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Friday, February 26, 2016

A Practical Question!

A Practical Question!

George Everard, 1885
 

"Are not you also one of His disciples?" John 18:25

The rash zeal of Peter in cutting off the ear of Malchus was one cause of his terrible fall. Had he been distrustful of himself and watchful over his own spirit, he would have been more likely to keep out of danger. But his hasty action in the garden and his eagerness to show that his promise to Christ was not a mere empty boast, brought him into prominence, and so no doubt there came question upon question which only opened the way for his threefold denial.
"Are not you also one of His disciples? He denied it, and said: I am not."
Ah, Peter, how soon you have broken your plighted word, and denied your Lord, who yet loved you through it all. How shamefully have you dishonored Him who at that very hour was preparing to yield up His life for your salvation! But your faithful Shepherd would not cast you off. And in later days at least the old promise was better kept. You did then prove your fidelity even unto death. Restored by His grace, forgiven through His free mercy, strengthened by His Spirit, you did fight the good fight and win a crown bright with many a gem.
"Are not you also one of His disciples?" It is a home-thrust — a cutting inquiry for every lad who reads these pages. Are you a learner at His feet? Have you come and enrolled yourself among such as follow Him? Is it your full purpose to follow Him "wherever He goes?"
It was reckoned in olden time an honor to be a disciple of one of the wise men of Greece, but they passed away, and for the most part their doctrine and teaching with them. But to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus, is to accept the word of One whose doctrine shall yet fill the world, and shall decide the eternal destiny of all mankind.
I trust you are one of His disciples. It may be only a beginner. It may be a very weak disciple — but still you own Christ as your Master, and you wish to be whole-hearted in His service. Then let me put before you what your position implies. Let me remind you of those points on which you should be watchful.
"Are not you also one of His disciples?" Then you must be prepared to walk in the footsteps of your Master. "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord" (Matthew 10:24, 25).
You must be content to tread a humble path through life, if it be God's will. It was the path Christ chose. He was willingly subject to Joseph and Mary at Nazareth for many a long year. During most of His life He worked as a carpenter, and was utterly unknown to the great world outside the village where He dwelt.
Be willing also, if the path of duty lies there, to tread the valley rather than the mountain-top. Be willing to leave to others eagerly to seek the heights of man's praise and this world's distinction. Do your duty manfully, fill your niche well — and then God will send you that which is the very best. If He should send honor and high position and increasing prosperity — then never forget that it is His gift and use it to do His work the better. If He should appoint otherwise — then be well content to have it so. The humblest lot in fellowship with Christ, is far happier than the highest if you are a stranger to Him.
"Are not you also one of His disciples?" Then you must bear your cross cheerfully and bravely for His sake. Do not make a cross for yourself by your self-will or lack of judgment, or lack of integrity or consistency. But whatever cross He lays upon you, bear it after Him.
It may come in the shape of hard words and misrepresentation.
It may come in days of suffering or sorrow.
It may come through failure to achieve what you have toiled to obtain.
It may come in separation from those you love.
But, whatever it is, let your eye be upon Him, and patiently endure it because it is His will, and the discipline He has appointed particularly for you. "Then Jesus said to His disciples: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me!" Matthew 16:24
"Are not you also one of His disciples?" Then you must copy His holy and sinless life. Every member of Christ suffered in His bitter agonies. So by His grace you must crucify the sins that pertain to each member.
Was He scourged with cruel stripes?
Then flee from softness and self-indulgence to the flesh.
Was His brow pierced with thorns?
Then flee from all pride of intellect, and from all vanity of good looks.
Was His tongue parched with thirst?
Then beware lest your tongue utter words of folly and sin, or anything which He would disapprove.
Were His hands nailed to the cross?
Then keep your hands from writing or doing anything amiss.
And let every member be employed in His service and for His glory.
"Are not you also one of His disciples?" Then you must cultivate unity of spirit with all who belong to Him. There ought to be no jealousy or envy, no coldness or distance, no ill judgings and unkind suspicions among His disciples. He would have them all one in heart and mind. He would have them forbearing and forgiving toward each other. He would have them bound together firmly with the cord of holy charity, and ready to help each to the utmost of their power.
"Are not you also one of His disciples?" Then you shall share His glory and His kingdom. Nothing shall be too great or too good for one who has been thoroughly loyal to His cause.
Earthly monarchs and generals love to display their generous appreciation of deeds of distinguished valor, especially when performed in the presence of rebels or half-hearted adherents. But in this none shall equal our great Captain. Beyond all our hopes, beyond all that it is possible for us now to conceive, will be the bright reward of those who have truly served Him.
"No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever!" Revelation 22:3-5

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Persistent Prayer

Persistent Prayer

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

—Ephesians 6:18

A friend of mine is one of the happiest guys I know. Maybe it's because he lives in Hawaii, where he is a pastor. He's always smiling, always joyful, and always upbeat. In fact, when he isn't smiling, he looks different. He actually smiles that much.

That's how I imagine Nehemiah, a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah's job was to taste the king's food before the king ate it. Because the cupbearer was required to be in close proximity to the king, he often became more than someone who tasted the food. In time, he would become the king's confidant, adviser, and friend.

Nehemiah was a Jew who was in a position of great influence with the king. But one day he was feeling a bit down. He was thinking about the plight of his fellow Jews in Jerusalem and how the walls of the city lay in ruins.

Like my friend, Nehemiah must have been always happy and upbeat, because the king noticed that he looked miserable. He asked, "Why are you looking so sad? You don't look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled" (Nehemiah 2:2).

So Nehemiah told the king about the plight of his people, and the king asked how he could help. I love what Nehemiah did next. The Bible tells us that "with a prayer to the God of heaven, [Nehemiah] replied, 'If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried' " (verses 4–5).

Sometimes we have the luxury of time in prayer. But sometimes we can only send up a quick prayer to the God of heaven. I have seen the Lord answer those prayers. We can pray all the time, everywhere.
~Greg Laurie~

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Love Always Hopes


Love Always Hopes
 

Love Always Hopes 
 
Love always hopes.   1 Corinthians 13:7

Love always hopes. It hopes for the best and is prepared for the worst. It is hopeful because its hope is in the Lord. As the old hymn proclaims, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” When we love God we also hope in Him, because we are sure of His promises that transcend hope and provide assurance. Promises such as, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b). Moreover, faith helps us be sure of what we hope for. As it says in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith, hope, and love are all first cousins; they complement each other and support one another.
           
Love hopes because it knows the end of the story, for heaven is its destiny. It bridles its emotions to resist fear because love casts out fear (I John 4:18, NKJV). Hope conquers death and fear because Jesus has gone before us and done the same (Acts 2:23-24). Therefore, you can be hopeful because you get to hang out in heaven with your Lord and Savior, Jesus. But there is something just as big that you can hope for in real time. You can hope that others you love will place their faith in Jesus Christ.

