Grace Gems for January, 2021

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Are we to fritter away our brief hour on life's stage?

(John MacDuff, "Influence!" Preached Before a Young Men's Christian Association)

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"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed." Acts 13:36

In deducing from these words moral and spiritual lessons, I would observe generally, that each individual in this life has some great purpose to fulfill. "David served God's purpose in his own generation." He has left his indelible footprints on the sands of time!

Everything in the wide universe has its special mission.

The flower fulfills its design by unfolding its colors or scattering its sweet fragrances wherever it blooms. As we see it dropping its decayed and withered leaves one by one, we feel its little destiny in its own little world has been attained.

The lark as it mounts in the air, and chants its carol (singing up to Heaven's gate) fulfills its mission by these tuneful melodies.

If we take a loftier survey, and ascend amid the glories of the firmament, we see the sun fulfilling his great appointment to give light to the system; coming forth "like a bridegroom from his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong man to run his race." Or the moon, that faithful sentinel, lavishing her nightly care on the earth—a majestic beacon-light to land and ocean.

Turn to whatever page we may in the vast volume of creation, we shall find in each, the record of some peculiar office and vocation. Mountains and seas, fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy wind—all fulfill the word and decree and design of God.

And is it different with man?

Has he alone no momentous work to perform in the economy in which he is placed?

Is our whole earthly destiny to eat and drink, and sleep and die?

Are we to fritter away our brief hour on life's stage; to be ushered in with a few rejoicings at our birth, followed by a few tears at our departure? And when our sun has gone down, when the grass of the grave covers our resting places—shall we be as if we never were?

How many there are who, to all appearance, think so! They have never yet awakened to a sense of their high destiny, as having a part to play, and a sphere to occupy. Their inward feeling seems to be that in this great world, with its teeming millions, that . . .
  it signifies nothing how they live;
  they soon shall be as though they never existed;
  when they sink into the tomb—it will be like the vessel going down in mid-ocean. There will be a few plungings and heavings as it momentarily wrestles with the storm; but the tempest sweeps, the sea opens its yawning mouth, the waves close over it—and then resume their usual play! Not a trace or vestige remains; the place that once knew it, knows it no more!

My brethren, that solemn, that momentous reality they call life, is no plaything! It was given as the mightiest of possessions, and loaded with immeasurable responsibilities. The weighty saying, which many a tongue was taught earliest to lisp was this, "Man's chief end is to glorify God!"

Oh, truly it is a solemn thought that each one of you is exercising some influence—either for good or for evil. If you are not serving your day and generation for the better—then you must be serving it for the worse. There can be no such thing as mere neutral influence. You must either, like the aromatic plant, be diffusing a grateful fragrance—or, like the fabled lethal Upas tree, be casting a deadly shadow all around. And if so, it well befits us individually to address to ourselves the personal question: "Am I fulfilling the great end and design of my being?"

Yonder fig-tree on the way to Bethany is a parable designed to warn and instruct in every age. See it—stinted, shriveled, withered. It had borne no fruit. It had not fulfilled the design of its creation; and a tender, gracious Savior pronounces upon it the cumberer's sentence and the cumberer's awful doom!

Happy are those who have been led to regard life as a golden talent—who have realized its momentous requirements and stern responsibilities!

Even the lowliest and humblest can help directly or indirectly to untie the bandages from a sin-stricken, woe-worn world, and send it forth from its fevered couch, walking and leaping, and praising God. If from peculiarity of disposition or situation, some may feel as if they were unequal to the outward activities of Christian work and service—theirs may be the silent but equally potent example of a holy, meek, loving, peaceful life.

We are all able to influence others, by the quiet unostentatious influence of a pure, consistent, godly life.

Be it yours not only to serve your God, but so to live that the world may be the better because of you; and that when you die and your hand lies withering in the grave—the seed dropped by that hand, years on years before, may spring up bearing fruit to the glory of God!

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The awful tragedy of Calvary!

("Heavenly Aspirations!" John MacDuff, 1818-1895)

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"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a slave, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:6-8

Our Lord's earthly condition was one of extreme poverty. "The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had nowhere to lay his head." Not merely did He assume our nature in its lowest form, but He endured opposition, indignities, and sufferings of every kind!
His cheeks were smitten,
His face was spat upon,
His temples were pierced with prickly thorns,
His back was ploughed with scourges,
His hands and feet were fixed with iron spikes to the accursed tree,
His burning thirst was tantalized with vinegar and gall,
His last prayers were turned to ridicule, and
His dying groans were converted into impious mockeries.

Men reviled Him,
Satan buffeted Him; and,
in His last extremity, even God forsook Him!

But He bore it all without a single murmur!

The awful tragedy of Calvary, in all its circumstances of woe, stands in dread prominence above all that the annals of time have ever recorded. Many strange events had taken place before now, but never was there such an event as this! "The sun stopped shining!" Luke 23:45. In the past, the sun shone upon heart-rending spectacles in abundance—but he veiled his face in mourning when the Prince of life expired!
On the disastrous flood,
on the burning cities of the plain,
on the sea-sunk legions of Egypt,
on the armies of Sennacherib prostrate beneath the angel's blast
—he looked down, as it were, with bright indifference. But when the atoning Substitute was suspended on the cross, to gaze at such a spectacle unappalled, was impossible!

It shall be well with him!

(John MacDuff, "The Christian's Pathway" 1858")

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"Say to the righteous, that it shall be well with him!" Isaiah 3:10

The human family is divided into a great variety of social and artificial distinctions. But, in the sight of God—there are but two classes, into which the multifarious elements of universal humanity can be resolved. There are only the righteous—and the wicked. Concerning one of these classes—God proclaims that it shall be well with them; while to the other—He pronounces a solemn woe.

What makes the condition of a wicked man to be so fearful, is the solemn fact that God is against him! And what makes that of the righteous to be so blessed—is that God is for him!

All the divine attributes are arrayed against the impenitent sinner—but when he becomes a saint, they all join to take his part. Such being the case, having the eternal Jehovah in all his boundless perfections on his side, it cannot be otherwise than well with him.

It shall be well with the righteous, not merely in life—but in death.
It is appointed by the irrevocable decree of God—that all men must die.
There is no discharge in that war—no release from that mortal struggle!
Wealth has no bribe which death will receive.
Wisdom has no art by which death can be avoided.
Power has no defense against death.
Beauty has no charm to death's eye.
The voice of eloquence is lost to death's ear.
Even religion has no security from death's stroke!
Here the mightiest conqueror is vanquished—and the proudest of monarchs finds himself a slave! From its ruthless grasp—no age, no condition can escape!

Those who are in the bloom and freshness of youth cannot escape—for "man, at his best estate, is altogether vanity!"

The great and prosperous cannot escape—for "the rich man also died and was buried."

The wicked cannot escape—he is driven, yes, dragged away in his wickedness; the most fearful of all deaths is his—that of dying in his sins!

Neither can the righteous escape—he must go the way of all the earth, and become a tenant of the silent grave! But at that solemn season, it shall be well with him!
When the last sands of the numbered hour are running out;
when his earthly friends will be compelled to leave him;
when the cold dews of death will be standing in large drops upon his pallid brow;
when every nerve and vein may be racked and wrenched in fearful agonies by the irresistible power of the grim tyrant—even then it shall be well with him! The dying strife will soon be over, and through death's gloomy portals he will enter upon that blessed state where all is peace and bliss forever!

"And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life!" Matthew 25:46

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That ruthless invader of all happiness!

