March 23: Finishing The Course

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Tim 4:7

WE are here invited to contemplate the Christian in the character of a conqueror. The battle consists of a moral conflict with inward and outward enemies, all leagued in terrible force against the soul. To this is added—what, indeed, was most peculiar to the early Church—a war of external suffering, in which penury, persecution, and martyrdom constituted the dark and essential elements.

Now it will be instructive to observe in what way Christ provides for the holy warrior’s passage through this fiery contest. It will be perceived that it is not by flight, but by battle; not by retreat, but by advance; not by shunning, but by facing the foe. The Captain of their salvation might have withdrawn His people from the field, and conducted them to heaven, without the hazard of a conflict. But not so. He will lead them to glory, but it shall be by the path of glory. They shall carve their way to the crown by the achievements of the sword. They shall have privations, and distress, and suffering, of every kind; yet while beneath the pressure, and in the very heat of the battle, victory shall crown their arms, and a glorious triumph shall heighten the splendor of their victory. And what spiritual eye does not clearly see, that in conducting His people across the battle-field, the Lord wins to Himself more renown than though He had led them to their eternal rest with entire exemption from conflict and distress?

But in what sense are we conquerors? Just in that sense in which the Holy Spirit obtains the victory. It is not the believer himself who conquers; it is the Divine Spirit within the believer. No movement is seen, no tactics are observed, no war-cry is heard, and yet there is passing within the soul a more important warfare, and there is secured a more brilliant victory, than ever the pen of the historian recorded. In the first place, there is the conquest of faith.

Where do the annals of war present such a succession of victories so brilliant, achieved by a weapon so single and simple, as is recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews? And what was the grace that won those spiritual and glorious victories? It was the grace of faith! “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith.” Faith in the truth of God’s word faith in the veracity of God’s character—faith in the might, and skill, and wisdom of our Commander and Leader—faith, eyeing the prize, gives the victory to the Christian combatant, and secures the glory to the Captain of his salvation.

Then there is the triumph of patience. “That you do not be slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” “And so, after he had patiently endured, He obtained the promise.” Oh, is it no real victory of the Holy Spirit in the believer, when beneath the pressure of great affliction, passing through a discipline the most painful and humiliating, the suffering Christian is enabled to cry, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him”? “The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it”? “Not my will, but your, be done”? Suffering child of God, “let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

And then there is the conquest of joy. “Having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations,” or trials. Why is trial an occasion of joy? Because it is the triumph of the Holy Spirit in the soul. And does not Christ say, “You shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy”? Who but Jesus can turn our sorrow into joy?—not only assuaging our griefs, alleviating our sufferings, and tempering the furnace-flame, but actually making our deepest, darkest sorrows the occasion of the deepest gladness, praise, and thanksgiving.

Oh, yes! it is a glorious victory of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, in the soul, when it can enable the believer to adopt the words of the suffering apostle, “I am filled with comfort, I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” Suffering reader! Jesus knows how to turn your sorrow into joy. Confide your grief to Him, and He will cause it sweetly to sing.

March 16: Christ In The Soul

How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God only? John 5:44

THE life of the renewed soul, springing from the indwelling of Christ by the Spirit, includes the crucifixion of self in us. “I live, yet not I.” What a depth of meaning is contained in these words! We may not in this life be able fully to measure its depth, but we may in some degree fathom it. There is not—indeed there cannot be—a more sure evidence of the life of Christ in the soul, than the mortifying of that carnal, corrupt self-boasting that is within us. For its utter annihilation, in this present time-state, we do not plead. This would be to look for that which the word of God nowhere warrants.

But we insist upon its mortification; we plead for its subjection to Christ. Who has not detected in his heart its insidious working? If the Lord has given us a little success in our work, or put upon us a little more honor than another, or has imparted to us a degree more of gift or grace, oh what fools do we often make of ourselves in consequence! We profess to speak of what He has done—of the progress of His work—of the operation of His grace, when, alas! what burning of incense often is there to that hideous idol self! Thus we offer “strange fire” upon the altar.

