March 3: The Heavenward Mind

“If you then 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.” Col. 3:1-2

To win heaven, the mind must become heavenly; and to be heavenly, it must habituate itself to heavenly things and heavenly pursuits. It is a law of our mental constitution, that the mind assimilates in its tone and habits of thought with the subject which most engrosses its study. Hence it is that we sometimes become men of one idea.

Now the contemplation of divine and spiritual themes has a powerful tendency to spiritualize and sanctify the mind. It seems impossible to breathe a heavenly atmosphere, and not be heavenly; to study holy things, and not be holy; to admire the image of Christ, and not resemble Christ; to have frequent communion with Jesus upon the throne, and not catch some stray beam of His glory. And apart from Christ nothing is really pleasant and satisfying to the heavenly mind. Without Him, what a dreary, lonesome wilderness would this be! But with Christ in the heart, and the heart resting in Christ- He in the center of our souls, and our affections and desires centering on Him- the desert loses its solitude and its desolateness.

To have the eye resting on Jesus- all our heart-springs in Him- the spirit in frequent excursions where He dwells in light and glory- to lean upon Him and converse with Him as though He were actually walking by our side, sitting at our table, associating with us in our callings- this, this is heavenly-mindedness. Such is the counter-attraction to the “things on the earth,”- the secularizing pursuits, the low-thoughted cares, the carnal enjoyments- which we so deeply need. And this powerful counteracting influence which we possess is a realization of our resurrection with Christ, and His enthronement in glory.

 

February 12: The Heavenly Image

“Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Romans 8:29.

Here is the glorious pattern of a child of God. Sanctification is a conformity to the image and the example of Christ. The more the believer is growing like Jesus, the more he is growing in holiness. And, on the contrary, the less resemblance there is to Christ in his principles, in the habit of his mind, in his spirit, temper, daily walk, yes, in every action and in every look, the less is he advancing in the great work of holiness. Oh, how many who profess His dear name, and who are expecting to be with Him forever, never pause to consider what resemblance they bear to Him now! And were they to deal faithfully, with conscience in the much- neglected duty of self-examination; were they to bring themselves to this great standard, how far below it would they be found to have come! How much in their principles, in their governing motives, in their temper, spirit, and daily conduct- how much in their walk in the world, in their deportment in the Church, and in their more concealed conduct in their families, would be discovered that was unlike Christ! How much that was “from beneath,” how little that was “from above,”- how much of the “image of the earthly,” how little of the “image of the heavenly!”

But look at the image of our dear Lord- how lowly, how holy it is! Look at His poverty of spirit- lowliness of heart- humility of deportment- tenderness- forgiveness of injuries- self-denial- prayerfulness- zeal for His Father’s glory- yearnings for the salvation of men. Oh to be like Jesus! to grow up into Him in all things! this is to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” This is to realize “the will of God, even our sanctification.” Let it not then be forgotten, that an advancing believer is one growing in a resemblance and conformity to the image and example of Christ.

 

February 11: Yearning For Holiness

“Every one that does righteousness is born of him.” 1 John 2:29.

Negative holiness- the abstaining from outward sins- does not always describe a regenerate soul; associated with this there must be the positive evidence- “Every one that does righteousness is born of him.” Where there is life, there is action, motion, energy. The life of a regenerate man is a life of the highest activity. The principles that influence him are divine and heavenly; their tendency is to holy action. The more we resemble Christ “in righteousness and true holiness,” the stronger the evidence to ourselves and to others that we are born again.

We possess, professedly, and, if not self-deceived, actually, the life of Christ. That life is holy in its tendency and vigorous in its acting. The renewed soul longs for holiness. He pants for divine conformity. He rests not in the mere longing; he arises and labors for the blessing; he “works out his salvation with fear and trembling.” He prayerfully and diligently uses the means the Lord of sanctification has given him for the attainment of holiness; he is active in his pursuit of the blessing.

