June 29: The Rough And Thorny Way

“Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Hebrews 11:25.

THE believer should never fail to remember that the present is, by the appointment of God, the afflicted state to him. It is God’s ordained, revealed will, that His covenant children here should be in an afflicted condition. When called by grace, they should never take into their account any other state. They become the disciples of the religion of the cross—they become the followers of a crucified Lord—they put on a yoke, and assume a burden: they must, then, expect the cross inward and the cross outward. To escape it is impossible. To pass to glory without it, is to go by another way than God’s ordering, and in the end to fail of arriving there. The gate is strait, and the way is narrow, which leads unto life; and a man must become nothing, if he would enter and be saved. He must deny himself—he must become a fool that he may be wise—he must receive the sentence of death in himself, that he should not trust in himself. The wise man must cease to glory in his wisdom, the mighty man must cease to glory in his might, the rich man must cease to glory in his riches, and their only ground of glory in themselves must be their insufficiency, infirmity, poverty, and weakness; and their only ground of glory out of themselves must be, that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The believer in Jesus, then, must not forget that if the path he treads is rough and thorny, if the sky is wintry, if the storm is severe, and the cross He bears is heavy, that yet this is the road to heaven. He is but in the wilderness, why should He expect more than belongs to the wilderness state? He is on a journey, why should he look for more than a traveler’s fare? He is far from home, why should He murmur and repine that he has not all the rest, the comfort, and the luxuries of his Father’s house? If your covenant God and Father has allotted to you poverty, be satisfied that it should be your state, yes, rejoice in it. If bitter adversity, if deep affliction, if the daily and the heavy cross, be your portion, yet, breathe not one murmur, but rather rejoice that you are led into the path that Jesus Himself walked in, to “go forth by the footsteps of the flock,” and that you are counted worthy thus to be one in circumstance with Christ and his people.

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November 1: Indwelling Sin

Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.” Romans 7:20

The entire testimony of God’s word, and the stories of all the saints recorded in its pages, go to confirm the doctrine of indwelling sin in a believer. The Lord has wisely, we must acknowledge, ordained it, that sin should yet remain in His people to the very last step of their journey; and for this He has graciously provided His word as a storehouse of promises, consolations, cautions, rebukes, admonitions, all referring to the indwelling sin of a believer.

The covenant of grace—its sanctifying, strengthening, invigorating, animating provision, all was designed for this very state. Yes, the gift of Jesus—all His fullness of grace, wisdom, strength, and sympathy—His death, resurrection, ascension, and advocacy—all was given with an especial view to the pardon and subjection of sin in a child of God. Perfect holiness, entire sinlessness, is a state not attainable in this life. He who has settled down with the conviction that he has arrived at such a stage has great reason to suspect the soundness, or at least the depth, of his real knowledge of himself. He, indeed, must be but imperfectly acquainted with his own heart, who dreams of perfect sanctification on this side of glory. With all meekness and tenderness, I would earnestly exhort such an individual to review his position well—to bring his heart to the touchstone of God’s word—to pray over the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and to ascertain if there are not periods when the experience of an inspired apostle, once “caught up to the third heaven,” will not apply to him—”I am carnal, sold under sin,”—the “sin that dwells in me.”

The writings and the preaching of men—mistaken views of truth—yes, I would add, even what was once a sincere and ardent desire for sanctification—either of these, or all combined, may have led to the adoption of such a notion as sinless perfection, the nature and tendency of which are to engender a spirit of human pride, self-trust, self-complacence; to throw the mind off its guard, and the heart off its prayerful vigilance, and thus render the man an easy prey to that subtle and ever-prowling enemy, of whose “devices” (and this is not the least one) no believer should be “ignorant.”

Oh yes, sin, often deep and powerful, dwells in a child of God. It is the source of his greatest grief, the cause of his acutest sorrow. Remove this, and sorrow in the main would be a stranger to his breast. Go, ask yon weary, dejected, weeping believer the cause of his broken spirit—his sad countenance—his tears. “Is it,” you inquire, “that you are poor in this world?” “No.” “Is it that you are friendless?” “No.” “Is it that worldly prosperity shines not upon you—your plans blasted—your circumstances trying—your prospects dark?” “No.” “What is it, then, that grieves your spirit, clouds your countenance, and that causes those clasped hands and uplifted eyes?” “It is sin,” the soul replies, “that dwells in me: sin is my burden—sin is my sorrow—sin is my grief—sin is my confession—sin is humiliation before my Father and God—rid of this, and the outward pressure would scarce be felt.”

