July 11: That We Would Bear Fruit

“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; You have chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn you me, and I shall be turned; for you are the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yes, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” Jeremiah 31:18, 19

The divine life in the soul of man is indestructible—it cannot perish; the seed that grace has implanted in the heart is incorruptible—it cannot be corrupted. So far from trials, and conflicts, and storms, and tempests impairing the principle of holiness in the soul, they do but deepen and strengthen it, and tend greatly to its growth. We look at Job; who of mere man was ever more keenly tried?—and yet, so far from destroying or even weakening the divine life within him, the severe discipline of the covenant, through which he passed, did but deepen and expand the root, bringing forth in richer clusters the blessed fruits of holiness. Do you think, dear reader, the divine life in his soul had undergone any change for the worse, when, as the result of God’s covenant dealings with him, he exclaimed—”I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sees You: why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes?” No, the pruning of the fruitful branch impairs not, but rather strengthens and renders more fruitful the principle of holiness in the soul.

It is the will of God that His people should be a fruitful people. “This is the will of God, even your sanctification,”—the sanctification of a believer including all fruitfulness. He will bring out His own work in the heart of His child; and never does He take His child in hand with a view of dealing with him according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, but that dealing results in a greater degree of spiritual fruitfulness. Now, when the Lord afflicts, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies the affliction of the believer, is not this again among the costly fruit of that discipline, that self has become more hateful? This God declared should be the result of His dealings with His, ancient people Israel, for their idolatry—”They shall loathe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.” And again—”Then shall you remember your ways, and all your doings wherein you have been defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight, for all your evils that you have committed.”

To loathe self on account of its sinfulness, to mortify it in all its forms, and to bring it entirely into subjection to the spirit of holiness, is, indeed, no small triumph of Divine grace in the soul, and no mean effect of the sanctified use of the Lord’s dispensations. That must ever be considered a costly mean that accomplished this blessed end. Beloved reader, is your covenant God and Father dealing with you now? Pray that this may be one blessed result, the abasement of self within you, the discovering of it to you in all its deformity, and its entire subjection to the cross of Jesus.

February 10: The Desire Of The Christian

To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if you continue in the faith grounded and settled. Colossians 1:22, 23.

NEXT to an ardent desire to be assured that he possesses the truth—the believer in Jesus will feel anxious for establishment in the truth. It will not suffice for him to know, upon evidence he may not gainsay, that he is a converted man; He will aim to be an advancing Christian.

Just to have touched the border of the Savior’s righteousness, and obtained the healing, will not satisfy his conscience; with a strong and growing faith he will strive to wrap the robe more closely around him, in that full assurance of his “acceptance in the Beloved,” of his “completeness in Christ,” which supplies the strongest incentive to a walk worthy of his heavenly calling.

The Christian’s faith includes not merely what we are to believe, but also what we are to practice. It embraces not only the doctrines of Christ, but equally the precepts and commandments of Christ. The true Christian desires to stand “complete in all the will of God.” No longer under a covenant of works, but under the law of Christ, He aspires to be an obedient disciple, manifesting his love to Jesus by observing the commands of Jesus. He needs Christ to be his King, as he needs Him to be his Priest; to govern him, as to atone for him; to sanctify, as to save him.

His faith is characterized by the apostle Jude as our “most holy faith.” Its nature is holy, its principle is holy, its actings are holy, its tendencies are holy, its fruits are holy. It seeks to “bring every thought into obedience to Christ;” nor will it cease its mighty work—opposed, thwarted, and foiled, though it be—until the soul it sanctifies takes its place “without fault before the throne,” perfected in the image of God and of the Lamb.

Establishment in the faith is a matter of great moment in the experience of a child of God. The relation of stability in the truth with progress in the Divine life, is the relation of cause and effect. It is impossible that there can be any progress of the inner life in connection with unsettledness and instability of opinion on the great points of the Christian faith. Hence the especial stress which the Spirit of truth has laid upon it. What says the Scripture? “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught.” “Now He which establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God.” “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established.”

