Grace Gems for APRIL 2009
That is all they have to enjoy
"Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity!" Psalm 119:37
No Christian enjoys comfort—when his eyes are fixed on vanity.
I do not blame ungodly men for rushing to their pleasures. Why should I? Let them have their fill. That is all they have to enjoy! A godly wife who despaired of her husband's salvation, was always very kind to him, for she said, "I fear that this is the only world in which he will be happy—and therefore I have made up my mind to make him as happy as I can in it."
Christians must seek their delights in a higher sphere—than the insipid frivolities or sinful enjoyments of the world. Vain amusements are dangerous to renewed souls. It is when the Christian departs from God, becomes spiritually starved, and endeavors to feed on vanities—that the devil discovers his vantage hour. O for grace to sincerely pray, "Remove vanity and lies far from me!" Proverbs 30:8
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Look into those languid eyes!
"Show me why You contend with me!" Job 10:2
Beloved, it was thus once with you—a text of Scripture, a threatening, a touch of the rod of affliction—and you went to your Father's feet, crying, "Show me why You contend with me!" Is it so now? Are you content to follow Jesus, afar off? O it is a grievous thing, when we can live contentedly, without the present enjoyment of the Savior's face. Let us labor to feel what an evil thing this is—little love to our own dying Savior, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the Beloved!
Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross! There, and there alone—can you get your heart quickened. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead you may have become—go again in all the rags, poverty, and defilement of your present condition. Clasp that cross! Look into those languid eyes! Bathe in that fountain filled with blood! This alone will bring you back to your first love; this alone will restore the simplicity of your faith, and the tenderness of your heart!
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The infinite tenderness of Jesus!
"He will carry the lambs in His bosom, holding them close to His heart." Isaiah 40:11
Who is He of whom such gracious words are spoken? He is the Good Shepherd. Why does He carry the lambs in His bosom? Because He has a tender heart, and any weakness at once melts His heart. The sighs, the ignorance, the feebleness of the little ones of His flock—draw forth His compassion. He purchased them with blood, they are His property—He must and will care for that which cost Him so dear.
"He will carry the lambs in His bosom, holding them close to His heart."
Here is boundless affection. Would He put them in His bosom—if He did not love them much?
Here is tender nearness—so near are they, that they could not possibly be nearer.
Here is hallowed familiarity—there are precious love-passages between Christ and His weak ones.
Here is perfect safety—in His bosom, who can hurt them? They must hurt the Shepherd first.
Here is perfect rest and sweetest comfort.
Surely we are not sufficiently sensible of the infinite tenderness of Jesus!
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Pride cannot live beneath the cross!
"He humbled Himself." Philippians 2:8
Jesus is the great teacher of 'humility of heart'. We need daily to learn of Him. See the Master taking a towel and washing His disciples feet! Follower of Christ—will you not humble yourself? See Him as the Servant of servants—and surely you cannot be proud! Is not this sentence the compendium of His biography, "He humbled Himself"? Was He not on earth, always stripping off first one robe of honor and then another—until, naked, He was fastened to the cross; and there did He not empty out His inmost self, pouring out His life-blood, giving up for all of us, until they laid Him penniless in a borrowed grave?
How low was our dear Redeemer brought! How then can we be proud?
Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the purple drops by which you have been cleansed. See His thorn-crown; mark His scourged shoulders, still gushing with encrimsoned rills; see His hands and feet given up to the rough iron spikes, and His whole self to mockery and scorn; see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in His outward frame; hear the horrid shriek, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me!"
If you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross—you have never seen it! If you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus—you do not know Him. You were so lost that nothing could save you—but the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son. Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you—bow yourself in humility at His feet.
A sense of Christ's amazing love to us—has a greater tendency to humble us, than even a consciousness of our own guilt. May the Lord bring us in contemplation, to Calvary. Then our position will no longer be that of pompous pride—but we shall take the humble place of one who loves much—because much has been forgiven him. Pride cannot live beneath the cross! Let us sit there and learn our lesson—and then rise and carry it into practice!
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Do not forsake me, O Lord!
"Do not forsake me, O Lord! Do not be far from me, O my God!" Psalm 38:21
Frequently we pray that God would not forsake us in the hour of trial and temptation; but we too much forget that we have need to use this prayer at all times. There is no moment of our life, however holy—in which we can do without His constant upholding. Whether in light or in darkness, in communion or in temptation—we alike need the prayer, "Do not forsake me, O Lord!"
A little child, while learning to walk—always needs the parent's aid. The ship left by the pilot—drifts at once from her course. Just so—we cannot survive without continuous aid from God.
