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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Herod's ballroom

by Horatius Bonar

"When Herod's birthday celebration came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod." Matthew 14:6
This birth-day ball of Herod was held, in all likelihood, at Machaerus, a fortress beyond Jordan, not far from the Dead Sea. It was a high and royal festival. Pomp, splendor, luxury, and lust were all gathered there. In the midst of the song, and the glitter, and the mirth, there was one troubled conscience—Herod. There was one trembling man—Herod. His soul was ill at ease, though surrounded with all the world could give to banish care. He, Herodias, and John the Baptist may be said to be the chief personages brought before us in this scene. But let us take up the narrative in another form:
(1) Before the ball;
(2) During the ball;
(3) After the ball.
I. BEFORE the ball. The news of Christ's miracles had overspread the land, and reached Herod. He was startled and troubled. Who is this Jesus? Can he be John? Can John be risen? But why these fears on the part of Herod? The answer carries us back to the time before the ball. John had reproved Herod for his wickedness, more than a year and a half before; for Herod had taken his brother's wife, and John had proclaimed the unlawfulness of the deed. This had roused the king's anger. He would gladly have slain him, and was only kept from doing so by fear of the multitude, who reverenced John. But he imprisoned him, and kept him in the castle of Machaerus for eighteen months. The guilt of an unlawful marriage was on his conscience, as well as the guilt of imprisoning a holy man.
His course of sin had been begun and persevered in. He was braving out his crimes; and like worldly men in such circumstances, he rushes into gaiety to drown his troubles and terrors. The pleasures of the feast and the ball-room, the song and the dance—these are welcomed to induce forgetfulness, and 'minister to a diseased mind.' In how many cases do men fly to the ball, the theater, the card-table, the tavern, the riotous party—not simply for pleasure's sake, and to 'taste life's glad moments,' but to drown care, to smother conscience, to efface convictions, to laugh away the impressions of the last sermon, to soothe an uneasy mind, to relieve the burden, or pluck out the sting of conscious guilt! O slaughter-houses of souls! O shambles, reeking with blood! O lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries! How long shall men 'run on in this excess of riot?' O lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and pride of life, when will you cease to intoxicate, and lead men captive at your will? O God-forgetting gaiety! O dazzling worldliness! O glittering halls of midnight, where youth and pleasure meet—when, when will you cease to be resorted to by men to 'heal the hurt' of the human soul, to still its throb and heartache, and to stupefy the unhealable wound?
II. DURING the ball. It is a mirthful scene. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are there! All that can gratify these are there. Herod is there, feeding on lust, drinking in pleasure, stupefying conscience. The lovely daughter is there, in all the splendor of mirthful wantonness. And the vile mother is there, lascivious and revengeful. And the courtiers are there, in pomp and glitter. Music and mirth are there. The dance and the song are there. No note of gloom, no indication of trouble. What a scene of mirth and revelry!
But some are absent—conspicuously absent, we may say. John is not there. A prison holds him. His disciples are not there. They can but weep and lament. And Jesus is not there, nor His disciples. They were at the marriage festival in Cana—but this ball-room is not for them. It is not the place for a follower either of Jesus or of John.
These scenes of royal vanity are instructive, for they present the world in its most fascinating aspects. All that regal state, and princely beauty, and wealth, and gold, and silver, and gems, and tapestry, and blazing lamps can do to make this present world desired, is in such scenes and haunts. These balls are the most seductive specimens of pure worldliness, which can be found. Surely the god of this world knows how to enchant both ear and eye. In an assembly like this, the natural man is at home. Here the unregenerate heart delights to the full.
It is a place where God is not; where the cross is not; where such things as sin and holiness must not be named. It is a hall where the knee is not bent, except in the voluptuous waltz; where the music whose theme is the praise of Jesus is unheard; where the book of God and the name of God would be out of place; where you may speak of Venus or Apollo, but not of Jesus; where you may sing of human love, but not of the love which passes knowledge; where you may celebrate creature-beauty, but not the beauty of Him who is altogether lovely.
It was during that ball, that the murder of John was plotted and consummated. It was during that ball, that a drunken, lustful king, urged on by two women, perpetrated that foul deed. Such are the haunts of pleasure! Such are the masquerades of this world! Lust is let loose; revenge rises up; murder rages; conscience is smothered; the floor of the ball-room is spotted with blood; the dancers may slip their feet in it—but the dance goes on! Such was the gross worldliness of old days. But is the refined worldliness of modern times—less fatal to the soul?
The ball is finished, and John lies dead in prison. What a picture of gaiety! What a specimen of ball-room revelry! And this is pleasure! This is the world's joy! "You adulterers and adulteresses! Don't you know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God!"
III. AFTER the ball. Of the chief actors in this ball-room murder, nothing more is said. They pass to the judgment-seat, there to receive sentence for lust, rage, revenge, and murder! They have sent John before them to the presence of his Judge—to receive his reward. They have got their revenge. John's lips are silenced; that is all they care for. But his disciples find their way into the prison; they gather round their master's body; they bury it in silence. They can do no more. That ball has robbed them of their master. It has been a costly festival to them.
Then they go and tell Jesus, knowing His sympathies, and feeling that they have no one else to whom they can unbosom themselves so confidingly. Jesus hears of the murder, and is silent! Not a word escapes Him. He had come to suffer both in Himself and in His members; so He is silent. This is the day of silent endurance and patient suffering. The day of recompense is coming. O gaieties of earth! Feasts, and revelings, and banquetings, how often have you slain both body and soul! Men call you innocent amusementsharmless pleasures; but can you be harmless, can you be innocent, when you steal away the soul from God, when you nourish the worst lusts of humanity, when you smother conscience, when you shut out Jesus, when the floors on which your votaries dance off their immortal destinies, are red with the blood of souls?
Very strongly does this mirthful scene in Herod's ball-room speak to the sons and daughters of pleasure. You did not think that a ball-room could produce a murder; but here it is. You did not think that a lovely girl could be a murderess, thirsting for the blood of God's saints; but here it is. You did not think that out of the cup of pleasure,such poison could come; but here it is. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are here—all here! The scene is beautiful; the music is thrilling; the mirth is fascinating; the voices, the dress, the company, the flowers, the glitter, the lights, the mirthful faces—these are irresistible spells, leading captive every attendant.
But God is shut out; Christ cannot enter, for there is no room for Him in the ball-room; prayer could not be heard; the word 'eternity,' or 'death,' would overshadow the brightness and the gaiety. Is not all this true? I know not any place where 'the world' shows itself to more advantage, than the ball-room. All that is offensive has been left behind. All that is attractive is spread out to the full. The world is there at its best—and yet it is the world still!
What is the world? It is the unregenerate tastes, pursuits, pleasures, and lusts of Adam's fallen sons. 'Love not this world.' 'Be not conformed to this world.' There is a manifest contrast between 'this present evil world,' and between 'the things above.' Was not the world made to be loved? Yes; it was created 'very good.' But it has changed its nature, its character, its ruler. It is now evil—and not good; cursed—and not blessed; unholy—and not holy; under Satan—and not under God. It is now in a condition in which it is neither safe or right to love it. It is now an enemy and a snare! Its society is injurious; its pleasures and pursuits are full of deadly poison!
Why, then, do we stay in it? We do not stay in it further than is necessary. We have been delivered from it; we have come out of it; we are not of it, though in it. We cannot leap into heaven at once. The new earth has not yet come. Yet we say, 'Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest!' Why does God allow us to remain here in this world, amid evil and temptation? He might have brought us to heaven at conversion. But He has not done so. The only instance of such a thing is the thief on the cross. The thief is the only one so wondrously favored! And John, the beloved disciple, is kept longest here! There must be good reasons for our being kept thus amid temptation,
