Grace Gems for February, 2020

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When we eat an apple

(John Newton)

Acts 17:11, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

Brethren, remember your exalted privilege—you have the Bible in your hands, and are not bound to follow books or preachers any farther than what they teach agrees with the Oracles of Truth. We have great reason to be thankful for the instructions and writings of spiritual men—but they are all fallible, even as ourselves. One is our master, even Christ—what He says, we are to receive implicitly. We do not owe implicit subjection to the best of our fellow-creatures. The Bereans were commended because they would not implicitly believe even the Apostle Paul—but searched the Scriptures to see whether the things which he taught were true. May the Lord give us a spirit of humility and discernment in all things.

When we eat an apple—we usually first cut out the blemishes, then eat what is good, and lastly throw the core away. Such a rule I would observe in reading human authors—the best may be defective, and the wisest may be mistaken. We are not only permitted, but enjoined, to call no man master!

2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

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Our proper enjoyment of every earthly blessing

(Hannah More,  "The Love of God")

There are three requirements to our proper enjoyment
of every earthly blessing
which God bestows on us:

  1. A thankful reflection on the goodness of the Giver.

  2. A deep sense of the unworthiness of the receiver.

  3. A sober recollection of the precarious tenure by which we hold it.

The first would make us grateful, the second humble, the last moderate.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" James 1:17

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Bold, unblushing audacity!

(Horatius Bonar, "Divine Love and Human Rejection of It")

Jeremiah 8:6, "I listen to their conversations, and what do I hear? Is anyone sorry for sin? Does anyone say, 'What a terrible thing I have done'? No! All are running down the path of sin as swiftly as a horse rushing into battle!"

Man is blind, madly blind, both to his danger and to his sin.
Furiously he plunges on in evil,
  from sin to sin,
  from lust to lust,
  defying God,
  braving His anger,
  ridiculing His threats,
  scoffing at His judgments,
  rushing against His sword,
  mocking at His Hell.

How much recklessness there is among us!
Recklessness in . . .

Utter defiance of God!

Bold, unblushing audacity
, which nothing will daunt; which mocks at . . .
  and plunges on in evil,
  treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath!

"I listen to their conversations, and what do I hear? Is anyone sorry for sin? Does anyone say, 'What a terrible thing I have done'? No! All are running down the path of sin as swiftly as a horse rushing into battle!"

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Grimshaw's Covenant with God
, December 1752

(J.C. Ryle, William Grimshaw)

Eternal and unchangeable Jehovah! Great Creator of Heaven and earth, and adorable Lord of angels and men! I desire with the deepest humiliation and abasement of soul to fall down at this time in Your solemn presence, and earnestly pray that You will penetrate my heart with a suitable sense of Your unutterable and inconceivable glories.

To You I now come, invited by Your love, and trusting Jesus' righteousness alone, laying myself at Your feet with shame and confusion of face; and smiting on my bosom, saying with the publican, God be merciful to me a sinner!

Glory be to You, O my Triune God! I desire and resolve to be wholly and forever Yours! Blessed God, I most solemnly surrender myself unto You. Hear, O Heaven, and give ear, O earth! I avow this day, the Lord to be my God, my Father, my Savior, and my portion forever! I am one of His covenant children forever. Record, O eternal Lord, in Your book of remembrance, that henceforth I am Yours forever. From this day I solemnly renounce all former lords—the world, the flesh, and the devil—in Your name. This day I give up myself to You, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto You; which I know is my reasonable service.

To You I consecrate all my worldly possessions. In your service I desire and purpose to spend all my time, desiring You to teach me to spend every moment of it to Your glory and the setting forth of Your praise, in every station and relation of life I am now or may hereafter be in.

Nor do I only consecrate all that I have to your service, but I also most humbly resign and submit to Your holy and sovereign will all that I am. I leave, O Lord, to Your management and direction—all that I possess and all that I wish. I set my every enjoyment and interest before You to be disposed of as You please. Continue or remove what You have given me. Bestow or refuse what I imagine I need—as You see best. And though I dare not say that I will never repine—yet I hope I may say that I will labor not only to submit, but to cheerfully acquiesce to Your sovereign providence; not only to bear Your heaviest afflictions on me, but to consent to them and praise You for them; contentedly resolving, in all Your appointments, my will into Yours; esteeming myself as nothing—and You, O God, as the great Eternal All, whose word shall determine, and whose power shall order all things in the world.

Dispose my affairs, O God, in a manner which will be wholly subservient to Your glory and my own true happiness. And when I have done, borne, and endured Your will upon earth—call me home at whatever time and in whatever manner You please.

Grimshaw's last words were, "Here goes an unprofitable servant!"

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Good News for Pilgrims!

(Don Fortner)

Here is good news for weary, heavy-hearted pilgrims from our homeland in Heaven. Do you have heartaches and troubles too numerous to count? It will do you good to receive some good news from home.

The Lord our God is still on His throne.

Our Savior is still in Heaven, preparing a place for you, representing you, interceding for you.

There are many in Heaven just like you and me already. There is . . .
  a fallen David there,
  a doubting Thomas there,
  an angry Moses there,
  a feeble Philip there,
  an impetuous Peter there,
  and a righteous Lot there.
All are there by grace alone, through the merits of Christ's blood and righteousness.

And, soon, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again to take you there!

John 14:1-3, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." 

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Even affliction is very useful and profitable to the godly!

(Daniel Rowlands)

Romans 8:28, "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."