Let it be your prayer today, "Do not forsake me, O Lord! Father, do not forsake Your child—lest he fall by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, do not forsake Your lamb—lest he wander from the safety of the fold. Great Gardener, do not forsake Your plant—lest it wither and die! Do not forsake me now, O Lord! And do not forsake me at any moment of my life. Do not forsake me in my joys—lest they absorb my heart. Do not forsake me not in my sorrows—lest I murmur against You. Do not forsake me—for my path is dangerous, and full of snares—and I cannot travel without Your guidance. Do not forsake me—for without You I am weak—but with You I am strong. Do not be far from me, O Lord, for trouble is near—and there is none to help. Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation!"
"Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:115
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"The place which is called Calvary." Luke 23:33
The hill of comfort—is the hill of Calvary.
The house of consolation—is built with the wood of the cross.
The temple of heavenly blessing—is founded upon the cleft rock—cleft by the spear which pierced His side.
No scene in sacred history ever gladdens the soul—like Calvary's tragedy!
Light springs from the midday-midnight of Golgotha!
Every flower of blessing blooms sweetly beneath the shadow of that accursed tree!
In that place of thirst—grace has dug a fountain which ever gushes with waters as pure as crystal, each drop capable of alleviating the woes of mankind!
You who have had your seasons of trouble—will confess that it was at Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha that you have found real comfort.
The bitter herbs of Gethsemane—have often taken away the bitters of your life.
The scourge of Gabbatha—has often scourged away your cares.
The groans of Golgotha—have yielded you rare and rich comfort.
We would never have known Christ's love in all its heights and depths—if He had not died. Nor could we guess the Father's deep affection—if He had not given His Son to die. He who would know real love—let him retire to Calvary, and see the Man of sorrows die!
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Do men make their own gods?
"Do men make their own gods? Yes—but they are not gods!" Jeremiah 16:20
One great besetting sin of ancient Israel was idolatry, and we who are the spiritual Israel are vexed with a tendency to the same folly! We no longer bow down to sticks and stones—but Mammon still intrudes his golden calf; and the shrines of pride are not forsaken. SELF in various forms, struggles to subdue the chosen ones under its dominion; and the flesh sets up its altars wherever it can find space for them.
Children are often the cause of much sin in believers. The Lord is grieved when He sees us doting upon them above measure; they will live to be as great a curse to us—as Absalom was to David, or they will be taken from us to leave our homes desolate. If Christians desire to grow thorns to stuff their sleepless pillows—let them dote on their children!
It is truly said that "they are not gods," for the objects of our foolish devotion are very doubtful blessings; the solace which they yield us now is dangerous, and the help which they can give us in the hour of trouble is little indeed.
Why, then, are we so bewitched with vanities?
We pity the poor heathen who adore a god of stone—and yet worship a god of gold! Where is the vast superiority between a god of wood—and one of flesh? The principle, the sin, the folly is the same in either case; only that in our case—the crime is more aggravated because we have more light—and sin in the face of it. The heathen bows to a false deity—but he has never known the true God. But we commit two evils, inasmuch as we forsake the living God—and turn unto idols! May the Lord purge us all from this grievous iniquity!
"The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be;
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee!
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Rise up My love, My beautiful one—and come away!
"My Beloved spoke and said to me—Rise up My love, My beautiful one—and come away!" Song of Solomon 2:10
Lo, I hear the voice of my Beloved! He speaks to me! He bids me "Rise up!" and well He may, for I have long enough been lying among the pots of worldliness. Why should I cleave unto the dust? From lower loves, desires, pursuits, and aspirations—I would rise towards Him.
He calls me by the sweet title of "My love" and regards me as beautiful! This is a good encouragement for my rising. If He has thus exalted me, and thinks me thus lovely—how can I linger in the dark tents of Kedar and find congenial associates among the world?
He bids me "Come away!" Come away further and further from everything selfish, groveling, worldly, and sinful! He calls me from the outwardly religious world which knows Him not, and has no sympathy with the mystery of the pious life.
"Come away" has no harsh sound in it to my ear—for what is there to hold me in this wilderness of vanity and sin? O my Lord, would that I could come away—but I am stuck among the thorns—and cannot escape from them as I would! I would, if it were possible, have neither eyes, nor ears, nor heart for sin!
You call me to Yourself by saying "Come away!" and this is a melodious call indeed. To come to You is to come home from exile; to come to land out of the raging storm; to come to rest after long labor; to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes! But Lord, how can a stone rise, how can a lump of clay come away from the horrible pit? O raise me, draw me—and I will run after You! Your grace alone can do it. Send forth Your Holy Spirit to kindle sacred flames of love in my heart—and I will continue to rise until I leave life and time behind me, and indeed come away!
