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.

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February 17: In The Day Of Trouble

Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon you: for you will answer me. Psalm 86:6-7

THE grace that is brought into exercise in the season of affliction must necessarily tend greatly to promote the revival of the life of God in the soul of the believer. How liable is grace to decay, when all things smile upon a path smooth and unruffled! But God sends affliction, and the grace that lay concealed is brought to view, and the grace that remained dormant is summoned to arms; the whole soul is awakened, and inspired as with new life. “The trial of faith works, patience.” Thus one tried grace stirs up another grace, until all the links in the golden chain feel the electric influence, and are set in motion. Oh blessed trouble, that so stirs up the life of God in the soul as to make each grace of the Spirit a “new sharp threshing instrument having teeth;” a weapon re-cast, and newly furbished in the furnace, and so coming forth with keener edge and more polished blade, to “fight the fight of faith” with mightier power and success.

But the influence of sanctified affliction upon the inner life is, perhaps, the most evident and powerful in the revival of the spirit of prayer. Strange, that to this, the highest, holiest, and sweetest privilege prepared for the Christian, he is often the most indifferent, and in its observance his feelings are the most chilled and sluggish. What an evidence—one more melancholy there cannot be—of the moral deadness of the soul by nature, that even after it is quickened with a life that brings it into union with the life of God, after the Spirit of God has entered and made it His abode there, ever dwelling and reigning and working in it, there should still remain so much deadness to that which is spiritual, especially the most spiritual of all duties, and the most precious of all privileges—communion with God.

But in the time of trouble we awake to the conviction that we are in possession of a mighty instrument, which when exerted brings all heaven and the God of heaven into our soul. We start as from a dream; and just at the identical moment when all creature assistance droops, and all earthly resources fail, we discover that we are furnished with a power of relief mightier than the mightiest angels—a power which, when exerted (we speak it with reverence), overcomes, like the wrestling patriarch, Omnipotence itself—the power of prayer! And what is prayer but God’s power in the soul of a poor, feeble worm of the dust over himself? It was no human might of Jacob which enabled him to wrestle with, and prevail with, the Angel of the Covenant; it was the power of the Holy Spirit in his soul; and when the Divine Angel yielded, He yielded but to himself; and so God had all the glory—and shall have, of all that He has wrought for us, and of all that we have wrought by Him, through eternity. Oh costly and precious privilege, that of prayer! “You people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

November 3: Being Made Perfect

“But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10

There is a painful forgetfulness among many of the saints of God of the appointed path of believers through the world. It is forgotten that this path is to be one of tribulation; that so far from being a smooth, a flowery, and an easy path, it is rough, thorny, and difficult. The believer often expects all his heaven on earth. He forgets that whatever spiritual enjoyment there may be here, kindred in its nature to the joys of the glorified—and too much of this he cannot expect—yet the present is but the wilderness state of the church, and the life that now is, is but that of a pilgrimage and a sojourning.

Kind was our Lord’s admonition, “in the world you shall have tribulation:” and equally so that of the apostle, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom.” Affliction, in some of its many and varied forms, is the allotment of all the Lord’s people. If we have it not, we lack the evidence of our true sonship; for the Father “scourges every son whom he receives.” But whatever the trial or affliction is, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. And how does He comfort the afflicted soul? In this way.

He unfolds the love of his God and Father in the trial. He shows the believer that his sorrow, so far from being the result of anger, is the fruit of love; that it comes from the heart of God, sent to draw the soul nearer to Himself, and to unfold the depths of His own grace and tenderness; that whom he “loves He chastens.”

And, oh, how immense the comfort that flows into a wounded spirit, when love—deep, unchangeable, covenant love—is seen in the hand that has stricken; when the affliction is traced to the covenant, and through the covenant, to the heart of a covenant God.

The Spirit comforts by revealing the end why the affliction is sent. He convinces the believer that the discipline, though painful, was yet needed; that the world was, perhaps, making inroads upon the soul, or creature love was shutting out Jesus; some indulged sin was, perhaps, crucifying Him afresh, or some known spiritual duty was neglected. The Comforter opens his ears to hear the voice of the rod, and Him who had appointed it. He begins to see why the Lord has smitten, why He has caused His rough wind and His east wind to blow; why He has blasted, why He has wounded.