Make no exception, when Paul makes none. ALL! Remember Paul excepts nothing.

Give glory to God, and resolve with Job, "Though He slays me—yet will I trust in Him."

The Almighty may seem for a season to be your enemy, in order that he may become your eternal friend.

Oh! Believers, after all your tribulation and anguish, you must conclude with David, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes."

Under all your disquietudes you must exclaim, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!"

Even affliction is very useful and profitable to the godly!

The prodigal son had no thought of returning to his father's house until he had been humbled by adversity.

Hagar was haughty under Abraham's roof, and despised her mistress; but in the wilderness she was meek and lowly.

Jonah sleeps on board ship; but in the whale's belly he watches and prays.

Manasseh lived as a libertine at Jerusalem, and committed the most enormous crimes; but when he was bound in chains in the prison at Babylon his heart was turned to seek the Lord his God.

Bodily pain and disease have been instrumental in rousing many to seek Christ, when those who were in good health have given themselves no concern about Him.

The ground which is not rent and torn with the plough, bears nothing but thistles and thorns.

The vines will run wild in process of time, if they are not pruned and trimmed. So would our wild hearts be overrun with filthy, poisonous weeds—if the true Vine-dresser did not often check their growth by crosses and sanctified troubles.

See, therefore, that all the paths of the Lord are mercy, and that God causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love Him.

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Oh, Christians, see what a harvest of blessings ripens from this text!

(Daniel Rowlands)

Romans 8:28, "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."

All the events that take place in the world carry on the same work—the glory of the Father and the salvation of His redeemed people.

Every illness and infirmity that may seize you,
every loss you may meet with,
every reproach you may endure,
every shame that may color your faces,
every sorrow in your hearts,
every agony and pain in your flesh,
every aching in your bones
—are for your good!

Every change in your condition . . .
  your fine weather and your rough weather,
  your sunny weather and your cloudy weather,
  your ebbing and your flowing,
  your liberty and your imprisonment
—all work for good.

Oh, Christians, see what a harvest of blessings ripens from this text!

The Lord is at work; all creation is at work; men and angels, friends and foes—all are busy working together for God's glory and your good.

Oh, dear Lord Jesus, what have you seen in us that you should order things so wondrously for us, and make all things to work together for our good?

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Here we have an emblem of the human heart!

(C. Scriver, 1671)

"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9

In a vessel filled with muddy water, the mud visibly subsided to the bottom, and left the water purer and purer, until at last it seemed perfectly clear. The slightest motion, however, stirred up the sediment and the water became as murky as before.

Here we have an emblem of the human heart
. The heart is full of the mud of sinful lusts and carnal desires, and the consequence is that no pure water—that is, good and holy thoughts—can flow from it. It is, in truth, a miry pit and swamp of sin in which all sorts of ugly reptiles are bred and crawl.

Many however never imagine that his heart is half so wicked as it really is, because sometimes its lusts are at rest, and sink, as it were, to the bottom.

But this lasts only so long as he is not stirred up; I mean, so long as he is without opportunity or incitement to sin. Let that occur, and worldly lusts rise so thick, that his whole thoughts, words, and works, show no trace of anything but slime and impurity.

One is meek as long as he is not thwarted. Cross him, and he is like gun-powder, ignited by the smallest spark, and blazing up with a loud and destructive effect.

Another is temperate so long as he is not with his wicked companions.

Another is chaste while the eyes of men are upon him.

Alas, my God! How often have I imagined that the world and all its lusts were a thousand miles away, and yet afterwards discovered that, like a crafty foe, they had kept quiet only to attack and beguile me unawares.

O my God, purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow! Create in me a pure heart, O God!

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They are so dear to Him, that He cannot take His eyes off them!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous.
 His ears are open unto their cry." Psalm 34:15

The Lord observes His redeemed people with approval and tender consideration. They are so dear to Him, that He cannot take His eyes off them! He watches each one of them as carefully and intently, as if there were only that one creature in the whole universe!

Thus the Lord's eyes and ears are both turned upon His saints. His whole mind is occupied with them. If they are slighted by all others—they are never neglected by Him. He hears their cry at once, even as a mother is sure to hear her sick babe. The cry may be broken, plaintive or feeble—yet the Father's quick ear catches each note of lament or appeal, and He is quick to answer His children's voice!

"The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
 and His ears are
attentive to their prayers." 1 Peter 3:12

You are absolutely beautiful, My beloved!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"You are absolutely beautiful, My beloved! There is no spot in you!" Song of Solomon 4:7

The Lord's admiration of His Church is very astonishing, and His description of her beauty is very glowing. She is not merely beautiful—but "absolutely beautiful." He views her in Himself, washed in His sin-atoning blood, and clothed in His meritorious righteousness—thus He considers her to be full of loveliness and beauty. No wonder that such is the case—since it is but His own perfect excellency that He admires; for the holiness, glory, and perfection of His Church—are His own glorious garments on the back of His own well-beloved spouse!

Nor is the Church barely lovely, she is superlatively so. Her Lord styles her the "most beautiful of women." Song of Solomon 1:8

She has a real worth and excellence which cannot be rivaled by all the nobility and royalty of the world. If Jesus could exchange His elect bride for all the angels in Heaven—He would not, for He puts her first and foremost, "most beautiful of women." She far outshines the stars!

