Grace Gems for MARCH 2018

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Unto you who believe — He is precious!

("Every Day!" Author unknown, 1872)

"Unto you who believe — He is precious!" 1 Peter 2:7

It is to unbelievers only, that Christ is "as a root out of a dry ground" — having no form nor loveliness.

To those who know Him, and put their trust in Him — He is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely! To those who believe, He is precious . . .
  in all the offices He sustains,
  in all the relations He bears,
  as their atoning Sacrifice,
  as the Lord their righteousness,
  as the source of their spiritual life,
  as their Teacher,
  as their Example,
  and as their Guide.

O my soul, is Jesus precious to you?

Do you realize something of His worth?

Is He your Refuge, your Hiding-place?

Are you sheltered in Him?

Is He your Shepherd, your Guardian, your Friend?

Do you feel that, whatever you are called to part with — you cannot part with Christ?

Do you feel that that He is your Savior, your Life, your All?

Oh, then cleave to Him, serve Him earnestly, and live to His glory!

And know to your comfort, that as unworthy and sinful as you are — you are precious to Him. He bought you with His precious blood, He claims you as His own, and He will treasure you among His jewels when He comes to gather them up!

"Yes, Christ is precious to my soul,
 My transport and my trust;
 Jewels to Him are gaudy toys,
 And gold is sordid dust!"

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The Guest!

(Author unknown)

A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later. 
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in our family. Mom taught me to love the Word of God. Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller — he could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening.
He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies, and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars.

The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn't seem to mind, but sometimes Mom would quietly get up — while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places — and go to her room and read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave. My Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them.
Profanity was not allowed in our house — not from us, our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used four-letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge, the stranger was never confronted.

Dad didn't permit alcohol in his home. But the stranger enlightened us to other ways of life. He often offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages. He made cigarettes look appealing, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. 
He talked freely about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationship were influenced by the stranger. 
I believe it was only by the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us even more. Time after time he opposed my parents' values. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.

More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the young family. He is not nearly so intriguing to my Dad now, as he was in those early years. But if I were to walk into my parents' home today, I would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk, and watch him draw his pictures. His name? We always called him TV.

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No trial comes sooner, or falls heavier, or lasts longer!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Affliction does not come from the dust — nor does trouble spring from the ground." Job 5:6

"I was silent; I would not open my mouth — for You are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9

I trust that your sickness will work for good — because the Lord has sent it. We are sure that He does not afflict His children without a need be. He does all things well.

He weighs the mountains in the scales, and the hills in a balance. He likewise weighs, measures, and proportions our trials to our strength and our malady — with greater accuracy than the most skillful earthly physician can prescribe his medicines.

No trial comes sooner, or falls heavier, or lasts longer — than the necessity of the case requires. He knows our frame, and remembers that we are but dust. He will lay no more upon us than He will enable us to bear.

Like as a father pities his children — so the Lord pities His redeemed children. His love is perfect, and He will not withhold whatever He sees is necessary to promote our best welfare — however painful and displeasing it may be to the flesh. Earthly parents often, through a weak and mistaken tenderness — spare their children, to their hurt. But as God supplies His children with food — so they must take His medicines, however distasteful, when He sees they would not be so well without them.

My good friend, be willing that the Lord should carry on His work in His own way — and do not prescribe to Him how He shall deal with you.

All shall work together for good.
Everything is needful — that He sends.
Nothing can be needful — that He withholds.

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word." Psalm 119:67

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

"I know, O LORD, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

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Short pithy quotes from William Law

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If our life is not a course of humility, self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly affection — we do not live the lives of Christians.

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He who has learned to pray — has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.

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We may justly condemn ourselves as the greatest sinners we know — because we know more of the folly of our own heart than we do of other people's.

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Humility is nothing else but a right judgment of ourselves.

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He who complains of the weather — complains of the God who ordains the weather!

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SELF is the root, the tree, and the branches — of all the evils of our fallen state.

