“God is love” (1 John 4:16). His children please Him only so far as they are like Him, and “walk in love” (Eph. 5:2).
True heavenly love has its life and root in the cross of Christ; it has the single eye, and is its own recompense; endures ingratitude, and survives indifference and contempt; has quick sense of wrongs, but is ready to forgive; and covers a multitude of sins. The love we speak of is meek and lowly; behaves itself wisely and edifies; bearing with the foolish and self-conceited, while it shuns their folly. This holy love is the durable work of the Spirit of God: it proves faithful in wintry days; and, ever ready to “rejoice with them that do rejoice,” adds gladness to their days of sunshine.
If we would so love all saints as to please God, we must bear in mind that their names are written in heaven and on Christ’s heart; otherwise we shall love some because they are lovely, and dislike others because of their blemishes.
We only know the heart and thoughts of others by proof of word or deed. If a brother wound us, we should first hear him, and hear him thoroughly, before we judge him to be in fault; but in many cases we may find ourselves not less to blame than our brother.
The “more excellent way” is love, which beareth all things, hopeth all things, imputeth no evil. Nevertheless, if love see a fault, love will reprove in faithfulness the fault it sees. I say sees, for love is discerning, and love is faithful. I cannot but deal in such faithfulness with all my brethren, and entreat them to smite me in like manner, which, indeed, is to anoint my head with “excellent oil” (Ps. 141:5).
If we delight in God’s glory, we shall delight to honour those whom God honours, and shall ourselves be no losers thereby.
We need one another; are dependent on one another— not as fountains, but as channels of blessing.
When mutual intercession takes the place of mutual accusation, then will the differences and difficulties of brethren be overcome. (Job 42:8-10.)
The infirmities of our brethren are fair occasions for our patience and long-suffering: let us have grace for each opportunity.
The hearts of true believers crave a fellowship which will last—a fellowship in the Spirit with each other, because of common fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
Humility is the secret of fellowship, and pride the secret of division.
If Christ be not the bond of friendship and of communion, and if His blood be not the life of love, how quickly may indifference take the place of warm affections, and how easily may close friends turn to stubborn adversaries, through the clashings of self-seeking and thwarted pride, of man’s native fickleness!
In John 17 and in Ephesians 1 we see what the Church is in the sight of God in Christ—what it ought to be in its ways; and would be, did we not grieve the Holy Ghost, which is given to us to lead us into all truth, and to glorify Christ in us. But the Church has not been true to her heavenly calling; she has forgotten her dignity; she has lost her strength; the grey hairs are here and there upon her, and she knoweth it not. (Hos. 7:9.)
The fellowship of believers ought to be like the fellowship of the Father and the Son: any differences of judgment, therefore, which arise between two members of Christ about the truth of God should be a cause of humiliation, but not of strife and separation. God would soon make His children of one mind, did they steadfastly set their faces toward the Mercy-seat, seeking unity according to 1 Corinthians 1 and Ephesians 4:5.
It is sweet to talk of Jesus with our brethren, the children of God: but how much sweeter is it to talk with the Lord Jesus Himself!
If there be but a shadow of disunion between us and any brother or sister, let us not give ourselves rest until we bring about a reconciliation; let us search out what in our own ways may have caused the breach, and seek after a communion with our brother like that of the Father with His dear Son. We should, moreover, watch against everything in us that may wound or grieve our brother, so that we may be wise to prevent breaches of fellowship; observant of 1 Corinthians 13; our ways fashioned by the love that behaves itself not unseemly, and which faileth not. Nor shall we be skilful to heal breaches, if we be not watchful to prevent them.
The secret of lasting fellowship is that Christ is the life of it. He maintains, rules and sanctifies its mutual tender love and confidence, which will grow more heavenly the more we are like Christ, the more we abide in Him. When He comes in His glory, what joy will it be to remember former friendships, and see Jesus Himself, the spring and the stability of them all!
Suppose all the saints in a town met together in one place, with no outward sign of division; yet, if it were not the common aim to be of one mind with God, and with Christ, the Spirit would still be grieved by divisions of heart and judgment.
The communion of the members of Christ with each other is by the Holy Ghost, who, dwelling in them, gives them fellowship with the Father and with the Son. The oneness of mind between the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, is the spring and pattern of the one new mind that should be found in, and mark out, the members of Christ.
