Being Notes of Expositions of the Scriptures
Pickering & Inglis
229 Bothwell Street
The very first sigh on account of sin which is begotten in the heart of a sinner by the Holy Spirit, is the beginning of an eternal communion with God.
Among hearers of the Gospel, God remembers the sins of those only who remember not the blood of Jesus.
If God build His glory upon Christ, shall not we build on Him our hope of salvation?
Do we heartily renounce our own righteousness? and are we looking only to the atoning blood of Jesus for justification and sanctification? If so, we are poor sinners saved by grace.
The very commandment of God—“Repent” —shows a dispensation above the law, and supposes a fountain of grace in the heart of God. Were there not forgiveness with God, there could have been no commandment to repent.
As divine justice was honoured by the condemnation and cross of Christ, the Head, so is the same justice honoured by the salvation of the members.
The natural man has no apprehension of the Gospel. “What must I do?” is ever his cry. Man has done his work perfectly—that of self-destruction. He is wholly bent upon evil, altogether ruined. Hence he is a fitting object for the Gospel of God.
Unbelief is the height of presumption: it plainly proves that we are seeking for some cause of God’s love in the creature, which can never be.
It is among the highest provocations the sinner can be guilty of against God, when, without the blood of Christ sprinkled on his conscience, he, in will-worship, calls God his Father.
No cup of poison is so deadly as that mingled cup of law and grace, of works and faith, which is presented to men by false teachers, instead of the Gospel of the grace of God. Yet, alas J do men gladly receive, and eagerly drink, seeking to satisfy conscience.
To seek healing of soul from duties instead of the blood of Christ, is taking poison to cure disease.
When we would consider the love of God in Christ, we are as one approaching the ocean: he casts a glance on the surface, but the depths he cannot sound.
The Law and the Gospel
Let a sinner look at himself in the glass of God’s holiness, he must see his own condemnation; but by faith in Jesus he beholds himself free from condemnation, and stands before God in Christ as Christ Himself.
The Law was magnified by Christ, and made honourable; and therefore God in His righteousness must magnify for ever Christ and His members with Him.
Under the Law they laboured first, and rested after (Ex. 20:8-11); but under the Gospel we rest first, by faith in Jesus, and then work.
The Law begins with commands and ends with blessings; but the blessings are fruit upon lofty branches, which fallen man can never reach: he cannot and will not climb the tree. The Gospel, on the contrary, begins with promises; and promises give birth to precepts. The Law demands justice; the Gospel delights in mercy through satisfied justice. Moses blesses the law-doer; Jesus pardons the guilty and saves the lost.
Every one who hears the Gospel has a door opened to him of escape from the wrath to come. In the Day of Judgment men shall know all the past. Forgetful hearers of the Gospel shall then with gnashing of teeth remember how they once neglected so great salvation (Heb. 2:3): their worm will never die, their fire never be quenched (Mark 9:44).
No child of Adam has a right to anything from God save the wages of sin. Justice, apart from grace in Christ’s Cross, must allot to every sinner, hell for his wages and portion. If the sinner is to have eternal life, he must have it as a free gift from God. Alas that thousands of sinners who hear the Gospel will not have it, because they are too proud to be saved on God’s terms of pure grace!
What is it to obey the Gospel, but to believe the Gospel? Unbelief says, “I will not receive Christ as a gift from God.” Faith, on the contrary, says, “I want Christ in His fulness; my pinching poverty makes me glad of so rich and all-sufficient a Saviour.”
There are mysteries of grace and love in every page of the Bible: it is a thriving soul that finds the Book of God growing more and more precious.
A careless reader of the Scriptures never made a close walker with God.
Spread the Bible before the Lord; ask Him to teach you what your ignorance and what His wisdom.
Meditation on the Word of God is the chief means of our growth in grace: without this even prayer itself will be little better than an empty form. Meditation nourishes faith, and faith and prayer are the keys which unlock the hidden treasures of the Word.
We have great need to be prepared for trials of faith and patience in so great a business as reading the Scriptures with an understanding heart. It is only by faith and patience, and prayerful meditation of the Word, that we are delivered from imaginations of the flesh—from sacrificing to our own net, and burning incense to our own drag.
The laying open the heart of God is the great design of the Scriptures: happy the reader who falls in with that design!
The Bible is always a new book to those well acquainted with it.
We shall never become established in grace until we credit the Word of God as a self-proving voice of Him who speaks it.
Satan has ten thousand devices for drawing us away from the Scriptures. This done, we are in his net; and, though our gracious God put us not to shame by any outward and gross transgression, we shall become barren and unfruitful.
No believer can flourish in the ways of Christ, unless it be his custom to deal with God by the Word in the closet.
The children of God in the furnace without a good store of Scripture in their hearts are always impatient, struggling in self-will for deliverance, and thereby they do but add fuel to the fire.
If we read the Word of God chiefly to get comfort, we shall have but little, and that of doubtful kind. Let us put away this selfishness, and use the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit against the flesh in us; so will the Scriptures unfold themselves more and more, and endear Christ to us. That sword, well handled against the flesh in ourselves, will serve us in good stead against Satan.
The Book of God is a store of manna for God’s pilgrim children; and we ought to see to it that the soul get not sick and loathe the manna. The great cause of our neglecting the Scriptures is not want of time, but want of heart, some idol taking the place of Christ. Satan has been marvellously wise to entice a way God’s people from the Scriptures. A child of God who neglects the Scriptures cannot make it his business to please the Lord of glory: cannot make Him Lord of the conscience; ruler of the heart; the joy, portion, and treasure of the soul.
The threatenings of God’s Word are designed to discourage men from their wickedness, and to drive them out of all refuges of lies to the Saviour. For the utterly self-condemned sinner there is nothing but encouragement in the whole compass of the Bible.
If it be asked, What is the proof that we digest our spiritual food?—that our knowledge of God’s truth turns to growth in grace? The answer is, Does it lead us into communion with God, and submission to His will? Among the marks of true communion with God, two of the plainest are a spirit of thanksgiving and a spirit of confession.
The Natural Man and His Religion
The Religion of the Natural Man is made up of pride, ignorance, and a guilty conscience; these effectually keep the sinner far from God. Grace, on the contrary, moves us to draw near to God by the blood of Jesus. It was the obedience of faith that made Abel the acceptable worshipper.
