Grace Gems for MAY, 2022

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The wisest arithmetic!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12

I number my days aright, when I feel their fewness. To the imagination of the young, life seems long. They catch no echo of "the roar of the waves of eternity, as they dash on the shores of time"—so far away those shores appear to be. But the farther I advance in age, the more swiftly and imperceptibly the hours and weeks and years steal on. At the outset of the voyage, I mark my progress by the objects on the river-banks: trees, houses, towering hills. But, later, I have left the river, and am on the trackless sea; and the sea remorselessly impels me on. Soon I shall hear the cry, "Land ahead!" and my voyage of life will be finished and past!

I number my days aright, when I recall their uncertainty. Often they are abruptly broken, before they have attained their bound. "Lord, spare the green—and take the ripe," is a cry often sounded. But the cry is not always answered, and the child as well as the parent is laid in the churchyard grave.

Let me remember how brittle my years are—and let me seize hold upon eternal realities which cannot be shaken.

I number my days aright, also, if I compare them with the unchangeableness of God. The world  watches the generations come and go. But God is without beginning, and the millenniums have left Him unhurt by the tooth of time. How paltry my fourscore winters seem, in the light of His unending ages! Yes! but let me turn to Him. Let me cast myself on the Everlasting Arms, and the enduringness of my God will pass into my frailty and littleness.

And I number my days aright, if I think of them in relation to the limitless future. In one sense, I am easily robbed of them; in another sense, my years will come to no conclusion at all. As short as they are, they prelude an unimaginable, deathless existence. Now I am laying the foundations of an eternal palace—or of an eternal prison, from which I shall never leave. Now I am molding for myself a king's unfading crown—or a criminal's inexorable chain. And since such momentous outcomes hang on the slender thread of my fleeting days, let me live as one about to migrate to the eternal world, and let me be diligent in my Father's business.

This is, indeed, the wisest arithmetic!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Instead of lodging the lion and the leopard and the wolf!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"With authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him!" Mark 1:27

No word of the Gospel sounds more gladsomely in my ears than this. For the unclean spirits have invaded the citadel of my soul, and asserted their hateful domination over me. I have no strength to drive them out—but, my Lord, You can rescue me from their hideous craft and polluting bondage! Every deadly sin may be defeated by the virtue of Your Cross, and the omnipotence of Your Spirit.

There is what Dante calls the hungry lion of Pride. In my pride . . .
  I claim a false superiority,
  I exalt myself arrogantly and unreasonably,
  I am never satisfied,
  I am never content with the honor I receive. Always I am clamoring for more, and more, and more.

Lord Jesus Christ, subdue this demon of Pride!

Then there is what Dante calls the spotted leopard of Sensuality. It is not simply in my hot youth that I give harborage to corrupting imaginations, which sink me beneath my true dignity. They are horribly persistent. They follow me into my riper age. Again and again they reappear. A story in the newspaper makes them recur, or a too suggestive picture, or an impure word which I overhear as I hurry along the street.

Wrestle, O Christ, with the spotted leopard in me, and kill him outright!
Forsake me not, until my hidden thoughts are as sinless as Your own.

And there is what Dante calls the famished wolf of Covetousness. I crave money, crave it with a hunger which refuses to be appeased. If I have managed to secure a little gain, and am of some account in the social sphere—then I am full of eagerness to add to my store. If I am poor, then I am discontented, and forever scheming and toiling for more money.

Lord Jesus, when You were here, You had nothing of the world's riches—and yet Your heart lacked for no good thing. Without wallet or purse, You were crowned with the love of the Father and the fullness of the Spirit. Teach me Your secret, and let the wolf of Covetousness be slain too!

You are all I want. Come to me, and dwell patiently and victoriously within me—until I am holy as You are holy. Then, instead of lodging the lion and the leopard and the wolf, and many another unclean and loathly beast—I shall be conformed to the Lamb and the Dove!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

My subtlest and strongest enemies are within myself!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

Fighting a long and hard campaign, I shall be very foolish if I underestimate my foes.
There are many of them, but they serve under a trinity of wicked captains.

1. "If any man loves the WORLD," writes John, "the love of the Father is not in him." The world is my sworn and unrelenting enemy; an enemy all the more dangerous because it professes to be something so different—the best of comrades and the truest of friends.

I must take my part, and that with diligence, in the world's business. Yet what a risk there is, that it should absorb my thoughts morning and night! Then I shall become selfish and earthly and unspiritual.

I must make acquaintance with the world's literature, and much of it is beautiful and good. But I am prone to give it an undue attention, and to forget the divine library which God's finger has penned.

I must mingle among the world's citizens, and many of them are love-worthy and full of charm. Yet, when I prize them overmuch, they separate me from Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

Under its kindly face, the world is a hostile power!

2. "Your adversary the DEVIL," writes Peter. Here is another stupendous antagonist. The accuser of the brethren prowls about, unseen and malignant, sleeplessly plotting my harm! Never should I leave off my spiritual armor.

3. "The FLESH lusts against the Spirit," writes Paul. After all, my subtlest and strongest enemies are within myself! Old sin comes back, seeking the mastery again. And much in me loves it, and goes out to meet and embrace it. There, indeed, is my greatest hazard—there my most deadly snare!

"O wretched man that I am!" I re-echo the ancient cry, "who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" Yes, my worst foes are entrenched within the citadel of Mansoul, within my own heart!

My God, I have no might against this great company, neither do I know what to do! But my eyes are upon You!

"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!" Jude 1:24-25 

   ~  ~  ~  ~

My New Testament Joseph!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"The chief butler, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him." Genesis 40:23

Was it simply that the butler was absorbed in the affections of home, and the duties of business? Through his imprisonment, he had been bereft of the touch of a wife's hand and the kiss of a child on lip and cheek. His occupation was in danger of going to another, and his prosperity of being lost. It was scarcely surprising that the treasures so nearly forfeited, should engross him, when once they were restored.

But home is at its best, when I am full of the recollection of my New Testament Joseph; and the wheels of business never run so pleasantly as then. I gain by thinking first of Him.

2. Was it that at Pharaoh's court, the butler was afraid to speak of his obligation to a Hebrew slave? Doubtless the stranger had conferred a measureless blessing on him; but, among the lords and ladies of Egypt, it required great courage to tell out frankly his indebtedness to an alien and a prisoner.

Just so, Christ in many circles is almost a forbidden theme. He is not fashionable in the mirthful world. There are masters of culture and leaders of society who pass Him contemptuously by. In such surroundings, am I brave enough to be His enthusiast, His witness, His champion?

3. Was it that the butler felt a kind of awe and dread when he recalled Joseph? As congenial and brotherly as the young captive was—there was a curious separateness about him, a noble scorn of much that the butler might have condoned and approved, an impressiveness of character to which he could lay little claim. It may have been a relief to banish Joseph from thought.

