July 4: A Stupendous Work

“It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63

The Spirit of God undertakes the achievement of a stupendous work. He enters the soul, and proposes to restore the empire of grace, the reign of holiness, and the throne of God. He engages to form all things anew; to create a revolution in favor of Christ and of heaven. He undertakes to change the heart, turning its enmity into love; to collect all the elements of darkness and confusion, educing from them perfect light and perfect order; to subdue the will, bringing it into harmony with God’s will; to explore all the recesses of sin, turning its very impurity into holiness; in a word, to regenerate the soul, restoring the Divine image, and fitting it for the full and eternal enjoyment of God in glory.

Now, in accomplishing this great work, what instrumentality does He employ? Passing by all human philosophy, and pouring contempt upon the profoundest wisdom and the mightiest power of man, He employs, in the production of a work in comparison with which the rise and the fall of empires were as infants’ play, simply and alone, the “truth as it is in Jesus.” With this instrument He enters the soul—the seat of the greatest revolution that ever transpired. He moves over the dark chaos, without form and void, and in a moment a world of immortal beauty bursts into view. He overshadows the soul, and a vital principle is imparted, whose stream of existence, once commenced, flows on with the eternity of God Himself. How divine, yet how natural, too, the process! In the lapses of human thought, in the overtasked powers of the human intellect, how often is the mind impaired and shattered by the severe process through which it passes!

But here is a revolution which touches every faculty of the soul, which changes all the powers of the mind; and yet, so gentle, so persuasive, and so mild, is the Spirit’s operation, that, so far from deranging the power or disturbing the balance of the intellect, it develops resources, awakens energies, and inspires strength, of which until now it knew not its possession. “The entrance of Your word gives light; it gives understanding unto the simple.”

And to what shall we turn for the secret of this? To the gospel, so replete with the glory of Jesus—that gospel, the substance of which is the incarnate God; the theme of which is Christ crucified—that gospel which testifies of His Godhead, which declares His manhood, which unfolds the union of both in the person of a glorious Redeemer; and which holds Him up to view, mighty, and willing to save to the uttermost.

Oh, how sanctifying and comforting is the truth which testifies of Jesus! It has but to point to Him, and, clothed with the energy of the Spirit, the strongest corruption is subdued, the deepest grief is soothed. Of what value or efficacy is all our knowledge of the truth, if it lead us not to Jesus; if it expand not our views of His glory; if it conform not our minds to His image; if it increase not our love to His person, and if it quicken not our obedience to His commands, and our zeal for His cause; and mature us not, by a progressive holiness, for the enjoyment of His beatific presence?

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September 27: Trials Of Faith

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusts in you: yes, in the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performs all things for me.” Psalm 57:1, 2

The exercise of faith strengthens, as the neglect to exercise, weakens it. It is the constant play of the arm that brings out its muscular power in all its fullness; were that arm allowed to hang by its own side, still and motionless, how soon would its sinews contract, and its energy waste away! So it is with faith, the right arm of a believer’s strength; the more it is exercised, the mightier it becomes; neglect to use it, allow it to remain inert and inoperative, and the effect will be a withering up of its power.

Now when gloomy providences, and sharp trials and temptations, thicken around a poor believing soul, then is it the time for faith to put on its strength, and come forth to the battle. God never places His child in any difficulties, or throws upon him any cross, but it is a call to exercise faith; and if the opportunity of its exercise passes away without improvement, the effect will be a weakening of the principle, and a feeble putting forth of its power in the succeeding trial. Do not forget, that the more faith is brought into play, the more it increases; the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes.

Some of the choicest mercies of the covenant brought into the experience of the believer, come by a travail of faith: it maybe a tedious and a painful process; faith may be long and sharply tried, yet the blessings it will bring forth will more than repay for all the weeping, and suffering, and crying, it has occasioned.

Do not be surprised, then, at any severe trial of faith; be sure that when it is thus tried, God is about to bring your soul into the possession of some great and perhaps hitherto unexperienced mercy. It may be a travail of faith for spiritual blessing; and the result may be a deepening of the work in your heart, increase of spirituality, more weanedness from creature-trust, and more child-like leaning upon the Lord; more simple, close, and sanctifying knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

Or, it may be a travail of faith for temporal mercy, for the supply of some need, the rescue from some embarrassment, the deliverance out of some peculiar and trying difficulty; but whatever the character of the trial of faith be, the issue is always certain and glorious. The Lord may bring His child into difficult and strait paths, He may hedge him about with thorns so that he cannot get out, but it is only to draw the soul more simply to repose in Himself; that, in the extremity, when no creature would or could help, when refuge failed, and no man cared for his soul, that then faith should go out and rest itself in Him who never disowns His own work, but always honors the feeblest exhibition, and turns His ear to the faintest cry. “Out of the depths have I cried unto You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice; let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.” “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears.” “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him; and saved him out of all his troubles.” Here was the severe travail of faith, and here we see the blessed result. Thus true is God’s word, which declares that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

The trial of faith is a test of its degree. We know not what faith we possess, until the Lord calls it into exercise; we may be greatly deceived as to its nature and degree; to walk upon the stormy water may be thought by us an easy thing; to witness for Christ, no hard matter: but the Lord brings our faith to the test. He bids us come to Him upon the water, and then we begin to sink; He suffers us to be assailed by our enemies, and we shrink from the cross; He puts our faith to the trial, and then we learn how little we possess.

