October 23: The First Works

“Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” Revelation 2:5

Let the backsliding believer be brought to this first step. “Remember from where you are fallen”—revert to your past history, your former spiritual state—remember your first sorrow for sin, the first joy of its pardon—remember the spring-tide of your first love—how precious Jesus was, how glorious was His person, how sweet was His cross, how fragrant was His name, how rich was His grace—remember how dear to you was the throne of grace, how frequently you resorted to it, regarding it of all spots on earth the most blessed—remember how, under the anointings of adopting love, you walked with God as with a Father—how filial, how close, how holy was your communion with Him—remember the seasons of refreshing in the sanctuary, in the social meeting, in the closet; how your soul did seem to dwell on the sunny sides of glory, and you longed for the wings of a dove that you might fly to your Lord; remember how, publicly and before many witnesses, you put off sin and put on Christ, and; turning your back upon the world, took your place among the followers of the Lamb—remember how holy, and circumspect, and spotless your walk, how tender was your conscience, how guileless was your spirit, how humble and lovely your whole deportment.

But what and where are you now? Oh, remember from where you are fallen! Think from what a high profession, from what an elevated walk, from what holy employments, from what hallowed joys, from what sweet delights, and from what pleasant ways have you declined!

But in the exhortation given to the backsliding church at Ephesus, there is yet another instruction equally applicable to the case of all wanderers from the Lord: “Repent, and do the first works.” How can a departing soul return without repentance? by what other avenue can the prodigal reach his Father’s heart?

Repentance implies the existence and conviction of sin. Ah! is it no sin, beloved reader, to have turned your back upon God? is it no sin to have lost your first love, to have backslidden from Jesus, to have transferred your affections from Him to the world, or to the creature, or to yourself? is it no sin to go no more with the Shepherd, and to follow no more the footsteps of the flock, and to feed no more in the green pastures, or repose by the side of the still waters?

Oh yes! it is a sin of peculiar magnitude; it is a sin against God in the character of a loving Father, against Jesus in the character of a tender Redeemer, against the Holy Spirit in the character of a faithful Indweller and a Sanctifier; it is a sin against the most precious experience of His grace, against the most melting exhibitions of His love, and against the most tender proofs of His covenant faithfulness.

Repent, then, of this your sin. Think how you have wounded Jesus afresh, and repent; think how you have requited your Father’s love, and repent; think how you have grieved the Spirit, and repent. Humble yourself in dust and ashes before the cross, and through that cross look up again to your forgiving God and Father. The sweet promise is, “They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son.”

Advertisements

October 12: Flee To The Crucified

“Then Jesus spoke again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

Are you, my reader, a searcher of this life? Are you breathing for it, panting after it, seeking it? Then be it known to you, that He who inspired that desire is Himself the life for which you seek.

That heaving of your heart, that yearning of your spirit, that “feeling after God, if haply you may find Him,” is the first gentle pulsation of a life that shall never die. Feeble and fluctuating, faint and fluttering, as its throbbings may be, it is yet the life of God, the life of Christ, the life of glory in your soul. It is the seedling, the germ of immortal flower; it is the sunshine dawn of an eternal day.

The announcement with which we meet your case—and it is the only one that can meet it—is, “THIS MAN RECEIVES SINNERS.” Oh joyful tidings! Oh blessed words! Yes, he receives sinners—the vilest—the meanest—the most despised! It was for this He relinquished the abodes of heavenly purity and bliss, to mingle amid the sinful and humiliating scenes of earth. For this He quitted His Father’s bosom for a cross. For this He lived and labored, suffered and died. “He receives sinners!” He receives them of every name and condition—of every stature and character and climate.