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"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!" Revelation 5:6
Why should our exalted Lord appear in heaven—with His wounds? The wounds of Jesus are—His glories, His jewels, His sacred ornaments. To the eye of the believer, Jesus is lovely, because He is "white and ruddy"; white with innocence, and ruddy with His own blood. We see Him as the Lily of matchless purity—and as the Rose crimsoned with His own gore. Christ is lovely in His life and His teaching—but oh! there never was such a matchless Christ as He who hung upon the cross! There we behold all His beauties in perfection, all His attributes developed, all His love drawn out, all His character expressed!
Beloved, the wounds of Jesus are far more lovely in our eyes—than all the splendor and pomp of kings! The thorny crown is more attractive than any imperial diadem. Jesus wears the appearance of a slain Lamb—as His court dress in which He wooed our souls, and redeemed them by His complete atonement.
Nor are these only the ornaments of Christ—they are the trophies of His love and of His victory! He has redeemed for Himself a great multitude whom no man can number—and these scars are the memorials of the fight! Ah! if Christ delights to retain the thought of His sufferings for His people—how precious should His wounds be to us!
"Behold how every wound of His,
A precious balm distills,
Which heals the scars that sin had made,
And cures all mortal ills.
Those wounds are mouths that preach His grace;
The ensigns of His love;
The seals of our expected bliss,
In paradise above!"
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Take both sorrow and sin—to the same place!
"Look upon my affliction and my pain—and forgive all my sins!" Psalm 25:18
It is well for us when prayers about our sorrows—are linked with pleas concerning our sins; when, being under God's hand, we are not wholly taken up with our pain—but remember our offences against God. It is well, also, to take both sorrow and sin—to the same place! It was to God—that David carried his sorrow. It was to God—that David confessed his sin.
We must take our sorrows to God. Even your little sorrows you may roll upon God—for He counts the hairs of your head. And your great sorrows you may commit to Him—for He holds the ocean in the hollow of His hand. Go to Him, whatever your present trouble may be—and you shall find Him able and willing to relieve you.
But we must also take our sins to God. We must carry them to the cross, that the blood may fall upon them, to purge away their guilt, and to destroy their defiling power.
The special lesson of the text is this—that we are to go to the Lord with sorrows and with sins in the right frame of heart. Note that all David asks concerning his sorrow is, "Look upon my affliction and my pain." But the next petition is vastly more express, definite, decided and plain, "Forgive all my sins!"
Many sufferers would have put it, "Remove my affliction and my pain—and look at my sins." But David does not say so—he cries, "Lord, as for my affliction and my pain, I will not dictate to Your wisdom. Lord, look at them—I will leave them to You. I would be glad to have my pain removed—but do as You will. But as for my sins, Lord, I know what I want with them—I must have them forgiven! I cannot endure to lie under their curse for a moment!"
A Christian counts his sorrow lighter in the scale—than his sin. He can bear that his troubles should continue—but he cannot support the burden of his transgressions.
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The diamond rivet!
"The Lord will give grace and glory!" Psalm 84:11
Jehovah is bounteous in His nature—to give is His delight. His gifts are precious beyond measure, and are as freely given as the light of the sun!
He freely gives grace in all its forms, to all His people:
He gives grace . . .
He doubly enhances the value of His grace—by the manner of its bestowal. He generously pours grace into their souls without ceasing—and He always will do so, whatever may occur. Sickness may befall—but the Lord will give grace. Poverty may come to us—but grace will surely be afforded. Death must come—but grace will light a candle at the darkest hour. Reader, how blessed it is as years roll along, to enjoy such an unfading promise as this, "The Lord will give grace!"
The little conjunction "and" in this verse is the diamond rivet binding the present with the future! Grace and glory always go together. God has married them—and none can divorce them! The Lord will never deny a soul eternal glory—to whom He has freely given His saving grace. Indeed, glory is nothing more than grace in its heavenly dress; grace in full bloom; grace like autumn fruit—mellow and perfected.
How soon we may have glory—none can tell. It may be before this month has run out—that we shall see the Celestial City. But be the interval longer or shorter—we shall be glorified before long. The Lord will surely give glory to all His chosen ones:
the glory of heaven,
the glory of eternity,
the glory of Jesus!
Oh, rare promise of a faithful God! Two golden links of one celestial chain! Whoever has grace—shall surely gain glory!
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We need You to bring us to You!
"When my heart is overwhelmed—lead me to the Rock that is higher than I!" Psalm 61:2
Most of us know what it is to be overwhelmed in heart—sinking like a vessel deluged by the storm!
Discoveries of inward corruption will do this—if the Lord permits the great deep of our depraved heart to become troubled, and cast up its mire and dirt.
Disappointments and heartbreaks will do this—when billow after billow rolls over us, and we are like a broken shell hurled to and fro by the raging surf!
Blessed be God, at such seasons we are not without an all-sufficient solace—our God is the harbor of weather-beaten souls, the hospice of forlorn pilgrims! His mercy is higher than our sins! His love is higher than we could imagine!
