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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Christ the Rock in the Weary Land


Christ the Rock in the weary land

 by James Meikle, 1730 - 1799
"He caused him to suck honey out of the rock, oil out of the flinty rock." (Deuteronomy 32:13)
"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my Savior, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the strength of my salvation, my stronghold." (Psalm 18:2)
"And a MAN shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a shelter from the tempest, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." (Isaiah 32:2)
Let the travelers through the parched deserts of Arabia, tell how comforting the shadow of a cloud is—which diminishes the heat in a arid place. Let the desert wanderers tell what it is to hide their scorched shoulders from the burning sun in the shadow of a rock. How much greater reason have I to boast of my Rock! From his pierced side the fountain of life flows—which pours refreshment into my panting soul. Here I have not only shadow from the heat, but shelter from the storm.
What is firmer than a rock? Winds may rend the cedars of Lebanon, and tear them up by their roots: but here the tempests beat, and are baffled; the billows dash, and are broken; time hovers, and corrodes not the flinty mass. Nevertheless, rocks are not armor against every invasion from destruction and ruin. For see, the enraged thunders rend their towering tops, and angry earthquakes toss them from their seats, while the earth beneath opens fearfully, and hides the ponderous heaps. But my Rockshall stand fast forever, when the foundations of the earth are moved, and the pillars of heaven tremble! There shall I be safe, when the hail shall sweep away the refuges of lies; yes, when God shall rain on sinners—snares, fire, and brimstone, in the furious storm of wrath, I shall sing in safety, being an inhabitant of the Rock of ages, from which I never shall be moved!
No wonder, then, that the saint of God shouts for joy, being an inhabitant on high, and having for his place of defense the fortress of rocks. Sometimes, indeed, the blind world is ready to allege, that their rock has abandoned them, and that if God were their God, surely he would intervene for them—when they see martyrs going to execution; some to the gibbet, and others to be drowned in the sea; some to the rack, and others to the fire. But then their divine Comforter invisibly attends them, and he whose form is like the son of God walks with them amidst the fire, and fans away the flame. This is the Rock from which I am filled with honey, the Rock that pours out rivers of oil for me.
Do rocks defend me from blasts, from whatever quarter they blow? So does my Rock. Is the blast from hell? Well, he has the keys of hell and of death. Is it from sin? He is my righteousness. Is it from Satan? He has conquered principalities and powers. Is it from afflictions? He is my sympathizing and loving High Priest. Is it from losses? He is my exceeding great reward. Is it from crosses? He makes all things work together for good to his people. Is it from anguish? He is my joy. Is it from darkness? He is my Sun. Is it from doubts? He is my Counselor. Is it from deadness? He is my life. Is it from enemies? He is my shield. Is it from temptation? He is my deliverer. Is it from false friends? He will never leave me, nor forsake me. Is it from solitude or banishment? He is everywhere present. Is it from disease? He is my healer. Is it from death? He is the resurrection and the life.
O glorious refuge! O sure defense! O everlasting fortress! Here do I defy the worst that earth and hell can do. Henceforth will I live by faith, in the MAN who is my hiding place from the wind, my shelter from the tempest, my stream of water in a dry place, my shadow of a great rock in a weary land—until every blast has blown over, and not a threatening cloud appears in my sky—until my heaven is beautified with everlasting day, and every storm is swept from the air which I breathe!
"And a MAN shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a shelter from the tempest, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." (Isaiah 32:2)

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Seeds We Are Scattering

The SEEDS We Are Scattering

J. R. Miller, 1896 


"Do not be deceived! God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows—he will also reap!" Galatians 6:7
Though all are born "dead in trespasses and sins;" in another sense, when a baby is born—its life is only a patch of soil in which, as yet, nothing is growing. A mother's hand is the first to plant seeds there—in the looks of tender love which her eyes dart into the child's soul, in her smiles and caresses and croonings, and her thousand efforts to reach the child's heart and shape its powers; and then in the lessons which she teaches.
All the members of the household soon become sowers also on this field; as the life begins to open, every one is dropping someseed into the mellow soil. In a little while, hands outside the home begin to scatter seeds in the child's mind and heart. The street, the playground, the school; later, books, papers, and pictures contribute their portion. As the years advance, theexperiences of life—the joys, temptations, tasks, trials, sorrows—all bring their influences. Somewhat in this way, the character of the mature man—is the growth of seeds sown by a thousand hands in the life from infancy.
All our thoughts, words, and acts—are seeds. They have in them a quality which makes them grow where they fall, reproducing themselves. This is true of the good we do. The mother's teachings enter the mind and heart of her child as mere seeds; but they reappear in the life of the son or daughter, in later years, in strength and beauty, in nobleness of character, and in usefulness of life. Not only is this strange power in the mother's words; her acts, her habits, her tones of voice, the influences that go forth from her life—are also seeds, having in them a vital principle. Where they lodge—they grow.
You can never lose your mother! She may die, and her body may be buried out of your sight, and laid away in God's acre. You will see her face and hear her voice no more; no more will her hand scatter the good seeds of truth and love, upon your life's garden. But you have not lost her! Your mind and heart are full of the seeds which fell from her hand along the years. These you never can lose. No hand of death can root them out of your life. They have grown into the very fibers of your character. They reappear in your habits, your dispositions, your feelings and opinions, your modes of thought, your very phrases and forms of speech! You can never lose your mother; the threads of her life are woven inextricably into your life!
The same is true of the sowings of every life. All the noble things that fall from your hands, as you travel along life's paths, areseeds, and will not die. The good things we do, with the true words we speak, with the faithful example we show, with all the influences of our life that are Christlike, are living seeds which we sow in the lives of others. They will not fall into the ground and perish. They will stay where they drop, and you will find them again after many days. They will germinate and grow, and yield a harvest!
One has said: "When men do anything for God—the very least thing—they never can know where it will end, nor what amount of work it will do for him." Go on doing the little things, no matter how small, only making sure that you breathe love into them. Let them fall where they may, no matter into what heart, no matter how silently, no matter how hopeless may seem the soil into which they drop, no matter how you yourself may appear to be forgotten or overlooked as you do your deeds of kindness, and speak your words of love. These words and deeds and influences of yours are living seeds, and not one of them shall perish!
The same is true, however, of the evil things we do. They, too, have in them the quality of life and reproductiveness. If only our good things were seeds, this truth would have unmingled encouragement for us. But it is startling to remember, that the same law applies to the evil things. The man who writes an wicked book, or paints an unholy picture, or sings an impure song—sets in motion a procession of unholy influences which will live on forever! He, too, will find his evil words again in the hearts of men, long, long afterwards; or see his unclean picture reproduced on men's lives, or hear his unholy song singing itself over again in the depths of men's being!
The evil that men do—lives after them! "Bury my influence in my grave with me!" said a wicked man, dying with bitter remorse in his soul. But that is impossible. Sometimes men who have been sowing evil, wake up to the consciousness of the harm they have been giving to other lives, and go back over their paths, trying to gather up the seeds of sin which they have cast into human hearts. But the effort is unavailing, as no one can take out of men's minds and hearts—the seeds of evil he has dropped there!
We ought to lay this truth seriously to heart, and remember it continually. If we did, it would make us more holy while we live. We are apt to speak heedless words, whose influence is evil, and to do things which touch other lives and do not leave blessing. There are many people moving these days among the debased—fallen, we call them—fallen from purity, from honesty, from sobriety. We should never forget that all of these, in one sense, were once unstained and unfallen; and that there was a firstyielding to temptation, and a first tempter.
Somebody offered the boy the first drink. It seemed a little thing—but the act was a seed; and if you would see its harvest, look at the poor, miserable drunkard, who now staggers about the streets, a pitiable ruin of a life which might have been noble and godlike in its strength and beauty.
Somebody whispered into the ears of the innocent girl the first word which solicited her to evil. It was only a word—but it was a seed of wickedness; and if you would see its awful harvest, look at the wretched creature who now walks the streets—a sad wreck of the womanhood which God made to wear the beauty and radiance of pure and holy motherhood, and be a center of blessing in a happy home.
When we think of this quality in all our words, touches, acts, looks, and influences—how serious a thing it is to live and mingle with others! No act is more solemn, than the taking into our life of a new friend or companion—one who is to listen to our words, to see the things we do, to receive instruction, advice, or counsel from us, to be influenced by our life. When God sends to us a friend or a new acquaintance—someone who is brought thus into the range of our influence, he has a purpose in so doing. He wants us to be a blessing to the person. He wants us to speak wholesome words, to give wise counsel, and to exert an uplifting influence, leaving impressions upon the life which shall add to its beauty and blessing.
But suppose that we fail in this, and that, instead, we give wrong touches to the life, drop the evil seeds, exert an unwholesome influence, leave corrupt impressions; what must our accounting be—when we stand before God? The new life that comes into the circle of your friendship, companionship, or acquaintanceship, comes as a sacred trust, with a holy charge from Christ, whose the life is. You become in a very sacred sense, its guardian. Your mission is to do it good, to be a blessing to it, to drop into it only seeds of purity, truth, holiness, and love. Woe be to you—if the seeds your hand lets fall are seeds of evil, which shall grow into wickedness or marring!
We are not done with life—when we die! We shall meet our acts and words and influences again. "Do not be deceived! God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows—he will also reap!" Galatians 6:7. He shall reap the same that he sows—and he himself shall be the reaper!
We go on carelessly, never dreaming that we shall see our seeds again, or have anything more to do with them. Then some day we come upon an ugly plant growing somewhere; and when we ask, "What is this vile plant?" The answer comes, "I am one of your plants. You dropped the seed which grew into me!" We must beware what we do. We shall have to eat the fruit—that grows from our sowing and planting!
There are many phases of this truth. Jesus said, "With what measure you mete—it shall be measured to you again." A man who is cruel—reaps cruelty. A man who is merciful—finds mercy. David unsheathed the sword in wrong against a subject—and the sword departed not from his house forever. He dishonored the happy home of another—and his own home was dishonored. Paulwas a persecutor—and persecution followed him until it smote him to death.
The seed that we sow in others, sooner or later comes back again to our own bosom. What we sow—that we reap!
We cannot sin against others, hurting them only—and receiving no hurt to ourselves. We are not merely sowers of seed in otherlives; but while we are scattering the seed in the field of our neighbor, we are sowing also in our own field. There are two harvests. He who corrupts another life—makes his own life more corrupt than before. The tempter may cause the fall and ruin of another soul—but the evil in himself has become more evil in his doing so. Every good thing we do, strengthens the good that is in us; and every wrong thing makes the wrong in us more dominant.
Nor is this all. There is a law of divine justice in this world, in which God requites to every man according to his deeds. We are not living under a reign of chance. It is not merely accidental that certain people who do wrong receive punishment; and that certain people who do good receive reward. Sometimes it seems as if the law of justice did not work universally—that some who do wrong are not requited, and that some who do good receive no reward. But this inequality of justice is only apparent. Life does not end at the grave! If it did, we might say that the Lord's ways are not always equal. God's dealings with men, are not closed in this earthly life! The story is continued through eternity!
If the Bible narrative of Joseph ended with the boy being carried into Egypt as a slave, or with the slave-lad cast into prison on false charges—we would grieve over the terrible wrongs done to an innocent person and left unrequited. But when we read the story through to the end, all such feelings vanish!
It is likewise in this present life--wrong often seems to go unpunished, and virtue unrewarded. But our present lives, are simplyunfinished life-stories. There are other chapters which will be written in eternity. When all has been completed, there will be no inequality, no injustice. All virtue will have its full reward--and all sin will receive its due punishment.
There is one other phase of this teaching. The final harvest that comes from our sowing—is in our own character. It is not only a reward to be put into our hand in heaven, which is promised—something which is to be given to us. The reward will be in us! It will consist in likeness to Christ.
Just so, the requital for wrong-doing, will not only be punishment inflicted upon the wrong-doer, but the evil itself wrought into permanence in his life! An eternal punishment for unforgiven sin—will be eternal sinning! Very solemn are the words, "Let him who does wrong—continue to do wrong; let him who is vile—continue to be vile; let him who does right—continue to do right; and let him who is holy—continue to be holy!" Revelation 22:11.
The truest reward for a godly life—is godliness wrought into the character! The truest retribution for a wicked life—is to be left to sin forever—in the ways the sinner has chosen and learned in this world!
Familiar but solemnly true, are these sentiments:
"Sow a thought—and you will reap an act;
 Sow an act—and you will reap a habit;
 Sow a habit—and you will reap a character;
 Sow a character—and you will reap a destiny!"
"It is appointed unto men once to die—and after that to face judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Worldly Losses and Misfortunes Universal