Unless we have a spiritual understanding of this divine unity, we cannot rightly grieve for the divisions of God’s people. By looking into this glass, we discover the nature and the guilt of schism and divisions.
Dealing With The Faults of Others
If we would wisely reprove the flesh in our brethren, we must first, after the Lord’s example, remember and commend the grace in them.
Those who are much acquainted with the cross of Christ, and with their own hearts, will be slow to take the reprover’s office: if they do reprove, they will make it a solemn matter, knowing how much evil comes of the unwise handling of a fault.
Let us begin by searching ourselves, if we would be profitable reprovers of others.
Much self-judgment makes a man slow to judge others; and the very gentleness of such a one gives a keen edge to his rebukes.
In reproving sin in others, we should remember the ways of the Holy Spirit of God towards us. He comes as the Spirit of Love; and whatever His rebukes, He wins the heart by mercy and forgiveness through Christ.
To forgive without upbraiding, even by manner or look, is a high exercise of grace—it is imitation of Christ.
If I have been injured by another, let me bethink myself —How much better to be the sufferer than the wrongdoer!
The flesh would punish to prevent a repetition of wrongs; but Grace teaches us to defend ourselves without weapons. The man who “seventy times seven” forgives injuries, is he who best knows how to protect himself.
If one do me a wrong, let me with the bowels of Christ seek after him, and entreat God to move him to repentance.
We partake in the guilt of an offending member of Christ, until we have confessed his sin as our own (Dan. 9), mourned over it, prayed for its forgiveness, and sought in the spirit of love, the restoration of the erring one.
If our tongue have been betrayed into speaking contemptuously or even slightingly of an absent brother, let us quickly say, Alas! we have wounded Christ.
If in love I speak to a brother of his fault, it is because I hate the sin. If I speak of it with backbiting tongue, it is self-pleasing that moves me.
If under the law, when the bond was only in the flesh, the Israelite must not suffer sin upon his brother (Lev. 19:17), how much less should it be suffered under the Gospel, which binds the saints together spiritually and eternally!
The figure of the mote in the eye shows what skill and tenderness he has need of who would be a reprover to his brother. Who would trust so precious a member as the eye to a rough, unskilful hand?
The Lord loves to manifest peculiar tenderness towards those who have been brought low, even though it may have been through their own folly. “Go … tell His disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7).
We shall not escape the tongues of others, unless we first escape from self-love and self-flattery. No sword so sharp as the tongue.
Only the bridling of the heart can effectually bridle the lips.
The backbiter is one who maliciously speaks evil of others; the babbler does so through lack of the thoughtfulness of love.
The discipline exercised by the Church of God should be a picture of our Heavenly Father’s character.
A sober mind, a tender heart, a watchful spirit, should mark those who put away the evil-doer.
All God’s corrections and judgments are designed to bring to repentance. So likewise any censure pronounced by an assembly of saints, while manifestly righteous, should be as a medicine to restore, that the spirit may be saved in the day of Christ, (1 Cor. 5:5.)
Paul says not to the Corinthians, when he reproves their evil: “lest my God should humble you,” but “lest my God should humble me among you”; not “lest I should be wrathful and cut off many,” but lest I should “bewail many which have sinned” (2 Cor. 12:21).
My brother, defiling himself, is my own hand touching pitch. In this mind we are like Christ, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and is able to succour the tempted.
In how many instances, alas! where sharp or bitter reproof is given, heavenly wisdom would deal in tenderhearted counsel and admonition.
Colossians 4:10, is a testimony that Mark was restored and stablished after having forsaken Paul and Barnabas. We find him not with Barnabas, but with Paul, who had so gravely judged his fault. “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (Prov. 9:8).
Let us imitate our Lord in His pity toward those who have erred from His way; thus we best discountenance their sins, and help them to make the confession that obtains forgiveness from God. Carnal severity hardens the heart which might be won by heavenly tenderness and compassion.
In the fellowship of saints’ assemblies are many joys and many comforts. It is not, however, a bed of roses; for it is in the intercourse of that fellowship that the infirmities and faults of believers especially appear. In the Church’s best state there was always the flesh to be subdued, and Satan resisted. Hence “forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, even also do ye” (Col. 3:13).
Judgments of offences should be such as to commend themselves to the common conscience. All are accountable to God for those judgments.