(1) It proves us, and brings out the evil that is in us.
(2) It glorifies God to sustain us.
(3) It displays the power of the blood of Christ.
(4) It gives scope to the working of the Holy Spirit.
(5) It gives us opportunities for working for God.
(6) It is God's way of saving others, and bearing witness before the world.
(7) We are God's army against Satan.
There is great need for us here. We are the salt and light of the world.
Why, then, are we not love the world? Ah, this is the question!
1. God commands us not to love the world. 'Love not the world.' He did not leave us in the midst of the world—that we might love it, but that we might not love it. And even though we did not see the reasons for not loving it, His command is enough. It is quite explicit, and very uncompromising: 'Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.' There is no loophole here, no way of escape, no evasion. Sometimes the line of separation may not be quite distinct; in that case let us take the safe side. Let us keep aloof from what is doubtful.
2. Christ set us an example of not loving the world. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. He was in the world, but not of the world. There was nothing worldly about Him in any sense or degree. He received sinners and ate with them—yet He was not of the world. His words were not of the world; nor His doings, nor His pursuits: 'I must be about my Father's business.' He said of His disciples and Himself, 'They are not of the world—even as I am not of the world.' Thus He whom we profess to follow, loved not the world—and shall we love it?
3. The world and the Spirit are totally opposed to each other. Christ speaks thus: 'The Spirit of God, whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him.' The world cannot bear the Spirit—and the Spirit cannot sympathize with the world. We profess to have received the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit; what, then, have we to do with the world? Worldliness, or conformity to the world, grieves the Spirit, quenches the Spirit, and is inconsistent with His dwelling in us as His temples. Can we then love the world? In loving God—we are seeking to expel the world. We are saying to it, Depart from us! If we would cherish the Holy Spirit, let us keep aloof from the world.
4. The world is the enemy of God. It is out and out opposed to God and to His Christ. It is part of that seed of the serpent which the woman's seed was to bruise—to which the prophetic words have reference: 'I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.' There can be no sympathy between the saint and the world—no love in him to that world which is enmity to him and to his God. 'Don't you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God—and whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God?' If such is the world, we need not wonder that it should be said to us, 'Love not the world.'
5. The world slew the Son of God. It was not Pilate nor Herod nor the Jews alone, that did this; it was the world! For all these were but the world's representatives. They were the world's voices crying, Crucify Him! They the world's hands nailing Him to the cross! It was the world in and through them—that condemned and crucified the Son of God. The world's hatred against Christ was consummated on the cross! The world's hands are red with His blood. Can a lover of Christ then, love the world? Can a follower of Christ follow the world? Need we wonder that it should be said, Love not the world!
6. The world's king is Satan. He is its prince and its god. The world worships him; he reigns everywhere. It is subject to him in its religion, its pleasures, its business. Even in lawful and useful things—Satan is at work, turning them to his own account, and serving his own ends by them. He is the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of the darkness of this world. All is under him, and will be—until the day when he is bound. Are we, then, to love a world thus impregnated with his hellish influences—a world which obeys him and not God? Love not the world—for Satan is its king and god. Love not the world—for it is in alliance with hell. All that is in it is from beneath, not from above.
7. The world is at variance with our new nature. Having been 'begotten again to a living hope, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead,' we are separated from our former selves. A great gulf is fixed between us, as we are now and as we once were. Our affections have gone up to heaven; and the things of this world have nothing in common with the things of the world to come. We have lost our relish for the joys of earth. We have ceased to take an interest in the conversation, the amusements, the politics, the literature which used to delight us most. The world has nothing in common with our new relishes, our new sympathies. Two cannot walk together except they are agreed; and we are no longer agreed. Our friendship has been broken, and our fellowship can no longer be maintained on the same footing of common objects of pursuit. The world stands aloof from us—and we stand aloof from the world.
8. The world's influences are unholy. The atmosphere of the world is unfriendly to us. It is fraught with poison; it stifles noble and serious thought! At the best—it acts as an opiate, to lull us asleep, and make us forget our noble character, our eternal prospects and our spiritual profession. These influences are often very imperceptible. We are not aware of the evil they are working in our spiritual constitution—lowering us, carnalizing us, contracting our vision of the eternal glory. As we mix with the world, either in the ball-room or the theater, or the card-table or the jovial party—we are insensibly harmed. Our eyes grow dim, our ears become dull of hearing, our tastes grow earthly—we become less prayerful, and less watchful—our relish for the Bible undergoes a change; the Word is no longer sweet, and the society of the saints is irksome. Yes; we cannot drink the cup of the Lord—and the cup of devils; we cannot be partakers of the Lord's table—and the table of devils!
9. The world tempts us. Its smiles are enchanting, alluring us into snares and sin. It puts on its fairest face; it speaks with its softest voice—all to win us back from Christ, to itself. It is our special tempter. It has a thousand enchantments, and the god of this world makes use of them to entangle our yielding steps, and to draw us once more to its bright embrace. Shun this tempter, O Christian! Do not let the world come between you and Christ—or dim the light of His cross. Love not the world! It has overcome thousands; it may conquer you! Beware! Do not dally with its beauty, nor remain within the sound of its intoxicating music! You come near, you listen—and so you yield, and are led back into its mirthful vanities, and become once more a captive to its will. Beware of the tempter in every form. 'Come out, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.'
10. The world blinds us. There is a veil of beauty spread over our eyes by Satan, as an angel of light, hindering us from seeing the things above. The 'god of this world blinds us,' lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are not aware of this blinding influence; but it is not the less fatal and real. The beauty of this world, comes between us and the 'King in His beauty.' The bewitching spell of seen and temporal things—hides the things that are unseen and eternal, from our view.
I do not say that the world has no attractions. I know that it has many. Its fascinations are amazingly powerful. When on some 'festival day' it puts on its bright attire, and crowds forth to make mirth amid flowers and sunshine; or when on festal nights it gathers its youth together, and bids them 'taste life's glad moments' in the dance—it shows its power to dazzle and to fascinate. That it is an evil world I know; that its beauty is unreal as well as perilous, thousands can testify. But still, like most things here, it has two aspects—one fair, the other dark. It is by the former that it beguiles its victims. The churchyard has two aspects: above there is the rich green of its turf or its flowers; beneath there is the unsightly corruption of the dead. So is it with the world. Its outside dazzles and allures; but its hidden parts are loathsome and evil.
It could serve no good end to rail at the world, speaking against it with sour words or in an unkind spirit, as if we were beings of a better race and made of finer clay. He who would win men out of it, must speak as one who once belonged to it, but who, having left it for what is truer and dearer, would gladly make others partakers of his elevated hope and joy. Let no one think that it is in anger that we speak of the world, as if we cherished anything like contempt or aversion for those who belong to it. We remember the apostle's words, 'On some have compassion, and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire' (Jude 22); and we seek to act accordingly. Having tasted the bread of life, we pity those 'who feed on ashes.' We grieve over the madness of men who cling to a sinking vessel, or choose a leprous house for their dwelling, or pitch their tent upon the hot lava; but we feel that their position is much too serious for anger or for scorn.