(John MacDuff, "Grapes of Eschol")

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"Do not let your hearts be troubled. In My Father's house are many mansions! I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with Me—that you also may be where I am!" John 14:1-3

The verse speaks of PERMANENCY—they are "mansions." The word in the original is not a tent or temporary shelter—but a durable residence, never to be altered or demolished. "The tents of the East," says Professor Hackett, "seldom remain long in the same place. The traveler erects his temporary abode for the night, takes it down in the morning, and journeys onward. The shepherds of the country are also always moving from one place to another. The brook dries up on which they relied for water, or the grass required for the support of their flocks is consumed—and they wander on to a new station."

How strikingly illustrative is this of the Bible figure, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in Heaven, not built by human hands!" 2 Corinthians 5. This mortal body, like the nomadic tent, is up-reared for a time—but, after serving its temporary purpose—it is, pin by pin, demolished, and the place that once knew it, knows it no more.

Not so the ever-enduring mansions of our Father's house! "A priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is reserved in Heaven for you—pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4.  No failing of brooks there! No joys there will be withered and smitten like the grass of the wilderness. "The Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them to living fountains of waters!"

Ah! it is the saddest, the most humiliating feature of the joys of earth, that, however pure, noble, elevating they may be at the moment—there is no calculating on their permanency. The mind will, in spite of itself, be haunted with the dark possibility of that ruthless invader of all happiness coming and dashing the full cup in a thousand fragments on the ground!

But in Heaven, no shadow of vicissitude or change can ever enter to dim an ever-brightening future! Once within that heavenly fold—we are in the fold forever! On the lintels of the eternal mansion are inscribed the words, "You shall never leave it!" Our happiness and joy will be as immutable and stable—as God's everlasting love and power and faithfulness can make them!

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A loving purpose

(John MacDuff, "The Rainbow in the Clouds")

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"Let the Lord be exalted, who delights in the prosperity of His servant." Psalm 35:27

What is "prosperity?" Is it threads of life weaved into a bright outcome? a full cup? ample riches? worldly applause? an unbroken circle?
No! these are often a snare, received without gratitude, dimming the soul to its nobler destinies.

Often spiritually, it rather means God taking us by the hand into the lowly Valleys of Humiliation, leading us as He did His servant Job of old out of his sheep, oxen, camels, health, wealth, children—in order that we may be brought before Him in the dust and say, "Blessed be His holy name!"

Yes! The very reverse of what is generally known in the world as Prosperity—forms the background on which the Rainbow of Promise is seen. God smiles on us through these rainbows and teardrops of sorrows! He loves us too well. He has too great an interest in our spiritual welfare to permit us to live on in what is misnamed "Prosperity." When He sees duties languidly performed, or coldly neglected, the heart deadened, and love to Himself congealed by the absorbing power of the present world—He puts a thorn in our nest to drive us to the wing and prevent our being grovelers forever!

I may not be able now to understand the mystery of these dealings. I may be asking through the tears,
"Why this unkind arrest on my earthly happiness?
 Why so premature a lopping of my boughs of promise?
 Why such a speedy withering of my most cherished gourd?"

The answer is plain. It is your soul's prosperity which He has in view! Believe it, your true Ebenezers will yet be raised close by your Zarephaths (the place of furnace).

His afflictions are no arbitrary appointments. There is righteous necessity in all that He does. As He lays His chastening hand upon you, and leads you by ways you know not, and which you never would have chosen—He whispers the gentle accents in your ear, "Beloved I wish above all things that you would prosper—even as your soul prospers!"

Rest in the quiet consciousness that all is well. Murmur at nothing which brings you nearer to His own loving Presence. Be thankful for your very cares, because you can confidently cast them all upon Him. He has both your temporal and eternal "prosperity" too much at heart—to appoint one superfluous pang, one needless stroke. Commit therefore, all that concerns you to His safe keeping, and leave it there!

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Divine Sympathy

(John MacDuff, "The Rainbow in the Clouds")

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"I know their sorrows!" Exodus 3:7

Man cannot say so. There are many sensitive fibers in the soul, which the best and most tender human sympathy cannot touch. But the Prince of Sufferers, He who led the way in the path of sorrow, "knows our frame." When crushing bereavement lies like ice on the heart, when the dearest earthly friend cannot enter into the peculiarities of our grief—Jesus can, Jesus does! He who once bore my sins—also carried my sorrows. That eye, now on the throne, was once dim with weeping! I can think in all my afflictions—"He was afflicted;" in all my tears—"Jesus wept."

"I know their sorrows!"
He may seem at times thus to forget and forsake us; leaving us to utter the plaintive cry, "Has God forgotten to be gracious?" when all the while He is bending over us in the most tender love! He often allows our needs to attain their extremity, that He may stretch forth His succoring hand, and reveal the plenitude of His grace! "The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy."

And "knowing" our sorrows, is a guarantee that none will be sent—but only what He sees to be needful. "I will not," says He, "make a full end of you—but I will correct you in measure." All that He sends is precisely meted out—wisely apportioned. There is nothing accidental—no unneeded thorn; no superfluous pang. He "puts our tears in a bottle." Each one is counted, drop by drop, tear by tear—they are sacred things among the treasures of God!

Suffering believer, the iron may have entered deeply into your soul—yet rejoice! Jesus—a sorrowing, sympathizing Jesus—"knows" your aching pangs and burning tears, and He will "come down to deliver you!" Exodus 3:8

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are!" Hebrews 4:15

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The Tender Solicitude

(John MacDuff, "The Words of Jesus")

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"The very hairs of your head are all numbered!" Matthew 10:30

What a promise is this! All that befalls you, to the very numbering of your hairs—is known to God!

Nothing can happen by accident or chance.
Nothing can elude His inspection.

The fall of the forest leaf,
the fluttering of the insect,
the waving of the angel's wing,
the annihilation of a world—
all are equally noted by Him!

Man speaks of great things and small things—but God knows no such distinction.

How especially comforting to think of this tender solicitude with reference to His own covenant people—that He metes out all  their joys, and all their sorrows! Every sweet and every bitter—is ordained by Him. Even "wearisome nights" are "appointed." Not a pang I feel, not a tear I shed—but is known to Him. What are called "dark dealings," are the ordinations of undeviating faithfulness. Man may err—his ways are often crooked; "but as for God—His way is perfect!" He puts my tears into His bottle. Every moment His everlasting arms are underneath and around me. He keeps me "as the apple of His eye." He "bears" me as a man bears his own son!

Do I look to the FUTURE? Is there much of uncertainty and mystery hanging over it? It may be, much foreboding of evil. Trust Him! All is marked out for me. Dangers will be averted; bewildering mazes will show themselves to be interlaced and interweaved with mercy. "He keeps the feet of His saints." Not a hair of their head will be touched.

He leads sometimes darkly, sometimes sorrowfully; most frequently by cross and circuitous ways, which we ourselves would not have chosen; but always wisely, always tenderly. With all its mazy windings and turnings, its roughness and ruggedness—the believer's is not only a right way, but the right way—the best which covenant love and wisdom could select.

"Nothing," says Jeremy Taylor, "does so establish the mind amid the rollings and turbulence of present things—as both a look above them and a look beyond them; above them—to the steady and loving hand by which they are ruled; and beyond them—to the sweet and beautiful end to which, by that hand, they will be brought."

"The Great Counselor," says Thomas Brooks, "puts clouds and darkness round about Him, bidding us follow at His beck through the cloud, promising an eternal and uninterrupted sunshine on the other side." On that "other side" we shall see how every apparent rough blast has been hastening our boats nearer the desired haven.

Well may I commit the keeping of my soul to Jesus in well-doing—as unto a faithful Creator. He gave Himself for me. This transcendent pledge of love—is the guarantee for the bestowment of every other needed blessing. Oh, blessed thought! my sorrows are numbered—by the Man of Sorrows. My tears are counted—by Him who shed first His tears, and then His blood for me! He will impose no needless burden, and exact no unnecessary sacrifice. There was no unnecessary drop in the cup of His own sufferings; neither will there be in that of His people. "Though He slays me—yet will I trust in Him!"

