November 28: Love Towards God

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

There is no truth more distinctly uttered or more emphatically stated than this—the infinite superiority of love to gifts. And in pondering their relative position and value, let it be remembered, that the gifts which are here placed in competition with grace are the highest spiritual gifts.

Thus does the apostle allude to them: “God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing.” Then follows the expressive declaration of our motto. In other words, “Though I were an apostle, having apostolic gifts; though I were a prophet, possessed of prophetic gifts; or though I were an angel, clothed with angelic gifts; yet, destitute of the grace of love, my religion were but as an empty sound, nothing worth.” Is there in all this any undervaluing of the spiritual gifts which the great exalted Head of the church has bestowed upon His ministers? Far from it.

The apostle speaks of the way of spiritual gifts as excellent, but existing alone, they cannot bring the soul to heaven. And love may exist apart from gifts; but where love is found, even alone, there is that most excellent grace, that will assuredly conduct its possessor to glory. “Grace embellished with gifts is the more beautiful; but gifts without grace are only a richer spoil for Satan.”

And why this superiority of the grace of love? Why is it so excellent, so great, so distinguished? Because God’s love in the soul is a part of God Himself; for “God is love.” It is as it were a drop of the essence of God falling into the heart of man. “He that dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him.” This grace of love is implanted in the soul at the period of its regeneration. “Every one that loves is born of God.”

Is it again asked, why the love of His saints is so costly in God’s eye? Because it is a small fraction of the infinite love which He bears towards them. Does God delight Himself in His love to His church? Has He set so high a value upon it, as to give His own Son to die for it? Then, wherever He meets with the smallest degree of that love, He must esteem it more lovely, more costly, and more rare, than all the most splendid gifts that ever adorned the soul. “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Here, then, is that grace in the soul of man which more than all others assimilates him to God. It comes from God, it raises the soul to God, and it makes the soul like God. How encouraging, then, to know the value which the Lord puts upon our poor returns of love to Him! Of gifts we may have none, and even of love but little; yet of that little, who can unfold God’s estimate of its preciousness! He looks upon it as a little picture of Himself. He sees in it a reflection—dim and imperfect indeed—of His own image. As He gazes upon it, He seems to say—”Your parts, my child, are humble, and your gifts are few; your knowledge is scanty, and your tongue is stammering; you can not speak for me, nor pray to me in public, by reason of the littleness of your attainments, and the greatness of your infirmity; but you do love me, my child, and in that love, which I behold, I see my nature, I see my heart, I see my image, I see myself; and that is more precious to me than all besides.”

Most costly to Him also are all your labors of love, your obedience of love, your sacrifices of love, your offerings of love, and your sufferings of love. Yes, whatever blade or bud, flower or fruit, grows upon the stem of love, it is most lovely, and precious, and fragrant to God.

November 21: Fairer Than The Children Of Men

“You are fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into your lips: therefore God has blessed you forever.” Psalm 45:2
“No man knows the Son, but the Father.” Matthew 11:27

These two passages of God’s word convey to the mind the most forcible and exalted views of the personal excellence and dignity of the Lord Jesus. The first portrays His matchless beauty, the second His incomprehensible greatness. The Psalmist doubtless refers here to the perfection of His human excellence.

As man, His beauty transcends the comeliest of human beings—”fairer than the children of men.” Their beauty is mixed; His is pure. Theirs is derived; His is from Himself. Theirs decays; His is imperishable. His body prepared of God, His mind filled with all the wisdom, grace, and holiness of the Spirit—He stands forth the “bright and morning star,” the perfect, peerless Son of man. Oh for an eye to see and admire His excellence! and not admire only, but to imitate. Oh for grace to lie at His feet, and learn of His meekness! to lean on His bosom, and drink of His love! to set the Lord always before us, never moving the eye from this perfect model, but ever aiming to transcribe its lineaments upon our daily life! Yes! “You are fairer than the children of men!” You altogether lovely One! And as I gaze upon Your perfection, passing from beauty to beauty, my admiration increases, and my love deepens; until, in the assurance of faith, and in the transport of joy, I exclaim, “This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend.”