The fairest things in the world’s sight are the foulest in the sight of God; to wit, the world’s Wisdom and the world’s Religion.
To judge by the number of creeds in the world, its Religions are many; yet there are but two—man’s Religion and God’s. The former ever builds on the false righteousness of the flesh; the latter, on the rock Christ.
All the Religion of the Natural Man turns the Bible upside down: it begins with works, and then leads men to hope for mercy. Whereas the Bible begins with the pardon of sin, and then enjoins obedience.
Nadab and Abihu went up with Moses into the mount with God, yet afterwards perished while offering strange fire. Were natural men that profess Christ to be caught up into heaven, and sent down to earth again, they would be still but Nadabs and Abihus at enmity with God. The carnal mind must be crucified; it cannot be mended or improved.
The man who worships God without the new birth is a mocker of God, not a worshipper.
It is natural to the corrupt heart of man to deny its weakness and sinfulness, and to boast of its strength and righteousness.
If Adam in his state of uprightness could not uphold himself, how shall we, his corrupt seed, by native strength rise up out of our fall?
There are many stirrings of conscience in the Natural Man which are not grace, though often mistaken for it. Balaam, Saul, and many others had such stirrings—conscience pulling one way and the heart another. Without grace there is no self-abhorrence, and therefore no looking to the blood of Christ. Where grace is, the soul desires deliverance from the power of sin as well as its punishment.
If you be not converted to God, you have not to be doing good works, but to learn that you can do none, and that you are to come empty to receive God’s gift of eternal life by faith in Christ Jesus. Your best prayer for mercy is the true confession of your sin. Made alive in Christ, you are to bring forth fruit to God. That fruit will not be apples of Sodom or grapes of Gomorrah: such are all your good works in your natural state—your fruit will be from Jesus, the true and living vine.
The perfection of our obedience in the sight of our heavenly Father lies not so much in attainment as in endeavour. Reserves spoil obedience. We may be dealing honestly with Sin that is seen outwardly, and yet not skilfully and effectually, because of not striking at the deep roots of evil within.
God indeed, as our Father in Christ Jesus, does not blame us for Indwelling Sin; but He does require that we should contend against it.
It is one thing to be blameless before men, and another to be aiming at that perfect obedience which Christ rendered to the Father: “I do always those things that please Him.”
The first sign of spiritual life in the soul is generally the cry of distress from the sight of that which never gave trouble before—the pollution of Sin. The mere natural man may dread the punishment of Sin, its uncleanness he cannot feel, he cannot discern.
David said, “Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake Thy law.” If we be spiritually-minded, we shall in like manner mourn over the unregenerate. Lot did not apprehend as did Abraham the state of Sodom, because, without God’s leading, he was in it, and, alas! too much of it.
God would ever have us regard Sin in its pollution and guilt, and deal with it as done against Him. (Ps. 51:4.)
Those who deny the Godhead of Christ, and atonement by His blood, know not their sickness; and such need not the Physician that God hath sent, nor the remedy that God hath provided.
It is a great principle of God’s government, that a sin not repented of becomes as seed which greatly multiplies.
The slack conscience that questions the everlasting punishment of the ungodly, betrays the soul’s neglect of solemn dealing with the death of the Son of God on the tree, and of the testimonies of the Scriptures thereto.
Sin does not lie in being tempted, but in not resisting temptation. The Lord Jesus Himself was tempted, and, because of His holiness, suffered pain unspeakable, yet could not be defiled. So far as we have His mind, we, His members, suffer pain in temptation; and the greater the pain of the soul the less the defilement.
How precious the words of Rom. 6:10, 11! —“In that He died, He died unto Sin once… Likewise reckon ye also yourselves.” “He liveth unto God.” We with Him live to God. He died to Sin by dying for Sin. It was once imputed to Him. He put it away by the sacrifice of Himself; and now, with the glory of His atonement, lives at the right hand of God. The poor and needy one, by faith in the Son of God, is in Christ as Christ in God’s sight. Is no Sin now imputed to Christ?—so none to the believer. Is Christ, with the glory of His atonement, accepted of God?—so the believer. The apprehending by faith these great things is the true way of mortifying Sin. “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (v. 14).
The sinner thinks to improve himself by lopping off this or that branch of his Sin; he knows not that thereby he does but nourish the evil root.
The greater power we have over Sin, the more intolerable do we feel the burden of it, and the more earnestly do we seek the cleansing of that blood which purges the conscience from its defilement.
Let us not be discouraged by any humiliating discoveries we may make of the evils of our hearts. God knows them all, and has provided the blood of Jesus Christ His Son to cleanse us from all sin.
God regards our Sins with the heart of a father, but not with the eye of a judge; for His sin-avenging justice has no further demands: the Cross made satisfaction.
The imaginations of man’s heart are only evil continually. Oh to come to close quarters with this truth! to be willing to be judged by it! There must be something more than man’s own will for this; there must be the working of the Spirit of God.
We little know the deep mysteries of the human heart: it is because of our deep sin and pride that we bear correction with so much impatience; but if we had a dangerous malady, and knew it, we should not complain of the bitter taste and troublesome effects of the medicine given us to heal our disease.
Rom. 8:13, 14. One blow will sometimes take the life of the body; but to mortify sin, we must be always striking, because Sin is always struggling.
If we contend with Sin, be assured that we shall be victorious sooner or later: there is not a single Sin but the defiling power thereof may be subdued. (1 John 1:7.)
The so-called innocent amusements of the world are only contrivances to forget God.
It is the nature of Sin to obtain great power by little beginnings.
Confession of Sin
Soon as the word is uttered, “I have sinned,” that very moment flies the seraph. (Isa. 6) God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” When we confess them in the name of Jesus, justice, having been satisfied by the blood of Christ, is swift to pardon.
God cannot seal a pardon in the soul without confession. (Ps. 32:3, 5.)
As we practise confession, so will be our happiness and joy; for all true confession is followed by the spirit of praise.
If in coming to God we complain against ourselves, let us thank Him that we have a heart to complain.
The Spirit of God never heals save as He wounds; and if those seeking Christ have not peace, it is because there is still in them some remnant of fancied goodness. Tell out the whole heart to God, and the conscience will be cleansed by confessing sin over the head of the scapegoat.