It is pitiful to see unsaved men putting their trust in something lower than themselves; but our confidence is fixed upon the exceeding high and glorious Lord.
A Rock He is—since He changes not. And He is a high Rock—because the tempests which overwhelm us—roll far beneath at His feet! He is not disturbed by them—but rules them at His will. If we get under the shelter of this lofty Rock—we may defy the hurricane! All is peaceful under the shelter of that towering cliff!
Alas! such is the confusion in which the troubled mind is often cast, that we need piloting to this divine shelter. Hence the prayer of the text, "When my heart is overwhelmed—lead me to the Rock that is higher than I! O Lord, our God, by Your Holy Spirit—teach us the way of faith, and lead us into Your rest. The wind blows us out to sea—and our puny hand cannot steer the helm! You, You alone can steer us over the wide ocean between yon sunken rocks—and safe into the fair haven. How dependent we are upon You! We need You to bring us to You! To be wisely directed and steered into safety and peace is Your gift, and Yours alone!"
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"Bring him unto Me!" Mark 9:19
Despairingly the poor disappointed father turned away from the disciples, to their Master. His son was in the worst possible condition, and all means had failed—but the miserable child was soon delivered from the evil one, when the parent in faith obeyed the Lord Jesus' word, "Bring him unto Me!"
Your children are a precious gift from God—but much anxiety comes with them. They may be a great joy—or a great bitterness to their parents. They may be filled with the Spirit of God—or possessed with the spirit of evil. In all cases, the Word of God gives us one recipe for the curing of all their ills, "Bring them unto Me!"
O for more agonizing prayer on their behalf, while they are yet babes. Sin is there, let our prayers begin to attack it.
In the days of their youth we shall see sad tokens of that dumb and deaf spirit, which will neither pray aright, nor hear the voice of God in the soul—but Jesus still commands, "Bring them unto Me!"
When they are grown up, they may wallow in sin and foam with enmity against God! Then, when our hearts are breaking—we should remember the great Physician's words, "Bring them unto Me!" Never must we cease to pray for them—until they cease to breathe. No case is hopeless—while Jesus lives.
The Lord sometimes allows His people to be driven into a corner—that they may experimentally know how necessary He is to them. Ungodly children, when they show us our own powerlessness against the depravity of their hearts—drive us to flee to the Strong One for strength—and this is a great blessing to us!
Whatever this day's need may be, let it like a strong current—bear us to the ocean of divine love! Jesus can soon remove our sorrow. He delights to comfort us. Let us hasten to Him—while He waits to meet us!
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Lest Madam Bubble bewitch them with her vile suggestions
"She grabbed him by his garment and said, 'Sleep with me!' But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran from the house." Genesis 39:12
In contending with certain sins, there remains no mode of victory, but by flight. He who would be safe from acts of evil—must hasten away from occasions of it. A covenant must be made with our eyes—not even to look upon the cause of temptation; for such sins only need a spark to begin with—and a blaze follows in an instant!
Who would wantonly enter the leper's hut—and sleep amid its horrible corruption? He alone who desires to be leprous himself—would thus court contagion. If the mariner knew how to avoid a storm, he would do anything rather than run the risk of weathering it. Cautious pilots have no desire to try how near the quicksand they can sail, or how often they may touch a rock without springing a leak; their aim is to keep as nearly as possible in the midst of a safe channel.
This day I may be exposed to great peril—let me have wisdom to keep out of it and avoid it. The wings of a dove may be of more use to me—than the jaws of a lion. I may be an apparent loser by declining evil company—but I had better leave my cloak—than lose my character! It is not needful that I should be rich—but it is imperative upon me to be pure. No ties of friendship, no chains of beauty, no flashings of talent, no shafts of ridicule—must turn me from the wise resolve to flee from sin. I am to resist the devil—and he will flee from me. But the lusts of the flesh, I must flee—or they will surely overcome me!
O God of holiness, preserve your Josephs—lest Madam Bubble bewitch them with her vile suggestions. May the horrible trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil—never overcome us!
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They were not carried to heaven on beds of ease!
"Woe is me—that I dwell among these scoundrels of Meshech! It pains me to live with these people from Kedar!" Psalm 120:5
As a Christian, you have to live in the midst of an ungodly world, and it is of little use for you to cry, "Woe is me!"
Jesus did not pray, "O that you should be taken out of the world!" And what He did not pray for—you need not desire! Better far in the Lord's strength—to meet the difficulty, and glorify Him in it.
The enemy is ever on the watch to detect inconsistency in your conduct; be therefore very holy. Remember that the eyes of all are upon you—and that more is expected from you, than from others! Strive to give no occasion for blame. Like Daniel, let your godliness and piety be the only faults which they can discover in you.
