Grace Gems for OCTOBER 2009
He is especially kind to the lambs
(J. R. Miller, "The Life of Jesus")
"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!" John 10:11
The shepherd is a favorite Scriptural picture of the divine love and care. In the Old Testament, the twenty-third Psalm gathers the whole wonderful truth in exquisite lines which are dear to both young and old, wherever the Bible is known. Then in the New Testament, when our Lord would give His friends the sweetest revealings of His heart toward them, and tell them what they are to Him, and what He would be to them—He says, "I am the Good Shepherd."
The earthly shepherd lives with his sheep. If they are out in the storm, or exposed to any danger—he is with them. Likewise, Christ lives with His people—in all their afflictions, and all their storms. He enters into closest relations with them.
The earthly shepherd knows his sheep. He has a name for each one—and calls them all by their names. Christ knows each one of His friends, and has intimate personal knowledge of each one. He knows the best in us—and also the worst. He knows our faults, our sins, our wanderings. Yet, knowing us as we are—He loves us still, and never wearies of us!
The earthly shepherd is most gentle with his sheep. He does not drive them—but goes before them and leads them. When they need rest on the way, he makes them lie down, and chooses for their resting-place, not the dusty road—but green pastures. He is especially kind to the lambs, gathers them in his arms and carries them in his bosom. All this is an exquisite picture of the gentleness of our Good Shepherd, in His care of His sheep. He is thoughtful toward the weak. He loves the 'lambs' and makes room for them in His bosom. Whatever the need is, there is something in the heart of Christ which meets its craving, and supplies its lack.
The earthly shepherd defends his flock in all danger. Often he has to risk his own safety, even his life, in protecting his sheep. Just so, the Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep. Christ's sheep are absolutely safe in His keeping. "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:28. Then at last He will bring His own all safely home, "and they shall become one flock, one Shepherd."
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Earth's broken things
(J. R. Miller)
"This man welcomes sinners—and eats with them!" Luke 15:2
"I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you!" Matthew 21:31
Christ is building His kingdom with earth's broken things.
Men want only the strong, the successful, the victorious, the unbroken—in building their kingdoms. But God is the God of the broken, the unsuccessful, of those who have failed. Heaven is filling with earth's broken lives, and there is no 'bruised reed' which Christ cannot take and restore to glorious blessedness and beauty. He can take the life crushed by pain or sorrow—and make it into a harp whose music shall be all praise. He can lift earth's saddest failure—up to heaven's glory!
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Better to rot in prison!
(J. R. Miller, "Practical Lessons from the Story of Joseph")
"How can I do this great wickedness—and sin against God!" Genesis 39:9
"After hearing his wife's story, Potiphar was furious! He took Joseph and threw him into the prison!" Genesis 39:19-20
Sometimes it costs very dearly—to be true to God. Joseph lay now in a dungeon. But his loss through doing right, was nothing in comparison with what he would have lost—had he done the wickedness to which he was tempted. His prison gloom, deep as it was—was as noonday, compared with what would have been the darkness of his soul under the blight of evil, and the bitterness of remorse. The chains that hung upon him in his dungeon, were but like feathers—in comparison with the heavy chains which would have bound his soul, had he yielded to the temptation. Though in a prison, his feet hurt by the fetters—he was a free man because his conscience was free, and his heart was pure!
No fear of consequences should ever drive us to do a wrong thing.
It is better to suffer any loss, any cost, any sacrifice—than be eaten up by remorse!
Better be hurled down from a high place for doing right—than win worldly honor by doing wrong.
Better lose our right hand—than lose our purity of soul.
Better to rot in prison—than to sin against God!
It was the prayer of a young queen, which she wrote with a diamond point on her castle window, "Keep me pure; make others great." That is the lesson of Joseph's victory over temptation; dishonor, loss, dungeon, death—anything before sin!
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The two birds
(J. R. Miller, "Finding God's Comfort" 1896)
"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty." Job 5:17
He is not happy at the time, at least, in the world's way. No affliction for the present seems to be joyous—but grievous. No one enjoys having troubles, sufferings, trials, sorrows. Therefore this statement made by Eliphaz appears very strange to some people. They cannot understand it. It is contrary to all their thoughts of happiness.
Of course the word 'happy' is not used here in the world's sense. The world's happiness is the pleasure that comes from the things that happen. It depends on personal comfort, on prosperous circumstances, on kindly and congenial conditions. When these are taken away—the world's happiness is destroyed.
But the word happy, here means blessed—and the statement is that blessing comes to him who receives God's correction. To correct, is to set right—that which has been wrong. Surely if a man is going in the wrong way, and God turns his feet back and sets him in the right way—a blessing has come to the man!
Afflictions are 'God's corrections'. They come always with a purpose of love in them. God never afflicts one of His children, without meaning His child's good in some way. So blessing is always intended by God. It is usually afterward that people begin to see and to understand the good that God sent them in their trial. "You do not understand what I am now doing" said Jesus, "but you shall understand hereafter." "No chastening 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." So when we have troubles and afflictions, we may know that God wants to do us good in some way through them.
Since this is so, Job was exhorted by Eliphaz, "Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty." God chastens us to bless us—to do us good. He chastens us because He loves us.
He is not a true parent, who sees his children doing wrong, and yet fails to correct them for fear he may hurt their feelings. He ought to think of their higher good, and chasten them now—to profit them afterward.
This is the way our heavenly Father works. He never loves us better—than when He is correcting us. Therefore we ought not to despise this chastening. We ought not to murmur or complain when God does not give us our own way—but checks us, lays His afflictive hand upon us, and sends trouble upon us! We ought to have such faith in God—that we shall submit quietly, confidently, and sweetly to his will—even when it brings a heavy cross into our life.