Besides, we are in earnest; and there is no true earnestness either in anger or in scorn. These are selfish; whereas true earnestness has risen above self. It has shaken off what is little and narrow, expanding as well as elevating the soul by the intensity of its workings. Of this I do not know a better example than Richard Baxter. You can hardly read a page or two of his practical works without lighting on some remark or appeal or epithet in reference to 'the world.' Its hollowevil character, as the greatenemy of God and souls, seems to have haunted it. He can hardly lift his pen without touching on this. He can scarcely write a chapter without bearing solemn testimony as to this. The multitudes of souls crowding with such strange eagerness into this vast enchanting prison-house, and fascinated with this siren song, seem to be continually before his sight, making his 'head waters and his eyes a fountain of tears.' How sorrowfully does he mourn over 'a weary, restless, empty world;' 'a world of cares and griefs and pains;' an 'vain, defective, troublesome' world; a 'calamitous world!' How solemnly he warns against 'this earthy, heavy world;' 'this dead and sleepy world;' this 'flattering, tempting world;' 'this dark, distracted, sensual world!' With what overwhelming earnestness does he bear his testimony against 'a licentious world;' 'a blinded, bedlam world;' a 'distracted, dreaming, dead-hearted, and impenitent world!'
With what intensity of feeling, quickened by the bitterness of his own experience, does he call it 'a malicious, cruel, ungodly world; a false, treacherous, deceitful world!' But in all this, is there anything of anger, or hatred, or envy, or revenge? No! The tone of profound yet noble sadness which every such appeal displays, shows the spirit in which it was uttered. The sharpest epithet or argument came from a heart yearning over that very world which he so unsparingly condemns—a heart in whose fervor there mingled no element of harshness or repulsive self-sufficiency, or unfeeling and complacent scorn. The words are the words of one whose compassions have been stirred to their depths, by the sight or thought of men trifling with a holy God, tampering with an eternal heir-ship of glory, and preferring to an immortal treasure—the giddy laugh, or the pride of pomp, or the sensual lust, or the glitter of gold, or the dream of fond romance. What an intensity of lofty tenderness, do these utterances express for a world which is spending its money for that which is not bread, and its labor for that which satisfies not! Those who know not the man, may call them invectives; but those who know him will appreciate, even if they do not wholly sympathize with, the spirit of sorrowful compassion in which they are spoken, and admit that they are altogether like him who wrote the Call to the Unconverted, and who wished that he were able to go up to each man separately, and upon his knees beseech him to turn to God.
With what burning words does Richard Baxter appeal to the 'voluptuous youths that run after games and dancings and revelings!' May his solemn words pierce the reader's conscience, if he is a lover of pleasure: 'Do you not know, that you have higher delights to mind? And are these toys befitting a noble soul—which has holy and heavenly matters to delight in? Do you not feel what a plague the very pleasure is to your affections; how it bewitches you and befools you, and makes you out of love with holiness? Do you know the worth of those precious hours which you play away? Have you no more to do with them? Look inwards to your soul and forward to eternity—and bethink better. Is it sports that you need? Do you not more need Christ and grace and pardon, and preparation for death and judgment, and assurance of salvation? Why, then, are not these your business? You are but preparing for your future sorrow, either by repentance or destruction.'
Strange that some Christian men, nay, ministers, should not only allow, but teach their children to dance! Thus they educate them for the ball-room, and the ball-room ushers them into the theater; for these two are but adjoining chambers of the same hall of pleasure—with a thin partition between.
Nor would it serve any good end, to say that the world has no attractions. I admit the opposite. I know that it has many. They are astonishingly varied in their nature, and so suited to the varied tastes of fallen man. They adapt themselves to each rank, each age, each class, each temper. It has visions, all its own, for the natural eye; sounds, all its own, for the natural ear; dreams, all its own, for the natural imagination; objects, all its own, for the natural heart. Its fascinations are cunningly contrived. Its enchantments are strangely powerful. Its spells are all but resistless.
For the young especially, it spreads its snares, seeking to lead them away from God. It multiplies its deceptions, that it may multiply its victims; and its success is astonishing in blinding and bewitching even those who seemed to be setting their affections on things above.
Some, it may be, will say, 'You make us to be the world, and yourselves to be the Church—what right have you to do so?' To this we make answer: We do not do so, as is thus said. It is not of persons—but of characters that we speak. We name no one; we leave each one to name himself. We tell men what God has said of the world—and having so done, we say, 'Judge yourselves; inquire how far your features resemble the world. God has said, "Love not the world;" if, therefore, you do not love the world, you have no cause to take offence at what has been said; but if you do love the world, then you must take the question to God and quarrel with His word, if there must be a quarrel in the matter. If you love the world, you cannot belong to God; for it is written, "If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
Others may say, 'We do not love the world, though we love some of the things that are in it; we do not count ourselves to belong to the world, merely because we love its amusements.' Now what are those amusements which a man may enjoy—and yet not love the world? They are such as the theater, the opera, the pantomime, the ball-room, the play, the novel. But are not these things just the essentials of the world? To love these—is to love the world. To love these is to love those very things which make the world what it is. Take away these, and what remains of the world—but its open vilenesses, which pure lips would not name? What would you say to a friend who would tell you, 'I don't admire that town; I only admire its streets, and houses, and towers, and spires, and walls'? But are not these the chief things that make up the town? Take away these, and there is no town at all; for you would not think of giving the name of town to the cellars and alleys, and lanes and low haunts of crime?
So you would designate the world not by its worst features, but by its best; not by its vices and villainies, but just by its characteristic amusements; those amusements in which all take part, and from which, therefore, more than from anything else, it takes its special name—'the world.' Others will say, 'But what harm is there in dancing, or other such gaieties?' None, of course, if you mean by this merely the act of leaping up and down. There is no more harm in it than in walking or in skipping. It is not to the mere act of leaping that I object, but to its circumstances and accompaniments. These are the things that make it evil; for 'they are not of the Father but of the world.'
And here I may notice, that by analyzing sin in this way—you may easily persuade yourself that there is no such thing as sin at all. You may say, 'Stealing is nothing; it is merely changing the position of a little gold or silver—placing in my pocket what was once in another's.' Or you may say, 'Lying is nothing; it is merely using a few words of the commonest meaning, inserting or leaving out a not in making a statement; that is all.' Thus, by analyzing the grossest sins, you may show that there is no sin in them, any more than in plucking a leaf or in rolling a stone. It is in this way that Romish casuists try to palliate all manner of evil. They analyze it, and straightway its essence evaporates. They will prove that murder is no sin, simply by separating it into its elements—as they do, who defend the amusements of the ball-room.
Even were there no harm in it, the question would remain, Is it really pure? Is it profitable? Is it befitting a saint? Does it suit the profession of one who calls himself a Christian—the bearer of a cross—the follower of a crucified Lord? Could you dance in a church? Could you dance in the death-chamber? Could you dance under the shadow of the cross or within sight of Calvary?
The day is coming, which shall strip off all guises from the objects of man's idolatry, and show them in all their unsatisfying emptiness. The deathbed has much to tell us of the world's vanity; and the grave still more. Will men listen? Will the lovers of pleasure give heed? Christ—or the world? Which is it to be? Which is it now? Not both. That cannot be. One or other; but not both. Take your choice, O man! But remember that the fashion of this world is passing away; and that a few years will end it all.

