Grace Gems for January, 2022

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The furnace of affliction!

(William Nicholson and Milburn Cockrell, "The Furnace of Affliction!")

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"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction!" Isaiah 48:10

The furnace of affliction
is divinely appointed.
Afflictions are not the result of chance or blind fate.
Afflictions do not arise out of the dust (Job 5:6).
Afflictions are not to be traced to secondary causes.
Afflictions are not merely the work of our enemies.
Afflictions come from the moral government of God.

Without His permissive hand, they would never take place.
Without His restraining hand, they would be overwhelming.
Without His supporting hand, they would be intolerable.
Without His sanctifying hand, they would never be blessed.

Afflictions come by the wise and gracious arrangement of God's divine providence. "So that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this!" (1 Thessalonians 3:3). "Heed the rod, and the One who appointed it!" (Micah 6:9).

As a furnace is prepared for refining gold (Proverbs 17:3)—so afflictions are appointed for the saints, who are compared to fine gold (Lamentations 4:2). Let us see here the high value that God places upon His people. Being . . .
   chosen by the Father,
   redeemed by the Son, and
   regenerated by the Holy Spirit
—they are His precious gold!

As His gold, they get tarnished by the world and sin, and they must be subjected to the refining process. The beauty of His grace must be seen in them. Hence Jehovah seeks their spiritual improvement: "I will turn My hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities!" (Isaiah 1:25)

The design of God in choosing us to suffer in the furnace of affliction, is for our everlasting good and for His glory. Regenerating grace implants in us the seeds of immortality, which require cultivation in order to bring about maturity. The furnace is designed to develop these principles, and to fit us for higher enjoyment. Afflictions . . .
  scour off our rust,
  preserve us from sin,
  assimilate us to Christ, who was a man of sorrows,
  make us very humble and break our haughty mind,
  show us the frailty of human life and the vanity of the world!

The people of God have the same need of affliction . . .
  that our bodies have of medicine,
  that fruit trees have of pruning,
  that gold and silver have of the furnace,
  that iron has of the file, and
  that the child has of the rod of correction!

God's chastisements are blessings in disguise—they are veiled mercies!

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As a mother comforts her child!

(William Nicholson, "Divine Comfort!" 1862)

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"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you shall be comforted." Isaiah 66:13

The condescending love of God to sinners is most astonishing. Though He is the High and Lofty One, yet He knows, pities, and cares for worms of the earth—sinful, frail, dying men. Human language is insufficient to express the heights and depths of Divine compassion.

God is called, "The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Also, "God, who comforts the downcast." 2 Corinthians 7:6

God's divine comfort is most endearing and effective. "As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you." This is a beautiful and striking comparison. No other relationship can so expressively represent the parental kindness of God, as an affectionate mother caring for her beloved child.

1. God will comfort His people with all the affection and solicitude of a mother. See the mother—how she loves, strives, labors, suffers, and sacrifices for her child.

A mother watches over and defends her child. So does our heavenly Father. He is a wall of fire, a refuge, a strong tower, a shield, a rock of strength, a fortress, a very present help in times of trouble, etc., etc.

A mother is solicitous to care and provide for her child. "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus!" "Casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you!"

2. God will comfort His people with all the patience and forbearance of a mother. "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust!" Psalm 103:14. "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness!" Psalm 103:8

3. God will comfort His people with all the forgiveness and consolation of a mother. How ready is she to forgive her erring, wandering child—and how ready to console in trouble! "The LORD has comforted His people, and will have compassion on His afflicted." Isaiah 49:13

4. God will comfort His people with all the instruction and correction of a mother. A good and wise mother will both instruct and correct. Just so, "the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12:6

5. God will comfort His people with all the constancy of a mother. When does the love of a mother end? "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget—yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!" Isaiah 49:15-16. "Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end!" John 13:1

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What does it mean to follow Christ?

(William Nicholson, "Called to Be a Disciple" 1862)

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"Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.
'Follow Me,'
Jesus said to him.
And Levi got up, left everything and followed Him!" Luke 5:27-28

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation!
No sinner is too vile,
no sins are too numerous,
no guilt is too black—
for its powerful efficacy!
This is proved by the conduct of Christ, in offering His mercy to such sinful characters; and by the death of Christ, which was for the chief of sinners. How rich His grace! How impartial His love!   

The context contains an account of the grace and favor of Christ to a sinful and despised tax collector.

Matthew followed Christ, that is, he became His disciple. To follow Christ implies:

1. A knowledge of Christ and His truth.
The design of preaching is to give the knowledge of Christ. No man can really follow the Redeemer, without some understanding of Him. This is the result of the Spirit's enlightening operations.

2. It implies dissatisfaction with a life of sin, and a conviction of the superior excellence of a holy life. This also is the result of the Spirit's enlightening operations.

3. It implies decision for Christ.
The resolve of the heart to love Him and follow Him, "Lord, I am yours!"

4. It implies renunciation of everything that stands in competition with Christ.
Matthew surrendered a lucrative employment, a good business, etc., etc. He "got up, left everything, and followed Him!" Just so, the sinner must surrender . . .
  his darling sins,
  his impure pleasures,
  his self-interest,
  the world,
  the creature, however dear, if it is a competitor with Christ.
"Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it!" Mark 8:34-35

5. It implies dependence upon Christ's Sacrifice for acceptance with God, and for all needful blessings.

6. It implies prompt obedience to all Christ's commandments.

"Follow Me," Jesus said to him.
 And Levi got up, left everything and followed Him!

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I will rejoice in Your salvation!

(William Nicholson, 1862)

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"I will rejoice in Your salvation!" Psalm 9:14

The minds of the wicked find joy from the most trivial causes—causes which the Spirit of God has taught the Christian to estimate as mere "vanity and vexation of spirit." To the enlightened mind, the pursuits of this world, and the possessions of the most wealthy, dwindle into insignificance when compared with the value of the soul and its great salvation. If a sinner finds cause for joy in his career of iniquity, the end of which is damnation—then surely the believer has an unfailing source of joy and consolation in God's salvation!

No one can rejoice in salvation, unless he understands it. There will be a knowledge . . .
of the necessity of salvation, arising from the conviction of one's fallen, guilty, and condemned state before God;
of the accomplishment of salvation, by the atoning death, resurrection, and intercession of Jesus Christ, 1 Timothy 1:15;
that when received, salvation will grant . . .
  pardon to the guilty,
  justification to the condemned,
  liberty to the spiritual captive,
  health to the spiritually sick,
  sight to the spiritually blind, and, in short,
  "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!"

No one can ever rejoice in salvation, unless he has felt his need of it. The Spirit has opened the eyes of his understanding, and revealed to him his great guilt and need of the Savior. He now knows the plague of his own heart. He now feels his utter helplessness, and perceives the adaptation of the Savior to his state as a perishing sinner.

True salvation always produces joy and rejoicing! "I will rejoice in Your salvation."
The sick person rejoices when his disease departs, when the bloom of health again mantles his cheek, etc.
The debtor rejoices when his debts are discharged, etc.
The culprit rejoices when reprieved, when he hears the opening of the doors of his prison-house.
And shall not the penitent and believing sinner rejoice? He is saved! Saved from . . .
  the guilt of sin,
  the condemnation of sin,
  the dominion of sin,
  the power of death,
  the dominion of the grave, and
  the vengeance of everlasting fire!

This joy springs from the realization of divine mercy, through the sin-atoning death of Christ. This rejoicing is over . . .
  an infinite soul,
  redeemed by an infinite price,
  from an infinite damnation—
to infinite joys, realized first here, and then to be realized fully in an infinite Heaven.

What a possession! What a prospect! "I will rejoice in Your salvation!"

1. The believer rejoices in the origin of salvation. It is the result of distinguishing grace—the sovereign goodness and unmerited compassion and favor of God. Man . . .
  did not deserve it,
  had no equitable title to it,
  never solicited it.
God beheld him as an outcast, pitied him, and condescended to save him!

2. The believer rejoices in the procuring of salvation. When he sees his Redeemer in the garden and on the cross, he weeps—but they are tears of joy. There he sees Christ's astonishing love. There he sees Him bearing his sins and dying in his stead, etc.

3. The believer rejoices in the glorious properties of salvation . . .
  the freeness of it, requiring no qualifications nor conditions,
  the purity of it, unto holiness,
  the power of it, saving him from the guilt, dominion, and pollution of sin,
  the extensiveness of it, investing him with every spiritual blessing,
  the certainty of it, assuring the soul, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand." John 10:28

4. The believer rejoices in the prospective consummation of salvation in Heaven. He anticipates with joy . . .
  the full harvest,
  the fruition of hope, and
  the vision of glory in which faith shall be lost.

"You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!" Psalm 16:11

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A holier, happier, sublimer, and more durable world than this!

(William Nicholson, 1862)

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"And this is what He promised us—even eternal life!" 1 John 2:25

This poor world is full of sin, sorrow, pain, and death. If we had this life only, we would be most miserable. But the Christian has an unfailing hope of a holier, happier, sublimer, and more durable world than this! This hope supports him in every scene of earthly conflict and distress.

As the mariner tossed by the storm and tempest, hopes to gain the desired haven;
as the traveler fatigued by the perils and toils of his journey, hopes to reach his own beloved home;
as the soldier harassed by conflict in the field of battle, hopes to conquer and to wear the victor's crown;
so the Christian pilgrim in the midst of his strenuous labors, hopes that he will . . .
  successfully brave all the storms of life,
  finish his course,
  fight the good fight of faith, and then
  lay hold on eternal life in his Father's house above!