Respecting His superior nature, not less clear and emphatic is the declaration of His essential greatness: “No man knows the Son, but the Father.” Surely these words are sufficient to remove all doubt as to His Deity. Were He only man, with what truth could it be affirmed of Him, that “no man knows the Son”? It is the property of an angel, that he understands the angelic nature; and of man, that he understands the human nature. It is the perfection of God, that He only understands the nature of God. Who, then, but the Infinite can measure the infinite greatness of the Son of God?

The loftiest created imagination, the mightiest human intellect, the profoundest angelic research, falls infinitely short of what He is. The Father alone knows the Son, because He is of the same nature and mind with the Father. Beware of holding this doctrine lightly. A more important one—one more glorious or more precious—asks not the confidence of your faith. Hold it fast, even as the vessel in the storm clings to its anchor. This gone, the next mountain wave drives you upon the quicksand of doubt and perplexity, and then where are you? Consider how important must be that single truth, on which the value, the preciousness, and the efficacy of all other truths depend.

Such a truth is the Godhead of Christ.

October 20: Author Of Eternal Salvation

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all those who obey him.” Hebrews 5:8, 9

The basis or cause of the completeness of Christ’s atonement arises from the infinite dignity of His person: His Godhead forms the basis of His perfect work. It was this that gave perfection to His obedience, and virtue to His atonement: it was this that made the blood He shed efficacious in the pardon of sin, and the righteousness He wrought out complete in the justification of the soul. His entire work would have been wanting but for His Godhead.

No created Savior could have given full satisfaction to an infinite law, broken by man, and calling aloud for vengeance. An obedience was required, in every respect equal in glory and dignity to the law that was violated. The rights of the Divine government must be maintained, the purity of the Divine nature must be guarded, and the honor of the Divine law must be vindicated. To accomplish this, God Himself must become flesh; and to carry this fully out, the incarnate God must die! Oh, depth of wisdom and of grace! Oh, love infinite, love rich, love free! Love

“Not to be thought on, but with tides of joy;
Not to be mentioned, but with shouts of praise.”

The pardon of a believer’s sins is an entire pardon. It is the full pardon of all his sins. It were no pardon to him, if it were not an entire pardon. If it were but a partial blotting out of the thick cloud—if it were but a partial canceling of the bond—if it were but a forgiveness of some sins only, then the gospel were no glad tidings to his soul.

The law of God had brought him in guilty of an entire violation. The justice of God demands a satisfaction equal to the enormity of the sins committed, and of the guilt incurred. The Holy Spirit has convinced him of his utter helplessness, his entire bankruptcy. What rapture would kindle in his bosom at the announcement of a partial atonement—of a half Savior—of a part payment of the debt? Not one throb of joyous sensation would it produce.

On the contrary, this very mockery of his woe would but deepen the anguish of his spirit. But go to the soul, weary and heavy-laden with sin, mourning over its vileness, its helplessness, and proclaim the Gospel. Tell him that the atonement which Jesus offered on Calvary was a full satisfaction for his sins;—that all his sins were borne and blotted out in that awful moment;—that the bond which Divine justice held against the sinner was fully cancelled by the obedience and sufferings of Christ, and that, appeased and satisfied, God was “ready to pardon.” How beautiful will be the feet that convey to him tidings so transporting as this!

And are not these statements perfectly accordant with the declarations of God’s own word? Let us ascertain. What was the ark symbolical of, alluded to by the apostle, in the ninth chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, which contained the manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tables of the covenant, over which stood the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat? What, but the entire covering of sin? For, as the covering of the ark did hide the law and testimony, so did the Lord Jesus Christ hide the sins of His chosen, covenant people—not from the eye of God’s omniscience, but from the eye of the law. They stand legally acquitted.

So entire was the work of Jesus, so infinite and satisfactory His obedience, the law of God pronounces them acquitted, and can never bring them into condemnation. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus; who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” “Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

October 2: A Great Mystery

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7

There is much of deep mystery in revelation. God, considered both in Himself and in His operations, is a mystery stretching far beyond the most sublime power of finite reason. “Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty unto perfection?” and of His operations may we not exclaim with the inspired penman, “Lo! these are parts of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of Him!”

