June 2: Trials Of Faith

“For you, O God, have proved us: you have tried us, as silver is tried.” Psalm 66:10

FAITH has its trials, as well as its temptations. Affliction is a trial of faith; sorrow in any of its multitudinous forms is a trial of faith; the delay of mercy is a trial of faith; the promise unfulfilled is a trial of faith; the prayer unanswered is a trial of faith; painful providences, mysterious dispensations, straitened circumstances, difficulties, and embarrassments, all are so many trials of faith, commissioned and designed by God to place the gold in the crucible, and the wheat in the sieve, that both may be purified and tried.

Ah, is it no trial of the believer’s faith, when the foundation upon which it rests is assailed? Is it no trial of faith to have distorted representations of God presented to its eye, dishonoring thoughts of God suggested to the mind, unbelieving apprehensions of Jesus, His love, His grace, and His works, foisted upon the heart? To entertain for one moment the idea that God is unfaithful to His word, or that in His dealings He is arbitrary and unkind? That Jesus is not what He represents Himself to be, an all-sufficient Savior of the lost, the healer of the broken in heart, the tender, gentle Savior, not breaking the bruised reed, but supporting it, not quenching the smoking flax, but fanning it? Oh yes, these to a holy mind are painful trials of faith, from which the tender conscience shrinks, and the sensitive heart recoils.

It is only true grace that is really tried. No man puts mere dross into his furnace, or mere chaff into his sieve. All his toils and pains-taking would go for nothing, for it would come forth in its nature unaltered and unchanged—the dross would still be dross, and the chaff would still be chaff. Now the Lord tries, and Satan tempts, nothing but genuine grace. It is the wheat, and not the tares, that is made to pass through the fiery trial. Thus do afflictions and trying dispensations prove tests of a man’s religion. When there is nothing but tinsel in a profession of Christianity, the fire will consume it; when there is nothing but chaff, the wind will scatter it. The furnace of temptation and the flail of affliction often prove a man’s work of what sort it is, long before the discovery is made in a world where no errors can be corrected, and when it will be too late to rectify mistakes. Thus it is that so many professors, who have not the root of the matter in themselves, but endure for awhile, are offended and fall away when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word.

And why is the “wheat” thus sifted? Why is so Divine and precious a grace subjected to a process so humiliating and severe? Certainly not because of any intrinsic impurity in the grace itself. All the graces of the Spirit, as they proceed from God, and are implanted in the heart, are pure and holy; as essentially free from sin as the nature from where they flow. But in consequence of the impurity of the heart, and the defilement of the nature in which they are deposited—the body of sin and death by which they are incased—they become mixed with particles of earthliness and carnality, the fine gold with dross, and the pure wheat with chaff. To purify and separate the graces of the Holy Spirit from these things, so foreign to their nature, the Lord permits these temptations, and sends these trials of faith.

Not only may the faith of a child of God be severely assailed, but there are times when that faith may greatly waver. Is this surprising? No, the greatest wonder is, that with all these severe shocks, through which it passes, it does not entirely fail. Nothing but the Divinity that dwells within that grace keeps it. Were it not Divine and incorruptible, fail entirely it must. Look at Abraham—on one occasion in the strength of faith offering up his son, and on another occasion in the weakness of faith denying his wife! Look at David—in the strength of faith slaying Goliath, and in the weakness of faith fleeing from Saul! Look at Job—in the strength of faith justifying God in the severest of His dealings, and in the weakness of faith cursing the day that He was born! Look at Peter—in the strength of faith drawing his sword and smiting a servant of the high priest’s, and in the weakness of faith forced by a little maid to deny the Lord whom he had but just defended! Oh! the wonder of wonders is, that there remains a single grain in the sieve, or a particle of metal in the furnace, or a solitary spark in the ocean—that all is not utterly scattered, consumed, and annihilated! Nothing but the power of God and its own incorruptible and imperishable nature, preserve it.