And now the Achan is discovered, cast out, and stoned. The heart, disciplined, returns from its wanderings, and, wounded, bleeding, suffering, seeks more earnestly than ever a wounded, bleeding, suffering Savior. Who can fully estimate the comfort which flows from the sanctified discipline of the covenant? When the end for which the trial was sent is accomplished, it may be in the discovery of some departure, in the removal of an obstruction to the growth of grace, of some object that obscured the glory of Jesus, and that suspended His visits of love to the soul,

“Blessed discipline,” he may exclaim, “that has wrought so much good—gentle chastisement, that has corrected so much evil—sweet medicine, that has produced so much health!”

Walking In Soul Darkness

Are you walking in soul-darkness, beloved? Is God hiding His face? Has Jesus suspended His sensible presence? and is this shadow, deep and dark, resting upon your spirit? Cheer up! It is not the darkness of unregeneracy, but the passing shadow of Christian life, and before long it will dissolve and vanish. Listen to the language of your covenant God and Father: “For a small moment have I forsaken you; but with great mercies will I gather you. In a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you, says the Lord.” The ‘small moment’ will before long pass, and the shadow will disappear- and the joyous language of your soul will be, “O God! You were angry with me; but Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.”

Continue reading “Walking In Soul Darkness”

The Gift Of Affliction And Trial

The Lord has laid His heavy hand upon you. All is in love. May He open your eyes to see it. He loves us too well to afflict us with out a ‘needs be’. When we get above, we shall see how needful the chastening of Him who loves us, for our preparation for the full enjoyment of that place He has gone to prepare for us.

Oh, what a change! from earth to heaven! From a suffering bed to a mansion of glory! You are the sufferer; but dry your tears, for home will come at last, and may we receive from His own loving lips a “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.” I feel for you, and pray you may be sustained and comforted by God. Jesus is very near. He is ordering all things for you.

Continue reading “The Gift Of Affliction And Trial”

June 7: Submitted Unto God

How few there are, among the many “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” James 4:7

Submission to the Divine will is a great advance in holiness; and this is mainly and effectually attained through sanctified chastisement. In prosperity, how full are we of self-sufficiency! When the Lord asks our obedience, we give Him our counsel. But when He sends the rod, and by the accompanying grace of His Spirit sanctifies its stroke, we learn in what true obedience consists.

It was in this school our blessed Lord Himself was taught. “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” He learned to obey in suffering- to bring His will in suffering into complete submission to His Father’s will. God has not in His family such obedient children as those who, “passing under the rod,” are “brought into the bond of the covenant.” Oh, what a high Christian attainment is submission to the will of God!

The noblest grace attainable upon earth is it. When our Lord taught His disciples to pray to the Father for the spread of holiness, He embodied the petition, in these words, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” The universal and complete holiness of heaven springs from the universal and complete perfection in which the will of God is done by angels and glorified spirits.

In proportion as the Divine will prevails upon earth, holiness will reign. And, oh, what a beauteous earth and what a blissful world would this be, were the will of God done by every creature! In the new earth, in which will dwell righteousness, it will be so. The original harmony of this fallen universe will then be restored, its pristine beauty recovered, and God, in the person of His Son, will once more reign over, and walk in the midst of, a people whose will shall be but the reflection of His own.

Thus to approximate to the Divine will is to assimilate with the Divine holiness. What God will, how God will, and when God will, defines the rule which should govern all the conduct and limit all the desires of the child of God. The instant the overwhelmed heart is brought into this state, the afflicted believer has planted his feet upon the Rock that is higher than he. All is peace, all is composure, because all is submission to the will of God.

“The Lord reigns” is the truth whose all-commanding yet gentle whisper has stilled the tempest and calmed the waves. In its intense anxiety that the Divine will might be done, the chastened soul is but breathing after deeper holiness; and every fervent desire for the attainment of holiness is holiness already attained. Blessed chastening of love, that produces in this world, so distant and uncongenial, the buds and blossoms and fruits of heaven! A richer fruit grows not within the Paradise of God than Holiness.

And yet, in the experience of a chastened believer, bleeding under the rod of his heavenly Father, there may be obtained such victories over sin, such purification of heart, such meekness of spirit, such Christ-like conformity, and such a discipline of the will, as to make him a rich “partaker of the Divine holiness.”

May 30: Where Are You Looking?

“Whom the Lord loves he corrects; even as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:12

Hard and harsh thoughts of God will be the effect of wrong interpretations of His dealings: if for one moment we remove the eye from off the heart of God in the hour and depth of our trial, we are prepared to give heed to every dark suggestion of the adversary; that moment we look at the dispensation with a different mind, and to God with an altered affection; we view the chastisement as the effect of displeasure, and the covenant God who sent it, as unkind, unloving, and severe.