Just so, Jesus is holy Himself, and He demands holiness in me. I am glad of His blessings, but I may dislike His commands. And yet, the better I know them, the more resolved I shall be to bind them on my life.

4. Was it merely that the butler was unthinking and heedless? But he had not been so a little before, when the fetters lay on him and the dungeon walls shut him in. It does not commend him that he could become oblivious of his friend, immediately after that friend had lifted him into the king's palace.

Just so, how greatly I am to be blamed, if I fail to keep fresh and green, the memory of the mighty things which Christ has done for me! Mine was the worst and most shameful thraldom, and His the most astonishing emancipation. To forget the Redeemer, when He has rescued me from deserved Hell, and blessed me with undeserved Heaven—there never was ingratitude so base!

"Be thankful!" Hebrews 12:28. It is a command which nothing must induce me to disregard, and which I must hold in constant reverence. I cannot sound the praises of my Deliverer too loudly. I cannot yield myself too absolutely to Him who sacrificed Himself for me!

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The Shepherd searching for the sheep!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for My sheep and look after them!" Ezekiel 34:11

The prophet looked into a distant future, and saw the day of Christ from afar.

1. Just so, I look back and see my sovereign Lord in the manger-cradle at Bethlehem. He has emptied Himself; He has laid all His glory down. He has come to my earth, not in the splendors of His divinity, but with an infant's palpable and pathetic claim for nursing and nurture. He has taken my nature in its feeblest and most helpless condition, and made it His own nature.

It is a long way for the Shepherd to travel in search of the sheep; no arithmetic can compute it, no history can describe the downward journey. But the Incarnation is not enough. Not at Bethlehem does the Lover of my soul find me who has departed from His fold.

2. Then I see my sovereign Lord on the hillsides and in the cornfields and on the lake-waters of Galilee.

Never a man speaks like this Man. His are the words of grace and truth, of fire and dew.

Never a man lives like this Man. He does not weary in healing, feeding, comforting, rebuking sin, and compassionating and blessing the sinner.

He is seeking me by the messages of His lips, and by the blamelessness and beneficence of His life. Patiently He is enticing me home. But the ministry of word and miracle is not enough. Not in Capernaum does the Flock-master find me, who am so persevering in my revolt.

3. Then I see my sovereign Lord beneath the olive trees in Gethsemane. He is praying with strong cryings and tears. He has come very near to the transgressors now, and more poignantly than ever He feels the awfulness of their burden. His sweat, falling down to the ground, is, as it were, great drops of blood. The Seeker is learning the sharpness of the crag, and the rush of the torrent. None has cared for me so much; none has borne a sorrow so deep on my behalf. But His intercession and His sympathy are not enough. Not in the agonies of the garden, does He succeed in finding me.

4. But last, I see my sovereign Lord nailed to the Cross outside the gate on the Hill of Reproach. He dies for sin, but not His own; He is purer than the newborn lamb and the new-fallen snow. He lays my immeasurable guilt on Himself. He redeems me by the one perfect offering of His unblemished body and soul. The Good Shepherd is giving His life for His sheep! And this, at length, is enough—the atonement, the blood-shedding. It is enough for God; and it is enough for me.

On Calvary I behold the depth of my iniquity, and the wonder of His redemption!

On Calvary my God finds me, and conquers me, and saves me!

Never was there a sheep so silly, so fond of roaming, so bent on destroying itself!
Never was there a search so longsome, so untiring, and so fraught with suffering!
Never was there a Shepherd like my adorable Redeemer!

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!"
John 10:11

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The love of Christ which surpasses knowledge!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"The love of Christ which surpasses knowledge!" Ephesians 3:19

No love stoops like Christ's love.
It abandoned place and prospects and power—to save me!
It traveled from the heights of Heaven, to the depths of sinful earth.
God, pure and holy, chose voluntarily to make His home with me a sinner!

The sole qualification I need to commend myself to Him is not my conviction of worth, but my conviction of worthlessness—my knowledge that I am devoid of goodness and holiness! Then, when I confess myself penniless, He will invest me with His treasures. He banishes no self-destroyed and forlorn and penitent man outside the pale of His grace.

His love stoops!

No love suffers like Christ's love. The test of affection is its willingness to suffer sacrifice and pain for another. Never has any affection stood the test like the love of Jesus.

"It is certain," one writes, "that not for one hour on earth, was our Lord without the anguish of His passion." And at last He made the supreme offering of His life, for me. Such bitterness, such dereliction, such unspeakable sorrow—there were in my Savior's death. For me He bore the hiding of His Father's face on Calvary. It is an unfathomable pre-eminence of grief. It is a horror of great darkness which I may not pierce.

His love suffers!

No love gives like Christ's love. Love is always giving. But when was there human love with such wealth to bestow, and such willingness to communicate it—as the love of Christ? In simple fact, He imparts nothing less than Himself to me! The most unholy, the most tempted, the most despairing—cannot desire anything more sufficient.

His love gives!

And no love lasts like Christ's love. The truest and tenderest earthly love says farewell to its beloved in death. And too often, even on this side of the grave, doubts insinuate themselves, and suspicions arise, and covenants are snapped and broken. It is not so with the love of Christ. Neither things present nor things to come, the demands of today and the contingencies of tomorrow—chill that great heart of love! Christ's love is like Himself—eternal and unchangeable.

His love lasts!

Does not His wondrous love deserve my whole soul and body—all that I have, and all that I am? Nothing is stranger, and nothing more sad, than that, bathed in Christ's love—I should be so indifferent, so forgetful, so cold!

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich!" 2 Corinthians 8:9

    ~  ~  ~  ~

A universe which carries the print of the Creator's finger!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom have You made them all." Psalm 104:24

Let me walk through the world, so various, so beautiful, so pleasing—with an open eye. It is strange that there are many who have no discernment of its wondrousness. They are dwellers in a palace, which has a variety and a magnificence that India's Taj Mahal never possessed—and they are blind to its marvels!

But I would ask for a purged and illuminated vision—and then Your works in nature will astonish me. Let me walk through the world, which is the many-colored vesture of the Lord, with a believing mind.

It is both strange and sad, that men should be atheists in a universe which carries the print of the Creator's finger on . . .
  each grain of sand,
  each blade of grass,
  each beam of light!
They are as senseless as one who would go through a large factory, with its complicated mechanisms and machinery, and would say, "I do not believe man exists!"

But I would be wiser than they. I would subscribe to William Law's sentiment, "Nature is what it is for this end only—that the hidden riches, the invisible powers, the blessings, the glory, and the love of the unsearchable God—may become visible, sensible, and manifest in it and by it!" This is a saner conclusion than the atheist's.

And let me walk through the world with a joyous soul. No doubt, there is much in it to fill the heart with painfulness; and pessimism has turned to the strifes and sorrows of creation for proof of its dismal creed.