"Therefore comfort one another with these words."

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The voice of Jesus in the storm!

(John MacDuff, "The Words of Jesus")

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"Take courage! It is I—do not be afraid!" Mark 6:50

Jesus lives! His people may dispel their misgivings—for Omnipotence treads the waves! To sense it may seem at times to be otherwise—accident and chance may appear to regulate human allotments; but not so! "The Lord's voice is upon the waters!" He sits at the helm, guiding the tempest-tossed bark—and guiding it well.

How often does He come to us as He did to the disciples in that midnight hour, when all seems lost, "in the fourth watch of the night"—when we least looked for Him; or when, like the shipwrecked apostle, "When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved!" How often just at that moment, is the word of Jesus heard floating over the billows, "Take courage! It is I—do not be afraid!"

Believer, are you in trouble? Listen to the voice in the storm, "It is I—do not be afraid!" He seems to say: "It was I who roused the storm! It is I who when it has done its work, will calm it, and say, 'Peace, be still.' Every wave rolls at My bidding—every trial is My appointment—all have some gracious end; they are not sent to dash you against the sunken rocks—but to waft you nearer to Heaven!"

Is it sickness? "I am He who ordained your sicknesses! The weary wasted frame, and the nights of languishing—were sent by Me!"

Is it bereavement? "I am the Brother born for adversity! Your loved and lost were plucked away by Me!"

Is it death? "I am the 'Abolisher of death,' seated by your side to calm the waves of ebbing life! It is I—about to fetch My pilgrim home. It is My voice that speaks: The Master has come—and calls for you!"

Reader, you will have reason yet to praise your God for every such storm! This is the history of every heavenly voyager, "SO He brings them to their desired haven."

And what, then, should your attitude be? "Looking unto Jesus!" Looking away from self, and sin, and human props, and earthly refuges and confidences—and fixing the eye of unwavering and unflinching faith on a reigning Savior! Ah, how a real quickening sight of Christ—dispels all guilty fears! "Take courage! It is I—do not be afraid!"

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The Beatific Vision!

John MacDuff,  

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"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8

Here is Heaven! This promise of Jesus represents the future state of the glorified to consist not in locality, but in character; the essence of its bliss is the full vision and fruition of God. Our attention is called away from all vague and indefinite theories about the circumstantials of future happiness. The one grand object of contemplation—the "glory which excels," is the sight of God Himself! The one grand practical lesson enforced on His people is the cultivation of that purity of heart without which none could see, or (even could we suppose it possible to be admitted to see Him) none could enjoy God!

What will Heaven be, but the entire surrender of the soul to Him, without any bias to evil, without the fear of corruption within echoing to temptation without; every thought brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; no contrariety to His mind; all in blessed unison with His will; and the whole being impregnated with holiness:
  the intellect purified and ennobled, consecrating all its powers to His service;
  the memory, a holy repository of pure and hallowed recollections;
  the affections, without one competing rival, purged from all the dross of earthliness;
  the love of God, the one supreme animating passion;
  the glory of God, the motive principle interfused through every thought, and feeling, and action of the life immortal. In one word, the heart a clear fountain—no sediment to dim its purity. Yes, this is Heaven—purity of heart and "God all in all!"

Much, doubtless, there may and will be of a subordinate kind, to intensify the bliss of the redeemed: communion with saints and angels; re-admission into the society of death-divided friends. But all these will fade before the great central glory, "God Himself shall be with them, and be their God; they shall see His face!"

Believers have been aptly called 'sunflowers'—turning their faces as the sunflower towards the Sun of Righteousness, and hanging their leaves in sadness and sorrow when that Sun is away. It will be in Heaven that the emblem is complete. There, every flower in the heavenly garden will be turned Godwards, bathing its tints of loveliness in the all-excelling glory of God! Reader, may it be yours to know all the marvels contained in these few glowing words, "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!"

"I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." Psalm 17:15

"And every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself even as He is pure." 1 John 3:3

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Restraining Grace

(John MacDuff, "The Faithful Promiser")

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"Satan has desired to have you—that he may sift you as wheat.
 But I have prayed for you—that your faith may not fail." Luke 22:31, 32

What a scene does this unfold!
Satan tempting—Jesus praying!
Satan sifting—Jesus pleading!
"The strong man assailing"—"the stronger than the strong" beating him back!

Believer! here is the past history and present secret of your safety in the midst of temptation! An interceding Savior was at your side, saying to every threatening wave, "Thus far shall you go—and no farther!" God often permits His people to be on the very verge of the precipice, to remind them of their own weakness; but never farther than the brink! The restraining hand and grace of Omnipotence is ready to rescue them, "Although he stumbles—yet he shall not be utterly cast down." And why? "For the Lord upholds him with His right hand!"

The wolf may be prowling for his prey; but what can he do, when the almighty Shepherd is always there, tending with the watchful eye that "neither slumbers nor sleeps!"

Who cannot subscribe to the testimony, "When my foot slipped, Your mercy, O Lord, held me up!" Who can look back on his past pilgrimage, and fail to see it crowded with Ebenezers, with this inscription: "You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling!" My soul, where would you have been this day—had you not been "kept" by the power of God?

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

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All-sufficient grace

(John MacDuff, "The Faithful Promiser")

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"God is able to make all grace abound toward you;
 that you, always having all sufficiency in all things,
may abound to every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8

All-sufficiency in all things!
Believer! Surely you are "thoroughly equipped for every good work!"

Grace is no scanty thing, doled out in pittances.
It is a glorious treasury, which the key of prayer can always unlock—but can never empty!
It is a fountain—full, flowing, ever flowing, over flowing!

Mark these three ALL'S in this precious promise. It is a three-fold link in a golden chain, let down from the throne of grace, by the God of grace. "All grace!" "all-sufficiency!" in "all things!" and these to "abound."

Oh! precious thought! My need cannot impoverish that inexhaustible treasury of grace! Myriads are hourly hanging on it, drawing from it—and yet there is no diminution. Out of that fullness we, too, may all receive, "grace upon grace!"

My soul, do you not love to dwell on that all-abounding grace! Your own insufficiency in everything, met with a divine "all-sufficiency in all things!"
Grace in all circumstances and situations.
Grace in all vicissitudes and changes.
Grace in all the varied phases of the Christian's being.
Grace in sunshine—and in storm.
Grace in health—and in sickness.
Grace in life—and in death.
Grace for the old believer—and the young believer.
Grace for the tried believer, and the weak believer, and the tempted believer.
Grace for duty—and grace in duty.
Grace to carry the joyous cup with a steady hand—and grace to drink the bitter cup with an unmurmuring spirit!
Grace to have prosperity sanctified—and grace to say through tears, "May Your will be done!"

"God is able to make all grace abound toward you;
 that you, always having all sufficiency in all things,
 may abound to every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8

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Fate, accident, chance—or SOVEREIGNTY?

(John MacDuff, "The Thoughts of God")

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"I form the light—and create darkness;
 I make peace—and create evil!
 I the LORD do all these things!" Isaiah 45:7

What a sad world this would be, were it governed by Fate! Were its blended lights and shadows, its joys and sorrows—the result of capricious accident, or blind and wayward chance! How blessed to think that each separate occurrence which befalls me—is the fulfillment of God's own immutable purpose!

Is it the material world? It is He . . .
  who "forms the light—and creates darkness;"
  who appoints the sun and moon for their seasons;
  who gives to the sea its decree;
  who watches the sparrow in its fall;
  who tends the lily in the field; and
  who paints the tiniest flower that blossoms in the meadow.