A great many people need to pause at this line—and learn it. They do not treat God's chastening with reverence. Sometimes they are crushed by it, and refuse to look up into God's face with submission and love. Sometimes they grow bitter against God and say hard things of Him! We ought to reverence God's chastening; we ought to listen to the voice that speaks to us in our grief or pain.
The way in which God brings blessing through chastening, is emphasized: "For He wounds—but He also binds up; He strikes—but His hands also heal." Job 5:18. God never smites with both hands at once! When one hand is laid upon us in affliction—the other hand is reached out to help, to uphold, to heal.
Sometimes there is a trouble in a man's body which requires the surgeon's knife. There must be amputation, or cutting away, or cutting into. In such a case the skillful surgeon does not hesitate. He thinks far more of his patient's health for the future—than of his comfort at present. So he uses his knife—that he may cure disease, or save life. He wounds—to heal. He makes sore—that he may bind up. It is just so in all afflictions which God sends. He chastens—that He may deliver from the power of temptation. He hurts the body—that he may save the soul. He takes away earthly property—that He may give true, heavenly riches.
One writer tells of two birds and how they acted when caught and put into a cage. One, a 'starling', flew violently against the wire walls of its prison, in unavailing efforts to escape—only battering and bruising its own wings. The other bird, a 'canary', perched itself on the bar and began to pour forth bursts of sweet song, from its little throat. We know which bird was the wiser and happier.
Some people are like the starling—when they are in any trouble, they chafe and fret and complain and give way to wretchedness! The result is, they only hurt themselves, make themselves more miserable, and do not in any sense lessen their trouble. It is wiser always, as well as more pleasing to God, for us to bear our trials patiently, singing songs of faith and love—rather than crying out in rebellion and discontent.
Job wanted to get near to God in his great trouble; he cried, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" He felt sure that that would be the best and safest place for him to be. We ought not to lose this lesson. When trouble is upon us—the true thing for us to do, is to flee to God! Some people, in their affliction and sorrow—flee away from God. Thus they lose their joy and peace, missing the comfort which they would get if only they kept near to Him. The right way to respond, is to try to find the way to God's very presence. He is the only safe refuge, when the storms of trouble break upon us. The first thing always, in any time of trouble—is to find God and hide away in His bosom, as a child runs to the mother in alarm, or as the little bird flies to its nest. To find God—is to be safe!
God is our truest and best friend! He is our Father—we need never fear to go to Him. He gives heed unto our cries. He loves us. All His omnipotence is on our side. No mother's heart was ever so full of love for her child—as is the heart of God for us, His children!
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Life's highest and best lesson
(J. R. Miller, "The Story of Joseph, Practical Lessons")
We read that Joseph bore himself so congenially, and did his work so well, and was so capable, so true, so trustworthy—that Potiphar "left all that he owned under Joseph's care; he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate." Genesis 39:6. Joseph would never have won such a success—if he had given up to discouragement, if he had brooded over his wrongs, if he had sulked and complained, if he had spent his time in vain regrets or in vindictive feelings. We should learn the lesson, and it is worth learning—for it is life's highest and best lesson.
The problem of life, is to keep the heart warm and kindly—amid all injustice and wrong; to keep the spirit brave and cheerful—in the midst of all that is hard in life's circumstances and conditions; to be true, and right, and strong—in all moral purpose and deed, however others may act toward us.
Our inner life should not be affected by our external experiences. Right is right, no matter what others around us may do. We must be true—no matter if all the world is false—even false to us. We must be unselfish and loving—though even our nearest friends prove selfish and cruel to us. We must keep our spirit strong, cheerful and hopeful—though adversities and misfortunes seem to leave us nothing of the fruit of all our labors.
In a word, we are to live victoriously, truly, nobly, sweetly, cheerfully, joyfully—in spite of whatever may be uncongenial in our condition!
This is the lesson of all Christian life. We should not let the outside darkness into our soul. We should seek to be delivered from all morbidness and all unwholesomeness. We should not allow anything to crush us.
Remember, your task in living—is to keep sweet, to keep your heart gentle, brave, strong, loving, full of hope—under the worst that the years can bring you of injustice, hardship, suffering, and trial.
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A lazy minister!
"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care . . . not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock!" 1 Peter 5:2-3
We preachers must be examples to the flock. He who cannot be safely imitated, ought not to be tolerated in a pulpit!
Did I hear of a minister who was always striving for pre-eminence? Or of another who was covetous? Or of a third whose life was not always chaste? Or of a fourth who did not rise, as a rule, until eleven o'clock in the morning?
I would hope that this last rumor was altogether false. An idle minister! What will become of him? Does he expect to go to heaven? I was about to say, "If he does go there at all—may it be soon!" A lazy minister is a creature despised by men—and abhorred by God!
I said to a farmer, "You pay your minister such a small amount! Why, the poor man cannot live on it!" His answer was, "Look here, sir! I will tell you the truth—we give him a good deal more than he earns!"
It is a sad pity when that can be said; it is an injury to all those who follow our sacred calling. We are to be examples to our flock in all things. We are to excel . . .
in all diligence,
in all gentleness,
in all humility, and
in all holiness.
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Little need for amusement!
"Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity!"
The man who is all aglow with love to Jesus, finds
little need for amusement! He has no time for
trifling—or for gadding abroad after frivolities!
An idle professor should not be allowed to remain in
the church—like a drone in a hive of working bees.
The best name for a church is 'All Saints'. We want
churches that produce saints: men of mighty faith
and prevalent prayer; men of holy living, and of
consecrated working; men filled with the Holy Spirit.
We have no connection with the "Latter-day Saints",
but we love every-day saints. Oh, for more of them!