But the goodness of God is written, too, in letters of gold on hill and lake and mountain and forest and stream. Not a sunrise, but speaks of His patient and enduring grace! Not a sunset, but stirs the conscience of the sinner, and opens Heaven itself to the saint! So much of His divine glory, the Almighty Maker conveys . . .
  by His sunrise and sunset touches,
  by His flowers and woodland trees,
  by His vast ocean and starry sky.
Therefore let me be strong and of good courage—He remembers me, His redeemed child!

The sights and sounds of the landscape ought to be preachers and trumpets of the glory of God. In the cool of the day, when I pass through the country fields, or climb to the summit of the hill, or sit and gaze across the sea—God and my soul should meet and talk.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard!" Psalm 19:1-3

    ~  ~  ~  ~


The thief!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Hour of Silence" 1899)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise!"
   Luke 23:42-43

"Twas a thief," Robert Browning writes, "who said the last kind word to Christ."

In the morning the thief was OUT of Christ:
  far from God and far from righteousness,
  the helpless captive of sin,
  the child of despair and death.

At noon the thief was IN Christ:
  remembered graciously by the Savior of the lost,
  redeemed with an everlasting redemption,
  endowed with the new heart,
  and freely and perfectly justified.

In the evening the thief was WITH Christ:
  gazing on the glories of paradise,
  safe at home with his good Shepherd and adorable Redeemer.

What a crowded and memorable day this was in his history! So much was pressed into these few hours. Such a glorious and unprecedented transition they brought, from the cruel cross—to Heaven's glory!

OUT of Christ,
then IN Christ,
then WITH Christ!

then grace,
then glory!

Hopelessly lost in the far country,
then safe under the Savior's wings,
then beside the Lord on His glorious throne!

Are these the three stages in my spiritual biography?

I know the first only too well.
Am I growing more and more familiar with the second?
Is it my joy to look forward to the third?

"I ask not the favor given to Paul," Copernicus said, "I seek not the grace bestowed upon Peter—but I beg the mercy granted to the thief on the cross!"

    ~  ~  ~  ~

I awake, a new man in a new world of light and love!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

"First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens." Mark 4:28

There is a similar quietness and calm and steadiness as He deals with my soul.

So it is when He first saves me. For the most part, there is no stir when Christ revolutionizes my heart. Yet, as quiet and inexplicable as the work is—it is thoroughly done.
My mind is illuminated.
My conscience convinces me of my sin.
My heart is enlivened.
My will is subdued.
I awake, a new man in a new world of light and love, from which I shall never leave!

In the same way, my practical sanctification progresses gradually, rather than by leaps and bounds. My ascent up the strait and narrow way to the Celestial City is slower and more agonizing than I had dreamed. My day has cold in it, and tempest, and tears—as well as sunshine and warmth.

Yet He is ruling within me as . . .
  the Teacher of my ignorance,
  the Finisher of my faith,
  the Gardener who matures my spiritual life, even if my growth takes time and my lot is troubled.

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day!" Proverbs 4:18

"The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand!" Psalm 37:23-24

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!" Philippians 1:6

    ~  ~  ~  ~

He chooses and saves one of His crucifiers!

(Alexander Smellie, "The Secret Place" 1907)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio above, as you read the text below.)

"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up His clothes by casting lots." Luke 23:34

"And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard His cry and saw how He died, he said: Surely this man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:39

He Who hung in sheer and marvelous mercy on the Cross craves a trophy of grace, and will not be satisfied until He has it. Out of the ranks of cruel paganism, He chooses and saves one of His crucifiers!

The Savior had been praying, and it is evident now that His prayer was not in vain: "Father, forgive them!" He had entreated God for the very Roman centurion who had nailed Him to His tree of shame, and then had sat down and barbarously gambled for His clothes. Yet he is . . .
  fully and instantly forgiven,
  led bound in blessed thraldom by Him whose arms he had fettered,
  transformed into the confessor of the Man he crucifies!

Let me rejoice that nothing is too hard for the prayers of Jesus. He asks God for . . .
  my salvation and pardon,
  the conquest of my unthinking and earth-chained mind,
  the renewal of my selfish, proud and disobedient life.
In the heavenly place He lifts His holy and pierced hands on my behalf. And the Father gives Him His heart's desire, and does not withhold the request of His lips.

    ~  ~  ~  ~

If this is happiness—then give me misery!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen, and lived in luxury every day." Luke 16:19

How apt are many at the sight of a rich worldling, to envy him for what he has.
But, for my part, I rather pity him for what he lacks!
He has money, but he lacks wisdom to use it wisely;
he has a lamp, but it lacks oil;
he has a soul, but it lacks grace;
he has the creature, but he lacks the Creator;
he has a mansion, but he lacks Heaven.

In his life, he floats upon a torrent of vanity which rolls along into an ocean of vexation!

And after death, it will be said of him, "Take this unprofitable servant, bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness! Consign his soul to the eternal lake of fire and brimstone!"

Where now is the object of your envy?

It is not his gold that can then rescue him,
nor his mansion that can then satisfy him,
nor his friends that can then comfort him.

Therefore, if he is worth the envying—then who can be worth the pitying?

If this is happiness—then give me misery!

Lord, rather make me poor, with a holy heart—than rich, with an evil heart of unbelief!

"Have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue—because I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:24

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

    ~  ~  ~  ~

Go, take your fill!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures!" Psalm 16:11

Your happiness arises from that object on which your affections are placed. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. If your affections are placed upon a poor empty creature; or, if like Judas, your heart is so depraved that you desire only the money-bag; or, like Reuben, you are content for worldly convenience to continue on this side Jordan—then remember that you are bartering eternal life for a mere fantasy, and deceiving yourself into irretrievable and endless ruin!

If you will be content with . . .
  a breath of honor,
  a blaze of pleasure,
  a snare of riches, or
  a parcel of vanity,
then go, take your fill! But know assuredly, that the end of these things is death!

When you shall draw your last breath,
when honor will appear only as air,
when your deathless soul shall be forever ensnared
—then you will greatly lament your past conduct, and wish you had never been born!

But now, O true Christian, if you are risen with Christ from the dead, and are looking at unseen and eternal realities—then for you is prepared . . .
  a golden crown,
  a celestial harp,
  a glorious mansion,
  and eternal hallelujahs!
You shall enjoy the presence of God and the Lamb forever and ever! You shall gaze on the incomparable brightness of God, and forever contemplate the wonders of redemption!

Lord, if this is my happiness—then let others enjoy the things of this world!
For my part, I am content to deny myself, and take up my cross and follow You!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

O stand amazed at His free grace!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

O precious saint! Three questions call for your answer:
   1. What were you?
   2. What are you?
   3. What shall you be?