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Prayer is the nearest approach to God and the highest enjoyment of Him, that we are capable of in this life.

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Feasts and business and pleasure and enjoyments seem great things to us, while we think of nothing else; but as soon as we add death to them — they all sink into an equal littleness.

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Saving grace draws us out of the vanity of time — into the riches of eternity!

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We shall not always live in this poor, dying, trying, suffering, sinful state!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Now I know in part — then I shall know fully." Soon we shall see cause to number our sharpest trials, among our choicest mercies! Then we shall say, "He has done all things well."

Our trials are but for a season. We shall not always live in this poor, dying, trying, suffering, sinful state! Yet a little while, and all our sorrows will be left below — and this poor earth will be exchanged for a glorious Heaven!

Our present troubles will soon be to us — as the remembrance of a dream when we awake!

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen — but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary — but what is unseen is eternal!" 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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I have been grieved by several letters directed to Doctor Newton

(Letters of John Newton)

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15

Dear Sir,
I have been grieved by several letters directed to Doctor Newton. I beg you to inform my friends in Scotland, that if any letters come to me addressed to Doctor Newton — I shall be obliged to send them back unopened. I know no such person — I never shall, and I never will, by the grace of God.

Do not think I am displeased with you, or any of any kind friends, who mean kindness and honor by such an address. I only beg for my peace sake, that it may not be repeated.

I have been informed that a college in America, I think in New Jersey, has given me the honorary degree of Doctor. As to the title itself, I renounce it heartily — nor would I willingly be known by it, if all the universities in Europe conferred it upon me!

My youthful years were spent in slavery in Africa, and I ought to take my degrees (if I take any) from thence. Shall such a compound of misery and mischief as I then was — be called Doctor? Surely not!

(Charles Spurgeon)
I very much object to the designation, "To the Reverend C.H. Spurgeon" — for no 'reverence' is due to me!

Assuredly, 'Reverend' and 'sinner' make a curious combination.
And as I know I am the second — I repudiate the first.

To me, it is surprising that such a flattering title should have been invented — and more amazing still, that men should be found who are angry if this title is not duly given to them.

(Arthur Pink)
In ourselves we are poor, sinful erring creatures — and daily do we have occasion to blush and hang our heads in shame. Therefore we respectfully request that none will address us as 'Reverend'. No worm of the dust is due such a title.

"It is the Lord your God you must follow — and Him you must REVERE." Deuteronomy 13:4

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The sword of God's truth!
(Arthur Pink, "Faithfulness")
"Their speech is filled with flattery." Psalm 5:9
This is the identifying mark of the "hireling," the false pastor. He aims at pleasing his hearers, making them feel satisfied with themselves, ever patting them on the back.
"But he who has My Word — let him speak My Word faithfully" (Jeremiah 23:28) — no matter how unpalatable it may be to the flesh, how much of a weariness to those who wish to have their ears tickled with novelties, or how loud the outcry against it is!
Ministerial faithfulness includes . . .
  loyalty to his Master,
  devotion to His interests,
  steadfast adherence to the preaching of His Word,
  dispensing the truth unto those whose souls are committed to Him,
  not mixing it with his speculations, much less substituting false doctrine.

A far higher motive than the pleasing of his hearers must actuate and regulate ministerial service.

Faithful preaching
will render the minister unpopular, and will empty churches — not fill them!
"Then you will know the truth — and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) Souls are caught fast in the meshes of Satan's lies — and nothing but the sword of God's truth can cut them free!
"A faithful man — who can find?" (Proverbs 20:6). Why is this? Because it is the part of fallen human nature to take the line of least resistance, and choose the path easiest to the flesh. But remember, my reader, whoever you are, that, "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord — but those who deal faithfully are His delight." (Proverbs 12:22)
"Be faithful unto death — and I will give you a crown of life!" (Revelation 2:10)

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Wise counsel for Preachers

The year was 1768. A twenty-eight year old preacher by the name of Augustus Toplady, who wrote many of our best hymns, including "Rock of Ages", spent the afternoon in London with Mr. Brewer — an older, veteran Gospel preacher, whom he greatly admired and from whom he learned much. This is what Mr. Brewer said to the young Toplady, as Toplady later recorded in his diary:

"I cannot conclude without reminding you, my young brother, of some things that may be of use to you in the course of your ministry:

Preach Christ crucified, and dwell chiefly on the blessings resulting from His righteousness, atonement, and intercession.