There is no limit to His ability to pardon, as there is none to the sufficiency of His atonement, or to the melting pity of His heart. Flee, then, to Jesus the crucified. To Him repair with your sins, as scarlet and as crimson, and His blood will wash you whiter than snow. What though they may be as clouds for darkness, or as the sand on the sea-shore for multitude; His grace can take them all away. Come with the accusations and tortures of a guilty conscience, come with the sorrow and relentings of a broken heart, come with the grief of the backslider, and with the confession of the prodigal; Jesus still meets you with the hope-inspiring words—”Him that comes unto me, I will in no wise cast out.”

Then, “return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon you; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon!”

July 31: The Idol Of Self

“Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.” Psalm 131:2

The first object from which our heavenly Father weans His child is self. Of all idols, he finds self the hardest to abandon. When man in Paradise aspired to be as God, God was dethroned from his soul, and the creature became as a deity to itself. From that moment, the idolatry of self has been the great and universal crime of our race, and will continue to be until Christ comes to restore all things.

In the soul of the regenerate, Divine grace has done much to dethrone this idol, and to reinstate God. The work, however, is but partially accomplished. The dishonored and rejected rival is not eager to relinquish his throne, and yield to the supreme control and sway of another. There is much yet to be achieved before this still indwelling and unconquered foe lays down his weapons in entire subjection to the will and the authority of that Savior, whose throne and rights he has usurped.

Thus, much still lingers in the heart which the Spirit has renewed and inhabits, of self-esteem, self-confidence, self-seeking, and self-love. From all this our Father seeks to wean us.

From our own wisdom, which is but folly; from our own strength, which is but weakness; from our own wills, which are often as an uncurbed steed; from our own ways, which are crooked; from our own hearts, which are deceitful; from our own judgments, which are dark; from our own ends, which are narrow and selfish, He would wean and detach us, that our souls may get more and more back to their original center of repose–God Himself.

In view of this mournful exhibition of fallen and corrupt self, how necessary the discipline of our heavenly Father that extorts from us the Psalmist’s language, “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of this mother”!

Self did seem to be our mother–the fruitful parent of so much in our plans and aims and spirit that was dishonoring to our God. From this He would gently and tenderly, but effectually, wean us, that we may learn to rely upon His wisdom, to repose in His strength, to consult His honor, and to seek His glory and smile, supremely and alone.

And oh! how effectually is this blessed state attained when God, by setting us aside in the season of solitude and sorrow, teaches us that He can do without us. We perhaps thought that our rank, or our talents, or our influence, or our very presence were essential to the advancement of His cause, and that some parts of it could not proceed without us! The Lord knew otherwise.

And so He laid His hand upon us, and withdrew us from the scene of our labors and duties, engagements and ambition, that He might hide pride from our hearts–the pride of self-importance. And oh, is it no mighty attainment in the Christian life to be thus weaned from ourselves!

Beloved, it forms the root of all other blessing. The moment we learn to cease from ourselves–from our own wisdom, and power, and importance–the Lord appears and takes us up. Then His wisdom is displayed, His power is put forth, His glory is developed, and His great name gets to itself all the praise. It was not until God had placed Moses in the cleft of the rock, that His glory passed by. Moses must be hid, that God might be all.

July 24: Revive Me

“Revive me.” Psalm 119:25

This prayer implies what, alas! is so needful in many, a revival of soul. It is a putting of the Lord’s hand a second time to the work of grace in the heart. “When you are converted,” said our Lord to Peter, “strengthen your brethren.” What! had not Peter already been converted? Most truly. But; although a regenerate man, he had so relapsed in grace as to need a re-conversion. Our Lord’s meaning, then, obviously is, “When you are restored, recovered, re-quickened, then strengthen your brethren.” How many religious professors stand in need of a fresh baptism (filling) of the Holy Spirit!

You, perhaps, my reader, are one. Where is the spiritual vigor you once displayed? where the spiritual joy you once possessed? where the unclouded hope you once indulged? where the humble walk with God you once maintained? where the fragrance that once breathed around you? Alas! your soul cleaves to the dust; and you need the re-converting grace, the renewed baptism (filling) of the Spirit. “Revive me” is your prayer.