Nor is this an opinion which He is ashamed of, for He invites all men to hear it. He sets a "behold" before it, a special note of exclamation, inviting and arresting attention. "Behold! How beautiful you are, My beloved, how beautiful!" (Song of Solomon 4:1). His opinion He publishes abroad even now, and one day from the throne of His glory He will avow the truth of it before the assembled universe. "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with Me!" will be His solemn affirmation of the loveliness of His elect!

"Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless!" Ephesians 5:25-27

"The king is enthralled by your beauty!" Psalm 45:11

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There is no spot in you!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"You are absolutely beautiful, My beloved! There is no spot in you!" Song of Solomon 4:7

Having pronounced His Church positively full of beauty—our Lord confirms His praise by a precious negative, "There is no spot in you!" As if the thought occurred to the Bridegroom that the carping world would insinuate that He had only mentioned her lovely parts, and had purposely omitted those features which were deformed or defiled—He sums up all by declaring her universally and entirely lovely, and utterly devoid of stain.

A spot may soon be removed, and is the very least thing that can disfigure beauty—but even from this little blemish, the believer is delivered in his Lord's sight. If He had said there is no hideous scar, no horrible deformity, no repulsive ulcer—we might even then have marveled. But when He testifies that she is free from the slightest spot—all these other forms of defilement are included, and the height of wonder is increased.

If He had but promised to remove all spots in Heaven, we would have had eternal reason for joy. But when He speaks of it as already done—who can restrain the most intense emotions of satisfaction and delight! O my soul, here is marrow and fatness for you; eat your full, and be satisfied with royal dainties!

Jesus has no quarrel with His spouse. She often wanders from Him and grieves Him—but He does not allow her faults to affect His love. He sometimes chides, but it is always in the tenderest manner, with the kindest intentions—it is "My love" even then. There is no remembrance of our follies. He does not cherish ill thoughts of us—but He pardons and loves as well after the offence, as before it! It is well for us that it is so, for if Jesus were as mindful of injuries as we are—how could He commune with us? Our precious Husband knows our silly hearts too well, to take any offence at our follies and faults.

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I have been informed of the loss of your dear wife

(John Berridge)

Dear brother,
I have been informed of the loss of your dear wife.
She has now put off mortality, and has become immortal.
Can this grieve you? Oh, that I was where she now is:
   "Safe landed on that peaceful shore,
    Where pilgrims meet to part no more!"

She was once a mourning sinner in this poor wilderness, but she is now a glorified saint in Zion.
The Lord has become her everlasting light, and the days of her mourning are ended.

Does this trouble you? She was once afflicted with bodily pains and weakness, encompassed with cares, and harassed with a crowd of anxious, needless fears. She has now arrived at her Father's house, and He has wiped away all tears from her eyes, and freed her in a moment from all pains, cares, fears, and needs. And shall this distress you?

You have not lost your wife, she has only left you for a short time.
She has left her earthly husband, to go home to her heavenly Father.
She expects your arrival there soon, to join the Hallelujahs for redeeming love.

Are you still weeping? Shame upon you, brother!
Are you weeping because your wife can weep no more?
Are you weeping because she is eternally happy?
Are you weeping because she is joined to that assembly where all are kings and priests?
Are you weeping because she is daily feasted with heavenly manna in her Father's kingdom?
Are you weeping because she is now where you desire to be eternally?
Are you weeping because she is singing sweet anthems to her God and your God?
O shameful weeping!

Jesus has fetched your bride triumphantly home to His kingdom, to draw your soul more ardently thither.
He has broken up your cistern—to bring you nearer, and keep you closer to the ever-flowing fountain!
Jesus has caused a moment's separation, to divorce your affections from the creature.
He has torn a wedding-string from your heart, to set it a-bleeding more freely and panting more vehemently for Himself. Hereafter you will see how gracious the Lord has been, in calling your beloved wife home, in order to betroth you more effectually to Himself.

Remember that sorrow is a safe companion for a pilgrim who walks much astray, until his heart is well broken.

May all your tears flow in a heavenly channel, and every sigh waft your soul nearer to Jesus!

May the God of all consolation comfort you through life, and in death afford you a triumphant entrance into His glorious kingdom!

So prays your friend and brother in the gospel of Christ,
John Berridge

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Isaiah 53:5

(J.C. Ryle)

"He was pierced for our transgressions,
 He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

Was Jesus scourged?
It was that "through His stripes we might be healed."

Was Jesus condemned, though innocent?
It was that we might be acquitted, though guilty.

Did Jesus wear a crown of thorns?
It was that we might wear the crown of glory.

Was Jesus stripped of His clothing?
It was that we might be clothed in His everlasting righteousness.

Was Jesus mocked and reviled?
It was that we might be honored and blessed.

Was Jesus reckoned a malefactor, and numbered among transgressors?
It was that we might be reckoned innocent, and justified from all sin.

Was Jesus declared unable to save Himself?
It was that He might be able to save others to the uttermost.

Did Jesus die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful of deaths?
It was that we might live for evermore, and be exalted to the highest glory!

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He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Burning indignation grips me, because of the wicked who have forsaken Your law." Psalm 119:53

My soul, do you feel this holy shuddering at the sins of others? If not, you lack inward holiness.
cheeks were wet with rivers of waters, because of prevailing unholiness.
desired eyes like fountains, that he might lament the iniquities of Israel.
, a righteous man, was distressed by all the immorality and wickedness around him.
Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel's vision, were those who sighed and cried for the abominations of Jerusalem.

It cannot but grieve gracious souls, to see what pains men take to go to Hell! Christians know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze!

Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates God's holy law, which it is to every man's highest interest to keep.

Sin pulls down the pillars of the society!

Sin in others horrifies a believer, for it puts him in mind of the vileness of his own heart.
When he sees a heinous sinner, he cries, "He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!"

Sin is horrible to a believer, because it crucified his Savior!
He sees in every iniquity—the nails and spear.
How can a believer behold that cursed kill-Christ sin without abhorrence?

Say, my heart—do you sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face.

The good God deserves better treatment,
the great God claims it, and
the just God will have it—or repay His adversary to his face!

An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is rebellion! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly!

My soul, never laugh at sin's fooleries—lest you come to smile at sin itself! Sin is your enemy, and your Lord's enemy—view it with detestation, for only so can you evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.

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The Rest!

(James Smith, "
The Rest!" 1865)

"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9

We shall consider these words as referring to HEAVENLY rest:
our Father's house,
  our Savior's home, and
  our eternal dwelling-place!

To the weary and way-worn, there is something delightful in the thought of REST.
They love to think of Heaven as the place where they shall "rest from their labors."

REST gives us the idea of . . .
—the calm, quiet repose of the soul;
—the refreshment of the exhausted spirit after conflict, sickness, or toil;
  restoration to vigor
—after debility, languor, and fainting.

Heaven will be a rest . . .
  from sin—which will no more grieve us;
  from sorrow—which will no more trouble and distress us;
  from fears—which will no more harass and perplex us; and
  from conflicts—which will no more agitate and suppress us.

It will be a rest . . .
  with God in His glory,
  with Jesus in His immediate presence,
  with saints and holy angels in full perfection and blessedness.

This rest is FUTURE—it remains for the people of God.

This rest is the object of our hopes and DESIRES.
We look forward to it, with holy longing and cheering anticipations.

This rest is PERFECT—free from all mixture of anything that will agitate, give pain, or cause grief.

This rest is UNINTERRUPTED—nothing will ever occur to disturb, distress, or agitate us any more.

This rest is GLORIOUS—
  as bright as the meridian sun,
  as balmy as the most pleasant morning,
  as glowing with holiness, splendor, and majesty.

Best of all, this rest is ETERNAL! The possibility of a change, of a return to former scenes—would spoil all. But this rest will be enduring—as changeless as the Divine nature, and as glorious as the Divine perfections.

Blessed be God for such a rest for the weary, suffering, and downcast believer in Jesus!
Oh, to keep the eye fixed upon it, and the heart expecting it—amidst all the troubles and trials of time!

This rest is FOR the redeemed people of God.
They are now a poor, tried, tempted, and restless people.
They are strangers and pilgrims upon the earth, as all their fathers were.

Satan tempts them,
the ungodly try them,
fears harass them,
Providence perplexes them.
They often cry out, "O that I had wings like a dove—then would I fly away and be at rest!"

Believer, let the prospect of this eternal glorious rest, cheer you in toil and trouble! Your work will soon be finished, your trouble will soon come to an end—and then rest—the glorious rest, remains for you!

Let your Heavenly rest quicken your pace homewards!
You are going to a rest—a perfect, uninterrupted, and eternal rest . . .
  a rest in Heaven,
  a rest with Jesus,
  a rest in the presence of your God forever!

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, and press on towards the mark, cheered by the prospect of the end of the race.

Remember, Christian, this rest is SECURE, for Jesus has taken possession of it for you.
"I am going," said He, "to prepare a place for you." Yes, Jesus has gone there for you, He has taken possession in your name, He is preparing your place, and will soon come and receive you to Himself!

Remember too, that it is NEAR—very near. Perhaps much nearer than you may think!

You may be sighing, sorrowing, striving, wrestling, doubting, fearing, and cast down today; and tomorrow you may be in your Heavenly rest!

Today, you may be lying like Lazarus, at the rich man's gate, full of sores.
Tomorrow, you may be basking in the beams of Immanuel's glory!

Today, you may be on the bed of sickness, suffering, and pain.
Tomorrow, you may be in the presence of Jesus, where there is no more pain, nor sorrow nor crying!

Who can tell how near we all are to our Heavenly and everlasting rest?

Remember also, that your very trials, toils, and sufferings here on earth, may SWEETEN your rest to you! Soon, very soon—you may be rejoicing over your present sorrows, and praising God for what now fills you with grief and sadness. Things will look very different there, from what they do here. Never, never forget . . .
  in your darkest nights,
  in your most trying days,
  in the midst of every storm and tempest,
  when passing over burning sands and under a scorching sky,
that there remains a rest for the people of God, and a rest for you!

"Arise and depart; for this is not your resting place, because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy!"

"There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary are at rest!"

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What a compassionate, gracious arrangement!

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

"My times are in Your hand!" Psalm 31:15

Why then, need I worry or tremble? That great, loving, powerful hand keeps all the events of my life sealed and secure within its almighty clasp! Only He, my Maker and my Master, can permit them to be revealed to me as His will for me. What a compassionate, gracious arrangement! How eminently fitted to fulfill that sweet promise of His Word, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You!" If we fully believed this, we would be absolutely devoid of the worry which corrodes and chafes the daily life of so many professing Christians.

"My times." Not one or two important epochs of my history only—but everything that concerns me:
  joys that I had not expected,
  sorrows that must have crushed me, if they could have been anticipated,
  sufferings which might have terrified me by their grimness, had I looked upon them,
  surprises which infinite love had prepared for me,
  services of which I could not have imagined myself capable—
all these lay in that mighty hand, as the purposes of God's eternal will for me.

