Grace Gems for MAY 2018
"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33
"Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." Job 5:7
Suffering is the common lot of all mankind, and of the animal creation. People who do not have much else from which to suffer—suffer from trifles or from imaginary ills—but all suffer. Sinners and saints alike, know the rankling of the sharp arrows of pain. Even those whose lives seem most prosperous and sheltered, cannot fully escape.
Suffering has a useful place in the economy of God. It is a severe schoolmaster, but a good one, whose lessons may be costly. But if they are properly learned, they become golden treasures that enrich life.
Suffering is God's chisel with which He carves His image in the heart!
Suffering gives understanding—it illuminates life's dark places and solves riddles.
Suffering develops patience and endurance, and strengthens the fibers of the soul.
Suffering develops discipline and gives self-control. It reveals and develops latent virtues. It ripens and enriches the character.
To be sure, such results follow only when we meet our sufferings in the right way. If resist suffering and become resentful and pity ourselves or murmur against God—the fruits will be bitter indeed!
Since we choose the attitude we hold toward our sufferings—we determine whether they shall . . .
make us, or mar us;
bring joy, or sorrow;
bring the sweetness of Christ's fellowship and comfort, or the darkness of despair.
What God does with our adversities and our sufferings, is to transmute them into the gold of godly character. They prove to be blessings in disguise—but blessings nevertheless. Again and again in the Scriptures, we are told of the blessings that come through suffering and pain, disappointments and testings. Yes, sufferings, losses, adversities—all these things we so desire to shun—work "for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"—if we patiently endure them and submit to God's sovereign and loving will.
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The best way to overcome the world!
"Do not love the world or anything in the world." 1 John 2:15
There are two ways in which a person may attempt to displace the love of the world from the heart:
1. By a demonstration of the world's vanity, so that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it.
"When I surveyed all that I had accomplished and what I had toiled to achieve—everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun!" Ecclesiastes 2:11
"This world is passing away along with its desires!" 1 John 2:17
2. By setting forth another object, even Christ, as more worthy of its attachment, so that the heart shall be prevailed upon to exchange an old affection for a new one.
The best way to overcome the world, is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world—the Lord Jesus Christ!
"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
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We might as well preach to stone walls!
"For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words—but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction!" 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
The gospel is preached in the ears of all men—but it only comes with power to some.
The power which is in the gospel, does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher—otherwise men would be converters of souls.
Nor does it lie in the preacher's learning—otherwise it could consists of the wisdom of men.
We might preach until our tongues rotted, until we should exhaust our lungs and die—but never a soul would be converted, unless there were mysterious power going with it—the Holy Spirit changing the will and heart of man.
O Sirs! We might as well preach to stone walls, as preach to men—unless the Holy Spirit is with the Word, to give it power to convert the soul.
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(John Mason's Spiritual Sayings)
**If the world is our portion here—then Hell will be our portion hereafter.
**The world promises comforts—and pays sorrows.
**Be not proud of riches, but afraid of them—lest they be as silver bars to barricade the way to Heaven!
**To have a portion in the world, is a mercy.
To have the world for a portion, is a misery!
**We should endeavor to pass through this world with a cheerful indifference.
**The things of the world, the more they are known—the less they are admired.
But the things of God, the more they are known—the more they are admired.
**There is no miss of the creature—where there is a full enjoyment of the Creator.
**If you are not afraid of the world—I fear are a friend of the world, and an enemy to God.
**As you love your souls, beware of the world!
It has slain its thousands, and tens of thousands!
What ruined Lot's wife? The world!
What ruined Judas? The world!
What ruined Simon Magus? The world!
What ruined Demas? The world!
And "what shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" Mark 8:36
**In reality . . .
riches are but dust,
honors are but shadows,
pleasures are but bubbles, and
man is but a lump of vanity, composed of sin and misery.
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(John Mason's Spiritual Sayings)
**Two things should comfort suffering Christians, namely:
all that they presently suffer is not Hell;
their present suffering is all the Hell that they shall suffer.
**Afflictions are not so much threatened as promised, to the children of God.
**By affliction God separates the sin which He hates, from the soul which He loves.
**Sin is the poison—and affliction is the medicine.
**If the servants of Christ are ever so afflicted, yet
His heart is with them, and His eye is upon them.
**Though the hand of God may be against you;
yet the heart of God may be towards you.
**What is bearing a temporal cross, compared to the wearing an eternal crown?
**Our enjoyments are greater than our afflictions,
and our afflictions less than our sins.