Seek to be useful—as well as consistent. Perhaps you think, "If I were in a more favorable position, I might be able to serve the Lord's cause. But I cannot do any good where I am!" But the worse the people are among whom you live—the more need they have of your exertions! If they are crooked—the more necessity that you should set them straight! If they are perverse—the more need have you to turn their proud hearts to the truth. Where should the physician be—but where there are many sick? Where is honor to be won by the soldier—but in the hottest fire of the battle?
When weary of the strife and sin which meets you on every hand—consider that all the saints have endured the same trial! They were not carried to heaven on beds of ease!—and you must not expect to travel more easily than they! They had to hazard their lives unto the death, in the midst of the battlefield—and you will not be crowned—until you also have endured hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Therefore, "Be courageous! Be strong!" 1 Corinthians 16:13
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Surely something must be amiss with the scales!
"You are to have honest balances, honest weights, an honest dry measure, and an honest liquid measure; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." Leviticus 19:36
Weights, and scales, and measures—were to be all according to the standard of justice.
Surely no Christian will need to be reminded of this in his business, for if justice were banished from all the world beside—it should find a shelter in true Christian hearts!
There are, however, other scales and balances which weigh moral and spiritual things—and these often need examining. We will call in the Judge right now.
Those scales in which we weigh our own and other men's characters—are they quite accurate? Do we not turn our own ounces of goodness—into pounds; and other people's pounds of excellence—into ounces? See to just weights and measures here, Christian!
Those scales in which we measure our trials and troubles—are they according to standard? Paul, who had far more to suffer than we have—called his afflictions light. Yet we often consider our afflictions to be heavy! Surely something must be amiss with the scales! We must see to this matter, lest we get reported to the court above, for unjust dealing!
Those scales with which we measure our beliefs—are they quite fair? The precepts and doctrines should have the same weight with us as the promises—no more and no less! With many, one scale or the other is unfairly weighted. It is a grand matter to give just measure in God's truths. Christian, be careful here!
Those scales in which we estimate our obligations and responsibilities look rather small. When a rich man gives no more to the cause of God, than the poor contribute—is that an honest weight, an honest measure, a just balance?
Reader, we might lengthen the list—but we prefer to leave it as your day's work—to find out and destroy all unjust scales, balances, weights, and measures!
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"The Breaker has gone up before them. He will bring you through the gates of your cities of captivity, back to your own land. Your King will lead you; the Lord Himself will guide you!" Micah 2:13
Inasmuch as Jesus has gone before us, things do not remain as they would have been, had He never passed that way. He has conquered every foe which has obstructed the way. Cheer up O faint-hearted warrior. Not only has Christ traveled the road—but He has slain your enemies upon life's road!
Do you dread sin? He has nailed it to His cross!
Do you fear death? He has been the death of death!
Are you afraid of hell? He has barred the gates of hell from being entered by any of His children; they shall never see the gulf of perdition!
Whatever foes may be before the Christian—they are all overcome!
There are lions—but their teeth are broken!
There are serpents—but their fangs are extracted!
There are rivers—but they are bridged or fordable!
There are flames—but we wear that matchless garment which renders us invulnerable to fire!
The Breaker, Christ—has taken away all the power that anything can have to hurt us. Well then, you may go safely and joyously along your journey, for all your enemies are conquered beforehand! What shall you do—but march on to take the prey? They are beaten, they are vanquished; all you have to do is to divide the spoil. You shall, it is true, often engage in combat; but your fight shall be with a vanquished foe! His head is broken! He may attempt to injure you—but his strength shall not be sufficient for his malicious design. Your victory shall be sure—and your treasure shall be beyond all count!
"Proclaim aloud the Savior's fame,
Who bears the Breaker's wondrous name;
Sweet name; and it befits Him well,
Who breaks down earth, sin, death, and hell!"
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He who eats the grapes of Sodom
"As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins." Numbers 6:4
Nazirites had taken, among other vows, one which debarred them from the use of wine. In order that they might not violate the obligation, they were forbidden to drink the unfermented juice of grapes, nor even to eat either fresh or dried grapes. They were, in fact, to avoid even the appearance of evil.
Surely this is a lesson to the Lord's separated ones, teaching them to come away from sin in every form; to avoid not merely its grosser shapes—but even the appearance of evil. Strict walking is much despised in these days—but rest assured, dear reader, it is both the safest and the happiest course. He who yields a point or two to the world—is in fearful peril. He who eats the grapes of Sodom—will soon drink the wine of Gomorrah!
A little crevice in a large dyke may soon break open—so that a whole town is drowned. Worldly conformity, in any degree, is a snare to the soul, and makes it more and more liable to presumptuous sins.
Doubtful things—we need not doubt about; they are wrong to us!
Tempting things—we must not dally with—but flee from them with haste!