There is a counterfeit Confession of Sin; let us beware of this counterfeit. We may be sure the sorrow is not deep if the sin be not subdued.
If so be we are ready in the confession of our faults, and have faith in the blood of sprinkling, those very faults will serve our growth in grace: they will be like manure to the field or garden.
God kills to make alive. He smites men’s consciences to make them judge themselves. The first great step when a man desires to be saved is unqualified self-condemnation. Sin unconfessed is imputed; but sin confessed is blotted out by God. The sinner, coming in the name of Jesus, has a title to life: the ground of that title is the very name and justice of God.
We should confess to God every inward evil as soon as it is discovered to us; and if we have trespassed against our brother, to him also we should speedily make confession. By so doing we shall keep up the communion of love with God and with each other.
It was the imputation of our sins to Christ that hid from Him the face of God the Father. It is our unconfessed disobedience that brings a cloud between Christ and us.
When on entering a house I see a child in disgrace for disobedience, although I tenderly consider the erring child, I especially feel with the grieved, sorrowing parent. When we sin, and are chastened of God, we should rather consider how the heart of our heavenly Father has by us been grieved, than be taken up with the smart of our stripes by His rod of correction.
If we practise the true Confession of Sin, and so cease to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, we shall have the testimony of the Spirit that the ear, thumb, and toe are tipped with blood and oil.
Keep no secrets from God. Confession of Sin to Him in all detail will greatly help us in the subduing it.
The sinful thought of the heart is, in the sight of God, the act: evils in life always proceed from the evils nourished in the heart.
Do we think that God is pleased with shallow confessions of deep sins? Compare Job 40:4 with 42:2-6.
After we have been able, by the grace of God, to subdue any besetting sin, and it seems to be dead, let us still be confessing to God that it is within us. By thus doing we shall show that we are not living on the victory, but on God Himself. Indwelling sin will be thus regarded by the eye of our Father rather as our sickness than our fault.
All unconfessed sin has power over us; but all confessed sin God helps us to subdue: He will never blame us for sins confessed.
The speediest confession is the easiest and the best.
When peace reigns in the Conscience, there is always power over sin. Peace is like a sentinel that keeps guard at the door of the heart; if the sentinel be off his post, either the tumult within drowns the voice of the Spirit, or, because of the stillness of death, his voice is not heard.
A guilty Conscience is one of Satan’s great weapons against the children of God: faith can only be bold as the Conscience is clean.
There is no trial to the believer like guilt upon the Conscience; but it is the triumph of faith to see guilt removed by the atoning blood of Christ. A very little stain upon the Conscience makes a wide breach in our communion with God.
If we have a doubt upon our minds upon any point, we should go straight to Jesus to get it solved. Love abhors a winding course.
If the Conscience be not rightly instructed, it becomes a tool for Satan; if it speaks a false peace, it works ruin; and if it does not speak peace at all, it is a tormentor.
We should never deal lightly with the whispers of a doubtful Conscience.
Let Christ keep the heart, and the heart shall keep the life.
Our lack of walking in the Spirit often moves others to like negligence.
How great a blessing is a tender Conscience; one that will discern and deal with a little sin — that will lead us to say, “Search me, O God!” In this state we not only grieve at an angry thought, or an outbreak of temper, but even for a thought of unbelief that may but glance across the mind.
The pardon of sin sealed on the Conscience strengthens the soul for communion with God; whilst guilt on the Conscience drives us from God. These are noiseless things in the world, but great things with God.
The child of God should remember that he has the root of every evil within him; if he take not heed to tend the garden of his Conscience, evil weeds will spring up and grow; especially will the besetting sins of his unconverted days be his plague.
A scrupulous Conscience comes of the flesh, and ignorance of God’s will; but a good Conscience is among the best of God’s blessings, for it is cleansed by the blood of Christ, and enlightened by the Scriptures and the Spirit of God.
We must deal with our Consciences as people do with their houses: if they would keep their dwellings clean, they must day by day be cleaning.
A spiritual Conscience deals most with the evil of the heart; but when the conscience is not spiritual, the heart is the last thing dealt with.
A rebuke from the Lord duly regarded will lead us into safe paths, whilst a rebuke not heeded is the forerunner of sharp correction.
The heavenly Conscience never says, “Must I give up this? must I give up that?” for this pleases not the heart of Christ.
Have I faith and a good Conscience? then I can leave everything to God—let Him give, or take, or withhold as He pleases.
A pure Conscience is a conscience so thoroughly purged by the blood of Christ, that it makes the soul, as it were, a mirror wherein is seen the face of our heavenly Father.
A tender Conscience concerning unbelief and its slightest stirrings, will greatly help us in our path of obedience, and in our walk with God.
We ought to be ever trying our Consciences by the Word of God, and helping our neighbours to do the same. It would, indeed, be a blessing to the saints were they to exercise themselves in judging everything by the Scriptures. A child of God may walk un-blameably in men’s eyes, yet have little of the mind of Christ, and little of the spirit of communion: his Conscience may be in so small a measure guided by the word of God, that as to edifying others, he is little better than a piece of lumber.
The Cross of Christ
The Cross of Christ is the life of all true communion with God, and those who draw nearest to God best know the mystery of that Cross.
If the sufferings of Christ, who humbled Himself and became obedient unto death—the death of the Cross, be much in my heart, I shall see my worst enemy to be pride, especially pride of wisdom, and pride of righteousness. I shall charge my soul, as did the king of Syria his captains: “Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.” In my soul’s warfare let pride be subdued, and every other sin is held in chains.
It is the secret of the prevention and cure of all evil to begin, and go through, each day with the Cross of Christ. (John 6:56.)
The precepts of Scripture are given to guide the life of a Christian, and their claims are all founded on the Cross of Christ.
In the Cross of Christ is life; in the way of His precepts, liberty. Let us take up every cross that lies in our way—cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye: the blessing must come down.
By the Cross of Christ the world is crucified to us, and we are crucified to the world; whilst we, through the Spirit, are mortifying the deeds of the body, we are gaining by all our losses, and have good success even by that which the flesh accounts bitter disappointment.
There is virtue in the name of Christ to make this vale of tears a fruitful, pleasant place.
