June 21: Press In Humble Faith

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Romans 8:33

WHO in heaven; who on earth; who in hell? God will not; sin cannot; Satan dare not. Who? If there be in this wide universe an accuser of those whom God has justified, let him appear. There is none! Every mouth is closed.

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” If there remain a sin unpardoned, a stain uneffaced, a precept unkept, by the Mediator of His Church, let it appear. But there is none! The work of Christ is honorable and glorious. It is a finished work. And on the basis of this complete atonement, God, while He remains just, is the justifier of him that believes.

Oh, embrace this truth, you who, in bitterness of soul, are self-accused and self-condemned before God! Satan could accuse, and the world could accuse, and the saints could accuse, but more severe and true than all, is the self-accusation which lays your mouth in the dust, in the deepest, lowliest contrition. Yet, as a poor sinner, looking to Jesus, resting in Jesus, accepted in Jesus; who shall lay anything legally to our charge, since it is God—the God against whom you have sinned—who Himself becomes your Justifier? May you not, with all lowliness, yet with all holy boldness, challenge every foe, in the prophetic words of Christ Himself-“He is near that justifies me: who will contend with me?”

This truth is an elevating, because a deeply sanctifying one. It exalts the principles, and these, in their turn, exalt the practice of the Christian. The thought that it is God who justifies us at an expense to Himself so vast, by a sacrifice to Himself so precious, surely is sufficiently powerful to give the greatest intensity to our pantings, and fervency to our prayers, for conformity to the Divine image. Deep sorrows, and sore trials, and fiery temptations we may have, and must have, if we ever enter the kingdom; but, what is sorrow, what is trial, what is temptation, if they work but in us the fruits of righteousness, fit us more perfectly for heaven, and waft us nearer to our eternal home?

Press, in humble faith, this precious truth to your heart; for God has forgiven all, and has cancelled all, and has forgotten all, and is your God forever and ever. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, says the Lord.”

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!

Continue reading “God Sifts His Wheat”

April 21: Those Who Are Sick

And Jesus answering said unto them, Those who are whole need not a physician; but those who are sick. Luke 5:31

THAT Physician is He who spoke these words. The power of the Son of God over the moral and physical diseases of men, prove Him to be just the Physician which our circumstances require. Want skill? He possesses it. Sympathy? He has it. Patience, tenderness, perseverance? all belong to Jesus. Wonderful Physician! No disease can baffle You, for You are Divine. No suffering can fail to move You, for You are human.

Are your deep anxieties awakened, my reader, on behalf of some loved object, now pining in sickness, perhaps, to all appearance, in circumstances of extreme danger? In simple faith call in the aid of this Physician. Let the prayer of Moses for Miriam be yours, presented with the faith and urged with the importunity of the Syrophenician mother, “Heal her now, O Lord, I beseech You.” “I will come and heal her,” will be His reply. Deem not the case beyond His skill. Thus reasoned the sister of Lazarus: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother had not died. But I know that even now, whatever You will ask of God, God will give it You.” Go in prayer and faith, and lay your sick one at His feet.

Jesus is with you. One word from Him, and the disease shall vanish; one touch of His hand, and health shall be restored. He who raised Lazarus from the grave, can bring back from its brink the dear one around whose fast-waning life the veins of your heart are entwined. Ask believingly, ask submissively, ask importunately, and then leave the result with Him.

When human power has come to its end—when skill and affection can do no more—when man retires, and hope is extinguished, and the loved one is despairingly abandoned to death—then to see the Lord step forward and take the case in His hands, arresting the disease, rebuking the distemper, bringing back the glow of health to the cheek, vigor to the frame, elasticity to the limb, and brilliance to the eye, raising as from the very grave itself—oh how glorious does He appear in that chamber of sickness! Who bowed down His ear to the whisper that faintly cried for help and support? Who heard the fervent agonizing prayer that that precious life might be spared, which in another room broke from the lips of some anxious, holy wrestler—a parent, a brother, a sister, a friend, it may be? It was the Son of God! and oh how is He glorified in the recovery!

