

We have, in these verses, a specimen of John the Baptist's ministry. It is a portion of Scripture which should always be especially interesting to a Christian mind.

We should first mark the holy boldness with which John addresses the multitudes who came to his baptism. He speaks to them as a "brood of vipers!" He saw the rottenness and hypocrisy of the profession which the crowd around him were making, and uses language descriptive of their case.
His head was not turned by popularity.
He did not care who was offended by his words.
The spiritual disease of those before him was desperate, and of long standing — and he knew that desperate diseases need strong remedies!

Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain speaking ministers in our days — like John the Baptist.

A morbid dislike to strong language;
an excessive fear of giving offence;
a constant flinching from directness and plain speaking —
are, unhappily, too much the characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit.

Uncharitable language is no doubt always to be deprecated. But there is no charity . . .
  in flattering unconverted people,
  in abstaining from any mention of their vices,
  or in applying smooth names to damnable sins!

There are two texts which are too much forgotten by Christian preachers. In one it is written, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you." Luke 6:26. In the other it is written, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men — or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men — I would not be Christ's servant." Galatians 1:10

We should mark, also — how plainly John speaks to his hearers about HELL and danger!
He tells them that there is a "coming wrath!"
He speaks of "the ax" of God's judgment — and of unfruitful trees being "thrown into the fire!"

The subject of HELL is always offensive to human nature. The minister who dwells much upon it — must expect to find himself regarded as barbaric, violent, unfeeling and narrow-minded!

Men love to hear "smooth things," and to be told of peace, and not of danger. Isaiah 30:10

But the subject of Hell is one that ought not to be kept back, if we desire to do good to souls. It is one that our Lord Jesus Christ brought forward frequently in His public teachings. That loving Savior, who spoke so graciously of the way to Heaven — has also used the plainest language about the way to Hell.

Let us beware of being wise above that which is written, and more charitable than Scripture itself. Let the language of John the Baptist be deeply engraved on our hearts. Let us never be ashamed to avow our firm belief, that there is a "coming wrath" for the impenitent; and that it is possible for a man to be lost, as well as to be saved.

To be silent on the subject — is dreadful treachery to men's souls. It only encourages them to persevere in wickedness, and fosters the devil's old delusion in their minds, "You shall not surely die!" Genesis 3:4

That minister is surely our best friend — who tells us honestly of danger, and warns us, like John the Baptist, to "flee from the wrath to come!"

Never will a man flee — until he sees that there is real cause to be afraid.
Never will he seek Heaven — until he is convinced that he is on his way to Hell.

The religion in which there is no mention of Hell — is not the religion of John the Baptist, or of our Lord Jesus and His apostles!

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No sin can be little!

(John Bunyan)

No sin can be little, because it is committed against the great God of heaven and earth.

To commit little sins — the sinner must find a little god!

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace!" Ephesians 1:7

"The blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin." 1 John 1:7

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Think of all the hard things there are in your life

(Susannah Spurgeon, "Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls!" 1898)

"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You!" Jeremiah 32:17

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?" Jeremiah 32:26-27

Dear reader, your difficulties and trials may not be similar to those of "the weeping prophet" — but they are very real, and seemingly insurmountable to you. It is a fact that, of yourself, you can neither overcome nor endure them. So I want to remind you that the Lord's hand is not shortened — that what was true of His power in Jeremiah's time, is as certainly true today. Whatever present hardship may press upon you, or whatever burden may be weighing you down — you, yes, you may look up to Him with confident faith, and say, "There is nothing too hard for You!"

Oh, the blessed peace which such an assurance brings! I do not know what your particular sorrow or hardship may be — but I do know that, whatever its nature — cruel, or bitter, or hopeless — it is as "nothing" to Him! He is able to deliver you — as easily as you can call upon Him for support and help.

Now, dear friend, think of all the hard things there are in your life:
  poor circumstances,
  difficult duties,
  grievous pains,
  sore struggles,
  bitter disappointments,
  harsh words,
  sinful thoughts,
  a hard heart of your own,
  a hard heart in others.
Gather all these, and many more together, and pile them one on another until you have one great mountain of afflictions — and your God still calmly asks the question: "Is there anything too hard for Me?"

