July 12: By The Grace Of God

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

We should be always careful to distinguish between the denial of self and the denial of the life of God within us. The most entire renunciation of ourselves, the most humiliating acknowledgment of our personal unworthiness, may harmonize with the strongest assurance and profession of Christ living in us.

Self-denial does not necessarily involve grace-denial. It is the profoundest act of humility in a Christian man to acknowledge the grace of God in his soul. Never is there so real a crucifixion, never so entire a renunciation of self, as when the heart, in its lowly but deep and grateful throbbings, acknowledges its indebtedness to sovereign grace, and in the fervor of its adoring love, summons the whole Church to listen to its recital of the great things God has done for it–”Come and hear, all you that fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul.” Oh yes! it is a self-denying life.

Listen to Job–”I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Listen to Isaiah–”Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Listen to the penitent publican–”God be merciful to me a sinner!” Listen again to Paul–”I live, yet not I.” Thus does a sense of sin, and a believing sight of Christ, lay the soul low before God in self-renunciation and self-abhorrence.

Judge your spiritual condition, dear reader, by this characteristic of the inner life. Is it yours? Has there been this renunciation of your sinful self and of your righteous self? Has the Spirit of God emptied you? has the grace of God humbled you? has the life of God crucified you? Are you as one in whom Christ lives, walking humbly with God!

Oh, it is the essence of vital godliness, it is the very life of true religion. If Christ is living in you, you are a humble soul. Pride never existed in the heart of Christ. His whole life was one act of the profoundest self-abasement. In the truest and in the fullest sense of the emphatic declaration, “He humbled Himself.” It is impossible, then, that He who was thus “meek and lowly in heart,” can dwell in one whom “pride compasses as a chain.” “I live, yet not I,” are two states of the renewed soul, as inseparable as any cause and effect.

A humble and a self-denying Christ dwells only with a humble and a self-denying soul. If your gifts inflate you, if your position exalts you, if your usefulness engenders pride, if the honor and distinction which God or man has placed upon you has turned you aside from the simplicity of your walk, and set you upon the work of self-seeking, self-advancing, so that you are not meek and gentle, child-like, and Christ-like in spirit, be sure of this–you are either not a partaker of the life of Christ, or else that life is at a low ebb in your soul.

Which of the two, do you think, is your real state?

August 28

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

You feel yourself to be the very chief of sinners. You seem to stand out from the great mass, a lone and solitary being; more vile, polluted, guilty, and lost than all. Your sentiments in reference to yourself, to the world, to sin, to God, and to Christ, have undergone a rapid, total, and surprising change. Yourself you see to be guilty and condemned; the world you feel to be a worthless portion, a cheat, and a lie; sin you see to be the blackest and most hateful of all other things; God you regard in a light of holiness, justice, and truth you never did before; and Christ, as possessing an interest entirely new and overpowering. Your views in relation to the law of God are reversed. You now see it to be immaculately holy, strictly just, infinitely wise. Your best attempts to obey its precepts you now see are not only utterly powerless, but in themselves are so polluted by sin that you cannot look at them without the deepest self-loathing. The justice of God shines with a glory unseen and unknown before. You feel that in now bringing the condemnatory sentence of the law into your conscience He is strictly holy, and were He now to send you to eternal woe He would be strictly just.

But ah! what seems to form the greatest burden? What is that which is more bitter to you than wormwood or gall? Oh, it is the thought that ever you should have lifted your arm of rebellion against so good, so holy, so just a God as He is. That ever you should have cherished one treasonous thought, or harbored one unkind feeling. That your whole life, thus far, should have been spent in bitter hostility to Him, His law, His Son, His people; and that yet in the midst of it, yes, all day long, He has stretched out His hand to you, and you did not regard it!

Oh, the guilt that rests upon your conscience! Oh, the burden that presses your soul! Oh, the sorrow that wrings your heart! Oh, the pang that wounds your spirit! Is there a posture of lowliness more lowly than all others? You would assume it. Is there a place in the dust more humiliating than all others? You would lie in it. And now you are looking wistfully around you for a refuge, a resting-place, a balm, a quietness for the tossing of the soul.

Beloved, is this your real state? Are these your true feelings? Blessed are you of the Lord! “Blessed, do you say?” Yes! Those tears are blessed! Those humbling, lowly views are blessed! That broken heart, that contrite spirit, that awakened, convinced, and wounded conscience, even with all its guilt, is blessed! Why? because the Spirit, who convinces men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, has entered your soul, and wrought this change in you. He has opened your eyes, to see yourself lost and wretched. He has broken the spell which the world had woven round you. He has dissolved the enchantment, discovered the delusion, and made you to feel the powers of the world to come. Then you are blessed.