Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Job

Job's Trials and Mercies

 by William Plumer

The book of Job is the oldest and the best epic poem in the world. The people prominently before us are Jehovah, Satan, Job, Job's wife, his three friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, and that remarkable person Elihu. Much of the book is a discussion of the principles on which the speakers suppose God's providence to be conducted.

Some have surmised that Job was a fictitious character; but this is surely a mistake. The prophet Ezekiel clearly proves that he was a historic personage — as much so as Noah or Daniel, Ezek. 14:14, 20. He was a man, and a very good man.

The course of providence towards him is full of instruction. In his life we find lessons of much value. Instruction by example clearly points out the duty to be performed, shows that it is practicable, and awakens in the virtuous the desire of imitation.

Among mere men we seldom find a striking example of more than one grace. Abraham was distinguished for his faith; Moses, for his meekness; Daniel, for his courage; John, for the tenderness of his love; and Job, for his patience. If we would find perfect symmetry of character in any portion of history, we must go to the man Christ Jesus.

It may aid us to pursue a method in our reflections.

I. Let us consider the course of providence towards Job, and his character and circumstances, before his great afflictions. Job was a man of great piety. The Scriptures say that he was upright and perfect. He was not double-tongued, nor double-minded, but sincere, free from hypocrisy, and had respect to all God's commandments. "He feared God and eschewed evil." This character is given by God himself. His reputation among men was both fair and high. "When the young men saw him, they hid themselves." In his presence "the aged arose and stood up. The princes refrained talking and laid their hand on their mouth. The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth." Job 29:8-10. Probably no man ever received more marked attention from great and small than did Job. "Unto him men gave ear and waited and kept silence at his counsel. After his words they spoke not again. And they waited for him as for the rain." Job 29:21-23.

He was also esteemed wise, and possessed great influence by his eloquence. He was a sound advisor. Speaking of his influence over men, it is said, "He chose out their way." Job. 29:25.

Job was also a great captain. His military skill and prowess were such that he dwelt as king in the army. Job 29:25. "He broke the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth." Job 29:17. He was also a philanthropist. He was not indeed ostentatious in his charity, yet such a city set on a hill cannot be hid. "When the ear heard him, then it blessed him; and when the eye saw him, it gave witness to him; because he delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon him; and he caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. He was eyes to the blind, and feet was he to the lame. He was a father to the poor." Not only did he do good and relieve the distressed in cases which others brought to his notice; but he sought out the necessitous and afflicted. "The cause which he knew not, he searched out." Job 29:16. In his labors of love he was both diligent and disinterested.

Before his afflictions Job was a man of great wealth. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred she donkeys, and a very great household, that is, numerous servants. Job 1:3. In wealth he excelled all the rich men of the East. So abundant were his possessions that "he washed his steps in butter, and the rock poured him out rivers of oil."

In his own family, Job enjoyed domestic comfort. Although he had his fears about his children, yet it does not appear that they were either profane or licentious. He loved them tenderly and they were respectful to him. His wife seems not to have shown her grievous want of piety during his prosperity.

To crown all his enjoyments, the candle of the Lord shined upon his head, and by the light of the divine countenance he walked through darkness. The secret of God was upon his tabernacle, and the Almighty was yet with him. Job 29:3-5. It is in God's light that we see light. When he smiles we are blessed. When he gives comfort, who can afflict?

All this prosperity begat confidence in his own continuance, and led Job to say, "I shall die in my nest and I shall multiply my days as the sand. My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch. My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand." Job 29:18-20.

II. Let us consider his afflictions themselves and his patience under them. A descent from such unusual prosperity awakens very different sentiments from those entertained by men who have long lived in humble circumstances and been unexpectedly raised to greatness. Let this thought be remembered.

Job's afflictions commenced with the loss of his wealth, consisting of oxen, and donkeys, and sheep, and camels, and servants. The intelligence of these losses came upon him by surprise. Poverty is no sin. It may come upon us without any fault of ours. Yet every one knows that it brings sore trials on all, especially on those who are not accustomed to it. All this is heightened by the suddenness of its approach. This often produces a shock which few hearts are sufficiently stout to resist. Many who have stood calm while thrones were falling around them, who have fearlessly stormed the deadly breach, and who have manfully suffered popular rage, have sunk under intolerable anguish, when their earthly possessions have taken flight and left them destitute and dependent. Whatever bitterness is necessarily connected with such loss was the portion of Job.

No sooner had the messengers closed their respective narratives of his losses of property, than another with all the promptness attending the announcement of calamities thus spoke: "Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, and behold there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell you." Thus his children were carried into eternity on the same day on which he lost all his property. Not a child was left him. His Reuben and his Benjamin, his daughter that was to him as a pet lamb, all died. And then they died so suddenly. No previous sickness gave warning of approaching death. In the morning he had parted with them, not dreaming that he should nevermore see their faces in the land of the living. Nor had he satisfactory evidence that they were prepared for this solemn exchange of worlds. Indeed he had fears to the contrary. As priest of his own house, he had been in the habit of offering sacrifices for them on occasion of their feasts, thinking that they might have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Job 1:5. But on this occasion Job had not time to offer sacrifice or prayer after the close of the feast. How must this saint of God have followed in imagination the departed spirits of his children. And how must his heart have swollen with anguish when in vain he sought for assurance of their salvation. Yet at the end of all this, Job reverently "fell down upon the ground, and worshiped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return there: the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:20-21.

But neither the malignity of Satan nor the mysterious love of God would permit Job's sufferings to end here. Satan obtained permission to afflict him with bodily disease, so that he was covered from the sole of his foot unto his crown with sore boils. This affliction makes a standing posture a rack of torture, a chair a seat of misery, and a couch a "bed of unrest." In the midst of his wretchedness, he "took a potsherd to scrape himself and he sat down in the ashes." In our suffering it is seldom that we cannot find some posture that will not give some relief. But his was not Job's case. Pain followed pain, and quiver succeeded quiver until his agony was complete. Hear his dolorous complaint: "When I lie down I say, When shall I arise and the night be gone? My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken and become loathsome. When I say, My bed shall comfort me, then you scare me with dreams, and terrify me through visions. My breath is corrupt, the graves are ready for me." Job 7:4, 5, 13-14, and 17:1.

From all this weight of suffering Job might have found some relief, had the wife of his bosom possessed a right spirit. But when she saw him thus afflicted, her heart rose in rebellion against God, and instead of exhorting her husband to faith and patience, she bade him "curse God and die." During his prosperity Job's wife may have given some evidence of piety. If so, how must such an avowal have pierced his soul; and if not, how afflicting it must have been to behold her, whom he loved so tenderly, venting her wickedness against God? She not only manifested hatred to him whom Job adored; but she became cold and cruel to her husband. He says: "My breath is strange to my wife, though I entreated for the children's sake of my own body." Job 19:17. The appeal to conjugal affection was fruitless. Pointing to the pledges of their love in their offspring had no effect. Her marriage vows and all the kindness she had received were forgotten. Her heart was unfeeling.

