March 21: Broken Cisterns Of Creature Idolatry

Also, you son of man, shall it not be in the day when I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds, their sons and their daughters, That he that escapes in that day shall come unto you, to cause you to hear it with your ears? Ezekiel 24:25-26

WHAT is the history of creature idolatry, but a mournful record of beautiful and inviting cisterns of happiness, which, nevertheless, God has destroyed. This is a wide and an affecting circle. We enter it cautiously, we allude to it feelingly and tenderly. We touch the subject with a pen that has often sought (though in much feebleness it is acknowledged), to comfort the mourner, and to lift the pressure from the bowed spirit. We enter the domestic circle—oh! what beautiful cisterns of creature good, broken and empty, meet us here!

The affectionate husband, the fond wife, the devoted parent, the pleasant child, the faithful friend, laid low in death. They were lovely cisterns, and the heart loved to drink from them its bliss. But lo! God has smitten, and they are broken, and the sweet waters have passed away! Was there not a worshiping of the creature, rather than the Creator? Was not the object deified? Was not the attachment idolatrous? Did not the loved one occupy Christ’s place in the heart? Ah! the wound, the void, the desolateness, the lonely grief of that heart, but too truly tell who was enthroned upon its strongest and its best affections.

Turn every loss of creature-good into an occasion of greater nearness to Christ. The dearest and loveliest creature is but a cistern—an inferior and contracted good. If it contains any sweetness, the Lord put it there. If it is a medium of any blessing to your soul, Jesus made it so. But do not forget, beloved, it is only a cistern. And what more? Shall I wound you if I say it? Tenderly do I speak—and if, instead of leading you to, it draws you from, the Fountain, in unerring wisdom, in tender mercy, and in faithful love, the Lord will break it, that you might learn, that while no creature can be a substitute for Him, He Himself can be a substitute for all creatures. Thus His friendship, His love, and His presence are frequently the sweetest, and the most fully enjoyed, when He has taken all things else away.

Jesus loves you far too much to allow another, however dear, to eclipse and rival Him. “The day of the Lord will be upon all pleasant pictures,” and then the poor, imperfect copy will retire, and give place to the divine and glorious Original; and God in Christ will be all in all.

October 24: Worship In Affliction

“My tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness.” Psalm 51:14

If we cannot sing of Jesus and of His love in the night of our pilgrimage, of what, of whom, then, can we sing? As all music has its ground-work—its elementary principles—so has the music of the believing soul. Jesus is the basis.

He who knows nothing experimentally of Jesus has never learned to sing the Lord’s song. But the believer, when he contemplates Jesus in His person dignity, glory, and beauty—when he regards Him as God’s equal—when he views Him as the Father’s gift—as the great depository of all the fullness of God, can sing, in the dark night of his conscious sinfulness, of a foundation upon which he may securely build for eternity.

And when too, he studies the work of Jesus, what material for a song is gathered here! when he contemplates Christ as “made of God unto him wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;” when he views the atoning blood and righteousness which present him moment by moment before God, washed from every stain, and justified from every sin, even now he can sing the first notes of the song they chaunt in higher strains above: “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen.” Oh! yes, Jesus is the key-note—Jesus is the ground-work of the believer’s song.

Is it a season of heart-ploughing, of breaking up of the fallow ground, of deeper discovery of the concealed plague? Still to turn the eye of faith on Jesus, and contemplate the efficacy of His blood to remove all sin, and the power of His grace to subdue all iniquity, oh, what music in the sad heart does that sight of Him create! “My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

In giving you a throne of grace, God has given you a song, methinks one of the sweetest ever sung in the house of our pilgrimage. To feel that we have a God who hears and answers prayer—who has done so in countless instances, and is prepared still to give us at all times an audience—oh! the unutterable blessedness of this truth.

Sing aloud, then, you sorrowful saints, for great and precious is your privilege of communion with God. In the time of your every grief, and trial, and difficulty, do not forget that, in your lowest frame, you may sing this song—”Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, I will draw near, and pour out my heart to God.”

Chaunt, then, His high praises as you pass along, that there is a place where you may disclose every want, repose every sorrow, deposit every burden, breathe every sigh, and lose yourself in communion with God; that place is the blood-besprinkled mercy-seat, on which God says, “There will I meet with you, and I will commune with you.”