Or, if that sickness terminates in death’s slumber, is He less glorified? Ask the spirit just emerged from its shattered tenement, and soaring away to its home on high—ask it as it enters the portals of heaven, the blaze of eternal glory bursting upon its view—ask it as it finds itself before the throne of God, once an earthly, polluted creature, now whiter and brighter than an unfallen angel—ask it as it rests in the bosom of its redeeming Savior, blissfully conscious of its final and eternal safety, and reposing in expectation of its complete glorification, when its reunion with the spiritual body shall take place on the morning of the first resurrection—ask, and it will testify how great was the glory brought to the Son of God, by the termination of a sickness which, while it left kindred and friends weeping around the death-bed below, demonstrated His life, and power, and love, “who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

April 15: The Smoking Flax

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, until he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 12:20

SURELY, it is a question of all others the most interesting and important, “Am I, or am I not, a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?” We do not say that the state of doubt and uncertainty from which this inquiry arises necessarily invalidates the evidence of grace which already exists; nor would we have it inferred, that the question itself indicates a healthy, vigorous tone of mind. But what we affirm is, that where there exists the principle of life, and a growing acquaintance with the plague of the human heart, with a conscience increasingly tender, the question will sometimes arise—”Am I a living soul in Christ?”

In enabling us to meet and satisfy this inquiry, how kind and condescending is God the Holy Spirit! A state of uncertainty as to his personal salvation cannot be regarded by the believer as the most favorable for the cultivation of personal holiness. He, indeed, is the most heavenly-minded, happy, and useful child of God, who, with the lowly confidence of the great apostle, can say, “I know in whom I have believed.” But we must admire the love of the Spirit in providing for the necessities of the weakest state of grace.

If saints of advanced stature in Christ can but little sympathize with the timidity, the fearfulness, and the weakness of children of more dwarfish proportions, not so the loving, faithful Spirit of God. He is never above His own work. The smallest part is too precious to His heart, to allow of the withdrawment of His eye from it for a single moment. It is not the extent of the territory which He has subjugated to Himself in the soul, that most thrills His heart with delight—this He is sure to perfect—but it is His having at all effected an entrance, and established Himself permanently there. This is the ground of his greatest triumph, the source of His highest joy—that after all the opposition and the difficulty, He should at last have gotten Himself the victory. Is it possible, then, that the tenderest bud of grace, or the faintest glimmering of light in the soul, can be a matter of indifference to Him? Ah no! Would Titian have despised a painting, upon whose outline He had stamped the impress of his genius, because its pencilings were not complete? Would Canova have destroyed his sculpture, almost breathing with life, because its chiselings were unfinished? And will the Holy Spirit, in drawing the moral likeness of God upon the soul, in modeling the mind for heaven, slight this, His master-piece of wisdom and of power, because of its present incompleteness? No!

The faintest outline of the Divine image, the roughest shaping of the Divine nature in man, presents to His eye more beauty, and symmetry, and skill, than the finest pencilings of nature, or the most perfect modelings of are. The universe of loveliness and of wonder contains nothing that can compare with it.

January 28: Our God Of All Comfort

The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation. 2 Cor. 1:3- 4.

GOD’S family is a sorrowing family, “I have chosen you,” He says, “in the furnace of affliction.” “I will leave in the midst of you a poor and an afflicted people.” The history of the Church finds its fittest emblem in the burning yet unconsumed bush which Moses saw. Man is “born to sorrows;” but the believer is “appointed thereunto.” It would seem to be a condition inseparable from his high calling. If he is a “chosen vessel,” it is, as we have just seen, “in the furnace of affliction.”

If he is an adopted child, “chastening” is the mark. If he is journeying to the heavenly kingdom, his path lies through “much tribulation.” If he is a follower of Jesus, it is to “go unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” But, if his sufferings abound, much more so do his consolations. To be comforted by God may well reconcile us to any sorrow with which it may please our heavenly Father to invest us.

God comforts His sorrowful ones with the characteristic love of a mother. See the tenderness with which that mother alleviates the suffering and soothes the sorrow of her mourning one. So does God comfort His mourners. Oh, there is a tenderness and a delicacy of feeling in God’s comforts which distances all expression. There is no harsh reproof—no unkind upbraiding—no unveiling of the circumstances of our calamity to the curious and unfeeling eye—no artless exposure of our case to an ungodly and censorious world; but with all the tender feeling of a mother, God, even our Father, comforts the sorrowful ones of His people. He comforts in all the varied and solitary griefs of their hearts.