 


Worldly losses and misfortunes universal

                   by James Meille, 1730 - 1799 
"Mankind is born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." (Job 5:7)
Convene, you mournful throng, and vent your dreary moans; muster all your complaints, and recite the causes of your sorrow. Then hear royalty itself break silence first in the melancholy list, and tell in tears. Distress even attacks the throne, and sorrow and gloom penetrate within the palace walls. Sorrow has a lodging place in every brow, from the king to the beggar; and at one time or other, we may expect to see the lodging possessed by all the gloomy train. Hence see one sad, under the loss of his honor and reputation; another meeting with disappointment instead of advancement; another seldom out of mourning, so fast his relations die around him. Some have neither son nor grandson in the neighborhood; daughter nor grand-daughter in the house.
There the affectionate wife has lost the husband of her youth; and here the disconsolate mourner has interred his lovely spouse. Here so many needy pensioners are real mourners at the burial of their benefactors, who can be no more concerned for them; there a tender family are weeping at the grave of both parents. Here the letter from the distant Indies, brings the melancholy account of father, son, or brother's death, who was long expected home, but now shall return no more; there the list of the slain on the day of battle, fills many a sad heart with sorrow. Here a sudden misfortune snatches one away in the bloom of life; there another is slain by the bloody ruffian. Here the tender infant dies unseen in the silent night; and there the pretty boy perishes in the water. Here the devouring flame robs a man of his all, while some of the family are consumed in the burning; there the fierce tempest sends the merchant's treasure into the depths of the sea, and the crew go down together. Here the barren wife longs to embrace a son; and there another bitterly bewails that ever her wayward son was born.
Here one loses his good name innocently, and has no method to clear it until the day of judgment; and there peace is taken away from those who should live in daily harmony. Here some are oppressed with pinching poverty; there others with pining sickness. Some are banished their native country; others condemned to perpetual imprisonment. Some are deformed from their mother's womb; others lose their limbs by accidents. There sits the blind begging, while the lame is carried from door to door. Of some God has tied the tongue, that it cannot speak; of others stopped the ear, that it cannot hear. There some deprived of reason, neither rest themselves, nor allow those around them to rest—their case is melancholy above description.
In a word, what losses and crosses, sorrows and distresses, uncertainties and anxieties, do mankind labor under! The wisdom which is from above, will lead me to expect nothing but vanity and vexation here below. But, O! how happy is the soul that has all the treasure in heaven, all his happiness in God! May this be my case, and then I shall triumph in the midst of losses, distresses, disappointments, and pain!