 

Stirred To Prayer

Trial quickens us in prayer, and so effectually helps us heavenward. The life of God in the soul on earth is a life of communion of the soul with God in heaven. Prayer is nothing less than the Divine nature in fellowship with the Divine, the renewed creature in communion with God. And it would be as impossible for a regenerate soul to live without prayer, as for the natural life to exist without breathing. And oh, what a sacred and precious privilege is this!—is there one to be compared with it? When we have closed the door,—for we speak now of that most solemn and holy habit of prayer, private communion,—and have shut out the world, and the creature, and even the saints, and are closeted in personal, solemn, and confiding audience with God, what words can portray the preciousness and solemnity of that hour! Then is guilt confessed, and backslidings deplored, and care, unburdened, and sorrow unvailed, and pardon sought, and grace implored, and blessings invoked, in all the filial trustfulness of a child unbosoming itself in the very depths of a father’s love, pity, and succour. But precious and costly as is this privilege of prayer, we need rousing to its observance. Trial is eminently instrumental of this. God often sends affliction for the accomplishment of this one end—that we might be stirred up to take hold of Him.

Help Heavenward

December 23

“Now he which establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God; who has also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22

IT is, and has long been, the solemn conviction of the writer, that much of the spiritual darkness, the little comfort and consolation, the dwarfish piety, the harassing doubts and fears, the imperfect apprehensions of Jesus, the feeble faith, the sickly, drooping state of the soul, the uncertainty of their full acceptance in Christ, which mark so many of the professing people of God in this our day, may be traced to the absence of a deep sealing of the Spirit. Resting satisfied with the faint impression in conversion, with the dim views they then had of Christ, and the feeble apprehension of their acceptance and adoption, is it any marvel that all their lifetime they should be in bondage through slavish doubts and fears?—that they should never attain to the “stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus”—that they should never rise to the humble boldness, the unwavering confidence, the blest assurance, and the holy dignity of the sons of God? Oh no! They rest short of this blessing. They hang upon the door of the ark—they remain upon the border of the goodly land, and not entering fully in, the effects are as we have described.

But, beloved reader, the richest ore lies buried the deepest—the sweetest fruit is on the higher branches—the strongest light is near the sun. In other words, if we desire more knowledge of Christ—of our full pardon, and complete acceptance—if we desire the earnest of our inheritance, and even now would taste the “grapes of Eshcol,” we must be “reaching forth unto those things that are before,” we must “press toward the mark,” and rest not until that is found in a clear, unclouded, immoveable, and holy assurance of our being in Christ; and this is only experienced in the sealing of the Spirit. Again we say, with all the earnestness which a growing sense of the vastness of the blessing inspires, seek to be sealed of the Spirit—seek the “earnest of the Spirit”— seek to be “filled with the Spirit”—seek the “anointing of the Spirit”—seek the “Spirit of adoption.” Say not, it is too immense a blessing, to high an attainment for one so small, so feeble, so obscure, so unworthy as you.

Oh, impeach not thus the grace of God. All His blessings are the bestowments of grace; and grace means free favor to the most unworthy. There is not one lowly, weeping eye that falls on this page, but may, under the blessed sealing of the Spirit, look up through Jesus to God as a Father. Low views of self, deep consciousness of vileness, poverty of state or of spirit, are no objections with God, but rather strong arguments that prevail with Him why you should have the blessing. Only ask—only believe—only persevere, and you shall attain unto it. It is in the heart of the Spirit to seal “unto the day of redemption” all that believe in Jesus. May it be in the heart of the reader to desire the blessing, seeing it is so freely and richly offered!

Reader, whose superscription do you bear? It may be your reply is—“I want Christ; I secretly long for Him; I desire Him above all beside.” Is it so? Then take courage, and go to Jesus. Go to Him simply, go to Him unhesitatingly, go to Him immediately. That desire is from Him; let it lead you to Him. That secret longing is the work of the Spirit; and having begotten it there, do you think that He will not honor it, and welcome you when you come? Try Him. Bring Him to the touch-stone of His own truth. “Prove me now herewith,” is His gracious invitation. Take His promise, “Him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out,” and plead it in wrestlings at the mercy-seat, and see if He will not “open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Go to Him just as you are; if you cannot take to Him a pure heart, take an impure one; if you cannot take to Him a broken heart, take a whole one; if you cannot take to Him a soft heart, take a hard one—only go to Him. The very act of going will be blessed to you. And oh, such is the strength of His love, such His yearning compassion and melting tenderness of heart for poor sinners, such His ability and willingness to save, that He will no more cast you out than deny His own existence. Precious Jesus! Set us as a seal upon Your heart, and by Your Spirit seal Yourself upon our hearts; and give us, unworthy though we are, a place among “those who are sealed.”