1. What were you?
  Dead in your transgressions and sins,
  a rebel to your God,
  a prodigal to your Father,
  a slave to your lust,
  the devil's captive,
  on the highway to Hell!

2. What are you?
  Redeemed by Christ,
  a royal child of God,
  the spouse of Christ,
  the temple of the Holy Spirit,
  the heir of a priceless eternal inheritance!

3. What shall you be?
  A glorious saint,
  a companion of angels,
  a triumphant victor,
  a crowned king,
  an attendant on the Lamb,
  a participant in those soul-ravishing and ineffable excellencies that are in God!
You shall behold the King of Glory face to face, and enjoy immediate communion with Jesus Christ!

Nay more, you are made one with Him:
  clothed with His excellencies,
  enthroned with His glories,
  crowned with His eternity,
  and filled with His felicity!

"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

O stand amazed at His free grace—and render all the glory to God!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Affliction prepared for and improved

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees." Psalm 119:71

As it is the duty of God's children to prepare for affliction before it comes,
so is it also their duty to improve affliction when it does come.

If we do not prepare for affliction, we shall be surprised by it;
and, if we do not improve it, we are likely to increase it.

He who would prepare for affliction, must beforehand:
  resign all to God,
  strengthen his graces,
  store up divine promises,
  and search out secret sins.

And he who would improve affliction when it does come, must labor to see:
  sin more and more in its filthiness, so as to mortify it;
  his heart in its deceitfulness, so as to watch over it;
  the world in its emptiness, so as to be crucified to it;
  grace in its amiableness, so as to prize it;
  God in His holiness, so as to revere Him; and
  Heaven in its desirableness, so as to long after it.

He who takes more care to avoid afflictions, than to be fitted for them; or
is more solicitous to be delivered from them, than to be bettered by them;
is likely to come soonest into them, and to live longest under them!

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.
 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 12:10-11

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word." Psalm 119:67

"I know, O Lord, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

   ~  ~  ~  ~

That last river which we all must pass over!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

The Israelites were necessitated first to pass over the Jordan River, before they could enter Canaan, the promised land. But no sooner had the feet of the priests, who bore the ark of the covenant, rested in the water—but the proud waves saw it and fled, and the swelling streams were driven back, and congealed in heaps to enable them to pass over with safety.

Every child of God resembles an Israelite in this respect; he is passing through the wilderness of this world, and traveling to the land of promise. DEATH is that Jordan River which runs between this wilderness world, and our heavenly Canaan. Death is that swelling stream which overflows the banks of every mortal creature. It is that last river which we all must pass over!

But this is the happiness which believers have—that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, who bears the everlasting covenant upon His shoulders, has already dipped His feet in the streams of this water, so that the streams of bitterness are diverted, the sting of death plucked out, the waters of the salt sea dried up; yes, the power of the curse cut off, so that death is but a sure step to glory!

Why then am I afraid to die? The channel is dry! I see the footsteps of my Savior at the bottom, and Heaven and happiness on the other side! The waters cannot overwhelm my soul!
They may go over my sins,
they may go over my foes,
they may go over my miseries,
they may go over my troubles,
but my soul shall pass over to its eternal rest!

Lord, therefore fit and sanctify me for death, and then take down my earthly tent. I cannot be with You too soon!

"I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" Philippians 1:23

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!" 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The happiness of Heaven!

(Thomas Sherman, "Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ")

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

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

The vessel of our soul is too capacious to be filled with all the pleasures and delights the world put together. But hereafter, our pleasures and delights shall be too great for the most capacious vessel to hold! Our glory shall be so great, that power as well as goodness, shall be given by God Himself to renew and enlarge these vessels, that they may be capable of receiving and retaining that glory. Strength and love shall go forth together, to prepare and elevate our dispositions, that they may be suitable for such a transcendent and exalted state!

At present, we are too weak to bear such a weight of glory; therefore God will immortalize us, that we may be able to sustain it! And because our eternal joys cannot fully enter into us while in this world, we shall fully enter into them in heaven.

What fool would place only a few drops of carnal pleasures into so large a vessel as the soul; and neglect the spring, or rather the ocean of unspeakable bliss, and everlasting glory!

O my soul, what a glorious day is coming, when the vessels of mercy shall be cast into the ocean of mercy, and be filled to the very brim with divine mercy! Then the soul that is love-sick for Jesus—shall lie in the bosom of divine love, and forever be satisfied with unfathomable love! Then the children of God shall have a full fruition of God, and be forever satisfied with the presence of God! The joy of His glorious presence, the fullness of His joy, the sweetness of this fullness, the eternity of this sweetness—the heart of man can never adequately comprehend.

Lord, let the glory which you have prepared for me, turn my soul from the vanities of earth!

"You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!" Psalm 16:11

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Call Him 'Father' in the furnace!

(Thomas Sherman, "Aids to the Divine Life; A Series of Practical Christian Contemplations" 1680)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. 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 12:10-11

The afflictions of the wicked are punishments from God, as an angry Judge!
But the afflictions of the godly are chastisements from God, as a gracious Father!

The afflictions of the wicked, moreover, are preludes to their future misery!
But the corrections of the godly, are preparations for their future glory!

"See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10. Under all afflictive dispensations, therefore, hold fast upon God; call Him 'Father' in the furnace!

Keep up honorable thoughts of God as to His dealings;
and low thoughts of yourself as to your deservings.

"All the paths of the Lord (in reference to His people) are mercy and truth," Psalm 25:10. In our affliction, God in mercy is fulfilling some of His faithful promises for our good. He will not allow His children to go on in the way of sin, without seasonable rebukes to bring them again to Himself. If you would, therefore, discern the goodness of God in your affliction, consider wherein you stand in need of it.

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word." Psalm 119:67

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees." Psalm 119:71

   ~  ~  ~  ~

It will be bitter in your belly!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"The wages of sin, is death." Romans 6:23

The 'ways of sin' may have popular approval, but they shall also have divine abhorrence marked upon them.

This Delilah may please us for a time, but she will betray us at last!

Though Satan's apples may have a fair skin, yet they certainly have a bitter core!

Methinks the flaming sword in one hand, and the golden scepter in the other hand— should guard us from the forbidden tree, and make our hearts like wet tinder to all the sparks of Satan!

Reader, if you behold nothing but pleasure in the commission of sin, you will experience nothing but the most dreadful pain in the conclusion of sin! "The wages of sin, is death." All workmen should have their wages; and it is only reasonable that those who employ you, should pay you. But, however you may delight in the works of sin, you will by no means relish the wages of sin! Ah, what wise man would toil so long in sin's drudgery, whose wages are no better than eternal misery!

"The wages of sin, is death." Though all sins are not equal in their nature, yet all sins are in their very nature, deadly.

The candle of man's life is blown out, by the wind of his lusts!
The corruption of nature, tends to the dissolution of nature.
Reader, you began to be mortal, when you began to be sinful.
If you had never had anything to do with sin, death could never have had anything to do with you.