Nevertheless Afterward

Nevertheless, Afterward

by J. R. Miller, 1908


Things are not finished—as we see them today. Tomorrow they will appear larger, greater. The bud you see one morning in the garden—will be a full-blown rose in a little while. The brown seed you dropped in your window-box, will be a beautiful plant by and by. Wherever there is life—there is growth. Every act has its consequences. We cannot foretell what results shall follow from any choice we may make. We must always take account of the afterward, whatever it is we are doing, through whatever experiences we are passing. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews has a suggestive passage about chastening. He quotes from the Book of Proverbs: "And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as a son."
People sometimes chafe when they have troubles. They fret and blame God. "What have I done" they ask, "that God is punishingme so?" But God may not be punishing them at all. Chastening is not punishing. "Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Afterwards, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." The present is hard and painful—but there will be an "afterward." Chastening now; afterward, a harvest of righteousness and peace.
The figure of pruning is used by our Master. He tells us that the wise gardener prunes every fruitful branch of the vine—the fruitful, not the unfruitful, branch. It is a wonderful comfort to suffering Christians to know that pruning is therefore really a mark of divine approval. "Whom the Lord loves—he chastens." There is a purpose also in the pruning. It is not any reckless cutting—the gardener knows what he is doing. Pruning seems destructive. Sometimes it appears as if the whole vine is being cut away. But there is an afterward—that it may bear more fruit.
One tells of a visit to a great hot-house, filled with wonderful clusters of luscious grapes. The owner said, "When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clear down to the stock; and he did, and we had no grapes for two years. But this is the result." Stems and branches cut, bleeding, almost destroyed; afterward, a marvelous vine bending under its load of fruit.
It is only when we learn the truth about life—that we are able to live with faith and courage. Because they have not learned it, many people fall into despair in the midst of present disappointments and sufferings. They see only the hard things in their circumstances, and pains that make the days almost unbearable, the wrongs and injustices that are crushing them. They stand right in the midst of all the bitter trials—and see no light, no hope, no comfort.
We need to learn to stand away from the immediate present—and get a view of the experience from a remoter distance. We see only part of the experience, while we are in its midst.
A visitor to Amsterdam had heard about the wonderful church chimes—so the legend runs. He was told that he must hear them, whatever else he might miss in the old Dutch city. The tourist did not know how best to hear the chimes, so he went up into the tower of the church to get as close as he could to the bells. He thought he would thus be best able to get the full benefit of his visit. There he found a man with great wooden gloves, like hammers, pounding on a keyboard. All he could hear was the crash of the keys, the harsh clanging and the deafening noise of the bells above his head. He wondered why his friends had talked so enthusiastically of the chimes. To his ears there was no music in them, nothing but terrible clatter and clangor. Yet at that very time, there floated over and beyond the city—the most entrancing music. Men in the fields a mile or more away paused in their work to listen. People in their homes and travelers on the highways were thrilled by the marvelous notes that fell from the tower. The place to listen to chimes is not close to them—but a distance away, where the clangor has softened into sweet music.
So it is with the experiences of life. When we are in their midst—we hear only the jarring notes of pain, the bitter cries of suffering. "All chastening for the present seems to be not joyous but grievous." We are too close to it yet. But when we get farther away, when the sharpness of the pain is past, when the hardness is over and forgotten—the music grows sweet. Not untilafterward comes, with its comfort, its alleviation, its peaceable fruit, its new blessing—do we begin to understand the meaning of the discipline of the experience that was so hard. Afterward it yields peaceable fruit.
It is only afterward that the meaning of many of God's providences can be clearly read. Now we see through a glass darkly;afterward we shall see face to face. Now we know in part; afterward we shall know fully. The things we think destructive and calamitous, are really blessings yet in their first stage, fruits still green and bitter, not yet ripened and mellowed.
Life is a school. All its experiences are lessons. God is educating us. School is not easy. All true education looks to the building of the finest, noblest character, in the end. It is especially so in God's school, for he is the perfect Teacher. His purpose is not to give us an easy time at present—but to make something of us afterward. Sometimes we chafe and fret, saying that God is harsh and severe, perhaps that he is even unkind. We cannot see that good ever can come out of the painful discipline. But perhaps we can only attain godly character, in 'the school of severity'.
There are some plants that would die in the warmth of a conservatory. They must be kept in the cold, if they would live and grow. One of the papers not long since told of a strange plant recently discovered in northern Siberia. It shoots up out of the ice and frozen ground. Its leaves grow on the side of the stem toward the north. Each leaf appears to be covered with little crystals of snow. On the third day the extremities of the anthers show minute glistening specks like diamonds. These are the seeds.
Is not this plant an illustration of many Christian lives? God seems to set them in beds of ice and snow—and yet they grow up out of the wintry cold—into lovely and wondrous beauty. We would say that the loveliest lives of earth, would be those that are reared amid the kindliest influences, under summer skies, in the warm atmosphere of ease and comfort. But the truth is, that many of the noblest developments of Christian character, can only grow in the wintry gardens of hardship, struggle, and sorrow.
Trial, therefore, is not something meant to discourage us, to stunt and dwarf our life and mar its beauty. The snow plant would die in a tropical garden. There are lives that never could become Christlike and never could reach heaven without the discipline of severe affliction. No hardness is too severe—which teaches us to live worthily.
"To serve God and love him," says someone, "is higher and better than happiness, though it be with wounded feet, bleeding hands, and heart loaded with sorrow."
We must guard against the dreading of the cost of life's best things. If we cannot pay the price—we cannot get the blessings. We must have the sharp, biting winter—if we would get, by and by, the genial spring with its bursting blossoms. We must have the ploughshare cutting through the ground—if we would have the harvest of golden grain. There is no trial in our lives—which does not come to us as the bearer of good.
We meet a grievous loss, when we are not profited by the hard or painful experience that comes to us. We cannot see this today. It seems to us in the keenness of our sorrow, that nothing which may come in any afterward will make up for what we are now suffering. But if not in this life, then somewhere in the great eternal afterward we shall be able to say: "Now I understand." "All chastening seems for the present grievous; yet afterward it yields peaceable fruit."
Remember Joseph. He was cruelly wronged by his brothers, torn away from his home, sold as a slave, maligned and cast into chains—a dark beginning, surely, for a young man's life. Yet afterward came honor, influence, glory. It takes time to work outGod's best things.
There is a story of a rabbi who met a child carrying a basket closely covered. "Tell me, little maid," said the rabbi, "what you have in that basket." The child answered, "If my mother had wished that any one should know what is in this basket, she would not have covered it up." If God had meant us to know all his plans of love for us, he would not have covered them up under experiences of pain and suffering. We may be sure, however, that for all our times of chastening and trial—there is an afterward, full of glorious good, waiting for us.
We miss a great deal by living so entirely in the present—and not thinking of the afterward. We are alarmed when we find ourselves in hard conditions and circumstances, forgetting altogether that these are only processes through which we must pass to reach fineness of character, sweetness of spirit, strength, courage, discipline, and all the qualities which go to make up the best life. We are too short-sighted when we are in trouble. We see only the suffering, the loss, the struggle—and do not think of the mission of the trouble and what is coming out of it. We should widen our vision, so as to take in the afterward as well as the present hour.
Life is all one piece. One experience follows another. God always loves us—loves us just as surely and as tenderly, when all things seem to be against us—as he does when all things seem to be favoring us. When trouble comes, no matter what its direct and natural cause—it has a mission: it comes to make us better, to cure us of some fault, to cleanse us of some blot, to make us gentler, to teach us to be trustful and strong, to make us more thoughtful and more helpful. Instead of vexing and fretting ourselves with the question how God can truly love us—and yet allow us to suffer, to endure loss, to be treated unjustly and wrongfully; we would better change our attitude altogether toward our trials, and ask rather what errand this pain or affliction has for us, what lesson it should teach us, what change it should work in us.
There is no trial in our lives that does not come to us, as the bearer of a blessing. We meet a grievous loss, when we are notprofited by any hard or painful experience that comes to us.
The other morning, one told of an unhappiness which came from the loss of a friend—not by death—but by the friend's unfaithfulness. Well, it is hard when one has to lose out of one's life such a friend, who for years has seemed to be true and whose friendship has come to mean so much of strength, of companionship, of joy. But there will be an afterward, and we may be sure that when the afterward has opened its treasures into the lonely life, it will be seen that God is good and loving in just what he did. You do not know what poison was hidden in the cup—which you thought was filled to the brim with happiness. God took it out of your hand—to save you from a deeper, bitterer sorrow than that which you are now enduring.
You cannot see this today. It seems to you in the keenness of your sorrow, that nothing that may come in afterward, which will make up for what you have lost. But trust God with that. The future is long. It stretches away into the eternal years. If not in this life, then somewhere in the great eternal afterward, you will be able to say: "Now I understand!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Home of the Soul

The Home of the Soul

J. R. Miller, 1912
 

"Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations!" Psalm 90:1
We might translate it thus: "Lord, you have been our home in all generations!" Almost the sweetest of all words, is home. Home is the place of love, where love is at its best. It is the place of confidence. We do not have to be always on our guard at home. Out in the world, we are not quite sure of people. We must be careful what we say in the street cars, or as we walk about and talk—for someone may overhear us, and misunderstand us. We soon learn, not to open our lips too freely, when out in public. But when we enter our home doors—we can lay aside all such prudence and speak freely, without fear or distrust.
Home is the place of sympathy and tenderness. We can lean our head on the bosom of love—and feel the touch of kindness. If we have any trouble—we find comfort at home. If we have been foolish or have done wrong—we find pity and compassion andcharity at home. If we have sorrow—there is no comfort like that which we get at home. If people outside wrong us and hurt us, if misfortune comes to us—home is a refuge for us. There we always find a shelter. Whenever other doors are shut upon us—thehome door is always open. If we are lonely and without friends out in the world, the thought of home cheers us. So long as we have a home anywhere under the stars—we cannot despair. You all know what your home is to you.
Now listen again to these words, "Lord, you are our home." Think of God in this way. There are some human friends in whose presence we feel at home. No storm touches us—when we are with them. We have no fear; we are vexed by no care or anxiety; we are not annoyed by life's hard or unpleasant experiences, when they are near to us.
Think of God as your home. "You will keep him in perfect peace—whose mind rests, nestles, in You." Peace is the very word—it is one of the greatest words in the Bible. To have God for your home—is to have peace. You have no fear of man, of devils, of circumstances. Paul never said anything greater about the blessing of a Christian, than when he declared, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God." No storm can ever reach it! No danger can ever come near it! No power on earth or hell—can send a thrill of anxiety into it! It is hidden with Christ, in God. That is what it is to be at home with God. "Lord, you are our home!"
Charles Wagner calls his church in Paris, 'The Home of the Soul'. He means that the church he has built, is a spiritual home for the people who come into it. That is what every church should be. Every church should be in its community, as nearly as possible—what Christ would be—if He lived again in human form in a house just where the church stands. Imagine Jesus living here, and people coming to Him just as they used to do when He had His home for many months at a certain number on a certain street in Capernaum. Would not our church become a wonderful Mecca for pilgrims? The weary, would come to get rest. The sorrowing,would come to find comfort. People having problems and perplexities, would come to have them solved. Those who havestumbled and fallen, would come to be forgiven and helped to start again. Mothers would come to have their children blessed. Children would flock here to get Christ's blessing. This corner would be a great resort for all who feel any need of help.
Then all who come—would find a home for their souls here. We know how Christ welcomed all who came to Him. He was everybody's friend. No one was ever turned away from Him, unhelped. The church should be to the people who come to it—what Christ was to those who came to Him. It should be a true home of the soul.
It is in a spiritual way, that the church should chiefly serve us. Some people forget this, and think that it is the business of the church to provide entertainment for those who come to it. We sometimes hear people complain that the church does nothing to furnish 'good times' for the young. But frankly, that is not the purpose of the church.
Are schools—public schools, high schools, colleges—established to entertain those who come to them? Places of amusement are established to entertain—but the purpose of a school is to teach, to educate, to train the mind, to develop the intellect.
Just so, the mission of a church is not to amuse, to provide fun and entertainment—but to lead people to Christ, to train them in Christian duties, to build up in them godly character, and to prepare them for usefulness and service to the souls of men.
One says: "When we say that the way to get young people to the church, is to make the church interesting; I am afraid that we too often mean that the way to do this, is to make it entertaining. Did you ever know the theater to be a successful means of governing conduct? Did you ever know the most excellent concert, or series of concerts, to be the means of revolutionizing a life? Did you ever know any amount of entertainment to go farther, than to amuse for the hour it lasted?"
We need not say that the church is never to provide entertainment for its young people. There are ways in which it may do this most effectively, thus preparing the way for its graver and more serious work. But the great purpose of the church is to do people good in spiritual ways. Nevertheless, we are to do all our work in the brightest and most interesting way. It is a sin to make church services dull and dreary; we should make them bright and attractive. We ought to have as interesting sermons as our preachers can preach. We ought to have the best devotional music we can provide. Our worship should be beautiful. Butentertainment is never to be the aim—the aim must always be to honor God and make the worshipers more holy.
Keep in mind the theme—the church a true spiritual home, a home of the soul. Read a sentence or two from the account of the first Christian church, just after Pentecost. "All that believed were together, and had all things common; . . . and they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people."
Note the various points in the picture—they were together. There is a volume of meaning in the word "together." They had all things common. The rich shared their plenty—with the poor. They were constant in their attendance at the meetings for worship. They were of one accord—there was no friction, no discordant fellowship. They took their food with gladness. They were joyous in their home life and their social life.
"I wonder if there is so much laughter in any other home in England, as in ours," wrote Charles Kingsley in one of his letters to his wife. We should cultivate gladness at home. Religion does not forbid gladness. It makes us joyous. They were praising Christians at Jerusalem. Then worship was full of sweet song. This first church was a home of the soul to those who belonged to it.
How can we make church, a real home of the soul to all who come into it?
First of all, Christ must be the center of the churchNo other name must be worshiped but His name. No other face must be seen. You remember the story of the artist who had painted a picture of the last supper. He had tried to make the Master's face so radiant, so attractive, that nothing else on the canvas would be seen. But when the picture was unveiled, he heard the people talk admiringly of the silver cups, and of the embroidery on the tablecloths, with not a word about the face.
He was disappointed and grieved, and taking his brush—he dashed from the canvas, all the secondary features he had heard praised, that the blessed face alone might win men's eyes. Christ should be the great overshadowing Presence in the church. No other face should win attention. The worshipers should see only His face. Just so far as the church is filled with Christ, as He is loved and thought about and worshiped—will it be a home of the soul to those who come into it.
We ministers must keep ourselves out of sight! Let us try to get people to love Christ—and not us. Only Christ can bless and help, and comfort, and strengthen, and heal. Be sure you never elevate yourself—as the one the people see. Seek to be unseen, that those who come with their needs shall meet only Christ. Let us make our church indeed Christ's church, and then it will be a home of the soul to all who enter its doors.
It must also be a church of love. God is love—it cannot be God's church—unless it is filled with love. They tell us that the beloved disciple had only one sermon when he got very old, and that he preached it every Sunday, "Little children, love one another." Perhaps it seemed monotonous to have the old man say the same words every time he spoke to the people—but really there is nothing else to preach. All the commandments are summed up in this one, "Love one another!"
If we can get the people of a church really and truly to love each other—we will make a home of the soul, for all who come in. Christ's prayer for His disciples was that they should be one. We are to live together, as brethren. We are not to be a company of individuals—a thousand, two thousand distinct individualities; we are to be one, one family knit together as one.
"Love is patient; love is kind." That is, it bears injuries and wrongs and insults—and does not get cross. It continues to be kind, giving love always in return for unkindness. They tell us that when the sea worm perforates the shell of the oyster, the oyster immediately by a marvelous secretion closes the wound with a pearl. That is what you do when a brother hurts you, does you some great wrong, and you as a Christian forgive him. You heal the wound in your own heart with a pearl. George Macdonald says, "What am I brothered for if not to forgive?"
There are a great many things that happen every day in common fellowship, which make it hard to keep love unruffled—but that is the lesson we are to learn if we would make our church, the home of the soul for ourselves and others. Love is always a lesson only partly learned—we must be learning it continually. It is a very long lesson—it takes all one's lifetime! A church is not a company of saints—but a mass of material for making saints. You are yet only saints in process of being made.
Remember, too, that the more testing of love you have in your experience, the more opportunities you have for learning the lesson. When, tomorrow, somebody treats you rudely, says a sharp or unkind word to you—it is a new practice lesson for you.
A tourist who had just been to Pike's Peak said that near the top he saw a great mass of forget-me-nots, growing in the snow. He said he never saw the flowers so blue or so fragrant, as these were. The sweetest love comes out of the hardest lessons. Christians must live together in love—if they would make their church a home of the soul to others. It never can be done, by living together unlovingly.
Then we must also have love—for all who come to us. Christ was the love of God, to all who came to Him. The worst people found Him gracious. His enemies were always trying to pick quarrels with Him—but they never could. He answered all theirinsults—with kindness. His reply to their false accusations, was silence. When they drove the nails into His hands—His response was a prayer for them!
When the suffering and sorrowing came to Him—He met them with sympathy. His disciples were dull, slow learners and tried Him sorely—but He never lost patience with them. Even when His friends proved untrue—He did not chide them. He was always merciful and loving to every kind of people. He welcomed the poor. He knew no caste. The worst sinners He received graciously. If we would make our church the home of the soul to those who come into it—we must make it a church of love to all.
An English paper tells of a 'glad hand committee' whose only duty was to speak pleasantly to every stranger who came to the church. One day a man came in who had not been at church for years. After service one member of this glad-hand committee, came and spoke to him and shook hands with him. A little way down the aisle another welcomed him, near the door a third, then a fourth met him, and another spoke to him in the vestibule. The man said he never dreamed the church was so friendly, and said he was coming again—and he did.
A godly man recently told of being a stranger in a city for several months, and attending a church all the while, without ever receiving one word of kindness from anyone. The sermon and the worship may be helpful to those who come into the church—but people need love—as well as sermons! Christ met all men with love, with sympathy, with kindness. We must do the same. We do not know what burdens the stranger who comes in is bearing, how heavy his heart may be, how he is longing for the warm grasp of a hand, how much he needs a word of cheer.
Jesus had compassion upon the people. Everyone who came near to Him—felt the power of His sympathy. He said that He woulddraw men to Himself. If we would win and draw men, if we would be a blessing to them—we must love and care for them. In one of the Psalms the writer says, "No man cares for my soul." The friends of Christ must care for souls. They must love people. They must have pity for the sorrowful; they must sympathize with infirmity and weakness.
Everywhere sympathy works miracles. Those who truly and deeply care for men—have power to help them. Those who are not true lovers of men—can never be winners of men, nor greatly helpers of men.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Losing Self in Christ