When our hearts are weary of life's cares and crosses, when our courage flags because of our helplessness, and we cry out with the patriarch, "All these things are against me!" — then what a support and stronghold is the fact that our God has all power in heaven and on earth! There is nothing too mighty for Him to manage — there is nothing too insignificant to escape His notice! Jeremiah's faith . . .
  sees no obstacles,
  stumbles at no hindrances,
  faints under no burden,
  shrinks from no responsibilities
 — because he realizes the sublime Omnipotence of God, and fortifies himself by calling to remembrance His "outstretched arm" in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Cannot we do likewise?

I took up a book in a leisure moment the other day, opened it carelessly, and this is what I read: "It is a scientifically proved fact, that this great globe on which we live, spins around on its axis at the rate of a thousand miles an hour, and propels through space in its orbit at a speed immensely greater!"

The thought of this, seemed almost to take away my breath! Was I calmly and constantly living in the swirl of such a stupendous miracle as this? Then surely I could say, "Ah, Lord God! there is nothing too hard for You! My little troubles and afflictions — how small they must be to You! Yet with what tender compassion, do You stoop from guiding the worlds in their courses — to support and comfort the hearts of those who fear You!"

Never let us give up in despair, while we have such a God to trust in. If there is a great mountain of sorrow or difficulty in your way, dear friend — do not be cast down by the darkness of its shadow. Your God can either make a way for you through it — or He can guide you around it — or, just as easily, He can carry you right over it! There is nothing too hard for Him! Expect Him to make the crooked things straight, and to bring the high things low. And while you keep humbly at His feet, He will work wondrously, and you shall see His salvation!

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Your daughter is dead!

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

"While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. 'Your daughter is dead!' he said." Luke 8:49

Let us notice in this verse — how universal is the dominion which death holds over mankind. We see death coming to a rich man's house, and tearing from him the desire of his eyes with a stroke!

Such tidings as these, are the bitterest cups which we have to drink in this world. Nothing cuts so deeply into man's heart — as to part with beloved ones, and lay them in the grave. Few griefs are so crushing and heavy — as the grief of a parent over the death of an only child.

Death is indeed a cruel enemy! He makes no distinction in his attacks. He comes to the rich man's mansion — as well as to the poor man's cottage. He does not spare the young, the strong, and the beautiful — any more than the old, the infirm, and the grey-haired. Not all the gold of Australia, nor all the skill of doctors — can keep the hand of death from our bodies, in the day of his power. When the appointed hour comes, and God permits him to smite — then our worldly schemes must be broken off, and our darlings must be taken away and buried out of our sight.

These thoughts are melancholy, and few like to hear of them. The subject of death is one that men shut their eyes at, and refuse to look at. "All men think all men mortal, but themselves!" But why should we treat this great reality in this way? Why should we not rather look the subject of death in the face, in order that when our turn comes — we may be prepared to die?

Death will come to our houses, whether we like it or not. Death will take each of us away — despite our dislike to hearing about it. Surely it is the part of a wise man to get ready for this great change.

Why should we not be ready? There is one who can deliver us from the fear of death. Christ has overcome death, and "brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." He who believes on Him, has everlasting life. Though he dies — yet shall he live.

Let us believe in the Lord Jesus — and then death will lose his sting. We shall then be able to say with Paul, "To me, to die is gain!" Philippians 1:21

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A crucified Savior will never be content to have a self-pleasing, self-indulging, worldly-minded people!

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

"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it — but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world — and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" Luke 9:23-25

We learn here, the absolute necessity of daily self-denial. Every day we ought . . .
  to crucify the flesh,
  to overcome the world,
  and to resist the devil.

We ought to keep our bodies under control, and bring them into subjection. We ought to be on our guard, like soldiers in an enemy's country. We ought to fight a daily battle — and war a daily warfare. The command of our Master is clear and plain, "If any man will come after Me — let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

Now what do we know of all this? Surely this is a question which ought to be asked. A little formal church-going, and a decent attendance at a place of worship — can never be the Christianity of which Christ speaks in this place.

Where is our self-denial?

Where is our daily carrying of the cross?

Where is our following of Christ?

Without a religion of this kind — we shall never be saved.

A crucified Savior will never be content to have a self-pleasing, self-indulging, worldly-minded people!

No self-denial — no real grace!

No cross — no crown!

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They have often destroyed, by their daily lives — the whole work of their lips!

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

"He told them: Take nothing for the journey — no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town." Luke 9:3-4

Let us observe that our Lord charges His apostles, when He sends them forth — to study simplicity of habits, and contentment with such things as they have.