Another source of distress to Job was the conduct of his friends, his servants and his neighbors. To him that is afflicted, pity should be shown. But when those in whom we have trusted hide as it were their faces from us, it is sad indeed. At first Job's friends seemed disposed to sympathize with him, but they soon began to accuse him wrongfully. They aggravated his sufferings by referring to his former prosperity. Job 4:2. They dealt deceitfully with him. Job 6:15. They scorned him. Job 16:20. They vexed his soul. Job 19:2. He says: "They whom I loved are turned against me." Job 19:19. They charged him with hypocrisy, Job 20:5; they told him God was punishing him for his injustice and cruelty, Job 22:6-9; they perverted his language, and upon his speech put a construction which he had never thought of, and a meaning which he abhorred. Job 34:9; 35:2. The great difficulty was that without evidence they believed him guilty; and such people cannot be convinced by evidence. Under these circumstances Job poured forth his complaints. Hear him: God "has put my brethren far from me and my acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. Those who dwell in my house and my maids count me for a stranger. I called my servant and he gave me no answer." Job 19:13-16. So full was the conviction of those around Job that he was a bad man, and so helpless was he, that he was held in the utmost contempt. Even "young children despised him, and when he arose they spoke against him." Job 19:18. The children of the lowest people and of base men, who were viler than the earth, sported with him and spit upon him. Job 30:1-10. If we feel great pain at even suspicion thrown on our characters, what must Job's anguish have been when old and young, rich and poor, vile and honorable, pious and ungodly, united in suspecting, condemning or despising him as a bad man! Nor had Job any means of proving himself innocent. The charges brought against him were general and vague. It was impossible for him to prove a negative. Yet he felt, as all good men do, that a good name is better than great riches and precious ointment. His other trials would have been comparatively light, had his friends been true and kind. But they were unstable and greatly misjudged him.

Another source of sorrow was that Job had no sensible religious comfort. He cries out, "Oh that I were as in months past." Job 29:2. At no period of his sufferings does he seem to have had those transporting views of divine things, which many of the martyrs had, and which quenched the violence and fire, and bore the soul away from the consideration of personal pains to rapturous thoughts on Jesus, and heaven, and the crown of imperishable glory. Yes, not only was he tossed with tempest and not comforted, but his soul was filled with great distress. He cries out: "The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinks up my spirit: the terrors of God set themselves in array against me." Job 6:4. The spirit of a man sustains his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear? Even when alone the terrors of God may be insupportable; but when joined to so many other evils, where is the heart strong enough to bear the dreadful weight?

It heightened Job's misery that he had no sweet access to God in prayer. He says, "Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him. Behold I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand, but I cannot behold him: he hides himself on the right hand that I cannot see him." Job 23:3-4, 8-9. The privilege of prayer in all its sweetness remaining to God's people, they have inexpressible comfort; but when that is gone, what can the soul do?

Another aggravation of Job's affliction was, that although better instructed than his friends, he yet but imperfectly understood the doctrine of providence. This difficulty has been felt in every age. In the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations it terribly afflicted the righteous. Even under the clear light of the gospel, good men have perplexities from this source. Job had no such clear Scriptures as these: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten"; "If you be without chastisement, you are not sons"; "We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God"; "We know all things work together for good to those who love God." Instead of this clear light Job himself saw God's ways involved in inscrutable mystery. Job 31:3.

Hope of better days on earth seems quite to have departed from him. He says, "I shall no more see good." Job 7:7. As far forward as his vision extended, all was dark and dreary. No star of promise, no ray of joyous expectation illumined the gloom. Former greatness and happiness but showed him how low he had fallen. They gave no pledge of return. All seemed to be irretrievably gone. The great man of Uz became a companion to owls, and his harp was turned into mourning, and his organ into the voice of those who weep. Job 30:29, 31.

Under this enormous load of suffering Job set a bright example of patience. Not a word of sinful murmur escaped his lips. Job 1:22. He exhibited not the proud severity of the stoic in refusing to acknowledge himself afflicted. He had not the iron hardihood of atheism, denying God's hand in his troubles. Nor did he exhibit the sinful sinking of unbelief. He submissively acquiesced in what God ordained. He brought no foolish charge against his Maker. He meekly says: "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" Job 2:10. He sought solace in worship and especially in praise. It is not claimed that in all things Job was spotlessly pure, but only that he was in the main, persistently upright. Near the close of the book God himself says, "My servant Job has spoken of me the thing that is right." Job 42:7. Job did indeed undertake to reason on matters beyond his knowledge. Job 38:2. But the general tenor of his feelings was pleasing to God. For a long time he bore the most trying events with a spirit of submission probably never equaled in a mere man. For this cause he is fitly held up to us as one whose example is worthy of imitation.

III. Let us consider his history after the heavy hand of God was no longer upon him. On this point the record is brief but highly satisfactory. "When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand teams of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. In all the land there were no other women as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers. Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, good life." Job 42:10-17

Every foul imputation on his character was wiped away. Every slanderous tongue was silenced. The terrible storm was passed. Only the peaceable fruits of righteousness remained. Sobered and chastened he indeed was, but richly laden with the experience of God's goodness. He saw the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.

Concluding Observations

1. How vain are all merely earthly possessions! How unstable is popular favor! How uncertain are riches! How soon our pleasures may be followed by pains! When parents rejoice at the birth of a child, they know not how soon they may weep over his dead body without an assurance that his soul is saved. Solomon thoroughly tried the world. His sober inspired judgment was that all was vanity. The sooner we reach that conclusion ourselves, the wiser shall we be.

2. Let us always be more afraid of sinning against God than of offending our nearest earthly friends. Job instantly repulsed the wicked assaults of his wife, saying, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks." Job 2:10. To his own disciple, Peter, Jesus was compelled to say: "Get behind me, Satan: you are an offence unto me: for you savor not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." Matt. 16:23. No human friendship may for a moment interfere with our fidelity to God.

3. Although God generally chooses the poor as his children, yet he offers mercy to the rich, and receives all such as humbly seek his grace. Job's riches did not debar him from the kingdom of heaven. By reason of depravity riches tend to alienate the heart from God; yet sovereign grace can remedy that evil. He, who is rich in this world's goods, and also rich in faith and good works, is loudly called to sing the praises of Jehovah. Nothing but almighty power could thus make the camel go through the eye of the needle, or preserve the soul from the burning flames of insatiable covetousness.

4. Weight of character and a high order of talents are by no means confined to the enemies of God. Why should they be? Piety is wisdom. Who ever stood higher for wisdom in council, for soundness of judgment and for prowess in war than did the man of Uz? In proportion to the number of consistent professors of religion, there cannot be found any number of men who surpass God's people for calmness of inquiry, soberness of mind and practical wisdom. True religion is worthy of the most earnest and solemn attention.

5. Good men are not always good in proportion to the degree of light which they enjoy. Job is supposed to have lived before the time of Moses, under the obscurity of the patriarchal dispensation; yet he was a burning and a shining light. He neither saw nor heard many wondrous things well known to us. Yet how far did he and Abraham and Enoch and other ancient worthies excel the great mass of even good men of these latter days. Truly we ought to blush for our short-comings. Guilt is in proportion to light. Surely then we must be very guilty for our sad deficiencies.

6. When malice, or envy, or suspicion, or evil surmising exists, no established reputation, no lack of evidence of guilt can "tie the gall up in the slanderous tongue." By a long and holy life Job had given incontestable evidence of the purity of his character. His friends could bring no proof of his criminality in anything. Yet they charged him with cruelty, avarice and hypocrisy. Such wickedness has not yet left the earth. It is no new or rare thing for the best men to be charged with the basest plans, principles or practices. It will be so until grace shall reign through Jesus Christ over all hearts. A propensity to evil thoughts and evil speeches is among the last faults of character from which even good men are delivered.

7. If friends accuse us falsely and act as enemies, let us not forget to pray for them. Job set us the example: Job 42:8. Enmities arising between old friends are generally more violent than others. "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle." Prov. 18:19. But we must not yield to passion. We must forgive and seek blessings on those who falsely accuse us and cruelly treat us. It was not until Job prayed for his accusers that God turned his captivity. Let us never carry a load of malice in our hearts. It is worse than any evil we can suffer at the hand of man.

