July 14: Glory In Our Trubulation

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience.” Romans 5:3

By a patient endurance of suffering for His sake, the Redeemer is greatly glorified in His saints. The apostle—and few drank of the bitter cup more deeply than he—presents suffering for Christ in the soothing light of a Christian privilege. “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” “But if you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you;” for thereby Christ is glorified in you. Believer, suffering for Christ, rejoice, yes, rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer shame for His sake. What distinction is awarded you! What honor is put upon you! What a favored opportunity have you now of bringing glory to His name; for illustrating His sustaining grace, and upholding strength, and Almighty power, and infinite wisdom, and comforting love! By the firm yet mild maintenance of your principles, by the dignified yet gentle spirit of forbearance, by the uncompromising yet kind resistance to allurement, let the Redeemer be glorified in you! In all that you suffer for righteousness’ sake, let your eye be immovably fixed on Jesus. In Him you have a bright example. “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your mind.” Remember how, for your redemption, He “endured the cross, despising the shame,” and, for your continual support, “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Remember, too, that it is one peculiar exercise and precious privilege of faith, to “wait patiently for the Lord.” The divine exhortation is, “Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” This patience of the soul is the rest of faith on a faithful God; it is a standing still to see His salvation. And the divine encouragement is, that in this posture will be found the secret of your real power. “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Be watchful against everything that would mar the simplicity of your faith, and so dim the glory of Jesus; especially guard against the adoption of unlawful or doubtful measures, with a view to disentanglement from present difficulties. Endure the pressure, submit to the wrong, bear the suffering, rather than sin against God, by seeking to forestall His mind, or to antedate His purpose, or by transferring your interests from His hands to your own.

Oh, the glory that is brought to Jesus by a life of faith! Who can fully estimate it? Taking to Him the corruption, as it is discovered—the guilt, as it rises, the grief, as it is felt—the cross, as it is experienced—the wound, as it is received; yes, simply following the example of John’s disciples, who, when their master was slain, took up his headless body, and buried it, and then went and poured their mournful intelligence in Jesus’ ear, and laid their deep sorrow on His heart; this is to glorify Christ! Truly is this “precious faith,” and truly is the “trial of our faith precious,” for it renders more precious to the heart “His precious blood,” who, in His person, is unutterably “precious to those who believe.”

Soul Distress

Dear child of God, your afflictions, your trials, your crosses, your losses, your sorrows, all, all are in your heavenly Father’s, hand, and they can not come until sent by him. Bow that stricken heart, yield that tempest-tossed soul to his sovereign disposal, to his calm, righteous sway, in the submissive spirit and language of your suffering Savior: “Your will, O my father! not mine, be done. My times of sadness and of grief are in your hand.”

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God Sifts His Wheat

But observe, God sifts His people like wheat. We need scarcely remark upon the necessity of this process, it seems so palpable and self-evident. Take the holiest man of God for illustration. There is such a mixture of contradiction in him, that he needs to be winnowed. It has been remarked, “The best of saints are exposed to the worst of sins.” Look at Job. Study his character, and then his sifting. “And the Lord said unto Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and shuns evil.” What a precious grain of wheat was here! yet, see how God put that grain of wheat into the sieve!

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March 23: Finishing The Course

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Tim 4:7

WE are here invited to contemplate the Christian in the character of a conqueror. The battle consists of a moral conflict with inward and outward enemies, all leagued in terrible force against the soul. To this is added—what, indeed, was most peculiar to the early Church—a war of external suffering, in which penury, persecution, and martyrdom constituted the dark and essential elements.

Now it will be instructive to observe in what way Christ provides for the holy warrior’s passage through this fiery contest. It will be perceived that it is not by flight, but by battle; not by retreat, but by advance; not by shunning, but by facing the foe. The Captain of their salvation might have withdrawn His people from the field, and conducted them to heaven, without the hazard of a conflict. But not so. He will lead them to glory, but it shall be by the path of glory. They shall carve their way to the crown by the achievements of the sword. They shall have privations, and distress, and suffering, of every kind; yet while beneath the pressure, and in the very heat of the battle, victory shall crown their arms, and a glorious triumph shall heighten the splendor of their victory. And what spiritual eye does not clearly see, that in conducting His people across the battle-field, the Lord wins to Himself more renown than though He had led them to their eternal rest with entire exemption from conflict and distress?

But in what sense are we conquerors? Just in that sense in which the Holy Spirit obtains the victory. It is not the believer himself who conquers; it is the Divine Spirit within the believer. No movement is seen, no tactics are observed, no war-cry is heard, and yet there is passing within the soul a more important warfare, and there is secured a more brilliant victory, than ever the pen of the historian recorded. In the first place, there is the conquest of faith.

