Grace Gems for JUNE, 2019
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With God for your portion!
"You are my portion, O Lord." Psalm 119:57
Look at your possessions, O believer—and compare your portion with the lot of your fellow men.
Some of them have their portion in the field; they are rich, and their harvests yield them a golden increase. But what are harvests compared with your God, who is the God of harvests? What are bursting granaries compared with Him, who is the heavenly Gardener, and feeds you with the bread of heaven?
Some have their portion in the city; their wealth is abundant, and flows to them in constant streams, until they become a very reservoir of gold. But what is gold compared with your God? You could not live on it; your spiritual life could not be sustained by it. Put gold on a troubled conscience—and could it allay its pangs? Apply it to a desponding heart—and see if it could relieve a solitary groan, or give one grief the less? But you have God, and in Him you have more than gold or riches ever could buy!
Some have their portion in that which most men love—applause and fame. But ask yourself: Is not your God more to you than that? What if a myriad trumpets should be loud in your applause—would this prepare you to pass the Jordan of death, or cheer you in prospect of the final judgment? No! there are griefs in life which fame and wealth cannot alleviate; and there is the deep need of a dying hour, for which no riches can provide.
But when you have God for your portion, you have more than all else put together.
In Him every need is met, whether in life or in death.
With God for your portion you are rich indeed, for He will . . .
supply your real needs,
comfort your desponding heart,
assuage your deepest grief,
guide your steps wisely,
be with you in the dark valley of death,
and then take you home to Heaven, to enjoy Him as your portion forever!
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:26
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Ah! how despicable our troubles and trials will seem!
"Weeping may endure for a night—but joy comes in the morning!" Psalm 30:5
Christian! If you are in a night of trial, then think of the morrow. Cheer up your heart with the thought of the coming of your Lord. Be patient, for "Lo! He comes with clouds!" Be patient, for you know who has said, "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me!" Revelation 22:12
If you are ever so wretched now remember, "A few more rolling suns at most, will land you on fair Canaan's coast!"
Your head may be crowned with thorny troubles now—but it shall wear a sparkling crown before long.
Your hand may be filled with cares—but it shall sweep the strings of the harp of Heaven soon.
Your garments may be soiled with dust now—but they shall be snow-white by-and-by.
Wait a little longer.
Ah! how despicable our troubles and trials will seem—when we look back upon them from Heaven! Looking at them here, they seem immense; but when we get to Heaven we shall then recount our earthly afflictions as but a flea-bite. Our earthly trials will then seem as light and momentary afflictions. Let us go on boldly; if the night is ever so dark—the morning surely comes! This is more than they can say, who are shut up in the agonies of Hell. Do you know what it is thus to live on the future—to live on expectation—to anticipate Heaven? Happy believer, to have so sure, so comforting a hope.
It may be all dark now—but it will soon be all light.
It may be all trial now—but it will soon be all happiness.
What does it matter, though weeping may endure for a night—when joy comes in the morning!
"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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One blessing after another!
"From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another!" John 1:16
Our Lord Jesus is ever giving—and does not for a solitary instant withdraw His hand.
As long as there is a vessel of grace not yet full to the brim—the oil shall not be stopped.
He is a sun ever-shining.
He is manna always falling round the camp.
He is a rock in the desert, ever sending out streams of life from His smitten side.
The rain of His grace is always dropping.
The river of His bounty is ever-flowing.
The well-spring of His love is constantly overflowing.
As our King can never die—so His grace can never fail.
Daily we pluck His fruit, and daily His branches bend down to our hand with a fresh store of mercy.
Who has ever returned from His door, unblessed?
Who has ever risen from His table, unsatisfied?
Who has ever come from His bosom, un-imparadised?
His mercies are new every morning—and fresh every evening.
Who can know the number of His benefits, or recount His infinite bounties?
Every sand which drops from the glass of time—is but the tardy follower of a myriad of mercies. The wings of our hours are covered with the silver of His kindness, and with the yellow gold of His affection. The river of time bears from the mountains of eternity—the golden sands of His favor.
Who can count the dust of the benefits which He bestows on His redeemed people, or number of His mercies towards us? How shall my soul extol Him—who daily loads us with benefits, and who crowns us with loving-kindness?
O that my praise could be as ceaseless as His bounty! O miserable tongue, how can you be silent?
"Praise the Lord, O my soul! Do not forget all of His benefits!" Psalm 103:2
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"No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
How happy are tried Christians, afterwards. There is no calm more deep than that which follows a storm. Who has not rejoiced in clear shinings after rain? Victorious banquets are for well-exercised soldiers.
After killing the lion—we eat the honey;
after climbing the Hill Difficulty—we sit down in the arbor to rest;
after traversing the Valley of Humiliation, after fighting with Apollyon, the shining one appears, with the healing branch from the tree of life.
Our sorrows, like the passing keels of the vessels upon the sea, leave a silver line of holy light behind them "afterwards." It is peace, sweet, deep peace—which follows the horrible turmoil which once reigned in our tormented, guilty souls.
See, then, the happy estate of a Christian! He has his best things last, and he therefore in this world receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are "afterwards" good things—harsh ploughings—yielding joyful harvests. Even now . . .
he grows rich by his losses,
he rises by his falls,
he lives by dying, and
he becomes full by being emptied.