Losing SELF in Christ

by J. R. Miller, 1903


"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24
The Christian's first duty—is to honor his Master. He must be willing to sink himself out of sight—in order that the name of Christ may be magnified. It is not possible to both honor Christ—and yet to honor ourselves before men. The wreath on our own brow must fade—if we would keep the wreath for Christ beautiful and green. We must decrease—that Christ may increase. We must be willing to fall into the shadow—that the full light may be cast upon Christ's lovely face. We must be ready to suffer loss—that the cause of Christ may be advanced.
But all this seeming decrease if we are true at heart to our Master, is only seeming. The honor on our brow is never so bright as when we have willingly stripped off the stars from ourselves to bind them on the brow of Jesus. It is easy to mar the beauty. We have all seen people chafing and envying, when position and influence once theirs—passed to others. There is no severer test of character than comes in such experiences as this. It is not easy when others achieve promotions that we had hoped to win, for us to keep our spirits gentle, generous, and sweet. It is not easy, even in school, to have another win the prize which we sought and hoped to take, and then not to feel envious of him—but to treat him with true affection, joining his fellows in sincere honoring of him. It is not easy in the home, for a plain, unattractive child to see a bright, popular, brilliant sister idolized and petted, receiving universal praise—while she, the plain, homely one, is neglected and left without attention—it is not easy for the plain girl to see this and yet keep loyal affection in her heart and join cheerfully and sincerely in the honoring of the favorite. It is always hard to decrease—while another increases, especially if it is at our own cost.
Yet only as we learn to die to self, do we become like Christ. Unrenewed nature seeks all for self—and none for Christ. Becoming a Christian is the taking of Christ into the life—in the place of self. Then all is changed. Life has a new center, a new aim. Christ comes first. His plan for our lives is accepted, instead of our own. It is no more what we would like to do—but "What does theMaster want us to do?" It is no longer the pressing of our own will—but "May Your will, not mine, be done." This is the foundation of all Christian living—the dying of self—and the growing of Christ in the heart. So long as there remains any self-will, any unsubmission, any spirit of disobedience, any unconquered self, asserting its authority against the will of Christ—just so long, is our consecration incomplete.
This lesson has its very practical bearing on all our common, every-day life. Naturally we want to have our own way. We like to carry out our own plans and ambitions. We are apt to feel, too, that we have failed in life, when we cannot realize these hopes. This is the world's standard. The successful worldling is the one who is able to master all life's circumstances and make them serve him in his career. He is the man who "increases" until he fills a large place among men. The world has little praise or admiration for the man who "decreases" in his property, brilliance, power, or prosperity.
But we who read the Word of God know that there is an increase in men's eyes—which is a dwarfing, shrinking, and shriveling of the life in God's sight. We know also that there is a decrease in human eyes, which as God sees it, is a glorious enlargement and growth.
The greatest thing possible in any life—is to have the divine plan for it fulfilled, the divine will go on in it—even though it thwarts every human hope and dashes away every earthly dream. It is not easy for us to learn the lesson—that God's ways are always better for us than our own. We make our little plans and begin to carry them out. We think we have all things arranged for our greatest happiness and our best good. Then God's plan breaks in upon ours—and we look down through our tears upon the shattered fragments of our fine plans. It seems wreck, loss, and disaster. But no—it is only God's larger, wiser, better plan—displacing our little, imperfect, shortsighted one.
It is true, that God really thinks about our lives and has a purpose of His own for them, a place He would have us fill, a work He would have us do. It seems when we think of it, that this is scarcely possible—that each one of the lives of His countless children—should be personally and individually thought about by the Father. Yet we know that this is true of the least and lowliest of believers. Surely if God cares enough for us to make a plan for our life, a heavenly plan—it must be better than any plan of ours could be! It is a high honor, therefore, for His plan take the place of ours, whatever the cost and the pain may be to us.
This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the only way to true usefulness. Not until self has been renounced, is anyone ready for true Christian service. While we are thinking how this or that will affect us, whether it will pay us to make this sacrifice or that self-denial; while we are consulting our own ease, our own comfort, our own interest or advantage in any form—we have not yet learned fully what the love of Christ means.
This projecting of SELF into our serving of our fellow-men, mars the service and hinders its effectiveness. We wonder if the person is 'worthy'—and if he is not, we do not want to waste our love upon him. We resent with impatience, the lack of gratitude in those we aid. We decline to serve others, because they are beneath us. That is, we put all our life on a commercial basis, and unless it seems to promise well for us in the way of outcome, we are not ready for it. We need to learn the true meaning of Christ's love, for he never asks whether we are worthy or not, nor does he keep account of the number of times he has forgiven us. The law of love, which is the one law of all Christian life, does not follow the world's maxims. It is not 'so much'—for 'so much'. It asks not if there will be a return. It does not keep account of treatment received—and strike a balance for the governance of its future actions. It gives and serves and helps regardless of what it has received or may receive.
This law of the dying of self and the magnifying of Christ—is the secret of Christian peace. When Christ is small—and SELF is large—life cannot be deeply restful. Everything annoys us. We grow impatient of whatever breaks our comfort. We grieve over little trials. We find causes for discontent in merest trifles. We resent whatever would hinder or oppose us.
There is no blue sky in the picture, of which SELF is the center. There are no stars shining overhead. It begins and ends in a little patch of dusty floor, with gray walls surrounding it and shutting it in. But when SELF decreases—and Christ increases, then the picture is enlarged and takes in all of heaven's over-arching beauty. Then the stars shine down into its night and sunshine bathes its day.
Then the life of friction and worry is changed into quietness and peace. When the glory of Christ streams over this little, cramped, fretted, broken life of ours—peace comes, and the love of Christ brightens every spot and sweetens all bitterness. Trials are easy to bear when self is small—and Christ is large.
We are apt to grow weary of the bitter, sorrowful struggle that goes on in our hearts, evermore, between the old nature and the new nature, between the old self and the new Christ. It seems sometimes as if it never would be ended. It seems, too, at times, as if we were making no progress in the struggle, as if there were no decreasing of self—and no increasing of Christ. We find the old evil things unconquered still, after years of battling—the old envies and jealousies, the old tempers, the old greed, the old irritabilities, the old doubt and fear and unbelief. Will there never be release from this conflict?
Yes, if only we live patiently and bravely, in faith and love and loyalty, SELF will decrease—and Christ will increase until he fills our whole life. If we reach up ever toward the light—our past of failure and unworthiness will be left behind and we shall grow into the fullness of the stature of Christ! The new will conquer and expel the old—until it becomes "None of self—and all of Christ!"
O the bitter shame and sorrow
That a time could ever be,
When I let the Savior’s pity
Plead in vain, and proudly answered,
All of self—and none of Thee.’

Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on the accursed tree;
Heard Him pray, ‘Forgive them, Father!’
And my wistful heart said faintly,
Some of self—and some of Thee.’

Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and, ah! So patient,
Brought me lower, while I whispered,
Less of self—and more of Thee.’

Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered;
Grant me now my soul’s desire,
None of selfand all of Thee.’

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sin's Presence

Sin's Presence

Arthur Pink 

February, 1948
 
There are two sides to a Christian's life: a light side—and a dark one; an elevating side—and a depressing one. His experience is neither all joy—nor all grief; but a commingling of both. It was so with the apostle Paul: "As sorrowful—yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10). When a person is regenerated, he is not there and then taken to heaven—but he is given both a pledge and a foretaste of it. Nor is sin then eradicated from his being, though its dominion over him is broken. It is indwelling corruption which casts its dark shadow over his joy!
The varied experiences of the believer are occasioned by Christ's presence—and sin's presence. If, on the one hand, it be blessedly true that Christ is with him all the days, even unto the end; on the other hand, it is solemnly true that sin indwells him all his days, even unto the end of his earthly history! Said Paul, "evil is present with me"; and that, not only occasionally—but sin "dwells in me" (Romans 7:20-21). Thus, as God's people feed upon the Lamb, it is "with bitter herbs they shall eat it" (Exo 12:8).
The Christian's consciousness of indwelling sin, his mourning over its defiling influence, his sincere efforts to strive against its solicitations, his penitent confessions to God of his failure to master this inveterate foe—are among the unmistakable evidences that he is a regenerate person. For certain it is, that none who is dead in trespasses and sins realizes there is a sea of iniquitywithin his heart, defiling his very thoughts and imagination; still less does he make conscience of the same and lament it.
Let the believer recall his own case: in the days of his unregeneracy, he was not cast down by what now distresses! We are bidden to "remember" what we were "in time past," and then contrast the "But now" (Eph 2:11-13), that we may be shamed over the former—and rejoice and give thanks for the latter.
It is cause for fervent praise if your eyes have been opened to see "the sinfulness of sin," and your heart to feel its obnoxiousness. Since it was not always thus, a great change has taken place—you have been made the subject of a miracle of grace. But the continuance of indwelling sin presents a sore and perplexing problem to the Christian. That nothing is too hard for the Lord—he is full assured. Why then is evil allowed to remain present with him? Why is he not rid of this hideous thing—which he so much loathes and hates? Why should this horrible depravity be allowed to disturb his peace and mar his joy? Why does not the God of all grace rid him of this harassing tyrant?
It must ever be remembered that His thoughts and ways are often the very opposite of ours. Yet we must also remember they are infinitely wiser and better than ours. God then must have some valid reason why He leaves sin in His people; and since He loves them with a boundless and unchangeable love—it must be left in them for their benefit. Faith may be fully assured that evil continues to be present with the saint both for the glory of God and for his own good. Thus, there is a bright side to even thisdark cloud.
We are apt to think it is a most deplorable thing that sin still indwells us and to imagine it would be far better if we were rid of it. But that is our ignorance. Yes, it is something worse: it is a spirit of opposition to God, a rebelling against His dealings with us, an impugning of His wisdom, a casting reflection upon His goodness. Since He has given such abundant proofs that He has our best interests at heart, it must be most reprehensible for any to call into question His ways with them.
Rather, may we be fully persuaded that our loving Father would have completely removed "the flesh" from the soul of His children at the moment of their regeneration—had that been for their highest welfare. Since He has not done so, we must confidently conclude that God has a benevolent purpose in allowing sin to indwell them, to the end of their pilgrim journey. But does His Word furnish any hints of His gracious designs therein? Yes—but we must now limit ourselves unto one of them.
God leaves sin in His people—to promote their humility. There is nothing which He abominates, so much as pride. In Proverbs 6:16-17, the Holy Spirit has listed seven things which the Lord hates, and they are headed with "A proud look"! God feeds the hungry—but the rich He sends empty away. He "gives grace unto the humble," but "resists the proud" (James 4:6). It is the egotistical and self-satisfied Laodiceans who are so loathsome in His sight—that He spues them out of His mouth (Rev 3:16-17).
Now Christian reader, is it really and truly the desire of your heart that God will "hide pride" from you (Job 33:17)? If by grace it is so, then are you willing for Him to use His own means and method in accomplishing your desire, even though it is an unpleasant process, yes, galling to your complacency? If you are willing for your natural religiousness to be blasted and to be stripped of your peacock feathers, then it will be by evil remaining in you and bestirring itself to your grief!
Second Timothy 3:2 shows (from its order) that pride springs from inordinate self-love. They who are undue lover of themselves—soon grow proud of themselves; which is odious to God, for it robs Him of His glory. Since God will be glorious unto His saints, as well as glorified by them—He subdues their pride by leaving that in them which humbles their hearts—but makes them admire Him the more for His longsuffering.
Divine light exposes filth within, of which they had no previous realization, causing them to cry with the leper, "Unclean, unclean!" (Lev 13:45). They have such painful discoveries of indwelling sin as often makes them lament, "O wretched man that I am!" (Romans 7:24). But how thankful we should be if God makes us "abhor" ourselves (Job 42:6), and thereby make way forprizing Christ all the more!
In this life, holiness, my reader, consists largely of pantings after it—and grievings because we feel ourselves to be so unholy. What would happen to a man still left in this world—if he were full of sin one day and then made absolutely sinless the next? Let our present experience supply the answer. Do we not find it very difficult to keep our proper humble place, both before God and our brethren, when the evil within us is subdued but a little? Is not that evidence we require something to deliver us from self-righteousness? Even the beloved Paul needed "a thorn in the flesh" lest he "be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations" given him (2 Corinthians 12:7).
The man after God's own heart prayed, "O Lord, open you my lips; and my mouth shall show forth your praise" (Psalm 51:15): as though he said, "If You, Lord, will help me to speak aright, I shall not proclaim my own worth nor boast of what I have done—but will give You all the glory." As God left some of the Canaanites in the land—to prove Israel (Judges 2:21-22), so He leaves sin in us—to humble us.
We shall be sinless in heaven, and the sight of the "Lamb, who was slain" (Rev 5:12) will forever prevent the re-entry of pride into our souls.
Our consciousness of sin's presence has, first, an emptying influence: it makes way for a pardoning and cleansing Christ, by convicting the soul of its deep need.
Second, it has a continual abasing influence, bringing us to realize more and more our utter insufficiency and complete dependence upon God.
Third, it has an evangelical influence, for it serves to make us more conscious of the perfect suitability of the great Physician for such lepers as we feel ourselves to be.
Fourth, it has a God-honoring influence, for it brings the renewed soul to marvel increasingly at His "longsuffering to us" (2 Peter 3:9).