The love of Christ filling our hearts, we shall be keen-sighted to discern, whether in ourselves or others, whatsoever pleases not the Lord. This love, and this love only, will enable us to maintain the order and discipline of the house of God, so as to be approved by the Son of God, the Lord of His own house. We shall thereby, while observing the laws of Christ as to offending brethren, be raised above the fear of man that bringeth a snare; and, what is higher still, be free of false love, which spares the rod when God would have us smite. “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness” (Ps. 141:5). “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).
Christ And The Church
“How precious, also, are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139, 17). This is the language of Christ, the Head, regarding the members as one with Himself. The Epistle to the Ephesians is the beating out of this piece of gold.
Never take a winding path to look for acceptance with God—go straight to Christ; but when you would look at the children of God, look well at Christ first, and then see the saints in Him.
Christ calls Himself the Husband of His Church, because the bond of marriage is the closest and tenderest of all human ties; and to show the purity of His love, He calls her at the same time His sister. His tenderness delights to take occasion by the infirmities of His spouse. She leans on him, not only for support, protection and guidance, but also and chiefly for communion; and leaning is melted into adoring love, which is to Him as spiced wine. He sees His own image in the Church, and this is among His chief joys.
It was the Bridegroom who bare the sins of His spouse in His own body on the tree. What other burden will He not bear? Even the troubles that our own folly brings upon us are occasions to His love, if we do but cast the burden upon Him; but if we do not judge ourselves, He knows how to chasten us to bring us to self-judgment, that He may comfort His mourners with His immeasurable grace and love.
The lonely, the mournful, the friendless, the tempted, the dejected, the despised, the forsaken, the outcast, Christ will wait on each one of them, whatever his case, as though that one were His only charge. By this exact and special oversight of each member of His body, how precious, how lovely, how glorious, does Christ appear!
If Christ will not be satisfied with His present glory at the right hand of God without having His Church, the members of His body, with Him, how can we be content without Him in this valley of the shadow of death, this present evil world?
The candlestick in the temple was a type of the Church. It was for the high priest to supply the oil, to trim the lamp, to watch and tend it; the light must be ever brightly burning.
The ruin of a kingdom is a little thing in God’s sight, in comparison with division among a handful of sinners redeemed by the blood of Christ.
When the body is in perfect health, there is a noiseless, perfect co-operation of the members; so was it with the Church at Pentecost, and so it ought to be with us now.
To reform the Church of God we should always begin with self-reform. Schisms and divisions will increase so long as we begin with reforming others. Wisdom is only with the lowly.
Every kind of self-pleasing is rebuked and put down in the second chapter of Philippians; but, alas! the Church of God in these days is more like the carnal, puffed up, schismatic Corinthians, than the lowly saints of Philippi, whose fellowship in the Spirit made glad the heart of Paul.
The new creation is God’s delight; of that new creation Christ is the Head; as one with the Church, Christ stands before God.
The Church, the body of Christ, cannot rise above its present low estate, until there be a conscience in the members of fulfilling each one his office in the body.
While I mourn over schisms and divisions in the Church of God, I justify God, and bless Him for the wisdom and equity of His discipline: He gives us to reap as we sow.
The titles given to the Church in Scripture bespeak heavenly unity, such as “the body,” “the vine,” “temple of God,” “a holy nation,” “a chosen generation,” “a royal priesthood.” Such words set forth the Church of God as a witness for Him in the world; but the names which have been invented by men are names of sects, and declare our shame.
The Church of God is a field that needs double ploughing.
Christ ever enjoys perfect communion with His Father; He craves also communion with us His members (Rev. 3:20); and when this is denied Him by our ways of selfishness, He turns to the Father, and finds joy and rest in communion with Him. The mourners in the Church of God over its low estate must in like manner betake themselves to the Father and the Son, for fellowship by the Spirit, when they cannot find what their hearts long after among their brethren.
The ark of God at Jordan went before the people—was in their midst—followed after. Christ is the leader, the rereward, and the glory in the midst of the Church; their life, and bond of fellowship.
As Christ is the brightness of the glory of the Father, so is the Church the brightness of Christ’s glory. He, as the Sun of righteousness, sheds forth, through the Church, the beams of His light.