But let faith’s eagle-eye pierce the clouds and darkness that surround the throne, and behold the heart of God as still love, all love, and nothing but love, to His afflicted, bereaved, and sorrow-stricken child; and in a moment every murmur will be hushed, every rebellious feeling will be still, and every unkind thought will be laid in the dust; and, “He has done all things, well- in love and faithfulness has He afflicted me,” will be the only sounds uttered by the lips.

If then, beloved, you would have your heart always fixed on God, its affections flowing in one unbroken current towards Him, interpret every dispensation that He sends in the light of His love; never allow yourself to be betrayed into the belief that any other feeling prompts the discipline; do not give place to the suggestion for one moment- banish it from the threshold of your mind the moment it seeks an entrance.

And let this be the reflection that hushes and soothes you to repose, even as an infant upon its mother’s breast: “My God is love! my Father is unchangeable tenderness and truth! He has done it, and it is well done.”

The Suffering Saint: Domestic Pain

In gearing myself up to begin researching the needed books and resources I will need to assemble the future book on Winslow, I am begining to see that there will need to be an entire chapter (if not an entire book) layed aside for the topic of suffering and pain in the life of the believer. Winslow penned many a sentence on this topic and the more I have read him and the more I review his own historical biography, I am starting to see that he himself was a man well versed in this subject.

But Winslow, I see, thought about this topic aright. He knew of it’s sanctifying powers and it’s ability to bring us more intimately in touch with the life and communion of our Lord. After all, the Lord Jesus was indeed a man of “constant sorrow” and led much of His ministerial life in some form of pain, suffering, or trial. In order to form us into the likeness of our Savior, suffering is a tonic we will all, at some time or another, be made to drink of. There is simply no getting around it.

I am going to have a running series here based on the suffering saint that will run as long as I can find good and solid writings of Winslow on the subject that will not only help me flesh him out a bit as a man, husband, and pastor, but will also, I pray, help some of you who may be in a season of trial, burden, pain, and suffering of some form.

There will be no end date for this series. It will run until I simply can find no more material.

May you be edified I pray.

Our Lord was sensitive to the pain of domestic slight.

It is marvellous to trace the perfect assimilation of His humanity to all the natural circumstances of ours. Was there no betrayal of sensitiveness to this peculiar form of suffering when He quoted the proverb as applicable to Himself- “A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and in his own house?” He was as a stranger among His brethren, an alien in His Father’s house.

They doubted Him- slighted Him- insulted Him. Jesus felt the neglect- and felt it keenly. His sensitive spirit was wounded. How many of the Lord’s people are drinking this cup of sadness, are enduring this form of suffering! The icy coldness, the studied slight, the marked neglect of those of your own house, whose confidence, affection, and sympathy you had not forfeited and had a right to possess, is a daily cross, chafing, wounding, fretting the spirit sorely. But your Lord and Master prepared you for this- teaching you the precept, and then enforcing it by His example “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.” “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

How faithfully does our Lord here forewarn His disciples, that love to Him and a profession of His gospel would, in many instances, involve the weakening, if not the entire rupture, of those ties, the closest and the dearest, which bind us to earth’s kindred. The religion of Jesus is a separating religion; it has done but little for us if it has not severed us from the world, and quenched in us the spirit of the world, and separated us from all worldly association, and sympathy with the world’s followers, bound to us though they are by ties which we cannot and may not entirely sunder.

Oh, how extensive and subtle a snare is the world to a disciple of Jesus- to one desirous of living for eternity! Our relations are snares- our friendships are snares- our alliances are snares- our business transactions are snares- our necessary recreations of intellect and taste are snares- and our social and domestic enjoyments are often but pleasant bowers within whose foliage lurks the tempter. If, then, beloved reader, the Lord has given you grace to tread the narrow path of separation- shaded and secluded though it be; if you are called to witness for Jesus and His gospel against the world, error, and sin, surrounded by those with whom you sported in childhood, among whom your youth was trained, who are entwined with associations of later life the sweetest, and with memories of earlier life the most sacred and dear, and yet you are the object of alienated affection, frigid neglect, doubt, and scorn, because you love the Savior- Oh, do not be cast down, as though sonic strange thing had happened to you.