You know it is God’s will for them to be saved from their sin (2 Peter 3:9), but your part is not to get them saved, but to love them to the Lord. Some plant and some water, but it is God who makes faith grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).  It is the Lord who convicts and draws people unto Himself. But be hopeful. If God can save us, He can save anybody. Do not give up on praying for and loving your family and friends, because love always hopes.
           
Love always hopes, especially when you are drowning in adversity. You may feel like you can only come up for air one more time. The undertow of your circumstances may be sucking you out into the sea of despair. Your emotional energy may be overspent and close to bankruptcy. Your marriage seems hopeless, but you are still called to love. Your health has ravaged hope, but you are still called to love. A relationship may be hopeless, but you are still called to love. You are struggling to find hope in your finances, but you are still called to love. Hopelessness has hijacked your work, but God still calls you to love.

Love in spite of your sorry situation, and the feelings of hope will catch up. You do not have to love the situation, but you can still love those around you. You can love the Lord, and you can love yourself. It is okay to not like what you are going through right now, but continue to love. Love, for love leads to hope and drops despair. Hope follows love as ducklings follow their mother. Love is a creator of hope. Therefore, anticipate the outcome of aligning with Almighty God’s agenda. Love Him and love others. Love especially when you don’t feel like loving. Be hopeful, for love always hopes.

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Responding to God's Love

Responding to God's Love


God has to be true to Himself. People are foolish to entertain the hope that He will ignore justice and sacrifice holiness in order to allow unbelievers into heaven. Living a mostly moral life will not satisfy a righteous Judge.

As much as the Lord loves us and desires to save us from our sins, He cannot deny His holiness by accepting sin in His presence. The Father is pristine perfection--a holy Being who, by His very nature, must condemn all sin. 

Therefore, it is the height of egotism to think that God will bend both His law and His nature to welcome one whom still bears the stain of wrongdoing.

There is not one person who's good enough to enter heaven on his or her own merit. Every one of us needs Jesus. The stain of sin is washed clean only by the sacrifice of God's holy and blameless Son. Those who believe in Christ are forgiven their wrongs and cloaked in His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).

Let me make it very clear that trusting Jesus is far more than giving intellectual assent to His existence--that's something even the Devil acknowledges. A true believer enters into a relationship with the One who loves his soul enough to save him from eternal punishment.

Those who remain tightly wrapped in their mantle of sin cannot hope to sneak into heaven. God's holy nature demands perfection, and since we can't provide this for ourselves, the Lord has given it to all who believe in Him. He has exchanged our filthy rags for a cloak of righteousness (Zech. 3:4).

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Friday, February 19, 2016

Self-Examination

Self-Examination

Hannah More
 

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves." 2 Corinthians 13:5

It is only by scrutinizing the heart, that we can know it. It is only by knowing the heart, that we can reform the life. Any careless observer indeed, when his watch goes wrong, may see that it does so by casting an eye on the dial plate; but it is only the jeweler who takes it to pieces and examines every spring and every wheel separately, and who, by ascertaining the precise causes of the irregularity, can set the machine right, and restore the obstructed movements. Dr. Barrow has remarked, that "it is a peculiar excellency of human nature, and which distinguishes man from the inferior creatures more than bare reason itself, that he can reflectupon all that is done within him, can discern the tendencies of his soul, and is acquainted with his own purposes."
Nothing more plainly shows us what weak, vacillating creatures we are — than the difficulty we find in fixing ourselves down to the very self-scrutiny we had deliberately resolved on. Like the worthless Roman Emperor, we retire to our closet under the appearance of serious occupation, but might now and then be surprised, if not in catching flies — yet in pursuits nearly as contemptible. Some trifle which we should be ashamed to dwell upon at any time, intrudes itself on the moments dedicated to serious thought; recollection is interrupted; the whole chain of reflection broken, so that the scattered links cannot again be united. And so inconsistent are we, that we are sometimes not sorry to have a plausible pretense for interrupting the very employment in which we had just before made it a duty to engage. For lack of this heart acquaintance, we remain in utter ignorance of our inability to meet even the ordinary trials of life with cheerfulness; indeed, by this neglect, we confirm that inability.
We have appetites to control, imaginations to restrain, tempers to regulate, passions to subdue; and how can this internal work be effected, how can our thoughts be kept within due bounds, how can a proper balance be given to the affections, how can the heart of man be preserved from continual insurrection, how can this restraining power be maintained — if this capacity of discerning, if this faculty of inspecting — is not kept in regular exercise? Without constant discipline,imagination will become lawless, conscience an disgraced rebel.
This inward eye, this power of inspection, is given us for a continual watch upon the soul. On an unremitted vigilance over its interior motions, those fruitful seeds of action, those prolific principles of vice and virtue — well depend both the formation and the growth of our moral and religious character. A superficial glance is not enough for a thing so deep — an unsteady view will not suffice for a thing so wavering, nor a casual look for a thing so deceitful as the human heart. A partial inspection on any side, will not be enough for an object which must be observed under a variety of aspects, because it is always shifting its positions, always changing its appearances. "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9
We should examine . . .
not only our conduct, but our opinions;
not only our faults, but our prejudices;
not only our propensities, but our judgments.
Our actions themselves will be obvious enough — it is our intentions which require the scrutiny. These we should . . .
follow up to their remotest springs,
scrutinize to their deepest recesses, and
trace through their most perplexing windings.
And lest we should in our pursuit wander in uncertainty and blindness, let us make use of that guiding clue, as furnished by his word and by his Spirit, for conducting us through the intricacies of this labyrinth. "What I do not know — teach me," should be our constant petition in all our researches.
Nor must the examination be occasional, but regular. Let us not run into long arrears, but settle our accounts frequently. Little articles will run up to a large amount, if they are not cleared off. Even our best days, as we may choose to call them, will not have passed without furnishing their faults and sins . . .
our deadness in devotion,
our eagerness for human applause,
our care to conceal our faults, rather than to correct them,
our negligent performance of some relative duty,
our imprudence in conversation,
our inconsideration and selfishness,
our driving to the very edge of permitted indulgences,
let us keep these — let us keep all our numerous items in small sums. Let us examine them while the particulars are fresh in our memory; otherwise however we may flatter ourselves that lesser evils will be swallowed up by the greater ones — we may find when we come to settle the grand account, that they will not be the less remembered for not having been recorded.
In the discharge of this necessary and important duty, the Christian should remember that every day he lives, he has . . .
God to glorify,
soul to save,
repentance to perform,
Savior to believe and imitate,
body to mortify through the Spirit,
graces and virtues to nurture by earnest prayer,
sins to weep over and forsake,
mercies and deliverances to be thankful for,
Hell to avoid,
Paradise to gain,
an eternity to meditate upon,
time to redeem,
neighbor to edify,
works of charity to perform,
world to fear, and yet to conquer,
demons to combat,
passions to subdue,
perhaps, death to suffer, and judgment to undergo!
And all these must be met and performed in the grace of Christ, and not in your own strength, which is perfect weakness.
There is a spurious sort of self-examination, which does not serve to enlighten, but to blind. A person who has left off some notorious vice, who has softened some shades of a glaring sin, or substituted some outward religious forms in the place of open sin — looks on his change of character with pleasure. He compares himself with what he was, and views the alteration with self-delight. He deceives himself by taking his standard from his former conduct, or from the character of still worse men — instead of taking it from the unerring rule of scripture. He looks rather at the dishonor than the sinfulness of his former life — and being more ashamed of what is disreputable, than grieved at what is wicked — he is, in this state of shallow reformation, more in danger in proportion as he is more respectable. He is not aware that it is not having a fault or two less, that will carry him to Heaven — while his heart is still glued to the world and estranged from God.
How necessary then it is that the Christian should minutely examine his motives and actions — that he should constantly say, with the Royal Psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24
In discharging this duty, the Christian will be greatly assisted, by attending to the following simple guidelines:
1. Let a fixed time be set apart every morning and evening for this purpose. It is impossible to give any rule as to the length of time that should be given. The obligations of persons vary with their situations and circumstances; but let us give as much time, as, consistently with our other duties, we can spare — and let the time in every case be so employed, not as a task — but as a blessing; not merely as a requirement — but as a privilege and advantage. For the more close, faithful, and diligent you are in self-examination — the more comfort and benefit you are likely to receive in the end.
2. Consider the Holy Scriptures, as the great test by which you are to try yourself. They are the only true standard of self-examination — the touchstonewhich discovers at once the character of the metal. By comparing your state with the most practical and spiritual parts of God's word, and varying those parts from time to time — you try yourself by a perfect and infallible standard.
3. Conduct this examination in the spirit of Prayer. Prayer is the guide to self-knowledge, by prompting us to look after our sins, in order to pray against them. Prayer is a motive to vigilance, by teaching us to guard against those sins which, through self-examination, we have been enabled to detect.
4. Beware of formality and self-righteousness. Although it is our bounden duty to guard against the commission of sin, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world — yet it is not our watchfulness against sin, or our performance of any religious duty, however good in itself, which constitutes us as genuine Christians. For after all we have done or can do, we are but unprofitable servants. We should hate sin, because it is hateful in the sight of God. We should seek to be delivered from sin's dominion by earnest prayer, and depend alone for salvation on the merits and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is emphatically styled the Lord our Righteousness — for all dependence upon our own good works will only prove a means of delusion and danger to our souls.