As without Christ the perfections of the Father were not manifested, so the glory of Christ was not shown until His body the Church, which is His fulness, was manifested. But the Church does not shine by native excellency; she is made up of those who, being by nature vile and of the earth, are created anew by the Spirit of God. The life, beauty and glory of the Church are all from Christ her Lord derived. Whereas Christ is by nature the brightness of the Father’s glory.
The Calling of The Church
The Church is not only quickened by Christ but quickened together with Him… If this truth were received into the understanding and affections, and lived upon daily by the children of God, their very garments would smell of myrrh and frankincense, with all the powders of the merchant; and their conversation would bespeak their heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.
To rise above the first Adam we must live in the last Adam. We shall then be able in spirit to use the language of the 8th Psalm, and have all things under our feet.
Our life is in Christ: therefore, it is eternal life; for Christ is “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.”
God’s design was not only to save us from hell, however great that salvation, but to make us His sons and daughters, in order that we, with Himself and the Lord Jesus, the first-born from the dead, might dwell for ever in our Father’s house.
True love has its source in Christ Himself. It is therefore bold in defence of His truth, and knows no man after the flesh when His honour is to be maintained or defended.
We have three chief characters to sustain—child of God; a soldier; spouse of Christ. We have to feast; to fight; and to sing. Christ has won the victory. We gather up the spoils; and though so doing we must fight, the victory is ours, and its fruit.
To have the Lord Jesus revealed to us by the Spirit of God is enough. It sufficed Stephen amidst his persecutors, and suffices us amidst all our difficulties and adversaries, amidst all trials, great and small.
God’s people are His witnesses; they are the light in this dark world: they should therefore be so filled with the Spirit as to be Christ’s epistles, known and read of all men.
The Church has spiritual, heavenly, eternal life in Christ, her risen Lord, the last Adam. His pierced side is the fountain of life to us, His spouse.
We are under the law of God’s love and grace in our new relation as children; we are under obligation to Christ as first-born among many brethren; and as His members, to obey Him as our Head.
We have often the words members of Christ upon our lips; would that they were always accompanied with reverence and love.
Colossians 2:14. The forgiveness of God is like the God who grants it—everlasting, all-comprehensive, immeasurable… No possibility of condemnation. The bond that was up against me is now nailed up, as it were, in the court of justice for the protection of the debtor… I owe my whole self. Let Christ dwell in my heart, to guide every glance of the eye, every thought of the mind.
How strange would it seem to us to see a prince in sorry garments seated on the ale-bench in company with common men! How much greater the inconsistency when a child of the living God, a king and a priest unto God, degrades himself to fellowship with the unregenerate!
In order of time we were in the first man Adam, the man of the earth, first: but not so in order of purpose and degree; according to this we were in the last Adam, the second man, the Lord from heaven, ere we fell in the first.
Every flock bears the mark of its owner; so the sheep of Christ have their mark, even poverty of spirit; each one is a poor needy sinner, self-judged and self-condemned, according to the justice of God.
For a child of God to talk of his heavenly calling, and not to walk according to it, how sad a sight! The moment I am born of God, I am in the world in a new relation; I am a crucified man: and that I am such should be evident to all around.
God holds us accountable for what we have, and not for what we have not. If I have only ten minutes to read the Word, do I employ those ten minutes according to my accountability?
Many believers, though they live in New Testament times, walk in the Old Testament spirit.
It is a high place that is given to the prayers of saints in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. If Christians only knew how their prayers for kings and governors are heard in heaven, they would not be meddlers with this world’s politics.
Every wish that the Holy Ghost breathes into the soul of a believer is a voice which enters into the ear of God.
It is well for a child of God to pray for himself, but a more excellent thing to pray for others. God honours the spirit of intercession.
We are too apt to set God a time and a way of answering our prayers; and even when our prayers are answered, we are often surprised and ready to faint. If we desire much communion with God and with Christ, we must not be surprised if the Holy Spirit comes upon us as a keen north wind, revealing our own corruption and evil to us: when it comes, let us not say, How can we bear this? But rather be thankful for God’s wise answer to prayer.
If we have not the spirit of supplication and thanksgiving, let us begin with the spirit of confession.
When we pray, let us be sure God is hearing us. If we asked help, kindness, favour, from a fellow-man, it cheers us to observe the kind attentive look: let us by faith regard our unseen Saviour and Priest, and settle it in our hearts that our prayer is received; the answer will come in the best time. If we cannot comply with God’s just demands to be singing and triumphing with Christ above, He will listen to His unbelieving, groaning children. He bows down His ear to hear their cry.