It is at that vile enemy, SIN, which God shoots all His arrows!

Sin is like a serpent in your bosom, which stings you!
Sin is like a thief in your closet, who plunders you!
Sin resembles poison in the stomach; or a sword to the heart, both of which tend to death!

Like John's little book, sin may be sweet in your mouth, but it will be bitter in your belly!

The foul dregs, lie at the bottom of the vessel.
The golden cup of sin, is filled with the most poisonous ingredients!

Sinner, that which is now like a rose flourishing in your bosom,
will in a very little time be like a poisoned dagger at your heart!

While such a 'Judas' kisses, he kills!
While the ivy twines round the oak, it eats out its sap.

If sin were not so deceitful, it would not be so delightful.
Like a cunning angler, sin shows the bait, but conceals the hook!
If you, O man, are found nibbling at the bait, you may justly expect the hook!

O think, you who now boast in nothing so much as sin, that there is a time approaching, when you will be ashamed of nothing but sin! You will be eternally sinful, but you cannot be eternally joyful. In hell, all that sugar will be melted, in which this bitter pill of sin was wrapped!

Hell is too hot a climate
, for wanton delights to live in!

The pleasures of sin are but for a season, but the torments of unpardoned sin are of an eternal duration! Death will turn all the waters of pleasure, into blood!

The serpent of sensual delight, always carries a deadly sting in its tail!

All the blaze of worldly pomp, will soon end in midnight darkness and horror!

It is better to make your lodgings in a bed of snakes, than in the forbidden bed of sinful lusts!

When the pale horse of death goes before, the red horse of wrath follows after!

When the sinner's body goes to the worms to be consumed,
then his soul goes to hell to be tormented!

A wise man knows, that it is far better to forego the pleasures of sin here,
than to undergo the pains of wrath hereafter!

"There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed, feasting lavishly every day." What pleasure does Dives now reap in Hell, from all the choice banquets he sat down to, on earth? "I am in agony in this fire!" The stench and torment of everlasting burnings, will take away the sweetest perfumes which ever covered sin!

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The puddle of their own merit!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

Many have passed the rocks of gross sins, who have suffered shipwreck upon the sands of self-righteousness.

It was the saying of one, that he "would swim through a sea of brimstone, if he might but arrive safely at Heaven." Ah, how would natural men soar to Heaven, upon the pinions of their own merit! The sunbeams of Divine justice, will soon melt such weak and wax wings!

He who has no better righteousness than what is of his own providing, shall meet with no higher happiness than what is of his own deserving. "They disregarded the righteousness from God, and attempted to establish their own righteousness." They are determined to sail in their own ship, though they sink in the ocean!

We are so far from paying the utmost farthing, that at our utmost, we have not even a farthing to pay! That man will be a miserable spectacle of vanity, who stands upon the lame feet of his own ability!

Duties are but dry pits, though ever so meticulously wrought, until Christ fills them.
Reader, I would neither have you be idle in duties, nor make an idol of duties.

What are duties without Christ, but like a fine cabinet without a jewel, or a golden cup without a cordial? The most diligent saint, has been the most self-distrusting saint: "that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." If you are found in your own righteousness, you will be lost by your own righteousness. That garment which was worn to shreds on Adam's back, will never make a complete covering for you.

Duties may be good crutches to go upon, but they are bad Christs to lean upon.

It is the greatest disparagement that professors can offer to Christ, to put their services in the scale with His sufferings. The beggarly rags of the first Adam, must never be put on with the princely robe of the second Adam!

Man is a creature too much inclined to warm himself by the sparks of his own fire, though he lies down in eternal flames for kindling them! Though Noah's dove made use of her wings, yet she found no rest but in the ark.

Duties can never have too much of our diligence, or too little of our confidence.
A believer does not perform good works to live, but he lives to perform good works.

He shall have Hell as his debt, who will not take Heaven as a gift.

"We boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh." A true Christian stands at as great distance from trusting in the best of his services, as in the worst of his sins! He knows that the greatest part of his holiness, will not make the least part of his justifying righteousness. He has unreservedly subscribed to that sentiment, "that when we have done all, we are only unprofitable servants."

When we have kept all the commandments, there is one commandment above all to be kept; that is, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags!" In most of our works, we are abominable sinners; and in the best of our works, we are unprofitable servants. "O Sovereign Lord, I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone!" You see, beloved, the righteousness of Christ is to be magnified, when the righteousness of a Christian is not to be mentioned.

It is hard for us to be "nothing in ourselves" amidst all our works;
and to be "all things in Christ," amidst all our weakness.

To undertake every duty, and yet to overlook every duty,
is a lesson which none can learn, but Christ's scholars.

Our obedience, at best, is like good wine, which relishes of a bad cask. The 'Law of God' will not accept ninety-nine for a hundred. It will not accept the coin of our obedience, either short in quantity, or base in quality. The duty it exacts, is as impossible to be performed in this our fallen state; as the penalty it inflicts, is intolerable to be endured in our eternal state!

We do not sail to glory in the salt sea of our own tears,
but in the red sea of the Redeemer's blood!

The Cross of Christ, is the only key of paradise!

We owe the life of our souls, to the death of our Savior.

It was His going into the fiery furnace,
which keeps us from going into the devouring flames!

Man lives, by death: his natural life is preserved by the death of the creature; and his spiritual life is gained by the death of the Redeemer.

Those who carry their vessel of hope to the puddle of their own merit,
will never draw the water of comfort, from the fountain of God's mercy!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

God will not throw away His jewels!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" Mark 9:24

Lord, I see—but enlighten my darkness!
Lord, I hear—but cure my deafness!
Lord, I move—but quicken my dullness!
Lord, I desire—but help my unwillingness!

Wherever sin proves hateful, it shall not prove hurtful.

What an apology does a sorrowful Savior make for His sleeping saints:
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!"

Take a carnal man, and what he can do—that he will not do.
Take a Christian man, and what he would do—that he cannot do.

God will pity impotency, but He will punish obstinacy.

It would be folly, indeed, to think that:
our fields have no grain in them, because there is some chaff around the wheat;
or that the ore had no gold in it, because there is some dross mixed among it.

In Heaven, there is service alone, without any sin.
In Hell, there is sin alone, without service.
But on earth, there is sin and service in the same man,
as there is light and shade in the same picture.

Above us, there is light without any darkness.
Below us, there is darkness without any light.
But in this world, it is neither all day nor all night.

Though the lowest believer is above the power of sin,
yet the highest believer is not above the presence of sin!

It is in a living Christian that sin is to be mortified,
but it is only in a dying Christian that sin is to be destroyed.

When the body and the soul, are separated by mortality;
sin and the soul, will then be separated to eternity!

Sin never ruins, but where it reigns.