Where do the annals of war present such a succession of victories so brilliant, achieved by a weapon so single and simple, as is recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews? And what was the grace that won those spiritual and glorious victories? It was the grace of faith! “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith.” Faith in the truth of God’s word faith in the veracity of God’s character—faith in the might, and skill, and wisdom of our Commander and Leader—faith, eyeing the prize, gives the victory to the Christian combatant, and secures the glory to the Captain of his salvation.

Then there is the triumph of patience. “That you do not be slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” “And so, after he had patiently endured, He obtained the promise.” Oh, is it no real victory of the Holy Spirit in the believer, when beneath the pressure of great affliction, passing through a discipline the most painful and humiliating, the suffering Christian is enabled to cry, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him”? “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it”? “Not my will, but your, be done”? Suffering child of God, “let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

And then there is the conquest of joy. “Having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations,” or trials. Why is trial an occasion of joy? Because it is the triumph of the Holy Spirit in the soul. And does not Christ say, “You shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy”? Who but Jesus can turn our sorrow into joy?—not only assuaging our griefs, alleviating our sufferings, and tempering the furnace-flame, but actually making our deepest, darkest sorrows the occasion of the deepest gladness, praise, and thanksgiving.

Oh, yes! it is a glorious victory of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, in the soul, when it can enable the believer to adopt the words of the suffering apostle, “I am filled with comfort, I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” Suffering reader! Jesus knows how to turn your sorrow into joy. Confide your grief to Him, and He will cause it sweetly to sing.

March 12: The Exercise Of Christian Love

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient. 2 Timothy 2:24

ONE exercise of Christian love will be its endeavor to avoid all occasions of offence. These, through the many and fast-clinging infirmities of the saints of God, will often occur. But they are to be avoided, and, in the exercise of that love which proves our Christian character, they will be avoided. The child of God will desire to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Whatever tends to weaken that bond he will endeavor to lay aside. Whatever He may discover in his communion with the saints calculated to wound, to distress, to alienate, to offend, either in his manner or in his spirit, the healthy exercise of holy love will constrain him to overcome. He will avoid “giving offence.” He will be modest in the expression of his own opinion, respectful and deferential towards the opinion of others. He will avoid that recklessness of spirit which, under the cover of faithfulness, cares not to estimate consequences; but which, pursuing its heedless way, often crushes beneath its rough-shod heel the finest feelings of the human heart; saying and doing what it pleases, regardless of the wounds which, all the while, it is deeply and, irreparably inflicting.

How sedulous, too, will he be to avoid anything like a dictatorial manner in enunciating his judgment, and all hard words and strong expressions in differing from authorities of equal, perhaps of greater, weight than his own. Oh! were this divine affection but more deeply lodged in the hearts of all those who “profess and call themselves Christians,” what courtesy of manner—what grace of deportment—what tender regard of each other’s feelings—what kindness in word and in action—what carefulness to avoid inflicting even a momentary pain—what putting away, as becomes saints, all wrath, anger, evil speaking, and malice—and what constant remembrance of His solemn words who said, “Whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea,” would each believer exhibit! Lord, fill our souls more and more with this lovely grace of love!

Especially in Church communion will the grace of forbearance be called in requisition. When the providence of God has thrown together a community of individuals, composed of a great variety of character, of mind, and of constitutional temperament, although each grade may be more or less modified by the renewing of the Spirit, there will still be a broad field for the passive exercise of love. In a Church, necessarily imperfect, there may exist many things, in which taste as well as judgment will be found at fault, calculated to engender a feeling of dislike, and even of disgust, in a mind refined and delicate. But here Christian forbearance must be exercised. They are the infirmities of the weak of Christ’s flock, and they who are stronger in grace should kindly and patiently bear them. In pursuing a different course, we may wound some of the most gracious, humble, and prayerful saints of God.

We may be but little aware with what frequent and deep humiliation in secret their conscious failings may overwhelm them. And we ought to bear in mind, that if we sometimes might wish to see in
them less that was rough in speech, abrupt and forward in manner, and fault-finding in disposition, they may detect in us a loftiness of spirit, a coldness of demeanor, and an apparent haughtiness of carriage, which may be an equal trial to them, demanding the exercise on their part of the same grace of forbearance towards us. How watchful, how tender, how kind, then, should we be, ever standing with the broad mantle of charity in our hands, prepared to cast it over the failings of a Christian brother, the moment it meets the eye!