But the most gracious soul is the most self-denying, self-crucifying, self-annihilating soul. “I live, yet not I. I believe, and am comforted—yet not I. I pray, and am answered—yet not I. I preach, and sinners are converted—yet not I. I labor, and good is done—yet not I. I fight, and overcome—yet not I, but Christ in me.” Beloved, the renewed life in us will be ever striving for the mastery of self in us. Self is ever seeking to take the glory from Jesus. This is one cause of the weakness of our faith. “How can you believe,” says the Savior, “which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which comes from God only?” “We know but little of God,” remarks an eminently holy man, “if we do not sicken when we hear our own praise.” And if we have kept the glory of God in view, rather than our own, remember, it is the gift of God, the work of His Spirit, which has gained a victory over self, through faith in Christ. Oh that the life of Christ within us may more and more manifest itself as a self-denying, self-mortifying, self-reannihilating life—willing to be a fool for Christ, yes, to be nothing, that Christ may wear the crown.

March13: A Victorious King, Mighty In Battle

You have ascended on high, you have led captivity captive. Psalm 68:18

As a victorious King, our Lord is now enthroned in glory. He went back to heaven as a Conqueror over sin, hell, and death. Never did a Roman victor return from the battle-field, bearing such spoil; or amid such glory and acclamation, as that with which Jesus re-entered His kingdom. The Captain of our salvation had gotten Him the victory over every foe of His Church. He met and battled, single-handed and alone, the combined hosts of His enemies and hers.

And although He fell in the conflict, He yet won the battle. He conquered by submitting to conquest; He overcame in being overcome. He slew death in being slain by death. Want you a confirmation to your belief in the essential Deity of your Lord? Behold it, beloved. Where will you turn to the record of a battle so strange, between combatants so opposite, and attended by results so wondrous? That, in the greatest weakness, our Lord should demonstrate His greatest strength; that, by a decided defeat, He should prove the victor; and that in succumbing to the power and dominion of death, He should be the death of Death—oh, how truly Divine does He appear!

Believer in Jesus! The King, whose banner waves over you, has fought and won all your battles. One with Him, every believer is victorious. Treading in his Lord’s footsteps, he overcomes, even as Christ overcame. It is impossible but that the weakest believer must obtain the victory in the severe conflict which he is waging with the foe. He may at times be foiled, embarrassed, and overcome, but he will ultimately triumph. The battle may go against us, but not the war. Faith, realizing its union with the Lord, obtains the victory. And never does the believer go forth to face the enemy in the name of Jesus, but with the disciples he may exclaim, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Your name.”

Come, you faint and exhausted warriors! refresh your spirits and renew your strength with this precious truth—your Captain is victorious! He who lives for you upon the throne, He who dwells in you by His Spirit, is He who rose to glory with your every foe chained in defeat and humiliation to His chariot, carrying “captivity captive.” Do you still hesitate to believe so great a truth? Hark how His angelic escort heralded His approach to glory. “Lift up your heads, O ,you gates; and be you lift up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.”

November 15: All Is Vanity

“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope.” Romans 8:20

The vanity here referred to is opposed to the state of glory in anticipation, and therefore expresses the condition of corruption and trial in the midst of which the renewed creature dwells, and to the assaults of which it is incessantly exposed. The world through which the Christian is passing to his rest may be emphatically called a state of vanity. How perpetually and forcibly are we reminded of the king of Israel’s exclamation, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” “Surely every man walks in a vain show.”

His origin, the earth; his birth, degenerate; his rank, a bauble; his wealth, but glittering dust; his pomp, an empty pageant; his beauty, a fading flower; his pursuits, an infant’s play; his honors, vexations of spirit; his joys, fleeting as a cloud; his life, transient as a vapor; his final home, a grave. Surely “man at his best state is altogether vanity.” And what is his religion but vanity?—his native holiness, a vain conceit; his natural light, Egyptian darkness; his human wisdom, egregious folly; his religious forms, and rites, and duties, “a vain show in the flesh;” his most gorgeous righteousness, “filthy rags.”