Sin is not damning, where it is disturbing!

The more trouble sin receives from us,
the less trouble sin does to us.

Sin is only a murderer, where it is a governor!

Our graces are our best jewels,
but they do not yield their brightest luster in this world.

The moon, when she shines brightest, has its spots;
and the fire, when it burns the hottest, has its smoke.

Sin is an enemy at the Christian's back, but not a friend in his bosom.

Although believers should be mournful, because they have infirmities;
yet they should be thankful, because they are but infirmities.

It is true, they have sin in them, and that should make them sorrowful.
But it is just as true, that they have a Savior for them, and that should make them joyful.

The conduct of a Christian may sometimes be spotted with infirmity,
when the heart is sound in the love of sanctity.

Jacob halted, and yet was blessed.
As his blessing did not take away his halting,
so his halting did not keep away his blessing.

The heavenly Bridegroom will not put out a believer's candle, because of the dimness of its burning;
nor will He overshadow a believer's sun, because of the weakness of its shining.

Though that vice may be found in us, for which God might justly damn us;
yet that grace is to be found in Him, by which He will justly save us.
He does not come with water to extinguish the fire, but with wind to disperse the smoke!

As death leaves the body soulless, so death leaves the soul sinless.

"You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Poor Peter had faith enough to keep him from drowning, but not enough faith to keep him from doubting.

As Alexander's painter could find a finger to conceal the scar on his master's face, so when Jesus Christ draws the picture of the saint's excellency, He can find a covering for all the scars of his infirmities!

God will not throw away His jewels, for every speck of dirt which may be on them!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

The sheep's clothing will soon be stripped from the wolf's back!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"Having a form of godliness, but denying its power." 2 Timothy 3:5

frequently takes its dwelling near the chambers of integrity, and so assumes its name—the soul not suspecting that Hell should make so near an approach to Heaven. A rotten post, though covered with gold, is more fit to be burned in the fire, than for the building of a house. Where there is a pure conscience, there will be a pure conversation. The dial of our faces, does not infallibly show the time of day in our hearts. The humblest looks may enamel the face, while unbounded pride governs the heart!

A hypocrite may be both the fairest creature, and the foulest creature in the world! He may be fairest outwardly in the eyes of man, and foulest inwardly in the sight of God. How commonly do such unclean swans cover their black flesh with their white feathers! Though such wear the mantle of Samuel, they should bear the name of Satan!

Many appear righteous, who are only righteous in appearance. But while they are deceiving others with the false shows of holiness, they are also deceiving themselves with the false hopes of happiness. The hypocrite would not willingly appear evil, and yet would inwardly be evil. He would gladly be accounted godly, and yet would not be godly.

Man, either appear what you are, or be what you appear. What will the form of godliness do for you, if you deny the power thereof? Those who have the power of godliness, cannot deny the form; while those who have the form of godliness, may deny the power.

Oh, how desirous are men to put the fairest gloves, upon the foulest hands; and the finest paint, upon the rottenest posts!

Hypocrites are better in show, than in substance. They are like painted tombs, which enclose decayed bones. That is a sad charge, which the God of truth brings against certain false professors, "I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan!" A false friend, is worse than an open enemy. A painted harlot, is less dangerous than a painted hypocrite. A treacherous Judas is more abhorred by God, than a bloody Pilate!

Professors! Remember, the sheep's clothing will soon be stripped from the wolf's back! The velvet plaster of profession, shall not always conceal the offensive ulcer of corruption. Neither the ship of formality nor hypocrisy, will carry a person to the harbor of felicity. The blazing lamps of foolish virgins may light them to the bridegroom's gate, but not into His chamber. Either get the nature of Christ within you, or take the name of Christ away from you.

A bad man is certainly the worst, when he is seemingly the best. We must not account everyone a soldier, who swaggers with a sword. A rusty sword, may frequently be found in a highly decorated scabbard. What good is it to have our hands as white as snow, if our hearts are as black as the bottomless pit! Such professors resemble soap bubbles—smooth and pretty without, yet only filled with air!

A man may wear the Savior's livery, and yet be busied in Satan's drudgery! The skin of an apple may be fair, when it is rotten at the core! Though all gold may glitter, yet all is not gold that glitters. The worst hypocrite may have the color of gold, but not the value of gold!

   ~  ~  ~  ~

No wonder if Satan gets into the saddle!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"Avoid every kind of evil."
1 Thessalonians 5:22

He who now gives way to the least sin, may yet be given up to the greatest sins. We are never far enough from lust, while we are on earth; or near enough to Christ, while we are out of Heaven. O, stand far off from the devil's mark—unless you would be hit by his arrows!

The drawing near to the appearance of evil, is the first step to the accomplishment of the most enormous evil.

A spark—will easily catch a box of tinder on fire.
Little streams
—will find a passage to the great sea.

Christian reader! Why should you venture on slippery places—when you can scarcely stand upon the firmest ground? Who will pity that man whose house is blown up with gun-powder, if he stores it in the chimney corner?

Such is the monstrous wickedness of men, that though the streams and currents of their own lusts carry them too swiftly already—yet they hoist up sails to catch the devil's winds!

The fowler spreads his net, but the wings of the bird carry her into it!
If you would not step into the harlot's house, you should not go by the harlot's door!
If you would not gather the forbidden fruit, then beware how you look on the luscious tree!

To pray against temptations, and yet to rush into occasions to sin—is to thrust your fingers into the fire, and then pray that they might not be burnt!

If you hold the stirrup for him, no wonder if Satan gets into the saddle!

"Watch and pray—so that you will not fall into temptation." Matthew 26:41.
That man who is the most watchful, is the least sinful.
A soul without its watch—is like a city without its wall, exposed to the attack of all its enemies!

Those who would not fall into the river, should beware how they approach too near to its banks.
He who crushes the egg, need not fear the biting of the serpent.
He who would not drink of the wine of divine wrath—let him not touch the cup of sinful pleasure.

A person who carries gun-powder with him, can never stand too far from the fire.
If we accompany sin one mile, it will compel us to go two.

Sin swells like Elijah's cloud, from the size of a man's hand to such an expansion, as to cover the whole sky.

"Let him who thinks he stands—take heed, lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12.
You will quickly lose your standing, if you are fearless of falling.

   ~  ~  ~  ~

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!" Revelation 7:17

Although it is true that "whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives"—still we are not all called upon to suffer great tribulation. God appoints for each, the discipline needed to prepare him for glory.

With some He deals gently, for "He knows how much the weak can bear." He sees the tenderness of their spirits, the gentleness of their nature. With others He may appear to deal more harshly—He alone knows how hard and stubborn is their will, how great their backslidings, how needful all this seeming severity. He also permits great tribulation to fall upon some, that they may be examples to His Church: examples of love, of patience, of long-suffering—and is not this an honor? Shall we not count it all joy to be thus tried?