He who most walks in fellowship with God has the deepest and truest apprehension of Christ. Such a one will love to consider how He who was in the form of God, emptied Himself of His state of pure equality with God; how the Word made flesh, at every step of His humiliation, above all on the Cross, made manifest His glory. Of all the works of God, redemption is the greatest. It is only in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that the perfections of God are fully manifested; and of that Cross we can have no true understanding, save by the Holy Scriptures and by the Holy Spirit of God.
When the Son of God had taken on Him the form of a servant, He could say, “My Father is greater than I”; but His obedience showed Him to be equal with God: obedience unto the death of the Cross was such as only the Son of God could be called unto; and only He could render.
From the sixth to the ninth hour there was darkness over the land; darkness at noon-day. In the proper natural course of the love of God the Father towards His Son, the Father’s countenance must have been ever lifted up on the Lord Jesus; but Christ was the Surety of the better covenant, and God must deal as a sin-revenging judge with His own Son on the Cross as our Surety and Sin-bearer: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” The land is a type of Christ; and while from the sixth to the ninth hour the course of the old creation was suffering, in regard to the land, strange and awful interruption, even thick darkness at noon, thereby was shown forth the greatest work, the greatest event of the new creation: God not sparing His own Son, but delivering Him up for us all; Christ who knew no sin made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him; Christ made a curse for us, to redeem us from the curse of the law. The mind of the Lord Jesus was at every moment one with the mind of God the Father; but the Lord’s obedience grew with growing trial, and according to demand upon Him: it was on the Cross that He obeyed to the uttermost; on the Cross He made manifest to the full His oneness of mind with the Father. Now He dieth no more; as having once been crucified, and as having glorified the Father on the earth, He dwells for ever in the bosom of the Father, in the light of His countenance. By faith we dwell with Christ the Lord, and learn a little of His Cross: at the resurrection we shall learn indeed; yet evermore be learning—and evermore be praising the Lamb that was slain. Be it then ever present with us in our sojourn here, that Christ, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God. So shall our hearts be full of the song, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Jehovah of hosts!” (Isa.6:3).
Christ’s work is the light, life, joy, glory, and perfume of heaven.
There is no testimony to God’s hatred of sin like the Cross of Christ. There are testimonies thereto above, around, and beneath us; but in the Cross, and that only, we see to the full God’s hatred of sin.
Christ descended lower and lower, even to the depths of the Cross; but in God’s sight it was a perpetual ascent to the throne of glory.
If with godly sorrow we would grieve for sin, we must regard it in fellowship with Christ in the light of the Cross.
The law of nature, the law of Moses, and a corrupted gospel, are so many refuges of lies which men flee to for salvation, instead of coming to the Cross of Christ.
The Cross of Christ is the meeting-place for God and the sinner. It is the meeting-place of God with His people. It is also the meeting-place of saints with one another: it is only as Jesus crucified dwells in the midst of them that they can meet each other to profit.
Mercy to Christ, my Surety, would have been death eternal to me.
In the Cross of Christ the holiness of God is perfectly revealed: such is His holiness that the heavens are not clean in His sight.
The Scriptures show us that it is by the Cross of Christ God bears with the ungodly. The justice of God is so magnified by that Cross, that it can delight in long-suffering towards the unregenerate; one great end of this long-suffering is the calling out of the Church.
All the trials and all the sufferings of all creatures—were they heaped together—must not be compared with Christ’s sufferings on the Cross.
As the sin-avenging God of holiness and justice, God forsook Christ on the Cross; but He was infinitely well-pleased with Christ and His death of atonement. God accepted the work of His beloved Son, and in token of that acceptance, raised Him from the dead.
The carnal mind ever lies in wait for self-exaltation, and will catch at any straw for this end. Deceptions are recorded in God’s Word with their corrections, that we may avoid them: if Abraham deceived, we find him “corrected; if Isaac deceived, he is rebuked; and the deception Jacob practised on his father was visited upon him for almost all his life. If David and Jonathan had agreed to east themselves only upon God, how much after-trouble would have been prevented! (1 Sam. 20 and on.)
Correction does not always consist in bitter things coming upon us, but it may be in our failing to obtain some higher honour, which, had we walked in greater simplicity, we should have received from God.
That is the hardest to bear which touches my pride; offended pride has no bowels, and hearkens to no reason.
Hurry is the working of the flesh; faith, like God, works at leisure.
Angels have no envy, because they have no pride. Is God glorified? angels are happy. Let the glory of God be our delight, our meat, our drink. Love envieth not: if one member be honoured, saith love, that is my honour, my joy-Christ must be extolled and be very high in our hearts, if the unruly flesh and its wayward cravings are to be curbed.
Self-righteousness and carnal wisdom are ringleaders of the enemies of the soul.
We should deal with our corrupt nature as we would with a notorious thief,—never trust it.
The greater part of our sorrows arise from mortified pride, thwarted self-will, and anxious unbelief.
Pride has always an envious eye and an envious tongue: envy is but the vexation of pride.
It is a mark of true growth in grace and spirituality of mind, to be looking back and dealing afresh with God respecting past iniquities. The soul is greatly profited by a tender conscience dealing before the Lord with the sins of early youth. Defects of character, and feeble resistance of temptation, may be traced up to neglect of dealing with God through the Cross about our easily besetting sins. Looking back and reviewing our past state will enable us to read the story of God’s present discipline, and aid us in the present and future growth of our souls.
The gospel of Christ is a more open enemy to the pride of man than is the law of Moses. Israel received Moses’ commandments with vows of obedience, but said of Christ, “Away with Him! crucify Him!”
The master-sin of man is independence of God. What is the cure? Christ the Son of God self-abased, even to the death of the Cross. (Phil. 2:5-8.)
Naaman, the Syrian, was somebody in his own sight; therefore he was angry at the commandment which made him nothing.
If we think we are undervalued, let us weigh ourselves in God’s balances, and we shall easily bear the slight.
The vauntings of self-exalting man are but the trickery of his pride, to hide his native vanity from his own eye and his neighbour’s.
Man without God may seem something at a distance. Come near him; be familiar with him; you find him to be nothing. But “blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; they will be still praising Thee.” Even now, while yet in the earthly house of this tabernacle, we find that growing acquaintance with God brings with it increase of reverence and love. Oh, blessed hope! we shall know as we are known; see face to face and be satisfied; waking up in the likeness of the Lord.