If, then, his grievous afflictions yield him so much peaceable fruit in this life—what shall be the full vintage of joy "afterwards" in Heaven? If his dark nights are as bright as the world's days—what shall his days be? If even his starlight is more splendid than the sun—what must his sunlight be? If he can sing in a dungeon—how sweetly will he sing in Heaven! If he can praise the Lord in the fires—how will he extol Him before the eternal throne! If evil is good to him now—what will the overflowing goodness of God be to him then?
Oh, blessed "afterwards!" Who would not be a Christian? Who would not bear the present cross—for the crown which comes afterwards?
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There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle!
"All who believe are justified." Acts 13:39
The believer in Christ receives a present justification. Faith does not produce this fruit by-and-by, but now. So far as justification is the result of faith, it is given to the soul in the moment when it believes in Christ, and receives Him as its all in all.
Are those who stand before the throne of God justified now? So are we—as truly and as clearly justified as those who walk in white and sing melodious praises to celestial harps!
The thief upon the cross was justified the moment that he turned the eye of faith to Jesus; and Paul, the aged, after years of service, was not more justified than was that thief with no service at all.
We are . . .
today accepted in the Beloved,
today absolved from sin,
today acquitted at the bar of God.
Oh! soul-transporting thought!
There are some clusters of Eshcol's vine, which we shall not be able to gather until we enter Heaven; but this is a bough which runs over the wall. This is not as the grain of the heavenly Canaan, which we can never eat until we cross the Jordan; but this is part of the manna in the wilderness, a portion of our daily nutriment with which God supplies us in our journeying in this poor world.
We are now—even now pardoned;
even now are our sins put away;
even now we stand in the sight of God accepted—as though we had never been guilty!
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of His people. Who dares to lay anything to their charge? It is God who justifies! There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing remaining upon any believer in the matter of justification in the sight of the Judge of all the earth.
Let present privilege awaken us to present duty—and now, while life lasts, let us spend and be spent for our sweet Lord Jesus!
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Romans 5:1
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A riddle in providence!
"I have seen slaves on horseback—while princes go on foot like slaves." Ecclesiastes 10:7
Upstarts frequently usurp the highest places—while the truly great pine in obscurity. This is a riddle in providence whose solution will one day gladden the hearts of the upright; but it is so common a fact, that none of us should murmur if it should fall to our own lot.
When our Lord was upon earth, although He is the King of the kings of the earth—yet He walked the footpath of weariness and service as the Servant of servants. What wonder is it if His followers, who are princes of royal blood, should also be looked down upon as inferior and contemptible people?
The world is upside down, and therefore, the first are often last—and the last are often first. See how the servile sons of Satan rule in the earth! What a high horse they ride! How they lift up their horn on high!
Haman is in the court, while Mordecai sits in the gate.
David wanders on the mountains, while Saul reigns in state.
Elijah is complaining in the cave, while Jezebel is boasting in the palace.
Yet who would wish to take the places of the proud rebels?
And who, on the other hand, might not envy the despised saints?
When the wheel turns—those who are lowest rise, and the highest sink.
Patience, then, believer, eternity will right the wrongs of time!
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16
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We are not to expect that God will give us everything we choose to ask for!
"He prayed that he might die!" 1 Kings 19:4
It was a remarkable thing that the man who was never to die, for whom God had ordained an infinitely better lot, the man who would be carried to Heaven in a chariot of fire, and be translated that he should not see death—should thus pray, "Let me die! I am no better than my fathers."
We have here a memorable proof that God does not always answer prayer in kind, though He always does in effect. He gave Elijah something better than that which he asked for, and thus really heard and answered him.
Strange was it that the lion-hearted Elijah should be so depressed by Jezebel's threat as to ask to die—and blessedly kind was it on the part of our heavenly Father, that He did not give His desponding servant what he prayed for.
There is a limit to prayer. We are not to expect that God will give us everything we choose to ask for. We know that we sometimes ask, and do not receive, because we ask amiss.
If we ask for that which is not promised,
if we run counter to the spirit which the Lord would have us cultivate,
if we ask contrary to His will, or to the decrees of His providence,
if we ask merely for the gratification of our own ease,
if we ask without an eye to His glory,
—then we must not expect that we shall receive what we pray for.
Yet, if we do not receive the precise thing asked for, we shall receive an equivalent, and more than an equivalent, for it. As one remarks, "If the Lord does not pay in silver, He will in gold; and if He does not pay in gold, He will in diamonds!" If He does not give you precisely what you ask for, He will give you that which is tantamount to it, and that which you will greatly rejoice to receive in lieu thereof.
Be then, dear reader, much in prayer—but take heed what you ask for!
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From such folly deliver us, O Lord!
"I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways." Psalm 119:15
There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We would be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering spiritual strength for labor in His service through meditation on His Word. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment for our souls out of them.
Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it—we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser's feet must come down repeatedly upon the grapes, or else the juice will not flow and much of the precious liquid will be wasted.
So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom.
Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscles, and the nerves, and the sinews, and the bones—is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the food becomes assimilated with the inner life.
In the same way, our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inward digesting to complete their usefulness—and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it.
Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life?
Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word.
They love the wheat, but they do not grind it;
they would have the grain, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it;
the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it;
the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it.
From such folly deliver us, O Lord!
May this be our daily resolve, "I will meditate in your precepts."
"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2
"Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long." Psalm 119:97
"I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on Your statutes." Psalm 119:99
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it." Joshua 1:8
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The brain and spinal cord of Christianity!