But, as they have developed gradually and silently—how great has been the love which appeared enwrapping and enfolding each one!
Has not the grief been measured—while the gladness has far more abounded?
Have not the comforts and consolations—exceeded the crosses and afflictions?
Have not all things been so arranged, and ordered, and undertaken, and worked out on our behalf—that we can but marvel at the goodness and wisdom of God, in meting out from that dear hand of His, all the "times" that have passed over us?

You agree with me in all this, do you not, dear reader? Then I beg you to apply it to your present circumstances, however dark or difficult they may be. They have come directly from your Father's hand to you, and they are His dear will for you!

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A whore's forehead!

(Thomas Brooks, "The Privy Key of Heaven" 1665)

"You have a whore's forehead, you refuse to be ashamed!" Jeremiah 3:3

"Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all!
 They do not even know how to blush!" Jeremiah 6:15 

They had sinned away shame—instead of being ashamed of sin. Continuance in sin had quite banished all sense of sin and all shame for sin; so that they would not allow nature to draw her veil of blushing before their great abominations. How applicable these scriptures are to the present time, I will leave the prudent reader to judge.

But what does the prophet do, now that they were as bold in sin, and as shameless as so many harlots; now that they were grown up to that height of sin and wickedness; now that they were above all shame and blushing; now that they were grown so proud, so hardened, so obstinate, so rebellious, so bent on self-destruction—that no mercies could melt them or allure them, nor any threatenings or judgments could in any way terrify them or stop them? The prophet goes into a corner, he retires into the most secret places, and there he weeps bitterly; there he weeps as if he were resolved to drown himself in his own tears. "I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears." Jeremiah 13:17

In the times wherein we live, Hell seems to be broken loose, and men turned into incarnate devils! Soul-damning wickednesses walk up and down the streets with a whore's forehead, without the least check or restraint.

Ah, England, England! What pride, luxury, lasciviousness, licentiousness, wantonness, drunkenness, cruelties, injustice, oppressions, fornications, adulteries, falsehoods, hypocrisies, atheisms, horrid blasphemies, and hellish impieties—are now to be found rampant in the midst of you! Ah, England! England! How are the Scriptures rejected, God derided, and wickedness tolerated!

And what is the voice of all these crying abominations—but every Christian to his closet—every Christian to his closet—and there weep, with weeping Jeremiah, bitterly—for all these great abominations whereby God is dishonored openly. Oh weep in secret for their sins—who openly glory in their sins, which should be their greatest shame. Oh blush in secret for those who are past all blushing for their sins; for who knows, but that the whole land may fare the better for the sakes of a few, who are mourners in secret!

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Do we want to be rulers of the universe?

(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)

"He who will be his own carver, seldom carves out a good portion to himself. Willful spirits who attempt to control their own providence, entrench upon God's prerogative, and take the work out of His hands. Therefore, it is no wonder if He turns their wisdom into folly!"

It is God's business to regulate providence—and when we attempt it, we cause only confusion and trouble. Not only does the carver for himself get a poor portion—but he frequently cuts his fingers, and spoils his clothes, by spilling the contents of the dish.

Israel went into Canaan well enough—when the Lord led the way. But when the people presumed to go up on their own—they brought defeat upon themselves.

Just so, it is never well either to run before the cloud, or to stay behind it. In either case we may expect to fall under clouds of another sort, which will darken our way and becloud our peace.

Can we not trust the Lord with His own business?

Can we supplement His infallible wisdom—or improve upon His infinite goodness?

Have we not enough to do, if we earnestly endeavor to obey our Lord?
Are we tired of being His disciples and followers?
Do we want to be rulers of the universe?

Why do we strain after things too high for us, intruding into spheres which belong to God alone?

My soul, be still—God is at the helm, and He is well able to pilot the vessel. Keep your hand off the helm! Down with you, unbelief—what have you to do while God Himself provides for His people?

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Patient waiting

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Romans 8:25

Patience supposes trials, difficulties, and burdens—it is a grace of which we have much need on earth.

The objects of our hope are . . .
  all future,
  all good, and
  all promised.

There is not an evil, but we hope to be one day rid of!
There is not a blessing, but we hope one day to enjoy it!

This present world is a land of hope.
Heaven is a land of fruition.

The highest object of our hope is perfect holiness, exact conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ—to be brought to such a state, that we shall glorify our God in every desire, thought, feeling, and action.

We hope for the period when we shall say:
farewell sickness—welcome perpetual health;
farewell sorrow—welcome everlasting joy;
farewell sin—welcome perfect purity;
farewell ignorance—welcome perfect knowledge;
farewell desertion—welcome the eternal presence of my God;
farewell death—welcome everlasting life!

Do we hope for these things? Then let us patiently wait for them.

The blessings we expect are worth waiting for—they are laid up for us in Heaven!
Faith believes the message respecting them,
hope longs to be put in possession,
love incites to grateful acknowledgments and holy walking,
ardent desire wants immediate enjoyment—
but patience is willing to wait. Her language is, "All the days of my appointed time I will wait, until my change comes."

Seasons of trouble seem long; but what are the longest seasons compared with eternity—an eternity of perfect blessedness?

Patient waiting insures an enlarged experience of Jehovah's love and goodness. Your present journey will lead you to a place of repose, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." Your troubles will end well—everlastingly well!