Fifth, it should promote a spirit of forbearance to our fellows: we ought not to expect less failure in them—than we find in ourselves.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Iron Shoes for Rough Roads

Iron Shoes for Rough Roads

by J. R. Miller

The matter of shoes is important. Especially is this true when the roads are rough and hard. We cannot then get along without something strong and comfortable to wear on our feet. One would scarcely expect to find anything in the Bible about such a need as this. Yet it only shows how truly the Bible is fitted to all our actual life to discover in it a promise referring to shoes.
In the blessing of Moses, pronounced before his death upon the several tribes, there was this among other things for Asher: "Your shoes shall be iron." A little geographical note will help to make the meaning plain. Part of Asher's allotted portion was hilly and rugged. Common sandals, made of wood or leather, would not endure the wear and tear of the sharp, flinty rocks. There was need, therefore, for some special kind of shoes. Hence the form of the promise: "Your shoes shall be iron."
Bible words, which took the most vivid local coloring from the particular circumstances in which they were originally spoken, are yet as true for us as they were for those to whom they first came. We have only to get disentangled from the local allusions the real heart of the meaning of the words, and we have an eternal promise which every child of God may claim.
Turning, then, this ancient promise, into a word for nineteenth-century pilgrims, we get from it some important suggestions. For one thing it tells us that we may have some rugged pieces of road before we get to the end of our life-journey. If not, what need would there be for iron shoes? If the way is to be flower-strewn, then velvet slippers would do. No man needs iron-soled shoes for a walk through a soft meadow. The Christian journey is not all easy. Indeed, the Christian life is never easy. No one can live nobly and worthily without struggle, battle, self-denial. One may find easy ways—but they are not the worthiest ways. They do not lead upward to the noblest things. One reason why many people never grasp the visions of beauty and splendor which shine before them in early years, is because they have not courage for rough climbing. We shall need our iron shoes—if we are to make the journey which leads upward to the best possibilities of our life.
But the word is not merely a prophecy of rugged paths; it is also a promise of shoeing for the road, whatever it may be. One who is preparing to climb a mountain, craggy and precipitous, would not put on silk slippers; he would get strong, tough shoes, with heavy nails in the soles. When God sends us on a journey over steep and flinty paths—he will not fail to provide us with suitable shoes.
Asher's portion was not an accidental one; it was of God's choosing. Nor is there any accident in the ordering of the place, the conditions, the circumstances, of any child of God's. Our times are in God's hands! No doubt, then, the hardnesses and difficulties of any one's lot—are part of the divine ordering for the best growth of the person's life.
There was a compensation in Asher's rough portion. His rugged hills had iron in them. This law of compensation runs through all God's distribution of gifts. In the animal world there is a wonderful harmony, often noted, between the creatures and the circumstances and conditions amid which they are placed. The same law rules in the providence of human life. One man's farm is hilly and hard to till—but deep down beneath its ruggedness, buried away in its rocks, there are rich minerals. One person's lot in life is hard, with peculiar obstacles, difficulties and trials; but hidden in it there are compensations of some kind. One young man is reared in affluence and luxury. He never experiences lack or self-denial; he never has to struggle with obstacles or adverse circumstances. Another is reared in poverty and has to toil and suffer privation. The latter seems to have scarcely an equal chance in life. But we all know where the compensation lies in this case. It is in such circumstances that grand manhood is grown, while too often the petted, pampered sons of luxury come to nothing. In the rugged hills of toil and hardship—life's finest gold is found!
There are few things from which young people of wealthy families suffer more, than from over-help. No noble-spirited young man wants life made too easy for him, by the toil of others. What he desires is an opportunity to work for himself. There are some things no other one can give us; we must get them for ourselves. Our bodies must grow through our own exertions. Our minds must be disciplined through our own study. Our hearts' powers must be developed and trained through our own loving and doing.
The best friend we can have, is not the one who digs out the treasure for us—but who teaches and inspires us with our own hands to open the rocks and find the treasures for ourselves. The digging out of the iron—will do us more good than even the iron itself when it is dug out.
Shoes of iron are promised only to those who are to have rugged roads—and not to those whose path lies amid the flowers and soft meadows. There is a comforting suggestion here, for all who find peculiar hardness in their life. Peculiar grace is pledged to them. God will provide for the ruggedness of their way. They will have a divine blessing which would not be theirs—but for the roughness and ruggedness. The Hebrew parallelism gives the same promise, without figure, in the remaining words of the same verse: "As your days—so shall your strength be." Be sure, if your path is rougher than mine, you will get more divine help than I will. There is a most delicate connection between earth's needs—and heaven's grace. Days of struggle get more grace than calm, quiet days. When nightcomes—stars shine out which never would have appeared, had not the sun gone down. Sorrow draws comfort—which never would have come in joy. For the rough roads—there are iron shoes!
There is yet another suggestion in this ancient promise. The divine blessing for every experience, is folded up in the experience itself, and will not be received inadvance. The iron shoes would not be given until the rough roads were reached. There was no need for them until then; and besides, the iron to make them was treasured in the rugged hills, and could not be gotten until the hills were reached.
A great many people worry about the future. They vex themselves by anxious questioning as to how they are going to get through certain anticipated experiences. We had better learn once for all—that there are in the Bible no promises of provision for needs—while the needs are yet future. God does not put strength into our arms today for the battles of tomorrow; but when the conflict is actually upon us—then the strength comes. "As your days—so shall your strength be."
Some people are forever unwisely testing themselves by questions like these: "Could I endure sore bereavement? Have I grace enough to bow in submission to God, if he were to take away my dearest treasure? Or could I meet death without fear?" Such questions are unwise, because there is no promise of grace to meet trial—when there is no trial to be met. There is no assurance of strength to bear great burdens—when there are no great burdens to be borne. Help to endure temptation is not promised—when there are no temptations to be endured. Grace for dying is nowhere promised—while death is yet far off and while one's duty is to live.
There is a story of shipwreck, which yields an illustration which comes in just here. Crew and passengers had to leave the broken vessel and take to the life-boats. The sea was rough, and great care in rowing and steering was necessary in order to guard the heavily-laden boats, not from the ordinary waves, which they rode over easily—but from the great cross-seas. Night was approaching, and the hearts of all sank as they asked what they would do in the darkness—when they would no longer be able to see these terrible waves. To their great joy, however, when it grew dark they discovered that they were in phosphorescent waters, and that each dangerous wave rolled up crested with light which made it as clearly visible as if it were mid-day.
So it is that life's dreaded experiences, when we meet them, carry in themselves the light which takes away the peril and the terror. The night of sorrow, comes with its own lamp of comfort. The hour of weakness, brings its own secret of strength. By the brink of the bitter fountain itself, grows the tree whose branch will heal the waters. The wilderness with its hunger and no harvest, has daily manna. In dark Gethsemane, where the load is more than mortal heart can bear, an angel appears, ministering strength which gives victory. When we come to the hard, rough, steep path—we find iron for shoes! The iron will be in the very hills, over which we shall have to climb.
So we see that the matter of shoes is very important. We are pilgrims here and we cannot walk barefoot on this world's rugged roads. Are our feet shod for the journey?
"How can I get shoes, and where?" one asks. Do you remember about Christ's feet, that they were pierced with nails? Why was it? That we might have shoes to wear on our feet, and that they might not be cut and torn along the way.
Christ's dear feet were wounded and sore with long journeys over thorns and stones, and were pierced through with cruel nails—that our feet might be shod for earth's rough roads, and might at last enter the gates of heaven, and walk on heaven's gold-paved streets!
Dropping all figure, the whole lesson is that we cannot get along on our life's pilgrimage without Christ; but having Christ we shall be ready for anything which may come to us along the days and years!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 42

What Have We Come To (continued)

And finally in this letter, strangely enough, these people are not universally liked. You would think they ought to be, a wonderful people like this about whom all these things are so true, well, they ought to be the most liked people in the world, but somehow or other no one likes them. They are all disliked by other people and somehow whenever, whenever they are present or mentioned, the very atmosphere seems to get thick. That is exactly where this letter to the Ephesians finishes. Here is this people right at the center of this letter,l and then it says, "Principalities and powers, world rulers of this darkness, hosts of evil spirits," all against them (Ephesians 6:12). They are involved in a great spiritual conflict. You are involved in that when you come amongst them.

Yes, I do not  want to tell you otherwise, you are involved in that. You are probably going to be very much disliked if you become a Christian. You are going to find that your very presence sets up a complex, an antagonistic complex, and if it does not come from men, it will come from the unseen, you will know it.

Ah, but then, I will be quite frank about it, what it means to come to the people whom "thou knewest not heretofore." There is the other side, there is the other side: "thou art come unto the God of Israel, under Whose wings thou art come to take refuge" (Ruth 2:12). Under Whose wings refuge, refuge! The wings of the Lord are over the people of the Lord.

I want to point out here that the Lord's wings are to be found  over His people. You want His wings over you? You will not get them out of Moab, you will get them in the midst of His people. Somehow or rather, the Lord has appointed that all the blessings, that He will give are to be found amongst His people and not to be had apart. You have got to come in with the Lord's people to get the wings of the Lord. Whatever it is that the Lord would have for us: we are going to find it relatively,, and not independently, corporally, and not in a detached way.

Now this is very true to the letter from which I have read, and keeping true to the Scripture. But, you see, here is the protection of the wings: "Under whose wings thou art come to take refuge." You want that to be proved from this very little book? Very well, Naomi, with her husband, left the place of the covenant elect people and went into Moab, and what happened? They lost everything. And they lost the protection of God. Calamity upon calamity befell them, and Naomi put it this way: "
And I went out full, I am come back empty" (Ruth 1:21). Why? She deserted the place where the wings were.


~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 43)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Reality!

REALITY!

J.C. Ryle, 1878

"Reprobate silver." Jeremiah 6:30
"Nothing but leaves." Mark 11:13

"Let us not love in word, neither in tongue — but in deed and in truth!" 1 John 3:18.
"You have a name that you live — and are dead!" Revelation 3:1
If we profess to have any religion at all, let us take care that it is real. I say it emphatically, and I repeat the saying: Let us mind that our religion is real.
What do I mean when I use the word "real." I mean that which is genuine, and sincere, and honest, and thorough. I mean that which is not base, and hollow, and formal, and false, and counterfeit, and sham, and nominal. "Real "religion is not mere show, and pretense, and skin-deep feeling, and temporary profession, and outside work. It is something inward, solid, substantial, intrinsic, living, lasting. We know the difference between base coin and good money, between solid gold and tinsel, between plated metal and silver, between real stone and plaster imitation. Let us think of these things as we consider the subject of this paper. What is the character of our religion? Is it real? It may be weak, and feeble, and mingled with many infirmities. That is not the point before us today. Is our religion real? Is it true?
The times in which we live demand attention to the subject. A lack of reality is a striking feature of a vast amount of religion in the present day. Scientists have sometimes told us that the world has passed through different states or conditions. We have had a golden age, and a silver age, a brazen age, and an iron age. How far this is true, I do not stop to inquire. But I fear there is little doubt as to the character of the age in which we live. It is universally an age of base metal and alloy.
If we measure the religion of the age by its apparent quantity — there is much of it. But if we measure it by its quality — there is very little indeed. On every side we want MORE REALITY.
I ask your attention, while I try to bring home to your consciences the question of this paper. There are two things which I propose to do:
I. In the first place, I will show the importance of reality in religion.
II. In the second place, I will supply some tests by which we may prove whether our own religion is real.
Has any reader of this paper the least desire to go to Heaven when he dies? Do you wish to have a religion which will comfort you in life, give you good hope in death, and abide the judgment of God at the last day? Then, do not turn away from the subject before you. Sit down, and consider calmly, whether your Christianity is real and true — or base and hollow.
 
