Google+ Followers

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Love of the Spirit

The Love of the Spirit

George Everard, 1885
 

"Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." Romans 15:30

"The love of the Spirit" is here set before us as a motive for earnest and sincere prayer. And it may well strengthen us in this blessed privilege. For in His love, He will aid us in our prayers. He will remove our hindrances. He will quicken our hearts, that our prayers may be real and true.
"The love of the Spirit!" Do we not often forget this? We think often, it may be, of the love of the Father and of the love of the Son, nor can we think too much of either. But let us not forget to ponder the love of the blessed Spirit, the Comforter, the Friend who takes the place of the Lord Jesus, the One who has so much to do with the peace and salvation of every child of God.
But how may we see clearly His great love toward us?
Look at it in this light: Suppose there were one for whom you had never cared. You never wished to have his company. You never desired him to visit you in your home. You did many things that pained and grieved him — and yet all the while he was thinking of you in kindness, and giving proofs of his affection. One day he sent you a most valuable book, one so full of wise counsel and advice that while you followed it, you could never fail to take the best path in life. But more than this. Your friend watched your life, and saw dangers before you that you could not see, and so again and again he sent you a special message or direction, and whenever you followed it you found you had done right.
Does not this give us one view of the love of the Spirit of God? It tells us of His love to His people — even before we loved Him.
For what a book of love and wisdom is that which He inspired holy men of God to write! It is He who has especially given us this book. Every part of it is from Him, and every part of it is calculated to guide and direct us.
It gives plain directions how to avoid sin.
It points out every peril that lies in your path.
It reveals the way of peace and of life everlasting.
And what thousands of hearts have been upheld and comforted in days of sorrow and distress, by the promises here given to us! Shall we not see in this the love of the Spirit, as also in the inward suggestions and warnings, and monitions of conscience which He stirs up to lead men to a better life?
But still more do we trace the Spirit's love in His giving life to dead souls, and thus drawing them into fellowship with God. Nothing is a greater proof of love in a servant of Christ, than in his going on day by day seeking the salvation of another who returns only evil for good, and whose spirit and conduct cause him nothing but sorrow. And does not the Spirit find in each of us at first the very same thing? Does He not find our rebellious will utterly opposed to the will of God? Does He not find our heart hard, and cold, and dead to spiritual things? Yet does that gentle, patient Spirit come near, and work in men's hearts a consciousness of their sin, and of the grace and power of the Lord Jesus. What love is there in every gentle drawing of the heart, in every cause of unbelief removed, in every fresh view of Christ's willingness and faithfulness to save!
Nor less do we see the love of the Spirit in His willingness to take up His abode in the mean cottage of the believer's heart. If one of noble birth and pure tastes were in kindness to make his home with one in whom there was much that pained him, only that he might raise and elevate his character — we would reckon it the very essence of self-sacrificing love. And yet does not the Holy Spirit make His temple within the soul where still abides much corruption and evil? What unbelief, forgetfulness, murmuring, unthankfulness, waywardness, and backsliding arise from time to time in those who have been born of God, and who have learned that in Christ alone is their help and salvation!
Perhaps most clearly of all may we see the love of the Spirit in His shedding abroad in the heart the love of the Father and the Son.
As the Spirit of Love, He would have us know in all its fullness the love which God has shown to us in redemption. He brings home to us the Fatherliness of God. He teaches us the love of the cross, as seen not only in its purpose and accomplishments, but in those last words there spoken by the Son of Man. He unveils the love seen in each office of the Lord Jesus, and in each gracious promise that He has spoken for our comfort. Much more I might add. But never shall we know how much we are indebted to the love of the Spirit until, perfected in Christ's likeness and found without spot and blemish — we see that it is His work, and wrought solely for us through His great and abiding love.
Is the Holy Spirit so full of love toward you? Then do not grieve Him or refuse to hear His voice. Never a kinder or more faithful guest than the Comforter will be to you — if only you give heed to Him and follow His guidance. Ask Him to come and dwell with you.
"Gentle, awful, Holy Guest,
Make Your temple in each breast;
There supreme to reign and rest,
Comforter Divine."
And watch, lest by willful misdoing you quench His grace and drive Him from you. Strife, deceit, impurity, lightness in holy things, evil tempers — He abhors, and cannot stay where they are cherished. But humility, and faith, and heavenly thoughts, and deeds of love are His delight. Therefore choose that which pleases Him, and put away that which He hates. So will He abide with you an ever-increasing power, and His light, and presence, and joy shall make perpetual sunshine in your soul.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Smitten Rock!

The Smitten Rock!