These instructions contain a lesson for all time. The spirit of these verses is meant to be remembered by all ministers of the Gospel. The leading idea which the words convey — is a warning against worldliness and luxurious habits.

Well would it be for the world and the Church, if the warning had been more carefully heeded! From no quarter has Christianity received such damage — as it has from the hands of its own ministers! On no point have its ministers erred so much, and so often — as in the matter of personal worldliness, and luxury of life. They have often destroyed, by their daily lives — the whole work of their lips! They have given occasion to the enemies of religion to say that they love ease, and money, and earthly things — far more than souls.

From such ministers, may we pray daily that the Church may be delivered! They are a living stumbling-block in the way to Heaven. They are helpers to the cause of the devil — and not of God. The preacher whose affections are set on money, and finery and feasting, and pleasure-seeking — has clearly mistaken his vocation. He has forgotten his Master's instructions. He is not an apostolic man!

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Let us bear this in mind, and take comfort in it!

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

"When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, 'Do not weep!' Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, 'Young man, I say to you, arise!'" Luke 7:13-14

We learn from these verses — how deep is the compassion of our Lord's heart. We see this beautifully brought out in His behavior at this funeral in Nain. He meets the mournful procession accompanying the young man to his grave, and is moved with compassion at the sight. He does not wait to be requested to help. His help appears to have been neither asked for, nor expected. He saw the weeping mother, and knew well what her feelings must have been, for He had been born of a woman Himself.

At once He addressed her with words alike startling and touching. He said unto her, "Do not weep!" A few more seconds — and the meaning of His words became plain. The widow's son was restored to her alive. Her darkness was turned into light — and her sorrow into joy.

Our Lord Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His heart is still as compassionate as when He was upon earth. His sympathy with sufferers is still as strong. Let us bear this in mind, and take comfort in it.

There is no friend or comforter who can be compared to Christ. In all our days of darkness, which must needs be many — let us first turn for consolation to Jesus, the Son of God. He will never fail us, never disappoint us, and never refuse to take interest in our sorrows.

He still lives — who made the widow's heart sing for joy in the gate of Nain.
He still lives — to receive all laboring and heavy-laden ones, if they will only come to Him by faith.
He still lives — to heal the broken-hearted, and be a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.

And He lives to do greater things than these one day. He soon will come again for His people — that they may never weep again, and that all tears may be wiped forever from their eyes!

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Let this little sentence be continually before the eyes of our minds!

(J.C. Ryle)

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things — but only one thing is needed!" Luke 10:41-42

Let us observe what a solemn rebuke our Lord Jesus Christ gave to His servant Martha. Like a wise physician — He saw the disease which was preying upon her, and at once applied the remedy. Like a tender parent — He exposed the fault into which His erring child had fallen, and did not spare the chastening which was required.

"Martha, Martha," He said, "you are worried and upset about many things — but only one thing is needed!" Faithful are the wounds of a friend! That little sentence was a precious balm indeed! It contained a volume of practical divinity in a few words!

"Only one thing is needed!" How true that saying! The longer we live in the world, the more true it will appear. The nearer we come to the grave, the more thoroughly we shall assent to it. Health, and money, and lands, and rank, and honors, and prosperity, are all well in their way. But they cannot be called needful. Without them thousands are happy in this world, and reach glory in the world to come. The "many things" which men and women are continually struggling for, are not really necessities. The grace of God which brings salvation, is the one thing needful.

Let this little sentence be continually before the eyes of our minds!
Let it check us when we are ready to murmur at earthly trials.
Let it strengthen us when we are tempted to deny our Master on account of persecution.
Let it caution us when we begin to think too much of the things of this world.
Let it quicken us when we are disposed to look back, like Lot's wife.
In all such seasons, let the words of our Lord ring in our ears like a trumpet, and bring us to a right mind! "Only one thing is needed!"

If Christ is ours — then we have all and abound!

  ~  ~  ~  ~

He answers these many fears with a single golden sentence!

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

"Fear not, little flock — it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!" Luke 12:32

Let us mark what a gracious word of consolation this passage contains for all true believers. The Lord Jesus well knew the hearts of His disciples. He knew how ready they were to be filled with fears of every description:
  fears because of the fewness of their number,
  fears because of the multitude of their enemies,
  fears because of the many difficulties in their way,
  fears because of their sense of weakness and unworthiness.
He answers these many fears with a single golden sentence, "Fear not, little flock — it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!"