Truly does the apostle say—and let the declaration never be read apart from its accompanying promise—”If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

May 16: Hope

“For we are saved by hope.” Romans 8:24

The phrase, as employed by the apostle, does not imply the instrument by which we are saved, but the condition in which we are saved. The condition of the renewed creature is one of hope. Salvation by the atonement of Christ- faith, and not hope, being the instrument of its appropriation, is a complete and finished thing.

We cannot give this truth a prominence too great, nor enforce it with an earnestness too intense. We cannot keep our eye too exclusively or too intently fixed on Jesus. All salvation is in Him- all salvation proceeds from Him- all salvation leads to Him, and for the assurance and comfort of our salvation we are to repose believingly and entirely on Him. Christ must be all; Christ the beginning- Christ the center – and Christ the end.

Oh blessed truth to you who sigh and mourn over the unveiled abominations that crown and darken the chamber of imagery! Oh sweet truth to you who are sensible of your poverty, vileness, and insufficiency, and of the ten thousand flaws and failures of which, perhaps, no one is cognizant but God and your own soul! Oh, to turn and rest in Christ- a full Christ- a loving Christ- a tender Christ, whose heart’s love never chills, from whose eye darts no reproof, from whose lips breathes no sentence of condemnation!

But, as it regards the complete effects of this salvation in those who are saved, it is yet future. It is the “hope laid up for us in heaven.” It would seem utterly incompatible with the present economy that the renewed creature should be in any other condition than one of hopeful expectation. The constitution towards which he tends, the holiness for which he looks, the bliss for which he pants, and the dignity to which he aspires, could not for a moment exist in the atmosphere by which he is here enveloped. His state must of necessity be one of hope, and that hope must of necessity link us with the distant and mysterious future.

The idea, “saved by hope,” is illustrated by the effects of Christian hope. It is that divine emotion which buoys up the soul amid the conflicts, the trials, and the vicissitudes of the present life. So that we are cheered and sustained, or “saved” from sinking amid the billows, by the hope of certain deliverance and a complete redemption. “In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began.”

December 15

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me.” John 15:26

WITH regard to the spiritual sorrows of a child of God—those peculiar only to a believer in Jesus—we believe that a revelation of Jesus is the great source of comfort to which the Spirit leads the soul. Here is the true source of comfort. What higher comfort need we? What more can we have? This is enough to heal every wound, to dry up every tear, to assuage every grief, to lighten every cross, to fringe with brightness every dark cloud, and to make the roughest place smooth—that a believing soul has Jesus. Having Jesus, what has a believer? He has the entire blotting out of all his sins. Is not this a comfort? Tell us, what can give comfort to a child of God apart from this? If this fail, where can he look? Will you tell him of the world—of its many schemes of enjoyment—of its plans for the accumulation of wealth—of its domestic happiness? Wretched sources of comfort to an awakened soul! Poor empty channels to a man made acquainted with the inward plague! That which he needs to know is the sure payment of the ten thousand talents—the entire cancelling of the bond held against him by stern justice—the complete blotting out, as a thick cloud, of all his iniquity. And, until this great fact is made sure and certain to his conscience, all other comfort is but as a dream of boyhood, a shadow that vanishes, a vapor that melts away.

But the Holy Spirit comforts the believer by leading him to this blessed truth—the full pardon of sin. This is the great controversy which Satan has with the believer. To bring him to doubt the pardon of sin, to unhinge the mind from this great fact, is the constant effort of this arch-enemy. And, when unbelief is powerful, and inbred sin is strong, and outward trials are many and sore, and, in the midst of it all, the single eye is removed from Christ, then is the hour of Satan to charge home upon the conscience of the believer all the iniquity he ever committed. And how does the blessed Spirit comfort at that moment? By unfolding the greatness, perfection, and efficacy of the one offering by which Jesus has forever blotted out the sins of His people, and perfected those who are sanctified. Oh, what comfort does this truth speak to a fearful, troubled, anxious believer, when, the Spirit working faith in his heart, he can look up, and see all his sins laid upon Jesus in the solemn hour of atonement, and no condemnation remaining! Dear child of God! Poor, worthless as you feel yourself to be, this truth is even for you. Oh, rise to it, welcome it, embrace it, think it not too costly for one so unworthy. It comes from the heart of Jesus, and cannot be more free. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Having Jesus, what has the believer more?