Avoid all needless controversies in the pulpit — except it be when your subject necessarily requires it; or when the truths of God are likely to suffer by your silence.

When you ascend the pulpit, leave your learning behind you. Endeavor to preach more to the hearts of your people — than to their heads.

Do not affect too much oratory. Seek rather to profit your hearers — than to be admired by them."

N.B. Christian ministers would do well to print out these four simple principles, tuck them in their Bibles, and refer to them every time they preach!

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The characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit!

(J.C. Ryle)

"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!" Luke 3:7-8

Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain-speaking ministers 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 — by abstaining from any mention of their vices, or in applying smooth names to their 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, "Obviously, I'm not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people — I would not be Christ's servant." (Galatians 1:10)

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Christ, the example of ministers

(Jonathan Edwards)

It is not only our great duty, but will be our greatest honor, to imitate Christ, and do the work that He has done — and so act as co-workers with Him.

The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of — the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord.

They should be of the same spirit of heavenly-mindedness, and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world.

They should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God.

They should follow the example of His prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of His retiring from the world, away from the noise and applause of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with His Father.

Ministers should be persons . . .
  of the same quiet, lamb-like spirit that Christ was of;
  of the same spirit of submission to God's will;
  of the same patience under afflictions, and meekness towards men;
  of the same calmness and composure of spirit under sufferings from the malignity of evil men;
  of the same spirit of forgiveness of injuries;
  of the same spirit of charity, of fervent love and extensive benevolence;
  of the same disposition to pity the miserable, and to weep with those who weep;
  of the same spirit of . . .
    condescension to the poor and lowly,
    tenderness and gentleness toward the weak,
    and great and sincere love to enemies.

They should also be of the same spirit of zeal, diligence, and self-denial for the glory of God, and advancement for his kingdom, and for the good of mankind; for which things sake Christ went though the greatest labors, and endured the most extreme sufferings.

And in order to our imitating Christ in the work of the ministry, in any tolerable degree — we should not have our hearts weighed down, and time filled up with worldly affections, cares, and pursuits.

The duties of a minister that have been recommended, are absolutely inconsistent with a mind much taken up with worldly profit, glory, amusements and entertainments.

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If my pocket was full of stones!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do You say?" John 8:4-5

If my pocket was full of stones, I have no right to throw one at the greatest sinner upon earth. I have either done as bad, or worse than he — or I certainly would have done so, if the Lord had left me to myself — for I am made of just the same materials. If there is any difference between myself and the greatest wretch — it is wholly of sovereign grace!

"But by the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10

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A chequered life

(Letters of John Newton)

This life that we live in the flesh, is a chequered life.

The grain requires both rain and sunshine to bring it to maturity; but either of them without the other, would destroy the crop.

Thus, if we had only the sun of prosperity — the plant of grace would be burnt up.
If we only had the rain of affliction — the plant of grace would be overwhelmed and drowned.

The Lord, who knows exactly what we are, and where we are — adjusts these different means, in season and measure, as He, in His wisdom, sees most for our advantage.

Were health at all times and in all respects best for those who fear Him — then they would not feel a moment's illness!

We pass through so many changes, that when it rains — we may always hope for fair weather.
And when the sky is bright and serene — we may expect rain before long.

He prescribes all our afflictions — in number, weight, and measure, and season, exactly according to what our case requires!