Christ, too, is the great “mystery of godliness.” Whether His complex person is regarded—the union of the Divine and human natures in one—or whether we look at His work—His obedience and death constituting a full atonement to Divine justice in behalf of the sins of His people—it must be acknowledged a depth too profound for human thought adequately to fathom.

What can poor finite reason accomplish here? What beams can its feeble, flickering light cast upon this world of mystery? And if ever it stands forth invested in its own native impotence, it is when it sits in judgment upon the doctrines and facts of revelation, discarding or retaining such only as are intelligible to its dwarfish capacity. “Which things,” says the apostle, “the angels desire to look into.” Mark his expressions!

He represented not these celestial beings of purity and intellect as scaling the heights and diving into the depths of redemption’s mystery, but “which things the angels desire”—scarcely dare—but “desire to look into.” And yet for a fallen and unrenewed mind to sit in judgment upon God’s truth can only be exceeded in its temerity by the depravity which prompts it.

If the truth of God, in its doctrines and facts, is a mystery incomprehensible to unrenewed reason, what shall we say of the truth as experienced in the heart? If reason cannot understand the vast framework of truth, how can it comprehend the secret power by which it operates? The very fact, that to be understood it must be experienced, accounts for the difficulty. The transforming operation of the Holy Spirit upon the mind—giving it a new bias, new inclinations, turning its darkness into light, and kindling its enmity into love; the life of God in the soul, creating the man anew in Christ Jesus—that life which is hidden, ever productive of a holy life that is seen—its hopes and its fears, its defeats and its triumphs—the causes which operate to deaden it, and the spiritual nourishment by which it is supported—all, all is incomprehensible to human reason. Truly “the world knows us not.”

The cause of this incapacity of reason, in its natural state, to comprehend spiritual and experimental truth is its corruption and perversion by sin. Sin has impaired our mental faculties—enslaved, clouded, and debased our reason. We open God’s word, and it declares that since the fall the nature of man has been corrupt, and his reason blind; his understanding darkened, and his heart, the seat of his affections, polluted: “having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”

The natural man, while in that state, so far from being able to explore the wide domain of spiritual truth, hates and flees from it when proposed to his consideration, “receiving not the things of the Spirit of God, they being foolishness unto him.” This being the state of man, God’s word consequently declares it necessary that, before spiritual truth can be understood, he should be “transformed by the renewing of his mind;” that he should be restored to that sound mind, and enlightened understanding, and spiritual discernment, with which his nature was endowed when it came originally from the hand of God; in a word, that he should be born again, created anew in Christ Jesus; that old things should pass away, and that all things should become new.

Then, and then only, will he be able to understand the “truth of God in a mystery.”

July 30: Arise And Come Away With Me

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3

When heart and flesh are fast failing, and the trembling feet descend into the dark valley of the shadow of death, to whom shall we then look but unto Jesus? The world is now receding, and all creatures are fading upon the sight; one object alone remains, arrests and fixes the believer’s eye–it is Jesus, the Savior; it is Emmanuel, the Incarnate and now-present God; it is the Captain of our salvation, the Conqueror of death, and the Spoiler of the grave; it is our friend, our brother, our Joseph, our Joshua, loving and faithful, and present to the last.

Jesus is there to confront death again, and vanquish him with his own weapons. Jesus is there to remind His departing one that the grave can wear no gloom, and can boast of no victory, since He himself passed through its portal, rose and revived, and lives for evermore.

Sick one! in your languishing, look to Jesus! Departing one! in your death-struggles, look to Jesus! Are you guilty?–Jesus is righteous. Are you a sinner?–Jesus is a Savior. Are you fearful, and do you tremble?–the Shepherd of the flock is with you, and no one shall pluck His sheep out of His hands. How fully, how suitably, does the gospel now meet your case!

In your bodily weakness and mental confusion, two truths are, perhaps, all that you can now dwell upon–your sinfulness and Christ’s redemption, your emptiness and Christ’s sufficiency. Enough! you need no more; God requires no more. In your felt weakness, in your conscious unworthiness, amid the swelling of the cold waters, raise your eye and fix it upon Jesus, and all will be well.

Hear the words of your Savior calling you from the bright world of glory to which He bids you come, “Arise, my love, my fair one! and come away.” Believer! look to Him–lean upon Him–cleave to Him–labor for Him–suffer for Him–and, if need be, die for Him. Thus loving and trusting, living and dying, for “Jesus only.”