Remember, again, that Christ and His joys are forever; that the rivers of pleasure at His right hand never run dry; and that if you will take Him and all that He has, you may have eternal fullness. For no man buys Christ. No man buys the kingdom. We get Christ simply by taking Him from the Father's hand—as the Father's gift to sinners; and we get the kingdom by receiving the divine testimony to the one way of entering it—by Him who is 'the Way and the Truth and the Life.'

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How to spend each day with God

Richard Baxter
holy life is inclined to be made easier, when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties — with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending each day in a holy manner.
SleepMeasure the time of your sleep appropriately so that you do not waste your precious morning hours sluggishly in your bed. Let the time of your sleep be matched to your health and labor, and not to slothful pleasure.
First ThoughtsLet God have your first awaking thoughts; lift up your hearts to Him reverently and thankfully for the rest enjoyed the night before, and cast yourself upon Him for the day which follows.
Familiarize yourself so consistently to this that your conscience may check you when common thoughts shall first intrude. Think of the mercy of a night's rest and of how many that have spent that night in Hell; how many in prison; how many in cold, hard lodgings; how many suffering from agonizing pains and sickness, weary of their beds and of their lives.
Think of how many souls were that night called from their bodies terrifyingly to appear before God and think how quickly days and nights are rolling on! How speedily your last night and day will come! Observe that which is lacking in the preparedness of your soul for such a time and seek it without delay.
PrayerLet prayer by yourself alone (or with your partner) take place before the collective prayer of the family. If possible let it be first, before any work of the day.
Family WorshipLet family worship be performed consistently and at a time when it is most likely for the family to be free of interruptions.
Ultimate PurposeRemember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day's work or approach any activity in the world, let HOLINESS TO THE LORD be written upon your hearts in all that you do. Do no activity which you cannot entitle God to, and truly say that he set you about it — and do nothing in the world for any other ultimate purpose than to please, glorify and enjoy Him. "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Diligence in Your CallingFollow the tasks of your calling carefully and diligently. Thus:
(a) You will show that you are not sluggish and servants to your flesh (as those that cannot deny it ease), and you will further the putting to death of all the fleshly lusts and desires that are fed by ease and idleness.
(b) You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind, that swarm in the minds of idle persons.
(c) You will not lose precious time, something that idle persons are daily guilty of.
(d) You will be in a way of obedience to God when the slothful are in constant sins of omission.
(e) You may have more time to spend in holy duties if you follow your occupation diligently. Idle people have no time for praying and reading, because they lose time by loitering at their work.
(f) You may expect God's blessing and comfortable provision for both yourself and your families.
(g) It may also encourage the health of your body which will increase its competence for the service of your soul.
Temptations and Things That CorruptBe thoroughly acquainted with your besetting temptations and the things that may corrupt you — and watch against them all day long. You should watch especially the most dangerous of the things that corrupt, and those temptations that either your company or business will unavoidably lay before you.
Watch against the master sins of . . .
flesh-pleasing and
the excessive love of earthly things.
Take care against being drawn into earthly-mindedness and excessive cares, or covetous designs for rising in the world, under the pretense of diligence in your calling.
If you are to trade or deal with others, be vigilant against selfishness and all that smacks of injustice or uncharitableness. In all your interactions with others, watch against the temptation of empty and idle talking. Watch also against those persons who would tempt you to anger. Maintain that modesty and cleanness of speech that the laws of purity require.
If you converse with flatterers — be on your guard against swelling pride.
If you converse with those that despise and injure you — strengthen yourself against impatient, revengeful pride.
At first these things will be very difficult, while sin has any strength in you, but once you have grasped a continual awareness of the poisonous danger of any one of these sins, your heart will readily and easily avoid them.
MeditationWhen alone in your occupations, improve the time in practical and beneficial meditations. Meditate upon . . .
the infinite goodness and perfections of God;
Christ and redemption;
Heaven and how unworthy you are of going there;
and how you deserve eternal misery in Hell.
The Only MotiveWhatever you are doing, in company or alone, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Otherwise, it is unacceptable to God.
Redeeming The TimePlace a high value upon your time, be more careful of not losing it than you would of losing your money. Do not let . . .
worthless recreations,
worldly entertainment,
idle talk,
unprofitable company,
or sleep —
rob you of your precious time.
Be more careful to escape that person, action or course of life which would rob you of your time — than you would be to escape thieves and robbers.
Make sure that you are not merely never idle, but rather that you are using your time in the most profitable way that you can, and do not prefer a less profitable way before one of greater profit.
Eating and DrinkingEat and drink with moderation and thankfulness for health, not for unprofitable pleasure. Never please your appetite in food or drink, when it is prone to be detrimental to your health.
Remember the sin of Sodom: "Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness" Ezekiel 16:49.
The Apostle Paul wept when he mentioned those "whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their minds on earthly things, being enemies to the cross of Christ" Philippians 3:18-19. O then do not live according to the flesh, lest you die! (Romans 8:13).
Prevailing SinsIf any temptation prevails against you, and you fall into any sins in addition to habitual failures, immediately lament it and confess it to God; repent quickly whatever the cost. It will certainly cost you more if you continue in sin and remain unrepentant.
Do not make light of your habitual failures, but confess them and daily strive against them, taking care not to aggravate them by unrepentance and contempt.
RelationshipsRemember every day, the special duties of various relationships: whether as husbands, wives, children, masters, servants, pastors, people, magistrates, subjects.
Remember every relationship has its special duty and its advantage for the doing of some good. God requires your faithfulness in this matter, as well as in any other duty.
Closing the DayBefore returning to sleep, it is wise and necessary to review the actions and mercies of the day past, so that you may be thankful for all the special mercies, and humbled for all your sins.
This is necessary in order that you might renew your repentance as well as your resolve for obedience, and in order that you may examine yourself to see whether your soul grew better or worse, whether sin goes down and grace goes up, and whether you are better prepared for suffering, death and eternity.
May these directions be engraved upon your mind and be made the daily practice of your life.
If sincerely adhered to, these will be conducive to the holinessfruitfulness and quietness of your life, and bring you to a comfortable and peaceful death.

True self denial

"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me."- Luke 9:23

You hear ministers tell you of the odiousness and danger and sad effects of sin; but of all the sins that you ever heard of, there is scarce any more odious and dangerous than selfishness; and yet most are never troubled at it, nor sensible of its malignity. My principal request therefore to you is, that as ever you would prove Christians indeed, and be saved from sin and the damnation which follows it—take heed of this deadly sin of selfishness, and be sure you are possessed with true self-denial; and if you have, see that you use and live upon it.
And for your help herein, I shall tell you how your self-denial must be tried. I shall only tell you in a few words, how the least measure of true self-denial may be known: wherever the interest of carnal self is stronger and more predominant habitually than the interest of God, of Christ, of everlasting life, there is no true self-denial or saving grace; but where God's interest is strongest, there self-denial is sincere. If you further ask me how this may be known, briefly thus:
1. What is it that you live for? What is that good which your mind is principally set to obtain? And what is that end which you principally design and endeavor to obtain, and which you set your heart on, and lay out your hopes upon? Is it the pleasing and glorifying of God, and the everlasting fruition of Him? Or is it the pleasing of your fleshly mind in the fruition of any inferior thing? Know this, and you may know whether self or God has the greatest interest in you. For that is your God which you love most, and please best, and would do most for.
2. Which do you most prize—the means of your salvation and of the glory of God, or the means of providing for self and flesh? Do you more prize Christ and holiness, which are the way to God—or riches, honor, and pleasures, which gratify the flesh? Know this, and you may know whether you have true self-denial.
3. If you are truly self-denying, you are ordinarily ruled by God, and His Word and Spirit, and not by the carnal self. Which is the rule and master of your lives? Whose word and will is it ordinarily that prevails? When God draws, and self draws—which do you follow in the tenor of your life? Know this, and you may know whether you have true self-denial.
4. If you have true self-denial, the drift of your lives is carried on in a successful opposition to your carnal self, so that you not only refuse to be ruled by it, and love it as your god—but you fight against it, and tread it down as your enemy. So that you go armed against self in the course of your lives, and are striving against self in every duty. And as others think—it then goes best with them, when self is highest and pleased best; so you will know that then it goes best with you—when self is lowest, and most effectually subdued.
5. If you have true self-denial, there is nothing in this world so dear to you, but on deliberation you would leave it for God. He who has anything which he loves so well that he cannot spare it for God, is a selfish and unsanctified wretch. And therefore God has still put men to it, in the trial of their sincerity, to part with that which was dearest to the flesh. Abraham must be tried by parting with his only son. And Christ makes it His standing rule, "Any of you who does not give up everything he has, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).
Yet it is true that flesh and blood may make much resistance in a gracious heart; and many a striving thought there may be, before with Abraham we part with a son, or before we can part with wealth or life; but yet on deliberation, self-denial will prevail. There is nothing so dear to a gracious soul, which he cannot spare at the will of God, and the hope of everlasting life. If with Peter we would flinch in a temptation—we should return with Peter in weeping bitterly, and give Christ those lives that in a temptation we denied Him.
6. In a word, true self-denial is procured by the knowledge and love of God, advancing Him in the soul—to debasing of self. The illuminated soul is so much taken with the glory and goodness of the Lord, that it carries him out of himself to God, and as it were estranges him from himself, that he may have communion with God. This makes him vile in his own eyes, and to abhor himself in dust and ashes. It is not a stoical resolution, but the love of God and the hopes of glory—which make him throw away the world, and look contemptuously on all below, so far as they are mere provision for flesh.