George Everard, 1885
 
"He split the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them water as abundant as the seas. He brought streams out of the rock, and made water flow down like rivers!" Psalm 78:15-16
A short time ago I saw a picture of the English forces in Egypt reaching the wells of Abu Klea. Their eagerness in drinking of the water reminded me of the scene when Moses struck the rock at God's bidding, and the streams gushed out abundantly. Never did God more plainly display His mercy and forbearance. The people are full of murmuring and unbelief. Twice, thrice, yes, many times already had He delivered them from danger and supplied their needs. Just before, He had opened the windows of Heaven, and given them food enough and to spare. But they will not trust Him. They have no water, and they declare that they shall die in the wilderness of thirst. But again God quenches their murmurings in the overflowings of His goodness. He gives them water out of the rock, not for a day, but for years. The stream follows them along their course. Thus He showed Himself full of compassion. He forgave their iniquity, and supplied all their needs.
But if in the smitten rock there was mercy to Israel — there was still more to ourselves. If mercy shone forth in the shadow — then how much more in thesubstance to which it pointed!
Now imagine another scene. Since the supply of water in the desert, fourteen hundred years had passed. It was the last day of the feast of tabernacles, when water was brought in a golden pitcher from the pool and poured out by the Temple in remembrance of the gift of water at Meribah. And Jesus stood among the assembled thousands, and cried, saying, "If any man thirsts — let him come unto Me and drink" (John 7:37). As if He would say, "You remember the streams gushing forth from the rock in the desert. But that rock pointed to Me. Your fathers drank of that water, and they thirsted again, and at last fell in the wilderness. But drink of the water I will give you, and you shall never thirst, but this water shall be in you a well springing up to life eternal!" (compare verse 38, and John 4:13, 14).
"That rock was Christ!" (1 Corinthians 10:4). It was a type and emblem of Him. It pointed to Him as the source and spring of boundless grace and blessing. What a consolation is this, that among the changing circumstances of life, we have a changeless Rock, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever," to whom we shall never turn in vain! He is a strong, enduring Friend and Helper. Though waves beat high, on this Rock you may stand, and they cannot touch you. Though the sun of temptation beats upon you — yet beneath the shadow of this Rock you may abide and cannot be harmed.
But from the rock smitten by the rod of Moses, came forth the living stream. And it is from Christ, smitten and afflicted for our sake, receiving in Himself the terrible stroke and penalty of a broken law — that grace and mercy flow.
Christ, as our substitute and representative, bears in our stead the death and judgment we deserve.
I remember hearing of a young lad at school who had an elder schoolfellow who showed him great kindness. The young lad often broke school rules and got into trouble with the master, but his friend shielded him when he could. On one occasion something had been done amiss, and the master called the offender to receive punishment at the desk. It was the little lad who had done it, but the other bade him sit still, and he would go up as if he were guilty and receive the stripes. In this way he showed his love, and took blame for evil of which he was innocent.
But who can tell the kindness and love of Christ toward us? Who can tell how much He bore for our sake? "He was wounded for our offences, and bruised for our iniquities — the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed!" (Isaiah 53:5).
But not only does Christ bear our sin — but from Him, the Crucified One, flows the river of living water.
You want happiness. You want a constant source of peace and comfort. Where can you find it? Only in Christ. You may try everything which life has to give — and it will give you many a cup of pleasure, many an hour of gratification, many a delight in the things around you. And as far as these things are innocent and lawful, enjoy them, and thank God for them. But the cup will often be empty, and the little brook dry up, and perhaps pain, and disappointment, and trouble come instead.
All present things are like cisterns dug in the clay, which may hold a little water for a time, but when hot weather comes, there is a crack, and the cistern is drained empty.
But through Jesus you may find lasting comfort. He will pour into your heart an assurance of His love. He will brighten your path when it is dark by giving you patience and hope. He will rejoice in your happiness and remove every hindrance to it, as He met the need of the marriage guests at Cana. He will teach you by His Spirit to find real help in prayer. He will give you power to overcome temptation, and endue you with the graces of meekness, holiness, and love.
Only stoop down and drink of the stream which runs close at your feet. Only be humble and see that you are unworthy of His grace. Only believe that He died for you and that He loves you and will hear your prayer. Only ask Him to give you the living water — and He cannot deny you.
"I hunger and I thirst;
Jesus my manna be;
O living waters burst
Out of the Rock for me.

For still the desert lies
My thirsting soul before;
O living waters rise
Within me evermore."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rest In The Lord


Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him (Psalms 37:7).

Have you prayed and prayed and waited and waited, and still there is no manifestation? Are you tired of seeing nothing move? Are you just at the point of giving it all up? Perhaps you have not waited in the right way? This would take you out of the right place the place where He can meet you.

"With patience wait" (Rom. 8:25). Patience takes away worry. He said He would come, and His promise is equal to His presence. Patience takes away your weeping. Why feel sad and despondent? He knows your need better than you do, and His purpose in waiting is to bring more glory out of it all. Patience takes away self-works. The work He desires is that you "believe" (John 6:29), and when you believe, you may then know that all is well. Patience takes away all want. Your desire for the thing you wish is perhaps stronger than your desire for the will of God to be fulfilled in its arrival.

Patience takes away all weakening. Instead of having the delaying time, a time of letting go, know that God is getting a larger supply ready and must get you ready too. Patience takes away all wobbling. "Make me stand upon my standing" (Daniel 8:18, margin). God's foundations are steady; and when His patience is within, we are steady while we wait. Patience gives worship. A praiseful patience sometimes "long-suffering with joyfulness" (Col.1:11) is the best part of it all. "Let (all these phases of) patience have her perfect work" (James 1:4), while you wait, and you will find great enrichment.
--C. H. P.

Hold steady when the fires burn,
When inner lessons come to learn,
And from this path there seems no turn
"Let patience have her perfect work."