**Our sufferings should stir up our graces, as well as our griefs.
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(John Mason's Spiritual Sayings)
**The deeper your self-abhorrence—the easier is self-resignation.
**Those who know they deserve nothing, will be content with anything.
**We must commit our souls to God's keeping, and submit ourselves to God's disposing.
**We should obey His revealed will, and then be resigned to His providential will.
**Neither contentment nor discontentment arises from the outward condition, but from the inward disposition.
**If a man is not content in the state he is in—then he will not be content in any state he would be in.
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13
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"Having a form of godliness but denying its power." 2 Timothy 3:5
We read in Scripture of the form and the power of godliness. When we look around us in the church, we see more of the form than we do of the power. There seems to be so many people who are merely playing religion. They attend services and go through the form of worship. They are sometimes very strongly devoted to their creed and greatly attached to the church of which they are members; but when you look for the power of godliness in their lives—you do not find it. This make-believe religion may ease the conscience for a time. People may manage to get along with such a religion in this world, but it will not stand the test of eternity.
Nor will it stand the real test for this life. The soul which has the form without the power of religion, can never have that satisfaction and peace which true religion gives.
Religion that can be put on with the Sunday clothes and taken off as easily, never goes very deep into the heart or life. While they profess to worship God, their hearts are far from Him. The service of such people is always weak, because there is no heart in it. Yet such people are not usually weak, when it comes to serving self and the world.
God hates the mere form of religion. It is an insult to him. He knows whether we are sincere or not—whether our service is just form or not. Modern ritualism is a curse to the church.
Ezekiel speaks of this class of people and says of them, "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain!" Ezekiel 33:31
Isaiah, as quoted by Jesus, says of the same class, "This people honors Me with their lips—but their heart is far from Me!" Of what religion they have, Jesus says, "In vain do they worship Me!" Matthew 15:8,9
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Much of the service of some so-called Christians
(Charles Naylor, "Acceptable Service")
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." Matthew 6:1, 2
Our service to God must be an unostentatious. Service which springs from true love to God—never desires to display itself. Genuine service is not done for the eyes of men to behold; it is done as a loving tribute to God, the object of its love.
The principle here set forth is that what is done with the purpose of being seen by men, brings only the reward that men give; in other words, it is not accepted by the Lord as service to Him. Judged by this rule, much of the service of some so-called Christians is never, I fear, recognized in Heaven at all. Our good deeds are to be done—not that men may see them—but that God, who sees in secret, may see, and reward according to His own will, and that He may regard them as service done to Himself and not for the reward of men's praise.
It is simple, single-hearted service which pleases the Lord.
The man who is truly godly, has no desire to put himself upon exhibition. He thinks, "Not I, but Christ!" and not only thinks it, but feels it in the depths of his heart.
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:3-4
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He must take away our toys!
(Charles Naylor, "Providences and Circumstances")
Life is often an enigma. It brings to us many things that we cannot understand. How blessed it is at such times, to realize that there is One wiser than we, who has our lives in His care and who sees all and understands all! God is our Father, and we are the children of His love. He has our welfare at heart. He is interested in all that concerns us. He watches over all our lives, and nothing that comes to us can come without His wise appointment. Whatever comes, He knows full well its effect upon us, and His loving hand is ever ready to protect and help His children.
He could, if He chose, lead us in a pleasant and easy path through life—but He knows that a pleasant and easy path would not develop that strong and hardy Christian character which is so essential for us. Neither would it give Him an opportunity to reveal the riches of His grace, or His tender care.
He sometimes places a mountain of difficulty before us, that we may climb to higher altitudes—and that in the climbing, we may develop spiritual strength. Every difficulty that we conquer by God's grace, raises us higher in the Christian life. This is the purpose of these difficulties.
He sometimes sends sorrow to soften us and make us hungry for His comfort. We may become too satisfied with earthly things. We may draw too much of our joy from them. He delights to have us draw our joy and our comfort from Him; therefore He must take away our toys which have been occupying our time—that our souls may yearn for the comfort and blessedness which only He can give. He knows that nothing softens us like sorrow. So He gives us a cup of sorrow to drink to the dregs—and oh, what tenderness and blessedness come into our lives when we submissively drink of that cup, no matter how bitter it may be to our taste!
All these happenings may seem dark and mysterious to us; they may seem to be the very things that are the worst for us—but they are not. They are but the manifestations of His kindly wisdom and His fatherly tenderness. Sometimes behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face. We often see only the frown of the providence, and that frown looks very threatening; but if we will look away from that frowning providence to the smiling face of God, we shall see that which will uplift us and strengthen us and enable us to bear whatever stroke of providence may come.
He knows that we must taste the bitter, before we can appreciate the sweet.
He knows that we must feel life's sorrows, before we can value its joys.
Suffering more than anything else, develops us in the Christian graces. It is for this purpose that He sometimes leads us along difficult paths. Though His providences are often dark and mysterious—His love will never fail us.
But throughout our lives, if we are His, then 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. When difficulties arise through which we can see no way, and He makes a way of which we had never thought—it is then that our hearts are made to wonder at His wisdom and are melted with gratitude.
His ways are not our ways. They are higher and better than our ways. If we were wise enough, we would always choose for ourselves, that which He chooses for us. But alas! How often when we choose for ourselves, we choose that which is least wise and most hurtful!