8. When our characters are assailed, we are at liberty to use Christian measures to remove an evil report. It is then best to leave the whole matter in the hands of God. Lawsuits for character may be lawful and sometimes expedient. But when bad passions are excited, no character is so unspotted that malice will not spew out its venom against it. We may deny our guilt; we may call for evidence against us; we may bring evidence of innocence; but with men of heated imaginations and strong prejudices, evidence never has its just weight.

9. It is very dangerous to become involved in a labyrinth of reasoning concerning God, his character and providence. Things which are revealed belong to us and our children. We may safely follow wherever revelation leads; but we are no judges of what is proper to be done under the government of God. The attempt to criticize the divine proceedings is always a failure and iniquity.

10. It is important to study the Scriptures and learn all we can concerning the plans and providence of God. Had Job clearly known what we by patient study may learn, it would have removed much of the pungency of his grief. God's word is a light and a lamp. Let us walk by it.

11. What is the grief of each one? Is it poverty, poor health, loss of reputation, loss of spiritual comfort? Whatever it is, take for an example of suffering affliction Job, the narrative of whose trials was written for our comfort. Like him, let each one say of the Almighty, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Job 13:15. Never was pious confidence in the Lord misplaced. Never did any trust in him and was confounded.

12. The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him. The greatest secret God ever reveals to his people is the mystery of redemption. Of this Job was not ignorant. By this he triumphed. His own language is explicit: "But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!" Job 19:25-27

you sport on the brink of ruin!

(Asahel Nettleton, "Rejoice Young Man!")

"Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things, God will bring you into judgment!" Ecclesiastes 11:9 

Young men! You may think: "Surely there can be no harm in gathering some of the delights and tasting the pleasures of the present season."

If your souls are in danger of being lost by the alluring pleasures of what men call innocent amusements--will you now regard a warning from God? Or do you wish, like the others, to be flattered on to destruction? Your trifles of time will then be lost in the solemn concerns of eternity!

Should the unseen hand of death suddenly approach and find you as you are--you are gone, and lost forever! Is this a time to rejoice and make merry? Remember--you must soon die and go to judgment! 

I well know that you intend to die the death of the righteous--and so did all who are now in Hell. Not one had made his calculations to lie down in eternal torments!

At the righteous judgment of God, it will then appear that your youthful days in which you now rejoice--were wholly spent ingathering fuel for your own eternal torments! 
Surely, God out of Christ, is a consuming fire--and nothing but the brittle thread of life, supported by the hand of an angry God, now holds the sinner from dropping into the flames of Hell! 

You sport on the brink of ruin!

Can you amuse yourselves with trifles, while your soul is in danger of being eternally lost? 

You chase a bubble, at the hazard of falling into endless torments!

Yet many plead the example of the world which lies in wickedness. They feel safe because they run with the multitude. Others have done so before. My friends, those others have gone to Hell! They were sporting in sin, when suddenly they not only died, but were damned!

You are now, in your lifetime, receiving your good things. And this little may be all that you will ever enjoy. Your last day, your last hour will soon come. Were this day to close the scene of your mortal life--what have you gained? Were God's judgment now to open to your view--what have you been doing? Your work for eternity is ended. And the holy Judge pronounces your final doom. 

We are to remember that God always sees us--and do what we will, we can never get out of His sight, or out of His hand. Your past conduct is now recorded in Heaven--the account is gone in, and cannot be altered. It will shortly be presented to your view. The mirthful scene will now be changed. Every action will now be weighed by the omniscient Judge. Every secret thing will now appear. God will bring to the light of open day, the hidden works of darkness, and the secret counsels of all hearts. The righteous Judge will proceed to the trial on the principles of strict justice. He will now demand the uttermost farthing--absolute perfection. Without pity, or allowance for the levity of youth--He will condemn and punish for every failure of perfect obedience. An idle word, an impure thought, cannot be forgiven. For all those things, O young man--how will your present mirthful conduct then appear? 

"Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things, God will bring you into judgment!" Ecclesiastes 11:9

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Though I am nothing

(George Everard, "Help on the Way to the Better Land!" 1873)

"Though I am nothing." 2 Corinthians 12:11  

Wonderful was the grace that taught the once proud Pharisee thus to speak!  To be "the least of the apostles," was much to say. (1 Corinthians 15:9) To be "less than the least of all all God's people," was still more. (Ephesians 3:8) To be "chief of sinners," was yet more. (1 Timothy 1:15) But "to be nothing," this is the very acme of humility! 