"God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us—so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God!" 2 Corinthians 5:21
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us!" Galatians 3:13
What could be better than the divine plan of substitutionary atonement? God must punish sin—He could not be God unless He did. It is a necessity of His nature, that He should hate sin with an infinite hatred, and He must punish it! Yet, as He had loved His people with an everlasting love, how could He better show His love to them, and His hatred of sin—than by giving up His well-beloved Son to die in place of them! This seems to me to be the most beautiful thing I ever heard of, and it delights my soul to preach it!
The false doctrine of universal redemption—that Christ died for the damned in Hell, and that He suffered the torment of those who afterwards are tormented forever—seems to me to be . . .
subversive of the whole Gospel, and
destructive of the only pillar upon which our hopes can be built!
Christ stood in the place of His elect; for them He made a full Atonement; for them He so suffered, that not a sin of theirs shall ever be laid at their door. As the Father's love embraced them—so the death of His Son reconciled them.
Christ's atonement gives such an exhibition of the guilt of sin, as is not to be seen anywhere else—no, not even in the flames of Hell!
The heart of the gospel is redemption—and the essence of redemption is the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. Those who preach this truth—preach the gospel. But those who do not preach the atonement, whatever else they declare—have missed the soul and substance of the divine message. To deny the great doctrine of substitutionary atonement by the blood of Jesus Christ—is to hamstring the gospel, and to cut the throat of Christianity!
What the sun is to the heavens—that the doctrine of a vicarious satisfaction is to theology. Substitutionary atonement is the brain and spinal cord of Christianity! Take away the cleansing blood, and what hope is left for the guilty? Deny the substitutionary work of Jesus—and you have denied all that is precious in the New Testament!
He who understands the mystery of Christ's substitutionary atonement for His people, is a master in Scriptural theology!
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God is all mercy and love!
(J.C. Ryle, "Heirs of God" 1878)
There is a school of theology rising up in this day, which appears to me most eminently calculated . . .
to promote infidelity,
to help the devil,
and to ruin souls!
It comes to us like Joab to Amasa—with the highest professions of love and liberality. (2 Samuel 20:9-10)
"God is all mercy and love!" according to this theology.
God's holiness and justice are completely left out of sight!
Hell is never spoken of in this theology—its talk is all of Heaven!
Damnation is never mentioned—it is treated as an impossible thing.
All men and women are to be saved!
"Everybody is right! Nobody is wrong! Nobody is to blame for any action he may commit! It is the result of his circumstances! He is not accountable for his views, any more than for the color of his skin! He must be what he is! God is so entirely a God of mercy and love—that He never does, and never will punish sin."
Of all this theology I warn men solemnly to beware. In spite of big swelling words about "liberality and love," and "broad views," and "new light," and "freedom from bigotry," and so forth—I do believe it to be a theology that leads to Hell!
Imagine a Heaven which would contain all mankind! Imagine a Heaven in which holy and unholy, pure and impure, good and evil—would be all gathered together in one confused mass!
Surely the mind revolts from the idea of a Heaven in which there would be no distinction . . .
between the righteous and the wicked,
between Pharaoh and Moses,
between Abraham and the Sodomites,
between Paul and Nero,
between the loving John and Judas Iscariot!
Surely an eternity in such a miserably confused crowd, would be worse than annihilation itself! Surely, such a Heaven would be no better than Hell!
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You must be born again!
"You must be born again!" John 3:7
In order for God to save a sinner two things must be done:
God must do something FOR you, and God must do something IN you.
Redemption is the work of God FOR sinners.
Regeneration is the work of God IN sinners.
Both are the works of God. Man has nothing more to do with regeneration, than he has to do with redemption.
"You must be born again" because by nature we are fallen, sinful, depraved children of human flesh. All flesh is defiled. All flesh is corrupt. All flesh is sinful. All flesh is condemned. All flesh must die. Unless we are born of the Spirit, we will die in our sins, and our flesh shall be justly damned.
"You must be born again!"
You can reform your life without the new birth.
You can be baptized without the new birth.
You can join the church, be zealous in religion, teach a Bible class, serve as a deacon or elder; you can even preach with great success without being born again.
"You must be born again" for without the new birth . . .
you will never enter the kingdom of God,
you will never be a part of the family of God,
you will never have eternal life,
you will never be admitted into the presence of God's glory in the bliss of Heaven.
Only new creatures will enter the New Jerusalem.
Only holy men will walk into the Holy City.
Only Heaven born citizens will possess the bliss of Heaven.
Regeneration is the sovereign, irresistible work of God the Holy Spirit. At the time appointed by God, the Holy Spirit comes to the sinner, who was chosen by grace in eternal election and redeemed by Christ at Calvary—and creates spiritual life in that sinner by His sovereign, irresistible, effectual grace.
To be born again is to be made new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In the new birth, God the Holy Spirit gives chosen, redeemed sinners . . .
a new heart to love God,
a new will to bow to the rule of Christ,
a new mind to understand the things of God,
a new spiritual nature to know, enjoy, and live upon spiritual things,
new eyes, eyes of faith, with which to see Christ,
new ears with which to hear His voice,
new hands, hands of faith, with which to lay hold of Christ and do His will,
new feet, with which to flee to Christ and walk with Him in the newness of life.
John 3:3, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again!"
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But he must leave his riotous living, his wine-cup, his debauchery in the far country!
"Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." 2 Timothy 2:19
Returning to God, includes turning from sin. Do you think that when the prodigal came back to his father, he brought his dice in one hand and some other implement of sin in the other? He may come wretched through hunger and famine, but he must leave his riotous living, his wine-cup, his debauchery in the far country. These cannot be tolerated in his father's house!