O soul, trust Him. He knows the way that you take. He knows just what is needful for you. So bear with patience, and endure with meekness, and do not question His wisdom or love. This will make the hard places easier, and the tiresome places less tiresome.
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Short pithy gems from John Newton!
May we sit at the foot of the cross—and there learn . . .
what sin has done,
what justice has done,
and what love has done.
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While God supports, upholds and governs all things—He is attentive to all the cares, needs and feelings of the weakest of His people.
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There is not a drop of rain which falls, which is not directed by God. There is not a particle of dust carried along by the wind, which is not carried the very place which God has appointed.
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Sin is the root and spring of all misery!
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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!
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My grand point in preaching, is to break the hard heart—and to heal the broken one!
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All shall work together for good.
Everything is needful, that He sends.
Nothing can be needful, that He withholds.
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For the most part, the Lord's children are a poor and afflicted people.
The Lord chooses poverty as the safest state for them in this ensnaring world.
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Blessed are we, when we can clearly see that every event and circumstance of our lives, is under the immediate direction and appointment of Him who cares for us, and who has engaged that all things shall, notwithstanding all our doubts and misgivings, work together for our good.
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We know not how to properly appreciate any one blessing—until we are deprived of it.
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The whole of our profession may be comprised in looking unto Jesus—to take our eyes off from other objects, especially from ourselves, and to fix them upon Him!
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I believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from, and are nourished by, the pride of the human heart!
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It is a large family!
(Letters of John Newton)
"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of SELF . . ." 2 Timothy 3:1-2
Take care of SELF—this is the worst enemy we have to deal with:
It is a large family! I cannot reckon up all the branches, but they are all closely related to Satan—they are all sworn enemies to our peace.
If we lie low, then the Lord will raise us up. But if we will be something, then His arm will surely pull us down.
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old SELF, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires" Ephesians 4:22
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Convicted and condemned, with the rope around his neck!
"Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Romans 4:7-8
Too many think lightly of sin—and therefore think lightly of the Savior.
He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope around his neck—is the man . . .
to weep for joy when he is pardoned,
to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and
to live to the honor of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed.
If Christ has died for me—then I cannot trifle with the sin which killed my best Friend!
Look to the cross, and hate your sin—for sin nailed your Well-Beloved to the tree!
"A bleeding Savior I have viewed—and now I hate my sin!"
I feel that, if I could live a thousand lives, I would like to live them all for Christ; and I would even then feel that they were all too little a return for His great love to me!
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True beauty is not of the face—but of the soul!
(Mabel Hale, "Beautiful Girlhood" 1922)
"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the LORD shall be praised!" Proverbs 31:30
Every girl is a lover of beauty. Beautiful homes, beautiful furnishings, beautiful flowers, beautiful clothes, beautiful faces—anything wherein beauty is found, there will be found girls to admire it. From the time her little hands can reach up, and her baby lips can lisp the words, she is admiring "pretty things." And when a little of that beauty is her own—her pleasure is unbounded.
Every girl longs to be beautiful. There is in woman a nature, as deep as humanity, which compels her to strive for good looks. There is no more forlorn sorrow for a young girl, than for her to be convinced that she is hopelessly ugly and undesirable. Oh, the bitter tears that have been shed over freckles, or blemished skin—and the energy that has been expended in painting and powdering and waving and curling herself into beauty!
A desire to be beautiful is not unwomanly. But, mark it: true beauty is not of the face—but of the soul! There is a beauty so deep and lasting, that it will shine out of the homeliest face and make it lovely! This is the beauty to be first sought and admired. It is a quality of the mind and heart—and is manifested in word and deed.
A happy heart,
a smiling face,
loving words and deeds, and
a desire to be of service—
will make any girl beautiful!
A beautiful soul shining out of a homely face—is far more attractive than a beautiful face out of which looks a soul full of selfishness and pride!
Let your chief charm be of heart and mind—not of face and form.
Seek the true beauty which lasts even into old age!
Solomon, in one of his wise sayings, plainly expressed the evil that comes to a woman who is beautiful of face, but lacks the true beauty of soul: "Like a gold ring in a swine's snout—is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion!" Proverbs 11:22. As the swine would plunge the golden jewel into the filth and the mire as he dug in the dirt—so will a pretty woman who is not godly, drag her beauty down to the very lowest.
There are many peculiar temptations to those who are only lovely of face. Without true beauty of soul—a pretty face is a dangerous gift!
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight!" 1 Peter 3:3-4
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As long as preachers allow their sermons to be dictated by public sentiment or the worldly desires of their hearers!
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." John 17:16
"As Christ is, so are we in this world" 1 John 4:17
A Christian is one who is Christlike in character, in desire, and in deportment. No other has any right to bear Christ's name. Yet there are a multitude of people who call themselves Christians, who bear no resemblance to Christ in their lives.