Search now, and try your hearts by these evidences, whether you are possessed of this necessary grace of self-denial. O make not light of the matter! For I must tell you that self is the most treacherous enemy, and the most insinuating deceiver in the world! It will be within you when you are not aware of it and will conquer you when you perceive not yourselves much troubled with it. Of all other vices, selfishness is both the hardest to find out and the hardest to cure. Be sure therefore in the first place, that you have self-denial; and then be sure you use it and live in the practice of it.

Richard Baxter

What is repentance?

(George Everard, "Welcome home! Plain teachings from the story of the Prodigal" 1871)

"I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father." Luke 15:18-20
Notice the spirit of deep self-abasement in the resolution which the prodigal made.

True repentance is intensely personal. The prodigal felt it was his own sin. "I have sinned!" He can scarcely see any sin but his own. He sees his own sin in the very worst colors. Study the fifty-first Psalm. See how David again and again speaks. It is my transgression, my iniquity, my sin ever before me.

True repentance beholds the wrong done to God by sin. The prodigal felt that his sin was primarily against God. It was a breach of His holy law. It was opposition to His holiness. It was sin against His goodness, and against redeeming love. So David cries in his bitter sorrow, forgetting for the moment the wrong he had done to Uriah--in the far greater wrong which his sin had done to God: "Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight!"

True repentance makes no excuses. 
The prodigal seeks for no palliation, no covering, no cloak. He says nothing of the circumstances which led him to do evil, or of companions who had drawn him aside. He does not attempt to shift the burden from his own shoulders to that of others. He makes no self-justifying pleas--he has too much sorrow, too much true brokenness of spirit, to desire or attempt it. One thing, and one thing only, he sees--his own terrible fall, and his own exceeding guilt.

True repentance takes the very lowest place.Once to be a son was not enough for him--but now he will be content even to be a slave or a hired servant! He feels utterly unworthy. As Jacob felt: "I am not worthy of all the mercies You have showed me." As the centurion felt when he sent to Jesus: "I am not worthy that You should come under my roof." So did the young prodigal esteem himself: "I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

Be sure that God delights in the humble and contrite soul. 
Lift yourself up in pride and self-satisfaction--and God will assuredly cast you down.
Cast yourself down in humble confession of your sin--and God will assuredly lift you up. 
"God resists the proud--but gives grace unto the humble." 

But we see here the purpose of the heart accomplished. The young man not only made the resolution, but he kept it, "So he got up and went to his father." He turned his back forever on that far country and his old companions--and turned his face homeward. Doubtless it was with many a tear, with many a bitter feeling of regret for all that had passed--since in so different a spirit he had trodden that path before. Yet onward he trudges with weary heart and weary footstep, in the hope that a place may still be found for him in his father's house.

Do you ask, What is repentance? I can scarcely better describe it than from the path of this wanderer. It is turning the back . . .
  on sin,
  on the ways of the world,
  on the lusts of the flesh,
  on the service of the devil.

And it is turning the face God-ward, Heaven-ward, confessing all that is past, looking upward for grace to live holier, with one single desire--to abide in the fear and love of God.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Not of the world

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." John 17:16
You must not pass by these words and reckon them of small importance. They speak of a separation that is essential. Three times on the same night before His betrayal did our Lord repeat them. "If you were of the world, the world would love his own. Because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world — therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19: so also 17:14-16).
An excellent illustration has been given of this separation.
Among the currents in the Atlantic Ocean is the great Gulf Stream. In parts it is sixty miles wide, and has been called a river in the ocean. The waters in this stream are, on the average, twenty degrees higher in temperature than the surrounding waters; it preserves its waters distinct from those of the sea on either side, so that the eye can trace the line of contact. It retains its physical identity for thousands of miles — casting branches and fruits of tropical trees, onto the coasts of the Hebrides and of Norway. It has an immense influence in moderating the extreme cold of winter in this latter country and elsewhere. All around the coast where its influence is felt, the atmosphere is many degrees of temperature higher than in the interior. Moreover, it prevents stagnation, and keeps one-fourth part of the waters of the Atlantic in constant motion.
In many ways, the Christian is like this Gulf Stream.
Like the stream in the ocean, he is in the world, but yet distinct and separate. He is not conformed to it. He has a higher temperature; for the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit.
Look at the great Pattern which he is bound to follow. Christ was no ascetic. He was in contact with the world at all points. He went into the house of publican and of Pharisee. He mingled with men in the streets, on the mountain side, on the sea-shore. Yet there was . . .
holy elevation,
living above the world while He was in it.
So must you be if you are His follower. You must not forsake the path of common life. You must not shut yourself up in the cell of a monk, or imagine that you have nothing to do with the world to which God sends you. But while you are in the world — let your spirit rise above it. Through the indwelling presence of the Lord Jesus, live a new and heavenly life. Let your eye be upward to a Father in Heaven, and your hand engaged in doing His work.
Like the stream to which I refer, remember that you have a mighty influence, and it is always for good if you are living after the mind of the Lord Jesus. You keep the world from the stagnation of death by your efforts for the spiritual and temporal well-being of those around you. You stir up others to a healthy activity by your own zeal for God.
Moreover, as the warmth of the Gulf Stream lessens the intense cold felt in northern climates — so the true Christian, by his own holy life, raises the standard of morality and truth, and thus lessens the sin which is around him.
Still further, he often brings the fruits and flowers of Paradise to the neighborhood where he dwells. In his own daily walk, and in the example of a godly home, ordered in the fear and love of God — the heavenly graces and virtues of meekness, forbearance, self-denial, gentleness, love, patience, and the like shine forth, and testify by their fragrance of the country from whence they derive their origin.
Now bring home the question to yourself — Is this your life? Is there something about you higher and nobler and more Christ-like than in the most? Is there in you a hope and a power that lifts you above the base, earthly life that satisfies the majority? Is there at least a glimmer of the bright light that shone forth in all Christ said and did? Is there a distinctness of purpose about you that gives others an impression that you have a motive and a principle which they do not possess? Is your daily conducta real benefit to others, by showing them their sin, and manifesting the beauty of holy living?
Perhaps not. But if not, what then? Will you rest content? Will you please yourself, and forget the claims that Christ has upon you? Will you throw away the privilege you might possess of scattering blessings around you, and having in yourself the testimony of God's favor?
There is but one way to obtain it. Receive by faith the benefit of Christ's sacrifice, and yield yourself to Him to be filled with His Spirit and grace — and then His life will be your life, and in His life you shall live for God.

George Everard, 1885

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Perfect in Christ

Do you not feel in your own soul that perfection is not in you? Does not every day teach you that? Every tear which trickles from your eye, weeps “imperfection”; every harsh word which proceeds from your lip, mutters “imperfection.” You have too frequently had a view of your own heart to dream for a moment of any perfection in yourself. But amidst this sad consciousness of imperfection, here is comfort for you-you are “perfect in Christ Jesus.” In God’s sight, you are “complete in him;” even now you are “accepted in the Beloved.” But there is a second perfection, yet to be realized, which is sure to all the seed. Is it not delightful to look forward to the time when every stain of sin shall be removed from the believer, and he shall be presented faultless before the throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing? The Church of Christ then will be so pure, that not even the eye of Omniscience will see a spot or blemish in her; so holy and so glorious, that Hart did not go beyond the truth when he said-
“With my Saviour’s garments on,
Holy as the Holy One.”
Then shall we know, and taste, and feel the happiness of this vast but short sentence, “Complete in Christ.” Not till then shall we fully comprehend the heights and depths of the salvation of Jesus. Doth not thy heart leap for joy at the thought of it? Black as thou art, thou shalt be white one day; filthy as thou art, thou shalt be clean. Oh, it is a marvellous salvation this! Christ takes a worm and transforms it into an angel; Christ takes a black and deformed thing and makes it clean and matchless in his glory, peerless in his beauty, and fit to be the companion of seraphs. O my soul, stand and admire this blessed truth of perfection in Christ.

C.H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

To glorify God and enjoy Him forever!

