September 10

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

GOD speaks of it as involving two evils—the evil of forsaking Him, and the evil of substituting a false object of happiness for Him. Dear reader, the true painfulness of this subject consists not in the sorrow which your heart may have felt in seeing your cisterns broken. Ah no! the true agony should be, that you have, in your wanderings and creature idolatry, sinned, deeply sinned, against the Lord your God. This, and not your loss, ought to lay you low before Him. This, and not your broken scheme of earthly happiness, ought to fill you with the bitterness of sorrow, and clothe you with the drapery of woe. Oh! to have turned your back upon such a God, upon such a Father, upon such a Friend, and to have supposed that even a universe of creatures could have made you happy without Him, ought to bring you to His feet exclaiming, “God be merciful to me, the chief of sinners!” Is it no sin to have said to God, as you have a thousand times over—”I prefer myself to You—my family to You—my estate to You—my pleasure to You—my honor to You”? Is it no sin to have taken the gifts with which He endowed you, or the wealth with which He intrusted you, and forming them into a golden image, to have fallen down before it, exclaiming, “This is your god, O my soul?” Oh yes, it is a sin, the guilt and the greatness of which no language can describe. And is it no sin, O believer in Jesus, to have turned away, in your unbelief and inconstancy, from the glorious redemption which the Lord has obtained for you at such a price, and to have sought the assurance and the joy of your salvation from other sources than it? What! is not the atoning work of Jesus sufficient to give your believing soul solid rest, and peace, and hope, but that you should have turned your eye from Him, and have sought it in the polluted and broken cistern of self? Oh, slight not the precious blood, the glorious righteousness, the infinite fullness, and the tender love of Jesus thus. No, you dishonor this precious Jesus Himself! Shall He have wrought such an obedience, shall He have made such an atonement, shall He have died such a death, shall He have risen and have ascended up on high, all to secure your full salvation and certain glory, and will you derive the evidence and the comfort of your acceptance from any other than this one precious source—”looking unto Jesus!” Look away, then, from everything to Jesus. No matter what you are, look away from self—to Jesus. The more vile, the more empty, the more unworthy, the greater reason and the stronger argument why you should look entirely off yourself—to Jesus. His atoning work is finished by Him, and is sealed by the Father. It is impossible that God can reject you, entirely renouncing yourself and fleeing into Christ. Coming to Him in the name of Jesus, God cannot deny you. He has pledged Himself that whatever is asked in that name He will grant. Take Him at His word!

Ask Him for a sense of His reconciled love—ask Him for the Spirit of adoption—ask Him for a filial, loving, and obedient heart—ask Him for a meek, lowly, and submissive will. Yes, pour out your heart before Him: God waits to grant your utmost desire breathed out to Him in the name of Jesus. He has given you His beloved Son—oh largess worthy of a God!—oh gift of gifts, priceless and precious beyond all thought!—what inferior blessing will He then, withhold?

August 29

“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hears the word, and anon with joy receives it; yet has he no root in himself, but endures for awhile: for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. Matthew 13:20-22

“The rocky soil represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But like young plants in such soil, their roots don’t go very deep. At first they get along fine, but they wilt as soon as they have problems or are persecuted because they believe the word. The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life and the lure of wealth, so no crop is produced.” Matthew 13:20-22

A season of prosperity often proves fatal to a profession of godliness. Divine providence smiles, riches increase, and with them the temptations and the snares, the luxury, indulgence, and worldly show which are inseparable from the accumulation of unsanctified and unconsecrated wealth. And what are the results? In most cases, the entire relinquishment of the outward garb of a religious costume. Found to be in the way of the full indulgence of the carnal mind, it is laid aside altogether; and thus freed from all the restraints which consistency imposed, the heart at once plunges deep into the world it all the while secretly loved, sighed for, and worshiped. Oh, what a severe but true test of religious principle is this! How soon it detects the spurious and the false! How soon does the verdure wither away! “The prosperity of fools shall destroy them.”

But if a professing man passes through this trial, and still retains his integrity; still walks closely and humbly with God; still adheres to the lowly cross-bearing path of Jesus; is still found as diligent in waiting upon God in public and private means of grace; is still as meek, condescending, and kind, increasing in devotedness, liberality, and love, with the increase of God’s providential goodness around him, such a man has the “root of the matter in him;” and “he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” His prosperity has not destroyed him.