Believers shall enjoy eternal life in Heaven as . . .
  the residence of the ever blessed God,
  His palace of splendor,
  the habitation of His holiness,
  the place where His honor dwells,
  the dwelling-place of angels and perfected spirits.

1. Heaven is a place of inexpressible felicity, as it appears from its names . . .
  the paradise of God,
  a building from God,
  a mansion of God,
  a heavenly city,
  a better country,
  a priceless inheritance,
  an eternal kingdom,
  an unfading crown of glory,
  peace, rest, and joy of the Lord!

2. Heaven will be a life of complete purity. Sin, in this world, is the great source of estrangement from God—it is that which constantly vexes and distresses the soul. But in Heaven sin can never enter to defile, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life!" Revelation 21:27.

We shall be faultless, and like God! Jude 24; Ephesians 5:26-27; 1 John 3:2; Psalm 17:15.

3. Heaven will be a life of perfect happiness. There is no perfect happiness in this poor world. Life here is like the fluctuations of the sea, or weather—calms and storms, sunshine and clouds.

Sorrow is frequently the lot of God's people. Some are afflicted under the hand of God—or mourning the loss of relatives or friends—or sunk into deep adversity. Some are weeping over the sins of others: parents over their children, pastors over their flocks, and Christians over the wickedness of the world.

But all the causes of evil will be annihilated in Heaven:
  sin shall distress no more,
  Satan shall tempt no more,
  sickness shall pain no more,
  the tyrant shall oppress no more,
  death shall bereave and destroy no more. "Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd! He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!" Revelation 7:16-17

4. Heaven will be a life of the greatest honor.

   A. They will be raised to a kingdom! "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom!" Luke 12:32. What can be received, more than a kingdom? It is the highest dignity known on earth. Who can be higher than a king?

   B. It will be a life of honor which conquerors obtain. Crowns of victory are in reserve! "Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads!" Here on earth, they wear a crown of thorns; but there they will wear a diadem of glory!

      It will be an incorruptible crown, not a fading laurel, etc. 1 Corinthians 9:25. No length of time will terminate the dominion of the saints, or tarnish the luster of their crowns. They shall reign forever and ever!

      It is called a crown of righteousness, 2 Timothy 4:7. It was purchased by the righteousness of Christ, and is given wholly for His sake, to His redeemed people.

      It is a crown of life, meaning they shall never die! "The crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him!" James 1:12; Revelation 2:10.

      It is a crown of gold, Revelation 4:4, to denote the priceless and lasting honor to which they will be advanced, and the superlative wealth of the kingdom which they will possess.

   C. They shall sit upon a throne—the throne of Christ! "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne!" Revelation 3:21; that lofty throne, that expansive throne, in which He will make room for all His faithful soldiers.

5. Heaven will be a a life of rich enjoyment.

   A. Heaven is represented as a feast, "Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast!" Matthew 8:11.

   B. Heaven is represented as a marriage supper, "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" Revelation 19:9.

   C. Heaven is represented as a life of enjoyment in the best society: God Himself, angels, and glorified saints!

   D. Heaven is represented as enjoyment of the beatific vision of God, when we shall see Him face to face, and understand the mysteries of creation, providence and grace. Then the enraptured soul will exclaim, "You have done all things well!"

6. To crown all, Heaven is called eternal life! Most of the Scriptural representations of Heaven are combined with adjectives expressive of endless perpetuity. Hence Heaven is called . . .
  the everlasting kingdom,
  the incorruptible inheritance,
  the exceeding and eternal weight of glory, etc., etc.

If a miser could insure his wealth for eternity, that alone would be Heaven enough for him. But it is his misery when he dies, that he can carry none of his riches away with him. But he who lays up treasure in Heaven need not fear moth or rust or thief—all is eternally secure!

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Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both!

(William Nicholson, "Approaching Mortality!" 1862)

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"Only a few years will pass, before I go on the journey of no return." Job 16:22

Death is a great journey—it is the last journey we shall ever take!

The sun rises daily, and we think little of it. Just so, the frequency and commonness of death, causes it to be little thought of. Every day, men go to their long home, and the mourners go about the street.

While death is gloomy and melancholy to the man of pleasure, to the man overwhelmed with business, and to the devotee of mammon—it is nevertheless sometimes regarded as a welcome messenger by the afflicted, and those who possess a good hope through grace, Job 19:25.

Death is full of solemn import.

What is death?
It is forever leaving the present scene of existence;
it is the cessation of existence here on earth:
  the lungs no longer heave;
  the heart stops beating;
  the blood ceases to flow and congeals;
  the tongue is silent;
  the hand forgets its skill;
  the whole body becomes motionless, pale, and ghastly!

Death is the separation of body and soul.

Death is the dissolution of every relative and social tie, however tender and endeared.

Death is the cessation of all human pursuits, and the relinquishment of all human possessions.

Death is a journey that must be performed alone.

Death is a journey that must be taken by all. "Death has passed upon all men, for all have sinned." Romans 5:12. It is in the grave, where the rich and the poor meet together; kings as well as subjects, philosophers as well as fools.

A century removes all the inhabitants of the globe to the silent grave.
All who now live, in one hundred years to come, will be no more!

Death is unavoidable!

Death is an established fact, by God's inviolable decree:
  "Dust you are—and to dust you shall return!"
  "It is appointed unto men once to die—and after that the judgment!"

Death is a fact characterized by the greatest uncertainty.

Great God! Amid what a mass of perils do we live! A grain may suffocate; a crumb may stop the springs of life! A breath, a cough, a sigh—may prostrate all our vital powers, and fit us for the worms! So various, too, the texture of our bodies, so fine the mechanism, so complex the structure—that every motion has its risk! And all our hours, our very moments—are beset with hazards, perils, fears, and ambushed ills!

What then is life? A bubble that is blown for death to burst!!!

"Man knows not his time when his hour may come" etc., Ecclesiastes 9:12. "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!" James 4:14.

Death may invade us at a period apparently the most unlikely, when we are not at all prepared for it.

It may come in the spring of life, and mar its strength and vigor and beauty, etc. "One man dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease, his body well nourished, his bones rich with marrow. Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good. Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both!" Job 21:23-26

Death may come . . .
  to the place of business,
  to the hall of pleasure,
  to the couch of sensual indulgence, etc., etc.

It may come suddenly, in a moment—or it may come by protracted disease.

"And I'll say to myself: 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry!'
But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'" Luke 12:19-20

Death is an event followed by vastly solemn results.
To the individual himself, death . . .
  ends his probation,
  is the departure of his soul into eternity,
  is the apprehension of it either by demons, or angels,
  is the transmission of it to Heaven, or to perdition.

"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side.
 The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment . . ." Luke 16:22-23

Death ends all the conflicts and trials and sorrows of the righteous.
Death is the commencement of all the woes of the wicked.

Death is a journey from which there will be no return. "But now he is dead; can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." 2 Samuel 12:23.
In vain we linger by the corpse; the countenance will no more smile upon us.
In vain we go to the grave; it is deaf to our cries, it will not give back its trust.

"But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more. As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry—so man lies down and does not rise." Job 14

The fact of death should awaken the soul to reflection. In the midst of danger, we have been sleeping. While the darts of mortality are flying around us, we are calculating on future pleasures, pursuits, plans, life, etc., etc. "It is high time to awake out of sleep!"

Death may come as a thief in the night! Do not be taken by surprise when the Bridegroom comes. When the chariots of God come down, and Christ says, by death, "Come up hither!"—be ready!

The fact of death should animate the saint. "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." He shall soon be free from sin and suffering—soon see God and Heaven, and realize the glorious raptures of eternity!

Death teaches the value of the Gospel—which is the sovereign remedy for death, "Our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!" 2 Timothy 1:10

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Ever gliding down the stream of time into the ocean of eternity!

(William Nicholson, "Prayer for Divine Mercy!" 1862)

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"We are consumed by Your anger and terrified by Your indignation.
 You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence!"
     Psalm 90:7-8

Man is here recognized as a sinner in his relationship to . . .
  the Divine Being,
  his Creator,
  his Benefactor,
  his Governor and Lawgiver.
By his "iniquities" and his "secret sins," he is represented as a transgressor of that law which is "holy, just, and good." Man has . . .
  resisted God's authority,
  despised His counsels, and
  followed the devices of his own corrupt heart.
Having acted thus, he is exposed to the Divine displeasure, and to the penalty denounced against rebellious men, "We are consumed by Your anger and terrified by Your indignation!"

Man is . . .
  guilty—and needs pardon;
  condemned—and needs justification;
  impure—and needs righteousness and holiness;
  a wanderer, an outcast—and needs reconciliation and adoption;
  an heir of wrath, exposed to eternal perdition—and needs salvation and a title to Heaven.

Man is frail and mortal. This is the state of all, and it is the fruit of sin.
Look at your frail, decaying body . . .
  how it sickens and languishes;
  how it is pained and agonized;
  how its bloom and its strength depart;
  how it withers and dies, and "says to corruption—you are my father; and to the worm—you are my mother!" Job 17:14. All this has been produced by sin.

Most affecting representations of man's frailty and mortality are given by Moses in the context of Psalm 90. His life is a dying one, "You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered!" verses 5-6

Man is destined to return to dust, "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are—and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19. "Remember Him, before . . . the dust returns to the ground it came from." Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

"You carry them away as with a flood"—ever gliding down the stream of time into the ocean of eternity! The flood of mortality is ever flowing, and man is carried away with it—carried with it surely and irresistibly.