January 6: Zion’s Mourners

Lo, he goes by me, and I see him not: he passes on also, but I perceive him not. Behold, he takes away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What do you? Job 9:11-12

AND is this the way of the Lord with you, my beloved? Are you bewildered at the mazes through which you are threading your steps; at the involved circumstances of your present history? Deem yourself not alone in this.

No mystery has lighted upon your path but what is common to the one family of God: “This honor have all his saints.” The Shepherd is leading you, as all the flock are led, with a skillful hand, and in a right way. It is yours to stand if He bids you, or to follow if He leads. “He gives no account of any of His matters,” assuming that His children have such confidence in His wisdom, and love, and uprightness, as in all the wonder-working of His dealings with them, to “be still and know that He is God.”

Throw back a glance upon the past, and see how little you have ever understood of all the way God has led you. What a mystery—perhaps now better explained—has enveloped His whole proceedings! When Joseph, for example, was torn from the homestead of his father, sold, and borne a slave into Egypt, not a syllable of that eventful page of his history could he spell. And yet God’s way with this His servant was perfect. And could Joseph have seen at the moment that he descended into the pit, where he was cast by his envious brethren, all the future of his history as vividly and as palpably as be beheld it in after years, while there would have been the conviction that all was well, we doubt not that faith would have lost much of its vigor, and God much of His glory.

And so with good old Jacob. The famine, the parting with Benjamin, the menacing conduct of Pharaoh’s prime minister, wrung the mournful expression from his lips, “All these things are against me.” All was veiled in deep and mournful mystery. Thus was it with Job, to whom God spoke from the whirlwind that swept every vestige of affluence and domestic comfort from his dwelling. And thus, too, with Naomi, when she exclaimed, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty.” That it is to the honor of God to conceal, should in our view justify all His painful and humiliating procedure with us. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing,” as it will be for His endless glory, by and by, fully to reveal it all.

But there is one thing, Christian sufferer, which He cannot conceal. He cannot conceal the love that forms the spring and foundation of all His conduct with His saints. Do what He will, conceal as He may, be His chariot the thick clouds, and His way in the deep sea, still His love betrays itself, disguised though it may be in dark and impenetrable providence. There are under-tones, gentle and tender, in the roughest accents of our Joseph’s voice. And he who has an ear ever hearkening to the Lord shall often exclaim, “Speak, Lord, how and when and where you may—it is the voice of my Beloved!”

November 17: Be Fully Persuaded

“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Let us not therefore judge one another any more; but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:5, 10, 13

The exercise of private judgment is the natural and inalienable right of every individual. Sanctified by the Spirit of God, it becomes a precious privilege of the believer. He prizes it more than riches, claims it as one of the immunities of his heavenly citizenship, and will surrender it only with life itself.

Christian love will avoid infringing, in the least degree, upon this sacred right. I am bound by the law of love to concede to my brother, to its fullest extent, that which I claim for myself. I am moreover bound to believe him conscientious and honest in the views which holds, and that he maintains them in a reverence for the word, and in the exercise of the fear of God. He does not see eye to eye with me in every point of truth—our views of church government, of ordinances, and of some of the doctrines are not alike.

And yet, discerning a perfect agreement as to the one great and only way of salvation—and still more, marking in him much of the lowly, loving spirit of his Master, with an earnest desire, in simplicity and godly sincerity, to serve Him—how can I cherish or manifest towards him any other than a feeling of brotherly love? God loves him, God bears with him; and Christ may see in him, despite of a creed less accurately balanced with the word of truth than mine, a walk more in harmony with the holy, self-denying, God-glorifying precepts of that truth. With an orthodoxy less perfect, there may be a life more holy.

With less illumination in the judgment, there may be more grace in the heart. How charitable in my interpretation, then, how loving in my spirit, how kind and gentle in my manner, should I be towards him. How jealous, too, ought I to be, of that independence of mind, in the exercise of which he may, notwithstanding, have arrived at conclusions opposite to my own.

Cherishing these feelings, Christians who differ in judgment, will be placed in a more favorable position for the understanding of each other’s views, and for the united examination of the word of God. Diversity of judgment, through the infirmity of our fallen nature, is apt to beget alienation of feeling; and consequently, the development of truth is hindered. But where harmony of affection is cultivated, there will be a greater probability of arriving at more perfect agreement in sentiment, thus walking in accordance with apostle’s rule—”I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment.”