Believers are a "little flock." They always have been, ever since the world began.
Professing Christians, have sometimes been very many.
Baptized people at the present day, are a great company.
But true Christians, have always been very few.

It is foolish to be surprised at this. It is vain to expect that it will be otherwise. Our Lord has plainly told us, "But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life — and only a few find it." Matthew 7:14

All true believers have a glorious "kingdom" awaiting them! Here upon earth — they are often mocked, and ridiculed, and persecuted — and, like their Master, despised and rejected by men. But "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us!" "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear — then shall you also appear with Him in glory!"

Believers are tenderly loved by God the Father. It is His good pleasure to give them the kingdom. He does not receive them grudgingly, unwillingly or coldly. He rejoices over them, as members of His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. He regards them as His dear children in Christ. He sees no spot in them. Even now, when He looks down on them from Heaven, in the midst of their infirmities — He is well pleased. And hereafter, when presented before His glory — He will welcome them with exceeding joy! Jude 24

  ~  ~  ~  ~

And then He turns the picture!

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

"He told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops!' Then he said, 'This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself: You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy — eat, drink and be merry!'
But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
This is how it will be with anyone who stores up treasure for himself — but is not rich toward God." Luke 12:16-21

Let us mark in these verses — what a withering exposure our Lord makes of the folly of worldly-mindedness. He draws the picture of a rich man of the world, whose mind is wholly set on earthly things. He paints him scheming and planning about his property, as if he was master of his own life, and had but to say, "I will do a thing" — and it would be done.

And then He turns the picture — and shows us God requiring the worldling's soul, and asking the heart-searching question, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"

"Folly," he bids us to learn — nothing less than "folly," is the right word by which to describe the conduct of the man who thinks of nothing but his money. The man who "stores up treasure for himself — but is not rich toward God" — is the man whom God declares to be a fool!

It is a solemn thought, that the character which Jesus brings before us in this parable, is far from being uncommon. Thousands in every age of the world have lived continually doing the very things which are here condemned! Thousands are doing them at this very day! They are laying up treasure upon earth — and thinking of nothing but how to increase it. They are continually adding to their hoards, as if they were to enjoy them forever — and as if there was no death, no judgment, and no world to come!

And yet these are the men who are called clever, and prudent and wise! These are the men who are commended, and flattered and held up to admiration! Truly the Lord does not see, as man sees! The Lord declares that rich men who live only for this world, are utter fools!

Let us pray for rich men. Their souls are in great danger!

"Heaven," said a great man on his death-bed, "is a place to which few kings and rich men come."

Even when converted, the rich carry a great weight, and run the race to Heaven under great disadvantages. The possession of money has a most hardening effect upon the conscience. We never know what we may do — if we were to become rich. "The love of money is the root of all evil. While some have coveted after it, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:10

Poverty has many disadvantages — but riches destroy far more souls than poverty!

  ~  ~  ~  ~

The queen of the Christian graces!

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

"Everyone who exalts himself — will be humbled; and he who humbles himself — will be exalted." Luke 14:11

Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ — is the start of saving religion.

Humility is a grace which has always been a distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Daniel and Paul — were all eminently humble men.

Above all, humility is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All converted people should work to adorn the doctrine they profess, with humility. If they can do nothing else — they can strive to be humble.

Do you want to know the root and spring of humility?
One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge.

The person . . .
  who really knows himself, and his own heart,
  who knows God, and His infinite majesty and holiness,
  who knows Christ, and the price at which he was redeemed
 — that person will never be a proud person.

He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God's mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, "I am vile!" He will cry, like Paul, "I am the chief of sinners." He will consider others better than himself. Philippians 2:3

Ignorance, nothing but sheer ignorance — ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ — is the real secret of pride.

From that miserable self-ignorance, may we daily pray to be delivered.
The wise person knows himself — and will find nothing within to make him proud.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

She left her heart behind her!

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

"Remember Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32

We should observe in these verses — what a solemn warning our Lord gives us against unsound profession.

Lot's wife went far in religious profession. She was the wife of a "righteous man." She was connected through him with Abraham, the father of the faithful. She fled with her husband from Sodom, in the day when he escaped for his life by God's command.