God meets our case in every sorrow. To Him, in prayer, we may uncover our entire hearts; to His confidence we may entrust our profoundest secrets; upon His love repose our most delicate sorrows; to His ear confess our deepest departures; before His eye spread out our greatest sins. Go, then, and breathe your sorrows into God’s heart, and He will comfort you. Blessed sorrow! if in the time of your bereavement, your grief, and your solitude, you are led to Jesus, making Him your Savior, your Friend, your Counselor, and your Shield.

Blessed loss! if it be compensated by a knowledge of God, if you find in Him a Father now, to whom you will transfer your ardent affections—upon whom you will repose your bleeding heart. But let your heart be true with Him. Love Him, obey Him, confide in Him, serve Him, live for Him; and in all the unknown, untrodden, unveiled future of your history, a voice shall gently whisper in your ear—”As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.”

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!”

January 3: Pressing Onward

Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Co2. 2:2.

FAITH, picturing to its view the cross, the Holy Spirit engraving it on the heart in spiritual regeneration, the whole soul receiving Him whom it lifts up, as its “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” gently and effectually transforms the spirit, that was chafed and restless, into the “meekness and gentleness of Christ.” Oh what calmness steals over his ruffled soul! oh what peace flows into his troubled heart! oh what sunshine bathes in its bright beams his dark spirit, who, from the scenes of his conflict and his sorrow, flees beneath the shadow and the shelter of the cross!

The storm ceases—the deluge of his grief subsides—the Spirit, dove-like, brings the message of hope and love—the soul, tempest-tossed, rests on the green mount, and one unbounded spring clothes and encircles the landscape with its verdure and its beauty. Child, chastened by the Father’s love, look to the cross of your crucified Savior; and as you fix upon it your believing, ardent, adoring gaze, exclaim—
“Wearily for me you sought,
On the cross my soul you bought;
Lose not all for which you wrought.”

What is your sorrow compared with Christ’s? What is your grief gauged by your Lord’s? Your Master has passed before you, flinging the curse and the sin from your path, paving it with promises, carpeting it with love, and fencing it around with the hedge of His divine perfections. Press onward, then, resisting your foe resolutely, bearing your cross patiently, drinking your cup submissively, and learning, while sitting at the Savior’s feet, or leaning upon His bosom, to be like Him, “meek and lowly in heart.”

November 4: The Pilgrim Way

“Jesus says unto her, Woman, why are you weeping?” John 20:15

In unfolding the tenderness and sympathy of Jesus, the Spirit most effectually restores comfort to the tried, tempted, and afflicted soul. He testifies of Christ especially in the sympathy of His manhood.

There can be no question, that in His assumption of our nature Jesus had in view, as one important end, a closer affinity with the suffering state of His people, with regard to their more immediate comfort and support. The great end of His incarnation, we are well assured, was obedience to the law in its precept, and the suffering of its penalty. But connected with and resulting from this, is the channel that thus is open for the outflowings of that tenderness and sympathy of which the saints of God so constantly stand in need, and as constantly receive. Jesus is the “Brother born for adversity.”—”It behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.”—”In that He Himself has suffered, being tempted; He is able support those who are tempted.”—”We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Come, dear reader, what is your sorrow? Has the hand of death smitten? Is the beloved one removed? Has He taken away the desire of your eyes with a stroke? But who has done it? Jesus has done it; death was but His messenger. Your Jesus has done it. The Lord has taken away. And what has He removed?—your wife? Jesus has all the tenderness that ever your wife had. Hers was but a drop from the ocean that is in His heart.

Is it your husband? Jesus is better to you than ten husbands. Is it your parent, your child, your friend, your all of earthly bliss? Is the cistern broken? Is the earthen vessel dashed to pieces? Are all your streams dry? Jesus is yet enough. He has not taken Himself from you, and never, never will. Take your bereaved, stricken, and bleeding heart to Him, and repose it upon His, once bereaved, stricken, and bleeding, too; for He knows how to bind up the broken heart, to heal the wounded spirit, and to comfort those that mourn.

