The Beginning, Center, And End

We cannot keep our eye too exclusively or too intently fixed on Jesus. All salvation is in Him. All salvation proceedsfrom Him. All salvation leads to Him. And for the assurance and comfort of our salvation, we are to repose believingly and entirely on Him. Christ must be all! Christ the beginning — Christ the center — and Christ the end.

Oh sweet truth to you who are sensible of your poverty, vileness, and insufficiency, and of the ten thousand flaws and failures of which, perhaps, no one is cognizant but God and your own soul! Oh, to turn and rest in Christ — a full Christ — a loving Christ — a tender Christ, whose heart’s love never chills, from whose eye darts no reproof, from whose lips breathes no sentence of condemnation!

Christ must be all!

Christs Sympathy To Weary Pilgrims

 

July 11: That We Would Bear Fruit

“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; You have chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn you me, and I shall be turned; for you are the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yes, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” Jeremiah 31:18, 19

The divine life in the soul of man is indestructible—it cannot perish; the seed that grace has implanted in the heart is incorruptible—it cannot be corrupted. So far from trials, and conflicts, and storms, and tempests impairing the principle of holiness in the soul, they do but deepen and strengthen it, and tend greatly to its growth. We look at Job; who of mere man was ever more keenly tried?—and yet, so far from destroying or even weakening the divine life within him, the severe discipline of the covenant, through which he passed, did but deepen and expand the root, bringing forth in richer clusters the blessed fruits of holiness. Do you think, dear reader, the divine life in his soul had undergone any change for the worse, when, as the result of God’s covenant dealings with him, he exclaimed—”I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sees You: why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes?” No, the pruning of the fruitful branch impairs not, but rather strengthens and renders more fruitful the principle of holiness in the soul.

It is the will of God that His people should be a fruitful people. “This is the will of God, even your sanctification,”—the sanctification of a believer including all fruitfulness. He will bring out His own work in the heart of His child; and never does He take His child in hand with a view of dealing with him according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, but that dealing results in a greater degree of spiritual fruitfulness. Now, when the Lord afflicts, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies the affliction of the believer, is not this again among the costly fruit of that discipline, that self has become more hateful? This God declared should be the result of His dealings with His, ancient people Israel, for their idolatry—”They shall loathe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.” And again—”Then shall you remember your ways, and all your doings wherein you have been defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight, for all your evils that you have committed.”

To loathe self on account of its sinfulness, to mortify it in all its forms, and to bring it entirely into subjection to the spirit of holiness, is, indeed, no small triumph of Divine grace in the soul, and no mean effect of the sanctified use of the Lord’s dispensations. That must ever be considered a costly mean that accomplished this blessed end. Beloved reader, is your covenant God and Father dealing with you now? Pray that this may be one blessed result, the abasement of self within you, the discovering of it to you in all its deformity, and its entire subjection to the cross of Jesus.

Dealing With God

You know so little of God, my reader, because you live at such a distance from God. You have so little communion with Him, so little confession of sin, so little searching of your own conscience, so little probing of your own heart, so little transaction with Him in the little things of life. You deal with God in great matters. You take great trials to God, great perplexities, great needs; but in the minutiae of each day’s history, in what are called the little things of life — you have no dealings with God whatever — and consequently you know so little of the love, so little of the wisdom, so little of the glory, of your resplendent covenant God and reconciled Father.

Continue reading “Dealing With God”

July 7: A Risen People

“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him; having forgiven you all trespasses.” Colossians 2:12, 13

Is Jesus alive? then the saints of God are a risen people. What a glorious character is theirs! Mystically they are risen with Christ from the tomb, and spiritually they are risen from the grave of death and sin to newness of life. One of the most fruitful causes of a feeble Christianity is the low estimate the believer forms of his spiritual character. Were this higher, were it more proportioned to our real standing, our responsibility would appear in a more solemn light, our sense of obligation would be deeper, and practical holiness of a high order would be our more constant aim. Ours is a glorious and exalted life.