But Lot's wife was not really like her husband. Though she fled with him — she left her heart behind her! She willfully disobeyed the strict injunction which the angel had laid upon her. She looked back towards Sodom — and was at once struck dead! She was turned into a pillar of salt, and perished in her sins! Remember her — says our Lord, "Remember Lot's wife!"

Lot's wife is meant to be a beacon and a warning to all professing Christians. It may be feared that many will be found like her, in the day of Christ's second coming. There are many in the present day, who go a certain length in religion. They speak the "language of Canaan." They use all the outward ordinances of religion. But all this time, their souls are not right in the sight of God. The world is in their hearts — and their hearts are in the world. And by and bye, in the day of sifting — their unsoundness will be exposed. Their Christianity will prove rotten at the core! The case of Lot's wife will not stand alone.

Let us remember Lot's wife, and resolve to be real in our religion. Let us never rest until we have the true grace of God in our hearts — and have no desire to look back to the world.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

How much time is wasted!

(Elizabeth Hasell)

"The time is short!" 1 Corinthians 7:29
How valuable is time! God has given it to us only minute by minute — to show us how precious a thing it is that He grants in these small drops.

How soon is time over! How short is the longest life! And yet time is given to prepare for eternity! As we spend our time — so shall we spend eternity! The question "Where shall I spend eternity?" must be decided in time. When eternity begins, it will be too late.

Time is given us to serve the Lord in.
Time is given us to repent in and to believe the gospel.
Time is given us to do our duty in our station.
Time is given us to do good to others.

How much time is wasted! Idle gossip from house to house, too much attention to dress, and foolish reading — are so many things to waste precious time!

But there is one idea I would like you to have, one thought that I trust the Spirit may write and keep in all our hearts — for Satan and the world would wish us to think far otherwise. This is it: Time is given us to prepare for eternity! I am answerable to God for my use or abuse of time.

Let us pray to God to give us grace to spend our time in His service, in doing our duty in our day and generation, and in preparing for the life to come. Then, when time shall be over, we shall enter upon a glorious eternity through Christ our Lord.

The ungodly and the careless will then wish, when wishing will be vain — that they had in like manner devoted their time to God. What would lost sinners give at the last, for one short day! Oh, then, be wise now. Be wise in time. Consider your ways, and prepare for a life that shall never end!

"So teach us to number our days — that we may get a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Superstitious regard for times and seasons

(Charles Spurgeon)

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ." Colossians 2:8

We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons.

Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas. First, because we do not believe in the mass at all — but abhor it, whether it is said in Latin or in English. And, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior. Consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority.

Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior's birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. We venture to assert, that if there is any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born — it is the twenty fifth of December.

Probably the fact is that the 'holy days' were arranged to fit in with heathen festivals.

There are those who, on December 25th, will pretend to exhibit joy in the remembrance of our Savior's birth — but they will not seek their pleasure in the Savior. Joy in Immanuel would be a poor sort of mirth to them. In this country, too often, if one were unaware of the name — one might believe the Christmas festival to be a feast of Bacchus, certainly not a commemoration of the Divine birth.

When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas and other Popish festivals were ever instituted by a divine statute — then we also will attend to them, but not until then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men — as to observe the commandments of the Lord.

Those who follow the custom of observing Christmas — do not follow the Bible, but pagan ceremonies.

How absurd to think that we could celebrate the birth of Christ, in the spirit of the world — with a Jack Frost clown, a deceptively worldly Santa Claus, and a mixed program of sacred truth with fun, deception, and fiction. If it is possible to honor Christ in the giving of gifts — I cannot see how, while the gift, giver, and recipient are all in the spirit of the world. The Catholics may have their Christmas one day in 365, but we have a Christ gift the entire year!

Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year — then it cannot be in the power of other men's superstitions to render such a meditation improper for today. Not regarding the day — let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Christmas is coming!

(Arthur Pink)

"Thus says the Lord: Do not learn the ways of the heathen...for the CUSTOMS of the people are vain." Jeremiah 10:1-3

Christmas is coming! Quite so — but what is "Christmas?" Does not the very term itself denote it's source, "Christ-mass." It is of Roman origin, brought over from paganism.

"But," says someone, "Christmas is the time when we commemorate the Savior's birth." It is? And who authorized such commemoration? Certainly God did not. The Redeemer bade His disciples to "remember" Him in His death — but there is not a word in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, which tells us to celebrate His birth. Moreover, who knows when, in what month, He was born? The Bible is silent thereon.