July 8: Sojourners & Strangers

“For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” Hebrews 13:14

The true believer in Jesus is a traveler. He is journeying to a city of habitation, to the mount of God–and, blessed be God, he will soon be there!

The apostle Peter dedicates his pastoral letter to the “strangers scattered” abroad–the people of God dispersed over the face of the earth. Such is the Church of Christ. It is sometimes incorrectly called “the visible Church.” The idea is unscriptural. Visible churches there may be, but a visible Church there is none. The saints of God are “strangers and pilgrims” scattered abroad. Here on earth they have no permanent abode, no certain resting-place.

The Church is in the wilderness, journeying through it. The present is called the “time of our sojourning.” We are but wayfarers at an inn, abiding only for a night. “Here we have no continuing city.” We are strangers and sojourners, as all our fathers were. But this, beloved, is the reconciling, animating thought–we are journeying to the dwelling of God. We are on our way to the good land which the Lord our God has promised us; to the kingdom and the mansion which Jesus has gone to take possession of and to prepare for us.

In a word–and this image is the climax of the blissful prospect–we are hastening to our “Father’s house,” the home of the whole family in heaven and in earth, the residence of Christ, the dwelling-place of God.

To this each believer in Jesus is journeying. The road is difficult, the desert is tedious–sometimes perilous from its smoothness, or painful from it roughness; its difficultness now wearying, its intricacy now embarrassing. But who will complain of the path that conducts him to his home? Who would yield to the sensation of fatigue, who is journeying to an eternal rest?

Much of the disquietude and repining of spirit peculiar to the pilgrimage of the saints arises from the faint conceptions which the mind forms of the coming glory. We think too faintly and too seldom of heaven. The eye is bent downwards, and seldom do we “lift up our heads” in prospect of the “redemption that draws near.”

And yet how much there is in the thought of glory, in the anticipation of heaven–its nature and associations–calculated to stimulate, to cheer, and to allure us onwards! It is the place where we shall be sinless; it is the residence where we shall see God; it is the mansion where we shall be housed with Christ; it is the home where we shall dwell with all the saints; it is the point at which are collecting all the holy of earth, some of whom have already left our embrace for its holier and happier regions, and whom we shall meet again.

Why, then, should we be cast down because of the difficulty of the way, or for one moment lose sight of the glory that awaits us, or cease to strive for the fitness essential to its enjoyment? In a little while–oh, how short the journey!–and we shall be there. Then we shall realize, to their fullest extent, the beauty and the sweetness of the description so often read and pondered with tears of hope– “You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to thousands of angels in joyful assembly. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven.

You have come to God himself, who is the judge of all people. And you have come to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which graciously forgives instead of crying out for vengeance as the blood of Abel did.” O my soul! will you not stretch every nerve, endure every privation, and relinquish every weight, thus to reach this glorious city of God?

June 27: Wait Quietly

“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:26

A believer may present a right petition in a right way, and yet he may not wait the Lord’s answer in His own time. He may appoint a time, and if the Lord does not answer within that period, he turns away, resigning all expectation of an answer.

There is such a thing as waiting for the Lord. The apostle alludes to and enjoins this holy patience, when he speaks to the Ephesians of “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.” A believer may present his request- may have some degree of nearness in urging it- may press it with fervency- and yet, forgetting the hoping, quiet, waiting patience which ought invariably to mark a praying soul; he may lose the blessing he has sought. There is such a thing as “waiting upon the Lord.”

Oh; how long have we made Him to wait for us! For years, it may be, we kept Him knocking, and standing, and waiting at the door of our hearts, until His own Spirit took the work in His own hands, and unlocked the heart, and the Savior entered. The Lord would now often have us wait His time in answering prayer. And, if the vision tarry, still let us wait, and hope, and expect. Let the delay but stimulate hope, and increase desire, exercise faith, and multiply petitions at the mercy-seat. It will come when the Lord sees best.

A believer may lose the answer to his prayer, by dictating to the Lord the mode, as well as the time, of answering. The Lord has His own mode of blessing His people. We may prescribe the way the Lord should answer, but He may send the blessing to us through an opposite channel, in a way we never thought of, and should never have selected.

Sovereignty sits regent upon the throne, and in no aspect is its exercise more manifestly seen than in selecting the way and the means by which the prayers of the saints of God are answered. Dictate not to the Lord. If you ask a blessing through a certain channel, or in a prescribed way, let it be with the deepest humility of mind, and with perfect submission to the will of God.

Be satisfied to receive the blessing in any way which a good and covenant God may appoint. Be assured, it will be in that way that will most glorify Himself, and secure to you the greatest amount of blessing.

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.

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