Many there are who can talk well of the truth of the Gospel, but who, when called to self-denial, taking up crosses, suffering for Christ’s sake, prove sounding brass and tinkling cymbals; knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth.
Absalom’s vanity let his hair grow long; and his long hair did the service of the hangman’s rope. Let parents hear the warning voice, and teach their children from earliest days to reckon the fear of God their best ornament.
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 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 Heb. 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 Phil. 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 Sam. 26:5 and on, 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.
Heb. 11:24. 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.
Father 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 Matt. 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 Gen. 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 ways 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.
Communion with God
God, in His dealings with His froward children, shows the forbearance of His love; but it is with the obedient that He walks in the fellowship of His love. In both cases He gets glory to Himself. Happy are they who live under His smile of approbation.
Fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Spirit, should be the daily household bread to our souls.
Unless the great truths of God’s eternal purpose of grace, and His electing love, occupy their due place in our hearts, we must of necessity, more or less, misapprehend all truth: we can neither fulfil our obligations to God nor even duly discern them.
If we come forth from the closet of communion, the atmosphere of evil speaking will be to us as the tainted air of some great city to one that has been breathing the pure air of a mountain-top, or the fresh breezes of the seashore.
Unless our souls are living in communion with God, the Scriptures will not yield us their strength and nourishment.
There is nothing so teaching as walking with God; nothing so sifting to the heart and conscience as seeking in all things to walk before Him; to hear, to speak, and to act for one great end, namely, to please God, and to do His will from the heart.
The Lord guides us with His eye; that is, He will so guide us, as to assure us of His guidance. He will deal with us as a tender mother with her little ones, who suffers them not out of her sight.
There is no fellowship with God, but through the blood of His dear Son. It is by this He speaks to us, and calls us children; and by it we cry, “Abba, Father,” pouring out our hearts into His bosom. And we can speak to Him as we cannot speak to human ear, because the heart of man is not as the heart of God.
We can never thrive except we seek God in secret; and if we begin in our closets we shall not end there, we shall also seek and find Him in the assemblies of the saints.
It is one of the blessed fruits of the habit of walking with God, that the soul knows what to do when it has displeased God. “A wounded spirit who can bear?” Yet, even that burden God can enable us to cast upon Him.
When Abraham first set foot on his pilgrimage, he knew not what meetings with God were laid up for him: he ventured on the bidding and promise of God, and his mercies multiplied on him as he advanced.
Whenever we are living before man instead of walking before God, there will be restlessness and disquietude.
It is impossible for God to meet His saints in the way of fellowship, except in the path of obedience. When they are out of that path, He meets them with correction, in order to bring them into fellowship with Himself.
If we see the least trace of the mind of Christ in any one, we should remember that in such the heart of God delights.
Carelessness about the friendship of Christ is the crying sin of the Church.
When we say, “Lord, bring us near to Thyself,” we pray for many things, which, when they come, will be bitter to our taste. At such times it is well to remember our Forerunner: He asked to be glorified; but before heaven was opened to Him and He received therein, He had to pass through, the garden of Gethsemane, and on the Cross to cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
It ought to be a grievous thing to us to have a wish, however slight, contrary to the mind of Christ.
As soon as it is our settled purpose to please Christ, He takes us for His bosom friends.
The more we have of Christ in our hearts, the less room for self.
How sweetly, how pleasantly, may a Christian beguile his way to glory, by casting all his burden of sin and care upon Jesus, and walking in love and fellowship with Him all the day long! He who casts his burdens upon the Lord walks lightly and happily, as one who has no burden at all.
Communion with Christ can only be kept up by constant watchfulness. Where there is much love between friends, a cold look is matter of complaint. Let us be very jealous over ourselves for the Lord; watching against the least shyness between the soul and Christ. Keep up constant intercourse with Him; be quick and dexterous in taking small matters to Him; and the fruit will be growth of communion.
Though in a season of temptation we may see nothing in ourselves but what is vile and hateful, our very struggles of love after Christ betoken His Spirit dwelling within us.
If we would have experience of the sympathy of the Lord Jesus, we must be much at His Cross, and be much occupied with the sorrows of others.
There is a short road to comfort in affliction that few of God’s people tread; it is to be thinking much more of Christ’s blessedness than of our own sorrow; but, alas! sympathy is for the most part all on one side. Christ has perfect sympathy with us. Oh that we had fellowship with Him in His joy at the right hand of God!
Though Christ can be grieved at a thousand things in us that no eye but His can see, yet none so easily pleased as He by our little endeavours of love.
Our joy in Christ speaks a language that all hearts can understand, and is a testimony for Him, such as mere knowledge and utterance can never give.
It is but a small proof of love to visit a friend who lives next door, but to go to a distance over hill and dale bespeaks love indeed. Let us show our love to Christ, by sparing no pains, no labour, in order to seek Him in prayer, in reading the word, and in meditation thereon. Let us joyfully surmount all difficulties, and joyful communion will be our recompense.
If we do anything without taking counsel of God, we—to speak of Him after the manner of men—hide the matter from Him our Father, and so grieve His Spirit. We do Him wrong, and ourselves also, if in anything we have not fellowship with Him.
When it is whispered by the Spirit of God, that He who is at God’s right hand would be honoured if we do such a thing, or if we do it not—if we disregard the still small voice, although we may not be put to open shame, we shall miss the smile of approval so precious to the obedient child.
The cause of lack of communion with God is summed up in this—disobedience. Another may take away my substance, or my life, but cannot spoil me of my communion with God; if I lack this, I am myself the thief and the robber.
We ought to be always happy in God, and in His ways; if we are not, we mar the quality of our obedience.
We are never so well prepared for effectual service to man, as when we are holding fellowship with God.
Let us be skilful to make God’s matters ours: then shall we see that He makes our matters His.
Those who know what it is to deal much with God, know that their hopes and desires must, as it were, be buried, and that they must leave it with Him to bring about a resurrection in His own time and way.
God measures out His communion of love according to diligence in seeking Him.
It is well for us to shut up our desires within the compass of trusting and pleasing God.
If our fellowship be with the Father and His dear Son, we shall know from the character of our Father what are His wishes. Errors in judgment spring more or less from lack of fellowship with Him. Acquaintance with His heart of love will enlarge ours.