A clearer manifestation of Divine life in the soul is not the least blessing contained in this prayer for quickening. How little realization enters into the religion of many! There is the full credence of the judgment to the truth; a conversing about religion, the ministry, and the Church. But where is felt the realizing power, the earth-fading, heaven-attracting power, of vital godliness into the soul? Dear reader, the hour that will bring your religious profession, your religious creed, your religious notions, to the test, is at hand; and the great question in that awful moment will be, “Am I ready to die?–have I in my soul the life of God?–am I born of the Spirit?–have I a living Christ in my now failing, dying heart?”

But what a prayer is this in view of a scene and a scrutiny so solemn: “Revive me, Lord, quicken Your work in my soul, and strengthen that which You have wrought in me. The love that congeals, the faith that trembles, the hope that fluctuates, the joy that droops; inspire with new life, new energy, new power! It is of little moment what others think of me; Lord, You know my soul cleaves to the dust. There is in my heart more of earth than of heaven; more of self than of Christ; more of the creature than of God. You know me in secret–how my grace wanes, how my affections chill, how seldom my closet is visited, how much my Bible is neglected, how insipid to my taste the means of grace, and how irksome and vapid are all spiritual duties and privileges.

Lord, stir up Yourself to the revivifying of my soul; quicken, oh, revive me in Your ways. Enlarge my heart, that I may run the way of Your commandments.”

July 20: Except You Repent

“Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:5

This was the doctrine which our Lord preached; and so did His apostles, when they declared, “God now commands all men everywhere to repent.”

No command, no duty, can be more distinctly, intelligently, and solemnly defined and urged than this. But the inquirer will ask, “What is repentance?” The reply is–it is that secret grace that lays the soul low before God–self loathed; sin abhorred, confessed, and forsaken. It is the abasement and humiliation of a man, because of the sinfulness of his nature and the sins of his life, before the holy, heart-searching Lord God.

The more matured believer is wont to look upon a broken and contrite spirit, flowing from a sight of the cross, as the most precious fruit found in his soul. No moments to him are so hallowed, so solemn, or so sweet, as those spent in bathing the Savior’s feet with tears.

There is indeed a bitterness in the grief which a sense of sin produces; and this, of all other bitterness, is the greatest. He knows, from experience, that it is an “evil thing and bitter, that he has forsaken the Lord his God.” Nevertheless, there is a sweetness, an indescribable sweetness, which must be experienced to be understood, blended with the bitterness of a heart broken for sin, from a sight of the cross of the incarnate God. Oh, precious tears wept beneath that cross!

“For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” But how shall I portray the man who is of a contrite and humble spirit?

He is one who truly knows the evil of sin, for he has felt it. He apprehends, in some degree, the holiness of God’s character, and the spirituality of His law, for he has seen it. His views of himself have undergone a radical change. He no longer judges of himself as others judge of him. They exalt him; he abases himself. They approve; he condemns.

And in that very thing for which they most extol him he is humbling himself in secret. While others are applauding actions, he is searching into motives; while they are extolling virtues, he is sifting principles; while they are weaving the garland for his brow, he, shut in alone with God, is covering himself with sackcloth and with ashes.

Oh precious fruit of a living branch of the true vine! Is it any wonder, then, that God should come and dwell with such a one, in whom is found something so good towards Him? Oh, no! He delights to see us in this posture–to mark a soul walking before Him in a conscious sense of its poverty; the eye drawing from the cross its most persuasive motives to a deep prostration of soul at His feet. Dear reader, to know what a sense of God’s reconciling love is–to know how skillfully, tenderly, and effectually Jesus binds up and heals–your spirit must be wounded, and your heart must be broken for sin.

Oh, it were worth an ocean of tears to experience the loving gentleness of Christ’s hand in drying them. Has God ever said of you, as He said of Ahab, “See how he humbles himself before me?” Search and ascertain if this good fruit is found in your soul.