What a mercy to know that all our concerns are in the hands of Him who so loved us, as to wash us from our sins in His own blood.

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Poor little boy!

(Letters of John Newton)

My Dear Sir,
Poor little boy! It is mercy indeed that he recovered from such a formidable injury. The Lord wounded — and the Lord healed.

I ascribe, what the world calls accident — to Him. I believe that without His permission, and for wise and good ends — a child can no more pull a bowl of boiling water on itself, than it could pull the moon out of its orbit!

And why does He permit such things?
One or two reasons is sufficient for us. God allows trials to remind us of the uncertainty of life and all creature-comforts; to make us afraid of cleaving too closely to pretty toys, which are so precarious, that often while we look at them they vanish; and to lead us to a more entire dependence upon Himself — that we might never judge ourselves or our concerns safe from outward appearances only; but that the Lord is our keeper, and were not His eye upon us, a thousand dangers and painful changes, which we can neither foresee nor prevent, are lurking about us at every step, ready to break in upon us every hour.

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:10-11

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Why are we so apt to be captivated with the gewgaws of the world?

(Letters of John Newton)

The holiness of a saved sinner consists chiefly of low thoughts of self — and high thoughts of the Savior. These will always be in proportion.

The lower we appear to ourselves — the more highly we shall esteem Him.
The more we are enthralled with His glory — the more we shall sink in our own eyes.

Could you find the man who has most of these properties — you would find the most holy man upon earth. And as we advance in these — we shall, in the same degree, attain to everything else that properly belongs to holiness.

Why are we liable to anger, pride, selfishness, and other evil tempers?
Because we think too highly of ourselves, and suppose that we are not treated as we deserve to be.

Why are we so apt to be captivated with the gewgaws of the world?

Because we are so faintly impressed with a real sense of the excellence of Jesus.

We say indeed that His loving-kindness is better than life, but if we really and fully thought so — then hard things would be easy, and bitter things would be sweet, and there would be no room for impatience or discontent in our hearts.

But alas! all within us, and all around us — is defective and polluted!

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

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If I was qualified to search out the best Christian in the kingdom

(Letters of John Newton)

"This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My Word." Isaiah 66:2

Indeed, I believe that the most lively graces, and the most solid comfort — are known among the Lord's poor and unlearned people. Every outward advantage has a tendency to nourish the pride of the human heart — and requires a proportionate knowledge of the deceitful self and the evil of sin to counter-balance them.

It is no less difficult to have great abilities, than great riches — without trusting in them. 1 Timothy 6:17

If I was qualified to search out the best Christian in the kingdom — I would not expect to find him either in a seminary or in a pulpit. I would give the palm to that person who had the lowest thoughts of himself, and the most admiring and loving thoughts of the Savior. And perhaps this person would be some bed-ridden old man or woman — or a pauper in a parish workhouse.

The Lord's regard to us, is not to be measured by our theological knowledge — but rather by the simplicity of our dependence, and the uniform tenor of our obedience to His will.

"Humble yourselves before the Lord — and He will lift you up." James 4:10

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The Lord's people, instead of amusing themselves with politics

(Letters of John Newton)

The times are gloomy — but the Lord reigns! To Him I would refer everything in public or in private life. There is political discontent in some hearts, and in some places. But I ought to be discontented with myself — that I am not filled with wonder and praise, that things are so much better with us than we deserve!

The Lord's people, instead of amusing themselves with politics, may be stirred up to serve their country by prayer. If they sigh and mourn for the abominations in the midst of us, and stand in the breach to avert deserved judgments — then our peace and liberty may be yet prolonged. I rely more upon the prayers of God's people, than upon all our fleets and armies!

It is well both for ministers and private Christians to have as little to do with politics as possible. Politics is a pit that will swallow up the life and spirit, if not the very form of the religion of many professors. The Lord reigns, and every issue will be directed by infinite wisdom and goodness, without our interference. And can we wish them under better management?