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing
move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work
of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the
Lord is not in vain!" 1 Corinthians 15:58
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The lamentation of a new-born soul
by John Newton
"Behold, I am vile!" Job 40:4
O Lord, how vile am I,
Unholy and unclean!
How can I dare to venture nigh,
With such a load of sin?
Is this polluted heart
A dwelling fit for Thee?
Swarming, alas! in every part,
What evils do I see!
If in Thy Word I look,
Such darkness fills my mind;
I only read a sealed book,
And no relief can find!
Thy gospel oft I hear,
But hear it still in vain;
Without desire, or love, or fear,
I like a stone remain!
Myself can hardly bear
This wretched heart of mine!
How hateful, then, must it appear,
To those pure eyes of Thine!
And must I, then, indeed,
Sink in despair and die?
Fain would I hope that Thou didst bleed
For such a wretch as I!
That blood which Thou hast spilt,
That grace which is Thy own,
Can cleanse the vilest sinner's guilt,
And soften hearts of stone!
Low at Thy feet I bow;
O pity and forgive!
Here will I lie, and wait till Thou,
Shalt bid me rise and live!
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A memento of divine affection
(J. R. Miller, "Things to Live For" 1896)
"Cast your burden upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you." Psalm 55:22
This privilege is a very precious one. We all have our burden. No matter how happy anyone is—he is bearing some weight of care, or sorrow, or responsibility. Continually we find our load too heavy for our own unaided strength. We feel that we cannot carry it without help. Human love comes up close beside us, willing, if it were possible, to take the burden from our shoulder, and carry it for us. But this is not possible. "Every man must bear his own burden." Most of life's loads, are not transferable.
Take pain, for instance. No tenderest, truest love—can bear our pain for us, or even bear any smallest part of it.
Or take sorrow. As close as human friendship may come to us when our heart is breaking with grief—it cannot take from us any least portion of the anguish we suffer, as we meet bereavement.
Or take struggle with temptation. We can get no human help in it, and must pass through the struggle alone.
It will be noticed, too, that God Himself does not promise to bear our burden for us. So much is it an essential and inseparable part of our life—that even divine love will not relieve us of its weight.
The teaching from all this, is that we cannot hope to have our life-burden lifted off. Help cannot come to us, in the way of relief. The prayer to be freed from the load, cannot be answered. The assurance is—not that the Lord will take away our burden when we cast it upon Him, lifting it away from our shoulder. It is, instead, a promise that while we bear our burden, whatever it may be—that the Lord will sustain us. "Cast your burden upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you." He will give us strength to continue faithful, to go on with our doing of His will, unimpeded, unhindered, by the pressure of the load we must carry.
An alternative rendering of this verse is, "Cast your gift upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you." Thus we see, that our burden is a gift of God to us! At once the thing, which a moment ago seemed so oppressive in its weight, so unlovely in its form—is hallowed and transformed! We had thought it to be an evil—whose effect upon us could be only hurtful, hindering our growth, marring our happiness. But now we see that it is another of God's blessings, not evil—but good, designed not to hurt us, nor to impede our progress—but to help us onward!
A gift from a human friend, is a token and pledge of their love for us. In like manner, God sent this gift to us—because He loves us. It is a memento of divine affection. It may be hard for us to understand this. It may be a burden of pain, and pain seems so opposed to comfort—that we cannot see how it can be a gift of love. It may be sorrow; and sorrow never for the present seems to be joyous—but always grievous. It may be great loss—the stripping from us of life's pleasant things, leaving emptiness and desolation. How such burdens as these can be tokens of divine affection, God's gift of love—it is hard for us to conceive. Yet we know that God is our Father, and that His love for us never fails. Whatever comes from His hand to us—must be sent in love!
The world offers attractive things—pleasures, gains, promises of honor and delight. To the eye of sense, these appear to be life's best things. But too often they enfold bitterness and hurt, the fruit of evil. At the bottom of the cup—are dregs of poison! On the other hand, the things that God gives, appear sometimes unattractive, undesirable, even repulsive! We shrink from accepting them. But they enfold, in their severe and unpromising form—the blessings of divine love.
We know how true this is of life's pains and sorrows. Though grievous to sense, they leave in the heart which receives them with faith and trust—the fruits of divine blessing. Whatever our burden may be, it is God's gift, and brings to us some precious thing, from the treasury of divine love. This fact makes it sacred to us. Not to accept it—is to thrust away from us, a blessing sent from heaven. We need, therefore, to treat most reverently—the things in our life, which we call burdens.
We should regard all the gifts of God to us—with affection. This is easy for us so long as these gifts come to us in pleasant form—things that give joy to us. But with no less love and gratitude should we receive and cherish God's gifts, which come in forbidding form. It is the same divine love which sends the one—and also the other. The one is no less good—than the other. There is blessing as truly in the gift of pain or loss or trial—as in the gift of song and gain and gladness. Whatever God sends—we should receive in confidence, as a gift of His love. Thus it is, that our burden, whatever it may be, is hallowed.
It may not always be easy to carry it, for even love sometimes lays heavy burdens on the shoulders of its beloved. A wise father does not seek always to make life easy for his child. Nothing could be more unkind! He would have his child grow strong—and, therefore, he refuses to take away the hard task. God is too loving and kind, too true a father—to give us only easy things. He makes the burden heavy—that we may become strong in bearing it. But He is always near; and He gives us the help we need, that we may never faint beneath it. Thus we may always know, that our burden is our Father's gift to us!
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A truly thoughtful person
(J. R. Miller, "The Grace of Thoughtfulness" 1896)
Some people seem to have a genius for making others miserable! They are continually touching sensitive hearts, so as to cause pain. They are always saying things which sting and irritate. If you have any bodily defect, they never see you without in some crude way, making you conscious of it. If any relative or friend of yours has done some dishonorable thing, they seem to take a cruel delight in constantly referring to it when speaking with you. They lack all delicacy of feeling, having no eye for the sensitive things in others, which demand gentleness of treatment.