He possesses a righteousness in which God views him complete and accepted, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Is not this a comfort? To stand “complete in Him”—in the midst of many and conscious imperfections, infirmities, flaws, and proneness to wander, yet for the sorrowing and trembling heart to turn and take up its rest in this truth, “that he that believes is justified from all things,” and stands accepted in the Beloved, to the praise of the glory of Divine grace, what a comfort! That God beholds him in Jesus without a spot, because He beholds His Son, in whom He is well pleased, and viewing the believing soul in Him can say, “You are all fair, my love; there is no spot in you”! The blessed Comforter conveys this truth to the troubled soul, brings it to take up its rest in it; and, as the believer realizes his full acceptance in the righteousness of Christ, and rejoices in the truth, he weeps as he never wept, and mourns as he never mourned, over the perpetual bias of his heart to wander from a God that has so loved him. The very comfort poured into his soul from this truth lays him in the dust, and draws out the heart in ardent breathings for holiness.

December 3

“Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” Romans 7:13

NO child of God, if he is advancing in the divine life, but must mourn over his defective views of sin. The holier he grows, the more sensible he is of this: yes, may we not add, the deeper the view of his own vileness, the stronger the evidence of his growth in sanctification. A growing hatred of sin, of little sins, of great sins, of all sin—sin detected in the indwelling principle, as well as sin observable in the outward practice—oh, it is one of the surest symptoms of the onward progress of the soul in its spiritual course. The believer himself may not be sensible of it, but others see it; to him it may be like a retrograde, to an observer it is an evidence of advance.

The child of God is not the best judge of his own spiritual growth. He may be rapidly advancing when not sensible of it; the tree may be growing downwards, it roots may be expanding and grasping more firmly the soil in which they are concealed, and yet the appearance of growth do not be very apparent. There is an inward, concealed, yet effectual growth of grace in the soul; the believer may not be sensible of it, and even others may overlook it, but God sees it: it is His own work, and He does not think meanly of it. God, in His gracious dealings with the believer, often works by contraries. He opens the eye of His child to the deep depravity of the heart, discloses to him the chamber of imagery, reveals to him the sin unthought of, unsuspected, unrepented, unconfessed, that lies deeply embedded there—and why? only to make His child more holy; to compel him to repair to the mercy-seat, there to cry, there to plead, there to wrestle for its subjection, its mortification, it crucifixion.

And through this, as it were, circuitous process, the believer presses on to high and higher degrees of holiness. In this way, too, the believer earnestly seeks for humility, by a deep discovery which the Lord gives him of the pride of his heart—for meekness, by a discovery of petulance, for resignation to God’s will, by a sense of restlessness and impatience—and so on, through all the graces of the blessed Spirit. Thus there is a great growth in grace, when a believer’s views of sin’s exceeding sinfulness and the inward plague are deepening.

But how are these views of sin to be deepened? By constant, close views of the blood of Christ—realizing apprehensions of the atonement. This is the only glass through which sin is seen in its greater magnitude. Let the Christian reader, then, deal much and often with the blood of Christ. Oh! that we should need to be urged to this!—that once having bathed in the “fountain opened,” we should ever look to any other mode of healing, and of sanctification! For let it never be forgotten, that a child of God is as much called to live on Christ for sanctification as for pardon. “Sanctify them through your truth.” And who is the truth? Jesus Himself answers, “I am the truth.” Then we are to live on Jesus for sanctification: and happy and holy is he who thus lives on Jesus. The fullness of grace that is treasured up in Christ, why is it there? for the sanctification of His people—for the subduing of all their sins. Oh, do not forget, then, that He is the Refiner as well as the Savior—the Sanctifier as well as the Redeemer. Take your indwelling corruptions to Him; take the easy besetting sin, the weakness, the infirmity, of whatever nature it is, at once to Jesus: His grace can make you all that He would have you to be.

Remember, too, that this is one of the great privileges of the life of faith; living on Christ for the daily subduing of all sin. This is the faith that purifies the heart, and it purifies by leading the believer to live out of himself upon Christ. To this blessed and holy life our Lord Jesus referred, when speaking of its necessity in order to the spiritual fruitfulness of the believer: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.”

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.