And has not God promised to proportion His consolations to the sufferings of His people? With what powerful comfort will such a passage as that which we are meditating upon, come home to the deeply-tried Christian—to him whose tears are wrung from him by pain of body, loss of friends, one bitter affliction after another: "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!"

The anticipation of suffering is often a cause of greater anguish than suffering itself; for though we are told not to worry about anything—still, the anxious mind will often distress itself with gloomy forebodings while in this valley of tears. But in Heaven, we shall have no fear of evil—no cause for fears. God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes:
  the tear of sympathy,
  the tear of pity,
  the tear of separation,
  the tear of pain,
  the tear of godly sorrow for sin,
  the tear of disappointed hope,
  the tear of wounded affection
—shall flow no more!
"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes!"

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes! There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Notice their humility

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created!"
Revelation 4:10-11

The Church triumphant is represented by the twenty-four elders. Notice their humility. They fall down, and cast their crowns before the Throne, saying, "You are worthy!" They have been learning to do this on earth. When the Holy Spirit begins His work in the soul of man, when He begins to prepare a stone for the spiritual temple—He begins with a lesson of humility, and convinces of sin. And still, as that stone is more and more hewn and fitted for the temple above—deeper and deeper grow the convictions of his own unworthiness, until at length he is taught to abase himself utterly, and give all glory to the Lord.

Are you in this manner becoming every week more fitted for Heaven? Let this glimpse of Heaven lead you to ask, "Do I now abase myself—and exalt my God?"

In this is the true Christian distinguished from the hypocrite. Whatever may be the failings of the Christian, he acts and speaks from a desire to glorify Him. Though self-esteem and self-exaltation are often mixed with his endeavors, still his aim is that God may be glorified, even though it be by his own abasement. The more he is enabled to glorify God, the greater is his humility. And the deeper his self-abasement, the more likely is he to bring honor and glory to his God.

O my soul, let this glimpse of glory forever set aside all notions of self-exaltation. Be now what you will be in Heaven: a humble creature of God, redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb, living to glorify His name!

"All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God!" Revelation 7:11

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Are we willing this very night to leave all on earth, and go to Jesus?

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him!" Revelation 1:7

Who is it that will come one day, and whom every eye shall see? The Lord Jesus, the Savior of sinners; the Judge of all men! Every eye shall see Him. My eye shall see Him too! Will it be with fear and terror—that I shall behold the King of kings coming to judgment? Or will my gaze be that of admiration and love for my adorable Redeemer?

All Christians rejoice in the expectation of His second coming, when faith shall be turned to sight. How can we fear the realization of our fondest hopes, the accomplishment of our best desires? The more we look to Jesus now, by faith—the less shall we fear death and judgment. For how, indeed, can we fear to meet our best and dearest Friend?

Paul assures us that there is a crown which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give at His coming—to all who love His appearing. Let us not shrink, then, from meditation on the glorious coming of Christ, but rather look for and expect it as the end of all our sins, sufferings and trials—and the beginning of perfect and eternal happiness!

Let us ask ourselves, "Are we willing this very night to leave all on earth, and go to Jesus?" If we could really see Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and saying to us this very night, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!"—I am quite sure that nothing on earth could detain us!

"He who testifies to these things says: Surely I am coming quickly!
 Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" Revelation 22:20

"Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory!" John 17:24

    ~  ~  ~  ~

The dearest idol I have known!

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love!" Revelation 2:4

Notwithstanding the comfort we may take from the glimpse we had of our glorified Savior's omniscience in our last meditation; in that Jesus knows the sincerity of His people's motives, the greatness of their temptations, and the extent of their patient endurance and labor for His name's sake; yet we must not stop short of the other part of His address to His people, namely, that He knows also their backslidings, their wanderings, their faithlessness to Him who has done so much for them.

"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love!" The Lord says, "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals. I remember how zealous you once were for My glory, how fervent were your prayers, how strong and ardent your affection for Me.
 Once you would not have been content with such short and formal prayers.
 Once you would not have listened so carelessly to My Gospel.
 Once you meditated with joy unspeakable on the heavenly home to which I am bringing you.
 Once you loved Me supremely."

But, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." Now your thoughts of Heaven are few and cold. Instead of exclaiming, "Oh! what has Jesus bought for me!" etc., you are fearful lest you should be called too soon from this wilderness world, to your happy heavenly home.

Examine yourselves, prove your own selves, watch the first signs of spiritual declension.

Fear nothing so much as wanderings of heart from Jesus, growing cold towards Him, and fixing your affections too much on the creature.

Often ask yourselves, "Is this the amount of love I shall be satisfied with, when I see Him who has loved me and given Himself for me? When my faith shall be turned to sight—shall I love Jesus thus coldly?"

Endeavor to realize the presence of Jesus now—that will rekindle your fainting love.

Endeavor to realize the love of Jesus to your souls—and that will revive your languid affection.

Look back on the affection for Jesus which you once experienced, remember from whence you are fallen, and repent and do the first works!

"The dearest idol I have known,
 Whatever that idol be,
 Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
 And worship only Thee!"

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Jesus knows!

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"I know your works, your labor, your patient endurance. You have persevered and have endured hardships, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary!" Revelation 2:2-3

It is a great consolation to the Christian to know that his Savior is omniscient—that He knows . .  .
  his every thought,
  his every desire,
  his every motive,
  everything concerning him.

For, although he is conscious of much imperfection and sin—he is conscious also of the sincerity of his desire after holiness and for the glory of God. And his Savior knows this too. He can appeal to that Omniscient One, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and can say, "Lord, You know all things! You know that I love You!" And he hears the sweet response, "I know your works, your labor, your patient endurance. You have persevered and have endured hardships, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary!"

Jesus knows what others do not. He knows the difficulties you have to encounter, both from within and from without. He knows all the temptations you have to suffer. He knows the amount of labor and patient endurance those things cost. Oh! let this encourage you on your way to the kingdom of glory—Jesus knows all your trials along the way!

Great stress is here laid upon the patient endurance of the saints. Christ especially notices their patient labor, their continuance in well-doing, their going on from year to year in their labor of love, for His name's sake. He knows, too, that it is not their own glory which they are seeking, but His. He says, "I know that you have labored for My name's sake!"

Jesus knows
that you have not become weary, that you have persevered, that you are persevering, and that you will persevere unto the end. From His throne in glory, where He has provided a place for you to sit with Him, He says, "I know your works, your labor, your patient endurance. You have persevered and have endured hardships, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary!"

   ~  ~  ~  ~

One eternal unclouded day!

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"There shall be no night there! They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever!" Revelation 22:5

While in this world, our weary bodies require the refreshment of sleep; and our merciful God has graciously given to us this sweet restorer of strength. Often we have retired to rest, overcome with fatigue and anxiety, perhaps distressed with pain—but sleep has taken away these feelings, and we have risen the next day in health and peace, to serve our God with joyfulness.