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 
  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 
 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 
" — Revelation 21:3-5
Glorious consummation! All the other glories of Heaven are but dim emanations from this all excelling glory. Here is the focus and center to which every ray of light converges. God is "all in all."
Heaven without God! — it would send a chill of dismay through the burning ranks of angels and archangels; it would dim every eye, and hush every harp, and change the whitest robe into sackcloth!
And shall then, indeed, "see God?" What! shall I gaze on these inscrutable glories — and live? Yes, God Himself shall be with them, and be their God! They shall "see His face!" And not only the vision — but the fruition.
Oh! how does sin in my holiest moments, damp the enjoyment of Him! It is the "pure in heart" alone who can "see," far more — who can "enjoy" God. Even if He did reveal Himself now, these eyes could never endure His emanating brightness.
But then, with a heart purified from corruption — a world where the taint of sin and the power of temptation never enters — the soul again a bright mirror, reflecting the lost image of the Godhead — all the affections devoted to their original high destiny — the love of God the motive principle, the ruling passion — the glory of God the undivided object and aim — the will with no opposing or antagonist bias — man will, for the first time, know all the blessedness of his chief end: "to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever!"

Monday, January 25, 2016

No Neutrality!

George Everard, 1885
"He who is not with Me is against Me — and he who does not gather with Me scatters!" Matthew 12:30
I know no lesson in the Christian life more important than this. You must be one thing — or another. You must not attempt to serve two masters, or to imagine that you can stand aloof from both. You cannot do it. Listen to the words of the Son of Man. It is one of those sharp, cutting, separating words that levels to the ground all idea of escaping the battle, and yet winning the crown. It teaches us that it is a delusion for a man to imagine he can be a Christian — and yet let no one know it. Like so many other of our Lord's sayings, it takes the dividing-line and parts men hither and thither, as tares or wheat; as sheep or goats; as belonging to the army of the great King; or fighting under the banner of His enemy.
I have often used the words of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, on this matter, and will repeat them here. He was sorely tried by the lukewarmness of the Protestant princes whose cause he had espoused. To the ambassador of one he said: "This I say unto you plainly beforehand, I will hear and know nothing of neutrality. His Highness must be friend or foe. When I come to his borders he must declare himself hot or cold. The battle is between God and the devil. Will his Highness hold with God — then let him stand on my side. Will he prefer to hold with the devil — then he must fight against me. A third position of neutrality will not be granted to him."
Is not the word of Christ the precise parallel to this, "He who is not with Me is against Me — and he who does not gather with Me scatters!"
But how may you be "with Christ"?
First of all, come to Him as a scholar thirsting for knowledge would come to an eminent teacher who has a marvelous power of imparting it. He has said, "Learn of Me," and if you would be one of His, come to Him in heart and mind asking Him to inspire you with a love of His truth. Let Him be the Prophet to whom you will hearken. Let His Words of life sink deep into your heart. Let one utterance from His lips weigh more with you than ten thousand lessons from any human teacher.
Never forget to frequent His school day by day. He will not turn you away because you are a dull scholar. He will breathe upon you His Divine Spirit. He will enlighten you with true wisdom. He will instruct you and teach you both in the knowledge of God and of your duty towards Him and towards man.
But to be "with Christ" implies more than this. You must be with Him as a needy sinner with a merciful and loving Savior. You have many sins — and He has a fountain of mercy in which to wash them all away. You have an evil nature — but He has grace to make you holy and pure like Himself. You have enemies and temptations are around you — but He has power to protect and guard you. And He calls you to come to Him. He waits to receive and bless and save you. Therefore come to Him if you have never come before. Come to Him and trust His faithful promise, "Him that comes unto Me, I will never cast out." Come to Him in prayer, and leave all that troubles you in His hand. Come to Him, and abide with Him evermore.
"Just as I am, Your love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Yours, yes, Yours alone,
O Lamb of God, I come."
But go a step farther. You must be "with Christ" as a true and valiant soldier with a trusty and victorious general. This is your calling. You are pledged to fight manfully under the banner of His cross, and to continue His faithful soldier and servant to your life's end. This implies a great deal. It means very much self-discipline. It means a readiness to be a Christian, when others throw off the service of Christ.
It is to this point the words of Christ apply. "He who is not with Me, is against Me." You are fighting on one side — or the other. You are striving to stem the current of vice and ungodliness — or you are adding to its force. You are most certainly taking your part in the struggle. For the battle is raging along the whole line. There is not a country or a city, a home or a heart — where Christ and the devil are not contending for the mastery. Therefore there is no room for neutrals. Moreover, to such a One as Christ, indifference is the most terrible form of opposition. After the love and grace He manifested in His redeeming work, to be indifferent to Christ is deadly sin. It is ingratitude heightened by contempt.
Therefore, whatever you are, be at least decided about it. Let there be no halting or wavering. Let no lurking unbelief or sloth keep you back from the ranks of Christ's army. Be a warrior in word and deed for the kingdom of truth and righteousness.

The daily business of the Christian

The daily business of a Christian is to . . .
  resist the devil,
  deny himself,
  overcome the world,
  crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts,
  imitate Christ,
  walk with God. 

William Plumer

A man's views of sin

Sin digs every grave, and wrings out every sigh and wail
from earth and hell. Sin is the worst of all evils. Nothing
can compare with it. It is worse than the plague. Sin is
unspeakably hateful. God calls it horrible and abominable.
Godly men in every age lament it—lament it much in
others, most in themselves.

A man's views of sin give a complexion to all his
character. If he regards it as a trifle, he will laugh at
it, when he should weep over it. He will make a mock
of it. He will dally with it. He will take his fill of it. He
will have low thoughts of God, and low estimates of
salvation. He will despise Jesus Christ.

If, on the other hand, he considers sin as very dreadful and
very hateful—he will hate every false way. He will long for
holiness. He will hunger and thirst after righteousness.
He will loathe and abhor himself on account of sin. He will
have exalted thoughts of the being, perfections, word, and
government of God. To him Christ will be most precious,
the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.

Job's sense of sin was vastly increased by the great
discoveries he had of God's majesty and glory: "I have
heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye
sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust
and ashes!" Increased views of God's glory had the same
effect on Isaiah, and made him cry out, "Woe is me! for
I am undone!" (Job 42:5-6; Isaiah 6:5).

God's presence is infinite; His power is infinite; His nature
is infinite; His existence is infinite; and so to sin against Him
must be an infinite insult and wrong. Sin is an infinite evil.
Sin is that abominable thing which He hates. He hates sin
with infinite loathing.

William Plumer

He leads me

"The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
 He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads
 beside quiet waters." Psalm 23:1-2
He leads me. I certainly need someone to lead me.
I am so poor, so blind, so weak, so foolish that, if left
to myself, I would fatally err. Lord, never leave me nor
forsake me, lest I be undone. 

My Shepherd leads me gently and wisely. He makes no
mistakes. He knows the way I ought to go. He knows
how much sweet and how much bitter, are best for me.
He understands me fully. Oh, how He mingles mercy
with judgment!

True, He leads me often in a mysterious way. I see
not the end from the beginning. I cannot see afar off.
His footsteps are in the sea; clouds and thick darkness
surround Him. He gives account of none of His matters.
His judgments are a great deep. But He never does
wrong. He leads me in the paths of righteousness.

He leads me always—in prosperity and in adversity;
in joy and in sorrow. If He left me even for an hour I
would be undone. When I sleep, You, Lord, keep vigil
over me. When I awake, I am still with You. On the
land and on the sea, I am kept by Your mighty power.

He leads me—and I will follow Him. I will put my hand
in His—and go wherever His prudence shall direct.

"Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight
 path." Psalm 27:11

"From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my
 heart grows faint; lead me to the Rock that is higher
 than I." Psalm 61:2

William Plumer

Because we have Christ...