Time passes unobserved by men (they are as asleep, verse 5), as it does with people asleep, and dreaming of happiness and security—and when it is over, it is as nothing!

Man's life is short and transient, "The length of our days is seventy years or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away!" Psalm 90:10

Man resembles the "grass," which in the morning grows up and flourishes in its beautiful greenness, but which in the evening is cut down, and instantly withers, changes its color, and loses all its beauty. So it will be with man, "You always overpower them, and they pass from the scene. You disfigure them in death and send them away!" Job 14:20

Come, then, O man, and behold your picture!
You are a sinner, and perdition is your prospect—the blackness of darkness forever! You are "like grass." This is the emblem of your life, and of all your works! "Grass!" Not the strong and enduring tree of the forest; not even the shrub—but "grass," which flourishes in the morning, and by evening it is dry and withered.

"All the glory of man," all that beautifies and adorns his life, all that is beauty to the eye, or gives pleasure to the senses—is still more frail; it does not endure the life of the short-lived plant, which arrays itself in its beauty. "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall." 1 Peter 1:24

How short-lived is the glory of your physical nature! Youth, beauty, strength, intellect, energy—are fast failing you! The wind of sickness, or cares, or toil, or old age—will pass over them, and they will be entirely gone! A frost shall lay the flower in the dust—or a blight may leave its withered remains to shiver on the stem; just so, with frail man!

Observe the flowers which remind us most of the bloom of Eden, and which shed their delightful fragrance on the path of life:
  the happy social hearth;
  the friendships founded on virtue;
  the hallowed domestic relationships;
  the fellowship of saints.
Separation by death changes all these scenes; loneliness and solitude follow.

Behold the cemeteries around you; they cover the generations of short-lived men.

Like the herbage of the season, life and death have trodden in each other's footsteps, and the career of each goes on. Death is at the heels of life, cutting down its present plans, and sternly trampling into dust its constant but vain creations. "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall." 1 Peter 1:24

"It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

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These eternal fountains!

(William Nicholson, 1862)

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"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd.
 He will lead them to springs of living water.
 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!" Revelation 7:17

"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!" Numerous are the sources of sorrow here on earth—but God will dry them all up in Heaven. There will be no mourning Christian to drop tears there, "for all sorrow and sighing shall flee away!" There is nothing in that happy residence to distress or annoy.

Jeremiah will utter no plaintive language there.
Transgressors will grieve the holy no more.
Bartimaeus is the poor blind beggar no more.
Lazarus's sores have been replaced by immortal beauty.
The weeping widow is no longer crushed to the dust by the heavy hand of poverty.
The orphan child is no longer forsaken and homeless.
Pinching poverty and wasting disease are unknown.
The distressing complaint will never accost the ear, "I am sick!"
The sting of death and the terrors of the grave will never present themselves there.
There are no graves in the land of eternal life.
There is no death of friends there.
Martha and Mary go to no beloved brother's grave to weep.

Yonder, there is . . .
   no deceitful heart,
   no secret foe,
   no fascinating world,
   no artful Satan!
The former things have passed away, and the era of immortality has arrived.

God shall give them everything calculated to secure, continue, and increase their happiness. "He will lead them to springs of living water," which shall never be exhausted. A spring is termed living water, because constantly bubbling up, and running on. These "springs of living water" indicate endless sources of happiness, which Christ will supply to His redeemed people from His own infinite plenitude.

These eternal fountains will make an infinite variety for the enjoyments of the blessed. There will be no sameness, and therefore no weariness to the spirit. Every moment will open a new source of pleasure. And as God is infinite, so His attributes are infinite, and throughout infinity more and more of those attributes will be unveiled—and the discovery of each will be a new fountain of enjoyment. These sources will be ever-opening through all eternity—and yet, through all eternity, there will still remain in the absolute perfections of the Godhead, an infinity of them still to be opened!

Such bliss is enough to make the Christian say, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" Philippians 1:23

   ~  ~  ~  ~

It must be consigned to the dust from whence it came!

(William Nicholson, 1862)

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"It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

No event is so important as death—but how little is it regarded!

Death is sure to come. Nothing can prevent it. Every expedient has been tried, but there can be no discharge in this war.

The time of Death's approach is uncertain. It may come . . .
  when you are young and in health, and calculating on long life,
  when you are deeply immersed in worldly cares and business,
  when your mind is not the least directed towards it,
  in the hour of festive enjoyment, and
  at a time when you would not be at all prepared for it—unpardoned, unrenewed, and without love to God.

At death, the body returns to its original dust. "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19. "Then shall the body return to dust," etc. Ecclesiastes 12:7

Death, then, as the effect of sin, is the cessation of human existence. It is ended . . .
  by disease,
  by sudden violence or accident,
  by the human machine being worn out by affliction,
  or by protracted old age.
The lungs heave no more;
the pulse ceases to beat;
the blood is congealed in the veins;
the eyes are dimmed;
the tongue is silent, and
the hand forgets its dexterity.

Such is the end of the human structure, so fearfully and wonderfully made. And however stately, well-formed, athletic, strong, and beautiful before—it must be consigned to the dust from whence it came! Its tendency to corruption causes even its once adorers to exclaim, "Bury my dead out of my sight!" It . . .
  is deposited in the silent tomb,
  becomes worm-food, and
  is hidden from mortal sight.

Think then, of the momentous results of death. It . . .
  mars the beauty and strength of the body,
  casts it into the abhorrent grave,
  tarnishes all its glory, and
  terminates all its happiness!

Death is the last of time, and the commencement of eternity! It is a complete change . . .
  of existence,
  of situation,
  of circumstances,
  and of feeling.

After death, the soul appears before God:
"It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment!"

Death then, is the crisis of man's fate—the seal of his destiny.
It encounters either a smiling Father—or a frowning Judge!
It conducts to the crown of life—or the regions of death!
It conducts to eternal glory—or to everlasting perdition!

"Therefore be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect!"

   ~  ~  ~  ~

God separates the sin which He hates—from the soul which He loves!

(William Nicholson, "Afflictions!"1862)

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"Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground.
 Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." Job 5:6, 7

Man is born in sin, and therefore born to trouble. There is nothing in this world we are born to, and can truly call our own—but sin and trouble!

Actual transgressions are the sparks which fly out of the furnace of original corruption.

Why then should we be surprised at our afflictions as strange, or object to them as severe—when they are the effects of sin, and under God's divine superintendence?

Afflictions are the common lot of man.
"Man is born to trouble!" These afflictions are . . .
   and successive.

None are exempt from afflictions. For wherever there is sin, there is trouble.

"Man is born to trouble!"

The poor endure it—the rich are not exempt.

To the pious, a bitter cup is assigned—and the wicked too have aching heads and hearts.

Grandeur, nobility, and royalty—are also associated with trouble.

The heart of the peasant, and that of the monarch—are alike smitten with anguish.

In youth, in middle age, in later life—there is trouble.

In health, in wealth, in honor, in elevation—there is trouble.

In successful enterprise,
in vast financial accumulation,
in places of nobility,
in beautiful mansions and splendid palaces
—there is no exemption from trouble!

Go where you will, you will find trouble! Take the wings of the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth, and even there you will find it. Enter the deep shades of solitude, and it is there.

Crown yourselves with royalty;
take the exhilarating wine;
engage in the giddy dance;
listen to entrancing music and convivial songs;
visit the drama and other theatric performances
—and you may for a season drown your sorrow.
But the clouds of trouble are sure to gather over your heads!

You are born to trouble—it is your inevitable lot.

You will yet have to sicken, to suffer, and die!

Brethren, you know that, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33

Afflictions are designed for chastisement. Afflictions are designed to awaken, correct, reform, divert from sin and the world—and to transfer the affections to Heaven. They "are for our profit." Hebrews 12:10

By affliction, God separates the sin which He hates—from the soul which He loves!

Two things should comfort believers under afflictions:
  1. That what they suffer is not Hell.
  2. That it is all the Hell they shall suffer.

Our enjoyments are greater than our afflictions.
And our afflictions are much less than our sins.

The source of affliction is not chance or mere natural causes. "Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground." If afflictions came from chance, there would be nothing wise, intelligent, reasonable, or good, in them—they would be dark, confused, and miserable.

Afflictions are Divinely appointed.

Job could say, "He performs the thing that is appointed for me."

David rejoiced to say, "All my times are in Your hand."

And Paul comforted the Christians at Thessalonica by the doctrine of Divine appointment: "No man should be moved by these afflictions, for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto." 1 Thessalonians 3:3.

That afflictions are appointed by God is comforting, for it indicates that:

1. Our afflictions will be mingled with mercy. They are appointed by our gracious Father, who knows our frame, etc. They are sent by the God of love. To one who loves God, it is a great comfort to see His hand in everything that befalls us. It is enough, and ought to be enough, that it is the Lord's doing—let Him do what seems good unto Him. "I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9

When Job was deprived of all his substance by the Chaldeans and Sabeans, he said, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised!" To have everything ordered and arranged by God, is all that we can desire!

2. Our afflictions are sent in wisdom. It is highly conciliating to view every separate event, as a part of God's one all-wise scheme; and to know that when our plans are frustrated, God's plans remain unalterably wise. He knows what is best for us, and His plans never fail!

3. Afflictions are designed to produce glorious results. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

All our present ills are the seeds of future bliss, and will be followed by a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in the kingdom of God's dear Son.