~L. B. Cowman~

Saturday, February 20, 2016

True Faith Counts on God


The land which I do give them, even the children of Israel (Joshua 1:2).

God here speaks in the immediate present. It is not something He is going to do, but something He does do, this moment. So faith ever speaks. So God ever gives. So He is meeting you today, in the present moment. This is the test of faith. So long as you are waiting for a thing, hoping for it, looking for it, you are not believing. It may be hope, it may be earnest desire, but it is not faith; for "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The command in regard to believing prayer is the present tense. "When ye pray, believe that ye receive the things that ye desire, and ye shall have them." Have we come to that moment? Have we met God in His everlasting NOW?
--Joshua, by Simpson

True faith counts on God, and believes before it sees. Naturally, we want some evidence that our petition is granted before we believe; but when we walk by faith we need no other evidence than God's Word. He has spoken, and according to our faith it shall be done unto us. We shall see because we have believed, and this faith sustains us in the most trying places, when everything around us seems to contradict God's Word.

The Psalmist says, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living" (Ps. 27:13). He did not see as yet the Lord's answer to his prayers, but he believed to see; and this kept him from fainting.

If we have the faith that believes to see, it will keep us from growing discouraged. We shall "laugh at impossibilities," we shall watch with delight to see how God is going to open up a path through the Red Sea when there is no human way out of our difficulty. It is just in such places of severe testing that our faith grows and strengthens.

Have you been waiting upon God, dear troubled one, during long nights and weary days, and have feared that you were forgotten? Nay, lift up your head, and begin to praise Him even now for the deliverance which is on its way to you.

~L. B. Cowman~

Friday, February 19, 2016

And WHY, dear Saviour ... Tell Me WHY?


And WHY, dear Savior--tell me why?

(James Smith "Redeeming Love!" 1861)

"He gave Himself for us--that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works." Titus 2:14

"HE gave Himself for us." Note the contrast between the Giver--and those for whom He gave Himself.

The Giver is He who was . . .
  the only begotten Son of God,
  the author of creation,
  the sustainer of the universe,
  the brightness of divine glory,
  the source and end of all things!
He who was proclaimed by the prophet as "the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace."
He who is declared by the apostle to be "God over all--blessed for evermore!"

"He gave Himself for US." For US--who at the best are mere creatures, between whom and our Creator, there can be no comparison. But it was not for us as mere creatures--but for us as base, vile, insignificant, and totally depraved creatures! We had debased ourselves, even unto Hell. Our nature could not be worse, for "the human heart is the most deceitful of all things--and desperately wicked!"

The most exalted, glorious, and holy being in the universe--gave Himself for the most vile, polluted, and degraded of His creatures!

O how astonishing! 

But He volunteered on our behalf, without any solicitation, offering to become . . .
  our Substitute--to fulfill the law in our stead;
  our Sacrifice--to make a full atonement for our sins; and
  our Ransomer--to pay the satisfactory price for our redemption.

He engaged to bear the desert of all our sins in His own body--to suffer all that the inflexible justice of God could inflict on our Surety--and so put away our sins forever, by the sacrifice of Himself. He gave . . .
  His person--for our persons;
  His blood--as our ransom price;
  and His life--for our lives!

He gave His entire self, doing and suffering all that was necessary to secure our release from sin's curse, and our everlasting salvation.
O amazing grace of a gracious Savior!
He gave Himself--that He might justly redeem, ransom, or deliver us--from the guilt, power, and penal consequences of sin.

He gave Himself--to expiate the guilt, to destroy the power, and secure us against the eternal desert of our transgressions.

He gave Himself to purify unto Himself, by fully expiating their sins--a peculiar people:
a people purchased--to be peculiarly His own;
a people sanctified, separated from all others--to be set apart for Himself;
a people to be His own subjects--as the King of Zion;
a people to be His own soldiers--as the Captain of our salvation;
a people to be His own servants--as the Lord of the house;
a people to be His own children--as the everlasting Father!

"He gave Himself!" The love of Jesus is unparalleled. Out of pure love to us who had no love to Him, nor ever would have had--but for His first loving us! He gave, not only His time, His labor, His wealth--butHimself! He gave His entire person as the God-man, the incarnate Jehovah!

"He gave Himself!" This was more than as if He had given a thousand worlds--for these He could create with a word!

"He gave Himself," and not merely to live for us, or labor for us--but even to die for us!

"He gave Himself," and not even to die some easy and honorable death--but the most painful, shameful death, that any man ever invented, or any creature ever suffered!

O wondrous love!
 
And WHY, dear Savior--tell me why,
You thus would suffer, bleed and die?
What mighty motive could Thee move,
The motive's plain--'twas all for love!
For love of whom? Of sinners base,
A hardened herd, a rebel race!
That mocked and trampled on Thy blood,
And trifled with the wounds of God!
They nailed Him to the accursed tree;
They did, my brethren--and so did we!
The soldier pierced His side, 'tis true;
But we have pierced Him through and through!

O Jesus, never, never was there love like Yours!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Todays Bible Reading


Hebrews 13; Exodus 18:1-19:25; Proverbs 8 ESV

Hebrews 13

1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6 So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" 7Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.