A PRAYER BEFORE SELF-EXAMINATION.
Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, who searches the heart and tries the innermost thoughts — I beseech you now to assist me in looking into my own heart, and my own life. Feeling and acknowledging that my heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, I beseech you to show me to myself. Enable me to try myself by the standard of your holy word, and discover the true state of my soul. Grant me . . .
repentance for all my past sins,
lively faith in Jesus Christ the only Savior from sin,
deep humility before you, and
such tempers and dispositions as are fit for those who assemble around the table of our gracious Redeemer. These things I ask for his name's sake.

QUESTIONS FOR SELF-EXAMINATION.
 
MORNING.
1. Have I this morning sought of the Lord his special grace and protection for the day?
2. Am I going forth in my own strength — or simply looking to God alone to help and deliver?
3. Am I so sensible of my own weakness, as ever to watch and pray?
4. Am I living by faith in a daily and simple dependence upon God?
5. Do I constantly remember that I am accountable to God for a right improvement of the talents entrusted to me?
6. Have I determined to devote myself this day for the glory of God?
7. Are all the faculties of my soul engaged to render affectionate, intelligent, sincere, and resolute service?
8. Have I resolved, in the strength of God, to forsake all sins, however dear to me — particularly my besetting sin, whether it be pride, envy, malice, covetousness, impurity, fear of man, or any other sin?
9. Is it my constant desire to abstain from the very appearance of evil, and to keep myself unspotted from the world?
 
EVENING.
1. Did I this morning make my resolutions to walk closely with God, in dependence on his gracious assistance?
2. Have I this day put up petitions against my besetting sins?
3. What sins have I committed, and what duties have I omitted, today?
4. What mercies have I received this day — Answers to prayer — Deliverance from evil — Common or remarkable blessings?
5. What have I done this day for the glory of God or the good of my fellow-creatures? What opportunities have I neglected of promoting them?
6. Have I been enabled this day willingly to take up my cross?
7. Have I been watching today against the first risings of pride and worldly-mindedness? Have I guarded against the appearance of evil?
8. Have I kept up a lively and humble dependence upon the Divine influence, in the duty and emergencies of the day?
9. With what success have I encountered the sins to which my circumstances or constitution most incline me?
10. Have I been looking to Jesus as my righteousness, my strength, and my example?
11. How have I improved my time this day?
Have I made any progress in religion?
Have I thought of Death and Judgment?
Have I walked with God?
12. Have I this day tried to mortify sin?
13. Have I prayed, and how?
Have I read I the Scriptures, and how?

GENERAL QUESTIONS.
1. Do I think much and frequently of God — and am I zealous for his glory?
2. Do I enjoy communion with God when I pray to him, or desire this?
3. Do I strive to become like him?
4. Am I actively desiring and seeking the good of all around me, even as I desire my own?
5. Is my love to others, like that of Christ to me?
6. Have the miseries of others called forth compassion and efforts to relieve them?
7. Am I seeking the salvation of my fellow-creatures?
8. Is sin hateful to me? Do I loathe it as the worst of all evils?
9. Have I a habitual mourning for sin?
10. Have I deeply felt my corruption and guilt before God?
11. Do I believe that the Gospel is the appointed and only complete way of salvation?
12. Do I rest on the only hope of forgiveness — redemption through the blood of Christ?
13. Am I so believing in Jesus, as to rely upon him as my Savior?
14. Am I truly grateful to God for his great salvation?
15. Am I evidencing this, by a care to please him in all things?
16. Am I humble and lowly in mind, affection, and conversation?
17. Do the sufferings of Christ for sin, affect my heart with godly sorrow?
18. Am I patient under crosses, trials, and injuries — and willing to suffer reproach for Christ's sake?
19. Do I quietly submit to God's afflictive dispensations?
20. Do I hunger and thirst after righteousness?
21. Do I earnestly desire to obtain that righteousness which is through faith in Christ?
22. Am I laboring to spread the Gospel of Peace?
23. Do I seek to know God more myself, and to diffuse his knowledge through the world?
24. Have I resigned myself to the will of God — to do and suffer his pleasure?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Your Everlasting Treasure


Your everlasting treasure, and your unchangeable Friend!