When such sublime results shall be realized, we shall perceive that "Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground." Be submissive. God's design for afflictions is our sanctification, and eventual glorification. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:11

Afflictions are but blessings in disguise!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The great Arbiter of life and death!

(William Nicholson, "The Separation of the Righteous from the Wicked!" 1862)

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"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on His left!" Matthew 25:31-33

There are three important days in the existence of a man:
the day of his birth,
   the day of his death, and
   the day when he shall be judged.

At the day of his birth he commences an immortal existence; he enters on a career which will be lengthened out through an endless eternity.

At the day of his death—his seed-time, his probation, and all his works shall end. His body shall return to the dust, and his soul pass into the world of spirits.

At the day of judgment, all his thoughts, motives, and actions, will be scrutinized by the great Arbiter of life and death, and the character of them will decide his everlasting destiny. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad!" 2 Corinthians 5:10

I. The Great and Solemn Convention. "All the nations will be gathered before Him!"

1. The time when this convention shall take place: "When the Son of man shall come in His glory."

2. The grand appearance of the Judge: "He shall come in His glory."

3. This appearance will be judicial. "Then He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory." The nations of the earth shall be gathered before Him, at His bar. It will be a judicial throne.

4. The Assembly. "All the nations will be gathered before Him!" What a vast assembly! Yes, "all nations," all the inhabitants of the world, from Adam to his last-born son, shall be gathered before the throne!


II. The Momentous Separation and Its Consequences. "And He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left!"

1. He will separate them into two classes:
  the righteous—and the wicked,
  saved saints—and lost sinners,
  the pure grain—and the chaff,
  the wheat—and the tares,
  the sheep—and the goats.

2. This separation will be exact. Though the multitude will be so vast, yet the character of each will be detected with the greatest precision. Every thought, desire, motive, and action will be known to the infallible Judge!

3. This separation will be complete and just. There will be no partiality. He will make the separation in righteousness, according to His perfect law of equity. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows—that shall he reap!"

The judgment will be so complete, that all will acknowledge the justice displayed in the separation.

4. This separation will be to many most surprising, degrading, and mortifying! Then the proud and wealthy, will be humbled and brought down! Men of talent and genius, "wise men after the flesh," who received the applause of the multitude—will descend from their pinnacle of glory, to contempt and infamy, and see the poor despised Christian infinitely exalted above them!

What mortification will the miser feel when he finds his gold so worthless!

What will the worldly objects and pursuits of the ambitious appear then!

How will the votary of this world, and the lover of pleasure, find themselves undeceived then!

How will those who have rejected Christ, or denied God's existence, open their eyes in astonishment! What surprise when they gaze on Him, and hear Him say, "But those enemies of Mine who did not want Me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of Me!" Luke 19:27

Then there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth," such as the world never saw—when the rich, the splendid, the refined, and the noble behold the Christian pauper, beggar, and slave, ready to "sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and they themselves thrust out!"

5. This separation will, in many cases, be awfully affecting. What a distinction will then be made in families! Some parents themselves will be left behind, and with failing eyes, and bursting hearts, will follow their children rising to the Heavens, and bidding them an everlasting farewell.

6. This separation will be eternal. They shall be divided—and never come together again. There will be no return from perdition; none from paradise, to any common center where parted friends may be reunited. This separation is not for one, two, or more years, but forever! There will be an impassable gulf fixed! Luke 16:26.

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment—but the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46 

"That word 'forever' breaks the heart!" Thomas Watson

   ~  ~  ~  ~

He is my Beloved, my Shepherd, my Savior and my Husband!

(Letters of John Newton)

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The life of faith is a happy life.

Though it is attended with conflicts—there is an assurance of victory.

If we sometimes get a wound—there is healing balm near at hand.

If we seem to fall—we are raised again.

And, if tribulations abound—then consolations shall much more abound.

Is it not happiness to have . . .
  an infallible Guide,
  an invincible Guard,
  an Almighty Friend?

It is bliss to be able to say of the Maker of heaven and earth, "He is my Beloved, my Shepherd, my Savior and my Husband!"

Oh, the peace which flows from believing . . .
  that all the events in which we are concerned, are under His immediate disposal;
  that the very hairs of our head are all numbered;
  that He delights in our prosperity;
  that there is a need-be, if we are in heaviness;
  and that all things shall surely work together for our good!

How happy to have such views of His sovereignty, wisdom, love, and faithfulness—as will enable us to meet every difficult dispensation with submission; and to look through the painful changes of the present life—to that unchangeable inheritance to which the Lord is leading us; when all evil shall cease, and where our joy shall be perfect and eternal!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The most generally prevailing and ensnaring sin

(Letters of John Newton)

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"For of this you can be sure: that no sexually immoral or impure nor covetousness person—such a man is an idolater; has any inheritance in the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5

What is covetousness?

Covetousness is a sin from which few people are entirely free. It is eminently a deceitful sin! It is decried and condemned in others, by multitudes who live in the habit of it themselves! It is very difficult to fix a conviction of this sin, upon those who are guilty of it!

Whether drunkards or profligates regard the warnings of the preacher or not, when he declares that those who persist in those evil practices, shall not inherit the kingdom of God—they at least know their own characters, and are sensible that they are the people intended.

But if the preacher adds, "nor the covetousness person—such a man is an idolater;" the covetous man usually sits unmoved, and is more ready to apply the threatening to his neighbor, than to himself! If he now and then gives a few dollars to some charity, he does not suspect that he is liable to the charge of covetousness!

I consider covetousness as the most generally prevailing and ensnaring sin, by which professors of the gospel, in our materialistic society, are hindered in their spiritual progress. A disposition deeply rooted in our fallen nature, strengthened by the custom of all around us, the power of habit, and the fascinating charm of wealth—is not easily counteracted.

If we are, indeed, genuine believers in Christ—we are bound by obligation, and required by our Scriptural rule to set our affections on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. Christ has called us out of the world, and cautioned us against conformity to its spirit. While we are in the world—it is our duty, privilege, and honor to manifest that grace which has delivered us from the love of the world. Christians must indeed eat and drink, and may buy and sell, as other people do. But the principles, motives, and ends of their conduct, are entirely different; they are to adorn the doctrine of God their Savior, and to do all for His glory!

The Christian knows that it is not necessary to be rich, or to be admired or envied by the vain unthinking world; and that it is absolutely necessary for him to maintain peace of conscience, and communion with God. In these respects, all God's people, however differently situated—are exactly upon a par.

But, alas! how many who profess to know and value the gospel, are far otherwise minded! The chief mark of their profession, is their attendance on Sunday services! At other times, and in other respects—they are not easily distinguished from the ungodly world! Their houses, furniture, tables, and other belongings; and the manner in which they seek worldly things—sufficiently proves them to be covetous! Their love of money, and the desire of more—are always in exercise. They attempt to look two ways at once—and to reconcile the incompatible claims of God and mammon! They rise early, go to bed late, and eat the bread of worry—that they may be able to vie with the world in their possessions; and to lay up snares, and thorns, and encumbrances for their children!

Often, they already have a lawful employment, which affords a competence for a comfortable support. But if opportunity offers, they eagerly catch at some other prospect of gain, though they thereby double their anxieties, and encroach still more upon that time (too little before) which they should allot to the concerns of their souls!

Such opportunities they call Providential openings, and perhaps say they are thankful for them; not considering that such openings of Providence are frequently temptations or tests, which the Lord permits a man to meet with—to prove what is in his heart, and to try him, whether his affections are indeed set on the things above, or still cleave to the earth!

For those who, as the apostle expresses it, "long to be rich," who will strain every nerve to be found in the list of the wealthy—may, and often do, obtain the poor reward they seek. As in the case of Israel, when, not satisfied with bread from heaven, they clamored for meat. God gives them their desire—but with it, sends leanness into their souls. They expose themselves to temptations and snares, to foolish passions and pursuits; and thus too many who promised fair at the first setting out, are drowned in destruction and perdition! For it is written in the Scripture, "For of this you can be sure: that no covetousness person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5 And the Scriptures cannot be broken!

"For the love of money is the root of all evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows!" 1 Timothy 6:10. Who can enumerate the many sorrows with which the covetous and worldly-minded professor is pierced! Sooner or later, his schemes are broken; losses and crosses, disappointments and and anxieties, wear down his spirit. Improper connections, which he formed because he longed to be rich, become thorns in his sides and in his eyes! He trusted in men, and men deceive him! He leaned upon a weak reed—which breaks, and he falls! Thus he finds that the way of transgressors and backsliders is hard!

If therefore, my dear reader, you wish to avoid trouble, and to pass through life as smoothly as possible—take heed and beware of covetousness!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

We can't even imagine!

(John Newton, "The Present and Future Rest of True Believers")

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Our most enlarged ideas of our future glory are faint and imperfect.  Who can describe or conceive the happiness of Heaven? It will be as unlike as possible, to this wilderness of sin and sorrow where we are now confined. Here on earth we are in a warfare, but then we shall enter into perfect rest. We now cry out, "O that I had wings like a dove! For then would I flee away and be at REST!" (Psalm 55:6)

Heaven will be a rest from all SIN. No 'unclean thing' shall ever defile or disturb us forever! We shall be free from all indwelling sin. This alone would be worth dying for! Indwelling sin is a burden under which all the redeemed must groan, while they sojourn in the body.