Is it the moral world? All events are predetermined and prearranged by Him! "I make peace—and create evil!" Both prosperity and adversity are His appointment. The Lord who of old prepared Jonah's shade-plant, also prepared the worm! He gives—and He takes away. He molds every tear! He "puts them into His bottle." He knows them all, counts them all, treasures them all. Not one of them falls unbidden—unnoted.

"The lot is cast into the lap—but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." Over every occurrence in nature and in providence, He writes, "I the Lord do all these things!" True, His thoughts are often mysterious, and His ways are past finding out. We are led at times, amid the bewildering mazes of His providential dealings, to exclaim, "O Lord, how great are Your works, and Your thoughts are very deep!" Be it ours to defer our verdict—until their full development.

We cannot envision the thoughts and intents of the architect or engineer in the first clearing of the ground for the foundation of some gigantic structure. The uninitiated eye can discover nothing but piles of unshapely rubbish—a chaos of confusion. But gradually, as week by week passes—we see his thoughts molding themselves into visible and substantial shapes of order and beauty. And when the edifice at last stands before us complete, we discern that all which was mystery and confusion at first—was a necessary part and portion of the undertaking.

So is it, at present, regarding the mysterious dealings of God. Often, in vain, do we try to comprehend the purposes of the Almighty Architect, amid the dust and debris of the earthly foundations. Let us wait patiently, until we gaze on the finished structure of eternity.

Oh, blessed assurance—that the loom of our life is in the hands of the Great Designer—that it is He who is interweaving the threads of our existence: the light—and the dark, the acknowledged good—and the apparent evil. The chain of what is erroneously called "destiny," is in His keeping. He knows its every connecting link—He has forged each one on His own anvil!

Man's purposes have failed, and are ever liable to fail—his brightest anticipations may be thwarted; his best-laid schemes may be frustrated.

Life is often a retrospect of crushed hopes—the bright rainbow-hues of morning, passing in its afternoon into damp mist and drizzling rain. "Many are the thoughts in a man's heart," (knowing no fulfillment nor fruition) "but the counsel of the Lord—that shall stand."

"From eternity to eternity I am God.
 No one can oppose what I do.
 No one can reverse My actions!"

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

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Though you are a worm

(John MacDuff, "The Thoughts of God")

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"Do not be afraid, worm Jacob; I will help you! says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." Isaiah 41:14

"Worm Jacob!" What weakness, insignificance, unworthiness! Yet it is this helpless, groveling "worm," which occupies the thoughts of God—receives His sympathy, and has the assurance of His almighty aid!

Believer, beaten down it may be, with a great fight of affliction, or trembling under a sense of your unworthiness and guilt—mourning . . .
  the coldness of your faith,
  the lukewarmness of your love,
  the frequency of your backslidings,
  the fitfulness of your best purposes,
  the feebleness of your best services—
your God draws near to you—He remembers that though you are a worm—still you are "worm Jacob"—His own beloved, covenant one; and He tells you that the thoughts which He thinks towards you, are "thoughts of peace, and not of evil."

Mark His message of comfort, "Do not be afraid!"

Mark His promise, "I will help you!" The guarantee which He gives for the fulfillment of that promise, is His own great name; "says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."

"I Myself will help you!" Yes, poor, weak, trembling one, "Jehovah", "your Redeemer", "the Holy One of Israel"—in other words, Omnipotence, Love, and Righteousness, are all embarked on your side, and pledged for your salvation!

He loves to draw near to His people in the extremity of their weakness. "He will not break the bruised reed; He will not quench the smoking flax." Man would do so. Man would often crush the writhing worm under his feet—bid the trembling penitent away; but He whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, says, "Neither do I condemn you!"

Be it mine to go in the strength of the Lord God. "I will help you!" is enough for all the emergencies of the present; and all the contingencies of an untried, and, it may be, a dark future. "But happy are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God."

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The thorn is still left to pierce and lacerate!

(John MacDuff, "The Thoughts of God")

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"My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

The apostle's thoughts were desponding ones—when his God whispered in his ear this precious thought of comfort. A thorn in the flesh—a messenger from Satan had been sent to buffet him! We know not what this thorn may have been. God purposely leaves it unidentified, that each may make an individual application to his own particular case and circumstances.

But who, in their diversified and chequered experience, has not to tell of some similar trial? Some dead fly in life's otherwise fragrant ointment—some sorrow which casts a softened shadow over perhaps an otherwise sunny path:
  infirm health;
  worldly loss;
  domestic problems;
  family bereavement;
  the discharge of arduous and painful duty;
  the treachery of tried and trusted friends;
  the sting of wounded pride or disappointed ambition;
  the fierce struggle with inward corruption and unmortified sin;
  the scorpion-dart of a violated and accusing conscience!

As the apostle earnestly entreated that his thorn might be taken away—so may you, reader, also have prayed fervently and long—that your trial might be averted, your sorrow mitigated, if not removed! You doubtless imagine that it would be far better—were this messenger of Satan, this spirit of evil, exorcized and cast out! But here again, God's thoughts are often not our thoughts!

What was the answer to the apostle's earnest petition, when he pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away? It was not granting the removal of the trial—but it was better! It was the promise of grace to bear it. "And He said unto me: My grace is sufficient for you!"

It was enough; he asked no more. He may have demurred at first to the strange answer—so unlike what he expected, so unlike what he wished. But he was led before long, not only joyfully to acquiesce—but heartily to own and acknowledge the higher and better wisdom of the Divine procedure, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me!"

This, too, may be God's dealings with you. Often and again, it may be—you have taken your hidden sorrow—the burdening secret of your heart—laid it on the mercy-seat, and with importunate tears implored that it might be taken away! Yet the sorrow still remains! But, nevertheless, remember: the prayer is not unanswered. It has been answered—not perhaps according to your thoughts or desires—but according to the better thoughts and purposes of your heavenly Father!

The thorn is still left to pierce and lacerate—but strength has been given to bear it! The trial, be what it may, has taught you, as it did Paul—the lesson of your own weakness, and your dependence on Divine aid. It has been a needful drag on your chariot wheels—a needful clipping of your wings—lest, like the great apostle, "you should be exalted above measure." Who can complain of the heaviest of sorrows—if they have thus been the means alike of revealing to us our own weakness, and of endearing to us the all-sufficient grace of a Savior God?

Blessed, comforting assurance: that God will deal out the requisite grace—in all time of our need. Seated by us like a kind physician, with His hand on our pulse—He will watch our weakness, and accommodate the divine supply—to our several needs and circumstances. He will not allow the thorn to pierce too far! "As your day—so shall your strength be." "Grace sufficient" will be given—sufficient for every emergency. His everlasting arms are ever lower than our troubles!

"Do not be afraid—for I am with you.
 Do not be dismayed—for I am your God!
 I will strengthen you. I will help you.
 I will uphold you with My victorious right hand!"

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Almighty Guidance

(John MacDuff, "The Thoughts of God")

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"I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go;
 I will guide you with My eye." Psalm 32:8
No more precious assurance can I have, than this: that I am under the constant, loving guidance of my heavenly Father—that He appoints the bounds of my habitation, and overrules all events for my good—that my whole life is a plan arranged by Him! Every apparent little contingency, as well as every momentous turn and crisis-hour—forms part of that plan! "A man's heart devises his way—but the Lord directs his steps."

"I will instruct you and teach you." How patiently does this almighty Preceptor train, and with what infinite wisdom and tenderness does He adapt His varied teachings to the needs and requirements of His people! It is "line upon line;" or if need be—cross upon cross, trial upon trial. Or it may be that startling providences are no longer required—the gentle indications of His will are enough, "I will guide you with My eye." The earthquake, the hurricane, the wind, the fire—may now have fulfilled their mission. "The still, small voice" is now sufficient.