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True consecration

(J.R. Miller, "The Shining Light" 1911)

"It is the Lord's will. Let Him do what He thinks best." 1 Samuel 3:18

The heart of consecration is not devotion to this or that kind of service for Christ—but devotion to the Divine will, whatever God may ordain. It may not be any form of activity—sometimes it is quiet waiting. Consecration is not bringing a great many souls to Christ, attending a great many religious meetings, or teaching or preaching.

Some weary one, shut away in the darkness in the chamber of pain, may be illustrating true consecration far more beautifully than those whose hands are fullest of Christian activities in the bustling world.

Consecration is devotion to the will of God. It is readiness to do, not what we want to do in His service—but what He gives us to do.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there.
 The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away! Blessed be the name of the LORD!" Job 1:21

"Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me.
 Nevertheless, I want Your will to be done, not Mine!" Luke 22:42

"Let the Lord's will be done!" Acts 21:14

Your way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be,
Lead me by Your own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

I dare not choose my lot,
I would not, if I might;
Choose for me, my God;
So shall I walk aright!
   Horatius Bonar

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Ten-pound Christians!

(J.R. Miller)

"So he called ten of his servants—and gave them ten pounds. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'" Luke 19:13

We are doing business in this world for Christ. Each one of us has something of His—a pound which He has entrusted to us—to trade with as His agent. Our life itself, with all its powers, its endowments, its opportunities, its privileges, its blessings, its possibilities—is 'our pound'.

Our life is not our own. We are not in this world merely to have a good time for a few years. Life is a trust. We are not done with it either, when we have lived it through to its last day. We must render an account of it to Him who gave it to us. Our business is to gather gains, through our trading with our Lord's money. We are required to make the most that is possible of our life!

"The first came forward and said—Master, your pound has earned ten more pounds!" Luke 19:16

We always find a few of these ten-pound Christians among the followers of Christ. They are those Christians who, from the very beginning, through divine grace—strive to reach the best things attainable in life. They are not content with being merely saved from sin's guilt, with being mere members of the church. They make their consecration to Christ complete, keeping nothing back. They set their ideal of obedience to their Lord—at the mark of perfectness, and are not slack in their striving, until they reach the mark in Heaven. They seek to follow Christ entirely, fully, with their whole heart. They accept every duty—without regard to its cost. They seek to be like Christ, imitating Him in all the elements of His character. They give their whole energy to the work and service of Christ. They lie, like John, on the Master's bosom, and their souls are struck through, as it were, with the Master's loving spirit.

These ten-pound Christians grow at last—into a Christ-likeness, a spiritual beauty, and a power of usefulness and influence, by which they are set apart among Christians, shining with brighter luster than other stars, in the galaxy of the church. Their one pound has made ten more pounds! Their high spiritual attainment has been won by their diligent and wise use of the one pound with which they began!

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A cross of their own choosing

(Thomas Watson, "The Art of Divine Contentment")

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have  a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need." Philippians 4:11-12

Paul knew how to manage in every state—he learned to be content whatever his circumstances.
If he was in prosperity, he knew how to be thankful.
If he was in adversity, he knew how to be patient.
He was neither lifted up with prosperity—nor cast down with adversity.

A Christian should be content in any and every situation. Many are contented in some conditions—but not in every condition. They can be content in a wealthy state. When they have the streams of milk and honey—now they are content. But if the wind turns and is against them—now they are discontented. While they have a silver crutch to lean upon—they are contented; but if God breaks this crutch—now they are discontented.

Many would be content with their affliction—if God would allow them to pick and choose. They could better endure sickness—than poverty; or bear loss of estate—than loss of children. If they might have a cross of their own choosing, they would be content.

But a contented Christian does not desire to choose his cross—but leaves God to choose for him. He is content both for the kind of the afflictions, and the duration of the afflictions, which God gives him. A contented man says, "Let God apply whatever medicine He pleases, and let it lie on as long as He desires. I know when it has done its cure, and eaten the venom of sin out of my heart—that God will take it away."

A contented Christian, being sweetly captivated under the authority of the Word, desires to be wholly at God's disposal, and cheerfully lives in whatever circumstances that God has placed him in. "I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties." (2 Corinthians 12:10) He does not only submit to God's dealings, but rejoices in them!

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(J. R. Miller, "Miller's Year Book—a Year's Daily Readings")

"Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa that called for the death of all Jews, and he asked Hathach to show it to Esther. He also asked Hathach to explain it to her and to urge her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people. So Hathach returned to Esther with Mordecai's message.
Then Esther told Hathach to go back and relay this message to Mordecai . . ." Esther 4:8-10

We are apt to overlook the minor actors in Scripture stories—in our absorbed interest in the prominent ones. Yet ofttimes these lesser people are just as important in their own place, and their service is just as essential to the final success of the whole—as the greater ones.

The little girl in the story of Naaman the leper, is scarcely seen among the splendors of the Syrian court; but without her part, we would never have had the story at all.

The young lad with the basket, is hardly thought of when we read the account of the miracle; but they were his loaves with which the Master fed all those hungry thousands that day on the green grass.

The smallest links in a chain—are ofttimes quite as important as the greatest links.

Hathach was one of these obscure characters. But his part was by no means unimportant. Without his being a trustworthy messenger, Mordecai's communication with Esther would have been impossible—and the whole Jewish nation would have perished!

If we cannot do brave things like Esther, nor give wise counsels like Mordecai—we may at least be useful, as Hathach was, in faithful service. And perhaps our lowly part may some day prove to have been as essential—as the great deeds which all men praise. We may at least help some others in doing the great things that they are set to do in this world.