And those who are most spiritual are most deeply affected with shame, humiliation, and grief, on account of their sins—because they have the clearest views . . .
  of the holiness of God,
  of the spirituality of His law,
  of the love of Christ, and
  of the deceitfulness of their own hearts!
Therefore the Apostle Paul, though perhaps in grace and talents, in zeal and usefulness, was distinguished above all saints—accounted himself the 'chief of sinners,' (1 Timothy 1:15) 'less than the least of all saints,' (Ephesians 3:8) and cried out under the disparity he felt between what he actually was, and what he desired to be: "O wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin!" (Romans 7:24)

But we shall not carry this burden of sin beyond the grave. The hour of death shall free us from our inbred enemies (the inseparable attendants of this frail perishing nature) which now trouble us, and we shall see them no more forever!

Heaven will also be a rest from all outward AFFLICTIONS, which, though necessary, and, under the influence of Divine grace, are profitable—yet they are grievous to bear. But in Heaven, they will no more be necessary. Where there is no sin—there shall be no sorrow. Then, "God will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever!" (Revelation 21:4)

Heaven will also be a rest from SATAN'S TEMPTATIONS. How busy is this adversary of God and man—what various arts and schemes he employs! What surprising force, what constant assiduity does he employ to ensnare, distress, and terrify those who by grace have escaped from his servitude! He says, like Pharaoh of old, "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will destroy!" (Exodus 15:9) He follows them to the last stage of life, but he can follow them no farther. The moment of their departure out of the body, shall place them beyond his reach forever!

Heaven will also be a rest from UNSATISFIED DESIRES. Here on earth, the more we drink—the more we thirst. But in Heaven, our highest wishes shall be crowned and exceeded! We shall rest in full communion with Him whom we love, and shall no more complain of interruptions and imperfections, and a careless heart.

Here on earth—we obtain a little glimpse of His presence when He brings us into His banqueting-house, and spreads His banner of love over us! And how gladly would we remain in such a desirable frame! How unwilling are we to 'come down' from the mount! But these pleasing and holy seasons are quickly ended, and often give place to some sudden unexpected trial, which robs us of all that sweetness in which we lately rejoiced. But when we ascend the holy hill of God above—we shall never again 'come down'! We shall be forever with the Lord, never offend Him, and never be separated from Him again! "I will see Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I will be fully satisfied with Your presence!" (Psalm 17:15)

Here on earth, we find a mixture of evil in our most holy moments! When we approach nearest to God, we have the liveliest sense of our defilement, and how much we fall short in every branch of duty, and in every temper of our hearts. But when we shall see Jesus as He is—we shall be fully transformed into His image, and be perfectly like Him!

"Yes, dear friends, we are already God's children, and we can't even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when He comes—we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is!" 1 John 3:2

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined—what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9

   ~  ~  ~  ~

You would pity me indeed!

(Letters of John Newton)

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Dear friend,
Wickedness prevails and increases in our city to a dreadful degree!
Our streets are filled with the sons of Belial, who neither fear God, nor regard man. I wish my heart was more affected with what my eyes see and my ears hear every day! I am often ready to fear lest the Lord should show His displeasure in some dreadful way!

And surely, if He were strict to mark all that is amiss, I myself would tremble! Oh, were He to plead against me, I could not answer Him one word! Alas! my dear friend, you know not what a poor, unprofitable, unfaithful creature I am! If you knew the evils which I feel within, and the snares and difficulties which beset me from without—you would pity me indeed!

So much forgiven—yet so little love to Jesus.

So many mercies—yet so few returns.

Such great privileges—yet a life so sadly below them.

Indwelling sin presses me downwards; when I would do good, evil is present with me! I can attempt nothing—but it is debased, polluted and spoiled by my depraved nature! My sins of omission are innumerable. In a word, there is . . .
  much darkness in my understanding,
  much perverseness in my will,
  much disorder in my affections,
  much folly and madness in my imagination!

In short, I am a riddle to myself—a heap of inconsistency!

Alas! when shall it be otherwise? I have a desire of walking with God, but I cannot attain unto it. Surely it is far better to depart and to be with Jesus Christ, than to live here up to the ears in sin and temptation!

But, "We have an Advocate with the Father." Here my hope revives! Though wretched in myself—I am complete in Him! He is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. On this "Rock" I build for time and eternity!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Christian contentment

(Don Fortner)

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13

Here are five things which, if God the Holy Spirit is pleased to establish them in our hearts, will surely give every believer contentment:

1. The purpose of God. All things that have ever come to pass in this world . . .
 both great and small,
 both prosperous and adverse,
 both pleasing and painful,
 both good and evil,
come to pass according to God's eternal, immutable, unalterable purpose. Learn this in your heart, and you will learn to be content. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:36

2. The providence of God. Everything in Heaven, earth and Hell is sovereignly ruled, governed and manipulated by God in infinite wisdom, according to His own holy purpose for the eternal, spiritual good of His people. Nothing in this universe breathes or moves without God's decree and God's direction. "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28

3. The power of God. Our God is almighty. He has purposed to do us good, and He has the power to accomplish his purpose. He cannot be frustrated or defeated. "All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of Heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: What have you done?" Daniel 4:35. He is God almighty! You can safely trust Him.

4. The presence of God. "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said: I will never leave you! I will never forsake you!" Hebrews 13:5. Can you get a sense of this fact? If you are one of God's believing children—then the omnipotent, eternal God is with you! Surely, the presence of God with you should give your heart contentment at all times.

5. The promises of God. Open the book of God's promises, and find a rich source of contentment for your soul. To all who are in Christ Jesus, "He has given us His very great and precious promises!" 2 Peter 1:4

"Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." 1 Timothy 6:6-8

 ~ ~ ~ ~


(Don Fortner)

"I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:20-21

"Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" always go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. This is the only way that sinners obtain eternal salvation. Both are necessary. Both are vital. Both are gifts of God's grace.

True repentance is "toward God." Paul preached "repentance toward God," because there is a repentance that is not toward God. There is a legal repentance that is no more than a sense of guilt, a dread of God's wrath, and a fear of Hell. But repentance toward God is produced by the goodness of God (Romans 2:4), not the wrath of God. It comes from the revelation of redemption by Christ (Zechariah 12:10), not from the fear of judgment.

Repentance, in its essence, is a change of heart toward God, as illustrated in the prodigal son (Luke 15:14-20), the publican (Luke 18:13), and David (Psalm 51:4).

Repentance is the honest acknowledgment and confession of sin to God (1 John 1:9). It is an acknowledgment by a person that he has offended God by his sin, that his very heart is enmity against God, and that it is right for God to punish him for his sin (Psalm 51:4; Romans 8:7).

Repentance is sitting in judgment with God against yourself, abhorring yourself by reason of your sin, and pleading for mercy on the basis of pure grace through the merits of Christ alone. Only God Himself can cause a person thus to repent (Acts 5:31; Jeremiah 31:18; Lamentations 5:21).

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Why does God allow sin to remain in His people?

Thomas Boston, 1676-1732 (edited and summarized by Shane Lems)

"Why do I keep struggling with the same sinful thoughts?"
"Why can't I just gain victory over lust and pride?"
"Why does God allow sin to remain in His people?"

These are questions Christians ask from time to time. We think of how nice it would be if we didn't have to struggle with sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. But, in His sovereignty, God has a reason for allowing sin to remain in His children. Here are some of Thomas Boston's answers:

  1. God has ordered the matter of the believer's sanctification that sin is left to be active in their souls while here on earth, for their further humiliation. For example, God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble. And so we find David, after his grievous fall, grows in the grace of humility.

  2. The Lord allows sin to remain in His people so they are stirred to the frequent exercise of prayer. The soul feels the continual need of pardon, and therefore must be much lying at God's footstool. When His children grow remiss in their duty, the Lord sometimes allows them to fall into some grievous sin to awaken them and wound their conscience, so that they cry to Him like a child who falls into a fire.

  3. The sin left in us makes us more watchful of our hearts which still are prone to wander. When a prisoner escapes, and they catch him, they will put him into more close custody than before. We walk through a world filled with many snares; if we were not watchful, we would be caught in them!

  4. Just like God allowed some Canaanites to remain in the land to try His people, so He has left remains of natural corruption in them for their exercise and trial. Indwelling sin makes us lean on Christ's strength and use God's armor in the battle.

  5. Through sin is left in us, we are made more and more to feel our need for Christ and His precious blood for the removal of our guilt daily contracted anew, and for the strengthening of our souls in our Christian course—so that we come out of the wilderness resting upon our Beloved.

  6. Through the indwelling sin that remains, Christ is glorified. While the enemy, sin, dwells in us, Christ's grace and Holy Spirit are at work in us so that the enemy cannot overcome, domineer, or destroy us. Because of indwelling sin we know that we cannot justify ourselves, but can only be justified by the perfect obedience of Christ, which we lay hold of by faith. In this, Christ is glorified.

  7. To see how God makes such an excellent medicine from such poisonous ingredients, cannot be but very delightful! Romans 8:28

The struggle against indwelling sin is difficult for sure. But when we remember God's sovereign use of indwelling sin in His people for their good and His glory, it helps us press on in the faith with our eyes fixed on Jesus. He will one day graciously give us the full victory over sin!

"Those whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!" Romans 8:29

"In keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness!" 2 Peter 3:13

"To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 1:24-25

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(Don Fortner)

"I served the Lord with great humility and with tears" Acts 20:19

Without humility there is no salvation (Psalm 34:18; 51:17; Isaiah 66:2; Matthew 5:3-5; 18:34; Philippians 3:3).

No man can serve or glorify God in this world without this God-given "humbleness of mind" (Colossians 3:12). Anything done for Christ must be done with humility (Matthew 6:3, 5, 16, 33).