And HOW does He promise to teach and to guide? Not in the way that we would like to go—not in the way of our own choosing—but "the way which you shall go." Often we would decide on pursuing the sunny highway. But God says, 'the rough mountain-track is best for you!' Often we would, like Israel, take the near and smooth road to Canaan. But God's pillar-cloud decides otherwise, and takes us by a circuitous route "by the way of the wilderness." Often we would prefer, like the disciples at sea of Tiberias, the safe path by the seashore, so as to avoid the gathering storm, "for the wind is contrary." But God says, "No!" He constrains us to get into the boat!

"He led them by the right path—to go to a city where they could live!" It is not for us to question His plans. He led His people of old—He leads them still—by the right path. There is a day coming—when we shall own the wisdom of every earthly lesson, the "needs-be" of every wave in the troubled sea!

The gardener has occasionally to subject his plants to apparently rough treatment—cutting, lopping, mutilating; reducing them to unsightly shapes—before they burst into flower. Summer, however, before long, vindicates the wisdom of his treatment, in its clusters of varied fragrance and beauty. So also, at times, does our heavenly Gardener see fit to use His pruning-knife! But be assured that there is not one superfluous or redundant lopping. We shall understand and acknowledge an infinitely wise necessity for all—when the plant has unfolded itself into the full flower, bathed in the tints and diffusing the fragrance of Heaven.

Believer, go up and on your way—rejoicing in the teaching and guidance of unerring Wisdom! "I will guide you with My eye." The sleepless eye of Israel's un-slumbering Shepherd is upon you . . .
  by day and by night,
  in sickness and in health,
  in joy and in sorrow,
  in life and in death!

"The Lord watches over those who fear Him, those who rely on His unfailing love."

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The believer's eternal confession!

(John MacDuff, "The Night Watches") 

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

This is the believer's eternal confession!

Grace found him a rebel against God—it leaves him a son of God!

Grace found him wandering at the gates of Hell—it leaves him at the gates of Heaven!

Grace devised the scheme of Redemption.
never would; reason never could.
And it is grace which carries out that scheme.

No sinner would ever have sought God—but "by grace." The thickets of Eden would have proved Adam's grave—had not grace called him out! Saul would have lived and died the haughty self-righteous persecutor—had not grace laid him low! The thief on the cross would have continued breathing out his blasphemies—had not grace arrested his tongue and tuned it for glory!

"Out of the knottiest timber," says Rutherford, "God can make vessels of mercy for service in the high palace of glory!"

"I came, I saw, I conquered!" may be inscribed by the Savior on every monument of His grace. "I came to the sinner; I looked upon him; and with a look of omnipotent love—I conquered him!"

Believer, you would have been this day a wandering star, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever! You would have been Christless, hopeless, and portionless; had not grace constrained you! And it is grace which, at this moment, "keeps" you.

You have often been a Peter—forsaking your Lord—but brought back to Him again. Why have you not been a Demas or a Judas? "I have prayed for you—that your faith fail not!" Is not this your own comment and reflection on life's retrospect: "Yet not I—but the grace of God which was with me!"

Seek to realize your dependence on this grace every moment.

"More grace! more grace!"
needs to be your continual cry.

His infinite supply—is commensurate with your infinite need.

The treasury of grace, though always emptying—is always full.

The key of prayer which opens it—is always at hand!

And the Almighty Bestower of the blessings of grace—is always "waiting to be gracious."

The recorded promise can never be cancelled or reversed: "My grace is sufficient for you."

The grace of God is the source of lesser temporal blessings—as well as of higher spiritual blessings. Grace accounts for the crumb of daily bread—as well as for the crown of eternal glory!

But even in regard to earthly mercies, never forget the CHANNEL of grace: "through Christ Jesus!" It is sweet thus to connect every blessing, even the smallest and humblest token of providential bounty—with Calvary's cross—to have the common blessings of life stamped with "the print of the nails!" It makes them doubly precious to think, "All this flows from Jesus!"

"By the grace of God—I am what I am!"

Reader! seek to dwell much on this inexhaustible theme!

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Sons! Brethren! Princes! Friends! Heirs! Jewels! My Portion! Mine!

(John MacDuff, "The Night Watches") 

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"And they shall be Mine, says the LORD Almighty, in that day when I make up My jewels!" Malachi 3:17

"MY JEWELS!" Of what favored creatures does Jehovah thus speak? Is it of seraphs? Is it of angels? Methinks, at such a title, even they would take the dust of abasement, and veiling their faces, cry, "Unclean! unclean!" But, marvel of marvels! It is redeemed sinners of the earth—once crude, unshapely stones, lying in "the horrible pit and the miry clay," amid the rubbish of corruption—who are thus sought out by divine grace, purchased by divine love, destined through eternity to be set as jewels in the crown of the eternal God!

"The Lord's portion is His people!" There is a surpassing revelation of love here. Great, unspeakably great, is the privilege of the believer—to be able to look up to the everlasting Jehovah, and say, "You are my portion, O Lord!" But what is this, in comparison with the response of Omnipotence to the child of dust, "You are Mine!"

Reader, have you learned to lisp your part in this wondrous interchange of covenant-love, "My beloved is Mine—and I am His!"

What an array of wondrous titles belong to the saints of God, and given, too, by God Himself, in His own Word! He calls them—Sons! Brethren! Princes! Friends! Heirs! Jewels! My Portion! Mine!

And when is the time when they become thus dear to Him? Sinner, when you wept at the cross of Jesus—you became His jewel. No, from eternity past—"He has loved you with an everlasting love!" True, you are not yet set in His crown. You are yet undergoing the process of polishing. Affliction is preparing you; trial is needed to remove all the roughness and blemishes of nature, and make you fit for your Master's use.

But, blessed thought! "Now it is God who has made us (literally, chiseled or polished us) for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." Yes, God Himself, the possessor, who prized that earthly jewel so much, as to give in exchange for it Heaven's "Pearl of great price"—He has the polishing in His own hand! He will not deal too rashly or roughly!

A jewel in Immanuel's crown! Not only raised from the ash-heap to be set among princes; but to gem through eternity—the forehead that for me, was once wreathed with thorns!

Shall I murmur—can I murmur, at any way my Savior sees fit to polish and prepare me for such an honor as this? Let me sink down on my nightly pillow overpowered with the thought; and as I hear my covenant God whispering in my ear the astounding accents, "You are Mine!" I may well reply, "I will both lie down and sleep in peace,  for You alone, O Lord, make me live in safety!" Psalm 4:8

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The joys of that eternal banqueting house!

(John MacDuff, "The Night Watches") 

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"He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love!" Song of Solomon 2:4

"HE brought me!" All of grace! He justifies! He glorifies! The banqueting house is entered with shoutings, saying, "Grace, grace unto it!"

Believer, contemplate the journey ended, the course finished, the victory won. Seated at the marriage feast of the Lamb in glory, guest talking to guest with bounding hearts—recounting their Lord's dealings on earth—the watchword circulating from tongue to tongue, "He has done all things well!"

Angels and archangels, too, will be participants in that banquet of glory; and bright seraphs, who never knew what it was to have a heart of sin or to shed a tear of sorrow. But, for this reason, there will be one element of joy peculiar to the Redeemed, into which the other unfallen guests cannot enter—the "joy of contrast." How will this present world's "great tribulation" augment the bliss of a world at once sinless and sorrowless! How will earth's woe-worn cheek, and sin-stricken spirit, and tear-dimmed eye—enhance the glories of that perfect state, where there is not that symbol of sadness, nor the solitary trace of one lingering tear-drop!