One of the most pitiable things that we can behold, is one who professes to be a citizen of the kingdom of God—and yet lives like a citizen of the kingdom of Satan. The worldly professor fills his days with folly—but his cup of joy is always bitter at the last. He gathers up the "fool's gold" that glitters in earthly things. He lives after the flesh and after the world. He goes with the crowd. He misses all the blessedness of righteousness, and, worst of all, he misses Heaven at the last. "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4
Those who still love the pride and vanity of the world, those who are absorbed in its frivolities, those who covet its gold and its honors, those who love its applause—these are those who are of the world.
Those hypocritical professors who bear Christ's name, but will not obey Him—dishonor Him, and by their example influence others to do the same, how shall they escape the damnation of Hell? If there is one thing that God hates above all else, it is a proud and worldly heart! Such a heart can never be a reverential heart. Its religion is but hypocrisy. It is only a sham. It has no reality. It is only a cloak of respectability, while the heart is full of corruption.
The Christian life is, and ever will be, a life of separation from sin and pride and worldliness. If you are not willing to be thus separated, then you should have common honesty enough not to profess to be what you very well know that you are not. If you are going to be a Christian in name, then be one in reality.
Your character, not your profession, will be what will matter in the final judgment. "God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality—He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil—there will be wrath and anger." Romans 2:6-8
If all preachers had honesty enough and courage enough to preach the truth—then the tide of worldliness that is overwhelming such a multitude of souls and sweeping them into perdition, would be somewhat stayed. As long as preachers allow their sermons to be dictated by public sentiment or the worldly desires of their hearers—they will cater to fashions, and souls by the million will drift on into Hell. Oh, what a reaping such preachers will have at the judgment! The full measure of God's wrath will fall on those preachers who fail to be true to souls and to God, in preaching those truths the Bible clearly teaches against sin and worldliness.
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The root upon which our blessings grow
"Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried" Daniel 12:10
All Christians desire to be purified and made white—but when it comes to being tried, that is a very different thing. They shrink from the very word. Their trials are to them as a nightmare from which they would gladly escape. But trials are a necessary part of God's process of preparing us for Heaven.
The storms and obstacles in our lives, all work out for out good if we meet them as we should. Through them, our lives are enriched and ennobled and developed. They are blessings to us, though they may seem to be blessings very much disguised.
Life has both its bitter and its sweet. We should not always expect to have the sweet alone. Sometimes circumstances are in our favor, and work for our happiness, peace and contentment. Sometimes we have smooth sailing, and everything goes pleasantly. We are courageous and confident and rejoicing. The sun shines brightly out of a cloudless sky, and every prospect seems fair.
But this smooth sailing does not last forever. Sooner or later, the clouds must come and the storm-winds beat upon us. We must have the rough weather—as well as the pleasant weather; the storm—as well as the calm.
The sunshine and the calm are very needful in life—and they work out a definite purpose.
But the storms and the rain and the wind are likewise needed—and they also fulfill their purpose.
Trials will come—we cannot evade them. We may plan and build up hopes—only to have our air-castles come crashing down around our heads! If we have set our hearts upon these things, we are likely to be very disappointed upon their wreck, and to feel very gloomy over the result.
How greatly we are affected by our trials, depends on whether or not we sweetly submit to them. We should never fret on account of disappointments. If we do, they will only grow more rapidly, both in size and in intensity.
Losses may come to us—our property may be swept away or burned up. If we have our hearts set upon our possessions—then this may touch a tender spot, and it will darken our lives and make us morose and dissatisfied.
Poverty may come and the many difficulties incident thereto.
Sickness may lay its heavy hand upon us or our loved ones, and try every fiber of our being. Sickness may play upon the chords of pain, a lamentation that incites with exquisite torture! Or it may fire our blood with fever until the sparkle has gone from the eye and the glow of health from the cheek. Or it may bind us helplessly captive in chains.
Death may come and take those dear by the ties of nature or friendship—and leave sorrow and grief to be our companions.
These things try the soul, but they must be borne. We cannot escape such things, for they are the common heritage of those who dwell in tabernacles of clay. They belong to mortality and to the mutable things of time. How greatly such things may affect us, will depend upon how much we rebel against the circumstances—or how easily we submit to and adapt ourselves to God's will. God may chasten you sorely, but He will do it for your profit, not for your destruction.
Our trials are the root upon which our blessings grow. These roots may be bitter—but the fruit is sure to be sweet, if we patiently wait for its maturing. Many choice fruits grow on thorny trees, and he who will gather the fruit, may expect to be pricked now and then by the thorns.
We cannot escape trials. The only thing some Christians do by rebelling, is to increase their suffering in the trials and prevent themselves from getting the blessedness out of them.
We ought to be willing to suffer when it is God's will for us to suffer, and when He sees it is necessary for us to suffer. Our Master drank the cup of suffering, even though it was bitter. Are we better than He? Shall we refuse to go by the path which led Him to glory?