Humility is not an act, but an attitude of the heart. Humility is brokenness of heart before God by reason of sin and in gratitude for His love, mercy, and grace to sinners in Christ.

Here are five things revealed in the Word of God as characteristics of humility:

1. Humility is a realization of personal unworthiness before God, by reason of one's own depravity and sin (Job 42:5-6; Psalm 51:4-5). It is not a show of words which sound humble, but which are designed to gain praise. Rather, it is a heartfelt unworthiness before the holy Lord God (Luke 18:13; Isaiah 6:5).

2. Humility is a renunciation of all merit and personal righteousness in the sight of God (Philippians 3:9). No man's heart is humbled before God so long as he imagines that he has anything by which he may merit God's favor, or that his righteousnesses are more than filthy rags in God's sight (Isaiah 64:6).

3. Humility is an inexpressible gratitude of heart to God for His abundant, amazing grace to sinners in Christ (Psalm 116:12, 16). It causes a person to live with a sense of delightful obligation and indebtedness to the Lord God.

4. Humility is a willing submission and devotion of one's heart to the Lord Jesus Christ that cries, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). Humility is . . .
  devotion to Christ as Lord,
  submission to His providential rule of all things, and
  a determination of heart to obey and honor Him regardless of cost.

5. Humility gladly ascribes the whole work of salvation to God's free and sovereign grace through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:10).

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I am a perverse and unruly patient!

(Letters of John Newton)

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I am bound to speak well of my Physician; He treats me with great tenderness, and bids me in due time to expect a perfect cure. I know too much of Him (though I know but little) to doubt either His skill or His promise.

It is true, I have suffered sad relapses since I have been under His care. Yet I confess that the fault has not been His, but my own! I am a perverse and unruly patient! I have too often neglected His prescriptions, and broken the regimen He appoints me to observe. This perverseness, joined to the exceeding obstinacy of my disorders, would have caused me to be turned out as an incurable long ago—had I been under any other hand but His! Indeed, there is none like Him! When I have brought myself very low, He has still helped me. Blessed be His name, I am yet kept alive only by means of His perfect care.

Though His medicines are all beneficial, they are not all pleasant. Now and then He gives me a pleasant cordial; but I have many severe disorders, in which there is a needs-be for my frequently taking His bitter and unpalatable medicines!

We sometimes see published in the newspapers, acknowledgments of cures received. Methinks, if I were to publish my own case, that it would run something like this:
"I, John Newton, have long labored under a multitude of grievous disorders:
    a fever of ungoverned passions,
    a cancer of pride,
    a frenzy of wild imaginations,
    a severe lethargy, and
    a deadly stroke!
In this deplorable situation, I suffered many things from many physicians, spent every penny I had—yet only grew worse and worse!
In this condition, Jesus, the Physician of souls, found me when I sought Him not. He undertook my recovery freely, without money and without price—these are His terms with all His patients! My fever is now abated, my senses are restored, my faculties are enlivened! In a word, I am a new man! And from His ability, His promise, and the experience of what He has already done—I have the fullest assurance that He will infallibly and perfectly heal me; and that I shall live forever as a monument of His power and grace!"

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I am sure I cannot endure to the end!

(Letters of John Newton)

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"I will put My fear in their hearts, so they will never turn away from Me." Jeremiah 32:40

Jesus, to whom I have been led to commit myself, has engaged to save me absolutely, and from first to last. He has promised not only that He will not depart from me—but that He will put, keep, and maintain His fear in my heart; so that I shall never finally depart from Him! And if He does not do this for me, I have no security against my turning apostate! For I am so weak, inconsistent, and sinful; I am so encompassed with deadly snares from the world; and I am so liable to such assaults from the subtlety, vigilance and power of Satan—that, unless I am "kept by the power of God," I am sure I cannot endure to the end!

I do believe that the Lord will keep me while I walk humbly and obediently before Him; but, were this all—it would be cold comfort! For I am prone to wander—and need a Shepherd whose watchful eye, compassionate heart, and boundless mercy—will pity, pardon, and restore my backslidings!

For, though by His goodness and not my own—I have hitherto been preserved in the path of holiness; yet I feel those evils within me, which would shortly break loose and bear me down to destruction, were He not ever present with me to control them.

Those who comfortably hope to see His face in glory, but depend upon their own watchfulness and endeavors to preserve themselves from falling—must be much wiser, better, and stronger than I am! Or at least they cannot have so deep and painful a sense of their own weakness and vileness, as daily experience forces upon me. I desire to be found in the use of the Lord's appointed means for the renewal of my spiritual strength—but I dare not undertake to watch a single hour, nor do I find ability to think a good thought, nor a power in myself of resisting any temptation! My strength is perfect weakness, and all I have is sin.

In short, I must sit down in despair—if I did not believe that He who has begun a good work in me, will carry it out to completion.

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

"I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules!" Ezekiel 36:27

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Walking with Jesus

(Letters of John Newton)

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When I speak of walking with Jesus, my idea is helped by considering how it was with His first disciples—they lived in His presence! While He stayed in a place, they stayed; and when He moved, they went with Him. Having Him thus always near, always in view—the sight of Him undoubtedly gave a composure to their whole behavior; and was a check upon their eyes, their tongues, and their actions!

When they had hard questions upon their minds, they did not puzzle themselves with vain reasonings. When they were in need, they looked to Him for a supply. When they had difficulties and dangers—they little doubted of deliverance, knowing that He was with them.

Just so, I need a faith that shall have such an abiding, experimental conviction of His nearness and presence—as if I actually saw Him! "Lord, increase my faith!"

Surely, if He were now upon earth and I expected a visit from Him this afternoon, my heart would bound at the thought! With what a mixture of joy and fear would I open the door to receive Him! How cautious would I be not to do or say anything that might grieve Him, and shorten His stay with me! And how gladly, if He gave me permission to speak, would I catch the opportunity of telling Him all my concerns! Surely I would be unwilling to let Him go until He had healed the wounds in my soul, and renewed my spiritual strength; until He had taught me better how to serve Him, and promised to support me in His service. And if I heard Him say with an audible voice, "Though they fight against you they shall not prevail, for I am always with you to deliver you!" I would bid adieu to fear!

But, alas, my unbelieving heart! Are not these things true, even at present? Is He not as near and as kind? Have I not the same reasons and the same encouragement to set Him always before me—and to tell Him . . .
  all my needs,
  all my fears, and
  all my troubles
as if I saw Him with my bodily eyes!

"Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age!" Matthew 28:20

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If he is a liar, a talebearer, a railer, a flatterer or a jester

(Letters of John Newton)

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There is, perhaps, no one test or proof of the reality of a work of grace upon the heart, more simple, clear and infallible—than the general tenor of our speech; for our Lord's aphorism is of certain and universal application, that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."

To the same purpose, the apostle James proposes to all who make a profession of the gospel, a searching criterion of their sincerity, when he says, "If anyone considers himself religious, and yet does not keep a tight bridle on his tongue—he deceives himself and his religion is worthless!" James supposes that the grace of God in a true believer will check the evils of the heart, and prevent them from breaking out by the tongue.

The grace of God will necessarily influence and govern the tongues of those who partake of it, in what they say when they speak of God, of themselves, and of or to their fellow-creatures.

Having seen a glimpse of the holiness and majesty, the glory and the grace, of the great God with whom they have to do—their hearts are impressed with reverence, and therefore there is a seriousness in their language. They cannot speak lightly of God or of His ways. One would suppose that no person, who even but seems to be pious, can directly and expressly profane His glorious name. But there is a careless and flippant manner of speaking of the great God, which is very disgusting and very suspicious. Likewise, the hearts of believers teach their mouths to speak honorably of God under all their afflictions and crosses, acknowledging the wisdom and the mercy of His painful dispensations. And, if an impatient word escapes them, it grieves and humbles them, as quite unfitting to their situation as His creatures, and especially as sinful creatures who have always reason to acknowledge that it is of the Lord's mercy alone—that they are not wholly consumed.

When they speak of themselves, their tongues are bridled, and restrained from boasting. They speak as befits poor, unworthy creatures—because they feel themselves to be such! In what they say, either of their comforts or of their sorrows, sincerity dictates a simplicity which cannot be easily counterfeited.

In what they say of or to others, the tongues of believers are bridled by a heart-felt regard to truth, love and purity.

Where saving grace is in the heart, the tongue will be bridled by the law of TRUTH. It is grievous to see how nearly and readily some professors will venture upon the borders of a lie; either . . .
  to defend their own conduct,
  to avoid some inconvenience,
  to procure a supposed advantage,
  or sometimes merely to embellish a story!
Where instances of this kind are frequent, I hardly know a fouler blot in profession, or which can give a more just warrant to fear that such professors know nothing aright, either of God or themselves! The Lord is a God of truth; and He teaches His servants to hate and abhor lying, and to speak the truth from their hearts. I may add likewise, with regard to promises—that the person, whose simple word may not be safely depended upon, scarcely deserves the name of a Christian!

Where grace is in the heart, the tongue will likewise be bridled by the law of LOVE. If we love our neighbor—can we lightly speak evil of him, magnify his failings, or use provoking or insulting language to him? Love thinks no evil—but bears, hopes and endures. Love acts by the golden rule, to "Do unto others, what you would like them to do unto you." Those who are under the influence of Christian love, will be gentle and compassionate, disposed to make the most favorable allowances, and of course their tongues will be restrained from the language of malevolence, harsh censure, and slander, which are as familiar to us as our mother tongue—until we are made partakers of the grace of God.