When the Word of God enters the conscience, men pour out their hearts indeed to the Lord.
Our need of Prayer is as frequent as the moments of the day; and as we grow in spirituality of mind, our continual need will be felt by us more and more.
In order to have power with God in Prayer, there must be an undivided heart; if we would come boldly to the throne of grace, we must come obediently.
Daniel made prayer and meditation of the Scriptures the chief business of his life; yet, if we consider the circumstances in which he was placed, we shall see that few ever had greater obstacles than he in the way of seeking God.
God gives, as a wise Father, prized benefits to His supplicating children.
When we ask for more communion with God, are we willing to part with all that hinders? Let us take heed that our ways agree with our words when we come to the Mercy-seat.
It is a great help to us when we see that our prayers and our labours are to be as the grain of wheat falling into the ground. If we look for death and burial first, we shall be able to go on in patience; and in due time shall assuredly reap an abundant harvest.
We ought to go to God with our matters as altogether His.
How great is our favour and power with God! For we are kings and priests unto God—His sons and daughters by adoption and grace. Let us take heed that we grieve not the Spirit who sealed us unto the day of redemption; and nothing will God deny us. (John 15,7.)
The best testimony that Stephen bore was his last: not when preaching and working miracles, but when he pleaded for his persecutors; for then he most resembled the Lord Jesus in patience, forgiveness and love.
When some peculiar pressure is upon you, be like Queen Esther, whose first request was the king’s company. In each trial “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and all other things shall be added: your seeking first the removal of the trial shows that you need the continuance of it.
We must not look on that only as Prayer to which our lips give utterance: the wish of the believing heart is counted prayer by God; it is the smoke of the incense which ascends in silence before Him.
If a path be overgrown with moss and briers, it is difficult to trace it; if well-frequented it is plainly seen. Our pathway to the fountain of Jesus’ blood should be ever well-trodden by our confessions.
Unbelief lightly esteems both our own prayers and those of others.
We can never draw nigh to God in believing Prayer but the answer will be more than we had grace to hope for. Expectation from God is a precious fruit of Prayer.
A guilty conscience stops Prayer, but a cleansed conscience makes Prayer to flow.
We may often have the spirit of Prayer without the comfort of Prayer.
If we act only because our path is clear of difficulty, this is not Faith. Faith acts upon God’s Word whatever the difficulty; and to walk by faith brings highest glory to God; but it is a crucifying of the flesh.
To be strong in Faith two things are needful—a very low esteem of ourselves, and a very high esteem of Christ.
The chief excellency of Faith is that it brings us into fellowship with God. Abel—the first spoken of in Hebrews 11—is commended, not because of any great deed on man’s account, but because he worshipped God acceptably. Nevertheless, if we trust God, there is no limit to the power of Faith, whatever the thing to be done.
God shelters the weak in faith from many a storm, whereby the strong in Faith must be proved. (Gen. 22.)
When a man builds house or ship, he takes heed that no beam be strained; so God never overtaxes our Faith, but brings in comfort, knowing our frame, not suffering us to have sorrow upon sorrow, according to Philippians 2:27.
By neglect of God, and forgetfulness of His word and promise, our minds may become blinded to plainest things. Isaac, through self-will and allowing his natural partiality to blind him, would have set aside as nothing the purposes of God concerning Jacob.
When we are especially strong in Faith, we have especial need to watch against unbelief (compare 1 Samuel 26:5, with 27:1); for as the flesh takes great occasion by sin, so by grace; and no one who studies much that profitable book, his own heart, but must know it.
Soon after Abraham had greatly trusted God, he through unbelief denied his wife. Moses, the meekest of men, spake unadvisedly with his lips. David, the humble, forgiving man, was moved to proud wrath by the words of Nabal.
Faith, which always acts according to the mind of Christ, stoops to no unworthy device for deliverance from trial, leaving consequences wholly with God.
A little increase of Faith works great changes of judgment in us, and brings forth the otherwise hidden riches of the grace and wisdom of God: it stirs His power to do wonders for us, dividing the sea when the waves thereof roar.