Thoughtfulness is the reverse of all this. It simply does not do the things which thoughtlessness does. It avoids the painful subject. It never alludes to a man's clubfoot or humpback, nor ever casts an eye at the defect, nor does anything to direct attention to it or to make the man conscious of it. It respects your sorrow—and refrains from harshly touching your wound. It has the utmost kindliness of feeling and expression. A truly thoughtful person, is one who never needlessly gives pain to another.
Thoughtfulness does not merely keep one from doing thoughtless things; it also leads to continued acts of kindness and good will. It ever watches for opportunities to give pleasure and happiness. It does not wait to be asked for sympathy or help—but has eyes of its own, and sees every need, and supplies it unsolicited. When a friend is in sorrow, the thoughtful man is ready with his offer of comfort. He does not come the next day, when the need is past—but is prompt with his kindness, when kindness means something.
Thoughtfulness is always doing little kindnesses. It has an instinct for seeing the little things that need to be done, and then for doing them!
There are some rare Christians who seem born for thoughtfulness. They have a genius for sympathy. Instinctively they seem to understand the experiences of pain in others, and from their heart, there flows a blessing of tenderness which is full of healing. This is the highest and holiest ministry of love. It is not softness nor weakness; it is strength—but strength enriched by divine gentleness.
Thoughtfulness is one of the truest and best tests of a noble Christian character. It is love working in all delicate ways. It is unselfishness which forgets self, and thinks only of others. It is love which demands not to be served, to be honored, to be helped—but thinks continually of serving and honoring others. He who has a truly gentle heart, cannot but be thoughtful. Love is always thoughtful.
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You can never lose your mother!
(J. R. Miller, "The SEEDS We Are Scattering" 1896)
Though all are born "dead in trespasses and sins;" in another sense, when a baby is born—its life is only a patch of soil in which, as yet, nothing is growing.
A mother's hand is the first to plant seeds there—in the looks of tender love which her eyes dart into the child's soul, in her smiles and caresses and croonings, and her thousand efforts to reach the child's heart and shape its powers; and then in the lessons which she teaches.
All the members of the household soon become sowers also on this field; as the life begins to open, every one is dropping some seed into the mellow soil.
In a little while, hands outside the home begin to scatter seeds in the child's mind and heart. The street, the playground, the school; later, books, papers, and pictures contribute their portion.
As the years advance, the experiences of life—the joys, temptations, tasks, trials, sorrows—all bring their influences. Somewhat in this way, the character of the mature man—is the growth of seeds sown by a thousand hands in the life from infancy.
All our thoughts, words, and acts—are seeds. They have in them a quality which makes them grow where they fall, reproducing themselves. This is true of the good we do.
The mother's teachings enter the mind and heart of her child as mere seeds; but they reappear in the life of the son or daughter, in later years—in strength and beauty, in nobleness of character, and in usefulness of life. Not only is this strange power in the mother's words; her acts, her habits, her tones of voice, the influences that go forth from her life—are also seeds, having in them a vital principle. Where they lodge—they grow.
You can never lose your mother! She may die, and her body may be buried out of your sight, and laid away in God's acre. You will see her face and hear her voice no more; no more will her hand scatter the good seeds of truth and love, upon your life's garden. But you have not lost her! Your mind and heart are full of the seeds which fell from her hand along the years. These you never can lose. No hand of death can root them out of your life. They have grown into the very fibers of your character. They reappear in your habits, your dispositions, your feelings and opinions, your modes of thought, your very phrases and forms of speech! You can never lose your mother; the threads of her life are woven inextricably into your life!
All the noble things that fall from your hands, as you travel along life's paths, are seeds, and will not die. The good things we do, with the true words we speak, with the faithful example we show, with all the influences of our life that are Christlike, are living seeds which we sow in the lives of others. They will not fall into the ground and perish. They will stay where they drop, and you will find them again after many days. They will germinate and grow, and yield a harvest!
Go on doing the little things, no matter how small, only making sure that you breathe love into them. Let them fall where they may, no matter into what heart, no matter how silently, no matter how hopeless may seem the soil into which they drop, no matter how you yourself may appear to be forgotten or overlooked as you do your deeds of kindness, and speak your words of love. These words and deeds and influences of yours are living seeds, and not one of them shall perish!
The same is true, however, of the evil things we do. They, too, have in them the quality of life and reproductiveness. If only our good things were seeds, this truth would have unmingled encouragement for us. But it is startling to remember, that the same law applies to the evil things.
The man who writes a wicked book, or paints an unholy picture, or sings an impure song—sets in motion a procession of unholy influences which will live on forever! He, too, will find his evil words again in the hearts of men, long, long afterwards; or see his unclean picture reproduced on men's lives, or hear his unholy song singing itself over again in the depths of men's being!
The evil that men do—lives after them! "Bury my influence in my grave with me!" said a wicked man, dying with bitter remorse in his soul. But that is impossible. Sometimes men who have been sowing evil, wake up to the consciousness of the harm they have been giving to other lives, and go back over their paths, trying to gather up the seeds of sin which they have cast into human hearts. But the effort is unavailing, as no one can take out of men's minds and hearts—the seeds of evil he has dropped there!
We are not done with life—when we die! We shall meet our acts and words and influences again! "Do not be deceived! God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows—he will also reap!" Galatians 6:7. He shall reap the same that he sows—and he himself shall be the reaper!