I. I have to show the IMPORTANCE of reality in religion.
The point is one which, at first sight, may seem to require very few remarks to establish it. All men, I shall be told, are fully convinced of the importance of reality. But is this true? Can it be said indeed that reality is rightly esteemed among professing Christians? I deny it entirely.
The greater part of people who profess to admire reality, seem to think that everyone possesses it! They tell us "that all have gotgood hearts at bottom," that all are sincere and true in the main, though they may make mistakes. They call us uncharitable, and harsh, and censorious, if we doubt anybody's goodness of heart. In short, they destroy the value of reality, by regarding it as a thing which almost everyone has.
This wide-spread delusion is precisely one of the causes why I take up this subject. I want men to understand that reality is a far more rare and uncommon thing than is commonly supposed. I want men to see that unreality is one of the great dangers of which professing Christians ought to beware.
What says the Scripture? This is the only judge that can try the subject. Let us turn to our Bibles, and examine them fairly, and then deny, if we can, the importance of reality in religion, and the danger of not being real.
(1) Let us look then, for one thing, at the parables spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ. Observe how many of them are intended to put in strong contrast the true believer and the mere nominal disciple. The parables of the sower, of the wheat and tares, of the draw-net, of the two sons, of the wedding garment, of the ten virgins, of the talents, of the great supper, of the pounds, of the two builders — have all one great point in common. They all bring out in striking colors the difference between reality and unreality in religion. They all show the uselessness and danger of any Christianity which is not real, thorough, and true.
(2) Let us look, for another thing, at the language of our Lord Jesus Christ about the scribes and the Pharisees. Eight times over in one chapter, we find Him denouncing them as "hypocrites," in words of almost fearful severity.
"You serpents, you generation of vipers," He says, "How can you escape the damnation of Hell!" What may we learn from these tremendously strong expressions? How is it that our gracious and merciful Savior used such cutting words about people who at any rate were more moral and decent than the publicans and harlots? It is meant to teach us the exceeding abominableness of false profession and mere external religion in God's sight.
Open profligacy and willful obedience to fleshly lusts are no doubt ruinous sins, if not given up. But there seems nothing which is so displeasing to Christ — as hypocrisy and unreality!
(3) Let us look, for another thing, at the startling fact, that there is hardly a grace in the character of a true Christian of which you will not find a counterfeit described in the Word of God. There is not a feature in a believer's countenance, of which there is not an imitation. Give me your attention, and I will show you this in a few particulars.
Is there not an unreal repentance? Beyond doubt there is. Saul and Ahab, and Herod, and Judas Iscariot had many feelings of sorrow about sin. But they never really repented unto salvation.
Is there not an unreal faith? Beyond doubt there is. It is written of Simon Magus, at Samaria, that he "believed," and yet his heart was not right in the sight of God. It is even written of the devils that they "believe and tremble." (Acts 8:13; James ii. 19.)
Is there not an unreal holiness? Beyond doubt there is. Joash, king of Judah, became to all appearance very holy and good, so long as Jehoiada the priest lived. But as soon as he died, the religion of Joash died at the same time! (2 Chronicles 24:2.) Judas Iscariot's outward life was as correct as that of any of the apostles, up to the time that he betrayed his Master. There was nothing suspicious about him. Yet in reality he was "a thief" and a traitor! (John 12:6.)
Is there not an unreal love and charity? Beyond doubt there is. There is a love which consists in words and tender expressions, and a great show of affection, and calling other people "dear brethren" — while the heart does not love at all. It is not for nothing that John says, "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue — but in deed and in truth!" It was not without cause that Paul said: "Let love be sincere." (1 John 3:18; Romans 12:19.)
Is there not an unreal humility? Beyond doubt there is. There is a pretended lowliness of demeanor, which often covers over a very proud heart. Paul warns us against a "voluntary humility," and speaks of "things which had a show of wisdom in will-worship and humility." (Colossians 2:18, 23.)
Is there not unreal praying? Beyond doubt there is. Our Lord denounces it as one of the special sins of the Pharisees that for a "pretense they made long prayers." (Matt, 23:14.) He does not charge them with not praying, or with praying too shortly. Their sin lay in this, that their prayers were not real.
Is there not unreal worship? Beyond doubt there is. Our Lord says of the Jews: "This people draw near to Me with their mouths, and honor Me with their lips — but their heart is far from Me." (Matthew 15:8.) They had plenty of formal services in their temples and their synagogues. But the fatal defect about them was lack of reality and lack of heart.
Is there not unreal talking about religion? Beyond doubt there is. Ezekiel describes some professing Jews who talked and spoke like God's people "while their hearts went after their covetousness." (Ezekiel 33:31.)
Paul tells us that we may "speak with the tongue of men and angels," and yet be no better than sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1.)
What shall we say to these things? To say the least, they ought to set us thinking. To my own mind they seem to lead to only one conclusion. They show clearly the immense importance which Scripture attaches to reality in religion. They show clearly what need we have to take heed, lest our Christianity turn out to be merely nominal, formal, unreal, and base.
The subject is of deep importance in every age. There has never been a time, since the Church of Christ was founded, when there has not been a vast amount of unreality and mere nominal religion among professing Christians. I am sure it is the case in the present day.
Wherever I turn my eyes I see abundant cause for the warning, "Beware of base metal in religion. Be genuine. Be thorough. Be real. Be true."
How much religion among some members of the Church of England consists of nothing but church rituals! They belong to the Established Church. They are baptized at her fonts, married at her communion rails, buried in her churchyards, preached to on Sundays by her ministers. But the great doctrines laid down in her Articles and Liturgy have no place in their hearts, and noinfluence on their lives. They neither think, nor feel, nor care, nor know anything about them. And is the religion of these peoplereal Christianity? It is nothing of the kind. It is mere base metal. It is not the Christianity of Peter, and James, and John, and Paul. It is Churchianity — and no more!
How much religion among some Dissenters from the Church of England consists of nothing but dissent! They pride themselves on having nothing to do with the Anglican church. They rejoice in having no liturgy, no forms, no bishops. They glory in the exercise of their private judgment, and the absence of everything like ceremonial in their public worship. But all this time they have neither grace, nor faith, nor repentance, nor holiness, nor spirituality of conduct or conversation. The experimental and practical piety of the old Nonconformists is a thing of which they are utterly destitute. Their Christianity is as sapless and fruitless as a dead tree, and as dry and marrowless as an old bone! And is the Christianity of these people real? It is nothing of the kind. It is base metal. It is not the Christianity of Owen, and Manton, and Goodwin, and Baxter, and Traill. It is Dissentianity — and nothing more.
How much Ritualistic religion is utterly unreal! You will sometimes see men boiling over with zeal about vestments, and gestures, and postures, and church decorations, and daily services, and frequent communions — while their hearts are manifestly in the world.
Of the inward work of the Holy Spirit,
of living faith in the Lord Jesus,
of delight in the Bible and pious conversation,
of separation from worldly follies and amusements,
of zeal for the conversion of souls to God
of all these things they are profoundly ignorant! And is such Christianity as this real? It is nothing of the kind. It is a mere name.
How much Evangelical religion is completely unreal? You will sometimes see men professing great affection for the pure "Gospel," while they are practically inflicting on it the greatest injury. They will talk loudly of soundness in the faith, and have a keen nose for heresy. They will run eagerly after popular preachers, and applaud Protestant speakers at public meetings to the very echo. They are familiar with all the phrases of evangelical religion, and can converse fluently about its leading doctrines. To see their faces at public meetings, or in church — you would think them eminently godly. To hear them talk — you would suppose their lives were bound up in religious Societies. And yet these people in private will sometimes do things of which even some heathen would be ashamed! They are neither truthful, nor straightforward, nor honest, nor manly, nor just, nor good-tempered, nor unselfish, nor merciful, nor humble, nor kind! And is such Christianity as this real? It is not. It is a miserable imposture, a base cheat and caricature!
How much Revivalist religion in the present day is utterly unreal! You will find a crowd of false professors bringing discredit on the work of God wherever the Holy Spirit is poured out. You will see a mixed multitude of Egyptians accompanying the Israel of God, and doing it harm, whenever Israel goes out of Egypt. How many now-a-days will profess to be suddenly convinced of sin, to find peace in Jesus, to be overwhelmed with joys and ecstasies of soul — while in reality they have no grace at all. Like the stony-ground hearers — they endure but for a season. "In the time of temptation they fall away." (Luke 8:13) As soon as the first excitement wears off — they return to their old ways, and resume their former sins. Their religion is like Jonah's gourd, which came up in a night — and perished in a night. They have neither root nor vitality. They only injure God's cause and give occasion to God's enemies to blaspheme. And is Christianity like this real? It is nothing of the kind. It is base metal from the devil's mint, and is worthless in God's sight!
I write these things with sorrow. I have no desire to bring any section of the Church of Christ into contempt. I have no wish to cast any slur on any movement which begins with the Spirit of God. But the times demand very plain speaking about some points in the prevailing Christianity of our day. And one point, I am quite persuaded, that demands attention, is the abounding lack of reality which is to be seen on every side.
No reader, at any rate, can well deny that the subject of the paper before him is of vast importance. I pass on now to the second thing which I propose to do.
 