Our standing is higher, infinitely higher, than the highest angel; our glory infinitely greater than the most glorious seraph. “Christ is our life.” “We are risen with Christ.” By this we are declared to be a chosen, an adopted, a pardoned, a justified, and a quickened people. This is our present state; this is our present character. We bear about with us the life of God in our souls. As Jesus did bear about in His lowly, suffering, tempted, and tried humanity the hidden essential life; so we, in these frail, sinful, bruised, dying bodies, enshrine the life derived from a risen Head—the hidden life concealed with Christ in God. What an exalted character, what a holy one, then, is a believer in Jesus! Herein lie his true dignity and his real wealth—it is, that he is a partaker of the Divine nature, that he is one with the risen Lord. All other distinctions, in comparison, vanish into insignificance, and all other glory fades and melts away. Poor he may be in this world, yet is he rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom; for he has Christ. Rich he may be in this world, titled and exalted, yet, if Christ is in his heart, that heart is deeply sensible of its native poverty—is lowly, child-like, Christ-like.

If this is our exalted character, then how great our responsibilities, and how solemn our obligations! The life we now live in the flesh is to be an elevated, a risen, a heavenly life. “If you be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” What is the holy state here enjoined?—heavenly-mindedness. On what ground is it enforced?—our resurrection with Christ. As a risen people, how heavenly-minded, then, ought we to be! How incompatible and incongruous do groveling pursuits, and carnal joys, and earthly ambitions appear, with a life professedly one and risen with the incarnate God! But even here much heavenly wisdom is needed to guide in the narrow and difficult way.

To go out of the world—to become as a detached cipher of the human family—to assume the character, even in approximation, of the religious recluse—the gospel nowhere enjoins. To relinquish our secular calling, unless summoned by God to a higher and more spiritual service in the church—to relax our diligence in our lawful business—to be indifferent to our personal interests and responsibilities—to neglect our temporal concerns, and to be regardless of the relative claims which are binding upon us, are sacrifices which a loyal attachment to our heavenly King does not necessarily demand; and, if assumed, are self-inflicted; and, if made, must prove injurious to ourselves and displeasing to God.

But to be heavenly-minded, in the true and Scripture sense, is to carry our holy Christianity into every department of life, and with it to elevate and hallow every relation and engagement. There is no position in which the providence of God places His saints, for which the grace of Jesus is not all-sufficient, if sincerely and earnestly sought. Nor is there any sphere or calling, to which the life of Jesus in the soul may not impart dignity, luster, and sacredness. Christianity, through all grades, and classes, and occupations, is capable of diffusing a divine, hallowing, ennobling influence, transforming and sanctifying all that it touches. Blessed and holy are they who know it from personal and heartfelt experience!

July 1: To Be In Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.” John 15:4

The union of the believer with Jesus, and the consequent fruitfulness, is a glorious truth: the Holy Spirit, in His word, has laid great stress upon it. It is spoken of as a being in Christ—”Every branch in me.” “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” “So we, being many, are one body in Christ.” “Those who are fallen asleep in Christ.” But in what sense are we to understand this being “in Christ”?

To be in Christ truly, spiritually, vitally, is to be in that eternal covenant of grace made with Christ, as the Surety and Mediator of His people; one of the number spoken of as the Lord’s “peculiar treasure;”—”For the Lord has chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure;” and concerning whom the Holy Spirit declares that they are elected in Christ—”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ: according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

To be in Christ truly, is to stand accepted in His righteousness, to be justified by Him freely from all things; it is to be brought to the knowledge of our own vileness, insufficiency, and guilt; to be made to cast aside all self-dependence, that is, all works of human merit, and to come as the thief on the cross came, without any allowed confidence in anything of self, but as a poor, helpless, ruined, condemned sinner, all whose hope of pardon and acceptance is through the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

To be in Christ is to be the subject of a living, holy, influential principle of faith; it is to be brought into the blessed state thus described by the apostle as his own—”I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

To be in Christ is to be one with Him; it is to be a member of His mystical body, of which He is the spiritual Head: and the Head and members are one. It is to have Christ dwelling in the heart—”Christ in you the hope of glory.” Yes, it is to dwell in the heart of Christ; it is to rest there in the very pavilion of His love, to abide there every moment, to be sheltered there from all evil, and to be soothed there under all sorrow.

Oh blessed state of being in Christ! Who would not experience it? Who would not enjoy it? “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

These are the living branches, united to the true vine, which bear fruit. From their union to the living vine their fruit comes—”From me is your fruit found.” “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me.” And oh, what precious fruit does such a living branch bear! The broken heart—the contrite spirit—the mourning over sin—the low, abasing, humbling views of self—the venturing by faith on a full, mighty, willing Savior—the going out of self, and resting in His all-atoning work and all-satisfying righteousness. This is followed by a progressive advance in all holiness and godliness, the fruits of faith which are by Jesus Christ abounding in the life, and proving the reality of the wondrous change—the close walk with God—the submission of the will in all things to His—the conformity of the life to the example of Jesus—the “power of His resurrection” felt—the “fellowship of His sufferings,” known—and “conformity to His death,” marking the entire man.