April 25: A True Religion

“Do you believe on the Son of God?” John 9:35

The application of this question, reader, must be to your conscience. Have you “like precious faith” with that which we have attempted to describe? Alas! it may be that you are that tree which brings not forth this good fruit. Yours may be a species of fruit somewhat resembling it; but do not be deceived in a matter so momentous as this. “You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” That is, you assent to the first proposition of true religion- the being of God; this is well, because your judgment assents to that which is true. And still you have not gone beyond the faith of demons! They believe, and yet horror inconceivable is but the effect of the forced assent of their minds to the truth- they “tremble.”

Oh, look well to your faith! There must be, in true faith, not only an assent, but also a consent. In believing to the saving of the soul, we not only assent to the truth of the word, but we also consent to take Christ as He is there set forth- the sinner’s reconciliation with God. A mere intellectual illumination, or a historical belief of the facts of the Bible, will never place the soul beyond the reach of hell, nor within the region of heaven. There is a “form of knowledge,” as well as a “form of godliness;” and both existing apart from vital religion in the soul constitute a “vain religion.” Again we press upon you the important inquiry, Have you the “faith of God’s elect”?

Is it a faith that has stained the glory of self-merit, and laid the pride of intellect in the dust? Is it rooted in Christ? Has it transformed you, in some degree, into the opposite of what you once were? Are any of the “precious fruits” of the Spirit put forth in your life? Is Jesus precious to your soul? And to walk in all circumstances humbly with God- is it the earnest desire of your heart? If there is no sorrow for sin, no going out of yourself to Jesus, no fruits of holiness, in some degree, appearing, then is yours but a “dead faith,”- dead, because it is a part and parcel of a nature “dead in trespasses and in sins,”- dead, because it is not the fruit of the quickening Spirit- dead, because it is inoperative, even as the lifeless root transmits no vitality and moisture to the tree- dead, because it never can bring you to eternal life.

Of what value, then, is it? Cut it down! why should it use up the ground? If, then, you have never brought forth the good fruit of prayer, and repentance, and Faith, you are yet in the old nature of sin of rebellion, and of death.

April 1: Godly Sorrow

“For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” 1 Cor. 11:31

Self-condemnation averts God’s condemnation. When a penitent sinner truly, humbly, graciously sits in judgment upon himself, the Lord will never sit in judgment upon him. The penitent publican, who stood afar off, wrapped in the spirit of self-condemnation, retired from His presence a justified man. The proud, self-righteous Pharisee, who marched boldly to the altar and justified himself, went forth from God’s presence a condemned man.

When God sees a penitent sinner arraigning, judging, condemning, loathing himself, He exclaims, “I do not condemn you; go and sin no more.” He who judges and condemns himself upon God’s footstool shall be acquitted and absolved from God’s throne. The Lord give unto us this secret spirit of self-judgment. Such was Job’s, when in deep contrition he declared, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Such was David’s, when he penitentially confessed, “Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” Such was Peter’s, when he vehemently exclaimed, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Such was Isaiah’s, when he plaintively cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.” Such was the publican’s, when he humbly prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Oh lovely posture! Oh sacred spirit of self-abhorrence, of self condemnation! The Holy Spirit works it in the heart, and this stamps it as so precious, so salutary, and so safe. The great day of the Lord will unveil blessings passing all thought, and glories passing all imagination, to the soul who beneath the cross lies prostrate, in the spirit of self-condemnation. The judgment-day of the self-condemning soul is on this side of eternity; while the judgment-day of the self-justifying soul is on the other side of eternity. And oh, how terrible will that judgment be!