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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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June 1: Through Afflictions

“Howbeit you are just in all that is brought upon us; for you have done right, but we have done wickedly.” Neh. 9:33

IT would be incorrect to suppose that the chastisements of our heavenly Father were in themselves pleasant and desirable. They are no more so than the physician’s recipe, or the surgeon’s lancet. But as in the one case, so in the other, we look beyond the medicine to its sanative qualities, we forget the bitterness of the draught in its remedial results. Thus with the medicine of the soul—the afflictions sent and sanctified by God. Forgetting the bitter and the pain of God’s dealings, the only question of moment is, what is the cause and what the design of my Father in this? The answer is—our deeper sanctification.

This is effected, first, by making us more thoroughly acquainted with the holiness of God Himself. Sanctified chastisement has an especial tendency to this. To suppose a case. Our sense of God’s holiness, previously to this dispensation, was essentially defective, unsound, superficial, and uninfluential. The judgment admitted the truth; we could speak of it to others, and in prayer acknowledge it to God; but still there was a vagueness and an indistinctness in our conceptions of it, which left the heart cold, and rendered the walk uneven. To be led now into the actual, heart-felt experience of the truth, that in all our transactions we had to deal with the holy, heart-searching Lord God, we find quite another and an advanced stage in our journey, another and a deeper lesson learned in our school. This was the truth, and in this way Nehemiah was taught. “Howbeit you are just (holy) in all that is brought upon us; for you have done right, but we have done wickedly.”

Oh blessed acknowledgment! Do not think that we speak unfeelingly when we say, it were worth all the discipline you have ever passed through, to a have become more deeply schooled in the lesson of God’s holiness. One most fruitful cause of all our declensions from the Lord will be found wrapped up in the crude and superficial views which we entertain of the character of God, as a God of infinite purity. And this truth He will have His people to study and to learn, not by sermons, nor from books, not from hearsay, nor from theory, but in the school of loving chastisement—personally and experimentally. Thus beholding more closely, and through a clearer medium, this Divine perfection, the believer is changed more perfectly into the same moral image. “He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.”

The rod of the covenant has a wonderful power of discovery. Thus, by revealing to us the concealed evil of our natures, we become more holy. “The blueness (that is, the severity) of a wound cleanses away evil.” This painful discovery often recalls to memory past failings and sins. David went many years in oblivion of his departure from God, until Nathan was sent, who, while he told him of his sin, with the same breath announced the message of Divine forgiveness. Then it was the royal penitent kneeled down and poured forth from the depths of his anguished spirit the fifty-first Psalm—a portion of God’s word which you cannot too frequently study. “I do remember my sin this day,” is the exclamation of the chastened sufferer.

Thus led to search into the cause of the Divine correction, and discovering it—perhaps after a long season of forgetfulness—the “blueness of the wound,” the severity of the rod, “cleanses away the evil;” in other words, more deeply sanctifies the soul. “Show me why you contend with me.”

March 17: A Savior For A Tried People

In all their action he was afflicted. Isaiah 63:9

HERE is open the true and blessed source of comfort, in the hour and the circumstance of sorrow. The Lord’s people are a tried people—Jesus was a tried Savior. The Lord’s people are an afflicted people—Jesus drank deep of its bitter cup. The Lord’s people are a sorrowing family—Jesus was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He brought Himself down to a level with the circumstances of His people. He completely identified Himself with them.

We are not however to suppose that in every peculiarity of trial there is an identity with our dear Lord. There are trials growing out of peculiar circumstances and relations in life, to which He was a stranger. But Jesus took upon Him pure humanity in its suffering form, was deeply acquainted with sorrow as sorrow; and from these two circumstances, became fitted in all points to support, to sustain, and to sympathize with His afflicted, sorrowing people, whatever the cause of that affliction or sorrow was. It is enough for us that He was “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.” It is enough for us that His heart was composed of all the tenderness, sympathy, and gentleness of our nature, and that, too, freed from everything growing out of the infirmity of sin, that could weaken, and impair, and blunt His sensibilities. It is enough for us that sorrow was no stranger to His heart, that affliction had deeply furrowed His soul, and that grief had left its traces upon every line of His countenance.