July 15: The Veil Now Withdrawn

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9

“God is love” was the great truth Jesus came to make known. Hence God’s love is clearly a revelation to man, rather than a discovery by man. Divine love was the last perfection of Deity to baffle the research of human wisdom. Other attributes might be dimly traced in creation.

Some faint glimmerings of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness might be seen in the “things which are made;” but how God could love sinners, could redeem and save sinners, was a question to which nature’s oracle returned no response. In the exercise of the vast powers with which his Creator has endowed him, man may discover everything, but this. He sweeps the firmament above him with his telescope, and a new constellation of surpassing glory arises before his view. He delves into the earth beneath him, and an ancient and long-lost city is untombed. He works a problem, and science develops some new and startling wonder.

But there is one discovery he cannot make–one wonder surpassing all wonders, the most marvelous and stupendous, he cannot unravel. Nature, aiding him in all other researches, affords him no clue to this. The sunbeam paints it not upon the brilliant cloud; the glacier reflects it not from its dazzling brow; the valley’s stream murmurs it not in its gentle music; it thunders not in the roar of ocean’s billow; it sighs not in the evening’s zephyr; it exhales not the opening flower; all nature is profoundly silent upon a theme so divine and strange, so vast and tender, as God’s redeeming love to man.

But the Son, leaving the bosom of the Father, in which from eternity He had reposed, and which in the “fullness of time” He relinquished, has descended to our world to correct our apprehensions and to dislodge our doubts, to calm our fears, and to reassure our hopes with the certainty of the wondrous fact, that God is still mindful of man, and takes delight in man; that no revolt or alienation, no enmity or ingratitude, has turned away His heart from man; that He loves him still, and that loving, He “so loved him that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Thus did He come, His Father’s representative, to declare Him to man. And as He wrought His brilliant miracles of stupendous power–thus attesting the fact of His Godhead; and as He pronounced His discourses of infinite wisdom–thus unlocking the treasures of His grace; and as He traveled all laden with our sins to the cross–thus unsealing the fountain of His compassion, He could say to all who challenged the Divinity of His mission, or who asked at His hands a vision of the Father, “He that has seen me has seen the Father,”–”I and my Father are one.”

Behold the mission of the Savior to our world! He has come to uplift the veil, and reveal the heart of God–that heart all throbbing with a love as infinite as His nature, as deathless as His being. He came not to inspire, but to reveal, the love of God. The atonement did not originate, it expounded the Father’s love–the love was already there. Sin had but clouded its existence; rebellion had but arrested its flow. Struggling and panting for a full, unrestrained expression, it could find no adequate outlet, no appropriate channel in its course to man, save in the surrender and sacrifice of its most costly and precious treasure.

The Son of the Father must bleed and die, before the love of the Father could embrace its object. And now, O child of God, the veil is withdrawn, the thick cloud is blotted out, and your God stands before you all arrayed in ineffable love, His heart your divine pavilion, His bosom your sacred home. “The only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”

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.”

June 2: He Prays For You

“I have prayed for YOU”. Luke 22:32

We must not overlook the individuality of our Lord’s intercession. As if forgetting for that moment the whole Church, and regarding Peter as representing in his person each tempted believer, Jesus makes him the especial object of His prayer. How much comfort do we lose in overlooking this truth- in not more distinctly recognizing the personal interest which each believer has in the love of Christ! “My grace is sufficient for you;” “I have prayed for you,” are the gracious words with which Jesus would meet each individual case.

Think not then, O believer, that you are alone, unloved, uncared for, unthought of- Jesus bears you upon His heart; and if loved, and cared for, and remembered by Him, you can afford to part with some creature stream, however loved and valued that stream may be. Keep your eye intently fixed upon your Lord’s intercession.

We too much lose ourselves in the crowd, and merge ourselves in the mass. We forget alike our individual interest in the covenant, and our personal obligation to glorify God in our different walks of life. But it is the especial privilege of the believer to concentrate upon himself, as in focal power, every thought and affection of God, just as the eye of a well-executed portrait may be said to fasten itself exclusively upon each individual in the room. “I have prayed for you.” O cheering declaration!