In the impressive language of Scripture, of him it may be said, “That man’s religion is vain.” “Lord, what is man, that you take knowledge of him! or the son of man, that you make account of him!”

Truly “vanity” is inscribed in legible characters on each created good. How, then, can the renewed creature escape its influence? He is “subject to vanity,” Dazzled by its glare, captivated by its fascinations, ensnared by its promises, he is often the victim of its power. But it is not a voluntary subjection on the part of the renewed creature. “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly.” It is not with him a condition of choice. He loves it not, he prefers it not, he glories not in it. From it he would sincerely be freed; beyond it he would gladly soar. “For we who are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.”

His prayer is, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken me in Your way.” He pants for a holier and a happier state—a state more congenial with his renewed nature. Like the Israelites under the Egyptian bondage, he is a most unwilling servant, groaning beneath his galling yoke, and sighing for the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Ah, yes! God has given you another will, O renewed creature! and your present subjection to this poor, vain world is an involuntary subjection of the divine nature within you. Why God should have subjected the renewed creature to vanity does not appear; we well know that He could have transferred us to heaven, the moment that He renewed us on earth. But may we not infer that in sending His people into the world, after He had called them by His grace, and; in a sense, taken them out of it—that in subjecting them for so many years to this state of vanity—He has best consulted His own glory and their good?

The school of their heavenly teaching, the scene of their earthly toil, and the theater of their spiritual conflict they are kept in this world for a season; “made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who has subjected the same in hope.”

November 7: Christ Suffers With You

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds.” Hebrews 12:3

The assaults of the adversary contribute not a little to the sense of weariness which often prostrates a child of God. To be set up as a mark for Satan; the enemy smiting where sensibility is the keenest; assailing where weakness is the greatest; taking advantage of every new position and circumstance, especially of a season of trial, of a weak, nervous temperament, or of a time of sickness—distorting God’s character, diverting the eye from Christ, and turning it in upon self—are among Satan’s devices for casting down the soul of a dear believer.

And then, there are the narrowness of the narrow way, the intricacies of the intricate way, the perils of the perilous way—all tending to jade and dispirit the soul. To walk in a path so narrow and yet so dangerous, that the white garment must needs be closely wrapped around; to occupy a post of duty so conspicuous, responsible, and difficult, as to fix every eye; some gazing with undue admiration, and others with keen and cold suspicion, ready to detect and to censure any slight irregularity—add not a little to the to toilsomeness of the way.

Notice, also, the numerous and varied trials and afflictions which pave his pathway to heaven—his tenderest mercies often his acutest trials, his trials often weighing him to the earth—and you have the outline of a melancholy picture, of which he whose eye scans this page may be the original. Does it surprise, then, that from the lips of such a one the exclamation often rises, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.”

Remember, there will be a correspondence between the life of Christ in the soul, and the life which Christ lived when he tabernacled in the flesh. The indwelling of Christ in the believer is a kind of second incarnation of the Son of God. When Christ enters the heart of a poor sinner, He once more clothes Himself with our nature. The life which Christ lived in the days of His sojourn on earth was a life of sorrow, of conflict, of temptation, of desertion, of want, and of suffering in every form.

Does He now live a different life in the believer? No; He is still tempted and deserted, in sorrow and in want, in humiliation and in suffering—in His people. What! did you think that these fiery darts were leveled at you? Did you suppose that it was you who were deserted, that it was you who suffered, that it was you who were despised, that it was you who were trodden under foot? No, my brother, it was Christ dwelling in you.

All the malignity of Satan, all the power of sin, and all the contempt of the world, are leveled, not against you, but against the Lord dwelling in you. Were it all death in your soul, all darkness, sinfulness, and worldliness, you would be an entire stranger to these exercises of the renewed man.

Behold the love and condescension of Jesus! that after all He endured in His own person, He should again submit Himself to the same in the persons of His saints; that He should, as it were, return, and tread again the path of suffering, of trial, of humiliation, in the life which each believer lives.

Oh, how it speaks that love which passes knowledge! How completely is Christ one with His saints! and yet, how feebly and faintly do we believe this truth! How little do we recognize Christ in all that relates to us! and yet He is in all. He is in every providence that brightens or that darkens upon our path. “Christ is all, and in all.”

September 24: Redeeming Love

“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Romans 5:9

What forms the great security of the believer? what, but the atoning blood? This, and this only. The Father, beholding His child in His beloved Son, washed and clothed, pardoned and justified, can “rest in His love, and joy over Him with singing.” The atonement guarantees his eternal safety.

What formed the security of Noah and his family, when the deluge of God’s wrath descended upon an ungodly world?—the ark in which God had shut him in. What formed the security of the children of Israel in Egypt, when the destroying angel passed through the camp, waving in his hand the weapon of death?—the blood of the paschal lamb, sprinkled on the lintel and door-posts of their dwellings; and where this sacred sign was seen, into that house he dared not enter, but passed on to do the work of death where no blood was found. Exactly what the ark was to Noah, and the blood of the lamb was to the children of Israel, is the atoning blood of Christ to the believing soul. It forms his eternal security.

Reader, is that blood applied to you? Are you washed in it? Is it upon you at this moment? Precious blood! precious Savior who shed it! precious faith that leads to it! how it washes away all sin—how it lightens the conscience of its burden—heals the heart of its wound—dispels the mist, and brings down the unclouded sunshine of God’s reconciled countenance in the soul! Oh, adore the love and admire the grace that opened the fountain, and led you to bathe, all guilty, polluted, and helpless as you were, beneath its cleansing stream! and with Cowper let us sing,

“E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Your flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be until I die.”

Surely the Christian will ever strive to live near this fountain—the only spot where his soul shall flourish. As the gentle flower which blooms unseen by the side of some veiled spring is, from the constant moisture it receives, always beautiful and fragrant, so is that believing soul the most fruitful, holy, spiritual, and devoted, who daily dwells by the side, yes, in the “fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.”

We see not how a child of God can be fruitful otherwise. A sweet and abiding consciousness of pardon and acceptance is essential to spiritual fruitfulness. The great impelling motive to all gospel obedience is the love of Christ in the heart. David acknowledged this principle when he prayed, “I will run the way of Your commandments, when You shall enlarge my heart.” The apostle admits it when he says, “the love of Christ constrains us.” In order to walk as an obedient child, to bear the daily cross, to delight in the precepts as in the doctrines of God’s truth, the atoning blood must be realized. How easy and how sweet will then become the commandments of the Lord: duties will be viewed as privileges, and the yoke felt to be no yoke, and the cross to be no cross.

No believer can advance in the divine life, wage a daily war with the innumerable foes that oppose him, and be fruitful in every good work, who is perpetually in search of evidence of his adoption. We need all our time, all our energies, all our means, in order to vanquish the spiritual Philistines who obstruct our way to the heavenly Canaan: we have none to send in search of evidences, lest while they have gone the Bridegroom comes.

Oh, then, to know that all is right; the thick cloud blotted out—the soul wrapped in the robe of righteousness—ready to enter in to the marriage supper of the Lamb. To die will be quite enough; to face and grapple with the king of terrors will be sufficient employment for the spirit struggling to be free: no time, no strength, no energy then to search for evidences.

Let not the professor of Christ leave the “sealing” of his pardon and acceptance to that fearful hour; but let him earnestly seek it now, that when he comes to die he may have nothing to do but to die; and that will be quite enough.

August 17: Sift You As Wheat

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” Luke 22:31

That faith should be more frequently and severely assailed than any other grace of the Holy Spirit, will cease to create surprise as we become acquainted with the rank and position it occupies in the renewed soul. Placed in the very front of the battle, itself the strongest, the most determined and successful foe of the assailing powers of darkness and of sin, in effecting its overthrow all their force, skill, and malignity are marshaled and directed.