(George Everard, "Up High!" 1884)

"Thus says the LORD:
  Let not a wise man glory of his wisdom,
  and let not the mighty man glory in his might,
  let not a rich man glory in his riches.
But let him who glories, glory in this--that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things!" Jeremiah 9:23-24

Glory in Christ--and in Him alone!

Glory in Him as your Faithful Shepherd, who will care for you, and guard you, and restore you, and keep you even to the end.

Glory in Him as your Unfailing Physician, who will heal your soul-wounds, and bind up the bleeding, broken heart.

Glory in Him as your Great High Priest, who will ever lives to plead your cause before the Throne of grace.

Glory in Him as your Omnipotent King, who reigns over the events of Providence, and will make all things work together for your eternal good.

Glory in Him as your Mighty Redeemer, who will deliver you from every enemy, and make you conqueror over sin, death and Hell.

Glory in Him as your Everlasting Portion, remembering that when all else shall take wings and flee away--when the home is broken up, and dear ones die, and means grow less, and health decays, yes, when everything on earth fails you--He will be your everlasting treasure, and your unchangeable Friend!

And let this glorying be seen by your entire resignation to His will--and by choosing His path rather than your own.
"Not I, but Christ!" Lord, choose for me,
 And make me love what pleases Thee.

"Not I, but Christ!" His will be done,
 And mine with His be merged in one.

Myself no longer would I see,
But Jesus crucified for me.

His eye to guide, His voice to cheer,
His mighty arm forever near.

"Not I, but Christ!" Lord, let this be
 A motto throughout life for me! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Justice of God - and the Sins of Our Country

The Justice of God—and
the Sins of Our Country

Samuel Davies
 

"When disaster comes to a city—has not the LORD caused it?" Amos 3:6
It concerns you all seriously to reflect upon your own sins, and the sins of your land—which have brought all these calamitiesupon us. If you believe that God governs the world, if you do not abjure him from being the Ruler of your country—then you must acknowledge that all the calamities of war, and the threatening appearances of famine—are ordered by his Providence! And if you believe that he is a just and righteous Ruler, you must also believe that he would not thus punish a righteous or a penitent people.
We and our countrymen are sinners, aggravated sinners! God proclaims that we are such by his judgments now upon us: by withering fields and scanty harvests, by the sound of the trumpet and the alarm of war. Our consciences must also bear witness to the same melancholy truth. And if my heart were properly affected, I would concur with these undoubted witnesses; I would cry aloud and not spare; I would lift up my voice like a trumpet—to show you your transgressions and your sins.
O my country, is not your wickedness great, and your iniquities infinite? Where is there a more sinful spot to be found upon our guilty globe? Pass over the land, take a survey of the inhabitants, inspect into their conduct—and what do you see? What do you hear?
You see the gigantic forms of vice bidding defiance to the God of heaven—while true religion and virtue are obliged to retire, to avoid public contempt and insult!
You see herds of drunkards swilling down their cups, and drowning all the morality within them!
You hear the swearer venting his fury against God—trifling with that Name which prostrate angels adore, and imprecating that damnation, under which the hardiest devil in hell trembles and groans!
You see AVARICE hoarding up her useless treasures, dishonest craft planning her schemes of unlawful gain, and oppressionunmercifully grinding the face of the poor!
You see prodigality squandering her stores! You see luxury spreading her table!
You see vanity laughing aloud and dissolving in empty, unthinking mirth, regardless of God, of time and eternity!
You see sensuality wallowing in carnal pleasures, and aspiring, with perverted ambition—to sink as low as her four-footed brethren in the stalls!
You see cards more in use than the Bible; the backgammon table more frequented than the table of the Lord; novels andromances more read—than the history of the blessed Jesus!
You see trifling and even evil diversions and amusements, become a gigantic business! You see the outcome of a horse-race or a dog-fight more anxiously attended to, than the concerns of eternity!
And where these grosser forms of vice do not shock your senses—even there you often meet with the appearances of morerefined impiety, which is equally dangerous!
You hear the conversation of reasonable creatures, of candidates for eternity— engrossed by trifles, or vainly wasted on the affairs of time! These are their important subjects of conversation, even at the threshold of the house of God!
You see swarms of prayerless families all over our land! You see ignorant, wicked children, unrestrained and untaught by those to whom God and nature have entrusted their souls!
You see thousands of poor slaves in a Christian country, the property of 'Christian' masters, as they will be called, almost as ignorant of Christianity as when they left the wilds of Africa!
You see the holy religion of Jesus—abused, neglected, disobeyed, and dishonored by its professors!
You see hear Infidelity scattering her ambiguous hints and suspicions; or openly attacking the Christian cause with pretended argument, with insult and ridicule!
You see crowds of professed believers, who are in reality, practical Atheists! These nominal Christians are really unholy heathens! They are abandoned slaves of sin—who yet pretend to be the servants of the holy Jesus!
You see the ordinances of the gospel neglected by some, profaned by others, and attended upon by the generality with a trifling irreverence, and studied unconcernedness. Alas! who would think that those thoughtless assemblies we often see in our places of worship—have met for such solemn purposes as to implore the pardon of their sins from an injured God, and to prepare for an all-important eternity?
Alas! Has that religion, for the propagation of which, the Son of God labored, and bled, and died; has that religion, for which his apostles and thousands of martyrs have spent their strength, and shed their blood; has that religion, on which our eternal life depends—has that religion become such a, trifle in our days—that men are hardly serious and in earnest when they attend upon its most solemn services?