From poison and politics — good Lord deliver me! A heart swallowed up in politics is as hurtful to the life of God in the soul — as poison is to the bodily frame!

"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!" Revelation 19:6

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We must trace His bloody footsteps!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you — leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

The Christian life is a warfare — and you must not expect an exemption from the battle.

The Captain of our salvation trod a thorny path Himself — and we must trace His bloody footsteps, and not think to walk to Heaven upon a soft carpet. If we could — then what need would we have of shoes of iron and brass?

Those who are now reaping in joy — sowed in tears when they were here. And why should not we? The way to Heaven is through many trials and sorrows. If we did not meet with such things — we might justly suspect that we had mistaken the road!

"For the Lord disciplines the one He loves — and chastises every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:6

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They are not innocent in God's sight, but are young vipers!

(Jonathan Edwards, "Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England" 1742)

"Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Ephesians 2:3

What has given offense to many and raised a loud cry against some preachers, as though their conduct was intolerable — is their frightening of poor, innocent children with talk of Hell-fire and eternal damnation.

But if those who complain so loudly of this, really believe that all are by nature the children of wrath and heirs of Hell — and that everyone who has not been born again, whether he is young or old — is exposed every moment to eternal destruction, and under the wrath of Almighty God — I say, if they really believe this, then such a complaint betrays a great deal of weakness and inconsideration.

As innocent as children seem to be to us, yet if they are out of Christ — then they are not innocent in God's sight, but are young vipers! They are infinitely more hateful than vipers — and are in a most miserable condition, as well as grown persons.

Why should we conceal the truth from them?
Will those children who have been dealt tenderly with in this respect, and lived and died insensible of their misery until they come to feel it in Hell — ever thank parents and others for their tenderness in not letting them know what they were in danger of?

If parents' love toward their children was not blind — then it would affect them much more to see their children every day exposed to eternal burnings!

A child who has a dangerous wound may need the painful lance, as well as grown persons. That would be a foolish pity in such a case, which would hold back the lance — and throw away the child's life.

That little children have committed no positive acts of vice — is no argument that they have not a corrupt nature within them. A young viper has a malignant nature — though incapable of doing a malignant action, and at present appearing to be a harmless creature.

I have seen the happy effects of dealing plainly and thoroughly with children in the concerns of their souls, without sparing them at all; and never knew any ill consequence of it, in any one instance.

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The sum of my complaints amounts to this!

(Letters of John Newton)

"Oh, what a wretched man I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?" Romans 7:24

I see much daily cause for humiliation — whether I look backward or inward. The sum of my complaints amounts to this — that I am a sick sinner, diseased in every part. I am burdened with a body of sin and death.

But I have a little book, which I am enabled to believe is the sure Word of God. The doctrines and promises I meet with in it, which we call the gospel, exactly suit my needs — and the temper and conduct it is designed to form, agrees with my leading desires.

I was once far otherwise minded, and would doubtless have remained so — had not almighty power and sovereign mercy softened my heart. I would therefore praise Him for what he has done, and wait upon Him to do more, for I can do nothing for myself. In the mean time, instead of complaining — I would try to be thankful.

If He has begun a good work, I dare not indulge a doubt of His carrying it on to completion. If He who is the infallible Physician has undertaken my case — I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord!

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The Bible!

(Henry Law, "Beacons of the Bible" 1869)

The Bible is the richest treasure of the world!

Without it, the palace is a dark blank.
With it, the poor cottage sparkles with celestial light.

It is the transcript of God's heart.

It tells what human reason is too weak to find.

It is pure truth without one shadow of error.

It gives knowledge on all things needful for time and for eternity.

It is a safe guide through life's entangled path.

It is a compass . . .
  through shoals and rocks;
  amid winds and waves;
  to Heaven's eternal rest!

The sage is ignorant without it.

The peasant learns from it salvation's road.

It is a solace for every hour.

It is a companion always ready to converse.

It cheers when other comforts fail.

It is arrayed in every charm for the intellect.