My soul, seek often to ponder, in the midst of your days of sadness, the joys of that eternal banqueting house! "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain!"
One moment at that banquet table,
one crumb of the heavenly manna,
one draught from the river of life,
and all the bitter experiences of the valley of tears will be obliterated and forgotten!

Look upwards even now, and behold your dear Lord preparing for you this glorious "feast of fat things!" "Do not be troubled. There are many rooms in My Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me—where I am!"

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What a pillow on which to rest my aching head!

(John MacDuff, "The Night Watches") 

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"Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigns!" Revelation 19:6

Believer! what can better support and sustain you amid the trials of your pilgrimage, than the thought that you have an Omnipotent arm to lean upon? The God with whom you have to do, is boundless in His resources! There is . . .
  no crossing His designs,
  no thwarting His purposes,
  no questioning His counsels.

His mandate is law! "He speaks—and it is done!" Your need is great. From the humblest crumb of providential goodness, up to the richest blessing of Divine grace—you are hanging from moment to moment, as
a poor pensioner on Jehovah's bounty!

But, fear not! "I am the Almighty God! Finite necessities can never exhaust My infinite fullness!"

"My God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 4:19

To You, O blessed Jesus! all power has been committed in Heaven and in earth. "ALL power!" He has in His hands the reigns of universal empire! Whatever is the blessing which the poorest, weakest, loneliest, most afflicted of His saints require—if it is really for their good, the "Wonderful Counselor" secures it!

He combines in His adorable Person, all that a sinner requires:
  a Heart tender enough to love;
  and a Hand strong enough to save.
He is the "Mighty God!" How He delights in the exercise of His omnipotence in behalf of His own people—in ruling over their interests, and overruling their trials for their eternal good!

My enemies are many, their name is Legion:
  Satan, the great adversary;
  heart traitors—bosom sins;
  the world, and the world's trinity: "the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life!"
But He who is for me—is greater far than all that can be against me!

Believer, are you in trial, beaten down with a great fight of afflictions—like the disciples, out in a midnight of storm, buffeting a sea of trouble? Fear not! When the tempest has done its work, when the trial has fulfilled its mission—the voice which hushed the waters of old, has only to give forth the omnipotent mandate, "Peace, be still!" and immediately there will be a great calm! The "all power" of Jesus!—what a pillow on which to rest my aching head; disarming all my fears, and inducing thoughts of sweetest comfort, consolation, and joy!

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The Omnipresence of God

(John MacDuff, "The Night Watches") 

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"Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Where shall I flee from Your presence?" Psalm 139:7

The omnipresence of God!
How baffling to any finite comprehension! To think that above us, and around us, and within us—there is Deity—the invisible footprints of an Omniscient, Omnipresent One!

"His Eyes are in every place!" On rolling planets—and tiny atoms; on the bright seraph—and the lowly worm; roaming in searching scrutiny through the tracks of immensity—and reading the dark and hidden page of my heart! "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do!"

O God! shall this Your Omnipresence appall me? No! In my seasons of sadness and sorrow and loneliness—when other comforts and comforters have failed—when, it may be, in the darkness and silence of some midnight hour, in vain I have sought repose—how sweet to think, "My God is here! I am not alone. The Omniscient One, to whom the darkness and the light are both alike—is hovering over my sleepless pillow!" O my Unsetting Sun, it cannot be darkness or loneliness or sadness—where You are. There can be no night to the soul which has been cheered with Your glorious radiance!

"Surely, I am with you always!" How precious, blessed Jesus, is this, Your legacy of parting love! Present with each of Your people until the end of time—ever present, omnipresent. The true "Pillar of cloud" by day—and "Pillar of fire" by night, preceding and encamping by us in every step of our wilderness journey. My soul! think of Him at this moment—as present with every member of the family that He has redeemed with His blood! Yes, and as much present with every individual soul, as if He had none other to care for—but as if that one engrossed all His affection and love!

The Great Builder—surveying every stone and pillar of His spiritual temple;
the Great Shepherd—with His eye on every sheep of His fold;
the Great High Priest—marking every tear-drop; noting every sorrow; listening to every prayer; knowing the peculiarities of every case: no number perplexing Him—no variety bewildering Him; able to attend to all, and satisfy all, and answer all—myriads drawing hourly from His Treasury—and yet no diminution of that Treasury—ever emptying, and yet ever filling, and always full!

Jesus! Your perpetual and all-pervading presence turns darkness into day! I am not left un-befriended to weather the storms of life—Your hand is from hour to hour piloting my frail vessel.

The omnipresence of God—gracious antidote to every earthly sorrow!

"I have set the Lord always before me!" Even now, as night is drawing its curtains around me, be this my closing prayer: "Blessed Savior! abide with me, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent! Under the shadowing wings of Your presence and love, I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me live in safety!" Psalm 4:8

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A tender God!

(John MacDuff, "The Night Watches") 

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"He will feed His flock like a shepherd.
 He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart.
 He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." Isaiah 40:11

How soothing, in the hour of sorrow, or bereavement, or death—to have the countenance and sympathy of a tender earthly friend. Reader, these words tell you of One nearer, dearer, and tenderer still—the Friend who never fails—a tender God! By how many endearing epithets does Jesus exhibit the tenderness of His relation to His people!

Does a shepherd watch tenderly over his flock?
    "The Lord is my Shepherd."

Does a father exercise fondest solicitude towards his children?
    "I will be a Father unto you."

Does a mother's love exceed all other earthly types of affection?
    "As one whom his mother comforts—so will I comfort you."

Is the 'apple of the eye' (the pupil) the most sensitive part of the most delicate bodily organ?
    He guards His people "as the apple of His eye!"

When the Shepherd and Guardian of souls finds the redeemed sinner, like a lost sheep, stumbling on the dark mountains—how tenderly He deals with him! There is no look of wrath—no word of upbraiding; in silent love "He lays him on His shoulders rejoicing!"

Reader, are you mourning over . . .
  the weakness of your faith;
  the coldness of your love;
  your manifold spiritual declensions?

Fear not! He knows your frame! He will give 'feeble faith' tender dealing. He will "carry" those who are unable to walk, in His arms; and will conduct the burdened ones through a path less rough and rugged than others.

When the lion or the bear comes, you may trust the true David, the tenderest of Shepherds!

Are you suffering from outward trial? Confide in the tenderness of your God's dealings with you. The strokes of His rod are gentle strokes—the needed discipline of a father yearning over his children, at the very moment he is chastising them. The gentlest earthly parent may speak a harsh word at times; it may be needlessly harsh. But not so with God. He may seem, like Joseph to his brethren, to speak roughly; but all the while there is love in His heart!

The 'pruning knife' will not be used unnecessarily—it will never cut too deeply!

The 'furnace' will not burn more fiercely than is absolutely required.
A tender God is seated by it, tempering the fury of its flames!

And what, believer, is the secret of all this tenderness? "There is a Man upon the Throne!" Jesus, the God-Man Mediator; combining with the might of Godhead—the tenderness of spotless humanity.

Is your heart crushed with sorrow? So was His!

Are your eyes dimmed with tears? So were His! "Jesus wept!"
Bethany's Chief Mourner
still wears the Brother's heart in glory.
Others may be unable to enter into the depths of your trial—He can, He does!

With such a "tender God" caring for me, providing for me, watching my path by day, and guarding my couch by night, "I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me live in safety!" Psalm 4:8

"He will feed His flock like a shepherd.
 He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart.
 He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." Isaiah 40:11

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A few more throbbings of this aching heart!