"Known—yet regarded as unknown;
 dying—and yet we live on;
 beaten—and yet not killed;
 sorrowful—yet always rejoicing;
 poor—yet making many rich;
 having nothing—and yet possessing everything."
    2 Corinthians 6:9-10 

The Christian is a paradox. Because he has Christ, he
has the unsearchable riches of Christ. Believers . . .
  have full and free forgiveness of all their sins;
  are fully accepted in the Beloved;
  are clothed in Christ's spotless righteousness;
  are adopted into the family of God;
  have a perfect title to heaven through Christ;
  have God for their Father,
  have Christ for their Savior,
  have the Holy Spirit for their Comforter,
  have heaven for their home;
  shall be like Christ and with Christ forever;
  shall inherit all things;
  are sure of ultimate victory over . . .
    the world,
    the flesh,
    the devil,    
    all sorrow,

William Plumer

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Unwritten wonders

There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written—John 21:25. 

The sentiment like this comes well from the pen of John. It is the utterance of his admiration for his Lord. He writes as one lost in exulting amazement at the matchless glories of Him whose love he had so richly tasted, and whose Divine perfections he had so fully seen. He is closing the wondrous history of the “Word made flesh”; and in looking back upon that record, he feels that the half has not been told, nay, cannot be told. It is too long, too large, too marvelous, too glorious a story for earth. And this thought, pressing upon his soul, calls up the deepest feelings of his nature, so that, in summing up the Divine record, he cannot but give vent to these feelings in one solemn burst of triumphant admiration! “There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
 Ah! Is this intense, this absorbing, this rapturous admiration, ours? Do we not greatly lack it in these days? Is there not a most unaccountable failure here? It is not love I speak of, it is not reverence, it is admiration—admiration for the Person and works of Jesus! We confess Christ, but do we admire Him? We make use of Him, we draw on Him, we honor Him, we love Him— but do we admire Him? Where is there in us the Apostle’s admiration for His glorious Person and marvelous works?  
It is from the unwritten wonders of the Lord that the Apostle’s admiration springs. On the written wonders of His life, faith rests itself; as we read, “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31); but it is at the thought of the unwritten wonders of His life that admiration rises to such a height. The recorded wonders are but a specimen, a sample, no more. They are but one beam of the marvelous radiance that streamed from this “day-star,” when here below; and if one gleam be so bright, what must the full effulgence be—what must be the orb from which the effulgence comes? They are but one leaf of the wondrous tree, “the Plant of Renown”; and if one leaf be so fair and excellent, what must that tree be from which it has been plucked?
  Even were that which is recorded all He did and spoke, He would be marvelous and lovable indeed. How much more when these are but specimens of His exceeding wisdom, and power, and glory! Perfect, beyond all our ideas of perfection; good beyond all our ideas of goodness, must He have been!
But let us consider what kind of wonders these were of which the Evangelist thus speaks. 