Exodus 18

1 Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Now Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her home, 3 along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, "I have been a sojourner in a foreign land"), 4 and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, "The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh"). 5 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. 6 And when he sent word to Moses, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her," 7 Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. 8 Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them. 9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the LORD had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10Jethro said, "Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people." 12 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God. 13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?" 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws." 17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace." 24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. 27Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.

Exodus 19

1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel." 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. 9 And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever."When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, 10 the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.' When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain." 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, "Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman." 16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them." 23 And Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, 'Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.'" 24And the LORD said to him, "Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them." 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.

Proverbs 8

1 Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: 4 "To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. 5 O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. 6 Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, 7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9 They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. 10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. 12 "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly. 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. 18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, 21 granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries. 22 "The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth,26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily hisdelight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man. 32 "And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. 33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 34 Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, 36but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Pioneer of Destruction!

The Pioneer of Destruction!

Archibald G. Brown, June 20th, 1869, Stepney Green Tabernacle
 

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18

Chrysostom has aptly called pride "the mother of Hell" — for Hell with all its horrors is its hideous offspring. Had there been no treacherous pride, there would have been no bottomless pit. Perdition was prepared for the Devil and his angels, and pride prepared the Devil and his angels for perdition. We need fear no language we can possibly use being too strong to denounce pride, for as Aristotle says "As justice comprehends all virtue in it — so pride comprehends all vice."
Is drunkenness to be condemned with unmeasured severity? Then let pride be equally so, for it is nothing less than a spiritual drunkenness. It flies as wine to the brain, and produces the same result. No wretched drunkard reeling along the road is a more pitiable or disgusting sight than the man who is intoxicated into idiocy with the alcohol of his own accursed pride!
May the most unsparing language be employed in the denunciation of the sin of idolatry? Then let it be equally strong in the condemnation of pride, for they are one. The proud man is simply one who bends the knee and worships a more hateful idol than can ever be found in the whole catalogue of heathendom; and its name is "Self!"
God loathes pride, for "everyone that is proud is an abomination to the Lord." Pro 16.5.
To an angel's eye, it must be the ugliest thing on earth; and the saint, often deploring it, hates it with a perfect hatred.
But although universally condemned, it is too generally harbored, and it is easy work to find a thousand excuses for the particular species of pride we possess, which is almost always, according to our own estimate, "only proper pride."
Although the chief occupation of the minister should be the telling forth of the simple gospel message to perishing souls, and so preaching as ever to be able to say with Paul, "We preach Christ!" yet it is also his imperative duty to cry out against particular sins, and lay the axe at the root of special iniquities.
I want this evening, by God's help, to strike a blow at the deadly root of pride. I have no doubt many things I may say will be considered too severe. I cannot help it if they are. The language of my text is strong and unvarnished enough; the truth it contains is put in the most uncomplimentary mode, and I would be a traitor were I to attempt to smooth it down. My work is to declare that "pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
I will first of all — Try and Illustrate the Truthfulness of the Text by Scripture Examples; and then next — Apply the Text to Various Cases.
 
First then, let me,
I. Try and illustrate the text by Scripture examples.
I purpose to have eight terrible witnesses to the fact that "pride goes before destruction. Eight panoramic views proving that "a haughty spirit" precedes "a fall." The Lord grant that every illustration may be as a hammer driving the nail home, until at last the truth is clinched in our hearts; never to be withdrawn.
1. The first witnesses I shall call from Hell, in Satan and his compeers. There can be but little question that the sin which hurled Satan as lightning from Heaven to Hell, was pride. It was pride that drew a third part of the stars of Heaven from the glittering firmament, and quenched their light forever in the blackness of despair. 'Twas pride that emptied a myriad thrones, and made Hell groan with so stupendous a load of damned spirits.
The conception of England's greatest poet is not only grand — but one that bears the stamp of probability, that the cause of Satan's revolt and overthrow was his proud refusal to bend the knee to Christ. The mandate had gone forth from the everlasting Father's lips:
"Hear, all you angels, progeny of light,
Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers,
Hear my decree, which unrevoked shall stand.
This day have I begot whom I declare
My only Son, and on this holy hill,
Him have appointed whom you now behold
At my right hand: your head I him appoint:
And by myself have sworn, to him shall bow
All knees in Heaven, and shall confess him Lord."
Satan refused to do this, and raised an impious war in Heaven. Then forth to the conquest came the Son; his countenance too severe to be beheld. On his fierce chariot rolled, as with the sound of ten thousand floods. Right on his foes he onward drove; in his right hand grasping a thousand thunderbolts, and swept them thunderstruck before him to the gaping jaws of Hell. Down, down they fell through liquid seas of fire while "Eternal wrath burnt after them to the bottomless pit." Thus in Milton's language concerning Satan's ruin:

"Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition; there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who dared defy the Omnipotent to arms."
Inscribed over the portals of Hell,
Written in letters of livid flame,
Engraved on the fetters of eternal brass, I read,
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
"For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:5
2. The next illustration of the text I find in the fall of OUR FIRST PARENTS. "In the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God!"The same accursed pride that introduced war, defeat, and ruin into Heaven — brought into God's fair earth sorrow, sickness, death. The same hateful motives influenced Eve, as Satan. Too proud to submit to a prohibition that was all love — her hand took and her mouth tasted the forbidden fruit.
Oh, how can this lip describe the dire result, how tell the fall that followed? I think nature must have sighed. The clouds wept, the storm muttered, and Satanlaughed! Eden's beauty was blasted — Innocence fled. Death stalked through the garden glades — Mankind was ruined!
From that first act of sin, what an awful harvest of sorrow has been reaped. The misery of ages may be traced to that revolt. Had there been no pride — there would have been no wars, no wrecks, no families, no orphans, no widows. But, through a haughty spirit, all have fallen. Man, made in his Maker's likeness, the crown of creation work — has lost his beauty, and now far more resembles Hell than Heaven! Man, that was made for happiness, is now born for sorrow "as the sparks fly upward." Job 5.7. The world, that was made an Eden, now brings forth the briar and the thorn — while "the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now." Romans 8.22.
In every storm that rends the air,
in every tear that rolls the cheek,
in every groan that escapes the breast,
in every churchyard that holds its dead, and
in the great mass of sorrow that lies with crushing weight upon humanity
— I see sad testimonies to the truthfulness of the text, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
3. The third witness I select to prove pride to be the pioneer of destruction is PHARAOH. For many a long and weary year the people of Israel had been crushed into the dust by the iron heel of despotism. Their servitude had grown beyond endurance. The taskmaster and his whip had driven them to despair. One long piercing cry ascended from their hearts to Heaven.
Mercy heard that cry, and determined deliverance. Moses and Aaron, two messengers of the Lord, enter into the presence of the imperial despot and deliver the edict given them: "Thus says the Lord God of Israel: Let my people go!" It would have been happy for Pharaoh if, swallowing his pride, he had obeyed the request and let the people go. With scornful haughtiness he replied, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go!" Exo 5.1-2. Thus spoke pride, and truly it went "before destruction."
Ten devastating plagues like successive thunderclaps rolled through the land. The river ran blood — streams and pools all were blood. It was bloodblood on every hand. The land was red with it — but still pride held out. The dust was turned to lice. The flies swarmed everywhere. Boils broke out on man and beast. The hailswept in pitiless storms — the lightning ran along the ground. The locusts marched as an army through the land, leaving famine in their rear. Darkness grim and awful enveloped all. Yet still pride remained unhumbled!
And now at midnight, one doleful shriek rings throughout Egypt; for in every house, the first-born lies a corpse. Before so awful a destruction, pride staggered, and Israel was commanded to go.
And now comes the closing scene to this tragedy of a haughty spirit. I see the fugitive host as it presses onward with trembling haste to the shores of the Red Sea. It has now reached them; the mountains are on each side; the sea glitters in front and behind — ah!! what is it they hear? The shouts of men, the neighing horses, and the rumbling of chariots. What does it mean? It means this — that pride is bent on full destruction! No sooner had Israel escaped, than the old pride which had already cursed a country returned, "What have I done, to let Israel go?" it asked. "How shall I bear the laughter of surrounding nations?" "To arms, to arms!" it cried. "Draw out the chariots — harness the steeds!" "Equip the cavalry of Egypt for war!" "After them quick." "Bring them back in chains." "Retrieve the honor we have lost." "Let it never be said they thus escaped a Pharaoh!" "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil — my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them."
Now, in obedience to pride, the mad host follows after. It sees the fugitives in front — it laughs in savage glee. "They are ours, they are ours!" it cries, "the Red Sea shuts them in!" But the cloudy pillar came between the two camps as an impassable barrier, so they did not come near the Israelites all night. And now the waters of the Red Sea divide and pile themselves in glassy walls on either side while Israel passes through. The cloud lifting, shows the proud despot the fugitives gathering fast upon the opposite shore. Drunken with pride, he rushes with his host between the watery walls. With shouts they urge the war-horse on — but all in vain. The Lord took off their chariot wheels, for in mid-ocean they had to learn his power! Who can describe the horror of that moment when the watery walls, loosed by the hand of God, leapt into each other's embrace?
Now, Pharaoh, ask "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" But no, the waves for a moment roll in glee, and when all again is calm, not a vestige of pride's army is to be seen except here and there some lifeless forms that are sullenly washed ashore. Surely the rushing waters and the drowning shrieks of Pharaoh's host, form an awful commentary on the text, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