There is a law of divine justice, in which God requites to every man according to his deeds. We are not living under a reign of mere chance. But sometimes it seems as if the law of justice did not work universally—that some who do wrong, are not requited; and that some who do good, receive no reward. But this inequality of justice is only apparent. Life does not end at the grave! If it did, we might say that the Lord's ways are not always equal. God's dealings with men, are not closed in this earthly life! The story is continued through eternity!
In this present life—wrong often seems to go unpunished, and virtue unrewarded. But our present lives, are simply unfinished life-stories. There are other chapters which will be written in eternity. When all has been completed, there will be no inequality, no injustice. All virtue will have its full reward—and all sin will receive its due punishment.
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The gentleness of Jesus
(J. R. Miller, "Things to Live For" 1896)
"Learn from Me—for I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29
Of the gentleness of Jesus it was said, "He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick." Isaiah 42:3. There is nothing that this sorrowing, sinning world needs—more than gentleness. Yet, there are some Christians who seem never to have learned love's secret of gentleness.
We need to pray for the grace of gentleness, that we may walk softly among men, never hurting another life by harsh words or ungentle acts.
We can have something of the beauty of Christ in our life. As we can get into our hearts the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the mind that was in Jesus—the light of divine love will shine out from our dull nature, and transfigure it. This will make us sweet-tempered and gentle-spirited. It will make us honest in our dealings with our fellow-men. It will make us kind to all about us. It will make us godly people to live with at home. It will make us good neighbors and faithful friends. The unconscious ministry of such a life through long years—will leave untold blessings in this world.
Such a life of quiet, simple, humble, Christlike goodness—will pour out its unconscious influence into other lives—making them better, happier, holier, sweeter. Such a ministry of simple goodness is within the reach of every Christian. It requires no brilliant gifts, and no great wealth. It is a ministry which the plainest and lowliest may fulfill.
In these days of 'fashionable worldliness', the church needs just such simple goodness. It has eloquence in its pulpits, and activity in its pews—but it needs more godly people filled with the gentleness of Christ, repeating the life of Christ wherever they move.
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His treasured possession!
(J. R. Miller)
"I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep." John 10:14
When we think of the millions who are in Christ's flock,
it seems strange to us that He knows and calls each one
by name. Yet the truth is made very clear in Scripture.
Every mother knows her own children by name, and it
is as easy for the Good Shepherd to know each of His
millions by name—as for any human mother to know
each of her little children.
There is comfort in this teaching. We are not lost in
the crowd. Each one of of God's children, is the special
object of His love and thought and care!
"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have
called you by name; you are Mine!" Isaiah 43:1
"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.
The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the
peoples on the face of the earth to be His people,
His treasured possession!" Deuteronomy 7:6
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
(J. R. Miller)
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14
That Christian life which costs nothing—is worth nothing. There must be self-restraint, discipline, severe schooling. There must be struggle, and the agonizing effort. If you are to reach the goal and win the prize—you must put every energy of your life into the race. There must be a sacrifice of indolence and self-will and personal ease. Too much pampering, spoils many a promising Christian.
Every noble and godly life, is a struggle from beginning to end. Only those who toil and fight and overcome—are successful in life. This is true in every sphere—in business, in academics, and in spiritual life. Are we resisting sin, overcoming temptation, living victoriously in trial? If not—we are not living worthily. "To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me." Colossians 1:29
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This lesson makes life easy and simple!
(J. R. Miller, "Living by the DAY")
It is life's largeness which most discourages earnest and conscientious people. As they think deeply of life's meaning and responsibility, they are apt to be overwhelmed by the thought of its vastness. Life has manifold, almost infinite, relations toward God and toward man. Each of these relations has its binding duties. Every life has a divine mission to fulfill—a plan of God to work out.
Every individual life must be lived amid countless antagonisms, and in the face of countless perils. Battles must be fought, trials encountered, and sorrows endured.
Also, the brief earthly course—is but the beginning of an endless existence, whose immortal destinies hinge upon fidelity in the present life.
Looked at in this way, as a whole, there is something almost appalling in the thought of our responsibility in living.
Many a person who thinks of life in this aspect, and sees it in its wholeness, has not the courage to hope for success and victory—but stands staggered, well-near paralyzed, on the threshold. Despair comes to many a heart when either duty or sorrow or danger is looked at—in the aggregate.
But this is not the way we should view life. It does not come to us all in one piece. We do not get it even in years—but only in days—day by day. We look on before us, and as we count up the long years with their duties, struggles, and trials—and the bulk is like a mountain which no mortal can carry. But really, we never have more than:
one day's battles to fight, or
one day's work to do, or
one day's burdens to bear, or
one day's sorrow to endure,
in any one day.
It is wonderful how the Bible gives emphasis to this way of viewing life. When for forty years God fed His chosen people with bread from heaven, He never gave them, except on the morning before the Sabbath, more than one day's portion at a time. He positively forbade them gathering more than would suffice for the day; and if they should violate His command, what they gathered above the daily portion, would become corrupt. Thus early, God began to teach His people to live only by the day—and trust Him for tomorrow.
At the close of the forty years, the promise given to one of the tribes was, "As your days—so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 33:25. Strength was not promised in advance—enough for all of life, or even for a year, or for a month—but the promise was, that for each day, when it came with its own needs, duties, battles and griefs—enough strength would be given. As the burden increased—more strength would be imparted.
The important thought here is, that strength is not emptied into our hearts in bulk—a supply for years to come—but is kept in reserve, and given day by day, just as the day's needs require.
When Christ came, He gave still further emphasis to the same method of living. He said, "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today!" Matthew 6:34. He would have us fence off the days by themselves, and never look over the fence to think about tomorrow's cares.
The thought is, that each day is, in a certain sense—a complete life by itself. It has . . .
its own duties,
its own trials,
its own burdens,
its own needs.