Your Lord and Master, for whom you suffer; suffered all this, and infinitely more, for you; and in sympathy and in love soothes and supports and suffers with you now.

May 22: The Sweet Of Bearing A Brother’s Burden

“Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Thank God for an errand to Him. It may be you have felt no heart to pray for yourself- you have been sensible of no peculiar drawings to the throne for your own soul, but you halt going in behalf of another; the burden, the trial, the affliction, or the immediate need of some member of God’s family has pressed upon you, and you have taken his case to the Lord: you have borne him in your arms to the throne of grace, and, while interceding for your brother, the Lord has met you, and blessed your own soul.

Perhaps you halt gone and prayed for the Church, for the peace of Jerusalem, for the prosperity of Zion, that the Lord would build up her waste places, and make her a joy and a praise in the whole earth- perhaps it has been to pray for your minister, that the Lord would teach him more deeply and experimentally, and anoint him more plenteously with the rich anointing and unction of the Holy Spirit- perhaps it has been to pray for Christian missions, and for laborious and self-denying missionaries, that the Lord would make them eminently successful in diffusing the knowledge of a precious Savior, and in calling in His people: and thus, while for others you have been besieging the throne of grace, and pouring out your heart before the Lord, the Lord Himself has drawn near to your own soul, and you have been made to experience the blessing that is ever the attendant and the reward of intercessory prayer.

Then let every event, every circumstance, every providence be a voice urging you to prayer. If you have no needs, others have- take them to the Lord. If you are borne down by no cross, smitten by no affliction, or suffering from no need, others are- for them go and plead with your heavenly Father, and the petitions you send up to the mercy-seat on their behalf may return into your own bosom freighted with rich covenant blessings.

The falls, the weaknesses, the declensions of others make them grounds for prayer. Thus, and thus only, can you expect to grow in grace, and grace to grow in you.

May 14: Our Sanctuary

“And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.” Mark 9:8

It is possible, my dear reader, that this page may be read by you at a period of painful and entire separation from all public engagements, ordinances, and privileges. The way which it has pleased God to take thus to set you aside may be painful and humbling.

The inmate of a sick chamber, or curtained within the house of mourning, or removed far remote from the sanctuary of God and the fellowship of the saints, you are, perhaps, led to inquire, “Lord, why this?” He replies, “Come apart, and rest awhile.” Oh the thoughtfulness, the discrimination, the tenderness of Jesus towards His people! He has set you apart from public, for private duties, from communion with others for communion with Himself. Ministers, friends, privileges are withdrawn, and you are- oh enviable state!- alone with Jesus. And now expect the richest and holiest blessing of your life!

Is it sickness? Jesus will make all your bed in your sickness, and your experience shall be, “His left hand is under my head, and His right hand embraces me.” Is it bereavement? Jesus will soothe your sorrow and sweeten your loneliness; for He loves to visit the house of mourning, and to accompany us to the grave, to weep with us there. Is it exile from the house of God, from the ordinances of the Church, from a pastor’s care, from Christian fellowship? Still it is Jesus who speaks, “There will I be unto you as a little sanctuary.”

The very circumstances, new and peculiar as they are, in which you are placed, God can convert into new and peculiar mercies, yes, into the richest means of grace with which your soul was ever fed. The very void you feel, the very need you deplore, may be God’s way of satiating you with His goodness.

Ah! does not God see your grace in your very desire for grace? Does He not mark your sanctification in your very thirsting for holiness? And can He not turn that desire, and convert that thirst, into the very blessing itself? Truly He can, and often does. As one has remarked, God knows how to give the comfort of an ordinance in the desire of an ordinance. And He can now more than supply the absence of others by the presence of Himself.

Oh, who can compute the blessings which now may flow into your soul from this season of exile and of solitude? Solitude! no, it is not solitude. Never were you less alone than now. You are alone with God, and He is infinitely better than health, wealth, friends, ministers, or sanctuary, for He is the substance and the sweetness of all. You have perhaps been laboring and watching for the souls of others; the Lord is now showing His tender care for your soul.

And oh, if while thus alone with Jesus you are led more deeply to search out the plague of your own heart, and the love of His- to gather up the trailing garment- to burnish the rusted armor- to trim the glimmering lamp- and to cultivate a closer fellowship with your Father, how much soever you may mourn the necessity and the cause, you yet will not regret that the Lord has set you apart from others, that you might rest awhile in His blest embrace- alone with Jesus.