Careful walking may involve much self-denial—but it has pleasures of its own which are more than a sufficient recompense!
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O blessed hurricane!
"On My arm, they shall trust." Isaiah 51:5
In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust to, and is therefore compelled to cast himself on his God alone. When his vessel is quickly sinking, and no human deliverance can avail—he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God.
Happy storm—that wrecks a man on such a rock as this!
O blessed hurricane—that drives the soul to God and God alone!
When a man is so burdened with troubles, so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn—he flies into his Father's arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! Oh, tempest-tossed believer—it is a happy trouble which drives you to your Father!
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Sin is shut out—and they are shut in!
"The sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more!" Isaiah 65:19
The glorified weep no more—because all causes of grief are gone! There are no broken friendships, nor blighted prospects in heaven. Poverty, famine, peril, persecution, and slander—are unknown there. No pain distresses, and no thought of death or bereavement saddens.
They weep no more—because they are perfectly sanctified! No "evil heart of unbelief" prompts them to depart from the living God. They are without fault before His throne, and are fully conformed to His image! Well may they cease to mourn—who have ceased to sin!
They weep no more—because all fear of change is past! They know that they are eternally secure! Sin is shut out—and they are shut in!
They dwell within a city which shall never be stormed!
They bask in a sun which shall never set!
They drink of a river which shall never run dry!
They pluck fruit from a tree which shall never wither!
Countless cycles may revolve—but eternity shall not be exhausted; and while eternity endures, their immortality and blessedness shall co-exist with it. They are forever with the Lord!
They weep no more—because every desire is fulfilled! They cannot wish for anything—which they don't already have in full possession.
Eye and ear,
heart and hand,
mind and imagination,
desire and affection—
all the faculties, are completely satisfied!
As imperfect as our present ideas are of the things which God has prepared for those who love Him—yet we know enough, by the revelation of the Spirit, that the glorified saints are supremely blessed. The joy of Christ, which is an infinite fullness of delight—is in them. They bathe forever in the bottomless, shoreless sea of infinite blessedness!
That same joyful rest remains for us! It may not be far distant. Before long—the weeping willow shall be exchanged for the palm-branch of victory! Sorrow's dewdrops will be transformed into the pearls of everlasting bliss!
"The sound of weeping and crying will be heard no more!"
"Therefore comfort one another with these words."
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The knife of the heavenly Surgeon
"This sickness is not unto death." John 11:4
From our Lord's words, we learn that there is a limit to sickness. In all sickness, the Lord says to the waves of pain, "Hitherto shall you go—but no further!" His fixed purpose is not the destruction of His people—but the instruction of His people. Wisdom hangs up the thermometer at the furnace mouth—and regulates the heat!
1. The limit is encouragingly comprehensive. The God of providence has limited the time, manner, intensity and effects of all our sicknesses. Each throb is decreed, each sleepless hour predestinated, each relapse ordained, each depression of spirit foreknown, and each sanctifying result eternally purposed. Nothing great or small escapes the ordaining hand of Him who numbers the hairs of our head!
2. This limit is wisely adjusted to our strength, to the end designed, and to the grace apportioned. Affliction does not come by 'chance'—the weight of every stroke of God's rod—is accurately measured. He who made no mistakes in balancing the clouds, and measuring out the heavens—commits no errors in measuring out the ingredients which compose the medicine of souls. We cannot suffer too much—nor be relieved too late!
3. The limit is tenderly appointed. The knife of the heavenly Surgeon never cuts deeper than is absolutely necessary. "He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." A mother's heart cries, "Spare my child!" but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God. When we consider how self-willed we are—it is a wonder that we are not driven with a sharper bit!
The thought is full of consolation—that He who has fixed the bounds of our habitation, has also fixed the bounds of our tribulation.
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Grace found her a maniac—and made her a minister!
"He appeared first to Mary Magdalene—out of whom He had cast seven devils." Mark 16:9
Mary of Magdala was the victim of a fearful evil. She was possessed by not one devil only—but seven. These dreadful inhabitants caused much pain and pollution to the poor frame in which they had found a lodging. Hers was a hopeless, horrible case! She could not help herself, neither could any human support avail. But Jesus passed that way, and unsought, and probably even resisted by the poor demoniac, He uttered the word of power—and Mary of Magdala became a trophy of the saving power of Jesus.
What a blessed deliverance!
What a happy change!
From delirium—to delight,
from despair—to peace,
from hell—to heaven!
At once, she became a constant follower of Jesus, catching His every word, following His winding steps, sharing His toilsome life; and withal she became His generous helper, first among that band of saved and grateful women—who ministered unto Him of their substance.