It has enough to fill our heart and hands for the one full day. The very best we can do for any day, for the perfecting of our life as a whole—is to live the one day well. We should put all our thought and energy and skill into the duty of each day, wasting no strength—either in grieving over yesterday's failures, or in anxiety about tomorrow's responsibilities.
Our Lord, also, in the form of prayer which He gave his disciples, taught this lesson of living only by the day. There He has told us to ask for bread—for one day only. "Give us this day our daily bread." He again teaches us that we have to do only with the present day. We do not need tomorrow's bread now. When we need it—it will be soon enough to ask God for it, and get it. It is the 'manna lesson' over again. God is caring for us, and we are to trust Him for the supply of all our needs—as they press upon us. We are to trust Him, content to have only enough in hand for the day.
If we can but learn to thus live by the day, without anxiety about the future—the burden will not be so crushing. We have nothing to do with life in the aggregate—that great bulk of duties, responsibilities, struggles, and trials—which belong to a course of years. We really have nothing to do even with the nearest of the days before us—tomorrow. Our sole business is with the one little day, now passing. Its burdens will not crush us—we can easily carry them until the sun goes down. We can always get along for one short day. It is the projection of life into the long future, which dismays and appalls us. This lesson makes life easy and simple!
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There is but one standard of true Christian character
(J. R. Miller, "Copying but a Fragment")
"Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6
Nothing is more striking to a close observer of human life, than the almost infinite variety of character which exists among those who profess to be Christians. No two are alike. Even those who are alike revered for their saintliness, who alike seem to wear the image of their Lord, whose lives are alike attractive in their beauty—show the widest diversity in individual traits, and in the cast and mold of their character. Yet all are sitting before the same model; all are striving after the same ideal; all are imitators of the same blessed life.
There is but one standard of true Christian character—likeness to Christ. It is into His image—that we are to be transformed; and it is toward His holy beauty—that we are always to strive. We are to live as He lived. We are to copy His features into our lives. Wherever, in all the world, true disciples of Christ are found—they are all trying to reproduce the likeness of their Master in themselves.
One reason for the diversity among Christians—is because even the best and holiest saints realize but a little of the image of Christ, have only one little fraction and fragment of His likeness in their souls. In one of His followers, there is some one feature of Christ's blessed life which appears; in another, there is another feature; in a third, still a different feature. One seeks to copy Christ's gentleness, another His patience, another His sympathy, another His meekness.
Therefore, a thousand believers may all, in a certain sense, be like Christ—and yet no two of them have, or consciously strive after, just the same features of Christ in their souls. The reason is, that the character of Christ is so great, so majestic, so glorious—that it is impossible to copy all of it into any one little human life; and again, each human character is so imperfect and limited—that it cannot reach out in all directions after the boundless and infinite character of Christ.
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He loves us too well
(J. R. Miller, "Silent Times")
"I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are just, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75
Sometimes the ways of God do seem hard.
Our fondest hopes are crushed;
our fairest joys fade like summer flowers;
the desires of our hearts are withheld from us.
Yet, if we are God's children, we believe that a blessing is hidden in every one of these losses or denials. Right here, we get a glimpse into the mystery of many unanswered prayers. The things we seek, would not work good for us in the end—but evil. The things we plead to have removed—are essential to our highest interests.
Health is supposed to be better than sickness—but there comes a time when God's kindness will be most wisely shown—by denying us health. He never takes pleasure in causing us to suffer; He is touched by our sorrows. Yet He loves us too well, to give us things that would harm us, or to spare us the trial that is needful for our spiritual good. It will be seen in the end, that many of the very richest blessings of all our lives—have come to us through God's denials, His withholdings, or His shattering of our hopes and joys.
We should never forget that the object of all of God's dealings with His children—is to sanctify us, and make us vessels fit for His use. To this high and glorious end, our present pleasure and gratification must ofttimes be sacrificed. This is the true key to all the mysteries of Providence. Anything that hinders entire consecration to Christ, is working us harm; and though it be our tenderest joy, it is best that it be taken away.
Prayer is not always granted, even when the heart clings with holiest affection to its most precious joy. Nothing must hinder our consecration. We should never think first of what will give us earthly joy or comfort—but of what will fit us for doing the Master's service.
Pain is often better for us—than pleasure;
loss is often better for us—than gain;
sorrow is often better for us—than joy;
disaster is often better for us—than deliverance.
Faith should know that God's withholdings from us, when He does not give what we ask—are richer blessings than were He to open to us all His treasure-houses at whose doors we stand and knock with so great vehemence. Our unanswered prayers have just as real and as blessed answer—as those which bring what we seek.
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Hold me up!
(Henry Law, "Family Prayers")
Conscious of our own weakness, and trusting only in Your grace and power—we beseech You this day to increase and multiply Your mercy upon us.
We are going forth to tread on slippery ground—may You uphold us.
Our march is through a land of which Satan is the prince—may You protect us.
Snares at each turn await our steps—may You guide us.
We look around—and fear. We look up to You—and take courage. By Your grace alone can we stand. If Your grace should fail us—instantly we fall. Our earnest prayer is, "Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117
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The best that most of us can do in this world
(J. R. Miller, "Silent Times")
"Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27
"Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20
Christ within us will be made manifest. If we have this divine indwelling, we will also have an ever-increasing measure in all of our life—of the gentle and loving spirit of the Master. We should not claim to have Christ in us—if, in our conduct and speech, in our disposition and temper, and in our relations with our fellow-men, there is none of the mind and temper of Christ. If Christ truly is in us, He cannot long be hidden in our hearts, without manifestation. There will be a gradual transformation of our outer life—into Christ-likeness.
As He lived—so we will live;
as He ministered to others—so we will minister;
as He was holy—so we will be holy;
as He was patient, thoughtful, unselfish, gentle, and kind—so will we be.