The tongue is also bridled by a regard to PURITY, agreeable to the precepts, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths!" "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking!" Ephesians 4:29, 5:4. Grace has taught believers to hate these things! How then can their tongues speak of them?

There are false professors, indeed, who can suit their language to their company. When with the people of God, they call talk very seriously. But at other times, they are well pleased to join in vain, frothy and evil conversation. But this double-mindedness is of itself, sufficient to discredit all their pretenses to a pious character.

Upon the whole, though perfection is not to be expected, though true believers may, on some occasions, speak rashly, and have great cause for humiliation, watchfulness, and prayer, with respect to the government of their tongues. Yet Scripture authorizes this conclusion: That, if the tongue is frequently without a bridle; if it may be observed, that a person often speaks . . .
  lightly of God and of divine things,
  proudly of himself, and
  harshly of his fellow-creatures;
if he is a liar, a talebearer, a railer, a flatterer or a jester—then, whatever other good qualities he may seem to possess, his speech betrays him! He deceives himself, and his religion is worthless!

Let us think of these things, and entreat the Lord to cast the salt of His grace into the fountain of our hearts—that the streams of our conversation may be wholesome.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14

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Be thankful, my dear, that he treats you as his enemy!

(Letters of John Newton)

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November 13, 1772
My dear Miss,
I am glad that you complain of evil thoughts and temptations; for, though these things are grievous, they always accompany a saving work of grace. Though every Christian does not suffer greatly by persecution, poverty, and worldly troubles—yet they all suffer much from indwelling sin, temptation and Satan.

As to evil thoughts, they as unavoidably arise from an evil nature—as steam arises from a boiling tea-kettle! Every cause will have its effect—and a sinful nature will have sinful effects. You can no more keep such thoughts out of your mind, than you can stop the course of the clouds!

But if the Lord had not taught you—you would not have been sensible of them, nor concerned about them. This is a token for good. By nature your thoughts would have been only evil, and that continually. But you find 'something' within you that makes you dislike these thoughts; makes you ashamed of them; makes you strive and pray against them.

Now, this 'something' that resists your evil thoughts—what can it be? It cannot be human nature; for we naturally love our vain imaginations. It is the grace of God! The Lord has made you sensible of your disease, that you might love and prize the great Physician! The knowledge of His love for you, shall make you hate these thoughts! Yet you will be pestered with them more or less while you live in this world. For sin is wrought into our bodies, and our souls must be freed from our bodies—before we shall be fully freed from the evils under which we mourn!

Your other complaint of temptations is likewise a good one. If you were to visit some young ladies who know no other end of living, but to dress and dance and socialize; and if you were to ask them if they are troubled with Satan's temptations—they would think that you were out of your wits! Poor things! They know no better! They are blinded by the god of this world; they go on quietly in the way of sin and vanity, careless of their souls, and mindless of eternity! While they continue in this course, you may be sure that Satan will not disturb them! They are asleep, and it would not be for his interest to do anything that might awaken them out of their pleasant dream!

And if you yourself were thus asleep, Satan would be content that you should sleep on and take your rest. But, when he sees anyone awakened out of this deadly sleep, he probably tries first to lull them asleep again. And, if the Lord prevents that by His mercy, then Satan alters his measures and roars like a lion which has lost his prey! Be thankful, my dear, that he treats you as his enemy! For the state of those to whom he behaves as a friend, is miserable indeed! And always remember that he is a chained enemy! He may terrify, but he cannot devour those who have fled for refuge to Jesus!

You cannot be too jealous of your own heart, or too cautious of the snares which you are exposed to. But the Lord is able and faithful to keep those from falling, who, sensible of their own weakness, cry daily to Him, "Hold me up, and I shall be safe!" Continue in prayer, that you may be preserved humble and abased in your own eyes; and then I am sure that you will not fall.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil!" Ephesians 6:10-11

I am sincerely, your affectionate friend and servant,
John Newton

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Every man's shoes should be exactly of one size!

(Letters of John Newton)

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The church of Christ is composed of all who are savingly united to Him by genuine faith. They are infallibly known only to Himself. They are scattered far and wide, separated from each other by seas and mountains; they are a people of many nations and languages. But, wherever their lot is cast, they hear His voice and are under His gracious eye. They do not have equal degrees of spiritual light, or measures of grace—but they are all 'accepted in the Beloved'. They are all spiritual worshipers, and joint partakers of grace—and all will hereafter appear together at their Savior's right hand in glory! In whatever is essential to their salvation, they are all led by the same Spirit and mind the same things.

But at present they are in an imperfect state. Though they are new creations, they are not freed from the 'principle of indwelling sin'. Their knowledge is clouded by much remaining ignorance; and their zeal, though right in its aim, is often warped and misguided by the corrupt influence of SELF.
They still have many corruptions.
They live in a world which furnishes frequent occasions of enticing them.
And Satan, their subtle and powerful enemy, is always upon his watch to mislead and ensnare them!

Besides all this—they are born, educated, and effectually called, under a great variety of circumstances. Habits of life, local customs, early relationships with families and friends, and even bodily constitution, have more or less influence in forming their characters, and in giving a bias and turn to their manner of thinking; so that, in  matters of a secondary nature their sentiments may, and often do—differ as much as the features of their faces! A uniformity of judgment among them on these secondary matters, is not to be expected while the wisest are defective in knowledge, the holiest are defiled with sin; and while the weaknesses of human nature, which are common to them all—are so differently affected by a thousand impressions which arise from their various situations.

They might, however, maintain a unity of spirit, and live in the exercise of mutual love, were it not that almost every individual unhappily conceives that they are bound in conscience, to prescribe their own line of conduct as a standard to which all their brethren ought to conform! They are but few, who consider this "narrow mind-set" to be as unnecessary, unreasonable, and impracticable, as it would be to insist or expect, that every man's shoes should be exactly of one size!

Thus, though all agree in asserting the authority and right of the Lord Jesus, as King and Head of His church—yet the various ideas they frame of the rule or standard to which He requires them to conform, and their pertinacious attachment to their own conceptions of it—separate them almost as much from each other, as if they were not united to Him by a principle of living faith! Their petty differences form them into so many separate churches; and the fury with which they defend their own ideas and oppose all who cannot agree with them in every minute point, makes them forget that they are children in the same family, and servants of the same Master! And, while they vex and worry each other with disputations and censures—the world is bewildered by all this and laughs at them all! The spirit of love is restrained, offences are multiplied, and Satan is gratified—by beholding the extensive effects of his pernicious and long-practiced maxim, Divide and conquer!

"Accept one another therefore, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Romans 15:7

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The poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause!

(Letters of John Newton)

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Among the many general causes of decline in grace, we may assign a principal place to  spiritual pride and self-admiration. If our attainments in knowledge and giftedness, and even in grace, seduce us into a good opinion of ourselves, as if we were wise and good—we are already ensnared, in danger of falling every step we take, of mistaking the right path, and proceeding from bad to worse—without a power of correcting or even of discovering our deviations! That is, unless and until the Lord mercifully interposes, by restoring us to a spirit of humility, and dependence upon Himself. For God, who gives more grace to the humble, resists the proud! He beholds them with abhorrence, in proportion to the degree in which they admire themselves! It is the invariable law of His kingdom, that everyone who exalts himself, shall be abased!

True Christians, through the remaining evil of their hearts, and the subtle temptations of their enemy, are liable, not only to the workings of that pride which is common to our fallen nature—but to a certain kind of pride, which, though the most absurd and intolerable in any person—can only be found among those who make profession of the gospel. We have nothing but what we have received, and therefore to be proud of our titles, wealth, knowledge, success, or any temporal advantages by which the providence of God has distinguished us, is downright sinful! For those who confess themselves to be 'sinners', and therefore deserving of nothing but misery and wrath—to be proud of those peculiar blessings which are derived from the gospel of God's grace, is a wickedness of which even the demons are not capable of!

The apostle Paul was so aware of his danger of being exalted above measure, through the abundant revelations and peculiar favors which the Lord had afforded him, that he says, "There was given me a messenger of Satan to buffet me!" He speaks of this sharp trial as a great mercy, because he saw that it was necessary, and designed to keep him humble and attentive to his own weakness.

Ministers who are honored with singular abilities and success, have great need of watchfulness and prayer on this account! Simple-hearted hearers are apt to admire their favorite preacher, taking it for granted that he is deeply affected himself with the truths, which, with so much apparent liberty and power, he proposes to them. While, perhaps the poor worm is secretly indulging self-applause, and pleasing himself with the numbers and attention of those who hang upon his words!

Perhaps such thoughts will occasionally rise in the minds of the best ministers; but if they are allowed, if they become habitual, and enter strongly into the idea he forms of his own importance; and if, while he professes to preach Jesus Christ, he is preaching himself, and seeking his own glory—he is guilty of high treason against the Majesty of Him in whose name he speaks! And sooner or later, the effects of his pride will be visible and noticed. Doctrinal errors, gross misconduct, an abatement of zeal, of gifts, of influence—are evils always to be dreaded when spiritual pride has gained an ascendancy, whether in public or in private life.

"The Lord Almighty has planned it, to bring low the pride of all glory and to humble all who are renowned on the earth." Isaiah 23:9

"For who makes you different from anyone else?
 What do you have that you did not receive?
 And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" 1 Corinthians 4:7

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Poor ship!