On a bed of sickness, this text has often been a source of comfort to the believer: "There shall be no night there!"

But there will be no night in Heaven, because there will be no need . . .
  of rest from labor,
  of relief from pain,
  of solace and refreshment under fatigue.
The former state of things will have fully passed away, and one eternal unclouded day will have dawned upon us! Our spirits will then be made perfect—and at the resurrection our glorified bodies will rise, no more to be a clog upon our soul's enjoyment.

A night of pain and wakefulness, is often a time in which God teaches His people. In the midst of active employment, the soul is not at leisure for reflection. And in the short periods devoted to retirement for prayer and meditation—the thoughts are often strangely distracted by what has gone before, or by the anticipation of coming events. But in a night of weariness and pain, there seems to be a rest from outward things; the soul is brought to a stand before God—it must think, it must reflect, it must examine itself, and ask if all is safe for eternity—if it is in Christ, if it is prepared to die.

Blessed result of pain, if led thereby to seek the Lord Jesus, and find rest in Him!
Blessed result of pain, if led thereby to meditate on Heaven's eternal day of rest!

"There shall be no night there!" No wearisome hours of discipline—no learning the dark intricacies and windings of our heart, and the deceitfulness of sin. There shall be no night there—no night of error, no darkness of soul, no dark unbelieving thoughts of God, and of His ways; but all will be clear, bright and shining to all eternity! The way by which the Lord our God has led us, will then be seen. The retrospect will be clear; we will see that our path has been a safe and right one, and we will glorify our gracious God! "He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation." Psalm 107:7

   ~  ~  ~  ~


(Charles Spurgeon)

Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ."

Romans 1:22 "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools!"

The history of philosophy is the history of fools!
All the sets of philosophers that have lived have been more successful in contradicting those who came before them, than in anything else.

Within a few years the present theories will be cut in pieces by some new dreamers. The reigning philosophers of the present period have in them so much of the spirit of insaneness that they will be a perpetual subject of contempt.

I venture to prophesy that before my head shall lie in the grave, there will hardly be a notable man left who will not have washed his hands of the present theory. That which is taught today for a certainty by 'our sages' will soon have been so disproved as to be trodden down as the mire in the streets.

The Lord's truth lives and reigns, but man's inventions are but for an hour!

I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but as I have lived to see marvelous changes in the dogmas of philosophy, I expect to see still more. See how they have shifted already.

According to modern thinkers, what is true on Monday may be false on Tuesday. And what is certain on Wednesday may be our duty to doubt on a Thursday and so on, world without end.

Every change of the moon sees a change in the teaching of the new philosophies. A good stout hypothesis in the old times served a man for a hobbyhorse for twenty years. But nowadays their sorry theories hardly last twenty months.

The smallest promise of God is worth more than all that ever has been taught, or ever shall be taught, by skeptical philosophers! Let God be true but every man a liar. God is true and on His Word we build our confidence.

Psalm 19:7 "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple."

Psalm 119:138 "The statutes You have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy."

Psalm 119:160 "All Your words are true; all Your righteous laws are eternal!"

Proverbs 30:5 "Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him."

John 17:17 "Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth."

   ~  ~  ~  ~

You shall be without fault!

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
 These were redeemed from among men . . .
 they are without fault before the throne of God!" Revelation 14:5

To the believer burdened with inward conflict, and struggling against the sin which dwells in him; what a blessed glimpse of Heaven is this! Free from sin—how delightful! What can convey a picture of greater happiness? A joyful multitude without fault before the throne of God! This is the bliss for which he sighs; the end which he purposes through grace to attain. Even now, he is striving after it; striving daily to be without fault. But as he grows in self-knowledge, he sees more and more the many faults and failings into which he falls, and he would sink in despair, and give up the conflict—but for the hope of final victory in Heaven.

"They are without fault before the throne of God!" And when you reach that throne, oh, tempted soul, such will be your happy lot! But remember, you must persevere in your way to it. You must hate every sin, and wrestle and strive after perfect holiness. This alone is the way of preparation for the heavenly bliss to which you aspire.

at perfect holiness, long after it, pray for it; though you do not attain it fully here on earth. Yes, you will feel that you are on your way to the mansions of holiness! And the thought that when you arrive there, you shall be without fault—will strengthen and nerve you for the battle. The hope of final triumph and success will encourage you. The certainty of victory will cheer your heart. The assurance of your being forever without fault before the throne of God, will be to you a foretaste of eternal happiness!

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you!" Song of Songs 4:7

"I have a home above,
 From sin and sorrow free;
 A mansion which eternal love
 Designed and formed for me!

 My Father's gracious hand
 Has built this sweet abode;
 From everlasting it was planned,
 My dwelling-place with God!

 My Savior's precious blood
 Has made my title sure;
 He passed through death's dark raging flood,
 To make my rest secure!

 The Comforter has come,
 The earnest has been given;
 He leads me onward to the home
 Reserved for me in Heaven.

 Your love, O precious Lord,
 My joy and strength shall be;
 Til You shall speak the gladdening word
 That bids me rise to Thee!

 And then through endless days,
 Where all Your glories shine;
 In happier, holier strains, I'll praise
 The grace that made me Thine!" Henry Bennett

   ~  ~  ~  ~

Truly, this is a most painful thought to us

(Maria Sandberg, "Glimpses of Heaven!" 1880)

LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

"You are just, O Holy One, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have sent these judgments. For they have shed the blood of Your saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink as they deserve." And I heard the altar respond: "Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments!" Revelation 16:5-7

There are, in this book of Revelation, not only glimpses of Heaven, and of the happiness of the redeemed—but dreadful views of the punishments of Hell:

"And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory . . . and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of Heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds!" Revelation 16:9-11.

"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone!" Revelation 21:8

It must be a painful thought to the people of God, that so many of their fellow-creatures are everlastingly banished from the presence of the Lord, and that so many others are following on in the broad road that leads to eternal destruction! Perhaps among both the former and the latter, are some dear to us by the ties of kindred or friendship. Truly, this is a most painful thought to us in this present world, but it will not be so in Heaven. For we shall have such a sense of the justice of God in the punishment of the wicked, that we shall acquiesce in their sentence of condemnation, and say, "Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments! They are worthy of everlasting damnation!"

Oh, my soul, what can I render to my Savior who has delivered my soul from the nethermost Hell? Surely, but for His blood shed for me, I could never have had an entrance into His everlasting kingdom! Let me, then, first learn a lesson of deep humility, of ceasing from vain-glory, and thoughts of my own worthiness. Let me say, "O to grace how great a debtor!"

Then let me learn a lesson of submission to the righteous will of God in His dealings with mankind. What I do not know now, I shall know hereafter; and then shall I be constrained to say, "Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments!"