What more do we require? What more can we ask? Our nature?—He took it. Our sicknesses?—He bore them. Our sorrows?—He felt them. Our crosses?—He carried them. Our sins?—He pardoned them. He went before His suffering people; trod out the path; left His foot-print; and now invites them to walk in no way, to sustain no sorrow, to bear no burden, and to drink no cup, in which He has not Himself gone before. It is enough for Him that you are a child of grief, that sorrow is the bitter cup you are drinking. He asks no more. A chord is in a moment touched in His heart, which vibrates to that touched in yours, whether its note be a pleasing or mournful one. For let it be ever remembered that Jesus has sympathy for the joys, as for the sorrows, of His people. He rejoices with those that rejoice, and He weeps with those that weep.

But how does Jesus sympathize? Not in the sense in which some may suppose—that when we weep He actually weeps, and that when we suffer He actually suffers. This may at one time have been so, but we no more know Christ in the flesh, as He was once known. Ah! there was a period when “Jesus wept”! There was a period when His heart was wrung with anguish, and when His body agonized in pain. That period is no more. There yet is a sense, and an important one, in which Jesus feels sympathy. When the believer suffers, the tenderness of Jesus is drawn forth. His sustaining strength, His sanctifying grace, His comforting love, are all unfolded in the experience of His child, while passing through the furnace. The Son of God is with him in the flames. Jesus of Nazareth is walking with him on the billows. He has the heart of Christ. And this is sympathy—this is fellowship—this is to be one with Christ Jesus.

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 2: Midnight Harmonies

Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. Psalm 42:8

SONGS in the night!—who can create them? Midnight harmony!—who can inspire it? God can, and God does. The “God of all consolation,” the “God who comforts those who are cast down;” the “God of hope,” who causes the “bright and morning star” to rise upon the dreary landscape; the “God of peace, who Himself gives peace, always and by all means;” even He, our Maker and Redeemer, gives songs in the night.

Music, at all times sweet, is the sweetest amid the sublimity of night. When in the solemn stillness that reigns—not a breath rustling the leaves, and Echo herself slumbers—when in the darkness that enshrouds, the thoughts that agitate, the gloomy phantoms that flit before the fancy like shadows dancing upon the wall, there breaks upon the wakeful ear the soft notes of skillfully touched instruments, blending with the melting tones of well—tuned voices, it is as though angels had come down to serenade and soothe the sad and jaded sons of earth. But there are songs richer, and there is music sweeter still than theirs—the songs which God gives, and the music which Jesus inspires, in the long dark night of the Christian’s pilgrimage.

A saint of God is, then, a happy man. He is often most so when others deem him most miserable. When they, gazing with pity upon his adversities and his burdens, and silently marking the conflict of thought and feeling passing within—compared with which external trial is but as the bubble floating upon the surface—deem him a fit object of their commiseration and sympathy, even then there is a hidden spring of joy, an under-current of peace, lying in the depths of the soul, which renders him, chastened and afflicted though he is, a happy and an enviable man.

“Blessed are those who mourn now, for they shall be comforted.”

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.”

Walking In Soul Darkness

Are you walking in soul-darkness, beloved? Is God hiding His face? Has Jesus suspended His sensible presence? and is this shadow, deep and dark, resting upon your spirit? Cheer up! It is not the darkness of unregeneracy, but the passing shadow of Christian life, and before long it will dissolve and vanish. Listen to the language of your covenant God and Father: “For a small moment have I forsaken you; but with great mercies will I gather you. In a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you, says the Lord.” The ‘small moment’ will before long pass, and the shadow will disappear- and the joyous language of your soul will be, “O God! You were angry with me; but Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.”

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The Tempestuous Seas Of The Christian Way

The believer’s path to glory is “through winds and storms and waves.” His spiritual life is, figuratively, a voyage- tempestuous seas his pathway, but heaven the port he will ultimately and surely reach. It is in the storm the voice of Jesus is now heard. Let us consider the disciples in their present condition as illustrating much of the spiritual history of the Christian.