A time of adversity is often equally as fatal to a profession of religion, founded upon no true Christian principle. If in the smooth path we are apt to slide, in the rough path we may stumble. Periods of great revolution in the history of the Christian Church, when God tries the principles, the conscience, the love, and the faith of His people, are test-periods. What numbers make shipwreck then of their high profession! And when God enters the pleasant garden of a man’s domestic blessings, and blows upon the lovely blossom, or blights the fair flower, or severs the pleasant bough, or scatters the hard-earned wealth of years, or wastes the body’s vigor, or frustrates the fond scheme; how does an unrenewed man behave himself?

Is his carriage humble, submissive, child-like? Does stern Christian principle now exhibit itself, in beautiful contrast with the trial that has called it forth? Does divine grace, like the aromatic flower, now appear the sweeter and more precious for its being crushed? Does not every feeling of the heart rise in maddened rebellion against God and against His government? Ah, yes! how accurately does Christ describe his case: “he has not root in himself, but endures for a while; for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended.”

August 12

“For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us.” Philippians 3:3

The first step the Spirit takes in this great work is to lead us from ourselves- from all reliance on our own righteousness, and from all dependence upon our native strength. But let us not suppose that this divorce from the principle of self entirely takes place when we are “married to another, even to Christ.” It is the work of a life. Alas! Christ has at best but a portion of our affections. Our heart is divided. It is true, there are moments, bright and blissful, when we sincerely and ardently desire the full, unreserved surrender. But the ensnaring power of some rival object soon discovers to us how partial and imperfect that surrender has been. This severing from ourselves- from all our idols- is a perpetual, unceasing work of the Spirit. And who but this Divine Spirit could so lead us away from self, in all its forms, as to constrain us to trample all our own glory in the dust, and acknowledge with Paul that we are “less than the least of all saints.”

But more than this, He leads from an opposite extreme of self- from a despairing view of our personal sinfulness. How often, when the eye has been intently bent within, gazing as it were upon the gloom and confusion of a moral chaos, the Spirit has gently and graciously led us from ourselves to an object, the sight of which has at once raised us from the region of despair! How many walk in painful and humiliating bondage, from not having thus been sufficiently led out of themselves! Always contemplating their imperfect repentance, or their weak faith, or their little fruitfulness, they seem ever to be moving in a circle, and to know nothing of what it is to walk in a large place. Thus from sinful self, as from righteous self, the Spirit of God leads us.

To what does He lead? He leads us to Christ. To whom else would we, in our deep necessity, wish to be led? Now that we know something experimentally of Jesus, to whom would we go but to Him? Having severed us in some degree from ourselves, He would bring us into a closer realization of our union with the Savior. “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

And this promise is fulfilled when, in all our need, He leads us to Christ. Are we guilty? the Spirit leads us to the blood of Jesus. Are we weary? the Spirit leads us to abide in Jesus. Are we sorrowful? the Spirit leads us to the sympathy of Jesus. Are we tempted? the Spirit leads us to the protection of Jesus. Are we sad and desolate? the Spirit leads us to the tender love of Jesus. Are we poor, empty, and helpless? the Spirit leads us to the fullness of Jesus. And still it is to the Savior He conducts us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, but the holy Jesus is our comfort. And to Jesus- to His person, to His offices, and to His work, in life and in death, the Divine Guide ever leads us.

The Weaned Child

Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a
child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is
even as a weaned child
”—Psalm 131:2.

There are few lessons taught in God’s school more difficult to learn, and yet, when really learned, more blessed and holy, than the lesson of weanedness. The heart resembles the vine, which as it grows, grasps and unites its feeble tendrils to every support within its reach. Or, it is like the ivy, which climbs and wraps itself around some beautiful but decayed and crumbling ruin. As our social affections develop and expand, they naturally seek a resting-place. Traveling, as it were, beyond themselves, breathing love and yearning for friendship, they go forth seeking some kindred spirit, some “second self,” upon which they may repose, and around which they may entwine. To detach from this inordinate, idolatrous clinging to the animate and the inanimate creatures and objects of sense, is one grand end of God’s disciplinary dealings with us in the present life. The discovery which we make, in the process of his dealings, of the insufficiency and insecurity of the things upon which we set our affections, is often acutely painful. Like that vine, we find that we grasped a support at the root of which the cankerworm was secretly feeding,—and presently it fell! Or, like that ivy, we discover that we have been spreading our affections around an object which, even while we clung to and adored it, was crumbling and falling into dust,—and presently it became a ruin! And what is the grand lesson which, by this process, God would teach us? The lesson of weanedness from all and everything of an earthly and a created nature. Thus was David instructed, and this was the result: “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.” It may be profitable, tried and suffering reader, briefly to contemplate this holy state, and then the way by which the Lord frequently brings his people into its experience.

Midnight Harmonies