Welcome all God’s dealings, as designed and as tending to build you up on your most holy faith, and thus advance the life of God in your soul. A hallowed possession of trial is a great mean of soul-advancement. Affliction is God’s school. Every true child of God has been placed in it. Every glorified saint has emerged from it. “Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of Your law.” Chastening—the school; instruction—the end. Humbling and painful though the process be, who, to secure such an end, would not meekly welcome the discipline?

November 3: Being Made Perfect

“But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10

There is a painful forgetfulness among many of the saints of God of the appointed path of believers through the world. It is forgotten that this path is to be one of tribulation; that so far from being a smooth, a flowery, and an easy path, it is rough, thorny, and difficult. The believer often expects all his heaven on earth. He forgets that whatever spiritual enjoyment there may be here, kindred in its nature to the joys of the glorified—and too much of this he cannot expect—yet the present is but the wilderness state of the church, and the life that now is, is but that of a pilgrimage and a sojourning.

Kind was our Lord’s admonition, “in the world you shall have tribulation:” and equally so that of the apostle, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom.” Affliction, in some of its many and varied forms, is the allotment of all the Lord’s people. If we have it not, we lack the evidence of our true sonship; for the Father “scourges every son whom he receives.” But whatever the trial or affliction is, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. And how does He comfort the afflicted soul? In this way.

He unfolds the love of his God and Father in the trial. He shows the believer that his sorrow, so far from being the result of anger, is the fruit of love; that it comes from the heart of God, sent to draw the soul nearer to Himself, and to unfold the depths of His own grace and tenderness; that whom he “loves He chastens.”

And, oh, how immense the comfort that flows into a wounded spirit, when love—deep, unchangeable, covenant love—is seen in the hand that has stricken; when the affliction is traced to the covenant, and through the covenant, to the heart of a covenant God.

The Spirit comforts by revealing the end why the affliction is sent. He convinces the believer that the discipline, though painful, was yet needed; that the world was, perhaps, making inroads upon the soul, or creature love was shutting out Jesus; some indulged sin was, perhaps, crucifying Him afresh, or some known spiritual duty was neglected. The Comforter opens his ears to hear the voice of the rod, and Him who had appointed it. He begins to see why the Lord has smitten, why He has caused His rough wind and His east wind to blow; why He has blasted, why He has wounded.

And now the Achan is discovered, cast out, and stoned. The heart, disciplined, returns from its wanderings, and, wounded, bleeding, suffering, seeks more earnestly than ever a wounded, bleeding, suffering Savior. Who can fully estimate the comfort which flows from the sanctified discipline of the covenant? When the end for which the trial was sent is accomplished, it may be in the discovery of some departure, in the removal of an obstruction to the growth of grace, of some object that obscured the glory of Jesus, and that suspended His visits of love to the soul,

“Blessed discipline,” he may exclaim, “that has wrought so much good—gentle chastisement, that has corrected so much evil—sweet medicine, that has produced so much health!”

September 17: The Word Of Christ

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” Colossians 3:16

The diligent and prayerful reading of God’s holy word is a great means of increasing and promoting spirituality of mind. This, we fear, is not an element in the Christianity of many. It defines a duty sadly and, to a great extent, totally neglected.

The tendency of the age is to substitute the writings of man for the Book of God. Let them come but with the robe of religion gracefully thrown around them, and whether they assume the form of history, or story, or song, they are devoured by the professing multitude, who would deem their true spirituality unquestionable! But the Divine life of the soul is not to be fed and nourished by the profound discoveries of science, or the recondite axioms of philosophy, or the brilliant flowers of genius, or the dreams of a poetical imagination. It ascends to a higher and a diviner source; it aspires towards the nourishments of its native climate.

The bread that comes down from heaven, and the water that flows, pure as crystal, from beneath the throne of God and the Lamb, can alone feed, and nourish, and refresh this hidden principle. Jesus is its sustenance; and the gospel, as it unfolds Him in His glory and grace, is the spiritual granary from where its daily food is drawn. To this it repairs, oftentimes pressed with hunger, or panting with thirst, weary and exhausted, drooping and faint, and it finds its doctrines and its precepts, its promises and its admonitions, its exhortations and revelations, a “a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.”