You see multitudes lying in a deep sleep in sin all around us! You see them eager in the pursuits of the vanities of time—but stupidly unconcerned about the important realities of the eternal world just before them! So few are concerned what shall become of them—when all their connections with earth and flesh must be broken, and they must take their flight into strange, unknown regions! So few lamenting their sins! So few crying for mercy and a new heart! So few flying to Jesus, or even sensible of the importance of a Mediator, in a religion for sinners!
You may indeed see some degree of civility and benevolence towards men, and more than enough of cringing complaisance of worms to worms—of clay to clay—of guilt to guilt. But oh! how little sincere homage, how little affectionate veneration for the great Lord of heaven and earth! You may see something of duty to parents, of gratitude to benefactors, and obedience to superiors—but if God is a Father—then where is his honor? If he is a Master—then where is his fear? If he is our Benefactor—then where is our gratitude to him?
You may see here and there some instances of proud, self-righteous virtue, some appearances of morality: but oh! how rare isvital, evangelical religion, and true Christian morality, animated with the love of God, proceeding from a new heart, and a regard to the divine authority; full of Jesus, full of regard to him as a Mediator, on whose account alone—our duties can find acceptance!
O blessed Redeemer! what little necessity, what little use do the sinners of our country find for you in their religion! How many discourses are delivered, how many prayers offered, how many good works are performed—in which there is scarce anything ofChrist! And this defect renders them all—but 'shining sins', 'glittering crimes'!
How few pant and languish for you, blessed Jesus! and pledge never be contented with their reformation, with their morality, with their good works—until they obtain a saving interest in your righteousness, to sanctify all, to render all acceptable!
You may see children sensible of their dependence on their parents for their existence; you see multitudes sensible of their dependence on clouds, and sun, and earth, for provision for man and beast. But how few sensible of their dependence upon God, as the great Sustainer of the universe? You see that even the dull ox knows its owner, and the stupid donkey knows its master's feeding–trough; you see the workings of gratitude even in your dog, which welcomes you home with a thousand fondling motions! But how is Jehovah's government and agency practically denied in His own territories! How few receive the blessings of life as from His hand—and make proper returns of gratitude to Him!
You see a withered, ravaged country around you, languishing under the frowns of an angry God; but how few earnest prayers, how few penitential groans do you hear! Pass over the land, and bring me the facts! Is not this the general character of our country? I know there are some happy exceptions; and I hope sundry such might be produced from among you. But is not this the prevailing character of a great majority? The most generous charity cannot think the contrary, if under any Scriptural or rational limitations.
May it not be said of the people of our country—as well as those of Sodom, "Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD!" And thus, alas! it has been for a long time! Our country has sinned on securely for over one hundred and fifty years; and each generation has increased the vices of the previous one! And can a land always bear up under such a load of accumulated wickedness! Can God always allow such a race of sinners to go unpunished, from generation to generation! May we not fear that our iniquities have now filled up the cup of God's wrath—and that He is about to thunder out His dreadful mandate to the executioners of His vengeance, "Swing the sickle—for the harvest is ripe! Come, trample the grapes—for the winepress is full and the vats overflow—so great is their wickedness!" Joel 3:13
And is there no relief for a sinking country? Or is it too late to administer it? Is our wound so incurable, that it cannot be healed? No, blessed be God; if you now turn every one of you from your evil ways, if you mourn over your sins, and turn to the Lord with your whole hearts—then your country will yet recover. God will appear for us, and give a prosperous turn to our affairs; he has assured us of this in his own word, "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil—then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned!" Jeremiah 18:7-8.
Therefore, my friends, as we have all rebelled—let us all join in unanimous repentance and a thorough reformation. Not only your eternal salvation requires it—but also the preservation of your country, which is now bleeding with the wounds you have given it by your sins. The safety of these our friends, who are now engaged in so generous a design, requires it: for even an army of saints, or of heroes—cannot defend a guilty, impenitent people, ripe for the judgments of God!
If you would be everlastingly happy, and escape the vengeance of eternal fire, or (to mention what may perhaps have more weight with some of you,) if you would preserve yourselves, your families, your posterity—from poverty, from slavery, ignorance, idolatry, torture, and death; if you would save yourselves and them from all the infernal horrors of popery, and the savage tyranny of a mongrel race of French and Indian warriors: in short, if you would avoid all that is terrible, and enjoy everything that is dear and valuable—then you must repent and turn to the Lord. This is the only cure for our wounded country; and if you refuse to repent in time—then prepare to perish in its ruins.
If you go on impenitent in sin, you may expect not only to be damned forever—but (what is more terrible to some of you) to fall into the most extreme outward distress. You will have reason to fear not only the loss of heaven—which some of you perhaps think little of—but the loss of your estates, which lie so near your hearts. And will you not repent—when you are pressed to it from so many quarters at once?