"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."James 4:6

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Amen O Lord

Archibald G. Brown, December 2, 1894, East London Tabernacle
 
"Then answered I and said: Amen, O Lord. [Or, So be it, O Lord]" Jeremiah 11:5
Few, if any, of the characters in Holy Scripture are grander than that of Jeremiah. He was a man among a thousand — indeed, among ten thousand. But, singularly enough, no man has been more misunderstood. The popular idea seems to be that he was on the whole rather a weak character, slightly sentimental, very much addicted to weeping, and sensitive to a degree, if not to a fault; one who took a very gloomy view of affairs; a man who must have suffered more or less from depression, and one who knew very little of strong, holy, boldness — but was chiefly characterized by that which is plaintive.
So far is this from being the case, that Jeremiah stands all but unequaled as a single-handed hero. He was no cowardly, retiring prophet, shrinking from delivering his testimony, apologizing for his existence, and speaking with bated breath when in the presence of the Lord's foes. God declared that he should be as an iron column and as a brazen wall — and such the Lord made him.
We know more of Jeremiah than we do of any of the other prophets, for there is such a strong personal element in his book. Isaiah is all but unknown as a person. Once or twice we get a glimpse of him in his prophecy, as in the 6th chapter — but our conception of Isaiah is really the conception of his writings.
But the man Jeremiah is always appearing. The whole book is full of personal incidents, and we are able to look right into his character. He was wonderfully observant, and he seemed to keenly note his own passing thoughts, and he jots down in beautiful simplicity the expressions which fall from his own lips.
If ever there was a bold warrior, it was Jeremiah. It is a grand mistake to suppose that in order to be a hero, it is necessary to have a hide like a rhinoceros. You will generally find that the most heroic men are the most sensitive. The men who have done the grandest work for God, and borne the most fearless testimony, have not been of hard, unfeeling natures — but men who have worn their nerves outside, and who have known what it is to tremble often with heart agony.
Jeremiah was faithful among the faithless. He lived during the very darkest days of Jewish history. Apostasy was all but universal. The people had forsaken God by the wholesale. But there was one man who stood and faced a mad populace and angry kings for forty years. Never do you find him yielding. In an essentially selfish age, he was whole-souled. Amidst utter worldliness, he was consecrated. To the end of the age, Jeremiah will stand forth as one of the most splendid men that God ever raised up or used in carrying out his work.
And what would poor, erring humanity become, if it were not that God is pleased to raise up these elect souls who interpret to others the will of God, and then become in themselves sublime illustrations of whole-souled faith and obedience? While it is true that God works by his word, it is just as true that he does so through human instrumentality. And, if you take the history of Christ's church, you will find it to be the consecutive histories of master-men, choice souls who differed from the common herd; men who were called and equipped by God to bear some peculiar testimony. Oh, may God raise up a race of them today, for I am sure that we badly need them!
Such men serve as moral breakwater, and, when the storm and the tempest and the cyclone of doubt and immorality and skepticism go sweeping over a nation — the waves break on them, and they stand like a Plymouth breakwater flinging off the surges amid clouds of blinding spray. They seem almost hidden and half-drowned themselves; but under their lee what a number of little ships find shelter! What a multitude of weaker souls find the force of the tempest broken by them! God grant that now, while such a hurricane of doubt, suspicion, 'higher criticism', and all other kinds of devilry, are abroad — there may be still found some who, although they may have to pay an awful price for the honor, may, in some measure, be breakwaters behind which weaker souls shall drop their anchor and ride out the storm.
Jeremiah was all this. He was one of the reminders of God. We see in the 106th Psalm that human nature is quick to forget that there is a God; and I believe that human nature would forget it altogether, if there were not some men to whom God is such a gigantic reality that they make others feel it. As Jeremiah walked up and down in the land, he practically kept saying, 'God is: God is' — and God could not be forgotten while there was a Jeremiah ringing out this note. He was just a God-raised witness for despised truth. While he thus interpreted the will of God, he illustrated it in himself.
And you cannot interpret the will of God unless you are willing to illustrate it. The mightiest sermon is never the sermon that you preach: it is the sermon that you live; and, while Jeremiah kept foretelling and expounding the will of God, he was in himself a magnificent illustration of . . .
unbounded consecration,
unswerving fidelity, and
unrepining obedience.
Do you say, 'Why this introduction?' It is because, as you will see now, it is the explanation of the words of my text. If you read a few verses back, you will see that the Lord is reminding Jeremiah of the covenant that he had made with the people as to their possession of the holy land, and he is reminding Jeremiah how they had broken that covenant, and how practically they had brought themselves under the curse; for you read in the 3rd verse that the Lord said to Jeremiah, 'Cursed is the man that obeys not the words of this covenant, which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obeymy voice, and do them, according to that which I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, that I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day.'
It is very terrible language to hear. God says, 'Remember what I said. I said, "Cursed is the man that obeys not" — and this people have not obeyed the covenant, and I must turn them out from this land, and give it unto others.' And what do you read? 'Then I answered and said: Amen, O Lord.' If you would come across a grander text than this, I think you will have to look a long while to find it. Jeremiah hears the thunder of the curse ringing in his ear. He knows that his beloved people have broken this commandment of God, that they have forfeited all claim upon him for the land, and yet I do not find him quibbling with God. I find him acquiescing. I do not find him protesting against the seeming severity of the word. He simply bows his head and says, 'Amen, O Lord'; that is, 'So be it.'
I. Here you have the one response which a man of God must ever make to the words of God. When God says anything to him, there is nothing left for him but to bow the head and say, 'Amen, Lord,' and perhaps we shall find out before the sermon is over, whether we have been doing this or not in our past career, and it may be that the secret of many a contention which is going on between God and some of you will be made clear. God has spoken to you — but thus far there has not been Jeremiah's response of 'Amen, O Lord.'
I think that you will see that this response is the only one that suits a creature's lip. When God speaks, there is nothing left for man but to hear. When God decrees, there is nothing for man to do but acquiesce. When Jehovah gives a command, what is there left for his creature to do but obey? Any other word than 'Amen' springs from rebellion. Any other response to the word of Jehovah, simply tells of a heart that wars with God. It is not for men to judge God's words, far less to amend them. If it pleases Jehovah to say anything, no matter how stern, how terrible, how searching — there is only one position for man: that is to bow his head and say, 'Amen.'
'Oh', says one, in the proud spirit of our times, 'you are making a bold bid for your God this morning.' I am. The sovereignty of God needs to be brought to the front. There has been too much trifling with Jehovah. Man needs to have the peacock's feathers plucked out of his cap, and be taught that he is a poor little nothing, and that for God to speak to him at all is infinite condescension, and that for him to say anything else than 'Amen' is boundless impudence.
If God condescends to utter a command, am I to go and judge whether the Lord has a right to say it? Shall I take the word of Jehovah my Maker and weigh it in my scales, and bring up his thoughts to the paltry bar of my fallen reason, and virtually enter my protest unless I can see a good reason for God speaking as he does?
When God promulgates a decree, He does not send it to man to be revised. According to the pride our times, the only Bible that is worth reading is one that has been amended by its readers. God has not come down to this yet — and He never will. His claim is this, 'I am Jehovah. I, the Lord, speak that which is right, and let man say, "Amen, O Lord."'
We are living in the days of the deification of humanity. One gets sick even of the very word 'humanity'. We hear so much about 'the enthusiasm of humanity', and 'the glory of humanity', and 'the triumphs of humanity', that God has become little better than a very inferior deity who runs after man and tips His cap to him. This is not the picture which God's Book gives. God's claim is this, 'I am the Lord, and you are but the creatures of my hand. The brightest of my angels are but sparks struck off from the anvil of my creative omnipotence. When I speak, let men and angels be silent; or, if they must speak, let them say, "Amen, O Lord."' This is the only the response that suits a creature's lip.
Let me take you but one step further. This response is the only one that can be given if you remember the character of God. Here my poor little skiff is launched on a boundless ocean. The character of God! Can you tell me all that lies in those three letters, G-o-d, the most wonderful word that was ever spelled? If you appeal to this platform the answer is: I cannot tell you. I do not know what God is. I cannot conceive what God is. No man has dreamed what God is — except as God has been pleased to reveal himself. Now, what has he revealed himself as?
As a God whose wisdom is infinite; and methinks the scientist will grant that, for after all, what are the triumphs of science but the discovery of those wondrous laws of nature that tell of an infinitely wise law-giver and law-maker? If you can conceive of a being who is . . .
infinitely wise,
all powerful,
infinitely righteous,
absolutely holy,
inflexibly just,
and all gathered up into boundless love — that is God.
If such a One speaks, what is there left for me but to say, 'Amen'? I am stark, raving mad, if I dare question the utterance of Infinite Wisdom. I am unutterably vile, if I can dare to criticize the utterance of Absolute Love. Idiocy must have taken hold of my brain and, alas! of my heart, if I would amend anything which His infinite holiness has declared. The very nature and character of God declare that the only response for man when God speaks, is 'Amen, O Lord.'
And yet I must not leave this point until I touch one other aspect of it, and that is that this response must be universal in its nature. I am not to give a vociferous 'Amen, O Lord', to one thing, and then keep a total silence when the Lord says another. I am to say 'Amen' all round. You will see that in this particular instance Jeremiah had to say 'Amen' to what was not pleasant. The first word is 'cursed'. Oh, let the dilettante gentlemen of the present century, who have such fine ideas of universal fatherhood of God and I know not what — those gentlemen who spend their time in blowing bubbles which are not more remarkable for beauty than for the way in which they burst — hear this word 'cursed!' But you say, 'That is not kind. It must be a mistake. The dear Father could never utter such a terrible word as that.'
Jeremiah heard the word 'cursed', and he said, 'Amen, O Lord.' Oh, brethren and sisters, it is not for us to be picking and choosing! It is so easy, is it not, to turn to a nice sweet invitation, such as 'Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest', and say, 'Amen, O Lord'? Or we turn to some precious promise, 'My grace is sufficient for you', and we say, 'Amen, O Lord.' But when God denounces sin, and your sin, and your besetting sin, and when God tells of righteous judgment for apostasy and unbelief, we are to say, 'Amen, O Lord!' to that, and say it as deeply from the heart as when he says, 'Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden.'
Oh, for that grand attitude of resignation and submission to God, that bows before every word of God, whether it be a silver note of mercy from Heaven, or a thunder-clap of denunciation! We want that spirit which covers its head before God, and says, 'Amen', even to the lightning flash which threatens to blast us. 'Amen, O Lord', is the only response which a saint of God can give to the words of God.
 