The first spiritual storm he combats is, his earliest conviction of sin; and a blessed storm it is! The Holy Spirit like “a mighty rushing wind,” breathes over the soul, and the anxious cry of the Philippian jailer is heard, “What must I do to be saved?” Until now the soul has lived in all the quietness of spiritual insensibility. There has indeed been a calm, but it was the calm of death; peace, but the peace of the grave. The soul has been dead in trespasses and sins. But now there is a storm, an awakening, a resurrection from a death of sin. The law of God has been applied to the conscience, its holiness is seen, its condemnation is felt, and the soul cries out, “Lord, save, I perish!”

My reader, has this storm of sin’s conviction passed over you? Has it roused you from your deep, Jonah-like sleep? Has it driven you out of your lying refuges, your false pleas, and your fatal hope? Have you felt the vessel of your soul sinking amid the dark, surging waves of condemnation yawning to receive you? Spirit of the living God! blow upon the soul that it may live! Alarm the careless, awaken the sleeper, quicken the dead, and create such a tempest of sin’s conviction, as the voice of Jesus alone can still.

We do not assert that all conviction of sin, in its first stage, partakes of the same character. There is a diversity of operation in the Holy Spirit’s work. With some, the first storm of conviction is not so violent; it is more the soft, gentle breeze, breathing as from the sunny south. With others, it is the north wind that blows powerful and penetrating; but, in both cases it is the same Spirit that quickens, and both operations illustrate the mystery and sovereignty of divine grace.

The Tree of Life

June 9: Rest Ye Saints

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love.” John 15:9

What sweet repose is here for the saints of God. Does God rest in His love? then the believer in Jesus may rest in it too. Does Infinity, find repose here? then may a poor finite creature. Does Immanuel rest in it? then may I, resting in Immanuel. If it is enough for Jehovah, surely, it is enough for the people of Jehovah.

Our dear Lord’s exhortations harmonize with this truth, “Abide in me;” “Continue in my love.” Beloved reader, come and rest in this love- Jesus invites you to its blessed repose. Are you weary, tossed with tempest? Is there sadness in your spirit, sorrow in your heart, a cloud upon your mind? Is some crystal cistern broken, some fragrant flower withered, some fond and pleasant mercy gone? “Come,” says Jesus, “and rest in my love- rest in the reality of my love- rest in the depth of my love- rest in the tenderness of my love- rest in the deathlessness of my love.”

Oh blessed rest! Poor, heart-broken sinner, weeping penitent, weary, laboring soul! what do you need? Mercy? it is in Christ. Forgiveness? it is in Christ. Acceptance? it is in Christ. The silencing power of love? it is in Christ. A reconciled Father, a pacified God? He is in Christ. All that you need is in Christ.

Draw near, then, and rest in His love. The Father rests in Jesus, His justice rests in Jesus, His holiness rests in Jesus, His truth rests in Jesus, His power rests in Jesus- and in Jesus you too may rest! God rests in His love towards you, because He rests in the Son of His love. And in the Son of His love your weary, jaded, trembling spirit may find full and eternal repose. And whatever your present circumstances are, be the severity of your Father’s dealings what it may, ever remember that He still rests in His love.

Judging of Him by providences rather than by promises, your faith may become unhinged from this truth. But the standard by which you are to form your views of God’s character is the same by which you are to judge your own- His word. That word declares that He rests in His love, that He now rests in it, that He rests in it at the present time, and, therefore, He rests in it at the moment that His providences in your history are the darkest and most lowering.

When to your view all things seem against you- when even God himself seems against you- then is He resting with infinite satisfaction and delight in the love with which He has loved you from everlasting. And when all the mighty wheels of His providence are rapidly revolving, when event follows event, and convulsion succeeds convulsion- when your spirit is agitated, and your heart is alarmed, and your whole soul is awe-struck and appalled at the wonder-workings of His power, then is God calmly, serenely, resting in His love towards you, unmoved, unruffled, unbeclouded by the things which convulse the universe.