 

December 13

“Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” 2 Timothy 1:9

THERE is an external and an internal call of the Spirit. The external call is thus alluded to: “I have called, and you refused;” “Many are called, but few are chosen.” This outward call of the Spirit is made in various ways. In the word, in the glorious proclamation of the gospel, through the providences of God—those of mercy and those of judgment—the warnings of ministers, the admonitions of friends, and, not less powerful, the awakening of the natural conscience. By these means does the Holy Spirit “call sinners to repentance.” In this sense, every man who hears the gospel, who is encircled with the means of grace, and who bears about with him a secret but ever-faithful monitor, is called by the Spirit. The existence of this call places the sinner in an attitude of fearful responsibility; and the rejection of this call exposes him to a still more fearful doom. God has never poured out His wrath upon man, without first extending the olive-branch of peace.

Mercy has invariably preceded judgment. “I have called, and you have refused.” “All day long I have stretched forth my hands.” “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” He reasons, He argues, He expostulates with the sinner. “Come, let us reason together,” is His invitation. He instructs, and warns, and invites; He places before the mind the most solemn considerations, urged by duty and interest; He presses His own claims, and appeals to the individual interests of the soul; but all seems ineffectual. Oh, what a view does this give us of the patience of God toward the rebellious! That He should stretch out his hand to a sinner—that instead of wrath, there should be mercy—instead of cursing, there should be blessing—that, instead of instant punishment, there should be the patience and forbearance that invites, and allures, and reasons!”—Oh, who is a God like unto our God? “I have called, and you refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.”

But there is the special, direct, and effectual call of the Spirit, in the elect of God, without which all other calling is in vain. God says, “I will put my Spirit within them.” Christ says, “The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live.” And in the following passages reference is made to the effectual operation of God the Spirit. “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.” “The word of God which effectually works in you that believe.” Thus, through the instrumentality of the truth, the Spirit is represented as effectually working in the soul. When He called before, there was no inward, supernatural, secret power accompanying the call to the conscience. Now there is an energy put forth with the call, which awakens the conscience, breaks the heart, convinces the judgment, opens the eye of the soul, and pours a new and an alarming sound upon the hitherto deaf ear. Mark the blessed effects.

The scales fell from the eyes, the veil is torn from the mind, the deep fountains of evil in the heart are broken up, the sinner sees himself lost and undone—without pardon, without a righteousness, without acceptance, without a God, without a Savior, without a hope! Awful condition! “What shall I do to be saved?” is his cry: “I am a wretch undone! I look within me, all is dark and vile; I look around me, everything seems but the image of my woe; I look above me, I see only an angry God: whichever way I look, is hell!—and were God now to send me there, just and right would He be.” But, blessed be God, no poor soul that ever uttered such language, prompted by such feelings, ever died in despair. That faithful Spirit who begins the good work, effectually carries it on, and completes it. Presently He leads him to the cross of Jesus—unveils to his eye of glimmering faith a suffering, wounded, bleeding, dying Savior—and yet a Savior with outstretched arms! That Savior speaks—oh, did ever music sound so melodious?—“All this I do for you—this cross for you—these sufferings for you—this blood for you—these stretched-out arms for you. Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest—Him that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out—Look unto me, and be you saved—only believe. Are you lost? I can save you. Are you guilty? I can cleanse you. Are you poor? I can enrich you. Are you low sunk? I can raise you. Are you naked? I can clothe you. Have you nothing to bring with you—no price, no money, no goodness, no merit? I can and will take you to me, just as you are, poor, naked, penniless, worthless; for such I came to seek, such I came to call, for such I came to die.” “Lord, I believe,” exclaims the poor convinced soul, “Help You mine unbelief.” You are just the Savior that I want. I wanted one that could and would save me with all my vileness, with all my rags, with all my poverty—I wanted one that would save me fully, save me freely, save me as an act of mere unmerited, undeserved grace—I have found Him whom my soul loves—and will be His through time, and His through eternity.” Thus effectually does the blessed Spirit call a sinner, by His especial, direct, and supernatural power, out of darkness into marvelous light. “I will work,” says God, “and who shall let it?”