These are some of the fruits of a truly regenerate soul. The Holy Spirit testifies, that the “fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth;” and still more minutely, as consisting of “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

June 22: Love To The Saints

“Every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him.” 1 John 5:1

THE feeling here referred to is a love to the saints, as saints. Whatever natural infirmities we may discover in them, whatever different shades of opinion they may hold to us, and to whatever branch of the Christian Church they may belong, yet the feeling which is to establish our own divine relationship is a love to them as brethren. Irrespective of all dissonance of creed, of denomination, of gifts, of attainment, of rank, of wealth, of nation—when we meet in a Christian professor the image of Christ, the family-likeness, our love will prompt us immediately to recognize that individual as a believer in Jesus, and to acknowledge him as a brother in the Lord.

And what are the grounds of my affection? I may esteem his character, and prize his gifts—may admire his talents, and feel there is an assimilation of disposition, of taste, and of judgment—but my Christian love springs from an infinitely higher and holier source. I love him because the Father is in him, because the Son is in him, because the Holy Spirit is in him. I love him because he is an adopted child of the same family; a member of Christ, and of the same body; and a temple of the same Holy Spirit. I love him that is begotten, because I love Him that begat. It is Christ in one believer, going out after Himself in another believer. It is the Holy Spirit in one temple, holding fellowship with Himself in another temple. And from hence it is that we gather the evidence of our having “passed from death unto life.” Loving the Divine Original, we love the human copy, however imperfect the resemblance. The Spirit of God dwelling in the regenerate soul yearns after the image of Jesus, wherever it is found. It pauses not to inquire to what branch of the Christian Church the individual resembling Him belongs; that with which it has to do is the resemblance itself.

Now, if we discover this going out of the heart in sweet, holy, and prayerful affection, towards every believer in Christ—be his denominational name what it may—the most to those who most bear the Savior’s image—then have we the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. A surer evidence we cannot have. There is the affection which surmounts all the separating walls of partition in the Church, and in spite of sects, and parties, and creeds, demonstrates its own divine nature and heavenly birth, by its blending with the same affection glowing in the bosom of another. And where this love to the brethren exists not at all in any Christian professor, we ask that individual, with all the tenderness of affection consistent with true faithfulness, where is the evidence of your union with the body of Christ? You have turned away with contractedness of heart, and with frigidity of manner, if not with secret disdain, from one whom God loves, whom Christ has redeemed, and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, because he belonged not to your sect.

Yes, you have turned away with coldness and suspicion from Christ Himself! How can you love the Father, and hate the child? What affection have you for the Elder Brother, while you despise the younger? If you are a living branch of the same vine, can you, while cherishing those feelings which exclude from your affection, from your sympathies, and from your fellowship, other Christians, more deeply wound Jesus, or more effectually grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom they are “sealed unto the day of redemption”? Perhaps you have long walked in darkness and uncertainty, as to the fact of your own personal adoption into the family of God.

Anxious fear and distressing doubt have taken the place of a holy assurance, and a peaceful persuasion that you were one of the Lord’s people. In endeavoring to trace this painful state of mind to its cause, did it never occur to you, that your lack of enlargement of heart towards all saints, especially towards those of other branches of the same family, has, in all probability, so grieved the Spirit of adoption, that he has withheld from your own soul that clear testimony, that direct witness, by which your interest in the covenant love of God, and your union with Christ, would have been clearly made known to you? You have grieved that same Spirit in your brother, who dwells in you, and upon whom you are so dependent for all your sweet consolation and holy desires; and He has suspended the light, and peace, and joy of your own soul.

June 21: Press In Humble Faith

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Romans 8:33

WHO in heaven; who on earth; who in hell? God will not; sin cannot; Satan dare not. Who? If there be in this wide universe an accuser of those whom God has justified, let him appear. There is none! Every mouth is closed.

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” If there remain a sin unpardoned, a stain uneffaced, a precept unkept, by the Mediator of His Church, let it appear. But there is none! The work of Christ is honorable and glorious. It is a finished work. And on the basis of this complete atonement, God, while He remains just, is the justifier of him that believes.