II. I will mention some lips from which we would gladly hear the response. Thus far I have only dealt with the matter in general, and I trust that God has in some measure showed you that it is the only response to be given to any word of his. Now let me try to point out some of the lips from which we long to hear the word 'Amen.'
First, the lips of the lost sinner in reference to God's method of salvation. You will see how the context will help us. God reminds Jeremiah that entrance into the promised land was contingent upon Israel falling in with and accepting God's methods. Now, sinner, would you be saved? Have you any desire to enter into that more blessed land, the heavenly Canaan? Then it behooves you to find out what God's covenant is, and to see how God is going to admit you into that land; and it is for you to say, 'Amen, O Lord', to all the conditions of the new covenant. You will have to fall in with all that God says, as to his way of salvation.
Let us see how this will work out. I wonder how many of you will say 'Amen' all the way through. May our prayers for souls being ingathered be answered even now. To begin with, there will have to be on your part an acquiescence of the sinful position which God gives you. What position is that? Ruined by the fall of your first father, Adam; perverted through a fallen nature that you received from your own parents with a bias toward evil in you, accompanied by deliberate sin on your part — you have been brought into a condition of being depraved and guilty before God.
And God, pointing to the sinner, says, 'Sinner, you are lost, you are guilty, you are under judgment, you are under a curse. Do you take the position assigned to you?' The proud sinner says, 'No, Lord, I object to it'; but the humble sinner says, 'Amen, O Lord.' That is the first step. Until you acquiesce in the depraved position which God gives you as a poor, lost, ruined, helpless sinner, there can be no salvation for you. Have not some of you quarreled with God long enough over that point? When are you going to bow the head and say 'Amen', to it?
What is the next step? The sweeping away of all supposed human ability. God says to the sinner, 'You never can save yourself. You have nothing in you that ever can be evolved into salvation. Your holiest things are all defiled, and, if you could work a decent holiness, that would not save you, because my plan is not of works, lest any man should boast.' And the hand of God comes and sweeps the table. 'Not of works'; and away fly, as a ground of salvation, chapel-going, church-going, baptism, the Lord's supper, Bible-reading, praying, almsgiving. 'Not of works.' The proud soul runs and tries to save the works which have been swept off the table. The humble soul says, 'Amen, O God.' He sees all his supposed good works being swept into the dust-bin, and he simply says, 'Amen', and he lets them go.
The third step is this: God says, 'Sinner, in my covenant of salvation I have put the whole of your salvation in the person of my Son Jesus Christ. I do not trust you with it at all. I have laid it all up in Him. His merits, not yours. His righteousness, not yours. Any acceptance can only be an acceptance in him. Any completeness on your part can only be a completeness in him. It pleases my sovereign will to entrust the whole of your salvation in the person of my Son.' And would to God that with a lowly heart you might respond, 'Amen, O Lord. So be it.'
And then the Lord will take you one step further, and say, 'The simple acceptance of my Son is the one condition on which I save you. All the merits which are treasured up in him shall be put down to your account, the moment you trust him.' I wonder whether any man or woman will bow before that word, and say, 'Amen.' If so, you are a saved man. This is a saving 'Amen'.
Paul's expression in the 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is most remarkable, 'the obedience of faith' ; and that defines just what faith is. It is being brought into obedience. God designs to save you in one way, and you want to be saved in another; but God will never give in to you. Then you had better submit to God's method. Drop all your false pride and dignity, and bow and say, 'Amen, O Lord.
No more, my God, I boast, no more,
Of all the duties I have done;
I leave the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Your Son.'
Only a moment more. Should we not hear it from the lips of the saint concerning God's instructions as to daily life? God says, 'Be separate from the world', and the response should be, 'Amen, O Lord.' Only you want to go to a ball, do you not?
'Amen, O Lord--with the exception of that card party.'
'Amen, O Lord--only please let me go to the theater next Tuesday.'
Nay, if you are a real loyal soul — then all the diamond dust of God's commands will be infinitely precious to you; and when he says to you, 'Be separate', you will say, 'Amen, O Lord.' And when he tells you to think more of him than of your business, you will say, 'Amen, O Lord.' And instead of worshiping that business as you have been doing lately, you will only toil in trade in order to have the wherewithal to give to glorify him. The idea of amassing wealth for wealth's own sake, will be abandoned.
You will have heard his word, 'Seek first the kingdom of God', and you will say, 'Amen, O Lord.'
You will hear him say, 'Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers', and you will break off that engagement with that ungodly young man and you will say, 'Amen, O Lord.'
Why is it that there is so much friction and misery and wretchedness abroad? Is it not in great measure because those of us who profess to be the Lord's are so slow to say 'Amen', concerning all that God says as to ordinary every-day life?
But I hasten on to the last point, and I want to put it right down into the very center of your soul. It is this: these words ought to be heard from the lips of the people of God in reference to providential dealings. God does not only speak from the pages of his word; God speaks from providence. Oh, how tough a work it often is to say 'Amen!' Is it not so?
'And the Lord said unto Abraham, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go into a mountain which I will show you, and offer him as a sacrifice.' I think I see the muscles of Abraham's brow knotted with an unutterable agony. And yet he says, 'Amen, O Lord.' The next thing I read is that early in the morning he starts with his son.
Now then, sir, the God of Abraham lives still, and he is trying and testing his saints today, as he did then, and he waits for the response of your heart, 'Amen, O Lord.' God has wonderfully prospered you in business. Suppose the Lord just turns the tide altogether aside, and your business ebbs away from you. Do you think you can say, 'Amen, O Lord'?
God has wonderfully blessed your home. There is health, there is rest, there is love, there is joy, there is peace. With what light steps will you go from this tabernacle back to your home! You have everything there to praise God for. But suppose the angel of death should spread his wings, and the brightest, fairest, and loveliest of that home should be removed. What if your young wife should be laid low? What if your stalwart young husband should be taken? What will you say then? May God help you just to answer with Jeremiah, 'Amen, O Lord.'
Oh, it is this that God is waiting for, and it is to this that he is educating us by losses, by sicknesses, by trials, by deaths — to learn to say 'Amen.'
I was so charmed the other day in reading the story of those three Hebrew youths in the book of Daniel. There is the furnace burning. I hear its roar. It has been heated seven times, and Nebuchadnezzar is giving the sign that they are to be cast in. And what do those three Hebrew youths say? "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king!" And then come three grand words: "But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up!"
That is what I call grace. Oh, it is so easy to say, 'O Lord, we will worship you if you help us. We will be true to you, if you bless us. Only keep us out of the furnace, and we will sing to you.' But the spirit of Jeremiah is a spirit that says, 'But if not, we will be true to our God still. If he puts his sword to our throat, we will say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him"; and, as the life-blood gurgles from the wound which his own sword has made, my last struggling breath shall say, Amen, O Lord!'
Fellow workers for God, we ought to be foremost in saying it. I find that Elijah never hesitated. The word of the Lord came to Elijah, and said, 'Arise' — and so he got up and went. The word of the Lord said, 'Go to Kishon's brook' — and he went. The word of the Lord said, 'Go to the widow who is picking up sticks, and ask for bread' — and he went.
'Amen, O Lord' ought to be the characteristic of the Christian worker. Where are you to labor? Well, where would you like to labor? Perhaps you say, 'Oh, I have labored so long in this sphere that I feel as if my roots had got intertwined with a thousand others, and it would be half death to me to be plucked up.' But if the Lord says, 'Be removed' — O worker, there is only one thing left to you to do, and that is to say, 'Amen, O Lord.'
If he tells you to step out of the pulpit and teach an infant class, say, 'Amen, O Lord.' If he tells you to give up preaching to that congregation and go and spend your time in the with the aged, say, 'Amen, O Lord.'
You see that this covers the whole ground. The most perfect example of this is Christ. The clever men, the wise men, and the rich men — all ignore him; and the few that gather round about him are of low caste and ignorant. But is Jesus wounded and hurt? Listen, 'I thank you, O heavenly Father, that it has pleased you to hide these things from the wise and prudent, and that you have revealed them unto babes.' Did he murmur? 'Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight.' There is God's perfect servant saying, 'Amen, O Lord.'
But the last great prophecy remains, and the church of God is to add her 'Amen' to it. He who died for sinners and who for sinners was buried, and he who rose from the tomb and ascended up on high as the true Melchizedek, the combination of high priest and royal king, has left this word, 'Surely I come quickly.' The hope of the church is the return of her Lord. Let the church bow her head, and say, 'Amen, O Lord. Even so come, Lord Jesus.'
The theme is inexhaustible. Whether God is speaking to you by his word, or speaking to you by his providence, or speaking to you through this morning's sermon — bow before the Almighty Sovereign. Let no word of rebellion rise to your lip. Doff your helmet until its plumes trail in the dust, and say with Jeremiah, 'Amen, O Lord.'God help us to add that 'Amen', for his own name's sake.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Good but not pleasant