We have access to God with boldness and confidence through Jesus, the Son of the Father. Do we tell out our tale at the throne of grace? Fellowship signifies the opening the heart on both sides, and that without reserve.
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 My 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.
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 2nd 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 Holy Spirit
How sure a teacher is the Spirit of Truth! He “searcheth all things: yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). He comprehends the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, and all the windings of the heart of man. He is the Paraclete within us, pleading for Christ with our heart, printing the name of Jesus on its fleshly tables, and causing us to increase in the knowledge of God. We never give up what by His anointing we have once embraced; it is graven on the heart as with the point of a diamond.
The Spirit of God, who is of one mind with Christ, the Son of God, dwells in believers by virtue of their oneness with Christ; and, although so often grieved, will never give up to destruction any one, even the weakest, of Christ’s members.
God always dwells by His Holy Spirit in His people. Let us be careful not to grieve this glorious Paraclete. Let us be looking continually at the blood of Christ, and watch against little trespasses, little breaches of love, suspicions, rash censures, and coldness of heart.
By the mere natural understanding, men may learn much of the truth of God, but afterwards renounce and deny it. If by the Spirit’s unction we learn anything, we hold it fast. His true teaching carries with it assurance to the soul that it is God’s truth we are learning. Of this assurance Satan has his counterfeit, and only by walking humbly with God shall we detect the fraud.
“He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Christ’s Example is our rule. It is to the Christian what imperial weights and measures are to men of traffic: from that standard there is no appeal.
It is not in every act of the blessed Lord that we should follow Him; but the mind of Christ is always our pattern. Instance: His forty days’ fasting. His precepts will guide us to discern His mind in considering His acts.
Adam, by creation Cod’s servant, broke away from the yoke: Christ, the Son of God, took on Him the servant’s form.
The children of God cannot grow in the knowledge of their own hearts, unless they be accustomed to set the Example of Christ before their inward eye. We ought to try our spirits, aims, thoughts, and desires by the example of Christ. If we do this, we shall discern the current of self-willed pride running through our corrupt nature. A great discovery!
The Saviour was especially pleasing to God when He was dumb, and opened not His mouth —doing nothing, only suffering the will of God. It is well with us when treading in our Master’s steps.
The child of God proves the strength and grace of His heavenly Father only as he walks in the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Trial of Faith
We are to distinguish between Trial of Faith and chastisement: in the former case we readily bow, and bring forth fruits of grace; but if we be rebellious, we are under correction.
Paul’s thorn in the flesh was God’s gift to preserve him from pride, although it was the messenger of Satan to buffet him. Thus God uses the Wicked One for our profit, for the glory of His all-sufficient grace, and for the Tempter’s confusion.
Our trials are needful now for the exercise and growth of faith, and no less needful for our joy and glory at the appearing of the Lord.
Temptation to sin is painful to us only as we are sanctified by the Spirit of grace, and walk with God.
We ought not to wish for deliverance from trial until the trial has done its office. Shall the gold be taken out of the furnace before the dross has been consumed?
Faith’s expectation in the day of trouble is large showers of blessing.
Sorrow and temptation (1 Pet. 1:6, 7) are the seeds of joy and praise. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Ps. 126:5).
Confidence in God proves itself in time of Trial; it grows in the day of battle. David in the valley of Elah was most bold when the giant cursed him, and drew nigh to slay him.
God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: we have oneness with Christ: we have faith and the Spirit: what more, then, do we need but the Trial of Faith and the Spirit’s fellowship?
If we have a steadfast purpose to overcome temptation, sooner or later we surely prevail. Abraham, through the weakness of the flesh, did not leave his father when God commanded him to go into the land of Canaan; but it was his steadfast purpose to obey God; so that at the last, when he offered up Isaac, he conferred not with flesh and blood.
Are we content to leave our cause in the hands of God? Job should have done this at the first; but by justifying himself he increased his trouble.
Jas. 1:2: “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” There is grace in Christ for our fulfilling the precept.
If, being tried, I am entangled in unbelief, I cannot count my Trial joy; so to do, I must by the Spirit’s power resist the Tempter.
Satan has no pity on us, be we sick or well: if he leave us for a season, it is because the time decreed is spent, and he cannot exceed his commission.
Faith never expects to learn deep lessons without deep difficulties; therefore she is not surprised by strange and dark providences.
How many are apt to say, “My temptation is peculiar”! But we should remember that it is the peculiar aggravations which make a trial effectual, and should not forget the word, “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man “(1 Cor. 10:13).
Our faith is greatly strengthened when we are brought to see that no arm but God’s can help; no wisdom but His can guide; and no love but His can satisfy.
The thickest cloud brings the heaviest shower of blessings.
Those very circumstances which make unbelief despond are meat and drink to faith.
Satan is employed for God’s people—for their discipline, their correction, their sifting, but not for their destruction.
Christ often wounds in order to heal; and if He give pain it is that we may find peace and rest in Himself. His wounds are full of kindness, and always tend to life, and health, and peace.
We often make this great mistake—we expect in the kingdom of patience what is only promised in the kingdom of glory; and we ask God rather for deliverance from the warfare than grace for it as long as He is pleased that it shall last. Our impatience for victory often increases the heat of the battle.
To preserve ‘purity of life in time of temptation, we must take constant heed to purity of thought.
God has settled in heaven certain Trials of our Faith, which will as surely befall us as the crown of glory be given us at Christ’s appearing. God’s purposes of grace are a golden chain; not a link must be missing.
Temptations which find us dwelling in God are to our faith like winds that more firmly root the tree. (Jas. 1:2-4.)
How much of adversity do we need in order to bring down the lofty thoughts within us! A knowledge of our own weakness is generally learnt through humiliation and suffering.
Those trials which put our wisdom to confusion, thwart our pride, and starve the lusts of the flesh, best fit and enable us to trust the living God. Let us, then, not suffer such trials to pass without making right use of them, giving thanks to God for them all.
He is most likely to fall into temptation and sin who most slights a warning. He who most truly depends upon the Lord for succour in the time of temptation, will be the most thankful for counsel or reproof.
When a trial comes upon me, let me look upon it as sent for a peculiar blessing. If I … [a few lines are missing here]
“how much advantage shall I gain through it? and how shall I turn it to the best account?”