It never wearies.

It is always fresh.

Its oldest truths cannot grow old.

Its readers become more wise — and more holy.

Other books may puzzle and corrupt.
The Bible is from Heaven, and leads to Heaven.
It enters the heart with purifying grace.

The more you search the Bible — the more your minds will wonder, and your hearts will love.

Read it as literally true. Then no human philosophy will beguile you.

Ponder its characters. You will find on them the intrinsic stamp of truth.

"The Bible is . . .
  an armory of heavenly weapons,
  a pharmacy of infallible medicines,
  a mine of exhaustless wealth,
  a guidebook for every road,
  a chart for every sea,
  a medicine for every malady,
  and a balm for every wound!
Rob us of our Bible, and our sky has lost its sun!"
(Thomas Guthrie)

"Oh, how I love Your Law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97

Your Words were found, and I ate them — and Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart!" Jeremiah 15:16

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It is the vile monster!

Henry Law, "Family Prayers")

God Almighty, holy Father,

We beseech You to deepen in our hearts — the abhorrence of all evil.

May we hate sin with perfect hatred. It is the vile monster which . . .
  defies Your power,
  casts off Your yoke,
  treads down Your lovely law,
  defiles our nature,
  spreads misery throughout this earth,
  brought death into the world, and
  nailed the spotless Lamb of God to the accursed tree!

Teach us to look to Jesus on the cross — and so to estimate our sin's loathsome guilt in Your sight.

There could be no pardon of our sin — but through Your dear Son's death!

No cleansing could wash out our sin's filth — but Jesus' precious blood!

No atonement could expiate the evil of our sin — but the shame, the agony, the bruises of the incarnate God!

We see the boundless price — may we read therein our boundless guilt!

In the infinite payment — show us our infinite debt!

Thus may we . . .
  discern the deadly viper in its real malignity,
  and tear it with holy indignation from our hearts,
  and resolutely turn from its every snare,
  and refuse to hold polluting dalliance with it!

"Oh! What a wretched man I am!" Romans 7:24

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This is just the difference between the Christian and the worldling

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave
 and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:21

"It was good for me to be afflicted — so that I might learn Your decrees." Psalm 119:71

This is just the difference between the Christian and the worldling:
  The worldling blesses God while He gives him plenty,
  but the Christian blesses Him when He smites him!

He believes God to be too wise to err — and too good to be unkind.

He trusts God's heart — where he cannot trace God's hand.

He looks up to Him in the darkest hour — and believes that all is well.

"We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who
 love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

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People never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it

(J.C. Ryle, "Thoughts For Young Men")

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed!" John 3:19-20

Be very sure of this — people never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it.

They understand it only too well! They understand that it condemns their own behavior. They understand that it witnesses against their own sins, and summons them to judgment! They try to believe it is false and useless — because they don't like to believe it is true.

An evil lifestyle must always raise an objection to this holy book.

Men question the truth of Christianity — because they hate the practice of it!

"For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness." 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

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The blessed man!

(James Smith, "Comfort for Christians!")

"Blessed is the man You chasten, O Lord — the man You teach from Your law!" Psalm 94:12  
The chastenings of the Lord often appear severe — but they are merciful. They . . .
  correct our follies,
  subdue our proud wills, and
  soften and humble our hard hearts before Him.

When God chastens — He teaches. The lessons are found in His Word — but we never learn many of them, until we go through the furnace of affliction! We often learn more truth from one short, sharp affliction — than we do from many books and sermons!

In affliction, God teaches us . . .
  our own emptiness and vanity,
  our dependence on Himself, and
  the insufficiency of all our earthly things!

In affliction, God . . .
  endears the Lord Jesus and His great salvation to us;
  shows us the value of the provision of grace;
  makes our consciences tender and honest;
  qualifies us for usefulness on earth; and
  fits us for the enjoyment of Himself in Heaven.