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These religious toys which we have whittled out for ourselves!
Satan always works to make us think that humanly devised religious forms or customs are things of vital importance. In fact, some of these are much harder to break away from than we suppose them to be. They take a deeper hold upon us many times, than divine truth. People feel as though they would be giving up their religion, if they would surrender these forms. A particular mode of dress becomes sacred; or a particular form of worship or service becomes exalted above all other forms. We must recognize these things as being merely human devices, and as having no vital connection with Biblical truth.
We should never become wedded to our religious forms and customs. Let us look away from these religious toys which we have whittled out for ourselves, and back to the fundamentals of Christian doctrine and life. If we have labeled our religious customs as 'Christianity'—then let us tear off these labels, and see that henceforth we call nothing Christian but that which is clearly taught in Scripture itself.
"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb." Psalm 19:7-10
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See the hand of God in all the barbarisms and incivilities of men!
"The Almighty has afflicted me!" Ruth 1:21
"The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" John 18:11
All the injuries and unkind treatments we meet with from others, do not come to us by chance, but are ordained by the all-wise God for our good.
Many are like the foolish cur that snarls at the stick, never looking to the hand that swung it. If we looked higher than instruments, our hearts would grow meek and calm. Instruments can no more stir until God gives them a commission—than the ax can cut by itself without a hand. David looked beyond Shimei's rage: "Let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him!" 2 Samuel 16:11
What wisdom for Christians—to see the hand of God in all the barbarisms and incivilities of men! Job eyed God in his affliction, and that meekened his spirit: "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. He does not say, The Chaldeans have taken away—but "The Lord has taken away."
Whoever brings an affliction, it is God who sends it.
"God has sovereign right to dispose of us as He pleases. We ought to acquiesce in all that God does with us and to us." William Carey
"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other!" Ecclesiastes 7:14
"Shall we poor worms give laws to our supreme Lord and Governor, and oblige Him always to bless and favor us, and never to afflict us?" Matthew Poole
"What? Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad?" Job 2:10
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("Every Day!" Author unknown, 1872)
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
Just so, "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing," says Paul, speaking of his own experience.
The believer's joy does not exclude sorrow, but . . .
sustains under it,
and raises above it.
Joy in the Lord should be constant—for He is the same.
There is as much ground for joy in Him in the winter of adversity—as in the summer of prosperity.
He is as good when he chides us—as when He comforts us.
He is as gracious when He lays us low—as when He raises us up.
He is as kind when He takes away—as when He gives.
If our joy springs chiefly from creature good and agreeable circumstances—then it must be fluctuating at the best, and at times it will entirely dry up. But if our chief joy is in God, then the spring of it never fails!
"When all created streams are dried,
His fullness is the same!"
Observe, my soul, that joy in the Lord is not only encouraged—but commanded.
After once giving the admonition, the apostle says, "Again I say, Rejoice."
The Lord would have His children . . .
happy in His love,
restful under the shelter of His wings,
and peaceful in the midst of storms.
Seek then to know more of Him, live upon His fullness, dwell on His unchanging grace—and so will you be joyful in Him even in the midst of tribulation!
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The greatest sinner that you know!
(William Law, "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life")
"This is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptance: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners'—and I am the worst of them all." 1 Timothy 1:15
You may truly look upon yourself to be the greatest sinner that you know in the world. For though you may know many people to be guilty of some gross sins with which you cannot charge yourself—yet you may justly condemn yourself as the greatest sinner that you know, because you know more of the folly of your own heart, than you do of other people's hearts. You can charge yourself with various sins, that only you know of yourself, and cannot be sure that others are guilty of them.
So that as you know more of the folly, the degradation, the pride, the deceitfulness and vileness of your own heart, than you do of any one's else—so you have just reason to consider yourself as the greatest sinner that you know; because you know more of the greatness of your own sins, than you do of other people's sins.
God Almighty knows greater sinners than you are; because He sees and knows the circumstances of all men's sins. But your own heart, if it is faithful to you, can discover no guilt so great as your own.
Perhaps that person who appears so odious in your eyes, would have been much better than you are—had he been altogether in your circumstances, and received all the same favors and graces from God that you have. And therefore the greatest sinner that you know, must be yourself.
This is a very humbling thought.
A serious and frequent reflection upon this will mightily tend to . . .
humble us in our own eyes,
make us very sensible of the greatness of our own guilt,
and very tender in censuring and condemning other people.
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The best sermon!
"He who says he abides in Him, ought himself also to walk just as He walked." 1 John 2:6
We must pattern our lives after our Lord, and follow in the way which He trod.
God's will for His people, is that they set before the world a worthy example of Christian character.
A blameless character is the best sermon!
In all our relations with others, we should manifest a sweet temper, kindness, meekness, gentleness, forbearance, patience, reasonableness, cheerfulness, magnanimity and all the other things that go to make up Christian character.