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My way—Your way

(Susannah Spurgeon, "Free Grace and Dying Love!")

"Make Your way straight before my face." Psalm 5:8

Dear Father, this cry is going up to You this morning from many a tried and perplexed soul, who is fearing to "wander in the wilderness in a pathless wasteland." Will You graciously bend down Your ear, and listen to their prayer, and grant the desired direction and guidance?

"Make Your way straight." Dear Lord, it is not that Your ways are ever crooked or deviating, but that my eyes are bent on seeing pleasant little bypaths, where the road is not so rough, or the walking so toilsome—as on the King's highway! My way looks so enticing, so easy, so agreeable to the flesh. Your way means self-denial, taking up the cross, and the relinquishment of much that my carnal heart desires.

Now, dear Lord, hear my cry, "Make Your way straight before my face!" Compel me, by the power of Your love and Your example—to go in the narrow road! "Hedge up my way with thorns"—rather than that I should take a step out of the way which You have laid down for me.

What if, sometimes, there are mists and fogs so thick that I cannot see the path? 'Tis enough that You hold my hand, and guide me in the darkness; for walking with You in the gloom—is far sweeter and safer than walking alone in the sunlight!

Dear Lord, give me grace to trust You wholly, whatever may befall; yielding myself up to Your leading, and leaning hard on You when "dangers are in the path." Your way for me has been marked out from all eternity, and it leads directly to Yourself and home! Help me to keep my eyes fixed on the joy that is set before me, and deliver me from the very faintest desire to turn aside, and linger in the flowery meadows which have so often lured the feet of poor pilgrims into danger and distress!

Father, You have said, "My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts." True, dear Lord; but then You can uplift my thoughts to Yours, and exalt my ways until they reach the mountain-top of obedience to Your blessed will. Work this miracle for me this day, O Lord; use that sweet compulsion which will delight my heart, while it directs my steps! Make me to run in the way of Your commandments, and I shall run gladly, with the blessed certainty that I shall reach the goal at last! Have You not given me a monitor within, which strikes a gentle warning note when my feet turn but an instant from the straight way?

But, best of all, dearest Lord, may You Yourself come with me along life's road, today and every day! Let the abiding of my soul in You be so real and constant, so true and tender—that I may always be aware of Your sweet presence, and never take a single step, apart from Your supporting and delivering hand!

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But God also prepared a worm!

(John MacDuff, "The Prophet of Fire" 1877)

"And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah's head, shading him from the sun. This eased some of his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the gourd. But God also prepared a worm! When the morning rose the next day, it smote the gourd so that it soon died and withered away." Jonah 4:6-7

There is surely great comfort in the thought that the bounds of our life are divinely appointed.
  Our lots in life,
  our occupations,
  our positions,
  our dwellings,
  what the fatalist calls 'our destinies',
  what heathen mythology attributed to 'the Fates';
all this is marked out by Him who "sees the end from the beginning."

It is He who takes us to our sweet shelters of prosperity, with their sparkling brooks of joy.

It is He who, when He sees fit, sends the worm.

Oh, it is our comfort to know, in this mysterious, raveled, varied life of ours, that the Great Craftsman has the threads of our existence in His own hands; weaving the complex pattern, evolving good out of evil, and order out of confusion.

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This strange, double picture of Jesus!

(J.R. Miller, "Heavenly Worship" 1909)

Revelation 5:5-6
"Look! The LION of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed!
 Then I saw a LAMB, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!"

John was looking for a Lion—and he saw a Lamb. This strange, double picture of Jesus as He appears in Heaven, is very suggestive.

He was a lion in His conflicts and victories, and as such overcame all His enemies and ours also. But He was a lamb in the gentleness of His character and disposition. The lamb is an emblem of meekness and of unresisting obedience and submission.

As we think about Christ, we soon see how true both of these pictures are.

Like a lion, He has power and majesty, and is dreadful to His enemies! As a lion He met and overcame Satan, and triumphed over death and the grave. As a lion He is able to defend us from all our enemies, and the feeblest believer is safe under His protection. He is the omnipotent God—and has all power in Heaven and on earth.

At the same time, the other picture is just as true.

He is like a little lamb in His gentleness. The whole spirit of His life on earth shows this. Never was a mother so gentle to her children, as was Jesus to the weary, troubled and penitent ones who came to Him. He was lamb-like, too, in the way He endured wrongs and sufferings. Other animals fight in their own defense—but the lamb does not resist. When Christ was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten in return. "Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers—He did not open His mouth."

He is the same Jesus now in the midst of the throne—and it is this astonishing combination of strength and gentleness which makes Him such a wondrous Savior! In Him, we have the union of all the truest qualities of love that our hearts so hunger for: tenderness, affection, patience, sympathy. Then, when we have laid ourselves down to rest in all this blessed warmth of love, we look up and see that we are in the bosom of Omnipotence! Mere gentleness may be very weak—but while He is a lamb, He is also a lion!

"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne. He had seven horns and seven eyes." Revelation 5:6. Here we have three other thoughts about Christ:

1. Not only did He appear as a lamb—but as a lamb that had been slain. There were wound marks on Him, telling that once He had been dead. One suggestion of the emblem of the slain lamb, is sacrifice. Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away sin—by bearing it Himself! Thus even in glory, the fact of salvation by His sacrificial death, is set forth to the eyes of all. Thus we are always to be reminded of the cost of our redemption.