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Yoke of Christ!

The Yoke of Christ!

Arthur Pink
 

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
Probably there is no passage in the New Testament more familiar to church-goers than the one (Matthew 11:28-30) of which our quotation is the final clause. Yet, there is scarcely any other that has been so sadly mangled by unqualified novices and unfaithful preachers. The invitation and promise with which it opens have been divorced from the conditions by which they are qualified — so that an entirely inadequate, in fact a false, apprehension of the same has been conveyed of what our Lord there taught. That which is required from those desiring rest of soul — namely, submission to the authority of Christ and the following of His example — is omitted. They emphasize His gift, but are silent upon the terms upon which He bestows it.
Far better instructed thereon than so many of our modern evangelists was good old Matthew Henry. Outlining the whole passage, that helpful commentator pointed out: "We are here invited to Christ as our Priest, Prince, and Prophet, to be saved — and, in order to that, to be ruled and taught by Him.
First, we must come to Christ as our great high-priest Priest and repose ourselves in Him for salvation.
Second, we must come to Him as our Prince or Ruler, and submit ourselves to Him, "Take My yoke upon you." This must go along with the former, for Christ is exalted to be both a Prince and a Savior (Act 5:31). The rest He promises is a release from the drudgery of sin — not from the service of God. Christ has a yoke for our necks — as well as a crown for our heads — and this yoke He requires that we should take upon us.
Third, we must come to Him as our Prophet or Teacher, and set ourselves to learn from Him. We must learn of Him to be "Meek and and humble in heart" — to mortify our pride and passion, which render us so unlike to Him. We must so learn of Christ, for He is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way!"
"My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." This is not a poetic hyperbole, but the language of truth and soberness, and, therefore, is not to be denied or doubted. The Savior was there drawing a blessed contrast with the scribes and Pharisees, of whom He said, "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Mat 23:4). In order to gratify a domineering spirit, they usurped authority, and, by their inventions and traditions, removed liberties which God allowed, and imposed irksome injunctions which He had never enjoined. They demanded a greater strictness in the observing of the ceremonial law than the Lord did, obtruding severe tasks (under pain of heavy penalties), but offering no assistance unto those who submitted to their dictates. They were the false shepherds who ruled "with force and with cruelty" (Ezekiel 34:4). Such has ever characterized a carnal-priesthood. Now, in sharp and blessed opposition thereto, the great High Priest of God's people presents a yoke which is easy and a burden that is light — and places His everlasting arms beneath those who voluntarily take and wear the same.
Christ is no cruel Egyptian taskmaster, requiring men to make bricks without straw, but "a merciful and faithful high priest" (Heb 2:17), One who can be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (4:15). Therefore, it is not fetters and chains which He imposes upon His followers, but a yoke that is pleasant and a burden that is light. As others before us have pointed out, the Greek word rendered "easy" also signifies "good and gracious." So far from Christ's yoke being galling and painful — to the yielding neck it is benignant and delightful. It is designed not for our injury, but for our benefit.
The first reference in His "my yoke" and "my burden" is unto the one that Christ Himself wore and bore, and which He declared to be easy and light. And what did they consist of? Why, doing the Father's will, being about His Father's business. In that will He delighted (Psalm 40:8), and to do that business was what had brought Him down from Heaven to earth (Luke 2:49). Since His followers are predestined to be conformed unto His image, He requires that they should wear theyoke which He sets before them. Christ gives rest not in sin and unlawful pleasures — but from them, by engaging the heart with something infinitely better. It is rest, not in our lusts, but in Himself!
First, the Lord says, "Take My yoke upon you" (Mat 11:29).To take His yoke upon us is to enlist under His banner, to make a public profession of His Gospel, to surrender to His lordship.
"Learn of Me." To learn of Him is to take our place at His feet as little children to be instructed by Him. It is to submit ourselves wholly to His will, to obey His precepts, and to pattern our lives after His example.
Those are the conditions which must be fulfilled by us if we are to obtain rest unto our souls.
Then, second, He assures us "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." That is the inducement to comply with His terms. By those words, each professing Christian reader should honestly and seriously examine himself. They afford a sure criterion by which we may test ourselves and ascertain whether or not we have really taken His yoke upon us.
Each one may identify himself by his answers to these questions: Am I finding the yoke I am wearing easy or difficult? Is the burden I am carrying light or heavy? As John Newton (1725-1807) declared, "This verse alone, if seriously attended to, might convince multitudes that, though they bear the name of Christians and are found among the Lord's worshiping people, they are as yet entire strangers to the religion of the Gospel. Can it be supposed that our Lord would give a false character of His yoke? If not, how can any dream that they are His followers while they account a life of communion with God and entire devotedness to His service, to be dull and burdensome? Those, however, who have made the happy trial, find it to be such a burden as wings are to a bird. Far from complaining of it, they are convinced that there is no real pleasure attainable in any other way."
Christ's commandments are not, in themselves, "grievous" (1 Jo 5:3), but are "holy, just, and good" (Rom 7:12). They are given in love, and are to be fulfilled by love. "In keeping of them there is great reward" (Psalm 19:11). For the keeping of them, full assistance is obtainable from Him if we do but seek the same. It is the way of transgressors that is "hard" (Pro 13:15), but strong consolation is to be found in the way of Christian duty, and in Christ's presence there is fullness of joy. Wisdom's ways "are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (Pro 3:17). It must be so, for every part is lighted from above, the whole path is strewn with precious promises, each step is heavenward. The only happiness worth seeking is to be found therein. Yes, it must be so, for there is comfort and contentment in walking with God.
If, then, the way along which the reader is journeying is unpleasant, he is a stranger to Wisdom's ways and is a fool. Those ways are pleasant only to Wisdom's children. The yoke of Christ is irksome and distasteful to the unregenerate, for it makes directly against the motions of the carnal nature. The service of Christ is veritable drudgery to those who are in love with the world and who find their delight in gratifying the lusts of the flesh. To the self-willed and self-seeking, the commandments of the Lord cannot but be offensive — for they require the denying of self and the pursuit and cultivation of personal holiness.
But to one whose heart has been captivated by Christ, to be under His yoke is delectable. If he comes to Him daily to be renewed in the inner man, yields himself afresh to His rule, sits at His feet to be taught of Him the loveliness of meekness and lowliness, enjoys communion with Him, then, His will is "good and acceptable" (Rom 12:2) to him.
"And my burden is light" (Mat 11:30). It is so to those who "learn of him"(Eph 4:20). No burden is heavy, if it is shouldered by love. "Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her" (Gen 29:20)! Is it a burden for a father to work and provide for his wife and children? Not if he has real affection for them. Is it a burden for a fond mother to sit through the night tending her little one when it is sick? So far from it, she refuses to entrust the task unto another. Where there is a genuine desire to please Christ, the wheels of Christian duty run smoothly. Wisdom's children find their burden light, because they have the assurance that their efforts are acceptable to Christ — not for any excellence in their performances, but because they have been done from a desire to glorify Him. What is heavy to flesh and blood, is light to faith and grace, and because it has to be borne but for a moment (2 Corinthians 4:17). The burden is light just in proportion as we lay aside every weight (Heb 12:1), and because He gives strength to bear it.
None can adequately describe the radical contrast there is between the bondage and misery of the service of sin — and the liberty and peace of practical holiness. But anyone who has personally experienced both, need have no difficulty in determining whether he is out of Christ — or yoked to Him. If you have a peace which passes understanding and a joy which the world knows nothing of — you are a godly person. If despite both inward and outward opposition, you find obedience to Christ desirable and agreeable — then, His Spirit must indwell you, and the more you grow in grace, the easier His yoke and the lighter His burden.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Holy Living in Preparation for Christ's Appearing!

Holy Living in Preparation for Christ's Appearing!