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(A letter of John Newton to his 14 year old adopted daughter who was away at school)

"He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm!" Luke 8:24

My dear Betsy,
Sometimes, when I consider what a world you are growing up into, and what snares and dangers young people are exposed to, with little experience to help them—I have some painful feelings for you!

The other day I was at the harbor and saw a ship launched—she slipped easily into the water; the people on board cheered; the ship looked clean and mirthful, she was freshly painted, and her colors flying. But I looked at her with a sort of pity, "Poor ship!" I thought, "you are now in port and in safety; but before long you must go into the wild sea! Who can tell what storms you may meet with hereafter, and to what hazards you may be exposed! How weather-beaten you may be before you return to port again, or perhaps you may return at all!"

Then my thoughts turned from the ship—to my dear Betsy. The ship seemed to be an emblem of your present state—you are now, as it were, in a safe harbor; but by and by you must launch out into the world, which may well be compared to a tempestuous sea. I could even now almost weep at the resemblance! But I take courage, as my hopes are greater than my fears.

I know there is an infallible Pilot, who has the winds and the waves at His command! There is hardly a day passes, in which I do not entreat Him to take charge of you. Under His care, I know you will be safe. He can guide you, unhurt, amidst the storms, and rocks, and dangers—by which you might otherwise suffer—and bring you, at last, safely to the haven of His eternal rest!

"Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water—and they obey Him!" Luke 8:25

I hope you will seek Him while you are young—then you will be happy and I shall rejoice. Nothing will satisfy me but this! Though I should live to see you settled to the greatest advantage in temporal matters—unless you love Him, and live in His fear and favor—you would be quite miserable! I think it would nearly break my heart; for, next to your dear mamma, there is nothing so dear to me in this world as you! But the Lord gave you to me—and many a time upon my knees, I have given you back to Him. Therefore I hope you must, and will, and shall be His!

I am, with great tenderness, my dear child,
Your very affectionate father

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If you could form a 'little creature' and make it live

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The following is a letter of John Newton to his 13 year old adopted daughter, who was away at school.

My dear Betsy,
Idleness is a very great evil, the door by which a thousand temptations and mischiefs may enter!

Though you yourself have not been a sufferer, I wish for you to cultivate a sympathetic and benevolent spirit—a disposition to have compassion on the distresses of others, even though you cannot relieve them. Compassion, next to the grace of God, is the brightest ornament of human nature. When it is genuine, it is one of the best effects and proofs of saving grace. It was the mind of Jesus the Savior—and those who love Him, will in a degree resemble Him! A hard-hearted, unfeeling, selfish Christian is a total contradiction.

When you think what multitudes of mankind are suffering by war, famine, sickness, storms, earthquakes, and other calamities—let it lead your thoughts to the evil of sin, which brought all these other evils into the world.

But what is sin?

Sin is presuming to do our own will—in opposition to the will of God, who is our Creator, Lawgiver and Benefactor. By sin we . . .
  attempt independence from our Creator,
  affront the authority of our righteous Lawgiver, and
  are guilty of base and horrid ingratitude against our greatest and kindest Benefactor!

If you could form a 'little creature' and make it live—and if it hated you and opposed you, slighted your kindness, and took pleasure in displeasing you—would you not soon be weary of it, and, instead of feeding and taking care of it, be provoked to tread it under your feet? But, oh, the patience of God, though He could destroy rebellious men much more easily than you could kill a loathsome spider—yet He waits to be gracious, and has so loved them as to send His own Son to die, that they may live!

Sin has not only filled the world with woe, but it was the cause of all the woe that Jesus endured. He groaned and wept, and sweat blood, and died upon the cross—only because we had sinned! May I live to see you duly affected with the evil of sin, and the love of Jesus! There is nothing more that I desire for you!
I am, my dear child,
Your most affectionate father

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I would teach you a way to be never be disappointed

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(The following is a letter of John Newton to his 13 year old adopted daughter, who was away at school)

"The LORD does whatever pleases Him—in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:6

My dear Betsy,
How vain are all things here below! "Vanity of vanities!" says the preacher. And you, and I, and your mamma, may say so likewise; for we all counted upon seeing you last Sunday. We listened at the door—and peeped out of the window—but no Betsy came! Now we will venture to expect you next Sunday.

Indeed, it is not amiss that you should now and then meet with a hindrance; that you may learn, if possible, not to count too much on what tomorrow may do for you—and that you may begin to feel the impossibility of being happy, any further than your will is brought into submission to the will of God. In order to learn this, you must have your own will frequently crossed. And things do and will turn out, almost daily in one way or other—contrary to our wishes and expectations.

When such disappointments happen, most people fret and fume! They are angry and impatient! But others, who are in the Lord's school, and desirous of being taught by Him—get benefit by these things, and sometimes find more pleasure in yielding to His appointments, though contrary to their own wills—than they would have done, if all had happened just as they had desired!

I wish for you my dear child, to think much of the Lord's governing providence. It extends to the minutest concerns. He rules and manages all things; but in so secret a way, that most people think that He does nothing; when, in reality—He does ALL!

He appointed the time of your coming into the world. And the day and hour of your coming home from school to us, totally depends upon Him likewise! Nor can you safely travel one step of the road, without His protection and care over you!

It may now seem a small matter to you and I, whether you came home last Sunday—or are to come home next Sunday. But we know not what different consequences may depend upon the day—we know not what hidden danger you might have escaped by staying at school last Sunday. The Lord knows all things! He foresees every possible consequence! Often what we call disappointments, are really mercies from Him to save us from harm!

If I could teach you a lesson, which, as yet, I have but poorly learned myself—I would teach you a way to be never be disappointed. This would be the case, if you could always form a right judgment of this world, and all things in it.

If you go to a bramble-bush to look for grapes, you must be disappointed; but then you are old enough to know that grapes never grow upon brambles. So, if you expect much pleasure here in this world, you will not find it. But you ought not to say that you are disappointed, because the Scripture plainly warned you beforehand, to look for crosses, trials and hindrances, every day. If you expect such things, you will not be disappointed when they happen!

"At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away! May the name of the Lord be praised!" Job 1:20-21

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Behold, all things have become new!

(Albert Barnes, 1798-1870)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
  he is a new creation;
  old things have passed away;
  behold, all things have become new!"
2 Corinthians 5:17

1. "He is a new creation"
In the conversion of a sinner a change is produced so great as to make it proper to say that he is a new creation of God—a work of Divine power as decided and as glorious as when God created all things out of nothing!

This change is so deep, so clear, so radical, and so abiding, that it is proper to say that he is a new man. He has . . .
  new views,
  new motives,
  new principles,
  new objects and plans of life.

He seeks new purposes, and he lives for new ends.

2. "Old things have passed away"
Their former prejudices, opinions, habits, attachments—pass away.
Their supreme love of self passes away.
Their love of sin passes away.
Their love of the world passes away.
Their supreme attachment to their earthly friends rather than God passes away.
Their love of sin—their sensuality, pride, vanity, levity, ambition—passes away.
There is a deep and radical change on all these subjects—a change which commences at the new birth; which is carried on by progressive sanctification; and which is consummated at death and in Heaven.

3. "Behold, all things have become new!"

The purposes of life,
the feelings of the heart,
the principles of action
—all become new.

The understanding is consecrated to new objects,
the body is employed in new service,
the heart forms new attachments.

All is new! There are . . .
  new views of God, and of Jesus Christ;
  new views of this world, and of the world to come;
  new views of truth, and of duty; and
  everything is seen in a new aspect, and with new feelings.

The Bible seems to be a new book; and though they may have often read it before, yet there is a beauty about it which they never saw before, and which they wonder they have not before perceived.

The whole face of nature seems to them to be changed, and they seem to be in a new world. The hills, and valleys, and streams; the sun, the stars, the groves, the forests—seem to be new. A new beauty is spread over them all; and they now see them to be the work of God, and is glory is spread over them all. They now say, "My Father made them all!" The heavens and the earth are filled with new wonders, and all things seem now to speak forth the praise of God!

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Behold, all things have become new! (part 2)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
  he is a new creation;
  old things have passed away;
  behold, all things have become new!"
2 Corinthians 5:17

(Matthew Henry, 1662-1714)

Christians are new creations—they have a new heart and new nature. So great is the change which the grace of God makes in the soul, that old things are passed away: old thoughts, old principles, and old practices—are passed away; and all these things must become new. Regenerating grace creates a new world in the soul—all things are new. The renewed man acts . . .
  from new principles,
  by new rules,
  with new ends,
  and in new company.

(Adam Clarke, 1762-1832)

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away. It is vain for a man to profess affinity to Christ, while he is unchanged in his heart and life, and dead in trespasses and sins. For he who is in Christ, that is, a genuine Christian, having Christ dwelling in his heart by faith—is a new creature; his old state is changed:
  he was a child of Satan—he is now a child of God;
  he was a slave of sin, and his works were death—he is now made free from sin, and has his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life;
  he was before full of pride and selfishness—he is now meek and humble;
  he formerly had his portion in this life, and lived for this world alone—he now has God for his portion, and he looks not at the things which are seen but at the things which are eternal. Therefore, old things are passed away.

(Barton Johnson, 1833-1894)

Behold, all things have become new! The man is not only mended, but he is new made. Formerly, all was in chaotic disorder—now there is a new creation which God Himself owns as His workmanship, and which He can look on and pronounce very good. The conversion of a man from idolatry and wickedness is denominated a new creation. Born anew, we are new creatures who must live a new life. All things have become new:
  the affections,
  the motives,
  the thoughts,
  the hopes,
  the whole life!