We need chastening. If we do not receive it — we become . . .
  carnal and worldly,
  light and trifling,
  unsavory and useless in both the world and the church!

It is a blessed thing to be chastened of the Lord, especially when the rod teaches us such important and invaluable lessons! Chastened Christians are generally the most useful and attractive Christians.

"Heed the rod — and the One who appointed it!" Micah 6:9
Chastened Christian! Seek grace . . .
  to bear the rod,
  to bless the rod, and
  to kiss the hand that holds the rod!

"Blessed is the man whom God corrects — so do not despise the chastening of the Almighty!" Job 5:17

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The best man!

(Charles Spurgeon)

It seems to me that the best and most tender duty that Christians do for their Lord Jesus, is that which is touched with the blood-mark — which bears the stamp of the cross.

The best preaching is, "We preach Christ crucified!"

The best living is, "We are crucified with Christ!"

The best man, is a crucified man!

The more we live beholding our Lord's unutterable griefs, and understanding how He has fully put away our sin — the more holiness we shall produce.

The more we dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard — where we can view Heaven, and earth, and Hell, all moved by His wondrous suffering — the nobler will our lives become.

Nothing puts life into men, like a dying Savior!

Come, let us slay sin — for Christ was slain.

Come, let us bury all our pride — for Christ was buried.

Come, let us rise to newness of life — for Christ has risen.

Let us be united with our crucified Lord in His one great objective. Let us live and die with Him — and then every action of our lives will be very beautiful.

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The temptation, and the opportunity

The following in an excerpt from the
autobiography of James Smith:

I have just heard that an old friend, far advanced in life, has fallen into sin! May the Lord pardon and restore him.

In looking back, I wonder that I have not publicly fallen; for I have been powerfully tempted to other sins, equally as bad. I have regularly observed, that in my experience the Lord has not often allowed the temptation, and the opportunity — to meet! And when they have, fear has worked powerfully and kept me back.

"But as for me — my feet were almost gone! My steps had well near slipped!" Psalm 73:2

Ah, how frequently have I been almost gone! I can call to mind places and times, when I have been in the very mouth of danger, on the brink of a fearful fall — and yet the Lord has held me up! But for special keeping — where would I have been this morning? And what would I be? Blessed be God, though it was almost — it was not fully. This word, almost, has been sweet to my soul.

Almost Gone! — but altogether saved, through God's most free, and all-glorious grace!

But I would not merely be kept from open sin, I desire to be so deeply sanctified, that my soul may . . .
  hate, abhor, and detest sin in every form,
  tremble at its approach, and
  flee from the very appearance of evil — to Jesus!

I find that my nature is still corrupt, depraved, and polluted; and that . . .
  the blood of Jesus,
  the restraining power of the Holy Spirit,
  and the forgiving grace of God
 — are as necessary as ever!

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

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Abiding in Christ!

(Carl Heinrich von Bogatzky, "A Golden Treasury for the Children of God" 1718)

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine — so neither can you unless you abide in Me." John 15:4

To abide in Christ, who is our righteousness and strength — is the very life and power of Christianity. We are in this happy state, when . . .
  our thoughts are going out after Him,
  our hearts are cleaving to Him, and
  our minds are staying upon Him.
To abide in Him brings peace and joy, and strength to overcome sin and the world — which believers renounce the more readily, as they have found something better in Christ.

Abiding in Him, believers . . .
  look to Christ for all,
  go to Christ with all, and
  depend on Christ through all.
Thus they abide in Jesus — and Jesus abides in them.

May the Lord give me grace, likewise, immovably to abide in Him. Then I shall . . .
  conquer sin,
  overcome the world,
  and always triumph in Christ.

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Where is my mamma?

(by D.L. Moody)
What makes Heaven attractive for us?

It won't be the pearly gates!

It won't be the streets paved with transparent gold!

These would not satisfy us! If these were all — we would not want to stay in Heaven forever.