In our lives we should be examples of holiness, consistency and moderation. We should be free from worldliness, ostentation, and the vanities that are ruining the world. We should not be not of the world . . .
in the tenor of our lives,
in the motives that move us,
in the purposes that actuate us.
God's will for His people regarding . . .
the vanities of this world,
the desires that have their root in worldliness,
and the sinful customs of the world,
is that we do not imbibe them.
Jesus said of His own, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." He has chosen us out of the world. Un-worldliness is a characteristic of true Christianity, and is found in all genuine believers.
The multitude of worldly professors who call themselves by Christ's name, but who, in their lives, and in the worldliness of their hearts, deny Him—are not Christians at all. They are Christians in name only. Their religion is only a veneer that covers a heart of sin. They are actuated by the spirit of the world, and they love the things of the world.
To be a true Christian, means to be severed in spirit . . .
from the vanities of the world,
from the pride, fashion, display and pretense of the world,
from the world's love of pomp and power, and its hypocritical pretensions.
We must strive to be separated from the spirit, desires, aspirations, and hopes of this world—as really and as truly as Jesus was.
We must desire to live out in the life, those things that definitely mark one as having his hopes set on something higher, his aspirations set on something nobler, and his interests aimed at something greater and more lasting than . . .
the perishable things of the world,
the popular opinions of the world,
the sinful customs of the world,
the fashions and frivolities of the world, and
the pleasures and amusements of the world.
"Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. For it is written: Be holy, because I am holy." 1 Peter 1:15-16
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Let us abhor the very idea of play-acting and mask-wearing in our Christianity!
(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)
Let us observe how abominable hypocrisy is in the eyes of Christ. We are told that in the presence of all the people, Jesus said unto His disciples, "Beware of the teachers of the law! They like to walk around in flowing robes—and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses—and pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public." Luke 20:46-47
This was a bold and remarkable warning. It was a public denunciation, we must remember, of men who were the recognized teachers of the Jewish people.
No sin seems to be regarded by Christ as more wicked, than hypocrisy. None certainly drew forth from His lips such frequent, strong and withering condemnation, during the whole course of His ministry.
He was ever full of mercy and compassion for the chief of sinners. "Fury was not in Him" when He saw Zacchaeus; the penitent thief; Matthew the tax-collector; Saul the persecutor; and the sinful woman in Simon's house.
But when He saw Scribes and Pharisees wearing a mere cloak of religion, and pretending to great outward sanctity, while their hearts were full of wickedness—His righteous soul seems to have been full of indignation. Eight times in one chapter (Matthew 23) we find Him saying, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees! You hypocrites!"
Whatever else we are in religion—let us be true. However feeble our faith, and hope, and love, and obedience may be—let us see to it that they are real, genuine, and sincere. Let us abhor the very idea of play-acting and mask-wearing in our Christianity. At any rate, let us be genuine.
The hypocrite will have the lowest place in Hell! "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape the damnation of Hell?" Matthew 23:33
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This alone is the vexed soul's refuge!
(Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889)
"In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!" Colossians 2:3
The one true resting-place where doubt and weariness, the stings of a pricking conscience, and the longings of an unsatisfied soul would all be quieted—is Christ Himself!
Not the church, but Christ.
Not doctrine, but Christ.
Not religious forms and ceremonies, but Christ.
Christ the God-man . . .
giving His life for ours,
sealing the everlasting covenant, and
making peace for us through the blood of His cross!
Christ the divine storehouse of all light and truth, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!
Christ the infinite vessel—the enlightener, the teacher, the quickener, the comforter—so that out of His fullness we may receive grace upon grace.
This, this alone is the vexed soul's refuge, its rock to build on, its home to abide in—until the great tempter is bound and every conflict ended in victory.
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I cannot think little of sin, when . . .
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46
Would I know how exceedingly sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where shall I see sin most fully brought out?
Shall I turn to the history of the flood, and read how sin drowned the world?
Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea, and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah?
No! I can find a clearer proof still! I look at the cross of Christ!
There I see that sin is so filthy and damnable, that nothing but the blood of God's own Son can wash it away!
There I see that sin has so separated me from my holy Maker, that all the angels in Heaven could never have made peace between us. Nothing could reconcile us, short of the death of Christ.
If I listened to the wretched talk of proud people, I might sometimes imagine that sin was not so very sinful! But I cannot think little of sin, when I look at the cross of Christ!
"A bleeding Savior I have viewed—and now I hate my sin!" John Newton
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Gather your manna fresh every morning!
"Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long!" Psalm 119:97
The Bible in the pulpit, must never supersede the Bible at home. Let us read our Bibles in private more, and with more pains and diligence.
There is less private Bible reading than there was fifty years ago. I never would have believed that so many men and women would have been tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, some falling into skepticism, some rushing into the wildest and narrowest fanaticism, and some going over to the Roman church. With many, there was a habit developed of lazy, superficial and careless reading of God's Word.