December 14

“For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might though the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed from day to day.” 2 Corinthians 4:15, 16

CHRISTIAN sufferer! you marvel why the Lord keeps you so long upon the couch of solitariness and upon the bed of languishing—why the “earthly house of this tabernacle” should be taken down by continued and pining sickness, the corrodings of disease, and the gradual decay of strength. Hush every reasoning, anxious, doubtful thought. Your heavenly Father has so ordained it. He who built the house, and whose the house is, has a right to remove it by what process He sees fit. The mystery of His present conduct will, before long, be all explained. Yes, faith and love can even explain it now—“Even so, Father, for so it seems good in Your sight!” Yours is an honorable and a responsible post. God has still a work for you to do. You have been waiting year by year, in the quietness of holy submission, the summons to depart. But God has lengthened out your period of weariness and of suffering, for the work is not done in you and by you, to effect which this sickness was sent.

Oh, what a witness for God may you now be! What a testimony for Christ may you now bear! What sermons—converting the careless, confirming the wavering, restoring the wandering, comforting the timid—may your conversation and your example now preach from that sick bed! And oh, for what higher degrees of glory may God, through this protracted illness, be preparing you! That there are degrees of glory in heaven, as there are degrees of suffering in hell, and degrees of grace on earth, admits of not a doubt. “As one star differs from another star in glory,” so does one glorified saint differ from another. Will there be the absence in heaven of that wondrous variety of proportion which throws such a charm and beauty around the beings and the scenery of earth? Doubtless not.

Superior grace below is preparing for superior glory above. And the higher our attainments in holiness here, the loftier our summit of blessedness hereafter. For these high degrees of heavenly happiness your present lengthened sickness may, by God’s grace, be preparing you. Sanctified by the Spirit of holiness, the slow fire is but the more perfectly refining; and the more complete the refinement on earth, the more perfectly will the sanctified soul mirror forth the Divine Sun in heaven. Be, then, your beautiful patience of spirit, meek and patient sufferer, increasingly that of the Psalmist, “I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.”

December 12

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

A SPIRITUAL and continued contemplation of the Redeemer’s humiliation supplies a powerful check to sin. What is every sin committed, but opening afresh the wounds, and reacting anew the humiliation, of Jesus? Oh, how hateful must that sin appear in our serious moments, which shut out the sun of God’s countenance from the soul of Christ, and sank Him to such inconceivable depths of humiliation! We need every view of divine truth calculated to sanctify. At present, the deepest sanctification of the believer is imperfect; his loftiest soarings towards holiness never reaching the goal. And yet to be ever thirsting, panting, wrestling, and aiming after it, should be classed among our highest mercies.

We too much forget this truth, that the thirsting for holiness is as much the Holy Spirit’s creation, as it is His work to quench that thirst. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness;” or, blessed are they who have the desire for Divine conformity, who long to know Christ, and to resemble Christ more perfectly. They may never reach the mark, yet ever pressing towards it—they may never attain to their standard, yet ever aiming for it, they are truly blessed. Here, then, is one powerful means of attaining to holiness—the spiritual eye brought in close and frequent contact with the lowly life of God’s dear Son.

But for our sins, His mind had never been shaded with clouds, His heart had never been wrung with sorrow, His eye had never been bedewed with tears, He had never suffered and died, had never known the wrath of an offended God. How fraught with soothing and consolation is this subject to the bereaved and tried believer! It tells you, weeping mourner, that having drained His wrath, and poured it on the head of your Surety, nothing is reserved for you in the heart of God but the deep fountain of tender mercy and loving-kindness. Then where springs your present trial, but from the loving heart of your Father? In the life of Jesus all was humiliation; in the life of the believer all is glory; and all this glory springs from the headship of Christ. In every step that He trod, he is one with Him—the only difference being that Jesus changes positions with the believer, and thus what was bitter to Him becomes sweet to us; what was dark to Him appears light to us; and what was His ignominy and shame becomes our highest honor and glory.