Oh, embrace this truth, you who, in bitterness of soul, are self-accused and self-condemned before God! Satan could accuse, and the world could accuse, and the saints could accuse, but more severe and true than all, is the self-accusation which lays your mouth in the dust, in the deepest, lowliest contrition. Yet, as a poor sinner, looking to Jesus, resting in Jesus, accepted in Jesus; who shall lay anything legally to our charge, since it is God—the God against whom you have sinned—who Himself becomes your Justifier? May you not, with all lowliness, yet with all holy boldness, challenge every foe, in the prophetic words of Christ Himself-“He is near that justifies me: who will contend with me?”

This truth is an elevating, because a deeply sanctifying one. It exalts the principles, and these, in their turn, exalt the practice of the Christian. The thought that it is God who justifies us at an expense to Himself so vast, by a sacrifice to Himself so precious, surely is sufficiently powerful to give the greatest intensity to our pantings, and fervency to our prayers, for conformity to the Divine image. Deep sorrows, and sore trials, and fiery temptations we may have, and must have, if we ever enter the kingdom; but, what is sorrow, what is trial, what is temptation, if they work but in us the fruits of righteousness, fit us more perfectly for heaven, and waft us nearer to our eternal home?

Press, in humble faith, this precious truth to your heart; for God has forgiven all, and has cancelled all, and has forgotten all, and is your God forever and ever. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, says the Lord.”

June 1: Through Afflictions

“Howbeit you are just in all that is brought upon us; for you have done right, but we have done wickedly.” Neh. 9:33

IT would be incorrect to suppose that the chastisements of our heavenly Father were in themselves pleasant and desirable. They are no more so than the physician’s recipe, or the surgeon’s lancet. But as in the one case, so in the other, we look beyond the medicine to its sanative qualities, we forget the bitterness of the draught in its remedial results. Thus with the medicine of the soul—the afflictions sent and sanctified by God. Forgetting the bitter and the pain of God’s dealings, the only question of moment is, what is the cause and what the design of my Father in this? The answer is—our deeper sanctification.

This is effected, first, by making us more thoroughly acquainted with the holiness of God Himself. Sanctified chastisement has an especial tendency to this. To suppose a case. Our sense of God’s holiness, previously to this dispensation, was essentially defective, unsound, superficial, and uninfluential. The judgment admitted the truth; we could speak of it to others, and in prayer acknowledge it to God; but still there was a vagueness and an indistinctness in our conceptions of it, which left the heart cold, and rendered the walk uneven. To be led now into the actual, heart-felt experience of the truth, that in all our transactions we had to deal with the holy, heart-searching Lord God, we find quite another and an advanced stage in our journey, another and a deeper lesson learned in our school. This was the truth, and in this way Nehemiah was taught. “Howbeit you are just (holy) in all that is brought upon us; for you have done right, but we have done wickedly.”

Oh blessed acknowledgment! Do not think that we speak unfeelingly when we say, it were worth all the discipline you have ever passed through, to a have become more deeply schooled in the lesson of God’s holiness. One most fruitful cause of all our declensions from the Lord will be found wrapped up in the crude and superficial views which we entertain of the character of God, as a God of infinite purity. And this truth He will have His people to study and to learn, not by sermons, nor from books, not from hearsay, nor from theory, but in the school of loving chastisement—personally and experimentally. Thus beholding more closely, and through a clearer medium, this Divine perfection, the believer is changed more perfectly into the same moral image. “He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.”

The rod of the covenant has a wonderful power of discovery. Thus, by revealing to us the concealed evil of our natures, we become more holy. “The blueness (that is, the severity) of a wound cleanses away evil.” This painful discovery often recalls to memory past failings and sins. David went many years in oblivion of his departure from God, until Nathan was sent, who, while he told him of his sin, with the same breath announced the message of Divine forgiveness. Then it was the royal penitent kneeled down and poured forth from the depths of his anguished spirit the fifty-first Psalm—a portion of God’s word which you cannot too frequently study. “I do remember my sin this day,” is the exclamation of the chastened sufferer.

Thus led to search into the cause of the Divine correction, and discovering it—perhaps after a long season of forgetfulness—the “blueness of the wound,” the severity of the rod, “cleanses away the evil;” in other words, more deeply sanctifies the soul. “Show me why you contend with me.”