Christ came to our world to pour divine kindness on weary, needy, perishing human lives. Christ truly in our hearts—would send us out on the same mission. The world today needs nothing more than true Christ-likeness, in those who bear Christ's name, and represent Him.
If we truly have Christ in our hearts—it will work out in transformed life and in Christly ministry; it will lead to the brightening of one little spot, at least, on this big earth.
There are a few people whom God calls to do great things for Him. The best that most of us can do in this world—is just to live out a real, simple, consecrated, Christian life in our allotted place. Thus, in our little measure, we shall repeat the life of Christ Himself, showing others some feeble reflection of His sweet and loving face, and doing in our poor way—a few of the beautiful things He would do, if He were here Himself.
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Sufficient to each day
"As your days—so shall your strength be."
Sufficient to each day are the duties
to be done—and the trials to be endured.
God never built a Christian strong enough to
carry today's duties and tomorrow's anxieties
piled on the top of them.
"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow
will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is
enough for today." Matthew 6:34
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An evil spirit for his playmate!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Plain Advice for Plain People")
"The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes—than seven men who answer discreetly." Proverbs 26:16
Many have no better work—than killing time. Beware of 'the evil of doing nothing'. Idleness is the key of beggary—and the mother of all evil. It is through 'the door of sluggishness', that evil enters the heart!
Lazy people like the caterpillars on the cabbage, eating up the good things; or like the butterflies, showing themselves off but making no honey!
Every man ought to have patience and pity for poverty; but for laziness—a long whip would be better!
Everything in the world is of some use; but it would puzzle a philosopher, to tell the good of idleness! There is something to be said for moles, and rats and weasels—they are a pretty sight when nailed up on our old barn; but as for the sluggard—the only use for him is in the grave—to help to make the churchyard fat.
Laziness is bad—and altogether bad! Sift a sluggard grain by grain—and you will find him to be all chaff!
"As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes," so is the sluggard to every man who is spending his sweat to earn an honest living, while these lazy fellows let the grass grow up to their ankles, and stand cluttering the ground!
In idle men's imaginations, the devil hides away unseen, like the old serpent that he is. A man who wastes his time and his strength in sloth—offers himself to be a target for the devil, who is a wonderfully good rifleman, and will fill the idler with his shots! In other words, idle men tempt the devil to tempt them! He who plays when he should work—has an evil spirit for his playmate! A sluggard is fine 'raw material' for the devil—he can make anything he likes out of him! If the devil catches a man idling—he will set him to work, find him tools, and before long pay him wages!
Sure enough, our children have our evil nature in them, for you can see sloth growing in them like weeds in a garden! My advice to my boys has been, "Get out of the sluggard's way, or you may catch his disease—and never get rid of it!" I am always afraid of their learning the ways of the idle—and am very watchful to nip anything of the sort in the bud; for you know, that it is best to kill the lion, while it is still a cub! Bring them up to be 'bees', and they will not become 'drones'!
As to having lazy employees—I would prefer to drive a 'team of snails', or go out rabbit hunting with a dead hound! Why, you would sooner get blood out of a gatepost, or juice out of a rock—than work out of some of them! I wonder sometimes, that some of our employers keep so many cats which catch no mice! I would as soon throw my money in the fire—as pay some people for pretending to work.
Lazy people never put a single potato into the nation's pot—but they take a good many out! They eat all the bread and cheese—but never earn a bite of it! Yet Scripture gives us this rule, "If a man will not work—he shall not eat." 2 Thessalonians 3:10
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It is the vile monster!
(Henry Law, "Family Prayers")
God Almighty, holy Father,
We beseech You to deepen in our hearts—the abhorrence of all evil. May we hate sin with perfect hatred. It is the vile monster which . . .
defies Your power,
casts off Your yoke,
treads down Your lovely law,
defiles our nature,
spreads misery throughout this earth,
brought death into the world, and
nailed the spotless Lamb of God to the accursed tree!
Teach us to look to Jesus on the cross—and so to estimate its loathsome guilt in Your sight.
There could be no pardon of sin—but through Your dear Son's death!
No cleansing could wash out sin's filth—but Jesus' precious blood!
No atonement could expiate the evil of sin—but the shame, the agony, the bruises of the incarnate God!
We see the boundless price—may we read therein the boundless guilt!
In the infinite payment—show us the infinite debt!
Thus may we discern the deadly viper in its real malignity, and tear it with holy indignation from our breasts, and resolutely turn from its every snare, and refuse to hold polluting dalliance with it!
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The common wearisome pursuit of the worldling
(John Newton, "The Present and Future Rest of Believers in Christ")
"Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity!" Ecclesiastes 1:2
The common wearisome pursuit of the worldling is described in Scripture: "Why do you spend your money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" Isaiah 55:2
"Many are saying—Who can show us anything good?" Psalm 4:6. Worldlings are wandering from object to object in quest of happiness, but are always frustrated by incessant and repeated disappointments. We would pity a person whom we saw seeking some necessary thing day after day—in a place where we knew it was impossible to be found. This is, however, the case with all people—until they come to Christ. Satisfaction is what they profess to aim at; and they turn over every stone, they try every expedient, to find lasting happiness—but in vain.
Real satisfaction is only to be found in Jesus! When they come to Him, their wishes are fully answered and satisfied! "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst!" John 4:13-14
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There is not a place which a believer walks in—which is free from snares. Behind every tree—is the tempter with his barbed arrow! Behind every bush—is the roaring lion, the Devil, your great enemy, prowling around, looking for some victim to devour! Under every piece of grass—hides the deadly adder!
This present world is the battlefield; Heaven is a place of complete victory and glorious triumph.
This present world is the land of the sword and the spear; Heaven is the land of the wreath and the crown.