When Jesus was lifted up in crucifixion, Mary remained the sharer of His shame—we find her drawing near to the foot of the cross. She could not die on the cross with Jesus—but she stood as near to it as she could. She was the faithful and watchful believer—last at the sepulcher where Jesus slept; first at the grave whence He arose!
Thus, grace found her a maniac—and made her a minister!
Grace delivered her from Satan—and united her forever to the Lord Jesus!
May I also be such a miracle of grace!
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Blight and mildew and hail
"I smote you with blight and mildew and hail—to destroy all the produce of your labor." Haggai 2:17
How destructive is the hail to the standing crops—beating the precious grain down to the ground! How grateful ought we to be when the grain is spared so terrible a ruin! Let us offer unto the Lord thanksgiving.
Even more to be dreaded, are those mysterious destroyers—blight and mildew. These turn the corn into a mass of soot, or render it putrid, or dry up the grain—and all in a manner so beyond all human control, that the farmer is compelled to cry, "This is the finger of God!" Innumerable minute fungi cause the mischief, and were it not for the goodness of God, the rider on the black horse would soon scatter famine over the land! Infinite mercy spares the food of men; but in view of the active agents which are ready to destroy the harvest, right wisely are we taught to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." We have constant need of God's blessing!
"I smote you with blight and mildew and hail—to destroy all the produce of your labor." When blight and mildew come—they are chastisements from God, and men must learn to hear the rod, and Him who has appointed it!
Spiritually, mildew is a common evil. When our work is most promising, this mildew appears. We hoped for many conversions, but instead—a general apathy, an abounding worldliness, or a cruel hardness of heart! There may be no open sin in those for whom we are laboring—but there is a deficiency of sincerity and holiness, sadly disappointing our desires.
We learn from this—our dependence upon the Lord, and the need of prayer that no blight or mildew may fall upon our work. Spiritual pride or sloth will soon bring upon us the dreadful evil—and only the Lord of the harvest can remove it.
Mildew and blight may even attack our own hearts—and shrivel our prayers and pious exercises! May it please the great Gardener to avert so serious a calamity. Shine, O blessed Sun of Righteousness, and drive the blights away!
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Behold the Emperor of Woe!
"Behold the Man!" John 19:5
If there is one place where our Lord Jesus most fully becomes the joy and comfort of His people—it is where He plunged deepest into the depths of woe!
Come hither, gracious souls, and behold the Man in the garden of Gethsemane! Behold His heart so brimming with love—that He cannot hold it in; so full of sorrow—that it must find a vent. Behold the bloody sweat as it distills from every pore of His body, and falls upon the ground!
Behold the Man as they drive the nails into His hands and feet! Look up, repenting sinners, and see the sorrowful image of your suffering Lord! Mark Him, as the ruby drops stand on the thorn-crown, and adorn the diadem of the King of Misery with priceless gems!
Behold the Man when all His bones are out of joint, and He is poured out like water and brought into the dust of death! God has forsaken Him—and hell compasses Him about. Behold and see—was there ever sorrow—like unto His sorrow? All you who pass by—draw near and look upon this spectacle of grief! Unique, unparalleled, a wonder to men and angels—an unmatched marvel!
Behold the Emperor of Woe—who had no equal or rival in His agonies! Gaze upon Him, you mourners, for if there is not consolation in a crucified Christ—there is no joy in earth or heaven. If in the ransom price of His blood, there is not hope—you harps of heaven, there is no joy in you; and the right hand of God shall know no pleasures for evermore!
We have only to sit more continually at the cross foot—to be less troubled with our afflictions and woes. We have but to see His sorrows—and we shall be ashamed to mention our sorrows. We have but to gaze into His wounds—and heal our own. If we would live aright—it must be by the contemplation of His death. If we would rise to dignity—it must be by considering His humiliation and His sorrow!
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Two precious jewels glittering side by side
"Delight yourself in the Lord." Psalm 37:4
The teaching of these words must seem very surprising to those who are strangers to vital godliness. But to the sincere believer, it is only the inculcation of a recognized truth.
The life of the believer is here described as a delight in God—and we are thus certified of the great fact—that true religion overflows with happiness and joy. Ungodly people and mere professors never look upon piety as a joyful thing; to them it is dreary service, duty, or necessity—but never a pleasure or delight. The thought of delight in Christ is so strange to most people, that no two words in their language stand further apart than "holiness" and "delight." But believers who know Christ, understand that delight and holiness are so blessedly united, that the gates of hell cannot prevail to separate them. Those who love Christ with all their hearts, find that all His ways are ways of pleasantness; and all His paths are peace.
Christians discover such joys, such brimful delights, such overflowing blessednesses, that so far from serving Him from custom, they would follow Him—though all the world casts out His name as evil.
We do not love God because of any compulsion:
our faith is no fetter,
our profession is no bondage,
we are not dragged to holiness,
nor driven to duty.