What is your sorrow? Has health failed you? Has property forsaken you? Have friends turned against you? Are you tried in your circumstances? perplexed in your path? Are providences thickening and darkening around you? Are you anticipating seasons of approaching trial? Are you walking in darkness, having no light? Go simply to Jesus.

He is a door ever open. A tender, loving, faithful Friend, ever near. He is a Brother born for your adversity. His grace and sympathy are sufficient for you. The life you are called to live is that of faith—that of sense you have done with. You are now to walk by faith, and not by sight. This, then, is the great secret of a life of faith—to hang upon Jesus daily—to go to Him in every trial—to cast upon Him every burden—to take the infirmity, the corruption, the cross, as it rises, simply and immediately to Jesus. You are to set Christ before you as your Example to imitate; as your Fountain to wash in; as your Foundation to build upon; as your Fullness to draw from; as your tender, loving, and confiding Brother and Friend, to go to at all times and under all circumstances. To do this daily constitutes the life of faith.

Oh to be enabled with Paul to say, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

Oh holy, happy, heavenly life!—the life Jesus Himself lived when below; the life all the patriarchs and prophets, the apostles and martyrs, and the spirits of just men made perfect, once lived; and the life every true-born child of God is called and privileged to live, while yet a stranger and pilgrim on the earth.

October 27: He Has Done All Things Well

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

Bereaved Christian, God has smitten, and the stroke has fallen heavily. The blessing you thought you could the least spare, and would be the last to leave you, God your Father has taken. Why has He done this? To show you what He can be in your extremity.

It may be difficult for faith, in the first moments of your calamity, to see how it can be well to be thus afflicted; but be still and wait the issue. Banish from your mind every hard thought of God, stifle in your breast every rebellious feeling, suppress upon your lip every repining word, and bow meekly, submissively, mutely, to the sovereign, righteous will of your Father. The blessings, like spring flowers blooming on the grave over which you weep, that will grow out of this affliction, will prove that God never loved you more deeply, was never more intent upon advancing your best interests, never thought more of you, nor cared more for you, than at the moment when His hand laid your loved one low. Receive the testimony of one who has tasted, ay, has drunk deeply, of the same cup of grief which your Father God now mingles for you. Let us drink it without a murmur. It is our Father’s cup.

As a father pities his children, so does He pity us even while He mingles and presents the draught. It is bitter, but not the bitterness of the curse; it is dark, but not the frown of anger; the cup is brimmed, but not a drop of wrath is there! Oh, wondrous faith that can look upon the beautiful stem broken; the lovely, promising flower, just unfolding its perfection, smitten; the toils and hopes of years, and in a moment, extinguished, and yet can say—”It is well!” Go, now, you precious treasure! God will have my heart, Christ would not I should be satisfied with His gift of love, but that I should be satisfied with His love without the gift. “You only are my portion, O Lord.” The world looks dreary, life has lost a charm, the heart is smitten and withered like grass, some of its dearest earthly affections have gone down into the tomb, but He who recalled the blessing is greater and dearer than the blessing, and is Himself just the same as when He gave it.

Jesus would be glorified by our resting in, and cleaving to, Him as our portion, even when the flowers of earthly beauty, and the yet more precious fruits of spiritual comfort and consolation wither and depart. Satan would suggest that we have sinned away our blessings and forfeited our comforts, and that therefore the Lord is now hiding His face from us, and in anger shutting up His tender mercies. But this is not really so; He is hiding the flowers, but not Himself. In love to them, He is transferring them to His garden in heaven; and in love to us, He thus seeks to draw us nearer to His heart.

He would have us knock at His door, and ask for a fresh cluster. We cherish our blessings, and rest in our comforts, and live upon our frames and feelings, and lose sight of and forget Him. He removes those who we might be always coming to Him for more. Oh, matchless love of Jesus!

But the place where the clearest view is taken of the present unfathomable dispensations of God, and where their unfolding light and unveiling glory wake the sweetest, loudest response to this truth—”He has done all things well”—is heaven. The glorified saint has closed his pilgrimage; life’s dark shadows have melted into endless light; he now looks back upon the desert he traversed, upon the path he trod, and as in the full blaze of glory each page unfolds of his wondrous history, testifying to some new recorded instance of the loving-kindness and faithfulness of God, the grace, compassion, and sympathy of Jesus, the full heart exclaims—”He has done all things well.”