There are some things good — but not pleasant, such as sorrow and affliction. Sin is pleasant — but unprofitable. Affliction is unpleasant — but profitable. “Before I was afflicted I went astray — but now I keep Your word!” “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes!” By affliction, the Lord separates the sin that He hates — from the soul that He loves. He sends affliction — to take the dirt of the world out of the hearts of His children. It is not sent to take down the tabernacle of nature — but to rear up the temple of grace within you. As waters are purest when they are in motion — so saints are generally holiest when in affliction. Some Christians resemble those doltish children, who will learn their lessons — no longer than while the rod is on their backs! It is well known that by the greatest affliction — the Lord has sealed the sweetest instruction. Many are not bettered by the judgments they see — when they have been bettered by the judgments they have felt. The purest gold is the most pliable by being in the furnace. That is the best blade which bends well, without retaining its crooked figure.

William Secker, 'the consistent Christian'

Thursday, October 22, 2015

It's easier to preach than to practice


If the Bible is true, the only good investment
is giving money to the poor. That is safe; it is
money put out on the best security, as being
lent to the Lord. And what a good thing it is to
make a good use of money, while so many spend
nearly all they have on their selfish desires,
fancies, and lusts!

We all love the world more than we think!

"Spare yourself!" is written very deeply in our hearts.

We love the poor children of God less than we think;
for deeds, not words, come closest to the heart.

It is easier to preach than to practice.

What a dreadful thing it is to have the curse of a
covetous heart! "The love of money is the root of all
evil," and sticks to one's heart like the flesh to the skin!

If any one at all despises money, the devil and the
world are in such a fight with him, that they are ready
to knock him on the head, and will abuse him for being
a fool, or a madman!


William Tiptaft

Satan's children hiss

Since I last wrote, I have preached in Abingdon Great
Church, on Christmas evening. I preached the truth, I
trust, to a very crowded congregation, supposed to be
(sitting and standing, who were able to get in) about
5,000 people. I pleased the believers; but very much
displeased the carnally-minded, who were never before
so puzzled and confounded in all their lives! I spoke the
truth faithfully, and so as all could hear; but I had no
idea that the gospel would have given so much offence!
It is the truth that offends and disturbs Satan's
kingdom! The neighboring clergymen, who are in
darkness, say of me, "Away with such a fellow from
the earth; it is not fit that he should live!"

My mind is not moved by the persecution. I believe
if God has a work for me to do, I shall do it, in spite
of the devil and all his children!

Nature is not changed, the gospel is not changed,
and Christ is not changed. What reason is there why
they should not hate the truth now, as much as in the
time of the apostles? I never saw any fruits of my
labors until I roused and disturbed the 'roaring lion'.
When, through the grace of God, I began to disturb
his kingdom, I soon found that his children began
to hiss!

The world and Satan hate believers. The Pharisees
hate me the most. I cut off all their rotten props,
and all their fleshly devotion!

It is not coming near to the truth, it is not the 'mere letter'
of the gospel, that will convert men; but the Holy Spirit.

Make the Word of God your study. Pin your faith to
no man's views! I scarcely read any other book.

Beware of those who want to exalt man in any manner.


William Tiptaft

Monday, October 19, 2015

This old house

"Dear friends, I urge you, as strangers and pilgrims in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." 1 Peter 2:11 

What a snare is this world to us! Thankfully, we are not here on this poor earth forever--better things await the Christian in a glorious hereafter. We are traveling homeward! This world is not our rest, because it is defiled--Jesus is preparing a better place for us. I feel like a bird standing between time and eternity, and ready to launch away at a moment's notice of the summons from above!
Time is quickly hastening on! This poor world is not worth a thought--all is passing away, but a glorious eternity awaits us! Oh, what must it be to be there!

The heart of Jesus is an ocean of love! O the joy of eternal communion with the Savior! He is the Chief of ten thousand, and the altogether lovely one! Having Him, we have all things we can desire here, and a good hope of eternal life hereafter. 

I would not be without this hope for millions of worlds! I feel that this old house is being taken down little and by little. I stand astonished, considering the storms and tempests that have assailed it, that it has continued so long. But I have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens! And there, first of all, I shall meet with the Savior of poor sinners, even Jesus Christ, who suffered, bled, and died that I should live forever!

Let us then live like one whose home is not here in this wilderness, but who is traveling day by day to a better and more glorious inheritance above, which is to last through the countless ages of a vast and endless eternity!

"Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear!" 1 Peter 1:17


Mary Winslow

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Thy paths drop fatness

“Thy paths drop fatness.”- Psalm 65:11


Many are “the paths of the Lord” which “drop fatness,” but an especial one is the path of prayer. No believer, who is much in the closet, will have need to cry, “My leanness, my leanness; woe unto me.” Starving souls live at a distance from the mercy- seat, and become like the parched fields in times of drought. Prevalence with God in wrestling prayer is sure to make the believer strong-if not happy. The nearest place to the gate of heaven is the throne of the heavenly grace. Much alone, and you will have much assurance; little alone with Jesus, your religion will be shallow, polluted with many doubts and fears, and not sparkling with the joy of the Lord. Since the soul-enriching path of prayer is open to the very weakest saint; since no high attainments are required; since you are not bidden to come because you are an advanced saint, but freely invited if you be a saint at all; see to it, dear reader, that you are often in the way of private devotion. Be much on your knees, for so Elijah drew the rain upon famished Israel’s fields.
There is another especial path dropping with fatness to those who walk therein, it is the secret walk of communion. Oh! the delights of fellowship with Jesus! Earth hath no words which can set forth the holy calm of a soul leaning on Jesus’ bosom. Few Christians understand it, they live in the lowlands and seldom climb to the top of Nebo: they live in the outer court, they enter not the holy place, they take not up the privilege of priesthood. At a distance they see the sacrifice, but they sit not down with the priest to eat thereof, and to enjoy the fat of the burnt offering. But, reader, sit thou ever under the shadow of Jesus; come up to that palm tree, and take hold of the branches thereof; let thy beloved be unto thee as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, and thou shalt be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. O Jesus, visit us with thy salvation!