Hebrews n, 24. Moses’ first great step of faith was the refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Yet Moses mistook the time for delivering Israel by forty years. He was too hasty; right in point of purpose, not in point of time. He was not content with the bare doing the will of God; he would straightway accomplish some great thing. After leaving Pharaoh’s house he should have asked of God further guidance. We need guidance step by step. “I (saith the Lord) taught Ephraim to go, taking them by their arms” (Hos. 11:3).
Faith looks straight to the command in order to obey it, and takes the promise for her support. She pushes on her way, regardless of dangers. Moses must “go forward,” though the next step lead the people into the sea. Whatever appearances may say to us, it is by advancing in the narrow way of obedience that we prove the truth of the promises; and the faithfulness, the wisdom and the power of our promise-giving God.
We must not be deceived by appearances but be sustained by promises. When Jacob looked upon Joseph’s coat, which had been brought to him, he should have said: “I see the coat that is covered with blood; I hear the report of the death of Joseph; but, Lord, I believe Thy word— Thy promises concerning the greatness and the glory of my son: what Thou hast spoken Thou wilt perform.”
It is a great proof of the strength and steadiness of Faith when, diligent in pleasing God, we rise above our obedience to God Himself.
Grace makes light of sacrifices, because of looking straight to Jesus.
Unbelief begets all sorts of evils; Faith prevents and cures them.
Would that the saints of God tried themselves by this test: “How much do I believe?” instead of “How much do I know?”
We please God by trusting Him; trusting His grace, His love, His wisdom; trusting without limit: but it is only by little and little that we come to account our own wisdom folly, and God’s wisdom true wisdom—wisdom infinite; then we are able to yield up ourselves unreservedly unto Him.
Faith labours, and holds on, despite of all appearances, and in the midst of all difficulties.
Rather let us look by Faith to Christ at God’s right hand, than at the mountain of difficulties before our eyes.
One of the best answers to prayer is to be able to continue in prayer. (See Matthew 15:21-28.)
Faith perpetually cries to God for its own increase.
All things that are within the compass of God’s promises are within the compass of Faith.
Let Faith lay heart-sins upon Christ, and there will be no plague spots upon the skin.
Faith waits upon God; but she waits also for God. Jacob (in Genesis 32:9-12) waited upon God regarding Esau his brother: but he did not wait for God. Had he done so, he would not have bowed down (33:3) seven times to his brother: Esau must have bowed down to him (27:29).
God delights in putting Faith to do that which the flesh declares impossible. Oh, how precious a jewel is that resolute Faith which walks with God under all circumstances, wrestling against the powers of darkness, making no bow to the Haman of evil customs, or evil principles!
We cannot be losers by trusting God, for He is honoured by Faith, and most honoured when Faith discerns His love and truth behind a thick cloud of His way and providence. Happy those who are thus tried! Thus saith the Lord: “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (Jas. 1:2). Let us only be clear of unbelief and a guilty conscience, and we shall hide ourselves in the rock and pavilion of the Lord, sheltered beneath the wings of everlasting love till all calamities be overpast.
Faith can bear the test of death and burial, and can sing praises to God under any circumstances.
A steadfast purpose to trust God, when He seems, to unbelief, to be breaking promise, betokens a growth in faith. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
God often encourages the weak in faith by giving speedy answers to prayer; but the strong in faith will be tested by God’s delays.
The prayer of self-will may get its answer, as with the Israelites: “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:15).
Faith is the good cable that, stretched and strained, does not break in the storm.
Trial humbles the soul and enables it to bear the ripened blessing, and to carry a full cup with a steady hand. Faith is not discouraged, but holds on in patience, expecting the promised blessing in the fitting time.
What is the food and nourishment of Faith? “My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55).
To take God at His word is the business of Faith.
Faith can never fail of the reward of perseverance: the Lord delights in persevering Faith.
In trial of Faith, let us take heed to our spirit that we trust God without stint. The soul’s repose in Him is His delight; and He will honour it. Jehovah sitteth King upon the floods, and Faith sits with Him.
The Sins of Believers
The heart of man is a restless deep, ever casting up mire and dirt (Isa. 57:20); but in the sins of God’s children there is a pre-eminence of guilt.
Jonah could not sin himself out of the love of God; therefore, sinning himself out of communion with God, he had the greater guilt.
I count myself more vile than the murderer who suffers death by the hangman’s hand, because the atoning blood of the Son of God acquaints me with myself… That which shows me my forgiveness reveals to me my pollution.