Humbling as may be the way God is now leading you, forget not that the great end is to bring you into a fellowship with Christ’s humiliation—into a more realizing oneness with your tried head. How contracted were the believer’s view of, and how limited his sympathy with, the abasement of God’s dear Son, but for the humiliation of His life, but for the way the Lord leads him about in order to humble him! To be brought into sympathy with you in all the gloomy stages of your journey, “He humbled Himself;” and that this feeling might be reciprocal, bringing you into a sympathy with the dark stages of His life, He humbles you. But deep as your present humiliation may be, you cannot sink so low but you will find He sunk yet lower, and is therefore able to sustain and bear you up. “I was brought low, and He helped me.” Never can Christians sink beneath the everlasting arms; they will always be underneath you. You may be sorely tried—painfully bereaved—fearfully tempted—deeply wounded. Saints and sinners, the Church and the world, may each contribute some bitter ingredient to your cup; nevertheless, the heart of Jesus is a pavilion within whose sacred enclosure you may repose until these calamities be overpast. Your greatest extremity can never exceed His power or sympathy, because He has gone before His people, and has endured what they never shall endure. Behold what glory thus springs from the humiliation and sufferings of our adorable Redeemer!

December 5

“As you therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him: rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6, 7

BY simple, close, and crucifying views of the cross of Christ does the Spirit most effectually sanctify the believer. This is the true and great method of gospel sanctification. Here lies the secret of all real holiness, and, may I not add, of all real happiness. For, if we separate happiness from holiness, we separate that which, in the covenant of grace, God has wisely and indissolubly united. The experience of the true believer must testify to this. We are only happy as we are holy—as the body of sin is daily crucified, the power of the indwelling principle weakened, and the outward deportment more beautifully and closely corresponding to the example of Jesus. Let us not, then, look for a happy walk, apart from a holy one. Trials we may have; yes, if we are the Lord’s covenant ones, we shall have them, for He Himself has said, “in the world you shall have tribulation;” disappointments we may meet with—broken cisterns, thorny roads, wintry skies; but if we are walking in fellowship with God, dwelling in the light, growing up into Christ in all things, the Spirit of adoption witnessing within us, and leading to a filial and unreserved surrender—oh, there is happiness unspeakable, even though in the very depth of outward trial. A holy walk is a happy walk: this is God’s order, it is His appointment, and therefore must be wise and good.

Seek high attainments in holiness. Do not be satisfied with a low measure of grace, with a dwarfish religion, with just enough Christianity to admit you into heaven. Oh, how many are thus content—satisfied to leave the great question of their acceptance to be decided in another world, and not in this—resting upon some slight evidence, in itself faint and equivocal, perhaps a former experience, some impressions, or sensations, or transient joys, long since passed away; and thus they are content to live, and thus content to die. Dear reader, be you not satisfied with anything short of a present Christ, received, enjoyed, and lived upon. Forget the things that are behind—reach forth unto higher attainments in sanctification—seek to have the daily witness, daily communion with God; and for your own sake, for the sake of others, and for Christ’s sake, “give all diligence to make your calling and election sure.”

December 3

“Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” Romans 7:13

NO child of God, if he is advancing in the divine life, but must mourn over his defective views of sin. The holier he grows, the more sensible he is of this: yes, may we not add, the deeper the view of his own vileness, the stronger the evidence of his growth in sanctification. A growing hatred of sin, of little sins, of great sins, of all sin—sin detected in the indwelling principle, as well as sin observable in the outward practice—oh, it is one of the surest symptoms of the onward progress of the soul in its spiritual course. The believer himself may not be sensible of it, but others see it; to him it may be like a retrograde, to an observer it is an evidence of advance.

The child of God is not the best judge of his own spiritual growth. He may be rapidly advancing when not sensible of it; the tree may be growing downwards, it roots may be expanding and grasping more firmly the soil in which they are concealed, and yet the appearance of growth do not be very apparent. There is an inward, concealed, yet effectual growth of grace in the soul; the believer may not be sensible of it, and even others may overlook it, but God sees it: it is His own work, and He does not think meanly of it. God, in His gracious dealings with the believer, often works by contraries. He opens the eye of His child to the deep depravity of the heart, discloses to him the chamber of imagery, reveals to him the sin unthought of, unsuspected, unrepented, unconfessed, that lies deeply embedded there—and why? only to make His child more holy; to compel him to repair to the mercy-seat, there to cry, there to plead, there to wrestle for its subjection, its mortification, it crucifixion.