4. Our fourth illustration is that of KORAH and his company. Pride had taken possession of these sons of Levi, and shown itself in seeking the priesthood. They gathered together "against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, You take too much upon you, seeing that all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them — why then lift yourselves up above the congregation of the Lord?" Num 16.3. Dumbfounded by such a charge, Moses falls back upon the Lord to vindicate him, and he replies to them, "Even tomorrow the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near to him." Num 16.5. The morrow's light has come, and destruction walks closely upon the heels of Korah's pride. All Israel stands around the presumptuous company who, with their censors in their hands, are at the dictation of their own mad pride, about to assume the priesthood.
The warning voice of Moses is heard in ringing tones, crying, "Get back! Back! Back from the tents of these men, lest you be consumed in all their sins!" Num 16.26. Horror-stricken, the crowd shrinks from them until Korah and his company are left alone, the object of the gaze of the whole people. Again the voice of Moses is heard, "If these men die the common death of all men, then the Lord has not sent me." Num 16.29, There was a moment's pause of deathless silence — a trembling of the ground — and the earth yawned, and into that horrible abyss fell tents and men! Down alive they went into the pit, and the earth again closed her mouth and they were seen no more forever! Those falling tents — those looks of unutterable horror and despair — those smothered cries — must surely have proclaimed to the ears of Israel, as they do to us this evening, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
5. The next scene is a warrior-host like the sands of the sea for multitude, and flushed with presumptuous joy and confidence through many a victory in the past. Its proud monarch and commander is named Sennacherib. With boastful spirit he sends a taunting letter to trembling Hezekiah, king of Judah. The epistle ran, "Do not let your God in whom you trusted deceive you, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly — and shall you be delivered?" 2King 19.10-11.
Thus blasphemously wrote the conqueror, drunken with his pride. At his wits-end, Hezekiah "went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord." The answer quickly came, "I will put my hook in his nose and my bridle in his lips, and will turn him back by the way which he came." 2King 19.14, 28.
Do you see the proud host? Their myriad tents spreading on every hand, and banners gently waving in the evening air. Listen to their proud scoffs as they jest about the God of Israel, and think him to be such a one as the gods of Hamath and Arphad. Their pride is as great as their host. "But stay, you haughty king of Assyria; do not boast yourself before the battle's fought; you have yet to learn that "pride goes before destruction." That night in proud security slept the Assyrian host: they slept — but never woke.
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his arrow and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown."
Thus with one sweeping stroke of omnipotence, Jehovah made the haughty Assyrian bite the dust! Those silent tents — those death glazed eyes — those rigid forms — that army of the silent dead — all preach one awful sermon from the same text we have heard before, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
6. A proud monarch takes his stand upon the roof of his palace, and as he looks down upon the streets and buildings of the huge capital, pride swells within the breast, and he boastingly exclaims, "Is this not great Babylon that I have built?"
While the word was on his lip, there fell a voice from Heaven, saying, "O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from you" Dan 4.30-31. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon the haughty monarch. Reason reeled and bewildered, left her throne. The imperious monarch was driven from among men, and ate grass like the oxen! His body was wet with the dew of Heaven; his hair grew like eagles' feathers, and his nails became like birds' claws. At the appointed time, God had mercy on the raving madman, and reason returned. Then the once haughty despot lifted up his eyes to Heaven, and exclaimed, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, know that those that walk in pride, He is able to abase." Dan 4.37
7. Yet one other illustration of the text found in the Old Testament. The scene is a banquet hall. Around the table are many guests, presided over by a merry, thoughtless, haughty king. The goblets freely drained by the blasphemous crew, were once used in the solemn worship of Jehovah. Drunken mirth is at its height, and pride has reached the climax, when a sight appears that sobers every reveler. A mysterious hand — and nothing but a hand — is seen writing a more mysterious message on the wall, right over the head of the amazed monarch. When all the wise men and astrologers have done their best — but failed to interpret the warning — Daniel, the servant of the Most High God, declares, "Because you, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart — but have lifted yourself up against the Lord of Heaven, therefore this writing was written, "Mene, mene, Tekel, Upharsin." Dan 5.22-25. In that same night, Belshazzar was slain. Inscribed on that wall by that bodyless hand was the truth, if not the words of our text, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
8. I have already dwelt upon this first division far longer than I intended, so in a very few words let me call upon the New Testament to introduce its witness. A kingly orator clothed in purple addresses a deputation from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. His eloquence warms them, besides which, their cringing nature prompts applause. With one impulse they shouted, "This is the voice of a God, and not of a man!" Act 12.22. Herod smiled approvingly. His pride was stroked the right way. No indignant repudiation of the flattery fell from his lip. For a moment he stood in the full enjoyment of gratified pride. It was but for a moment — with a cry of horror, the group of flatterers saw him fall — they rush to his help — 'tis all too late, for struck by the angel of the Lord, he lies as one mass of corruption, eaten up by worms! That rotting corpse unites its testimony with the seven witnesses we have already heard: that pride is the pioneer of destruction. God grant that you may be led by the mouth of so many witnesses, to believe the warning.
Having I trust proved by scripture illustration the veracity of the statement, there is now nothing left for me to do but to,
 