George Everard, 1884
 

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!" 1 Thessalonians 5:23
"God saved us and called us to live a holy life!" 2 Timothy 1:9
Who can estimate too highly the value of a holy life? It is the purpose of Christ's redeeming work: He "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14).
Holiness is absolutely essential to the enjoyment of true peace. Whatever doctrines persons hold, or spiritual feelings they may enjoy, they are of no real benefit to them unless they lead to a holy walk. Sin is like an aching tooth, and wherever it is permitted to abide, there can be no true rest or peace.
Moreover, holy living is one of the mightiest powers for good in the Church of Christ.
A congregation eminent for the holiness of its members is like a burning-glass manifesting the rays of the Divine glory, and having a power to set on fire the hearts of men, and to inflame them with zeal in God's service. A single Christian who is living a very holy and devoted life cannot fail to be a blessing wherever he lives, and the least word he speaks for Christ is mighty because backed up by his own example.
Therefore seek to be holy. You are God's representative in an evil world. You are to adorn the doctrine of Christ in all things. You are to strive to be a blessing to others. You desire to enjoy the peace of God which passes understanding. Therefore you must be holy. You must make it your distinct aim every day you live, to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
Look at the prayer of the Apostle at the heading of this address. Turn it into a petition for yourself. Plead it before God in the name of Jesus in all its fullness of meaning.
"O God, the God of peace, I look unto You. I have no help but in You. You alone can make me holy by the power of Your good Spirit. Do Your work in me thoroughly. Let no evil thing remain. May every power of mind and body be set apart for Your service. Oh keep me and preserve me day by day. Make me blameless and without reproach. Prepare me to stand without fault before Christ at the great day of His coming, I ask this for Jesus' sake. Amen."
But if you wish to be holy and earnestly long to be made like Christ in all things — then you must weigh well the teaching of the Word of God. You must follow the light which that Word affords. I will name a few points of main importance.
You can only be sanctified by God as you know Him as the "God of peace." Before you can be made holy, you must be at peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ. You must begin with free forgiveness and complete reconciliation through His blood. True holiness rests on the basis of a perfect justification, whereby you stand before God in Christ accounted righteous in His sight. There are some who try to climb up to justification and acceptance by their holiness or good works or good feelings. But they always fail. It is just the other way.
You are not to be holy that you may be forgiven — but you are to be forgiven and justified that you may become holy. You must begin on the lowest round of the ladder. You must take the place of the sinner, and then look to Christ to pardon and justify you freely through His blood and righteousness.
"Mine is the sin, but Yours the righteousness,
Mine is the guilt, but Yours the cleansing blood;
Here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace,
Your blood, Your righteousness, O Lord my God."
You can only be sanctified by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Remember the words of Paul. "God has chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth "(2 Thessalonians 2:13). It is only as the Holy Spirit the Comforter dwells within you, and reigns within you as a new power and a new life that you can in any way rise above your own evil nature and think or act aright. From the first desire to live a better life, to the first note of praise in glory — the whole work must be that of the Holy Spirit.
Hence you must by all means seek to realize and be filled with the constant presence of the Holy Spirit. Remind yourself frequently of your need of His power and grace. Let it be your persistent, believing cry that the Father would send the Spirit to work mightily in you. Let it be your greatest sorrow in any way to grieve that blessed Spirit, either by willful sin or by slighting His motions in your heart. Often breathe forth a longing desire for His humbling, comforting, enlightening ray.
"O most blessed Light Divine,
Shine within these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill.
Where You are not, man has nothing,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill."
Very various and manifold are the agencies the Spirit employs. Very frequently, it is a season of suffering or sorrow. The soul is brought low in the valley of humiliation. Comforts are removed, and troubles increase. Then . . .
heavenly things become more real,
God is known more fully as a sure Refuge,
the promises stand out with clearer brightness.
As the late Dean Champneys put it, the railway light is only seen as you enter the dark tunnel. Just so, in the dark moments of adversity, the bright lamp of promise shines out with double glory. Never forget, Christian, that there are two promises which go side by side along the road to Zion. One is, "In the world you shall have tribulation," and the other, "In Me you might have peace" (John 16:31). And the Holy Spirit very frequently uses the first, to bring the second. It is by the teachings of sorrow, that a deeper and surer peace is wrought in the soul.
No less does the Holy Spirit use the Word of God as a great instrument of sanctification. Our Lord's prayer is being constantly fulfilled. "Sanctify them through Your truth — Your word is truth" (John 17:17). Every line of Holy Scripture teems with warning, promise, doctrine, or example that has a sanctifying tendency when it is received in meekness and obedience.
There is not a single passage bearing on the person, offices, or character of Christ, but has been used by the Spirit to draw souls closer to Him, and so detach them from the world.
There is not a precept but has been employed by the Spirit, to quicken some Christian in the way of God's commandments.
here is not a privilege revealed as the portion of God's children, but has been an instrument for encouraging some of God's saints in running the heavenly race.
There is not a view of God's holiness or justice or character, but has been useful in implanting or nourishing in some soul a godly fear which has been a wholesome restraint in the hour of temptation.
Therefore, in the cultivation of holiness, let the quiet, meditative study of Scripture hold a high place. Consider it as one of Christ's pasture-fields, to which He would daily lead you, and there make you to taste afresh the sweetness of His grace.
Ponder the Scripture until it reaches the very depth of your heart. Do not leave the passage until you have found . . .
some kindling of love to Christ,
some thought to strengthen your faith,
some reminder of a precious promise,
some aspiration of a holier walk.
A few of the practical details of a holy life may be named as requiring continual watchfulness.
 
The careful use of TIME touches every part of the Christian life. A beautiful illustration has been given of this:
The hours are like a chain of little golden vessels passing before you day and night.
You cannot arrest their progress.
You can put something into each as it passes.
You can put in a good thought or word or deed — or a bad thought or word or deed.
Or you can let it go empty.
Once past, you cannot recall it.
Twenty-four vessels every day!
Eight of them pass while we are asleep — one-third of them empty.
Alas! how many more through our negligence and sloth every day pass empty!

Alas! for the contents of many of them!
Golden vessels filled with wood, hay, stubble!
Some of them filled with what is worse than worthless — evil thoughts and words and deeds.
But they pass on continually until they come before the throne of God.
And there account is taken of their contents.
Of how many are you satisfied that God should note their contents?
"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time!" Ephesians 5:15-16
"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom!" Psalm 90:12
 
In order to live a holy life — the CONSCIENCE must he kept tender and sensitive. When the soul is in a healthy condition, the conscience will ever be mindful of the approach of sin, and shrink from it in whatever form it may present itself. Sin may come under the guise of an angel. It may profess a good end, or plead the example of some saint of God. It may hide its deformity or its danger, by calling itself only a natural infirmity. But the eagle eye of the Spirit-taught Christian will discern the cloven foot, will mark the covert disobedience, the evil from which Christ would have turned away, and will abhor it and detest it as an abominable thing which God hates! You must be in sympathy with God in detecting hidden forms of evil, in trying the things that differ, in that wise and godly fear that will always refuse the persuasion to act or speak amiss, however it may be disguised.
"Ah, give me, Lord, the tender heart
That trembles at the approach of sin!
A godly fear of sin impart,
Implant and root it deep within,
That I may fear Your gracious power,
And never dare to offend You more."
 
In order to live a holy life — the WILL must be yielded up entirely to God. The chief sin of man is to set up his will against God's will, and to go on his way quite irrespective of that which God has commanded.
But in conversion, the will is given up to God. "Teach me to do Your will," is the believer's prayer. "Lord, what will You have me to do?" is the genuine expression of the heart renewed by the Spirit. And the more this purpose is followed out, the more holy will the Christian be.
What is our will when rebelling against God — but the source of endless trouble and remorse? Is not God's will the truest will, the best will, the will that leads to peace and rest, as well as holiness and Heaven?
When there comes a great temptation to follow our own way through a prospect of gain or passing pleasure, if we hearken to the same, does it not invariably bring its own bitter punishment after it? But if we deny self, and do that which we know to be right, have we not found again and again a great reward? Has not, perchance, the comfort or blessing we desired become our own, without the sting of a guilty conscience, which would have marred all its enjoyment?
And in times of sorrow and bereavement and disappointment, when we have accepted the trial in meekness as from God's hand, and have humbled ourselves under the blow at His footstool — has there not always come something of that heavenly calm, which took from the trial more than half its bitterness? O that we could always seek to have our crooked wills made after the straight and all-wise will of God! Would that we could ever be satisfied that all things mysterious now, will prove to God's children the right path to the kingdom! Would that we could ever say, "Your will be done," and cling to Jesus in our grief!
"On earth below, in Heaven above,
There is no rest but in His love;
All else must fail the weary heart,
But His is peace that won't depart."
To help us to endure cheerfully whatever may happen to us, let us be firmly persuaded that the hand of Infinite Love is ordering and directing all things for our profit and His glory.
Some time ago two ladies were in a pony carriage, when the reins happened to fall, and the pony started running off! It marvelously escaped from any serious danger, turning safely two sharp corners, and finally stopping at a door where it had often previously stood. In the midst of the apparent danger, one lady said to the other, "God holds the reins!" And so it proved, for they were safely brought through the hour of peril.
Christian, remember this, "God holds the reins!"
He who made all things and preserve all;
He whose hand is mighty to save;
He who knows the end from the beginning;
He who wisely orders every footstep —
He holds the reins, and will guide all events and circumstances to our highest and eternal welfare!
 