 First: They were wonders of power. The power put forth was manifold as well as great. It was creating power, as was seen in His providing food for the five thousand that were gathered round Him. It was healing power, as when He rebuked the fever, removed the palsy, opened the eyes of the blind. It was life-giving power, as when He raised the widow’s son from his bier, and called Lazarus from his stony tomb. It was power over earth, as when He cursed and withered up the fig tree. It was power over the sea, as when He calmed the waves at one time, and at another walked upon them. It was power over men; for He had but to say, “Follow Me,” and men arose and followed Him. Every kind of power was displayed in and by Him—Divine, infinite, overawing power! His recorded miracles show this—the multitudes of unrecorded ones attest it more. How many more times did He perform all these wonders than we have heard of! Thousands more of these mighty miracles were wrought, of which the Divine record contains no notice. One single day’s wonders would have filled volumes.  
 Second: They were wonders of majesty. In Him there was at all times a strange and solemnizing majesty of demeanor. He looked, He spoke, He acted as in very deed the Son of the Highest, “the great King.” There was royalty, superhuman royalty, in all His movements. But at times this majesty broke through its disguise, and sent out an influence such as overawed all around. It was so in the synagogue at Nazareth, on the Transfiguration Mount, on the way up to Jerusalem, and in Gethsemane, when, at the mere words that came from His lips, His enemies went backwards and fell to the ground. These glimpses of a heavenly majesty, such as man’s eye could not endure to look upon, were doubtless much oftener given than in the instances above noticed. For His guise of lowly poverty did not hinder His oftentimes showing how truly He was possessed of all the fullness of Divine greatness and majesty. The instances on record, solemnize and overawe us; and should not the thought that these were stray beams, finding their way through deep clouds, from a glorious sun beyond, solemnize and overawe us yet more?
 Third: They were wonders of holiness. He did indeed daily mingle with the sons of men; He did not turn away from sinners, nay, He sought them out, He spoke with them on the highway, He sat down at their table. Yet He stood aloof from sin, unfolding the law in its purity and breadth, exhibiting the Divine character in its perfection, showing Himself always as the Holy One and the Just. Each act and word and look were revelations of His holiness; and each day could number up thousands of these. Those recorded are not a few; but how immense the number of the unrecorded! We look at the written ones, and marvel at His holiness; let us think of the unwritten ones, and marvel yet more.  Fourth: They were wonders of suffering. Though it is only occasionally that we are told how He sorrowed, yet His life was made up of sorrow, His being steeped in it; He was “acquainted with grief,” He was a “Man of sorrows.” Sometimes we read that He sighed deeply, sometimes that He was troubled in spirit, sometimes that He wept. In Gethsemane, His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; on the cross, He breathed out the bitterness of His unutterable grief in such a cry as this, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Yet these are but specimens, no more; they are a few instances, out of multitudes that might have been given, of His profound, prolonged, unmitigated, unimaginable sorrow. These few sighs and tears are specimens of the way in which His years were spent in groaning, His couch watered with tears, and His heart was wounded within Him. What is written tells us much; but the unwritten, the unknown, the unspoken, oh!, what a weight of infinite sorrow is contained in them! 
 Fifth: They were wonders of prayer. We read once and again, that He prayed. In the late evening, in the early dawn, all the night long, we are told that He went to be alone with God. Yet these are but glimpses of a life of unbroken prayer. Could His times of prayer be numbered, how many would they be! Could the scenes of prayer be known, how many of the hills of Judea, or the plains of Galilee, would be pointed out as consecrated by His strong crying and tears! How many Gethsemanes, how many Bethanys, how many Olivets, should we find! The recorded times and scenes affect and amaze us; how much more the unrecorded, whose only witnesses were the silent rocks or spreading olives!  Sixth: They were wonders of zeal. His purging of the temple is but one instance of the many which are recorded. It shows us that zeal for the Father was consuming Him; and the other instances show us how completely it was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will. With how many more instances of zeal was His life filled up!—zeal without ceasing, and without wearying! Those recorded make up but a small part of that wondrous life; what then must the unrecorded have been! What volume could contain the annals of a life so zealous and devoted, so untiring in its pursuit of the one great object of living! 
 Seventh: They were wonders of pity. He had compassion on the multitude; He sympathized with the widow; He wept at the tomb of Lazarus. These are specimens of His compassion; and they are precious beyond measure, as showing how truly He pitied, how tenderly He yearned over that sad world into which He had come. Each of these instances is, of itself, enough to assure us of His compassion to the sons of men, in all their circumstances, both of corporeal and spiritual suffering; a compassion that never wearied, that never failed, that never passed into resentment or coldness, on account of provocations received; a compassion, that, as He neared the cross, seemed to gather new intensity, and gave full out vent to itself in the tears of lamentation over lost Jerusalem. Yet how few are the recorded instances of pity, in a life which was filled up with them! The unrecorded, how many they must have been! Deeds of pity done every hour! Words of pity spoken every hour! Looks of pity beaming on His countenance continually! How endless, how innumerable, His wonders of compassion! And how profound, how unfathomable, must have been that fountain of compassion out of which these blessed streams were every moment flowing!
  Eighth: They were wonders of condescension and meekness. To Nicodemus, to the woman of Sychar, to Zaccheus, what condescending gentleness He showed! To the little children that were brought to Him, how He stooped! To those who taunted Him with being a Samaritan, and with having a devil, how meekly did He show Himself! He reviled not again when reviled; His soft answer turned away wrath; when He suffered He threatened not; He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; He hid not His face from shame and spitting. The recorded instances of this condescension and meekness are easily numbered, but who can number the unrecorded? We may try to imagine them, and in doing so we get some insight into the extent to which these feelings filled His soul. Each hour He was stooping, in His condescension, over the lost ones of earth, stretching out His hands all the day long to a disobedient and gainsaying people. His dealing with Nicodemus is but one specimen, out of a thousand such, in which He received the timorous inquirer without one upbraiding word; showing how willing He is to teach, and to love, and to bless, even those who are as yet half-ashamed to be taught, and loved, and blessed by Him. His treatment of the Samaritan profligate is but one instance out of hundreds or thousands, in which His condescension to the vilest appeared, even when they only repelled and resisted Him; thus proclaiming to every sinful man and woman here, however seared in conscience by long guilt, that with Jesus there is no neglectful coldness such as would lead Him to pass you by, as if uninterested in your desperate case, no repelling pride that would bid you stand afar off, as if your presence were hateful. No. Be you Nicodemus, or Zaccheus, or the Samaritan, He bids you welcome as you are. If you are ignorant, He will teach you; if you are dark, He will enlighten you; if you are filthy, He will cleanse you; if you are lifeless and insensible, He will impart quickening: He will stoop over you in His condescension, He will deal with you in His meekness, He will heal all your diseases, He will satiate your soul with His abundant goodness. You are not too far gone for Him. You are not too guilty for Him. What He did for the ungodliest, when He was on earth, gives you the surest of all evidence of what He is willing to do for you! 
 Ninth: They were wonders of grace. At Naza-reth they wondered at His grace, even when they cast Him out of their city. In Mary Magdalene, out of whom He cast seven devils, we see a trophy of His grace. In the adulteress to whom He said, “Neither do I condemn thee,” we see another. In the woman that washed His feet with her tears, and of whom He said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven,” we see another. In Peter, after his denial, when the Lord looked on him, we see another. In doubting Thomas we see another. In the thief upon the cross we see another. These are a few of His wonders of grace. And how precious they are, how assuring, how satisfying! Even these by themselves would have been enough to make any sinner feel that, in coming to such a Savior, he was coming to one who would make him truly welcome; who would receive him most gladly, whatever might be the amount of his transgression, and the length of time over which it had been spread. Each one of these cases is such a display of free love as makes us feel it to be impossible that we can be too guilty, too unworthy, too far gone in sin, for such a Savior as this. In each of them we see such abounding sin, yet such much more abounding grace—grace so varied, so rich, so ample, so sincere and true, that no sinner need hesitate for a moment to throw himself unreservedly upon it. Yet, after all, these are but glimpses, no more—a few leaves of that tree which is for the healing of the nations, a few gems out of an unfathomable mine, a few drops out of an infinite ocean, a few beams from a glorious and inexhaustible sun. If these few specimens give us such an idea of His unutterable grace, oh, what must that grace be of which the half hath not been told, of whose wonders not so much as the thousandth part has been recorded; all its breadth and length, its depth and height, remaining as yet unknown—only to be dimly imagined, as we might guess at the glory of the firmament from a single star, or at the beauty and perfection of Paradise from the fragrance of a single flower.
 And then, apart from His deeds, there are His words; and in these latter we find, if it were possible, yet more unwritten wonders than in the former. For how very small a portion do His recorded sayings bear to His unrecorded! All the former are comprised in a small volume which one might almost read in a single hour. Four brief biographies are all we have, both of His words and deeds. Of these His words occupy, at the most, but little more than the half. And this is all of the recorded sayings of Him who spake as never man spake—all that we have of the “gracious words” which proceeded out of His mouth! What would the full record have been! What wonders would it have contained! Grace was poured into His lips, and out of these lips were words of grace every moment pouring forth! How fervently we exclaim, Oh, that they had all been written down! Not that they are lost. What we know not now we shall know hereafter. We shall spend eternity in listening to the recital of those words, for a season left unwritten, but which shall all one day be fully and forever known. 
Oh, think what the full record of His words would have been, when the brief outline is so precious! A thousand such sermons as that on the Mount, each one as fully charged with blessings! A thousand such expositions as that at Nazareth, when men wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth! A thousand such invitations as that by the sea of Galilee, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” A thousand such promises as, “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” A thousand such gracious assurances as, “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out”; or, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith, Give Me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” A thousand such tender expostulations as, “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.” A thousand such proclamations as that in the last and great day of the feast, “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink.” A thousand such conversations as that at Jacob’s well, with sinners as vile as that woman of Sychar, summing themselves up in such language as this, “Whoso drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.” A thousand such declarations as, “I am the light of the world”—“I am the bread of life”—“I am the resurrection and the life”—“I am the door”—“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” A thousand such exhortations as, “Enter in at the strait gate”—“Yet a little while the light is with you; walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.” A thousand such Gospel messages as that in the temple, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” A thousand such words of forgiveness as, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven”—“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” A thousand such utterances of compassion as that over the guilty city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, etc.” A thousand such consolations as, “Let not your hearts be troubled,”—“Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid.” A thousand such prayers as that, “Sanctify them through Thy truth.” “Father, I will that they whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am.” A thousand such encouragements to children as, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” A thousand such parables as the prodigal son, or the lost sheep, or the good Samaritan! Conceive all His gracious words multiplied a thousandfold; and oh, what a universe of wonders, opens on our view! We conceive but little of them here, but eternity shall fully disclose them all, and spread them out before us! Then it will be seen that the Evangelist was using no mere figure of speech, was chargeable with no exaggeration, when he said, “There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books which should be written.” And then shall we add our joyful “Amen” to his, when, one by one, the unknown and untold wonders of the grace of Christ rise upon our view, to fill our souls and occupy a whole eternity! 
O brethren, what a region of blessed thought is thus opened up to us! What a mine of glad and glorious contemplation have we thus discovered! And what an exhibition of the character of Christ is thus given! What a boundlessness of every perfection, finite and infinite, does this ascribe to Him! What a bright radiance of more than mortal excellence does this throw around Him! Ah, yes; He of whom such things can be said, must be fairer than the children of men. It is no idle romance, no fond sentimentality, no wild exaggeration, to speak of Him as the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely. 
There is, in truth, no conceivable limit to His words or ways of grace, and power, and wisdom, and holiness, and majesty. And if so, oh, what an arm is this for a soul to lean on, were he the neediest and the feeblest of the sons of men! Oh, what a home is this for a sinner to take refuge in, were he the guiltiest that ever polluted this soil with his steps! What a bosom is this for the inquiring spirit, or the troubled saint, in which to deposit every fear and doubt, so that unbelief might seem a thing as impossible, as it is strange and hateful. 
 Yes, there is not, neither can there be, any limit to His words and ways of love. Were all that could be said of Him contained within these four Gospels, there would be a limit, though even that would form a wondrous circle. But these are but the first four pages, or rather lines, of the infinite volume which contains the record of His transcendent glories. When that volume is unfolded; when we shall have eyes to read it, or ears to hear it read, in gladder days than these, and without interruption or fear of weariness; when we turn over page after page of the recorded treasures, and read all the wonders in the light of eternity, and in the company of angels and ransomed men, shall we not experience the truth of that saying, “Blessed is he that readeth”; shall we not be filled with amazement, and delight, and admiring rapture, past all utterance; shall we not feel how well He deserved all our trust and love, how worthy He was of loudest praise, and honor, and blessing; shall we not be ashamed to think that there actually was one period, nay, one
day of our lives, when we did not love and trust and honor and praise him; shall we not be amazed to think, that one hard, one suspicious, one unbelieving thought, could ever have arisen within us; shall we not be humbled at the remembrance of having so often treated with coldness, and disesteem, and neglect, this Being of beings, this Brother of brothers—so often brought dishonor upon this name of names! 
Horatius Bonar