April 24: I Am In The Father

Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, you would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. John 8:42

THIS is the key to the infinite grace of God. “I am in the Father,” said Christ, “and the Father in me.” Glorious announcement! Collecting together all the riches of His grace, the Father places them at the disposal of His Son, and bids Him spread them out before the eyes of a fallen world. True to His covenant engagement, the Eternal Son appears, “made like unto His brethren,” and announces that He has come to lift the veil, and show to us the heart of a gracious, sin-pardoning God. In declaring that the “Father Himself loves us,” and that “he that had seen Him,” so full of grace, “had seen the Father,” He affirms, but in other words, that He is a copy, a representation of the Father. That the love, the grace, the truth, the holiness, the power, the compassion, the tenderness, that were exhibited by Him in such a fullness of supply, and were distributed by Him in such an affluence of expenditure, had their origin and their counterpart in God.

Oh how jealous was He of the Divine honor! He might, had He willed it, have sought and secured His own distinction and advancement, His own interest and glory, apart from His Father’s. He could, had He chosen it, have erected His kingdom as a rival sovereignty, presenting Himself as the sole object of allegiance and affection, thus attracting to His government and His person the obedience and the homage of the world. But no! He had no separate interest from His Father. The heart of God throbbed in the bosom of Jesus—the perfections of God were embodied in the person of Jesus—the purpose of God was accomplished in the mission of Jesus—the will of God was done, and the honor of God was secured, in the life and death of Jesus. “I seek not mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me,” was a declaration emblazoned upon His every act.

Anxious that the worship which they offered to His deity, the attachment which they felt for his person, the admiration which they cherished for the beauty of His character and the splendor of His works, should not center solely in Himself, He perpetually pointed His disciples upward to the Eternal Father. It would seem, that such was His knowledge of His Father’s grace to sinners, such His acquaintance with His heart of love, that He could find no satisfaction in the affection, the admiration, and the homage yielded to Himself, but as that affection, admiration, and homage were shared equally by His Father. With Him it was an ever-present thought—and how could He forget it?—that the Father’s grace filled to overflowing this glorious vessel. He had just left the bosom of the Father, and this was well near the first announcement which broke in music from His lips, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And as He pursued His way through the awe-struck and admiring throng, He might often be heard to exclaim, in a voice that rose in solemn majesty above their loudest plaudits, “I seek not mine own glory; I honor my Father.”

April 15: The Smoking Flax

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, until he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 12:20

SURELY, it is a question of all others the most interesting and important, “Am I, or am I not, a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?” We do not say that the state of doubt and uncertainty from which this inquiry arises necessarily invalidates the evidence of grace which already exists; nor would we have it inferred, that the question itself indicates a healthy, vigorous tone of mind. But what we affirm is, that where there exists the principle of life, and a growing acquaintance with the plague of the human heart, with a conscience increasingly tender, the question will sometimes arise—”Am I a living soul in Christ?”

In enabling us to meet and satisfy this inquiry, how kind and condescending is God the Holy Spirit! A state of uncertainty as to his personal salvation cannot be regarded by the believer as the most favorable for the cultivation of personal holiness. He, indeed, is the most heavenly-minded, happy, and useful child of God, who, with the lowly confidence of the great apostle, can say, “I know in whom I have believed.” But we must admire the love of the Spirit in providing for the necessities of the weakest state of grace.

If saints of advanced stature in Christ can but little sympathize with the timidity, the fearfulness, and the weakness of children of more dwarfish proportions, not so the loving, faithful Spirit of God. He is never above His own work. The smallest part is too precious to His heart, to allow of the withdrawment of His eye from it for a single moment. It is not the extent of the territory which He has subjugated to Himself in the soul, that most thrills His heart with delight—this He is sure to perfect—but it is His having at all effected an entrance, and established Himself permanently there. This is the ground of his greatest triumph, the source of His highest joy—that after all the opposition and the difficulty, He should at last have gotten Himself the victory. Is it possible, then, that the tenderest bud of grace, or the faintest glimmering of light in the soul, can be a matter of indifference to Him? Ah no! Would Titian have despised a painting, upon whose outline He had stamped the impress of his genius, because its pencilings were not complete? Would Canova have destroyed his sculpture, almost breathing with life, because its chiselings were unfinished? And will the Holy Spirit, in drawing the moral likeness of God upon the soul, in modeling the mind for heaven, slight this, His master-piece of wisdom and of power, because of its present incompleteness? No!

The faintest outline of the Divine image, the roughest shaping of the Divine nature in man, presents to His eye more beauty, and symmetry, and skill, than the finest pencilings of nature, or the most perfect modelings of are. The universe of loveliness and of wonder contains nothing that can compare with it.