And WHO is it that celebrates "Christmas?" The whole "civilized world." Millions who make no profession of faith in the blood of the Lamb, who "despise and reject Him". We would ask: Is it fitting that Christ's friends should unite with His enemies in a worldly round of fleshly gratification? Does any true believer really think that He whom the world cast out, is either pleased or glorified by such participation in the world's joys? Truly, the customs of the people are vain! It is written, "You shall not follow a multitude to do evil." Exodus 23:2

Some will argue for the "keeping of Christmas" on the ground of "giving the kiddies a good time." But why do this under the cloak of honoring the Savior's birth? Why is it necessary to drag in His holy name in connection with what takes place at that season of carnal jollification?

There are those who do abstain from some of the grosser carnalities of the "festive season" — yet are they nevertheless in cruel bondage to the prevailing custom of "Christmas".

In the sight of God, the circus and the theater are far less obnoxious than the "Christmas celebration" of Romish and Protestant "churches." Why? Because the latter are done under the cover of the holy name of Christ — the former are not.

"You shall not follow a multitude to do evil." Ah, it is an easy thing to float with the tide of popular opinion; but it takes much grace, diligently sought from God, to swim against it. Yet that is what the heir of Heaven is called on to do: "Do not be conformed to this world" — to deny self, take up the cross, and follow a rejected Christ.

Our final word is to the pastors. To you the Word of the Lord is, "You should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). Is it not true, that the most corrupt "churches" you know of, where almost every fundamental of the faith is denied — will have their "Christmas celebrations?" Will you imitate them? Seek grace to firmly but lovingly set God's truth on this subject before your people, and announce that you can have no part in following Pagan, Romish, and worldly customs!

  ~  ~  ~  ~

How solemnly this brings out the world's estimate of the Savior!

(Arthur Pink, "Why Four Gospels?" 1921)

"And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a feeding-trough, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7

Why was it that the Father allowed His blessed Son, now incarnate, to be born in a stable? Why were the cattle of the field, His first companions? What spiritual lesson are we intended to learn from His being placed in a feeding-trough? Weighty questions!

He was laid in a feeding-trough because there was no room in the inn. How solemnly this brings out the world's estimate of the Savior! There was no appreciation of His amazing condescension.

He was not wanted!

It is so still. There is no room for Him in the schools, in society, in the business world, among the great throngs of pleasure seekers, in the political realm, in the newspapers, nor in many of the churches. It is only history repeating itself.

All that the world gave the Savior, was . . .
  a feeding-trough for His cradle,
  a cross on which to die, and
  a borrowed grave to receive His murdered body.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Everyone had a home, but Him!

(James Smith, "Daily Bible Readings for the Lord's Household")

"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests — but the Son of man has no place to lay His head!" Matthew 8:20

What an astonishing fact!

Here is the Creator of all things — without a home!

Here is the Ruler of the universe — without a habitation!

Here is the eternal, immortal King — more destitute than the birds of the air, or the beasts of the forest!

"Then each one went to his own home — but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives." John 7:53-8:1

Everyone had a home, but Him!

What brought Him into these circumstances?


Love for whom?

Love for sinners — the vilest, the basest of mankind!

Why did He stoop so low?

He became poor — that we might become rich!

He was without a poor cottage on earth — that we might possess a splendid mansion in Heaven!

He was destitute in time — that we might possess a glorious portion in eternity!

O Jesus, how astonishing is Your love!

O my soul, admire, adore, and praise — the wondrous love of your beloved Lord!

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich — yet for your sakes He became poor; so that you through His poverty might become rich!" 2 Corinthians 8:9

  ~  ~  ~  ~

The humble Christian

(John Newton)

"By the grace of God, I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

The humble Christian will not be easily angered — nor will he be dogmatic and judgmental.

He will be compassionate and tender towards the infirmities of his fellow-sinners; knowing, that, if there is any difference between himself and others — it is grace of God that has made it. He knows that he has the seeds of every evil in his own heart!

Also, under all trials and afflictions, the humble Christian will look to the hand of the Lord, and lay his mouth in the dust — acknowledging that he suffers much less than his iniquities have deserved.

A deep sense of indwelling sin is essential to humble living.

These are some of the advantages and good fruits which the Lord enables us to obtain from that bitter root, indwelling sin.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

A weak, defenseless, thoughtless creature — and prone to wander!