Often when saints, by right steps, bring afflictions upon them, they are tempted to think their course wrong; but faith seizes the opportunity of glorifying God. Thus the apparent loss becomes great gain. (Esth. 4:13-16.)
How much will our trials weigh when this mortal shall have put on immortality, and we shall appear with Christ in glory? (2 Cor. 4:17, 18.)
The troubles of the way do us good service, if they raise the eyes of our minds to look at things unseen and eternal.
Present faith, not past experience or comfort, keeps us from fainting in the hour of trial.
Which of us can be kept near to Christ without some thorn in the flesh?
Faith, patience, and prayer can overcome all difficulties.
Affliction coming upon God’s people is no proof that they are displeasing Him. Is God with them or not? is the test. Jeremiah was cast into the dungeon, and sank in the mire; but God was with him. (Jer. 38) So was it with Joseph. (Gen. 39:21.)
We can never walk with steady step in the time of trial of our faith, save as we are looking onward to the resurrection of the just. In 1 Cor. 15:58, the apostle, in view of it says, “Be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Difficulties and ill success encourage me; for “the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
Do we meet with unkindness from brethren? Instead of shooting our bitter words at them, let us judge ourselves; and endeavour, in love and wisdom, to overcome evil with good.
Is the child of God overwhelmed by the trials of the way, and ready to turn his back in the day of battle, because of the rage of hellish powers? Let me remind him that Samson first slew the lion, and afterwards out of the same lion got honey and to spare.
When God gave Paul the thorn in the flesh, he knew not at first the value of the gift, and would have cast it away, had he been left in his own hands. The Lord was his keeper, and taught him, and us by him, that the strength of Christ is made perfect in weakness.
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 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 to-day, 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; 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.
Col. 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 against me is now nailed up, as it were, in the court of justice for the protection of the debtor. I now owe everything to the love of God; 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.
The “New Creature”
The believer in Jesus, being created anew, has the likeness of God stamped upon him. In nature the child resembles the parent. There is no feature of the countenance of God the Father but is to be found in the feeblest child of grace. (2 Pet. 1:4.)
According to the new man, we crave the knowledge of God’s truth for the sake of obedience; but the flesh desires knowledge for the vainglorious talk of the lips that tendeth to penury. (Prov. 14:23.)
As a vessel takes its shape from the mould, so should our will be formed in the mould of the will of God: then shall we have everything our own way. (John 15:7.)
Christ had no will but the will of His Father, and in His delight to do that will we see His perfect holiness: for what is holiness but “Thy will be done”?
As the weakness of the old man lies in its vain conceit of its strength; so the strength of the new man lies in its true sense of perfect weakness.
God is no respecter of persons; but He will honour them that honour Him, whereas they that despise Him shall be lightly esteemed. (1 Sam. 2:30.) He honours us for His own grace in us, and corrects us for our evil ways.
Unbelief is oft a hypocrite clothed in a white robe, as an angel of light, having the semblance of all humility; but drag him to the light, and the monster appears! He would cast down God from His throne and set himself thereon.
Where Unbelief is, there is pride; and where pride is, her whole brood of evils are to be found with her. So with the obedience of faith, there is humility with all her train.
There will be no room for the fretfulness of Unbelief, if I only see that He who is the Ruler of heaven and earth is my very Kinsman—my Brother.
When a child of God takes an unbelieving step, and God suffers it to succeed, this is one of the sharpest corrections he can be visited with. (2 Chron. 16:2-9.)
Let us not nourish Unbelief by plans and contrivances of fleshly prudence.
One step of Unbelief unrepented of leads to another.
Hard thoughts of God are, alas! natural to us, and swarm in our breast: it is only as the love of God is revealed to us in the cross of Christ that we are able to cast them out.
If in great tribulation we are by faith walking upon the flood, we shall seem to the eye of Unbelief to be sinking in the flood.
If Unbelief prevail in saints, they slight the assemblies of God’s people; but let us who diligently frequent them be able to say, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25): that will be the best rebuke for the negligent.
Unbelief is in man’s sight no sin at all— whilst in God’s sight it is of all sins the greatest.
Whilst we are looking to Jesus at the right hand of God, all circumstances are our occasions for honouring God by faith; but if we look to circumstances and not to Christ, they cast us down, and leave us a prey to Unbelief.
By Unbelief the child of God degrades himself; losing sight of his heavenly robe he makes much of the earthly rags of this world’s honour, and can even envy the wearers. (Ps. 73:3.)
We do well to remember that God is as true to His forewarnings of wrath and curse, as He is to His promises of grace. We take the latter for our peculiar comfort, but should also solemnly meditate the former for our ripe and full acquaintance with God.
Unbelief cripples and puts in fear where no fear is; it leads to despair, and despair is but unbelief without a bridle.
Do you, at the Mercy-seat, confess the iniquity of Unbelief? Remember that it makes God to be the very contrary of what He is.
Unbelief and its rebellion will make of a mere nothing a great mountain.
Every murmuring thought is the child of Unbelief, and makes God a liar.
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 by 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. 1:15-21) 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. (Judg. 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.
The Coming of the Lord
Let the blessed hope of the coming of Christ keep us ever on the watch-tower; looking, longing for it, and hasting towards it. Would that we duly considered our accountability to Christ, who in the day of His appearing will judge the secrets of all hearts! Then we shall each be called on to give an account of his stewardship—an account, not only of gifts of understanding and substance, but of daily employment, and of all the minutes of the day. (See 1 Cor. 4:1-6.)
It is a high place that is given to the prayers of saints in 1 Tim. 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 come 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 ask 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 he was 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.
When the corruptions of the flesh, like an armed host, invade the soul, they aim first at the capital city, which is Faith. Success there would ensure possession of the whole land.
It is ever Satan’s aim to debase the heart and conscience of the children of God. Their heart should be filled with Christ; their conscience ruled by His word and ways. Satan would entice away the heart from Christ, and set up in the conscience a standard inferior to that of Christ’s example. Oh that the saints were not ignorant of Satan’s devices, but willing to pluck out the right eye, to cut off hand or foot, rather than give place at all to the adversary!
Let our affections be resting in Christ, and engrossed with Him; then will all saints be dear to us in Him, because they are one with Him, and we shall please Him concerning them. To prevent our attaining to this grace, or to spoil us of it, is the aim of the powers of darkness that war against us.