By far the greater part of the sins of God’s children are sins of ignorance. How needful therefore the cry: “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults” (Ps. 19:12)—faults hidden from mine own eye and from mine own conscience! Without atoning blood they would bring down God’s curse on the offender’s head. Oh, let us not make light of sins of ignorance!
The sins of our unregenerate state should indeed be ever before us; but for frowardness, since we tasted that God is gracious, we sin (as natural men cannot sin) against the heart of Christ, against God’s love and His Spirit, who seals us unto the day of redemption. The natural man is a rebel against his Maker; but it is against a Father that we, the saved, offend. Forgetting the cross, we go astray. The remedy is true and speedy confession; for we have an Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).
We must be ever waging war with the secret workings of sin. Where it is but in a little measure allowed, God may suffer His child to go further and further in that allowance, until the seven locks are shorn on Delilah’s lap.
To be doubting Christ’s love, to be limiting His grace, is alike unworthy of us and grieving to Him. The last offence of Joseph’s brethren (Gen. 50:15-21) was not the least.
There is no fault in our character that the grace of God cannot cure. It becomes us therefore to give no quarter to the Canaanites. (Judges 2.)
God deals with us after conversion otherwise than before it: He, as a wise Father, has a rod of correction for His children, and smites them when He might let them alone, did they not know His love.
Peculiar temptations bring forth peculiar corruptions, after neglected warnings.
The Lord Jesus took loving pains to make Peter acquainted with Himself, and was compelled to humble him by his threefold denial of his Lord, but without exposing him to the eye of enemies. Overcome by a sudden temptation, he was quickly forgiven and restored. (Luke 22:55-62). Whereas David, who had deliberately transgressed, and who had long been in a backsliding state of heart, was exposed to the people as well as made loathsome in his own eyes. (2 Sam. 12; 16.) When Christ restores a fallen one, He often makes that disciple stronger than before his fall. “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). So it will be with those who, like David and Peter, have been wont to follow the Lord fully.
The people of God are in general slack and slothful in searching out sins of ignorance; but if we persevere in the search, asking God to reveal them to us, He will give us very humbling knowledge of ourselves and of our secret faults; with it also blessed comfort and communion, which otherwise we could not enjoy.
Deep And Silent Work
What is most precious in the sight of God is often least noticed by men.
The work of the Holy Ghost is often most mighty when least of its power is seen by the common eye, Judas working miracles, and king Saul prophesying, were not such proofs of the Spirit’s power as the tears of Peter after he had denied his Lord.
If we would be strong we must make pleasing God our business: then what adversary can harm us?
Before our knowledge can be of much profit to others it must become a channel of our own soul’s communion with God in secret.
How needful is it to take heed to our ways, to seek counsel, not only of God, but of those who are faithful and prudent! Satan watches for our halting, and entangles us by little and little; questionable things first, then things plainly evil. Great sins may spring out of little trespasses.
That confession to others which is frequent and unasked is seldom deep before God.
They are most alive to snares and temptations who by reason of walking with God are most blameless: we rarely see the snare when entangled therein.
David, Elijah and others obtained victories over themselves in solitude, and there had power with God: when afterwards they came forth, how calmly did they undertake the greatest things, and how easily perform them!
How great victory was that which Jonathan must have gained over himself, when he rejoiced to see David raised above him! He discerned the mind of God in David, and had so learnt to delight in God, that he did not see in David one who was to outshine him, but another faithful man raised up for God and for Israel. Not so Joab, who in hellish jealousy slew his kinsman Amasa. (1 Sam. 23:17; 2 Sam. 20:9-10.)
To have nothing and to be nothing, this is riches, quietness, rest.
The Servants of The Lord
Whatever carnal titles of honour men may give to professed ministers of the Gospel, the conscience of the unregenerate will not account them holy men of God unless they be such of a truth.
For those who are to exercise any office in the Church —that of evangelist, pastor—it is not knowledge and utterance only which are needed; but also, and above all, grace and an unblameable conversation. Whilst they be harmless as doves in regard to carnal policy, they should be wise as serpents in respect of spiritual wisdom and prudence, so as to “cut off occasion from them which desire occasion” (2 Cor. 11:12).