II. APPLY its Truth. This I will try and do,
1. First to the individual. Is there one here who, in the common expression of the day, "has been making headway in life" — then to him I speak. It is not long ago, friend, since in your own language you were "nothing." You could always tell how much you were worth, without the trouble of reckoning; in fact you could not have counted your assets had you tried, for they were nil. Your wealth was always, in an uncomfortable sense, untold.
But now things have changed with you. Business speculations have turned out successfully, and you begin to be the envied, rather than the pitied personage. You are admitted into circles which were previously closed against you, and you are now learning the truth of the proverb, "Nothing succeeds like success."
Ask the Lord, dear friend, to give you grace to keep humble, for it is as difficult to carry a full cup without pride — as it is an empty one devoid of murmuring. Shun all pride, if you would have prosperity continued — for he who does not know how to carry the cup aright, will soon have no cup at all to carry. Pride has ruined more than economic panics, and "a haughty spirit" is a shortcut to the workhouse.
If this text applies with any power to temporal concerns — it does so far more to spiritual concerns. Am I speaking to one who considers himself invulnerable to the attacks of Satan? Then to him I would give the warning "let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." 1Cor 10.12.
We are never so near a fall, as when we consider such an event impossible. The path of the spiritually proud is full of pitfalls; indeed, the very pride itself is thecommencement of the fall. I tremble for the man who has never trembled for himself; he walks on the edge of an unseen precipice, and requires but the breath of a temptation to send him headlong over!
"He falls deepest, who falls highest," and "pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
Terribly true also is this text, in relation to work for the Lord. Many a minister has had his usefulness blasted through it. Many a work, fair and good in its commencement, has been stayed and withered by pride's blighting influence. Pride, as well as unbelief, hinders Christ from doing any great thing through its possessor. The stream of divine blessing only flows in any copious measure through the channel of a humble spirit. "Too proud to be used in the Lord's service!" might be written upon the brow of many. God save all those of us who are in any way workers in his vineyard, from so horrible a verdict.
It is indeed a solemn thought that there are this evening thousands of living testimonies to the fact that, whether in business, spiritual life, or the Lord's work, "pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
2. The text is as true of churches as individuals, and certainly most true of that church which styles itself "the established church." It is not the efforts of the Liberation Society; nor acts of parliament that will be its overthrow — but its own internal pride. A church that boasts its "Arch-bishops," "Lord-bishops," "Right-reverends," "Very-reverends," and I know not what other unscriptural titles besides — is a doomed one, apart from any outward opposition brought to bear upon it.
But let us not think that as dissenters — we are free from all danger. Pride can lurk in the little chapel as much as the great cathedral; and be found in her ministers — as well as in Anglican priests. "Dying of dignity" is the unhappy condition of many a dissenting congregation.
If there is one thing I dread more than another, it is lest through the abundance of blessing bestowed upon us — church pride should creep in. O pray it out, and keep it out — if you would see the work continued in our midst. For let the hideous monster but rear its ugly head, then "farewell blessing," while "Ichabod" will be engraved on every wall.
3. Thirdly and lastly, I would apply the text to the lost sinner. Dear friend, your pride precedes a destruction too terrific for me to paint in language. Your haughty spirit goes before a fall so deep, that it reaches Hell. Do you say, "What pride?" The pride that keeps you from confessing yourself a lost sinner. The pride that refuses to stoop to God's plan of salvation. The pride that makes you gather the filthy rags of your own supposed righteousness around you — while you despise the spotless robe that a Savior offers. The pride that makes you want to pay for salvation — instead of receiving it as a free gift. Here is pride enough to sink a soul to eternal Hell.
Do you still stand aloof from simple trust, as a guilty sinner in the atonement of Jesus — thinking that though such a way of salvation may suit a Mary Magdalene or a dying thief — it is far beneath your acceptance? Then your pride will be your destruction, for there is no other way whereby you can be saved.
What! Too proud to come to Christ? Too proud to be saved? Alas! you will not be too proud to be damned! For as God's ambassador I declare, that though pride can never enter Heaven, it does live eternally in Hell. Down with your pride, sinner — or it will down with you. Go now and tell the Lord that your pride is broken, your haughty spirit is quenched, and that as the very worst of sinners — you are willing to be saved by sovereign mercy through Christ. Do not lose your soul, to save your pride — but lose your pride, to save your soul.
May the Lord bless tonight's warning to all. May its notes ring in our ears for many a day to come. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall!"