"He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:14
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We have need to use this prayer at all times!
"Do not forsake me, O Lord! Do not be far from me, O my God!" Psalm 38:21
Frequently we pray that God would not forsake us in the hour of trial and temptation—but we too much forget that we have need to use this prayer at all times. There is no moment of our life, however holy—in which we can do without His constant upholding. Whether in light or in darkness, in communion or in temptation—we alike need the prayer, "Do not forsake me, O Lord!" "Hold me up—and I shall be safe!"
A little child, while learning to walk—always needs the parent's aid.
The ship left by the navigator—drifts at once from her course.
We cannot do without continuous aid from God!
Let this be your prayer every day:
"Do not forsake me, O Lord! Do not be far from me, O my God!
Father, do not forsake Your child—lest he fall by the hand of the enemy.
Shepherd, do not forsake Your lamb—lest he wander from the safety of the fold.
Great Gardener, do not forsake Your tender plant—lest it wither and die!
Do not forsake me now, O Lord! And do not forsake me at any moment of my life.
Do not forsake me in my joys—lest they absorb my heart.
Do not forsake me in my sorrows—lest I murmur against You.
Do not forsake me—for without You I am weak, but with You I am strong.
Do not forsake me—for my path is dangerous and full of snares.
Do not forsake me—for I cannot travel without Your guidance.
The hen does not forsake her chicks. O Lord, give me refuge under Your wings.
Do not be far from me, O Lord, for trouble is near—and there is none to help.
Do not forsake me, O Lord! Do not be far from me, O God of my salvation!"
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Such a dead dog as me!
"Mephibosheth bowed down and said: What is your servant, that you take an interest in such a dead dog as me!" 2 Samuel 9:8
If Mephibosheth was thus humbled by David's kindness—then what should we be in the presence of our gracious Lord?
The more grace we have—the less we shall think of ourselves; for grace, like light, reveals our sinfulness.
Eminent saints have scarcely known what to compare themselves to, as their sense of unworthiness has been so clear and keen. "I am," says holy Rutherford, "a dry and withered branch, a piece of dead carcass, dry bones." In another place he writes, "I am essentially no different than Judas and Cain."
The basest objects in nature appear to the eminent Christian, to be better than himself, because they have never contracted sin. A dog may be greedy, fierce or filthy—but it has no conscience to violate and no Holy Spirit to resist. A dog may be a worthless animal, and yet by a little kindness it is soon won to love its master, and is faithful unto death. But we often forget the goodness of the Lord, and follow Him poorly.
The term "dead dog" is the most expressive of all terms of contempt—but it is none too strong to express the self-abhorrence of eminent believers. They do not affect mock modesty; they mean what they say; they have weighed themselves in the balances of the sanctuary, and found out the vanity and depravity of their hearts.
At best, we are but clay, animated dust, mere walking dirt!
But viewed as sinners—we are monsters indeed!
Let it be published in Heaven as a wonder, that the Lord Jesus should set His heart's love upon such as we are! Dust and ashes though we are, we must and will magnify the exceeding greatness of His grace.
Could not His heart find rest in Heaven? Must He needs come to these black tents of Kedar for a spouse, and choose such an unlovely bride? O heavens and earth, break forth into a song, and give all glory to our sweet Lord Jesus!
Abraham acknowledged, "I am dust and ashes!" Genesis 18:27
Job said of himself, "Behold, I am vile!" Job 40:4
David admitted, "I am a worm!" Psalm 22:6
Isaiah confessed, "Woe is me! I am ruined!" Isaiah 6:5
Peter affirmed, "I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Luke 5:8
Paul considered himself, "The chief of sinners!"
He clearly stated, "What a wretched man I am!"
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Far from a world of grief and sin—with God eternally shut in!
"Those He predestined, He also called;
and those He called, He also justified;
and those He justified, He also glorified!" Romans 8:30
Here is a precious truth for you, believer. You may be poor, or in suffering, or unknown—but for your encouragement take a review of your "calling" and the consequences that flow from it, and especially that blessed result here spoken of.
As surely as you are God's child today—so surely shall all your trials soon be at an end, and you shall be rich to all intents of bliss! Wait awhile, and your weary head shall wear the crown of glory, and your work-worn hands shall grasp the palm-branch of victory.
Do not lament your troubles—but rather rejoice that before long you will be where "there shall be neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain." The chariots of fire are at your door, and a moment will suffice to bear you to the glorified. The everlasting song is almost on your lips. The portals of Heaven stand open for you.
Do not think that you can fail of entering into eternal rest.
If He has effectually called you—then nothing can divide you from His love.
Trials and troubles cannot sever the bond;
the fire of persecution cannot burn the link;
the hammer of Hell cannot break the chain.
You are eternally secure!
That voice which effectually called you to Jesus at first—shall call you yet again from earth to Heaven, from death's dark gloom to immortality's unuttered splendors! Rest assured, the heart of Him who has predestined, called and justified you—beats with infinite love towards you! You shall soon be with the glorified, where your everlasting portion is. You are only waiting here to be made fit for your Celestial inheritance, and that done, the wings of angels shall waft you far away to the mount of peace, and joy, and blessedness, where, "Far from a world of grief and sin—with God eternally shut in," you shall rest forever and ever!
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Providence & Predestination
"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
Divine providence is the daily, constant, sovereign rule of our God over all things for the accomplishment of His eternal purpose of grace in predestination.