And thus refreshed and satisfied, the grateful soul adoringly exclaims, “Your words were found, and I did eat them; and Your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” Truly did Jesus testify, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you;” evidently and solemnly implying, that if there exists no appetite for spiritual food, there is lacking the great evidence of the life of God in the soul. A mere semblance of life, an informed judgment, a “fair show” of religion “in the flesh,” can content itself with anything short of the spiritual aliment contained in God’s word.

But the Divine life of a quickened soul, while it disdains no auxiliary to its spiritual advance, can yet feed on nothing but Divine food. The “flesh and the blood of Immanuel can alone meet and satiate its hungering and thirsting. It is from heaven, and its supply must be heavenly; it is from God, and its nourishment must be Divine. Jesus, and Jesus alone, received into the heart, rested in, and lived upon by faith, is the food of a believing man. Nothing but Christ—”Christ all” in Himself, and Christ “in all,” means “in all” ordinances, “in all” channels, “in all” seasons, sustains a soul whose “life is hid with Christ in God.”

Dear reader, do you see the importance and feel the solemnity of this truth? Oh, it is a great and solemn one! Except by faith you “eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, you have no life in you!” Nothing short of Christ—Christ’s righteousness, Christ’s atonement, Christ’s flesh and blood, Christ in us, Christ without us, Christ risen, Christ alive at the right hand of God, yes, “Christ all and in all”—can meet the deep, immortal necessities of your soul. You need all that Christ is in the matter of pardon, and justification, and sanctification, and wisdom, and redemption.

If anything less than Jesus had sufficed, if an expedient less magnificent, or if an expenditure less costly, had answered for God and man, then less would save you. But since the incarnate God alone is the Savior of a poor, lost sinner, see that you detract not from, or add to, this salvation by any works of human merit.

Be exhorted, then, to an intimate acquaintance with God’s holy word, as supplying a powerful help to the progress of the soul in deep spirituality. And if your time for reading is limited, limit it to one book, and let that one book be—the BIBLE. Let it be the companion of your hours of solitude; the solace in your seasons of sorrow; the store-house in all your necessities; the man of your counsel in all your doubts and perplexities. Then will your blessed experience resemble that of the psalmist: “Your word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against You. This is my comfort in my affliction: for Your word has quickened me. Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I rejoice at Your word, as one that finds great spoil.”

August 16: Now Called To Go Low

“Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2

Is it true that God, by setting you aside from active engagements, has set you aside from all duty and labor? We do not think so. Is it too much to say, that He is now summoning you, though to a more limited and obscure, yet to a higher and holier, because more self-denying and God-glorifying, sphere of duty?

Your present loss of health has brought with it its high and appropriate duties, obligations, and employments. It bears an especial message from God to you, and through you to others. Contemplate the work to be done in your own soul, and the testimony through this which you are to bear to the power of Divine grace, to the sustaining energy of the Gospel, and to the character of God; and I ask if the lone chamber of sickness has not its special and appropriate duties, responsibilities, and work, equally as difficult, as honorable, and as remunerative as any which attach to the sphere of activity or to the season of health?

You are called upon now to glorify God in a passive, rather than in an active consecration to His service. Graces hitherto perhaps dormant, or but feebly brought into play, are now to be developed and exercised to their utmost capacity. Patience is to be cultivated, resignation is to be exhibited, faith is to be exercised, love is to be tried, and example is to be set; and are not these great, holy, and sublime achievements? Who will affirm that there is no sermon to be preached from that languid couch, that sick-bed; yes, and it may be more solemn, more searching, more full of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, than the pulpit ever preached.

The Church and the world have now the testimony of one passing through the present and personal experience of what he speaks. A sick-room is not the place for theorizing upon truth and eternity. All transpiring there is stern reality. The dust of human applause is laid aside, the breath of adulation is hushed, the flush of excitement has faded, and the delirium of an admiring throng has passed away; the artificial gives place to the true. All is as real and solemn as eternity.

Deem not yourself a useless cumberer, because sickness has incapacitated you for active labor. God has but changed your sphere of duty, transferring you, doubtless, to one more glorifying to Himself. Receive, then, with meekness your Heavenly Father’s dispensation, which, while it has set you apart from the Lord’s work, has set you apart more exclusively and entirely for the Lord Himself. Your great desire has been to glorify Him: leave Him to select the means which may best advance it.