Our piety is our pleasure,
our hope is our happiness,
our duty is our delight!
Holiness and delight are as allied—as root and flower. They are, in fact, two precious jewels glittering side by side in a setting of gold!
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"I have come into My garden—My sister, My bride!" Song of Solomon 5:1
The heart of the believer is Christ's garden. He bought it with His precious blood, and He enters it and claims it as His own.
A garden implies separation. It is not the open common; it is not a wilderness; it is walled around, or hedged in. Would that we could see the wall of separation between the Christian and the world made broader and stronger. It makes one sad to hear professors saying, "Well, there is no harm in this; there is no harm in that," thus getting as near to the world as possible! Grace is at a low ebb in that soul, which can even raise the question of how far it may go in worldly conformity.
A garden is a place of beauty, it far surpasses the wild uncultivated fields. The genuine Christian must seek to be more excellent in his life than the best moralist, because Christ's garden ought to produce the best flowers in all the world. Even the best is poor—compared with Christ's deservings; let us not put Him off with withered and dwarf plants. The rarest, richest, choicest lilies and roses—ought to bloom in Christ's own garden!
The garden is a place of growth. The saints are not to remain undeveloped, always mere buds and blossoms. We should grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Growth should be rapid where Jesus is the Gardener, and the Holy Spirit the dew from above.
A garden is a place of retirement. So the Lord Jesus Christ would have us reserve our hearts as a place in which He can manifest Himself, as He does not unto the world. O that Christians were more retired, that they kept their hearts more closely locked up for Christ! We often worry and trouble ourselves, like Martha, with much serving—so that we have not the room for Christ that Mary had, and do not sit at His feet as we should.
May the Lord grant the sweet showers of His grace to water His garden this day!
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Oh, the atrocity!
"O Lord, we are covered with shame—because we have sinned against You!" Daniel 9:8
A deep sense and clear sight of sin—its heinousness, and the punishment which it deserves—should make us lie low before God's throne. As Christians—we have sinned! Alas! that it should be so. Favored as we have been—we have yet been ungrateful. Privileged beyond most—we have not brought forth fruit in proportion. What Christian is there—who will not blush when he looks back upon his past sins?
Oh, the atrocity of the sin of a pardoned soul! An unpardoned sinner sins cheaply—when compared with the sin of one of God's own elect ones, who has had communion with Christ and leaned his head upon Jesus' bosom.
Alas! these sins of ours would consign us to the place of inextinguishable fire—if it were not for the sovereign mercy which has made us to differ, snatching us like brands from the burning! My soul, bow down under a sense of your natural sinfulness, and worship your God. Admire . . .
the grace which saves you;
the mercy which spares you;
the love which pardons you!
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MY having been His murderer!
"A great multitude of the people followed Him, including women who mourned and wailed for Him." Luke 23:27
Amid the rabble crowd which hounded the Redeemer to His doom, there were some gracious souls whose bitter anguish sought vent in wailing and lamentations—fit music to accompany that march of woe!
When my soul can, in imagination, see the Savior bearing His cross to Calvary—she joins the godly women, and weeps with them. They bewailed,
But my heart has a deeper and more bitter cause to mourn: MY SINS were the scourges which lacerated those blessed shoulders! MY SINS were the thorns which crowned that bleeding brow! MY SINS cried, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" and laid the cruel cross upon His gracious shoulders! His being led forth to die, is sorrow enough for one eternity—but MY having been His murderer—is more, infinitely more grief, than one poor fountain of tears can express! Those women who loved and wept—could not have had greater reasons for love and grief—than my heart has!
The widow of Nain saw her son restored—but I myself have been raised to newness of life!
Peter's mother-in-law was cured of the fever—but I myself have been cured of the plague of sin!
Mary Magdalene had seven devils cast out of her—but a whole legion of devils were cast out of me!
Mary and Martha were favored with visits from Jesus—but He dwells with me!
I am not behind these holy women in debt to Jesus—let me not be behind them, in gratitude or sorrow.
"Love and grief my heart dividing,
With my tears His feet I'll lave;
Constant still in heart abiding,
Weep for Him who died to save!"
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As white as the lily—and as red as the rose
"With His stripes we are healed." — Isaiah 53:5
Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. This Roman scourging was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down—these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the victim. The Savior was, no doubt, bound to the pillar, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this scourging of the Roman lictors—was probably the most severe of His flagellations.
My soul, stand here and weep over His poor stricken body. Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon Him without tears—as He stands before you—the picture of agonizing love? He is at once as white as the lily for innocence, and as red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which His stripes have wrought in us—does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus—surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our bosoms!
We would sincerely go to our chambers and weep! We pray our Beloved to print the image of His bleeding self—upon the tablets of our hearts—and sorrow that our sin should have cost Him so dear!