C.H. Spurgeon

Saturday, October 17, 2015

In the day of adversity

In the day of adversity, you should consider from whose hand it has been sent to you. It comes direct from the hand of God.
Intermediate agencies may have been employed in inflicting it:
a cherished family member may have been the messenger of disease;
a treacherous friend may have been the cause of bankruptcy;
an avowed enemy may have been the author of reproach and shame;
Satan himself may have been allowed to smite you. But through whatever secondary agency it may have been conveyed, adversity comes from God's hand!
"I form the light — and create darkness; I make peace — and create evil. I the Lord, do all these things." Isaiah 45:7
"Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?" Lamentations 3:38
"Shall we receive good at the hand of God — and shall we not receive evil?" Job 2:10
"Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" Exodus 4:11
"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides Me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of My hand!" Deuteronomy 32:39
"The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and he exalts." 1 Samuel 2:6-7
"This is what the LORD says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people . . ." Jeremiah 32:42
"When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?" Amos 3:6
"For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal." Job 5:18
From these and many other passages it is plain that temporal affliction is ascribed to God in the Holy Scriptures, and no one who acknowledges God's Providence at all, can fail to believe that the numerous calamities of human life are permitted, appointed, and overruled by the Supreme Governor of the world.
This is a consideration of great practical importance, and should be seriously weighed in the day of adversity.
For first of all, it assures us that our afflictions are neither imposed by a fatal necessity, nor produced by the uncertain vicissitudes of chance — but come forth from the hand of one who is infinitely wise and just and good.
Secondly, it is fitted to minister at least a certain degree of comfort, inasmuch as it demonstrates that we have the security of all his attributes against the infliction of greater or more protracted suffering than is required by the necessities of our case, and the rules of perfect justice and wisdom and love.
Thirdly, it teaches us in many of our afflictions, and those which it is indeed most difficult to bear, to look beyond, and to rise above, the consideration of the mere human agency by which they have been inflicted. I refer to such as are brought on us through the malice of our fellow-men, in regard to which we are too apt to alone consider the secondary agency through which they fall upon us — instead of steadily contemplating God as addressing to us, through that agency, the warnings and lessons which we need to learn and improve. Thus it is that this class of afflictions — comprising calumny and defamation, extortion, oppression, and such like — are too little improved, and, indeed, seldom fail to produce an exasperation of spirit, diametrically opposed to that submissive temper which other afflictions, recognized as coming more directly from the hand of God, are fitted to produce.
Whereas, did we consider all afflictions, of whatever kind, as emanating from the unerring heart of loving Father — we would find, that even those which the hand or the tongue of man inflicts — are a wholesome discipline, and means of spiritual improvement.

And, finally, did we habitually bear in mind the consideration which I am now pressing on your attention, we should be the more disposed, and the better prepared for inquiring, with becoming earnestness, into the reasons which may exist for such dispensations, and the grand ends and uses for which they are designed. Let us remember, then, that every affliction, through whatever channel it may flow, comes to us ultimately from God's hand.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