(John MacDuff, "The Faithful Promiser")

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"The days of your mourning shall be ended!" Isaiah 60:20

Christ's people are a weeping band—though there is much in this lovely world to make them joyous and happy. Yet when they think of sin—their own sin, and the unblushing sins of a world in which their God is dishonored—need we wonder at their tears? Are we surprised that they should be called "mourners," and that their pilgrimage is a "Valley of Tears?" Sickness, bereavement, poverty and death following the track of sin—add to their mourning experience! And with many of God's best beloved children, one tear is scarcely dried—when another is ready to flow!

Mourners! rejoice!

When the reaping time comes—the weeping time ends!

When the white robe and the golden harp are bestowed—every remnant of the sackcloth attire is removed. The moment the pilgrim, whose forehead is here furrowed with woe, bathes it in the crystal river of life—that moment the pangs of a lifetime of sorrow are eternally forgotten!

Reader! if you are one of these careworn ones, take heart—the days of your mourning are numbered! A few more throbbings of this aching heart—and then sorrow, and sighing, and mourning, will be forever past!

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes! There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain!" Revelation 21:4

"Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning!" Psalm 30:5

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Prayer for a time of bereavement

(John MacDuff, "Family Prayers" 1885) 

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The desire of our eyes has been taken away by a stroke! The shadows of death have unexpectedly fallen around us! Oh forbid that we should rebel under the rod and refuse to be comforted. Let us glorify You "in the fires!" Let us feel that if we are Your children, there is not a drop of wrath in that cup of sorrow; but all is love, infinite love! We would see no hand but Yours. You gave us our blessings—and You have a supreme and inalienable right to take them away! "Even so, Father, for it seems good in Your sight."

O Lord God Almighty, though Your way may sometimes seem to be in the sea, and Your path in the deep waters, and Your judgments unsearchable—yet nothing can happen by accident or chance. All is the unerring dictate of Your infinite wisdom and unchanging faithfulness and love. "This also comes from the Lord Almighty," who is ever "excellent in working." Often we cannot discern through our tears, the rectitude and love of Your afflictive dispensations. Often are we led to say, with trembling hearts, "Truly, You are a God who hides Yourself." But all is well. We could not wish our concerns in better hands, than in Yours.

You cannot send one trial that is unnecessary—or light one spark in the furnace that might be spared. We will be silent, we will not open our mouths, because You are the one who has done this! Man may err, and has often erred. But, O unerring God—the Judge of all the earth must do right! We would seek to lie submissive at Your feet, and say in unmurmuring resignation, "May Your will be done."

Our earnest prayer, blessed God, is, that this severe trial may be sanctified to us all. We have need of such a blow—to remind us that this earth is not our rest. We were leaning on the creature—we were disowning and undeifying the Great Creator. You would not leave us to ourselves to settle on our lees. You saw the need of Fatherly chastisement, to bring back our alien and truant hearts to Yourself. Oh, may we listen to our Father's voice. May we feel it to be a loud voice—and yet full of gentle tenderness. May it rouse within each of us the question, "What will You have me to do?" May we "arise and call upon our God!" Thus may this very affliction, which for the present seems not to be joyous but grievous—nevertheless afterward yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Let us hear Jesus' voice of encouragement and love, sounding amid the stillness of the death-chamber and from the depths of the sepulcher, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave!"

O Helper of the helpless, Comforter of all who are cast down, better and dearer than the dearest and best of earthly relatives—give us that grace which You have promised specially in seasons of weakness. May we realize the truth of Your own precious promise, "As your day—so shall your strength be."

May this thought reconcile us to bear all and suffer all—that we shall soon be done with this present evil world, and be with our God, and that forever and ever! Hide us meanwhile, in the clefts of the Smitten Rock, until this and all other of earth's calamities are over and past. May we trust Your heart—where we cannot trace Your hand! We wait patiently for the great day of disclosures when all shall be revealed; and all be found redounding to the praise and the glory of Your great name!

Hear us, blessed God. All that we ask, is for the sake of Your dear Son—our only Lord and Savior. Amen.

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Father knows best!

(John MacDuff, "A Book of Private Prayers" 1890) 

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My Father in Heaven,
I approach the footstool of Your throne of grace, through the merits and mediation of Him whom You always hear. My best motives are mingled with selfishness; my best actions are marred with defilement. I feel the weakness of my faith, the coldness of my love, and the fitfulness of my holy desires. I cast myself anew on Him who has done all and suffered all and procured all for me!

I have continual need of Your grace, and of the influence of Your Holy Spirit. Protect and preserve me by Your mighty power. If at times I am prone to spiritual declension, reclaim my truant heart from its wanderings. Give me increasing tenderness of conscience, scrupulously avoiding anything that would compromise godly principle, or dim the sanctities of pure thought and holy deed. Enable me to cultivate those elevating virtues which make life truly beautiful. By simplicity of trust, consistency of obedience, and consecration of heart and life—may I ever seek to glorify Your holy name.

Hear and accept my penitential acknowledgment . . .
  of sin and unworthiness,
  of weakness and infirmity,
  of defeat and failure.
Grant me Your upholding, strengthening, sanctifying grace for this day. Let me exercise a habitual jealousy over my words and actions. Purify my motives, elevate my affections. Keep me from dishonoring Your Fatherly goodness, by doing what is inconsistent with Your will. Be . . .
  my Protector in danger,
  my Counselor in perplexity,
  my Light in darkness,
  my Comforter in sorrow,
  my Guide even unto death.

Bless Your children in affliction. May it be their joy and privilege to pour their sorrows into a Father's ear. Comfort them as a tender mother comforts her distressed child—and then they shall be truly comforted. Be the rest-giver and the rest-provider for Your weary and heavy-laden children.

Have mercy on the wide family of Your afflicted ones. May they take refuge in the very arms that are chastising them, feeling assured that their heavenly Father knows best that they have need of all these things. May it be theirs to look beyond what is frail and fleeting and transitory—and anticipate the time when every tear-dimmed eye shall wake up amid the brightness and glory of an unsinning, unsorrowing, tearless world!

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Active, operating, influential principles of the life!

(John MacDuff, "The Throne of Grace") 

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It is the work of the blessed Spirit to take of the things of Christ, and to show them to the soul; to reveal to us the precious benefits of redemption, and the riches of Divine grace—and to present them to us in such a transforming, and convincing, and penetrating form, as that they shall not only become sources of abiding comfort to the heart—but active, operating, influential principles of the life!

It is the work of the blessed Spirit to be the Comforter of the children of God. Yes . . .
  wherever a believer is afflicted;
  wherever he sheds a sorrowful tear;
  wherever he is pained by some heart-rending grief;
  wherever he is bowed beneath some oppressive burden—
there is the Comforter to cheer, to solace, to sustain; pointing him . . .
  from the wound—to its balm,
  from the grief—to its ultimate cure,
  from present suffering—to eternal rest at God's right hand!

The Holy Spirit is not a traveler to sojourn for a season, but He is a Friend to abide and dwell with you—a spiritual mentor to be always near . . .
  to guide you—in all seasons of perplexity,
  to strengthen you—in all times of weakness,
  when you are discouraged—to uphold you,
  when you are wandering—to lead you back,
  when you are nearly overcome in your spiritual conflict—to bring you more of His divine strength and grace.

"The Holy Spirit helps us in our distress." Romans 8:26

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Helpless, hopeless, friendless, portionless

(John MacDuff, "Family Prayers" 1885)  

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O Eternal, Everlasting God, Fountain of all happiness, God of all grace—we desire to acknowledge anew with grateful hearts, Your undeserved mercies. You have made our cup to overflow with blessings. From the very threshold of our being, You have been our Protector and Guardian. You have shielded us from unknown dangers. You have warded off unseen calamities. No earthly friend could have loved us and cared for us, like You!