And through this, as it were, circuitous process, the believer presses on to high and higher degrees of holiness. In this way, too, the believer earnestly seeks for humility, by a deep discovery which the Lord gives him of the pride of his heart—for meekness, by a discovery of petulance, for resignation to God’s will, by a sense of restlessness and impatience—and so on, through all the graces of the blessed Spirit. Thus there is a great growth in grace, when a believer’s views of sin’s exceeding sinfulness and the inward plague are deepening.

But how are these views of sin to be deepened? By constant, close views of the blood of Christ—realizing apprehensions of the atonement. This is the only glass through which sin is seen in its greater magnitude. Let the Christian reader, then, deal much and often with the blood of Christ. Oh! that we should need to be urged to this!—that once having bathed in the “fountain opened,” we should ever look to any other mode of healing, and of sanctification! For let it never be forgotten, that a child of God is as much called to live on Christ for sanctification as for pardon. “Sanctify them through your truth.” And who is the truth? Jesus Himself answers, “I am the truth.” Then we are to live on Jesus for sanctification: and happy and holy is he who thus lives on Jesus. The fullness of grace that is treasured up in Christ, why is it there? for the sanctification of His people—for the subduing of all their sins. Oh, do not forget, then, that He is the Refiner as well as the Savior—the Sanctifier as well as the Redeemer. Take your indwelling corruptions to Him; take the easy besetting sin, the weakness, the infirmity, of whatever nature it is, at once to Jesus: His grace can make you all that He would have you to be.

Remember, too, that this is one of the great privileges of the life of faith; living on Christ for the daily subduing of all sin. This is the faith that purifies the heart, and it purifies by leading the believer to live out of himself upon Christ. To this blessed and holy life our Lord Jesus referred, when speaking of its necessity in order to the spiritual fruitfulness of the believer: “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. I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.”

November 25

“What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20

AS a temple of the Holy Spirit, yield yourself to His divine and gracious power. Bend your ear to His softest whisper—your will to His gentlest sway—your heart to His holy and benign influence. In not hearkening to His voice, and in not yielding to His promptings, we have been great losers. Often has He incited to communion with God, and because the time was not seasonable, or the place not convenient, you stifled His persuasive voice, resisted His proffered aid, and, thus slighted and grieved, He has retired. And lo! when you have risen to pray, God has covered Himself as with a cloud that your prayer could not pass through. Oh, seek to have an ear attuned to His softest accents, and a heart constrained to an instant compliance with His mildest dictates. The greatest blessing we possess is the possession of the Spirit.

And oh, to be Christ’s—to be His gift, His purchase, His called saint, His lowly disciple—what an inestimable privilege! But how may we be quite sure that this privilege is ours? If we have the Spirit of Christ, we are in very deed Christians. It is the superscription of the King, the mark of the Shepherd, the Lord’s impress of Himself upon the heart. And how sanctifying this privilege! “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts.” “Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” And if we are Christ’s now, we shall be Christ’s to all eternity. It is a union that cannot be dissolved. Every believer in Jesus is “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance.” And as we have the earnest of the inheritance, we shall as assuredly possess the inheritance itself.

The Spirit of Christ is an active, benevolent Spirit. It bore the Savior, when He was in the flesh, from country to country, from city to city, from house to house, preaching His own gospel to lost man. “He went about doing good.” If we have the Spirit of Christ, we shall be prompted to a like Christian love and activity on behalf of those who possess not the gospel, or who, possessing it, slight and reject the mercy. The Spirit of Christ is essentially a missionary Spirit. It commenced its labor of love at Jerusalem, and from that its center, worked its way with augmenting sympathy and widening sphere until it embraced the world as the field of its labor. Ah! that we manifest so little of this Spirit, ought to lead us to deep searchings of heart, and stir us up to earnest prayer: “Lord, make me more earnest for the salvation of souls, for the advancement of Your kingdom. Grant me this evidence of being Your—the possession of Your Spirit, constraining me to a more simple and unreserved consecration of my talents, my substance, my rank, my influence, my time, myself, to the establishment of Your truth, the advancement of Your cause, and thus to the wider diffusion of Your glory in the earth.”