It was a small thing with Paul to be judged by the saints at Corinth. Whatever their judgments, he is intent on doing them good, and holds on his course, glorifying God. He labours to restore them to a sound heart and mind. “We do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying: for I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would” (2 Cor. 12:19-20).
The servant of the Lord Jesus must be instant in season and out of season, knowing that he is the Lord’s messenger to every one with whom he has to do: ever learning of the Lord; for, seeing that he is to be continually ministering to others, he must be receiving fresh supplies for the God of all grace through all channels. Meditation of the Word and prayer should occupy the chief part of his time. In his public ministry and private conversation, he should aim at heart and conscience, seeking in every way to magnify Christ and abase the creature. In short, he should set the Lord always before him, and so walk in His steps as to represent Him to every eye.
If Paul had much joy in his spiritual children at Philippi, he had much profit, though little joy, by those at Corinth, who by their many evils gave him so great occasion to show the heart of Christ.
Those who walk with God hear His voice and He employs them.
A good workman gains skill by his mistakes.
The Lord Jesus always finds service for willing hearts and willing hands: let us desire only that service for which He has fitted us.
If each child of God, each member of Christ, had due conscience of his own accountability, we should soon see better things in the Church of God. If we be careless in the Lord’s service, He will surely require it of us.
Let the servants of Christ put toil and hardship by the side of the recompense, and look well to the state of their hearts, taking heed day by day that they please God: so will they be always rejoicing, though always sorrowful.
The joy and triumph of faith are only to be found in the way of unreserved consecration of ourselves to God, and of diligent service of Christ.
All who labour for Christ shall receive great wages for little toil.
It is our wisdom to account the pleasing God our great reward. If we leave it altogether to His will how and when to give us fruit of our labour, we shall obtain abundantly what, as our chief aim, we do not seek.
Martha would please the Lord in her own way; Mary in her Lord’s way. There are many who would please the Lord; but in their own way, for lack of trying their works by the Scriptures: amid much labour they are unspiritual and barren.
From the charge of Paul to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:12-16), we gather the true and proper character of the servant of God.
The work of a servant of the Lord demands entire self-denial. “Even Christ pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3). He must be the servant of all men for Jesus’ sake, that he may be, under His Lord, a leader and a commander of the people: the foremost to suffer; the most laborious in all service; ever caring for others, ever forgetting himself.
Christ twice passed the angels by. He sank far below them in His humiliation; He rose far above them in His exaltation.
If Christ be the life and beauty of our days of sunshine, so is He the brother born for our adversity; and His love shall gild and strike through the darkest cloud. Having been once a sufferer, He communes with His suffering members, and instructs us to put our trials into a just balance; to call our affliction light and momentary. (2 Cor. 4:17-18.)
Resting wholly on Christ! ceasing wholly from the works of the flesh—is the secret of abiding in Him.
Growing acquaintance with Christ makes Him more and more precious to our souls. If Christ were anything less than unsearchable, He could not satisfy us—could neither fill the heart, nor give peace to the conscience.
The strength of love is shown in great things; the tenderness of love in little things. Christ showed the strength of His love on the Cross by dying and bearing the curse for us; the tenderness of His love when He said: “Behold thy mother!” “Children, have ye any meat?” “Woman, why weepest thou?”
There was an immeasurable difference between the state of Christ on the Cross when He said, under the terrors of the Judge: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and when He said: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). He could not sink lower than His Cross: we can no more fathom the depths of His humiliation than comprehend the glory of His Godhead. His exaltation answers to His Cross. He cannot rise higher than the right hand of God, nor find sweeter resting-place from His sufferings and His toil than the bosom of the Father. His rest and exaltation we must share, being joint-heirs with Christ; nor will He be satisfied until His members be seated with Him on His throne. Then let this mind rule and reign in us which reigned in Christ Jesus (see Phil. 2:5-15); and since the humble mind, so hard of attainment, must needs go before honour from God, let us be thankful for all God’s discipline, however bitter, without which pride will not stoop, nor vain man come to knowledge of himself.
May the fulness of Christ replenish our enlarged hearts day by day. By communion with Him the soul grows more and more capacious, and yet acquaintance with Him makes us feel more and more our own littleness.
Let it be our habit to feed daily upon Christ in secret; thus shall we eat and drink, discerning the Lord’s body, in the assembly for the supper of the Lord.
Would we be filled with love towards Christ—let us consider Christ’s love towards us in the death of the Cross.