You have thought of health and activity, of life and usefulness; of being a champion for the truth, a herald of salvation to the ignorant and the lost, a leader in some high and laborious path of Christian enterprise; but He has ordained it otherwise. And now by sickness and suffering, by silence and solitude, He is giving you other work to perform, which shall not the less secure your usefulness, and promote His glory.

June 11: Press Onward

“Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.” Hosea 6:3

True faith in God supposes him reconciled in Christ. This is the ground-work of all holy, humble converse with God. But here we must be cautious of placing a limit, as too many do.

It is a great display of sovereign grace that we should have peace with God. God reconciled to us in Jesus is, of all divine and experimental truths, the greatest. Until this is experienced, we can affirm of no individual that he is safe for eternity. Yet, alas! what numbers reject this truth, and still dream on of heaven!

But, great as is this grace, it is not less our mercy to be advancing, on the ground of assured peace, to more matured attainments in universal holiness. We are, at best, but dull scholars in the science of spiritual arithmetic. We have imperfectly learned one of its first rules, that of adding grace to grace. “Giving all diligence,” exhorts the apostle, “add to your faith virtue,” etc.

Peace through the atoning blood being obtained, the movement is to be progressive, the course onward; each day, if possible, augmenting the measure of our grace, and adding to the number of the Spirit’s graces.

Reconciliation with God is but the starting-post in the divine life, not the finish-line; it is the commencement, and not the end, of our course. In other words, vast numbers rest in their first reception of Christ. They are hopefully converted, they unite themselves with a particular section of the Church of God, and settle down under an attached ministry. But here they seem to abide. There is no advance, no progress, no forgetting of the things that are behind, pressing upwards to higher rounds in the glorious ladder, which a gracious Father has let down out of heaven, by which we may ascend to heaven.

Content with having placed the foot upon the first step, there they remain. There is no “following on to know the Lord.” And yet why has the Lord removed the burden from the shoulder, but that we might mount upward? Why has He broken the chains from our feet, but that we may go forward? Thus are we constantly forgetting that the cross is our starting-point in our race, and yet ever to be kept in view- while holiness, breathed after upon earth, and in some blessed degree attained, but perfected in heaven, is our bright and certain goal.

May 25: Growth In Grace

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

There is an idea fatal to all true sanctification, which some believers, especially those who are young in experience, are prone to entertain- that nothing is to be done in the soul after a man has believed, that the work of conversion having taken place, all is accomplished. So far from this being the case, he has but just entered upon the work of sanctification- just started in the race, just buckled on the armor.

The conflict can hardly be said to have begun in conversion; and, therefore, to rest composed with the idea that the soul has nothing more to do than to accept of Christ as his salvation- that there are no corruptions to subdue- no sinful habits to cut off no long-existing and deeply imbedded sins to mortify, root and branch- and no high and yet higher degrees in holiness to attain, is to form a most contracted view of the Christian life- such a view as, if persisted in, must necessarily prove detrimental to the spiritual advance of the believer.

The work of sanctification, beloved, is a great and a daily work. It commences at the very moment of our translation into the kingdom of Christ on earth, and ceases not until the moment of our translation into the kingdom of God in heaven. The notion, so fondly cherished by some, of perfect sinlessness here, is as fatal to true sanctification as it is contrary to God’s word. They know but little of their own heart, who do not know that sin, in the language of Owen, “not only still abides in us, but is still acting, still laboring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh;”- who do not know that in their “flesh there dwells no good thing,” that “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and will retain its fleshly nature and propensities to the very last.

Let us not exult “as though we had already attained, or were already perfect,”- let us not be “ignorant of Satan’s devices,” one of which is to build us up in the belief that, in the present life, a man may cease from the work of mortification. The Lord keep the reader from cherishing so erroneous an idea. The work of sanctification is the work of a man’s life. “When sin lets us alone (as has been remarked), we may let sin alone.” But when is the day, yes, when is the hour, that sin does not strive for the mastery, and in which the believer can say he has completely slain his enemy?