Predestination is the sovereign, eternal, immutable, unalterable purpose of God almighty, by which He ordained and ordered, according to His own will and good pleasure, all things that come to pass in time.
Divine providence is the accomplishment of God's sovereign will and purpose. Providence is God bringing to pass in time (sovereignly, absolutely, and perfectly) what He purposed in eternity.
Predestination is God's purpose.
Providence is God's execution of His purpose.
Nothing in the universe happens by luck, chance, fortune, or accident, or by blind fate.
Everything that comes to pass in time was purposed by our God in eternity, and is brought to pass by His wise, adorable, good providence.
Nothing comes to pass in time that God did not purpose in eternity, in sovereign predestination.
Nothing comes to pass in time except that which God sovereignly brings to pass in His providence.
All that God predestined in eternity and brings to pass in His providence, is for the good of His elect and the glory of His name. This is clearly and incontrovertibly the teaching of holy Scripture (Proverbs 16:4, 9, 33; 21:1; Daniel 4:34, 35; Isaiah 46:9-11; Romans 11:33-36).
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Nothing in God's universe breathes or wiggles contrary to His decree!
Providence is God's government of the universe. If we have a proper view of God's providence, we will see the hand of God and the heart of God in everything, in all the experiences of our lives.
God almighty, our God and heavenly Father, is always at work, governing His world.
We recognize that God's providence is mysterious (Romans 11:33-36). His judgments are a great deep. His ways are past finding out.
God's providence is as minute as it is mysterious. Our God has ordained the number of hairs on the heads of all. Not even a worthless sparrow falls to the ground without His decree.
God's providence is all-inclusive. God rules everything, great and small, everywhere, and at all times. He who created all things, rules all things.
Our God and heavenly Father controls (absolutely and totally) all rational creatures. He controls all men and women everywhere, good and bad, in the good they do and in the evil they perform. All angels, all demons, and Satan himself are under the total control of our God (Psalm 76:10; Isaiah 14:24-27). Nothing in God's universe breathes or wiggles contrary to His decree (Isaiah 46:9-13). Satan is not a rival to our God, but His vassal!
As a wise, skilled pharmacist mixes medicine, so our heavenly Father wisely mixes exactly the right measure of bitter things and sweet things to do us good.
Too much joy would intoxicate us.
Too much misery would drive us to despair.
Too much sorrow would crush us.
Too much suffering would break our spirits.
Too much pleasure would ruin us.
Too much defeat would discourage us.
Too much success would puff us up.
Too much failure would keep us from doing anything.
Too much criticism would harden us.
Too much praise would make us prideful.
Our great God knows exactly what we need.
His providence is wisely designed and sovereignly sent for our good!
Let Him therefore send and do whatever He will.
By His grace, if we are His, we will bow to it, accept it, and give thanks for it.
God's providence is always executed in the wisest manner possible. We are often unable to see and understand the reasons and causes for specific events in our lives, in the lives of others, or in the history of the world. We bow to His will, which is evident in His works of providence, and say, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" Romans 11:33
All God's works of providence are executed in perfect holiness and righteousness. Even the way He uses the evil works of men and devils, is totally free of sin on His part. Though He has predestined and permits deeds of wickedness, sin cannot be imputed to the Almighty. "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works." Psalm 145:17
God's providence demands and deserves our unceasing praise.
He who is God indeed, is the God of providence, the God who rules all things, and rules all things well. How we ought to trust Him! Ever remember, our heavenly Father is God all-wise, good, and omnipotent. He is . . .
too wise to err,
too good to do wrong,
and too strong to fail!
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Catch the foxes!
"Catch the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vines—for our vines have tender grapes." Song of Solomon 2:15
A little thorn may cause much suffering.
A little cloud may hide the sun.
Little foxes spoil the vines.
And little sins do much harm to the tender heart. These little sins burrow in the soul, and make it so full of that which is hateful to Christ—that He will hold no comfortable fellowship and communion with us.
A great sin cannot destroy a Christian—but a little sin can make him miserable!
Jesus will not walk with His people unless they drive out every known sin. He says, "If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." Some Christians very seldom enjoy their Savior's presence. How is this? Surely it must be an affliction for a tender child to be separated from his loving father. Are you a child of God—and yet satisfied to go on without seeing your Father's face? What! you the spouse of Christ—and yet content without His company! Surely, you have fallen into a sad state, for the chaste spouse of Christ mourns like a dove without her mate, when He has left her.
Ask, then, the question: What has driven Christ from you? He hides His face behind the wall of your sins. That wall may be built up of little pebbles, as easily as of great stones. The sea is made of drops; the rocks are made of grains—and the sea which divides you from Christ may be filled with the drops of your little sins. The rock which has well near wrecked your barque, may have been made by the daily working of the coral insects of your little sins. If you would live with Christ, and walk with Christ, and have fellowship with Christ—take heed of "little foxes that ruin the vines—for our vines have tender grapes." Jesus invites you to go with Him and catch them. He will surely, like Samson, catch the foxes at once and easily. Go with Him to the hunting!
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Some annoying interruption!
(Hannah More, "Practical Piety")
We must trace the hand of our Heavenly Father in those daily little disappointments and the hourly vexations which occur even in the most prosperous circumstances, and which are inseparable from the condition of fallen humanity.
We must trace that same beneficent hand, secretly at work for our purification and our correction in the imperfections and unpleasantness of those around us, and in those interruptions which break in upon our favorite engagements.