October 19

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” Isaiah 50:4

THE Lord Jesus gives His people the tongue of the learned, the they may sometimes speak a word in season to His weary ones. Have you not a word for Christ? May you not go to that tried believer in sickness, in poverty, in adversity, or in prison, and tell of the balm that has often healed your spirit, and of the cordial that has often cheered your heart? “A word spoken in due season, how good is it!” A text quoted, a sentiment repeated, an observation made, a hint dropped, a kind caution suggested, a gentle rebuke given, a tender admonition left—oh! the blessing that has flowed from it! It was a word spoken in season! Say not with Moses, “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue;” or with Jeremiah, “Ah! Lord God! behold, I cannot speak; for I am a child.” Hear the answer of the Lord: “Who has made man’s mouth? have not I, the Lord? Now therefore go: I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall say.” And oh! how frequently and effectually does the Lord speak to His weary ones, even through the weary. All, perhaps, was conflict within, and darkness without; but one word falling from the lips of a man of God has been the voice of God to the soul. And what an honor conferred, thus to be the channel conveying consolation from the loving heart of the Father to the disconsolate heart of the child! to go and smooth a ruffled pillow, lift the pressure from off a burdened spirit, and light up the gloomy chamber of sorrow, of sickness, and of death, as with the first dawnings of the coming glory! Go, Christian reader, and ask the Lord so to clothe your tongue with holy, heavenly eloquence, that you may know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. Ah! it is impossible to speak of the preciousness of Christ to another, and not, while we speak, feel Him precious to our own souls. It is impossible to lead another to the cross, and not find ourselves overshadowed by its glory. It is impossible to establish another in the being, character, and truth of God, and not feel our own minds fortified and confirmed. It is impossible to quote the promises and unfold the consolations of the gospel to another, and not be sensible of a tranquillizing and soothing influence stealing softly over our own hearts. It is impossible to break the alabaster box, and not fill the house with the odor of the ointment.

In contending for the faith, remember that the Lord Jesus can give you the tongue of the learned. Listen to His promises—”I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” Thus the most unlearned and the most weak may be so deeply taught, and be so skillfully armed in Christ’s school, as to be able valiantly to defend and successfully to preach the truth, putting to “silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

September 19

“And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” 1 Samuel 23:16

The Lord’s vineyard is a large one, and the departments of labor are many and varied. And if, in this world of activity—where so many agencies, evil and good, are at work, where so many influences, for weal and for woe, are in constant and untiring operation—there is one class which demands our warmest interest, our most fervent prayers, and our most affectionate sympathy and support, it is those who are actively and devotedly employed in the kingdom and service of Jesus. It is needless to enumerate or specify them: those who are preaching Christ’s gospel; those who are teaching the little ones; those who are instructing and training the young about to enter upon life; those who disseminate God’s holy word, and promote religious literature; those who visit the sick and the dying, the stranger, and the prisoner, and especial and strong claims upon our Christian sympathy. A little expression of kind interest in their self-denying labors, oh, how often has it inspirited, cheered, and encouraged them! What a privilege to repair to the scene of their toil, anxiety, and discouragement, and by a visit, a word, a donation, “strengthen their hand in God”—that hand often so feeble, tremulous, and ready to fall. And is there not a lamentable lack of sympathy for the Christian missionary? Who so much demands, and who so worthy of the support, the prayers, the sympathy of the Christian Church, as those who are her messengers and almoners to the far distant heathen? How much do they need that by our petitions, our zealous cooperation, and our consecrated substance, we strengthen their hand in God! Let us, then, cheer all Christ’s true laborers, remembering that thus, indirectly, we are urging forward His truth and kingdom in the world. Nor let us withhold our sympathy from any case of sorrow, Christian effort, or individual labor, on the plea that its expression and its source are feeble, uncostly, and obscure. Ah! from many a darkened chamber, from many a sleepless pillow, from many a couch of languor, there has gone up the secret, silent, but fervent and believing wrestle with the Angel of the covenant in behalf of some Christian laborer, or some Christian enterprise, that has brought down from heaven the grace and might, and smile of Omnipotence, to support, strengthen, and bless. Thus sympathy has its home in every holy heart and in every lowly dwelling; and there is no individual, however straitened by poverty, or veiled by obscurity, oppressed by trial, or enfeebled by sickness, form the altar of whose heart there my not ascent the sweetest, holiest, most precious and powerful of all human offerings—the offering and the incense of a true and prayerful sympathy.