gracious invitation

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."—James 4:8
How highly do men prize an invitation to approach the throne of an earthly monarch!—how eagerly is the influence of the great and powerful solicited to secure this honor!—and how ungrudgingly are time and wealth given in preparing for the eventful day! Yet, after all, it is but the invitation of one human being to another—of a worm of earth to its fellow-worm—of a sin-stained child of Adam to its sinful and polluted brother.
Here we have the "High and Holy One"—"the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth"—"the King of kings and Lord of lords," not only permitting but inviting and encouraging the children of men to "draw near" to His throne—to approach His sacred presence, and to make known to Him all their longings and desires. Oh! amazing condescension! Unutterable grace! Divine majesty stooping to utter lowliness—infinite purity to infinite sinfulness—heavenly omnipotence to earthly weakness! Well might the psalmist exclaim, "What is man, O Lord, that you are mindful of him? or the son of man, that you visit him?"
Reader, it is a solemn thing to pray—to "draw near" to Him who "searches the heart, and tries the thoughts of the children of men"—to enter the presence-chamber of the Almighty—to stand as on the gleaming pavement of heaven—the abode of purity, and holiness, and love—to have audience with that God, before whom the angels veil their faces, and at whose foot-stool they prostrate themselves in lowly adoration. O my soul! seek to realize when you pray, that you are on holy ground, that every desire and every word, sent up to the Hearer and Answerer of prayer, are clothed with unutterable importance—that to him the very heart is laid bare—its every secret scanned by His all-penetrating glance. How dreadful a thing in His sight must be any trifling with so great a privilege!—any irreverence of thought or manner in His sacred presence!—any carelessness in spreading at His footstool the anxieties which we feel, or the needs which we would have supplied! With unerring wisdom He can discern the formal worship, from the true worship—He can compare the outward and the inward—the words which are audible, and the beatings of the heart which He alone can perceive. He can and does mark, in the various petitions offered at His footstool, which was the utterance of sincere and fervent desire, and which the thoughtless effusion of unconcerned formality.
Prayer is the nearest approach to God, and the highest enjoyment of Him that we are capable of in this life. We are then in our highest state—we are upon the utmost height of human greatness—not before kings and princes—but in the presence and audience of the King of all worlds—and can be no higher, until death is swallowed up in glory!
Yes, to pray to God is indeed a blessed privilege—how blessed, let that soul tell that is most often before God, wrestling with an undaunted faith and a holy perseverance! Oh! how it lightens the heavy burden! How it raises the affections above the things of the world! How it seems to give new life to the drooping spirit! How it imparts new vigor to faith—new fervor to love—new intensity to zeal—to be much in communion with God! It is the consolation of the sad—the joy of the happy—the food of the soul—the source and safeguard of every benefit. Prayer averts the wrath of God—obtains the pardon of sin—conquers our vices—delivers us from danger, and inflames us with the love of God.
Prayer is the great means appointed by God for preserving the health of the soul. It is to the spiritual part what air and exercise are to the bodily part. Hungry and thirsty, the soul in prayer feeds upon the promises of God—oppressed by the heavy atmosphere of the world, the soul in prayer seems to breathe the fresh, pure air of heaven. Distracted—hindered—filled with earthly things, the soul is enabled to mount upward as on eagle's wing—it ascends to an atmosphere of holiness and joy, far above the earth; finding new employment for all the powers of its regenerate nature—the eye of faith to see—the ear of obedience to hearken—the hand of love to work—the tongue of gratitude to praise.
So great is the privilege—so blessed the employment, that it might appear at first sight strange that such a duty as that of prayer should need enforcement. When poor, weak, sinful creatures, who deserve to be excluded from God's presence, are invited—notwithstanding all their guilt and imperfection—to enter the presence-chamber and approach the very throne of the King of kings, we might imagine that no very pressing argument would be necessary to persuade to such a privilege—we might suppose that even as water by the thirsty, and medicine by the dying—that it would be seized with quick avidity, and drunk with the liveliest gratitude. But, alas! we are corrupt and fallen, and our very corruption makes unpalatable to us the means of its removal—our very fall has made it irksome for us to attempt to rise.
And even with the believer, it too often happens that the weakness of his faith arises from the infrequency and coldness of his prayers; for, assuredly, if there be declension here, there will also be declension in every part of the work of the Spirit in the soul. It is prayer that keeps every grace of the Spirit in active, holy, and healthy exercise. It is the stream, so to speak, that supplies refreshing vigor and nourishment to all the plants of grace. It is true, that the fountain-head of all spiritual life, and "grace to help in time of need," is Christ—for "it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell;" but the channel through which all grace comes, is, prayer—ardent, wrestling, importunate prayer. Allow this channel to be dry—permit any object to narrow or close it up, and the effect will be a withering and decay of the life of God in the soul. Every plant will droop—every flower will fade and lose its fragrance.
O Christian! see to it, then, that you are earnest in prayer. Be not discouraged because it brings no immediate answer, but feeling that without the blessing you desire, you must continue dull and spiritless—that your path will be one of gloom and sorrow—that you will grow daily more and more weak and feeble, let your cry unceasingly ascend, until it shall please the Lord to grant your request, until He sends a renewal of grace and strength, and fills your soul with heavenly blessing.
Remember the assurance, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you;" and if further assurance is needful, listen to the words, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart." "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry." "Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass." "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will answer you."
Thus will you soon be enabled to realize—as you have done in times past—the efficacy of believing prayer, and, with the psalmist, you will say, "Verily, God has heard me; he has attended to the voice of my prayer." "I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice; because he has inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him so long as I live."
In approaching the Throne of Grace, we should ever strive to possess awareness of the sovereign power, majesty, and gracious condescension of the Great Being in whose presence we stand. His spotless purity—unsullied truth—and stainless rectitude—His unalloyed mercy and inflexible justice—claim the adoration and reverence even of the most exalted of the heavenly host—how then should they engage towards Him the deepest awe and lowliest homage of fallen man! We ought ever to remember how the prophet felt, when a revelation was made to him in vision of the majesty and glory of God—when he saw the Lord "sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple, and the seraphim stood, having their faces covered with their wings, crying one to another, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, the whole earth is full of his glory."
When we approach the Throne of Grace we should endeavor to realize the same deep emotions of conscious guilt and utter unworthiness which filled Isaiah's mind and led him to say, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!" We should "serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before him with reverence." We should draw near under the heartfelt conviction that we have no claim upon God—no righteousness of our own—that our only hope is in His mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord—that we are poor and needy—helpless, sinful, and unworthy—and we should earnestly beseech Him freely to pardon all our sins, and so to lift up our thoughts and draw forth our desires towards Him, that we may be enabled to call upon Him from our inmost heart, and to frame our petitions in accordance with His blessed will. Blessed be God! if thus we "draw near" to Him, He has promised to draw near to us—in mercy and loving-kindness.
Christian, hear for your comfort and encouragement these words, "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord—though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow—though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool."
And there are promises adapted to every possible state in which a believer can be placed—promises of the presence, the power, thegrace, and the love of God. Does he ask to be led in paths of safety?—the promise is, "I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." Does he pray, "Leave me not—neither forsake me, O God of my salvation"?—the answer is, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Does he pray to be delivered from danger?—the assurance is given, "I am with you, to save you and to deliver you, says the Lord." Is the Christian alarmed at the enemies which compass him about?—he receives the promise, "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever." Does he desire spiritual instruction?—the promise is, "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, which leads you by the way you should go." Does he faint because of the toils and perils of the way?—the promise is, "I will give unto him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of lifefreely." Does he desire to see God's power and glory in the sanctuary?—the promise is, "I will bring them to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer." Does he need assurance of divine protection?—it is given in the words, "Behold I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go." "I am with you, and no man shall set on you to hurt you." Does he tremble because of his numerous transgressions?—the promise is, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own name's sake, and will not remember your sins."
Does he desire that the Lord should look upon him in mercy?—the promise is, "Thus says the Lord—To this man will I look, even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word." Is he disturbed lest he should be left to battle with his spiritual foes in his own strength?—he receives the encouragement, "Fear not! for I am with you—neither be dismayed; for I am your God—I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." Does he fear that future perils may overwhelm him?—the promise is, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you—when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." "I will not fail you nor forsake you."
In short, for every situationevery circumstanceevery event of life—there is promise of grace, mercy, and peace—there is assurance of safety here and glory hereafter—of comfort in every hour of sorrow—relief in every time of peril, and guidance in every season of perplexity. The all-comprehensive assurance is, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest." Precious encouragement! It comes from a kind and loving Father—from an almighty and gracious Sovereign—from Him "who says and it is done—who commands and it stands fast."
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." Yes, God is everywhere, and where He is, there is a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God. Surrounded with this gracious, loving presence, the Christian may fear no danger. His every petition is heard—his every cry for help enters into the ears of the Lord God of Sabbath. "The Lord is ever near unto those who are of a broken heart, andsaves such as are of a contrite spirit." "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear."
Christian! be it yours to regard it as your highest and holiest and dearest privilege that you are permitted to "draw near to God." Pray that He would stand by you in every difficulty—that He would draw you by the cords of love and keep you ever near Him, that so you may continually enjoy, in your journey through life, the consciousness of His love—His friendship—His guardian care. Go forth to your life-duties, believing that He is at your right hand, and you shall not be greatly moved. Let thoughts of His goodness—His mercy—His love and faithfulness and watchful care, mingle with all your thoughts, and be thankful for all His benefits.
Cultivate a spirit of earnest devotedness to your Father's will—patiently do and endure whatever He appoints, and rest assured He will give strength according to your day. He will "show you the path of life," and He will at length give you to realize in your blessed experience that "in His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we humble ourselves before You, confessing that we are not worthy of the least of all Your mercies. We adore You as the Father of lights, from whom comes down every good and every perfect gift, and ascribing no worth or excellence to ourselves, we would, as long as we live, render unto You due praise and unceasing thanks for Your unmerited goodness.
Holy Father, we are unworthy to be called Your children, because we have rebelled against You. We confess that we have been unthankful for Your mercies, distrustful of Your promises, and disobedient to Your commandments. We have kept back from You the affection of our hearts, and by our manifold wickedness have provoked You to cast us off from Your fellowship and favor.
O our God, we have cause to be ashamed before You, when we consider how little we have thought upon You—how often we have disregarded or forgotten You—how prone we have been to live without You in the world—how much You have witnessed, in the ungodliness of our hearts and the sinfulness of our lives, that is hateful and offensive to You.
Merciful Father, grant us Your forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ, who bore our sins in His own body on the cross, and ever lives to make intercession for us. We beseech You to draw near to us in mercy, to bestow upon us Your forgiveness, and make the light of Your countenance to shine upon us.
Give us grace also, whereby we may be enabled more faithfully to live as in Your presence. In every season of danger or of trouble may we look up to You as our very present help. In every hour of trial or temptation, may we stand in awe—lest in anything we offend You, who searches our hearts and tries our inmost being, and understands our thoughts afar off. In all the concerns and occupations of our daily life, help us to endure as seeing You who are invisible. And when our course on earth is finished, grant, O God, that we may be supported and comforted with Your presence in the valley of the shadow of death, and may at last come to the glories of Your heavenly kingdom, and there be made perfectly blessed in seeing, serving, and enjoying You forever!
Give ear, O God, to our humble supplications, and grant unto us an answer of peace, for the Lord Jesus' sake. Amen.
Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.

Your promise is my only plea,
With this I venture nigh;
You call burdened souls to Thee,
And such, O Lord, am I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to You for rest.

O be my shield and hiding-place,
That, sheltered near Your side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him, You have died!

Oh, wondrous love! to bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners such as I
Might plead Your gracious name.
—John Newton

——————

Come, my soul, your suit prepare;
Jesus loves to answer prayer—
He himself has bid you pray,
Therefore will not say you nay .

You are coming to a King,
Large petitions with you bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

With my burden I begin;
Lord, remove this load of sin;
Let Your blood for sinners spilt,
Set my conscience free from guilt.

Lord, I come to You for rest;
Take possession of my breast;
There Your blood-bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign.

As the image in the glass
Answers the beholder's face,
Thus unto my heart appear.
Print Your own resemblance there.

While I am a pilgrim here,
Let Your love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend,
Lead me to my journey's end.

Show me what I have to do;
Every hour my strength renew;
Let me live a life of faith;
Let me die Your people's death.
—John Newton


from John Alexander MacKenzie's 'the throne of grace'