We are perhaps too much addicted to our innocent delights, or we are too fond of our leisure. A check then becomes necessary, but it is given in a most imperceptible way. The hand that gives it is unseen and unsuspected—yet it is the same gracious hand which directs the more important events of life!
Some annoying interruption breaks in on our projected privacy, and calls us to a sacrifice of our inclination and to a renunciation of our own will.
Let us cheerfully bear and diligently receive these smaller trials which God prepares for us. Submission . . .
to a cross which He inflicts,
to a disappointment which He sends,
to a contradiction of our self love which He appoints,
is a far better exercise than great penances of our own choosing.
Perpetual conquests over impatience, ill temper and self will, indicate a better spirit than any self imposed mortifications.
By these incessant tests of our temper, God cultivates the more difficult virtues of . . .
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Engaged in the most menial part of the Lord's work
"These were potters, and those who dwelt among plants and hedges. They lived there in the service of the King." 1 Chronicles 4:23
Potters were not the very highest grade of workers—but "the King" needed potters, and therefore they were in royal service, although the material upon which they worked was nothing but clay. We, too, may be engaged in the most menial part of the Lord's work—but it is a great privilege to do anything for "the King".
The text tells us of those who dwelt among plants and hedges, having rough hedging and ditching work to do. They may have desired to live in the city, amid its life, society, and refinement—but they kept their appointed places, for they also were doing the King's work. In the same way, the place of our habitation is fixed by God, and we are not to remove from it out of whim and caprice—but seek to serve the Lord in it, by being a blessing to those among whom we reside.
These potters and gardeners had royal company, for they "lived there in the service of the King." Just so, no lawful place, or gracious occupation, however lowly, can debar us from communion with our divine Lord. In visiting hovels, swarming lodging-houses, workhouses, or jails—we may go with the King. In all works of faith we may count upon Jesus' fellowship. It is when we are in His work, that we may reckon upon His smile.
You unknown workers who are occupied for your Lord amid the dirt and wretchedness of the lowest of the low—be of good cheer, for . . .
precious jewels have been found in such lowly places,
earthen pots have been filled with heavenly treasure, and
noxious weeds have been transformed into precious flowers!
Dwell with the King doing His work—and when He writes His chronicles, your name shall be recorded!
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Pride cannot live beneath the cross!
"He humbled Himself." Philippians 2:8
Jesus is the great teacher of lowliness of heart. We need daily to learn of Him.
See the Master taking a basin and towel to wash His disciples feet!
Follower of Christ, will you not humble yourself?
See Him as the Servant of servants—and surely you cannot be proud!
Surely this sentence is the compendium of His biography: "He humbled Himself!"
While on earth, He was always stripping off first one robe of honor and then another—until He was fastened to the bloody tree. And there He emptied out His inmost self, pouring out His life-blood, giving up His all for us—until they laid Him penniless in a borrowed grave!
How low was our dear Redeemer brought! How then can we be proud?
Stand at the foot of the cruel cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed of your infinite sins! See the thorn-crown; mark His scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills. See His hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and His whole self to mockery and scorn. See the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in His outward frame. Hear the horrid shriek: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me!"
If you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross—you have never seen it!
If you are not humbled in the presence of the dying Jesus—you do not know Him.
You were so lost that nothing could save you—but the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son.
Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you—bow yourself in lowliness at His feet.
A sense of Christ's amazing love to us—has a greater tendency to humble us than even a consciousness of our own guilt!
May the Lord bring us in contemplation, to Calvary—and then we will no longer think of ourselves with pompous pride. We shall then take the humble place of one who loves much, because much has been forgiven. Pride cannot live beneath the cross! Let us sit there and learn our lesson—and then rise and carry it into practice.
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There are more lies told at funerals!
(Curtis Knapp, 2012)
Have you ever noticed that no matter how wicked a person was in his life, he becomes a saint at his funeral?
In reality, he was a bad father, but at his funeral he becomes a great father in the eulogy given by his estranged children. In reality, he was a bad husband, but suddenly, he is a great husband. In reality he was a very bad person, but suddenly everyone talks about what a good person he was.
He was never in church, but suddenly he is a great Christian man. The minister strains awkwardly to speak glowingly about the man he didn't know and hardly ever saw. In life, he was primarily noted for his wicked works, but suddenly upon his death he is known as a man of many good works.
In short, they lie! There are more lies told at funerals than perhaps at any other occasion, and that's the way people want it. If the minister did anything other than lie, the family and friends would be outraged!
God is the only one worthy of a eulogy at a funeral, but no one offers a eulogy to God. Instead, they offer lying eulogies for the sinner who is most likely in Hell at that moment. Think about that. The sinner has already arrived at his permanent dwelling place in Hell. He is weeping and gnashing his teeth and writhing in agony in the flames. He is begging for just one drop of cool water for his tongue, but receives no mercy.
God is not impressed with this wicked man. God sees no good in him.
The inhabitants of Hell are not impressed with him. They don't care about the time he helped an old lady across the street, and the time he gave money to a charitable organization. They don't think he is or ever was a good person. They don't like him and want nothing to do with him.
And yet at this very moment, on earth, in a church or funeral home somewhere—the man's family and the minister are talking about what a wonderful person he was and how he has gone to a better place!
Have you ever noticed how no one goes to Hell—at least no one you know? When have you been at a funeral at which the minister and family did not conspire together to convince themselves and everyone else that the departed sinner was in Heaven?