He may “through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body,” and if he does, “he shall live;” but, as the heart is the natural and luxuriant soil of every noxious weed of sin, and as another springs up as soon as one is cut down, yes, as the same root appears again above the surface, with new life and vigor, it requires a ceaseless care and vigilance, a perpetual mortification of sin in the body, until we throw off this cumbrous clay, and go where sin is known no more.

May 11: Through To Journey’s End

“Being confident of this very thing, that he, which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

The doctrine of the Spirit’s personal dignity affords a pledge that the work thus commenced shall be carried forward to a final and glorious completion. Because He is God, He will finish what He has begun. And let it not be forgotten, that the growth of the believer in the experience of the truth is as much the work of the eternal Spirit as was the first production of divine life in the soul.

The dependence of the believer on the Spirit by no means ceases in conversion. There are after-stages along which it is his office to conduct the believing soul. Deeper views of sin’s exceeding sinfulness- a more thorough knowledge of self, more enlarged discoveries of Christ- a more simple and habitual resting upon His finished work, increasing conformity to the Divine image- the daily victory over indwelling sin, and a constant fitting for the inheritance of the saints in light- all these works the one and the self-same Spirit, who first breathed into his soul the breath of spiritual life.

Not a step can the believer advance without the Spirit- not a victory can he achieve without the Spirit- not a moment can he exist without the Spirit. As he needed Him at the first, so he needs Him all his journey through. And so he will have Him, until the soul passes over Jordan. To the last ebbing of life, the blessed Spirit will be his Teacher, his Comforter, and his Guide. To the last, He will testify of Jesus; to the last, He will apply the atoning blood; and to the very entrance of the happy saint into glory, the eternal Spirit of God- faithful, loving to the last- will be present to whisper words of pardon, assurance, and peace.

Holy Spirit! build us up in the infinite dignity of Your person, and in the surpassing greatness and glory of Your work!

September 26

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor not, I will spue you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16

OF all spiritual states, lukewarmness is most abhorrent to God, and grieving to the Holy Spirit; and thus has God declared His utter detestation of this state. And yet, who contemplates it in this awful light? who pauses to examine himself, to ascertain what real progress his soul is making—what grace is enfeebled—what part of the Spirit’s work is decayed—what spot of his soul is barren and unfruitful, and how far he is secretly and effectually grieving the Holy Spirit by a known, allowed, and cherished state of spiritual declension? If, after all his skill, it must be affecting to the architect to witness the decay of his building—if so to the parent, after his costly expenditure of means in education, to witness the fond hopes he cherished of his child blasted—how infinitely more is the Spirit affected and grieved to behold the temple He had erected at such a cost falling to decay; the soul He had taught with such care and solicitude receding into a state of coldness and formality in its spiritual duties and affections! “The heart of the Spirit,” beautifully remarks Dr. Owen, “is infinitely more tender towards us than that of the most affectionate parent can be towards an only child. And when He with cost and care has nourished and brought us up into some growth and progress in spiritual affections, wherein all His concerns in us do lie, for us to grow cold, dull, earthly-minded, to cleave unto the pleasures and lusts of this world, how is He grieved, how is He provoked!” See, then, that your spiritual state is such as occasions joy rather than grief to the Holy Spirit of God. Nothing can fill His loving heart with greater and more holy delight than to witness the deepening character and expanding influence of His own work in the believer. To behold the glimmering light, which He created, “shining more and more,”—the gentle plant emitting its fragrance, and putting forth its fruit—the well-spring in the heart rising heavenward, God-ward—such a picture must be grateful to the Spirit. If the enthroned Redeemer looks down with satisfaction upon the travail of His soul in the calling in of His redeemed, equally joyous must it be to the Eternal Spirit to behold the widening of His kingdom in the saints—the maturing of the soul for the inheritance and the companionship of “just men made perfect.” To mark a growing conformity to the image of Christ—holiness expanding its root—each grace in active exercise—every weight cast aside—every sin mortified, and the whole body, soul, and spirit a rising temple to God, must indeed fill all heaven with joy. Christian reader, see well to your state, that the Holy Spirit of God is not grieved at any known and cherished declension of His work in the soul.