2. A second suggestion about Christ, is in the representation of the "seven horns." The horn in the Bible is the symbol of strength, and seven is the symbol of completeness. Jesus appears there as the omnipotent One, having all power.

3. The third symbol in the picture is the "seven eyes". An eye sees, and seven eyes represent the perfection of vision, seeing everywhere. The eyes of Christ are in all parts of the earth, and on all events. This thought of the omniscience of Christ is dreadful to the unrepentant sinner—but to the Christian at peace with God, it has great comfort! Christ is watching over us and is ready to fly to our help and rescue at any moment. His eye is fearsome only to the wicked; to those who are His friends and are saved by Him, it gives no terror to think of the unsleeping divine eye ever looking down upon them with love!

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The chastening of love!

(Octavius Winslow)

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

Oh, could we always analyze the embittered cup—how astonished would we be to find that in the bitterest draught that ever touched our lips, the principal ingredient was love!

Divine love saw the discipline to be needful.
Divine love selected the chastisement which was sent.
Divine love appointed the instrument by which it should come.
Divine love arranged the circumstances by which it should take place.
Divine love fixed the time when it should transpire.
Divine love determined the duration of the affliction.
Divine love heard the sigh.
Divine love saw the tear.
Divine love marked the anguish.
Divine love never for one moment withdrew its beaming eye from the sufferer.

Alas! How much this precious truth is overlooked by the disciplined and suffering believer!

Think, suffering child of God, of the many consoling, alleviating and soothing circumstances connected with your chastisement. Think of . . .
  the many divine supports,
  the precious promises,
  the tenderness of God,
  the gentleness of Christ,
and all this will demonstrate to you that this is the chastening of love!

Welcome your trials; they are sent by your heavenly Father.

Welcome the stroke of His rod; it is your loving Parent smiting.

Welcome whatever detaches you from earth, and wings your spirit heavenward.

Welcome the furnace that consumes the dross and the tin, and brings out the precious gold and silver—to reflect in your soul, even now, the dawnings of future glory.

Oh! be submissive, meek, and quiet under God's chastening and afflicting hand!

"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline." Revelation 3:19

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What! the whole of it meaningless?

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Behold, all is vanity!" Ecclesiastes 1:14

Nothing can fully satisfy a person, but the Lord's love and the Lord's own self. Saints have tried other pursuits, but they have been driven out of such foolish and fatal refuges.

Solomon, the wisest of men, was permitted to make experiments for us all, and to do for us what we must not dare to do for ourselves. Here is his testimony in his own words: "So I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind! Nothing was gained under the sun!" "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

What! the whole of it meaningless?
O favored monarch, is there nothing in all your wealth? Nothing in your wide dominion reaching even to the sea? Nothing in your glorious palaces? In all your music and dancing, and wine and luxury—is there nothing?
"Nothing!" he says, "but a chasing after the wind!"
This was his final verdict, when he had trodden the whole round of pleasure.

To embrace our Lord Jesus, to dwell in His love, and be fully assured of union with Him—this is all in all.

Dear reader, you need not try other forms of pleasure in order to see whether they are better than the Christian's. If you roam the world around, you will see no sights like a sight of the Savior's face! If you could have all the comforts of life, but lost your Savior—you would be most wretched. But if you possess Christ, though you should rot in a dungeon—you would find it a paradise! Though you should live in obscurity, or die with famine—yet you would be satisfied with the favor and goodness of the Lord!

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ!" Philippians 3:7-8

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What trash does it appear!

(Mary Winslow)

"The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever!" 1 John 2:17

What a brittle thing is all the glory, wealth, and honor of this vain world! How empty, and what trash does it appear! And yet men sell their souls to grasp it, and at last pass away from it and find it all a phantom. How unceasing is Satan in forever bringing it before our eyes, in some form or other! What is all the pomp and wealth and rank of this poor fleeting world, in contrast with the glory that shall soon be revealed in all those who love His appearing?

"The spirit of the world is eating out the very heart and life of true godliness!" George Everard

"Refined worldliness is the present snare of the Church of God!" Horatius Bonar

"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

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God's Purpose and Counsel

Acts 2:23. Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

Acts 4:28. to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

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

Romans 9:11. for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls,

Ephesians 1:11. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

Ephesians 3:11. according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

2 Timothy 1:9. who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

God's Purpose and Counsel

(Don Fortner)

We believe, according to the scriptures, that the Lord our God is a God of purpose, absolute and unalterable purpose. Before the world began, Almighty God sovereignly purposed all that ever comes to pass in time. Nothing in this world is left to chance. Everything is moving toward the predetermined end of God's eternal purpose with absolute, precise accuracy.

Even a casual reader of Holy Scripture has to face this fact: The God of the Bible is a God of purpose. The above passages plainly state that the Triune Jehovah is a God of purpose, and clearly teach several things about the purpose of God:

1. The purpose of God is eternal.

2. The purpose of God includes all things.

3. The purpose of God has for its peculiar design the everlasting benefit of God's elect. Everything that God has purposed is for the ultimate, spiritual, and eternal benefit of his covenant people.

4. The purpose of God is immutable and sure. The Lord himself says, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10). And in its ultimate end, God's purpose will accomplish the eternal salvation of his chosen people and the glory of his own great name.

Psalm 33:11. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.

Proverbs 19:21. There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the LORD'S counsel—that will stand.

Isaiah 14:24. The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, "Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand.