April 15: The Smoking Flax

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, until he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 12:20

SURELY, it is a question of all others the most interesting and important, “Am I, or am I not, a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?” We do not say that the state of doubt and uncertainty from which this inquiry arises necessarily invalidates the evidence of grace which already exists; nor would we have it inferred, that the question itself indicates a healthy, vigorous tone of mind. But what we affirm is, that where there exists the principle of life, and a growing acquaintance with the plague of the human heart, with a conscience increasingly tender, the question will sometimes arise—”Am I a living soul in Christ?”

In enabling us to meet and satisfy this inquiry, how kind and condescending is God the Holy Spirit! A state of uncertainty as to his personal salvation cannot be regarded by the believer as the most favorable for the cultivation of personal holiness. He, indeed, is the most heavenly-minded, happy, and useful child of God, who, with the lowly confidence of the great apostle, can say, “I know in whom I have believed.” But we must admire the love of the Spirit in providing for the necessities of the weakest state of grace.

If saints of advanced stature in Christ can but little sympathize with the timidity, the fearfulness, and the weakness of children of more dwarfish proportions, not so the loving, faithful Spirit of God. He is never above His own work. The smallest part is too precious to His heart, to allow of the withdrawment of His eye from it for a single moment. It is not the extent of the territory which He has subjugated to Himself in the soul, that most thrills His heart with delight—this He is sure to perfect—but it is His having at all effected an entrance, and established Himself permanently there. This is the ground of his greatest triumph, the source of His highest joy—that after all the opposition and the difficulty, He should at last have gotten Himself the victory. Is it possible, then, that the tenderest bud of grace, or the faintest glimmering of light in the soul, can be a matter of indifference to Him? Ah no! Would Titian have despised a painting, upon whose outline He had stamped the impress of his genius, because its pencilings were not complete? Would Canova have destroyed his sculpture, almost breathing with life, because its chiselings were unfinished? And will the Holy Spirit, in drawing the moral likeness of God upon the soul, in modeling the mind for heaven, slight this, His master-piece of wisdom and of power, because of its present incompleteness? No!

The faintest outline of the Divine image, the roughest shaping of the Divine nature in man, presents to His eye more beauty, and symmetry, and skill, than the finest pencilings of nature, or the most perfect modelings of are. The universe of loveliness and of wonder contains nothing that can compare with it.

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Winslow’s Sole Aim And Purpose In Ministry…Make Much Of His Savior.

A brief excerpt from a letter written by Octavius to his congregation at Warwick Street Baptist Church in 1852 after becoming ill while on vacation. I believe this brief paragraph best sums up his ministry and hearts desire in all he wrote and preached, to make little of himself and much of his King:

It has been the distinctive aim, and the sincere desire of my ministry amongst you, to make known and to endear the Saviour to your hearts. . . . And may I, as from a languid couch, still press the Saviour‘s claims to your regard? Oh, how worthy is he of your most exalted conceptions,—of your most implicit confidence,—of your most self-denying service,—of your most fervent love. When he could give you no more—and the fathomless depths of his love, and the boundless resources of his grace, would not be satisfied by giving you less—he gave you himself. Robed in your nature, laden with your curse, oppressed with your sorrows, wounded for your transgressions, and slain for your sins, he gave his entire self for you. . . . You cannot in your drafts upon Christ‘s fullness be too coveteous, nor in your expectations of supply be too extravagant. You may fail, as, alas! the most of us do, in making too little of Christ,—you cannot fail, in making too much of him.

A Pastoral Letter

 

August 1: The Minister

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” Romans 15:30

There are many weighty and solemn considerations which powerfully plead for the prayers of the Church of God, in behalf of her ministers and pastors. The first which may be adduced is- the magnitude of their work.

A greater work than theirs was never entrusted to mortal hands. No angel employed in the celestial embassy bears a commission of higher authority, or wings his way to discharge a duty of such extraordinary greatness and responsibility. He is a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ- an ambassador from the court of heaven- a preacher of the glorious gospel of the blessed God- a steward of the mysteries of the kingdom. Properly to fill this high office- giving to the household their portion of food in due season- going down into the mine of God’s word, and bringing forth to the view of every understanding its hidden treasures- to set forth the glory of Emmanuel, the fitness of His work, and the fullness of His grace- to be a scribe well instructed, rightly dividing the word of truth- to be wise and skillful to win souls, the grand end of the Christian ministry- oh, who so much needs the sustaining prayers of the Church as he?

Secondly. The painful sense of their insufficiency supplies another affecting plea. Who are ministers of Christ? Are they angels? Are they superhuman beings? Are they inspired? No, they are men in all respects like others. They partake of like infirmities, are the subjects of like assaults, and are estranged from nothing that is human.

As the heart knows its own bitterness, so they only are truly aware of the existence and incessant operation of those many and clinging weaknesses of which they partake in sympathy with others. And yet God has devolved upon them a work which would crush an angel’s powers, if left to his self-sustaining energy.

Thirdly. The many and peculiar trials of the ministry and the pastorate ask this favor at our hands. These are peculiar to, and inseparable from, the office that he fills. In addition to those of which he partakes alike with other Christians- personal, domestic, and relative- there are trials to which they must necessarily be utter strangers. And as they are unknown to, so are they unrelievable by, the people of their charge.

With all the sweetness of affection, tenderness of sympathy, and delicacy of attention which you give to your pastor, there is yet a lack which Jesus only can supply, and which, through the channel of your prayers, he will supply. In addition to his own, he bears the burdens of others. How impossible for an affectionate, sympathizing pastor to separate himself from the circumstances of his flock, be those circumstances what they may. So close and so sympathetic is the bond of union- if they suffer, he mourns; if they are afflicted, he weeps; if they are dishonored, he is reproached; if they rejoice, he is glad.

He is one with his Church. How feelingly the apostle expresses this: “Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” To see a Christian pastor, in addition to his own personal grief, borne often in uncomplaining loneliness and silence, yet bowed down under accumulated sorrows not his own- others looking to him for sympathy, for comfort, and for counsel- is a spectacle which might well arouse in behalf of every Christian minister the slumbering spirit of prayer. We marvel not to hear the chief of the apostles thus pleading, “Brethren, pray for us.”

January 11

“We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15.

See Him bearing our sicknesses and our sorrows; more than this, carrying our iniquities and our sins. Think not that your path is a isolated one. The incarnate God has trodden it before you, and He can give you the clear eye of faith to see His footprint in every step. Jesus can say, and He does say to you, “I know your sorrow; I know what that cross is, for I have carried it. You have not a burden that I did not bear, nor a sorrow that I did not feel, nor a pain that I did not endure, nor a path that I did not tread, nor a tear that did not bedew my eye, nor a cloud that did not shade my spirit, before you, and for you. Is it bodily weakness? I once walked forty miles, to carry the living water to a poor sinner at Samaria. Is it the sorrow of bereavement? I wept at the grave of my friend, although I knew that I was about to recall the loved one back again to life. Is it the frailty and the fickleness of human friendship? I stood by and heard my person denied by lips that once spoke kindly to me; lips now renouncing me with an oath that once vowed affection unto death. Is it straitness of circumstance, the galling sense of dependence? I was no stranger to poverty, and was often nourished and sustained by the charity of others. Is it that you are houseless and friendless? So was I. The foxes have their shelter, and the birds their nests; but I, though Lord of all, had nowhere to lay my head; and often day after day passed away, and no soothing accents of friendship fell upon my ear. Is it the burden of sin? Even that I bore in its accumulated and tremendous weight when I hung accursed upon the tree.”

 

August 25

“What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” Ephesians 1:19

Divine power, not less than love, is a perfection we shall require at every step of our yet untried and unknown path. We shall have needs which none but the power that multiplied the five loaves to supply the hunger of the five thousand can meet; difficulties, which none but the power that asks, “Is anything too hard for me? says the Lord,” can overcome; enemies, with whom none but the power that resisted Satan, vanquished death, and broke from the grave, can cope. All this power is on our side, if our trust is in the Lord. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” exclaims Jesus. This power which the Lord exerts on our behalf, and in which He invites us to trust, is made perfect in weakness.

Hence, we learn the same lesson that teaches us the utter lack of strength in ourselves. And when the Lord has reduced our confidence, and weakened our strength, as in the case of Gideon, whose army He reduced from thirty-two thousand men to three hundred, He then puts forth His power, perfects it in our weakness, gives us the victory, and secures to Himself all the praise. Go forward, relying upon the power of Jesus to do all in us, and accomplish all for us: power to subdue our sins; power to keep our hearts; power to uphold our steps; power gently to lead us over rough places, firmly to keep us in smooth places, skillfully to guide us through crooked paths, and safely to conduct us through all perils, fully to vindicate us from all assaults, and completely to cover our heads in the day of battle. Invincible is that soul thus clad in the panoply of Christ’s power.

The power which belongs to Him as God, and the power which He possesses as Mediator, is all exerted in the behalf of those who put their trust in Him. “You have given Him power,” are His own words, “over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.” Child of God! gird yourself for duties, toils, and trials, “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” And when the stone of difficulty confronts you; lying, perhaps, heavily upon some buried mercy; hear Him ask you, before he rolls it quite away; “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Oh, that your trusting heart may instantly respond, “Yes, Lord, I believe, I trust; for with You all things are possible.”