Read the Bible daily. Make it part of your everyday business to read and meditate on some portion of God's Word. Gather your manna fresh every morning! Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst, part of your time. But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and the Bible every day.
Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading. By reading that Book we may learn . . .
what to believe,
what to be,
what to do,
how to live with comfort,
and how to die in peace.
Happy is that man who possesses a Bible!
Happier still is he who reads it!
Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!
"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
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I am fast borne along the stream of time!
(John MacDuff, "Evening Incense" 1856)
"It is appointed unto all once to die—and after death, the judgment!" Hebrews 9:27
O my Father, You are daily loading me with Your benefits—giving me unnumbered causes for gratitude and thankfulness. No earthly friend could have loved and cared for me like You. Oh may the life You are thus preserving by Your unceasing bounty—be unreservedly dedicated to Your praise.
O my Father, keep me mindful that I am soon to be done with this fleeting world; that I am fast borne along the stream of time—to the ocean of endless futurity!
May I be living in a constant state of preparedness for that solemn hour when small and great shall stand before You, and the books shall be opened. Train me for eternity! Let me not be frittering away these fleeting, but precious moments. Impress on me the solemn conviction . . .
that as men live—so do men die;
that as death leaves me—so judgment will find me;
and that as judgment finds me—so eternity will keep me.
Oh let death leave me falling asleep in Jesus, united to Him by a living faith—so that judgment may find me seated at His right hand, listening to the joyous welcome, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!"
Blessed Jesus, all my hope of a glorious resurrection centers in You. I look to You as the strong tower which cannot be shaken. I flee anew to the holy sanctuary of Your covenant love. Sheltered there, amid a dissolving earth, and burning worlds—I shall be able joyfully to utter the challenge, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?"
Keep me from all negligence and unwatchfulness. Trim my flickering lamp. Let me live with Your Judgment-throne in view. May I ever remember—that I must soon give an account of myself to You, the infallible searcher of all hearts. May I feel that all the talents and means which You have given me—are trusts to be laid out for You. When you come to demand a reckoning, may I not be among the number of those who have hidden their talent in the earth, and have the cheerless retrospect of a misspent life.
May every providential voice sound loud in my ears, "Arise and depart—for this is not your rest, because it is defiled—it is ruined, beyond all remedy!"
Make me more heavenly-minded. Give me more of a pilgrim attitude—and a pilgrim spirit. May I ever feel that my true home is above—and that I am here on earth, but a wayfarer and sojourner, as all my fathers were. May I attain, as I advance nearer to Heaven, the blessed habit of a holy life, declaring plainly that I am seeking a heavenly home.
I delight often to anticipate that happy time, when I shall suffer no more—and sin no more!
"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12
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I sent blight and mildew and hail!
"I sent blight and mildew and hail to destroy everything you worked so hard to produce!" Haggai 2:17
How destructive is the hail to the standing crops—beating the precious grain down to the ground! How grateful ought we to be when the grain is spared so terrible a ruin! Let us offer unto the Lord thanksgiving.
Even more to be dreaded, are those mysterious destroyers—blight and mildew. These turn the grain into a mass of soot, or render it putrid, or dry it up—and in a manner so beyond all human control, that the farmer is compelled to cry, "This is the finger of God!" Innumerable minute fungi cause the damage; and were it not for the goodness of God, the rider on the black horse would soon scatter famine over the land! Infinite mercy spares the food of men; but in view of the active agents which are ready to destroy the harvest, right wisely are we taught to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." We have constant need of God's blessing!
"I sent blight and mildew and hail to destroy everything you worked so hard to produce!" When blight and mildew come—they are chastisements from God, and men must learn to heed the rod, and Him who has appointed it!
Spiritually, mildew is a common evil. When our work is most promising, this mildew appears. We hoped for many conversions, but instead—a general apathy, an abounding worldliness, or a cruel hardness of heart! There may be no open sin in those for whom we are laboring—but there is a deficiency of sincerity and holiness, sadly disappointing our desires.
We learn from this—our dependence upon the Lord, and the need of prayer that no blight or mildew may fall upon our work. Spiritual pride or sloth will soon bring upon us the dreadful evil—and only the Lord of the harvest can remove it.
Mildew and blight may even attack our own hearts—and shrivel our prayers and pious exercises! May it please the great Gardener to avert so serious a calamity. Shine, O blessed Sun of Righteousness, and drive the blights away!
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A golden master-key!
"The Lord opened Lydia's heart to respond to what Paul was saying." Acts 16:14
God's saving grace will not be baffled.
He frequently begins with the silver key of a mother's tearful prayers and a father's tender counsels.
In turn, He uses the church-keys of His ordinances and His ministers, and these are often found to move the bolt.
But if they fail, He thrusts in the iron key of trouble and affliction which has been known to succeed after all others have failed.