II. I will supply some TESTS by which we may try the reality of our religion.
In approaching this part of my subject, I ask every reader of this paper to deal fairly, honestly, and reasonably with his soul. Dismiss from your mind the common idea, that of course all is right if you go to church or to chapel. Cast away such vain notions forever. You must look further, higher, deeper than this, if you would find out the truth. Listen to me, and I will give you a few hints. Believe me, it is no light matter. It is your life.
(1) For one thing, if you would know whether your religion is real — try it by the place which it occupies in your INNER MAN.
It is not enough that it is in your HEAD. You may know the truth, and assent to the truth, and believe the truth — and yet be wrong in God's sight!
It is not enough that it is on your LIPS. You may repeat the creed daily. You may say "Amen" to public prayer in church — and yet have nothing more than an outward religion.
It is not enough that it is in your FEELINGS. You may weep under preaching one day, and be lifted to the third Heaven by joyous excitement another day — and yet be dead to God.
Your religion, if it is real, and given by the Holy Spirit — must be in your HEART. It must occupy the citadel. It must hold thereins. It must sway the affections. It must lead the will. It must direct the tastes. It must influence the choices and decisions. It must fill the deepest, lowest, inmost seat in your soul. Is this your religion? If not, you may well doubt whether it is "real" and true. (Acts 8:21; Romans 10:10.)
(2) In the next place, if you would know whether your religion is real — try it by the feelings towards SIN which it produces. The Christianity which is from the Holy Spirit, will always have a very deep view of the sinfulness of sin. It will not merely regard sin as a blemish and misfortune, which makes men and women objects of pity and compassion. It will see in sin, the abominable thing which God hates, the thing which makes man guilty and lost in his Maker's sight — the thing which deserves God's wrath and condemnation. It will look on sin as the cause of all sorrow and unhappiness, of strife and wars, of quarrels and contentions, of sickness and death — the blight which has blighted God's fair creation, the accursed thing which makes the whole earth groan and travail in pain! Above all, it will see in sin the thing which will . . .
ruin us eternally — unless we can find a ransom;
lead us captive — unless we can get its chains broken; and
destroy our happiness, both here and hereafter — unless we fight against it, even unto death.
Is this your religion? Are these your feelings about sin? If not, you may well doubt whether your religion is "Real."
(3) For another thing, if you would know whether your religion is real, try it by the feelings toward CHRIST which it produces.Nominal religion may believe that such a person as Christ existed, and was a great benefactor to mankind. It may show Him some external respect, attend His outward ordinances, and bow the head at His name. But it will go no further.
Real religion will make a man glory in Christ, as the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Priest, the Friend — without whom he would have no hope at all.
It will produce . . .
confidence 
in Him,
love 
towards Him, 
delight 
in Him, 
comfort 
in Him —
as the mediator, the food, the light, the life, the peace of the soul.
Is this your religion? Do you know anything of feelings like these toward Jesus Christ? If not, you may well doubt whether your religion is "real"
(4) For another thing, if you would know whether your religion is real, try it by the FRUIT it bears in your heart and life. The Christianity which is from above — will always be known by its fruits. It will produce in the man who has it: repentance, faith, hope, charity, humility, spirituality, kind temper, self-denial, unselfishness, forgivingness, temperance, truthfulness, brotherly-kindness, patience, and forbearance. The degree in which these various graces appear, may vary in different believers. The germ and seeds of them will be found in all who are the children of God. By their fruits — they may be known.
Is this your religion? If not, you may well doubt whether it is "real"
(5) In the last place, if you would know whether your religion is real, try it by your feelings and habits about MEANS OF GRACE. Prove it by the Sunday. Is that day a season of weariness and constraint — or a delight and a refreshment, and a sweet foretaste of the rest to come in Heaven? Prove it by the public means of grace. What are your feelings about public prayer and public praise, about the public preaching of God's Word, and the administration of the Lord's Supper? Are they things to which you give a cold assent, and tolerate them as proper and correct? Or, are they things in which you take pleasure, and without which you could not live happy?
Prove it, finally, by your feelings about private means of grace. Do you find it essential to your comfort to read the Bible regularly in private, and to speak to God in prayer? Or, do you find these practices irksome, and either slur them over, or neglect them altogether? These questions deserve your attention. If means of grace, whether public or private, are not as necessary to your soul as food and drink are to your body — you may well doubt whether your religion is "real."
I press on the attention of all my readers the five points which I have just named. There is nothing like coming to particularsabout these matters. If you would know whether your religion is "real," genuine, and true — measure it by the five particulars which I have now named. Measure it fairly — test it honestly. If your heart is right in the sight of God — you have no cause to flinch from examination. If it is wrong — the sooner you find it out the better.
And now I have done what I proposed to do. I have shown from Scripture, the unspeakable importance of reality in religion, and the danger in which many stand of being lost forever — for lack of it. I have given five plain tests, by which a man may find out whether his Christianity is real. I will conclude all by a direct application of the whole subject to the souls of all who read this paper. I will draw my bow at a venture, and trust that God will bring an arrow home to the hearts and consciences of many.
 
(1) My first word of application shall be an INQUIRY.
Is your own religion real or unreal? Genuine or base? I do not ask what you think about others. Perhaps you may see many hypocrites around you. You may be able to point to many who have no "reality "at all. This is not the question. You may be right in your opinion about others. But I want to know about yourself. Is your own Christianity real and true — or nominal and base?
If you love life, do not turn away from the question which is now before you. The time must come when the whole truth will be known. The judgment day will reveal every man's religion, of what sort it is. The parable of the wedding-garment will receive a solemn fulfillment Surely it is a thousand times better to find out your condition now, and to repent — than to find it out too late in the next world, when there will be no space for repentance.
If you have common prudence, sense, and judgment, consider what I say. Sit down quietly this day, and examine yourself. Find out the real character of your religion. With the Bible in your hand, and honesty in your heart — the thing may be known. Then resolve to find out.
(2) My second word of application shall be a WARNING.
I address it to all who know, in their own consciences, that their religion is not real. I ask them to remember the greatness of their danger, and their exceeding guilt in the sight of God.
An unreal Christianity is specially offensive to that Great God with whom we have to do. He is continually spoken of in Scripture as the God of Truth. Truth is peculiarly one of His attributes. Can you doubt for a moment that He abhors everything that is not genuine and true? Better, I firmly believe, to be found an ignorant heathen at the last day — than to be found with nothing better than a nominal religion! If your religion is of this sort — beware!
An unreal Christianity is sure to fail a man at last. It will wear out; it will break down; it will leave its possessor like a wreck on a sandbank, high and dry and forsaken by the tide; it will supply no comfort in the hour when comfort is most needed, in the time of affliction, and on the bed of death. If you want a religion to be of any use to your soul — then beware of unreality! If you would not be comfortless in death, and hopeless in the judgment day — be genuine, be real, be true!
(3) My third word of application shall be ADVICE. I offer it to all who feel pricked in conscience by the subject of this paper. I advise them to cease from all trifling and playing with religion, and to become honest, thoroughgoing, whole-hearted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Apply without delay to the Lord Jesus, and ask Him to become your Savior, your Physician, your Priest, and your Friend. Let not the thought of your unworthiness keep you away; let not the recollection of your great sins prevent your application. Never, never forget that Christ can cleanse you from any quantity of sins, if you only commit your soul to Him. But one thing He does ask of those who come to Him: He asks them to be real, honest, and true!
Let reality be one great mark of your approach to Christ — and there is everything to give you hope.
Your repentance may be feeble — but let it be real;
your faith may be weak — but let it be real;
your desires after holiness may be mingled with much infirmity — but let them be real.
Let there be nothing of reserve, of double-dealing, of part-acting, of dishonesty, of sham, of counterfeit — in your Christianity. Never be content to wear a cloak of religion. Be all that you profess.
Though you may err — be real. Though you may stumble — be true. Keep this principle continually before your eyes, and it will be well with your soul throughout your journey from grace to glory.
(4) My last word of application shall be ENCOURAGEMENT.
I address it to all who have manfully taken up the cross, and are honestly following Christ. I exhort them to persevere, and not to be moved by difficulties and opposition.
You may often find few with you — and many against you. You may often hear hard things said of you. You may often be told that you go too far, and that you are extreme. Heed it not. Turn a deaf ear to remarks of this kind. Press on.
If there is anything which a man ought to do thoroughly, really, truly, honestly, and with all his heart — it is the business of his soul. If there is any work which he ought never to slur over, and do in a slovenly fashion — it is the great work of "working out his own salvation." (Philippians 2:12.) Believer in Christ, remember this! Whatever you do in religion — do it well. Be real. Be thorough. Be honest. Be true.
If there is anything in the world of which a man need not be ashamed, it is the service of Jesus Christ. Of sin, of worldliness, of levity, of trifling, of time-wasting, of pleasure-seeking, of bad temper, of pride, of making an idol of money, dress, dancing, hunting, shooting, card-playing, novel-reading, and the like — of all this a man may well be ashamed. Living after this fashion — he makes the angels sorrow, and the devils rejoice.
But of living for his soul, caring for his soul, thinking of his soul, providing for his soul, making his soul's salvation the principal and chief thing in his daily life — of all this a man has no cause to be ashamed at all.
Believer in Christ, remember this! Remember it in your Bible-reading and your private praying. Remember it in your worship of God. In all these things never be ashamed of being whole-hearted, real, thorough, and true!
The years of our life are fast passing away. Who knows but this year may be the last in his life? Who can tell but that he may be called this very year to meet his God? As ever you would be found ready — be a real and true Christian. Do not be base metal.

The time is fast coming, when nothing but reality will stand the fire. Real repentance towards God, real faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, real holiness of heart and life — these, these are the things which will alone pass current at the last day! It is a solemn saying of our Lord Jesus Christ, "Many shall say in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and in Your name have cast out devils, and in Your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them: I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who work iniquity!" (Matt 7:22, 23.)