Jesus taught us that the road to Heaven was narrow, and said that few find it. Conversely, He taught that the road to destruction was broad, and that many were on it. Yet, according to our funerals, Jesus was wrong. No one is in Hell—everyone is in Heaven! Have you ever noticed that all you have to do to get to Heaven is to die? Instead of believing in justification by faith alone, most people believe in justification by death alone. Death is all that is necessary to be transformed miraculously from a depraved wretch into a shining angel.
Why do we do this? Why do we lie? Ministers often do it because they are afraid not to. Many lie because they are false prophets who deceive people, and a funeral is the perfect opportunity to say "Peace, peace!" when there is no peace.
Some family members lie because they are grasping for some piece of comfort in their loss. But consider: Is grasping at a lie truly comforting?
I suspect that most people play this game of falsehood for selfish reasons. If they eulogize the deceased, then they will also feel better about the state of their own souls. If the departed sinner went to Heaven—then they will surely go to Heaven when they die as well. If everyone is a good person and going to Heaven—then we don't have to worry about our own spiritual condition.
We hate death. We hate to be reminded of our weakness and our fleeting time here. We don't like to think about what happens after death. We don't want to consider that there might be a Hell, and we certainly don't want to hear that most people go there. We don't want to ponder those realities, but funerals force us to do so. So we fight back against death and reality by laboring hard to convince ourselves that everyone who dies goes to Heaven.
What does it accomplish? Nothing!
Is God deceived? No!
Will our lies change God's mind? No!
Will our lies get us to Heaven? No!
I am not saying that I think ministers should stand up at funerals and declare with certainty that the departed person is in Hell. But, when the person's life gives us little confidence that he or she is in Heaven, it would be far better to remain silent about the eternal destiny of the lost one than to boldly declare that the person is in Heaven. Oh for some honesty in our days!
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14
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He will go on sinning and suffering forever!
(Jared Waterbury, 1840)
"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to the flesh, will from the flesh reap corruption; but the one who sows to the Spirit, will from the Spirit reap eternal life." Galatians 6:7-8
"He who is unjust—let him be unjust still;
he who is filthy—let him be filthy still.
He who is righteous—let him be righteous still;
he who is holy—let him be holy still." Revelation 22:11
How solemn is the thought that at death not only will the soul meet its final destiny—but that destiny will be irreversible. Then we must appear before our holy and righteous Judge without disguise. He who has "sowed to the flesh"—will then reap his dread reward of eternal condemnation. The one who sows to the Spirit, will reap eternal life.
The holy will exult in the approach of their inflexibly holy Judge.
The wicked, trembling with horror, will "call upon the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them!"
Yes, the true believer will rejoice that his full redemption from sin is drawing near. Weak as may have been the principle of holiness within him—he is sure that when his Savior comes, it will be both increased and perpetuated. All will then be purity. No clouds will come between him and his adorable Redeemer.
What child of God can look at the happiness and holiness of Heaven, and not long to experience them? What but sin embitters his life, and makes his pilgrimage a weary way? Should he not then rejoice when this hateful and polluting thing shall be gone forever?
But while the godly man has reason to rejoice—the wicked may well be alarmed. O, what an appalling prospect! Filthy, and still more filthy, through eternity! His eternity must not only be wretched—but increasingly wretched. He will go on sinning and suffering forever! In Hell there will be no change but from bad to worse, and from suffering to still deeper anguish.
"They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues—but they refused to repent and glorify Him." Revelation 16:9
~ ~ ~ ~
Prayer is a sincere, affectionate pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, for such things as God has promised in His Word.
Prayer opens the heart to God, and it is the means by which the soul, though empty, is filled with God's grace.
The truths that I know best, I have learned on my knees.
I never know a thing well, until it is burned into my heart by prayer.
Sincere prayer is . . .
a shield to the soul,
a scourge to Satan, and
a fragrant and pleasing sacrifice to God.
Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.
When you pray, rather let your heart be without words—than your words be without heart.
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It is radical, revolutionary, lasting!
"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God!" 1 Peter 1:23
The new birth is very much more than simply shedding a few tears due to a temporary remorse over sin.
It is far more than changing our course of life, the leaving off of bad habits and the substituting of good ones.
It is something different from the mere nourishing and practicing of noble ideals.
It goes infinitely deeper than coming forward to take some popular evangelist by the hand, signing a pledge-card, or joining a church.
The new birth is no mere turning over a new leaf—but is the inception and reception of a new life.
It is no mere reformation, but a radical transformation.
Regeneration consists in a radical change of heart, for a new disposition is implanted as the foundation of all holy exercises . . .
the mind being renovated,
the affections elevated, and
the will emancipated from the bondage of sin.
In short, the new birth is a miracle, the result of the supernatural operation of God. It is radical, revolutionary, lasting!
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
~ ~ ~ ~
Total strangers to a work of divine grace in their hearts!
"Come, and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul!" Psalm 66:16
It is greatly to be feared that there are multitudes in Christendom who truly imagine and sincerely believe that they are among the saved, yet who are total strangers to a work of divine grace in their hearts.
It is one thing to have clear intellectual conceptions of God's truth—it is quite another matter to have a personal, real heart acquaintance with it.
It is one thing to believe that sin is the awful thing that the Bible says it is—but it is quite another matter to have a holy horror and hatred of it in the soul.
It is one thing to know that God requires repentance—it is quite another matter to experimentally mourn and groan over our vileness.
It is one thing to believe that Christ is the only Savior for sinners—it is quite another matter to really trust Him from the heart.
It is one thing to believe that Christ is the sum of all excellency—it is quite another matter to love Him above all others.