(John Newton)

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." John 10:11

This great and good Shepherd has a flock, whom He loved from everlasting — and whom having loved, He will love to the end. He . . .
  humbled Himself for their sakes,
  submitted to partake of their nature and their sorrows,
  took upon Him the form of a servant,
  and was made in the likeness of sinful flesh.

He died for His sheep, "the just for the unjust," to redeem them . . .
  from the curse of the law,
  from the guilt and dominion of sin,
  from the power of Satan — and to bring them to God.

They, by nature, are all "gone astray, every one to his own way". But having thus bought them with His blood — in His own appointed time He seeks, finds, and restores His sheep. By the power of His Word and Spirit — He makes Himself known to their hearts, causes them to hear and understand His voice, and guides them into His fold. They are under His immediate protection and government.

Considered as individuals, they are fitly described by the name of sheep. A sheep is a weak, defenseless, thoughtless creature — and prone to wander! If once gone astray — it is seldom known to return of its own accord.

A sheep has neither strength to fight with the wolf, nor speed to escape from him; nor has it the foresight of the ant, to provide its own sustenance.

Such is our character, and our situation —
  unable to take care of ourselves,
  prone to wander from our resting-place,
  exposed to enemies which we can neither withstand nor avoid,
  without resource in ourselves,
  and taught, by daily experience, the insufficiency of everything around us.

Yet, if this Shepherd is our Shepherd, as weak and helpless as we are — we may be of good courage. If we can say with David, "The Lord is my Shepherd" — then we may make the same inferences which he did, "Therefore I shall not want. Therefore I need not fear."

"My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish! No one can snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:27-28

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Behold Him!

(John Newton)

"God made Him who had no sin — to be sin for us." 2 Corinthians 5:21

Behold the beloved Jesus, perfectly spotless and holy — yet made an example of the severest justice.

Behold Him . . .
  prostrate and agonizing in the garden;
  enduring the vilest insults from wicked men;
  torn with whips, and nails, and thorns;
  suspended, naked, wounded, and bleeding upon the cross — forsaken by God!

Sin was the cause of all His anguish. He stood in the place of sinners, and therefore was not spared.

Not any, or all, the evils which the world has known — afford such proof of the dreadful effects and detestable nature of sin, as the knowledge of Christ crucified!

  ~  ~  ~  ~

The Bible

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness — that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

We highly encourage you to LISTEN to this audio while you read along with it below. (only 1:43 minutes)

The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.

Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its stories are true, and its decisions are immutable.

Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.

It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter.

Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of Hell disclosed.

Christ is its grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of God its end.

It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.

Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully.

It is a mine of wealth, health to the soul, and a river of pleasure.

It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

The sweet, twin hounds of heaven!

(Don Fortner)

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever!" Psalm 23:6

Happy New Year!

Children of God, how thankful we ought to be!

How happy! How God has blessed us! He has . . .
  loved us with an everlasting love,
  chosen us as the objects of His grace,
  redeemed us by the precious blood of His dear Son,
  called us to life and faith in Christ,
  forgiven all our sins,
  justified us,
  sanctified us and
  preserves us!

But that is not all.

The Lord our God daily loads us with all the bounty of His grace in Christ in daily providence. The sweet, twin hounds of heaven (Goodness and Mercy) have been at our heels all the days of our lives — and shall continue to pursue us right into Heaven's glory!

  ~  ~  ~  ~

John Newton pithy gems!

The more vile we are in our own eyes — the more precious Christ will be to us!

  ~  ~  ~  ~

How unspeakably wonderful it is — to know that all our concerns are held in those hands which bled for us!

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Our sea may sometimes be stormy — but we have an infallible Pilot, and shall infallibly gain our port.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Our work is great — our time is short — and the consequences of our labors are infinite.
"Hold me up — and I will be safe!" Psalm 119:117

  ~  ~  ~  ~

My grand point in preaching — is to break the hard heart, and to heal the broken heart.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ — and the brightest evidences that He is indeed our Master.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

We serve a gracious Master — who will overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Can we wish, if it were possible, to walk in a path strewed with flowers — when His path was strewed with thorns?

  ~  ~  ~  ~

May we sit at the foot of the cross — and there learn . . .
  what sin has done,
  what justice has done,
  what love has done.

  ~  ~  ~  ~

Healing and wounding are equally from His hand — and equally tokens of His love and care over us.