The past dealings of God with him in providence now appear most illustrious to the glorified mind. The machinery of Divine government, which here seemed so complex and inexplicable, now appears in all its harmony and beauty. Its mysteries are all unraveled, its problems are all solved, its events are all explained, and the promise of the Master has received its utmost fulfilment, “What I do you know not now but you shall know hereafter.”

That dispensation that was enshrouded in such mystery; that event that flung so dark a shadow on the path; that affliction that seemed so conflicting with all our ideas of God’s infinite wisdom, truth, and love; that stroke that crushed us to the earth—all now appears but parts of a perfect whole; and every providence in his past history, as it now passes in review, bathed in the liquid light of glory, swells the anthem—”HE HAS DONE ALL THINGS WELL!”

October 26: A Feeble Glance

“That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:7, 8

It was no little kindness in our God, that as one saving object, and one alone, was to engage the attention and fix the eye of the soul, through time and through eternity, that object should be of surpassing excellence and of peerless beauty. That He should be, not the sweetest seraph nor the loveliest angel in heaven, but His own Son, the “brightness of His glory, the express image of His person.”

God delights in the beautiful; all true beauty emanates from Him; “He has made all things beautiful.” How worthy of Himself, then; that in providing a Savior for fallen man, bidding him fix the eye of faith supremely and exclusively upon Him, that Savior should unite in Himself all Divine and all human beauty; that He should be the “chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely.”

Adore the name, oh! praise the love of God, for this. In looking to Jesus for salvation, we include each Divine Person of the glorious Trinity. We cannot look unto Jesus without seeing the Father, for Christ is the revelation of the Father. “He that has seen me,” says Christ, “has seen the Father.” Nor can we contemplate Jesus exclusive of the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit alone who imparts the spiritual eye that sees Jesus.

Thus, in the believing and saving view a poor sinner has of Jesus, he beholds, in the object of his sight, a revelation of each separate Person of the ever blessed Trinity, engaged in devising and accomplishing his eternal salvation. Oh! what a display of infinite love and wisdom is here, that in our salvation one object should arrest the eye, and the that object should embody an equal revelation of the Father, who gave Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit of truth, who leads to Jesus, and that that object should be the loveliest being in the universe. God has deposited all fullness in Christ, that we might, in all need, repair to Christ. “Looking unto Jesus,” for our standing before God—for the grace that upholds and preserves us unto eternal life—for the supply of the Spirit that sanctifies the heart, and meets us for the heavenly glory—for each day’s need, for each moment’s support—in a word, “looking unto Jesus,” for everything.

Thus has God simplified our life of faith in His dear Son. Severing us from all other sources, alluring us away from all other dependencies, and weaning us from all self-confidence, He would shut us up to Christ above, that Christ might be all and in all.

For the weakness of faith’s eye remember that Christ has suitably provided. His care of, and His tenderness towards, those whose grace is limited, whose experience is feeble, whose knowledge is defective, whose faith is small, are exquisite. He has promised to “anoint the eye with eye-salve, that it may see,” and that it may see more clearly.

Repair to Him, then, with your case, and seek the fresh application of this divine unguent. Be cautious of limiting the reality of your sight to the nearness or distinctness of the object. The most distant and dim view of Jesus by faith is as real and saving as if that view were with the strength of an eagle’s eye.

A well-known example in Jewish history affords an apposite illustration: the wounded Israelite was simply commanded to look to the brazen serpent. Nothing was said of the clearness of his vision or the distinctness of his view; no exception was made to the dimness of his sight. His eye might possibly be blurred, the phantoms of a diseased imagination might float before it, intercepting his view; no, more, it might already be glazing and fixing in death! Yet, even under these circumstances, and at that moment, if he but obeyed the Divine command, and looked towards, simply towards, the elevated serpent, distant and beclouded as it was, he was immediately and effectually healed.

Thus is it with the operation of faith. Let your eye, in obedience to the gospel’s command, be but simply raised and fastened upon Jesus, far removed as may be the glorious object; and dim as may be the blessed vision, yet then “looking unto Jesus,” you shall be fully and eternally saved: “Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood.”