It is only as we have rest in Christ, only as we have peace through faith in His atoning blood, only as we have the purged conscience, with the heart’s affections set upon Christ, that we have any strength to war against our spiritual enemies: it is whilst we are fighting against them, that strength is given equal to the need, and we experience the precious sympathy of the Captain of our salvation. “Put on the whole armour of God.” (Eph. 6:10-19.) David put away the armour of Saul, and went against Goliath with nothing save the weapons of weakness.
God, in fitting any servant for special service, often subjects him to painful discipline of soul: the end of this training is the breaking down of self-confidence, so that when at last the servant goes forth to his work he says, “Who am I?” The flesh will not say, “Who am I? “But to this we must be brought ere God can put us to honourable use.
We are not the most useful when most wordy, but when most prayerful.
Though God marks that which is wrong in His servants, notwithstanding all their faithfulness, He never forgets that which is right in them, notwithstanding all their imperfections.
If we do not live beyond time, we are not fit to live in time.
We cannot bestow kindnesses upon the unconverted for Christ’s sake without obtaining peculiar fellowship with God.
That man is miserable who is wrapped up in himself and cares not for others; such a man keeps happiness outside, and bolts the door against her.
The ways of Christ in the days of His flesh are the true pattern for His people.
It is a mark of steady progress in the ways of God, when a servant of Christ, like his Master, makes no choice of service, seeking only to please his Lord.
If by walking before God we rise above the praise of men, we shall not be vexed or discouraged by their disapproval and blame.
He that is humble, and ever desiring to serve others, will surely find others desiring to serve him.
If we have but the heart to serve Christ, He will surely employ us; and if He have any special service for us, He will grant us special guidance. (Acts 8:26.)
The conversion of sinners, the prosperity of saints—these are precious things, but not the object of the soul: that should be to please God.
The moment a servant acts independently, he acts from himself, and out of character. (John 21:3.)
In all you do be the servant of Christ, forgetting yourself—engrossed with Him.
We need readiness of heart, and skilfulness of hands, to serve the Church of God aright.
Service to Christ
There is much that the Lord’s true servants do which no human eye takes knowledge of. What they do they are to do as to the Lord, and to look for reward from Him; learning also to have fellowship with Christ in His sufferings and service.
It is our wisdom not to seek praise of men: if, in our intercourse with saints, rather than look after a good name, we seek to approve ourselves to God, a good name will surely follow us.
Look not at the quantity, but at the quality of your service, whatsoever that service may be. If it be preaching, preaching is not the first thing: the heart must first be kept; then two or three words spoken in the power of the Spirit may avail more than many a long discourse.
Peter said to our Lord, “How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?” (Matt, 18:21, 22.) What warrant had Peter for saying, “How oft?” Had he been standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, he might have said, “How oft?” Standing in the covenant of grace, we say, “Seventy times seven.”
If we be called to judge offending brethren, we should judge before the Mercy-seat. There we are self-judged, as oft offending and oft forgiven.
Those injuries are often hardest to forgive which are only known to the injured and the wrong-doer.
If others act with want of uprightness towards us, and we are irritated, it is a proof that we are then dealing rather with the creature than with God.
Those are the best fitted for the work of reproof who are severe against themselves, but gentle towards others; whilst such as are forward to reprove most need reproof themselves.
Poverty of Spirit
We must live as beggars upon the love of Christ; we are never safe from snares but as we are thus poor in spirit.
Christ was the only one who could, without a struggle, be content to be “a worm, and no man.” (Ps. 22:6.)
The self-exalted person as much degrades himself in God’s sight, as he exalts himself in his own.
We sink into nothingness as we grow up into Christ.
To grow in poverty of spirit is truly to grow in grace: “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15: 5).
If we be sitting at the feet of Jesus, all carnal boasting is excluded, we have His mind of wisdom in all things, and cannot behave ourselves unseemly.
No rest have we for the sole of our foot except in Christ; and whenever a poor needy one seeks Him, He deals by such a one as did Noah by the dove. Noah put forth his hand and took her in unto him into the ark.
If we upbraid ourselves, Christ justifies. If we be dumb in our own defence, He opens His mouth to plead our cause, and our wounded hearts He binds up.
If I be content to be nothing, I cannot take offence; and when I am really humble, and know myself a worm, I shall not complain if trampled on.
Pride nourishes the remembrance of injuries: humility forgets as well as forgives them.
Lot never drew near enough to God to know his own heart; it was Abraham, and not Lot, who said, I am but “dust and ashes.” (Gen. 18:27.)
Oh, how unseemly in a Christian are murmurings, envyings, and such-like! If we look beneath the surface we shall find the root of these things to be unmortified pride, and a conscience not purged.
Pride never stoops but to take a higher flight.
The drunkard, the murderer, the idolater, cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. The sins of such are counted great even by the natural conscience; but covetousness, who condemns it? Yet the man who thirsts for gold is, alike with the murderer, accursed from God.
Satan gets no more advantage over us than we allow him.
It is one of Satan’s great aims to seduce the children of God and the servants of Christ into error; if he cannot do that, he will tempt them to keep back part of the truth, or to dwell upon any other part rather than Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
The sum of man’s excellency is “dust and ashes”: nevertheless, Satan deludes men into thinking themselves something; he helps them to carnal self-amendment and self-improvement, and so makes them blind to their true state before God.
Self-Knowledge and Self-Judgment
True Self-judgment shuts out the adversary. The more we exercise ourselves in Self-judgment, the more will the flesh in us be discerned by ourselves, and the less will it be seen by others.
In our exercise of Self-judgment, we should keep our eye upon the Advocate with the Father, else we shall have a self-vexing conscience which profits not.
Self-examination is a solemn and profitable business: it should mainly consist in this, “My soul, believest thou? lovest thou? “(Heb. 11:6, 3:12, 13; John 13:34, 35; Rom. 13:10; 1 Cor. 13.)
The custom of Self-judgment is among the best of spiritual habits.
“The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Sam. 2:3). Because God tries the heart, therefore, in instances innumerable, God’s judgment condemns where man may approve and praise.
The oftener we invite Him with whom we have to do to use the keen edge of “the sword of the Spirit” in our own consciences, the less will there be in us for Satan’s fiery darts to fix upon.
If we better considered that “we have an Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1), we should not go far from the paths