Christian reader, lose not sight of it. Come and lay your hand of faith upon the covenant of grace, and say, “the fulness of the covenant is mine.” Lay your hand upon the covenant of God, and say, “the God of the covenant is mine; Jesus, its Mediator, is my Savior. He obeyed, suffered, bled, and expired, all for me. ‘He has loved me, and has given Himself for me.’

Lord! do you think of me? does my case come up before Your notice? do You bear my burden upon Your arm, my sorrow upon Your heart, my name upon Your lips; and do You pray for my poor, assaulted, and trembling faith?

Yes, Lord, You do. I believe it, because You have said it, and press the precious truth, so rich in consolation, to my trembling, grateful heart.”

April 30: Our Sweet Adoption

“You have received the Spirit of adoption.” Romans 8:15

The Spirit of adoption is the same as the Spirit of God. There are two essential features which identify Him as such.

The first is, He imparts the nature of the Father to all the children of the family. In this there is a wide difference between a human and a Divine adoption. Man can only confer his name and his inheritance upon the child he adopts. But in the adoption of God, to the name and inheritance of God is added the Divine nature, imparted in regeneration; so that, in the words of our Lord, we become manifestly the “children of our Father who is in heaven.”

The second feature is- having begotten the nature of the Father, He then breathes the spirit of the child into the heart. He inspires a filial love. The love which glows in the believer’s heart is the affection of a child to its parent. It is not a servile bondage, but a filial and free spirit. Oh sweet and holy emotion!

How tender and confiding, how clinging and child-like is it! Such ought to be our love to God. He is our Father- we are His children. Why should not our love to Him be marked by more of the exquisite tenderness, and the unquestioning confidence, and the calm repose of a child reclining upon a parent’s breast? A child-like fear of God is another inspiration of the Spirit of adoption.

Love and fear are twin graces in the Christian character. The Spirit of God is the Author of both; and both dwell together and cooperate in the same renewed heart. It is not the dread of the servant, but the holy trembling of the child, of which we speak. It is a filial, loving, reverential fear. A child-like trust in God also springs from the Spirit of adoption. The trust of a child is implicit, affectionate, and unquestioning. Upon whose counsel may he so safely rely, in whose affection may he so fully confide, upon whose fidelity may he so confidently trust, as a parent’s?

God is your Father, O child of a divine adoption, of a heavenly birth!- let your trust in Him be the result of the relationship you sustain. It admits you to the closest intimacy, and invites you to the most perfect confidence. You have not a need, nor an anxiety, nor a grief, which is not all His own. His adoption of your person- an act of His spontaneous and most free grace- pledged Him to transfer all your individual interests to Himself.

To these we must add a filial obedience- “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Obedience, whether to the Savior’s precept, or to the Father’s law, is the test of love; and love is the spring of obedience. “All that the Lord God has spoken to us will we do,” is the language of that heart where the Spirit of adoption dwells. Such are some of the features of adoption.

April 27: Changeless

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

You will make no advance in the divine life, if your eye is ever upon yourself instead of Christ. What though the experience of today is the opposite of the experience of yesterday- yesterday all brightness, today all cloudiness; yesterday your soul like a well-tuned psalm, today every string loosed and breathing no melody; yesterday, Jesus felt to be so near and precious, today seeming to awaken not a loving emotion in your heart; yesterday, communion with God so sweet, today, none whatever; yesterday, desiring to walk uprightly, holily, and humbly, today detecting so much that is vacillating, weak, and vile. Nevertheless, Jesus is not changed.

The work of Christ is the same- your acceptance in Him is the same- His intercession in heaven for you is the same; then, where should you fly to spiritual experiences for support, strength, and consolation- rising when they rise, falling when they fall- when all your standing, joy, peace, and hope are entirely out of yourself, and are solely in Christ? What though you change a thousand times in one day? He never changes.

God may vary His dispensations- He may alter His mode of dealing- He may change the nature of His discipline – He may vary the lesson, but His loving-kindness and His truth are as unchangeable as His very being. He may dry up the earthly cistern, but He will never seal up the heavenly fountain! -that will flow on in grace through all time, and in glory through all eternity.