I heard the other day, of a little girl whose mother was very sick. While she was sick, one of the neighbors took the child away to stay with her, until the mother would be well again. But instead of getting better — the mother died! They thought it best, that they should not tell the child nor take her home, until the funeral was all over.

So a while afterward, they brought the little girl home. First she went into the sitting-room to find her mother; then she went into the parlor; and then she went from one end of the house to the other — and could not find her mother. At last she said, "Where is my mamma?" And when they told her that her mamma had died, the little girl wanted to go back to the neighbor's house again. Home had lost its attractions to her — since her mother was no longer there!

Just so — it is not the streets of gold and the pearly gates that are going to make Heaven attractive. It is the being with Jesus, our beloved Redeemer!

"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me — that you also may be where I am!" John 14:3
"I desire to depart and be with Christ — which is better by far!" Philippians 1:23

"And so we will be with the Lord forever!" 1 Thessalonians 4:17

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These forty years in the wilderness!

(Arthur Pink, "Last Things Last")

"You shall remember how the Lord your God has led you on the entire journey, these forty years in the wilderness — so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands." Deuteronomy 8:2

This verse calls for a solemn review of our life — how far we have redeemed the time, or to what extent we have trifled it away.

We should be humbled at the recollection of how frequently we grumbled — because His way was not the one we desired. We should judge ourselves unsparingly — because we so often lagged behind, and sought to turn aside into forbidden bypaths. We should ponder the amazing grace of God in condescending to lead us across this trackless desert; and think, too, of His infinite forbearance in continuing to lead us — who are so ungrateful and contrary.

We should praise Him for having kept us in the Narrow Way — which we would have certainly forsaken, had we been left to follow the bent of our own evil lusts. And we also should return fervent thanks — that we are now a year's march nearer to our Heavenly Home.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

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Crucial questions for the Christian!

(Bogatzky's "Golden Treasury for the Children of God" 1718)

Crucial questions for the Christian!

Am I vitally united to Jesus Christ?

Am I crucified with Christ?

Am I consecrated to Christ?

Am I daily receiving grace from Christ?

Am I growing in conformity to Christ?

Am I a friend to all the friends of Christ?

Am I living for the glory of Christ?

Am I an honor to the name of Christ?

Am I walking in the steps of Christ?

Am I a blessing to the Church of Christ?

Am I daily, hourly, always, and in all things — aiming to please Christ?

Am I desiring to be with Christ?

Am I looking for the advent of Christ?

Am I ready for the coming of Christ?

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We need internal illumination!

(Archibald Alexander, 1772-1851)

"When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:13)

A genuine Christian is not only taught out of the Word, but by the Holy Spirit. External teaching, however correct, is not sufficient. We need internal illumination by the Spirit. Not that this divine Instructor teaches anything different from the Word. No! He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. He is the Spirit of truth, and will guide the disciples into all truth.

What are some of the lessons which the Spirit teaches?

1. The Spirit teaches us the worth of the soul.

2. The Spirit teaches us the value of time.

3. The Spirit teaches us to venerate the holy Scriptures as the infallible rule to guide our faith and practice.

4. The Spirit teaches us of our ruined and condemned state. He gives the soul a glimpse of indwelling sin — by which it is convinced of its total depravity. Oh, what a multitude of evils! What a fountain of impurity! What a mass of corruption! The heart is found to be deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. There is found nothing in it truly good.

5. The Spirit teaches us to prize Christ above all. "To you who believe — He is precious." The disciple treasures Jesus as . . .
  his infallible Prophet,
  his sovereign King,
  his sin-atoning Priest.

6. The Spirit teaches us to roll all our burdens on the Lord, and to live outside of ourselves — by daily desiring vital supplies from Christ.

7. The Spirit teaches us the beauty of holiness.

8. The Spirit teaches us the reality and sweetness of communion with God. While many are contented to worship in the outward court — the Christian desires to penetrate into the holy of holies, where he can hear the words, and see the resplendent face of Immanuel.