Another important element in a holy life, is the exercise of control over the temper. Often the temper is like a fiery steed that will rush heedlessly into the fray, or over the side of a precipice. If you wish to follow Christ, you must put on the bridle, and know how to keep in check all haste and passion and irritability. A single outburst of temper may do yourself and others an amount of injury that weeks and months may scarcely undo. To avoid this evil, you must learn to live always in the presence of God. The holy calm of nearness to God, is the very best preservative from yielding to an unruly spirit.
His eye is upon you.
His ear is open to you.
His heart is your pillow.
"How can I willingly break the charm of this happy fellowship and bring dishonor upon His name?" Such will be the thought of the Christian that thus lives in the consciousness of a Father's presence and love.
But we must not let the mention of these details of Christian holiness, lead us to imagine that it consists of various independent duties or virtues. There is a unity in the Christian life. The apostle prays that "the spirit and soul and body may be preserved entire." It is all one great principle and life. Touch one part — and you injure the whole. Your life is not to be as a patched coat, partly old and partly new. It is not to be as a vine, with some branches living and some dead; or as a human body maimed by accident or weakened by disease. Nay, the whole must be one. The new garment, the fair clothing of conformity to the will of God, must not be marred by the remnants of any willful disobedience. Every part of the soul is to be instinct with the life of the Spirit. Every virtue and grace is to find its due manifestation in your daily walk.
And what is this principle and life? It is neither more nor less than this — Christ taking possession of the whole man — Christ exercising supreme dominion over the conscience, the will, the affections, the temper, the words and actions of every day. It is Christ living over again in your soul, His own life in the world. It is Christ . . .
speaking through your life,
thinking through your thoughts,
working through your hands,
going hither and thither in the world by your feet,
and thus through you, manifesting Himself to those around you.
Oh, what a high and noble life this is! Would that Christian people were more perpetually living it out, and thus showing the mighty power of Christ to sanctify and save!
And by what means may it be so? There is one point I have not yet named, but which answers this question. It is in proportion to a Christian's faith — he can thus live.
By faith you must be sanctified — as well as justified. By faith it is that Christ must ever dwell in your heart, and thus influence your whole life.
But you must be careful here. You must be sanctified by faith, but by faith in what? There are some who seem to think they must have faith in sanctified self. They mistake the meaning of Scripture, and speak of the possession of a sinless heart, or of having been able to live so long without sin. They put their attainments forth, as if they must believe that God has already cleansed their nature from all defilement — instead of regarding the final aim of God's dealings with them, that nowself and the evil principle within should be daily mortified and kept under control — and then when Christ appears, they should be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is.
To myself, any view of the kind seems a most dangerous and deadly error. It must lead to spiritual pride. It must lead to self-glorying. It must hinder that daily confession of sin and humiliation before God, which is so precious in His sight.
Very striking was the way in which a young lady who had held these erroneous views, very strongly repudiated them on her death-bed. Again and again before her death, with the utmost emphasis she repeated the words of John, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:6.)
And so it is. The more we see of God and His law and His holiness — the more shall we discover the treachery, the remaining deadness, coldness, unbelief, and worldliness of our own nature. The more shall we see how far we come below the standard of our Lord's life. The more shall we discern in our wandering thoughts when at prayer, in our unwillingness to bear the cross, in our many failures and shortcomings — that from first to last we can only hope to be saved as sinners washed in the blood of Christ, and having no righteousness or perfection of any kind except as we stand in Him, the holy and the sinless Redeemer.
Nevertheless, the great truth of sanctification by faith is not to be withheld because sometimes it is perverted and mistaken. You must never glory in self, but you must always glory in Christ, for power as well as for pardon and peace. You must continually, by the aid of the Spirit, stir up your faith in Christ and expect Him to do great things for you. You must look to Him, to keep the serpent in you chained and harmless. You must look to Him day by day, to keep you from the least willful outbreak of your own evil heart. You must look to Him to strengthen and raise up in you the new man, and to make every grace vigorous and active. You must look to Him for more light to know what the will of God is in everything — and then for the will and the power to act in accordance with it. If you wish to be holy, live upon Christ, lean upon Christ perpetually. Make Him the first to whom you go in the morning, and the last to whom you speak at night.
Remember His presence as being always near you.
Remember His love as being ever the same.
Remember Him as your Shepherd, your Advocate, your Guardian and your Guide.
Remember His faithful promises, and rest upon them.
Remember His loving care, and depend upon it.
Remembering Jesus, trusting in Jesus, glorying in Jesus, while ever remembering your own exceeding unworthiness and sinfulness — you will grow in grace and be preserved without blame until He comes.
The last point I would urge is this: Nothing is more helpful in holy living, than a vivid and constant recollection that Christ will soon return. It is not needful that you should be able clearly to see the sequence of events at His appearing. You may have many difficulties about the millennium and other theological concerns; but let one thought stand out clearly before you: Christ is returning in His glory, and I shall see Him and shall be like Him and with Him forever!
Cherish this hope amidst life's troubles and temptations. Let your soul be animated by the inspiring conviction that amidst all the confusion and evil and error that abound, Christ will come and put an end to all the sin under which the world groans.
Be assured that to every true Christian, the brightness and gladness of that day will be altogether beyond his utmost thoughts. Be assured that on that day, you will see the numberless answers to your prayers as you have never seen them here; and that all that has been dark and sorrowful and trying — will be manifested as among the all things that work together for your good.
"Oh quickly come, Great King of all,
Reign all around us and within;
Let sin no more our souls enthrall,
Let pain and sorrow die with sin:
Oh quickly come, for grief and pain,
Can never cloud Your glorious reign!"