It is one thing to believe that God is the great and holy One—it is quite another matter to truly reverence and fear Him.
It is one thing to believe that salvation is of the Lord—it is quite another matter to become an actual partaker of it through His gracious workings.
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A strict, close, assiduous, diligent search!
"Search the Scriptures." John 5:39
The word here rendered "search" signifies a strict, close, assiduous, diligent search—such as men make when they are seeking gold, or hunters when they are in earnest after game. We must not rest content with having given a superficial reading to a chapter or two; but with the candle of the Spirit, we must deliberately seek out the depth of the Word.
Holy Scripture requires searching—much of it can only be learned by careful study.
There is milk for babes—but also meat for strong men.
The rabbis wisely say that a mountain of matter hangs upon every word of Scripture.
Tertullian exclaims, "I adore the fullness of the Scriptures."
No man who merely skims the book of God, can profit thereby.
We must dig and search until we obtain the hidden treasure.
The door of the Word only opens to the key of diligence!
The Scriptures claim searching. They are the writings of God, bearing His divine stamp and sanction—who shall dare to treat them with levity? He who despises them, despises the God who wrote them! God forbid that any of us should leave our dust-covered Bibles to become swift witnesses against us in the great day of account!
The Word of God will repay searching. God does not bid us sift a mountain of chaff with here and there a grain of wheat in it. The Bible is winnowed grain—we have but to open the granary door, and find it.
Scripture grows upon the sincere searcher. Under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the searching eye—it glows with God's splendor, like a vast temple paved with wrought gold, and roofed with rubies, emeralds, and all manner of precious gems.
Lastly, the Scriptures reveal Jesus, "The Scriptures point to Me!" No more powerful motive can be urged upon Bible readers than this—he who finds Jesus finds life, Heaven, all things. Happy he who, searching his Bible, discovers his Savior!
"If you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God!" Proverbs 2:4-5
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The advantages and blessings of family worship
An old writer well said, "A family without prayer is like a house without a roof—open and exposed to all storms." All our domestic comforts and temporal mercies issue from the loving-kindness of the Lord. The best we can do in return is to gratefully acknowledge His goodness to us as a family.
Family worship should be conducted reverently, earnestly and simply. It is then that the little ones will receive their first impressions and form their initial conceptions of the Lord God. Great care needs to be taken lest a false idea be given to them of the Divine Character. For this, the balance must be preserved between dwelling upon . . .
His holiness, and His mercy,
His power, and His tenderness,
His justice, and His grace.
Worship should begin with a few words of prayer invoking God's presence and blessing.
A short passage from His Word should follow, with brief comments thereon.
Two or three verses of a Psalm or hymn may be sung.
Close with a prayer of committal into the hands of God. Though we may not be able to pray eloquently, we should pray earnestly. Prevailing prayers are usually brief ones. Beware of wearying the young ones.
The advantages and blessings of family worship are incalculable. Family worship . . . .
will prevent much sin,
conveys a sense of God's majesty and authority,
sets solemn Scripture truths before the mind,
brings down benefits from God on the home.
Personal piety in the home is a most influential means, under God, of conveying piety to the little ones.
Children are largely creatures of imitation, copying what they see in their parents—so good instructions must always be accompanied by godly example. That teaching which issues only from the lips alone, is not at all likely to sink any deeper than the ears. Children are particularly quick to detect inconsistencies, and despise hypocrisy. How Christian parents need to be constantly on their guard against anything which might render them contemptible in the eyes of those who should respect and revere them!
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:5-7
~ ~ ~ ~
They seek to banish such a God from their thoughts!
"Does He not see my ways, and count my every step?" Job 31:4
"His understanding is infinite!" Psalm 147:5
God not only knows whatever has happened in the past in every part of His vast domains, and He is not only thoroughly acquainted with everything that is now transpiring throughout the entire universe—but He is also perfectly cognizant of every event, from the least to the greatest, that ever will happen in the ages to come!
God's knowledge of the future is as complete as is His knowledge of the past and the present—and that, because the future depends entirely upon Himself. God foreknows what will be, because He has decreed what shall be. Were it in any ways possible for something to occur apart from either the direct agency or permission of God—then that something would be independent of Him, and He would at once cease to be Supreme.
"There is no creature hidden from God's sight, but all things are uncovered and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!" Hebrews 4:13
"You have set our iniquities before You—our secret sins in the light of Your presence!" Psalm 90:8
Men would strip Deity of His omniscience if they could! What a proof that "the carnal mind is enmity against God!" Romans 8:7
The wicked wish there might be . . .
no Witness of their sins,
no Searcher of their hearts,
no Judge of their deeds.
They seek to banish such a God from their thoughts!
"They say to God: Leave us alone! We have no desire to know Your ways!" Job 21:14
An omniscient and ineffably holy God, who has the utmost abhorrence of sin, was never invented by any of Adam's descendants!
~ ~ ~ ~
That dead man or dead woman
(Thomas Brooks, "A Believer's Last Day, His Best Day")
"What the wicked dreads will overtake him;
what the righteous desire will be granted." Proverbs 10:24
"The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
but the hope of the wicked only in wrath." Proverbs 11:23
We should lament over that dead man or dead woman . . .
whom Hell harbors,
whom the devil devours,
whom divine justice torments!
But let us rejoice over those departed believers whom Christ embosoms, and whom all the court of Heaven comes forth to welcome!
"Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!" Numbers 23:10
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints!" Psalm 116:15