This present world is the land of the garment rolled in blood and the dust of the fight; Heaven is the land of the trumpet's joyful sound—the place of the white robe and of the shout of conquest.
Oh, what a thrill of joy shall shoot through the hearts of all the redeemed, when their conquests shall be complete; when death itself, the last of foes, shall be slain; when Satan shall be dragged captive at the chariot wheels of Christ; when He shall have overthrown sin and trampled corruption as the mire of the streets; when the great shout of universal victory shall rise from the hearts of all the redeemed!
"He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever!" Revelation 21:4
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The only qualification for man to come to Jesus!
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor—but the sick!" Matthew 9:12
>From the garden of Gethsemane—where the bleeding pores of the Savior sweat pardons; from the cross of Calvary—where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy—the cry comes, "Look unto Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth!" From Calvary's summit, where Jesus cries, "It is finished!" I hear a shout, "Look unto Me, and be saved!"
But there comes a vile cry from our soul, "No, look to yourself! Look to yourself!" Ah, look to yourself—and you will certainly be damned! As long as you look to yourself—there is no hope for you. It is not a consideration of what you are—but a consideration of what Christ is, that can save you. You must look away from yourself, and to Jesus!
Oh! there are many who quite misunderstand the gospel; they think that their good works qualify them to come to Christ; whereas SIN is the only qualification for man to come to Jesus!
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor—but the sick!" Matthew 9:12
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Their follies, their burdens, their griefs, their woes!
Soon, very soon, the saints of the earth—shall be saints in heaven!
Their hairs of 'snowy old age'—shall be crowned with perpetual joy and everlasting youth!
Their eyes bathed with tears—shall be made as bright as stars, never to be clouded again by sorrow!
Their hearts that now tremble—are to be made joyous and strong, and set forever like pillars in the temple of God.
Their follies, their burdens, their griefs, their woes—are soon to be over! Sin is to be forever slain, corruption is to be forever removed—and a heaven of spotless purity and of unmingled peace is to be theirs forever!
"For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for His children. It is kept in heaven for you—pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!" 1 Peter 1:4
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"Here—put your troubles here!"
"Cast your burden on the Lord—and He will sustain you." Psalm 55:22
Cast your troubles where you have cast your sins; you have cast your sins onto Jesus—cast your troubles there also! As soon as the trouble comes, quick, the first thing, tell it to your Father in heaven! Remember, that the longer you take telling your trouble to God—the more your peace will be impaired. The longer the frost lasts—the more likely the ponds will be frozen.
Oh! It is a happy way of smoothing sorrow, when we can cast our burden upon the Lord. Oh, you agitated Christians, do not dishonor your religion by always wearing a 'frown of concern'. Come, cast your burden upon the Lord. I see you staggering beneath a weight, which He would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden—would be nothing but a bit of dust to Him. See! The Almighty bends His shoulders, and He says, "Here—put your troubles here!"
"Cast all your cares upon Him—because He cares about you!" 1 Peter 5:7
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A head full of froth!
"I hate vain thoughts—but I love Your law!" Psalm 119:113
Many of you know more about your magazines and novels—than what God has written! Many of you will read a novel from the beginning to the end, and what have you got? A head full of froth when you are done! But you cannot read the Bible—that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect—while anything that man writes, a best-seller of the day—you greedily devour!
"Set your minds on things above—not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:2
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Sinners in the hands of an angry God!
by Jonathan Edwards, 1741
"Vengeance belongs to Me—I will repay! Their foot shall slide in due time, for their day of disaster is near, and their doom is coming quickly!" Deuteronomy 32:35
OBSERVATION: There is nothing which keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell—but the mere pleasure of God.
1. There is no lack of power in God, to cast wicked men into hell at any moment.
2. They deserve to be cast into hell.
3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell.
4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell.
5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them—and seize them as his own—at whatever moment God shall permit him!
6. There are those hellish principles reigning in the souls of wicked men, which would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire—if it were not for God's restraints.
7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment—that there are no visible means of death at hand.
8. Unsaved men's prudence and care to preserve their own lives—do not secure them from death for a single moment!
9. All wicked men's pains and contrivances which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ—do not secure them from hell for one moment!
10. God has laid Himself under no obligation, by any promise—to keep any unsaved man out of hell, for one moment!
1. Consider more particularly—WHOSE wrath it is!
2. Consider—that is the fierceness of God's wrath, which you are exposed to!
3. Consider—that the misery you are exposed to, is that which God will inflict to that end—that He might show what His almighty wrath is!
4. Consider—that it is EVERLASTING wrath!
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He is altogether lovely!
(William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles")
"He is altogether lovely!" Song of Songs 5:16
Jesus is most desirable in Himself—and all things that are desirable are in Him. Beauty is in Christ, bounty is in Christ, riches and honor are in Christ. Jesus Christ is the treasure hidden in the gospel, the pearl of great price; He is the sun in the firmament of the Scriptures, whom to know is everlasting life. He is . . .
a spring full of the water of life,
a hive of sweetness,
a storehouse of riches,
a river of pleasures, wherein you may bathe your souls to all eternity!
Oh! He is all fullness and sweetness! "He is the chief among ten thousand!" Song of Songs 5:10
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6
You may go to heaven . . .
but you can never go to heaven without Christ!
"He loved me—and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20
All that Christ did and suffered—it is for me!
All that Christ has—is mine!
Christ's love is mine to pity me!
Christ's mercy is mine to save me!
Christ's graces are mine to beautify me!
Christ's power is mine to protect me!
Christ's wisdom is mine to counsel me!
Christ's Spirit is mine to comfort me!
Christ's Word is mine to teach me!
Christ's glory is mine to crown me!
Therefore, a grain of saving grace in the heart,
is better than a chain of gold around the neck!