Helpless, hopeless, friendless, portionless
by nature, we cast ourselves on Him who is help and hope and friend and portion—to all who seek Him. We have no trust but in His work. Sprinkle these polluted hearts with His pardoning, peace-speaking blood. Hide us in the clefts of the smitten Rock. Safely sheltered there, we can make the triumphant challenge, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"

We mourn . . .
  our distance and estrangement from You,
  our guilty departures,
  our coldness and insensibility.
Let Your wondrous patience and kindness lead us to repentance. Turn us, Lord, and we shall be turned! Draw us and we shall run after You! May every thought, and affection, and feeling, and temper—be brought into captivity to the obedience of Jesus. May we love what He loves—and hate what He hates. May we know the happiness of true holiness; and rejoice in doing Your holy will.

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Fear Him!

(John MacDuff)  

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"Who would not fear You, O King of nations!" Jeremiah 10:7

How reasonable it is that this glorious Being whose greatness is unsearchable, should be regarded with feelings of the profoundest reverence. It is indeed, His due—and as such He claims it from all His creatures.

"Concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes!" Psalm 36:1. To have no fear of God before our eyes, is at once the greatest injustice, and the most unutterable folly! All who have the impudence to lift up their puny arms in rebellion against Him—are engaged in a conflict, which, if persisted in, is sure to terminate in their utter destruction!

Reader, think of His incomprehensible greatness and majesty. Think of Him as the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity. . .
  the heavens His throne,
  the earth His footstool,
  the light His garment,
  the clouds His chariot,
  the thunder His voice!
Viewing Him thus—it will be impossible for you to treat Him with indifference, far less with scornful disdain. If you are only brought in some measure to realize the fact of God's greatness and majesty—you cannot fail to acknowledge that He is greatly to be feared, and to be held in reverence by all His creatures.

Just so, with all the other attributes of His nature.

Who can think of His power so mighty, so irresistible—a power that is able to crush us into atoms with infinitely greater ease than we can tread the crawling worm beneath our feet—and not fear Him?

Who can think of His knowledge, nothing being hidden from His omniscient glance, the darkness of midnight and the splendor of noon, being altogether alike to Him—and not fear Him?

Who can think of the terrors of His avenging justice—and not fear Him? Especially as when He proclaims from His exalted throne,
"There is no God other than Me.
 I am the one who kills and gives life.
 I am the one who wounds and heals.
 No one delivers from My power.
 As surely as I live, when I sharpen my flashing sword and begin to carry out justice, I will bring vengeance on My enemies and repay those who hate Me!" Deuteronomy 32:39-41

Our God is truly a consuming fire! It is most befitting for us, to regard Him with a reverence and godly fear.

It is not those who can deprive us of our present life, whom we should so much dread. Limited and of brief duration, is the power of all mortal foes at best.

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" Luke 12:4-5

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The golden key that fits all locks!

(John MacDuff
, "Thoughts for the Quiet Hour", 1895)

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"If I have not love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2

What a magic spell there is in love; the absolute devotion of a beautiful soul that loses itself in the hallowed mission of radiating peace and joy and sympathy all around.

When other charmers have failed to charm, many dull, unsusceptible ears have been arrested and won by the music of kindness. By it . . .
  old-age renews its youth,
  sick-pillows are smoothed,
  burdens are eased,
  tears are turned into smiles,
  dirges are turned into songs.

Love is, of all magical charms, the most irresistible.

Love is the golden key that fits all locks!

"If I have not love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2

"Love is patient, love is kind.
 It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 Love never fails!" 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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Let your light shine!

(John MacDuff
, "The Christian's Pathway" 1858) 

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"Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:16

There are many things connected with the Christian's pathway which worldlings cannot comprehend. They know nothing of the high and hidden walks of spiritual experience. What is said of the workings of the divine life in the soul, is regarded by them as foolishness and fanaticism.
  Its internal principles,
  its constraining motives and impulses,
  its heavenly aspirations,
  its rapturous bliss, and
  its agonizing struggles
are things which these strangers cannot comprehend!

But still, there is much which they are able to understand, such as . . .
  whatever is consistent in character,
  whatever is honest and straightforward between men,
  whatever is kind and compassionate in behavior,
  whatever is forbearing and forgiving under insults and injuries.

Such features, when unostentatiously exhibited—excite their attention, and, generally, call forth their praise. The manner in which the ordinary duties of life are discharged, is something so tangible—that it lies within the province of their own observation. These things they can understand; and it is of the highest importance that all who profess to be Christians, should be distinguished by an exhibition of these practical fruits of righteousness.

What if a small band of Christians were placed in some locality, by whom the principles of the gospel were fully lived out. What a powerful effect, we may suppose, would their simple presence produce! Let them be connected with those around them—by the ordinary engagements of life; but without employing any direct means to promulgate their Christian views. There they are, "blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation." Their hearts are filled, not merely with love to God—but with sincere and ardent affection for all by whom they are surrounded. Selfishness, pride, resentment, censoriousness—have no place among them. Their entire spirit and deportment are influenced and controlled by those noble, and generous, and god-like sentiments and feelings, which Christianity inculcates and inspires. The holy religion they profess, would appear in its true character and beneficent tendency; and men would be constrained by the good works which they beheld—to glorify God.

May the Lord strengthen you with all might, according to His glorious power, "that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way—bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God!"

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Your gracious keeping

(John MacDuff, "The Gates of Prayer") 

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Anew I commend myself to Your gracious keeping this day.

Guide me by Your counsel,
guard me from temptation,
lead me in the everlasting way.

May every unloving thought, every unworthy aim and aspiration—give place to what is pure and unselfish and kind. May every idol that would usurp Your place be overthrown. May . . .
  no corrupt thought pollute my heart,
  no unworthy utterance defile my tongue,
  no unholy action stain my life.
Preserve me from the world's insinuating, seductive power—and from the treachery and deceitfulness of my own evil heart.

Whatever is my dominant sin—
  ease, or pleasure;
  pride, or passion;
  covetousness, or ambition;
enable me by the promised help of Your Spirit, to subdue it—nailing it to the Redeemer's cross.

Defend me from every snare and danger which may beset my path. Be . . .
  my Shield in prosperity,
  my Refuge in adversity,
  my Comforter in sorrow,
  my Light in darkness,
  my Hope in death,
  my Defender and Vindicator in judgment,
  my Joy and Portion through all eternity!

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The happy man

(Lachlan MacKenzie, 1754-1819) 

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The happy man was born in the city of Regeneration in the parish of Repentance unto Life.

He has a large estate in the county of Christian Contentment.

He was educated at the School of Obedience—and often does jobs of Self-denial.

He wears the garment of Humility, and has another suit to put on when he goes to Court, called the Robe of Christ's Righteousness.

He is necessitated to travel through the world on his way to Heaven—but he walks through it as fast as he can. All his business along the way, is to make himself and others happy. He often walks in the valley of Self-Abasement, and sometimes climbs the mountains of Heavenly-mindedness.

He breakfasts every morning on Spiritual Prayer, and sups every evening on the same. He has food to eat, which the world knows nothing of—and his drink is the sincere milk of the Word of God.

Thus happy he lives—and happy he dies.

Happy is he who has . . .
  gospel submission in his will,
  the love of God in his affections,
  true peace in his conscience,
  sincere divinity in his breast,
  the Redeemer's yoke on his neck,
  the vain world under his feet, and
  a crown of glory over his head!

Happy is the life of that man who . . .
  believes firmly,
  prays fervently,
  walks patiently,
  labors abundantly,
  lives holily,
  dies daily,
  watches his heart,
  guards his senses,
  redeems his time,
  loves Christ, and
  longs for glory!

"Happy is the man who does not . . .
  walk in the counsel of the wicked,
  or stand in the way of sinners,
  or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:1-3