He has, however, a golden master-key, which excels all others. It is the operation of His own most gracious Spirit, by which entrance is effected into hearts which seemed shut up forever.
Wonderful is the patience and long-suffering of the Lord, or He would long since have left hardened and careless sinners to themselves. He is importunate, whether we are so or not. We take pains to resist His heavenly grace, but He abides faithful to His own name of love.
O Lord, we bless You that You have opened our hearts, and we ask You now that You have entered, to abide in our souls forever, as a king in his own palace!
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God deals mysteriously with me!
(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)
"Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters—though Your footprints were not seen!" Psalm 77:19
Just so, God deals mysteriously with me. His footsteps, His judgments, His methods, are often untrackable, like the untried sea. What though I cannot comprehend all His winding mazes? It is enough that He comprehends. I rest in His wise-heartedness and love.
I know that if He surrounds me with change, He gives me a hold on what is permanent and stable. Every breath of wind, every passing shadow, every ray of sun, alters the sea. And, meanwhile, by God's will, nothing in my life continues unchangeable. The very mutableness of things, drives me into closer communion with Himself. Standing on the Rock of Ages, I am rooted in an element that is indestructible.
I know that if He permits me to be assailed by storm, He can keep my heart in peace. It is His decree that I am driven hither and thither over moonless waters by contrary winds. But the certainty is mine, that He makes all things to work together for my good.
He is my holy Father, my unerring Father, my Father of immeasurable grace. He makes no mistakes now, and, by and by He will bring me to His house not made with hands, where I will sing with everlasting joy!
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Trust His heart—even when you can't trace His hand!
(John MacDuff, "The Promised Land!" 1859)
"And He led them forth by the right way—that they might go to a city of habitation." Psalm 107:7
God's thoughts are not as our thoughts—neither are His ways as our ways! This truth is strikingly exemplified in the manner in which He led the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land. We would have chosen the way that was nearest and most direct—but God decided otherwise. He led them round about through the wilderness, and that for the space of forty years! And not merely was it the most distant way—but it was the most dangerous way as well. It was a land of deserts and of pits—a land of drought and death—a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt.
But, as strange as it appeared, we are fully justified in saying that it was wisely arranged.
Their long detainments;
their tiresome and circuitous wanderings;
their fierce conflicts with the Moabites and the Amalekites;
the bitter waters which they had to drink; and
the fiery serpents with which they were stung—
all fulfilled the high purposes of Him who is excellent in counsel, as well as wonderful in working. However contrary His way might have been to theirs—yet "He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation."
His dealings with His people now are still as unusual, and as much opposed to all their preconceived plans—as were His dealings with the Israelites! He has crossed their own schemes, and thwarted their most fondly-cherished purposes! He always effects His own ends—in His own way!
Christian, what is your duty?
It is to cherish high thoughts of God in all His inscrutable dealings towards you.
It is to trust His heart—even when you can't trace His hand; believing that "all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies."
It is to follow His guidance continually; for as He led His people of old with "the cloud by day, the pillared fire by night"—so He has promised to direct all your steps, and preserve all your goings.
It is to wait His time; for although the way may appear long and tedious—yet remember, "all is well, that ends well." And what will the end be? "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads! They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away!"
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A book full of Christ!
"Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Luke 24:44
We have probably little idea how much deep truth is contained in the book of Psalms. No part of the Bible perhaps is better known in the letter—and none so little understood in the spirit. We err greatly if we suppose that it is nothing but a record of David's feelings, of David's experience, David's praises, and David's prayers. The hand that held the pen was generally David's. But the subject matter was often something far deeper and higher than the history of the son of Jesse.
The book of Psalms, in a word, is a book full of Christ:
Christ in humiliation,
Christ rising again,
Christ coming the second time,
Christ reigning over all.
Both of Christ's advents are here: His coming in suffering to bear the cross—and His second coming in power to wear the crown.
Both of Christ's kingdoms are here—His kingdom of grace, during which the elect are gathered—and His kingdom of glory, when every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord.
Let us always read the Psalms with a peculiar reverence. Let us say to ourselves as we read, "A greater than David is here!"
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The chain of redeeming love now holds them!
"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" 1 Peter 1:18-19
Your time is redeemed—use it as a consecrated talent in His cause.
Your minds are redeemed—employ them to learn His truth, and to meditate on His ways.
Your eyes are redeemed—let them not look on vanity; close them on all sights of folly and evil.
Your feet are redeemed—let them trample on the world and climb the upward hill of Zion and bear you onward in the mark of Christian zeal.
Your tongues are redeemed—let them only sound His praise, and testify of His love, and call sinners to His cross.
Your hearts are redeemed—let them love Him wholly, and have no place for rivals.
A redeemed flock should live in redemption's pastures. The Redeemer's freedmen should evidence, that they are called to holy liberty, and that their holy liberty is holy service. The chain of sin is broken—and the chain of redeeming love now holds them!