But who is its chief and most formidable assailant? It is Satan, the accuser of the brethren, the tempter, the sworn enemy of God and man. It is he, the master-spirit of darkness and woe, who, without possessing a single attribute of Deity, yet approaches so near in resemblance to the Divine, that in every place and at each moment of time He is present, closely watching, closely studying, and incessantly working to deceive, and to overthrow, were it possible, the faith of the very elect.

By what power or agency he is enabled to prosecute the dark designs of his gloomy intellect, and to effect the malignant purposes of his depraved heart, we cannot now venture at any length to premise. Whether with the subtlety and velocity which belong to the light, there is an incessant expansion of thought, imparting a kind of personal omnipresence, to the ruling mind of the infernal empire; or, whether, without being personally present, we may account for the extent of his agency, operating alike in every place, and at the same moment, by supposing intelligence communicated to, and commands issued from, him through the medium of the innumerable host of myrmidons who compose those “principalities and powers,” over which Jesus triumphed, “making a show of them openly,” must, however strong the presumption, still remain points involved in much doubt and obscurity.

But there is one fact respecting which we are not left to conjecture. I allude to the eager and restless machinations of Satan, to weaken, dishonor, and destroy the faith of God’s elect. “Satan has desired to have you.” Observe here the limitation of Satanic power in reference to the believer. This is its utmost extent. He has no power or control over the redeemed, but that which God permits. He can but desire, and long, and plot; not a hand can He lay upon them, by not a single temptation can He assail them, not a hair of their head can he touch, until God bids Him. “Satan has desired to have you”; there stood the arch-foe waiting permission, as in the case of Job, to destroy the apostle of Christ.

Dear reader, how consolatory is this truth to the believing mind. You have often trembled at the power of Satan, and perhaps well-near as often have been the involuntary object of his implacable hatred and deep devices. But press now this animating thought to your trembling heart– he has no control nor influence nor power over a redeemed soul but that which God permits, and which Christ allows. “Thus far shall you go, and no further,” are words which reveal His inferiority, prescribe his limits, and arrest the progress of the proud fiend.

April 10: More Than Conquerors

“More than conquerors.” Romans 8:37

The original word will admit a stronger rendering than our translators have allowed it. The same word is in another place rendered “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” So that in the present instance it might be translated, “far more exceeding conquerors.”

The phrase seems to imply that it is more than a mere victory which the believer gains. A battle may be won at a severe loss to the conqueror. A great leader may fall at the head of his troops. The flower of an army may be destroyed, and the best
blood of a nation’s pride may be shed. But the Christian conquers with no such loss. Nothing whatever essential to His well-being is imperiled.

His armor, riveted upon his soul by the Holy Spirit, he cannot lose. His life, hid with Christ in God, cannot be endangered. His Leader and Commander, once dead, is alive and dies no more. Nothing valuable and precious shall he lose.

There is not a grace in his soul but shall come out of the battle with sin, and Satan, and the world, purer and brighter for the conflict. The more thoroughly the Lord brings our graces into exercise, the more fully shall they be developed, and the more mightily shall they be invigorated. Not a grain of grace shall perish in the winnowing, not a particle of faith shall be consumed in the refining. Losing nothing, he gains everything! He returns from the battle laden with the spoils of a glorious victory- “more than a conqueror.”

All his resources are augmented by the result. His armor is brighter, his sword is keener, his courage is more dauntless, for the conflict. Every grace of the Spirit is matured. Faith is strengthened- love is expanded- experience is deepened- knowledge is increased. He comes forth from the trial holier and more valorous than when he entered it.

His weakness has taught him wherein his strength lies. His necessity has made him better acquainted with Christ’s fulness. His peril has shown him who taught his hands to war and his fingers to fight, and whose shield covered his head in the day of battle. He is “more than conqueror “- he is triumphant!