Monday, February 15, 2016

Forgetting

FORGETTING

Arthur Pink, 1950
 

What a wonderful thing is the memory — one of the many precious faculties with which the Creator has endowed us. By it we are enabled . . .
to live the past over again in our minds,
to revive the early experiences of childhood,
to recall the words of those who are no longer with us.
By it we may review the Lord's dealings with us in grace and in providence, call back to mind His interventions on our behalf, delivering us when in straits — or rejoicing our hearts while He talked with us by the way. By it we can turn over the pages of our chequered lives, and read what is recorded both for and against us.
Memory is the power of retention, the storehouse in which all our knowledge is preserved. It is not possible to assess its value in silver and gold. How much poorer should we be — if everything were erased from its tablets! One of the greatest tragedies of life, is for a person to lose his mind and memory. It is indeed hard to part with any, but, if compelled to make the choice, probably most of us would rather be deprived of our limbs, our hearing, or even our sight, than our mentality — yet comparatively few cultivate and use it as they should.
The memory is indeed of vast importance, for it is the treasurer of the soul. What the understanding takes in — the memory stores up. Knowledge, intellectual growth, social fellowship, the spiritual life — all have their roots in this faculty of retention. But this invaluable gift, like all others, entails a corresponding obligation. Each talent that God has bestowed upon us is for use — and if it is not employed, it will deteriorate. As limbs unexercised become stiff and muscles flabby — so an unused memory becomes enfeebled. The memory may be developed and controlled — though time and trouble are required for them, as for everything else of worth.
Memory is largely a matter of volition. Said the Psalmist, "I will not forget your word" (119:16). Definiteness of purpose is required, whether we shall recall a thing or dismiss it from our minds. Remembering is a setting of knowledge to work, reviewing the notions and impressions we have received, by exercising our thoughts about and meditating upon them.
The seat of the memory is the heart. Of Mary it is said that she kept all these things "in her heart" (Luke 2:19, 51) — things kept there, are never lost.
This leads us to point out that there is both a notional or speculative remembering — and a practical or influential one. The former is where we barely think of things — and receive no profit or benefit from them. The latter is where the mind is so engaged with the object recalled — that the affections are fired and the will moved by it. Thus the faculty of memory is given us by God as a means unto an end — to be a help in promoting piety.
The Scriptures abound with exhortations to remembrance. At the fore of them, we would place that one where those of tender years are bidden, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Bear in mind that, since He be your Maker, He is therefore your rightful Lord and Owner — so carry yourself toward Him as such, rendering unto Him the homage and honor that are His due. Meditate much upon His glorious perfections; call Him to mind constantly while your heart is yet impressionable, and habits for good or evil are being formed for life; and thereby you will be fortified against the temptations of youth. All of men's wickedness and misery comes through forgetting God, hence the warning, "Beware that you forget not the LORD your God!" (Deuteronomy 8:11).
"They soon forgot his works" (Psalm 107:13), so superficially were they affected by them. Pathetic and tragic statement! Of whom was it made? Of the heathen? No, of His own highly favored people, Israel. They had witnessed Jehovah's mighty power in the plagues upon Egypt. They had themselves been the immediate objects and beneficiaries of the operations of His hand, delivering them from the house of bondage. They had again beheld His intervention for them by miraculously opening a way through the Red Sea, and then causing its waters to close over Pharaoh and his armies. Seemingly, their hearts had been deeply impressed on that occasion, for they had raised a song of acknowledgment and praise unto the Lord for what He had wrought for them — yet mark the sad sequel. Those signal interpositions of God ceased to engage their thoughts; the benefits and blessings of which they had been the partakers, no longer moved them. Nor was it only after an interval of years, that those gracious actings of the Lord faded from their minds, but "they soon forgot his works." Base ingratitude! Not only so; instead of thankful recollections, they broke forth in murmurings, saying to Moses and Aaron, "you have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill the whole assembly with hunger!" (Exo 16:2-3).
So it has been in all ages.
The first man soon forgot the One who gave him such an excellent being and had entered into solemn covenant with him — allowing the allurement of the serpent and the solicitation of his wife to drive all holy considerations from his mind.
How quickly did Noah forget his wonderful salvation from the fatal deluge — no sooner spared from water, than he was drowned in wine.
How soon did Lot forget his rescue from Sodom — and fall into the fire of lust.
How quickly did David forget the Lord's delivering him from Saul — and fall into the sins of adultery and murder!
How soon did Solomon forget the One who had appeared unto him thrice — turning unto false gods and committing the terrible sin of idolatry.
Of the ten lepers who were healed by Christ — all but one forgot to return and give thanks unto God.
Even the apostles quickly forgot the miracles of the loaves (Mat 16:9-10).
And these things, my reader, have been recorded for our learning and warning, for us to take to heart and turn into earnest prayer, that we may be kept from such God-dishonoring conduct, for we are men "subject to like passions" (James 5:17).
Not only is the Lord grievously slighted by our forgetfulness of Him, but we ourselves are greatly the losers. As God declared of old through His prophet, "My people has been lost sheep . . . they have forgotten their resting place" (Jer 50:6). As the Lord is the only true refuge for the soul, so He alone is its resting place. Consequently, when He is not in our thoughts, not only are we exposed to danger, but we are given up to a spirit of unrest and disquietude. There can be . . .
no joy in communion,
no delight in His service,
no calm and cheerful subjection to His will
 — when God is forgotten.
There can be. . .
no strength for the performance of duty,
no calm facing of our problems,
no courage to enter into conflict with the enemy —
unless the sufficiency and fidelity of God be the heart's stay, and the remembrance of His past mercies and deliverances and His present promises be much in our thoughts. Instead, we become like "lost sheep" — pastureless, wretched, an easy prey for the wolves all around us.
It is by keeping fresh in our minds how graciously the Lord dealt with us yesterday, how unfailingly He supplied our every need — that faith is strengthened and hope stimulated today. Do not forget previous answered prayers as you ply the throne of grace afresh.
The reasons for our sinful forgetfulness of God are not hard to discover:
First, it issues from the universal depravation of our nature. No part of man's complex being escaped serious injury when he apostatized from God, his intellect suffered seriously. Fearful indeed have been the effects of the Eden tragedy, chief of which is that the natural man likes not to retain God in his thoughts (Rom 1:28).
Second, it flows from the little esteem in which we hold the wondrous works of God. The works of the creature are admired — but those of the Creator are slighted. Let a person be desperately ill, and then be restored under the ministrations of a doctor — and he will be praised to the skies — while the great Physician will scarcely be thanked at all!
Third, it results from the mind's being so stuffed with worldly things. It was thus when the Son of God appeared: the inn was so crowded, they laid Him in a feeding trough in a stable. Just so, the minds of God's people are so crammed with the base things of this world — that there is little room for spiritual objects.
Finally, it is because the gracious actings of God make such slight impressions upon us. When the seed fails to penetrate the surface of the earth, the birds quickly snatch it away. Things not cherished and meditated upon — are soon forgotten. As grievous as is the sin of forgetting God, a much greater crime is it when we are guilty of attributing the same failure unto Him; yet what reader of these lines can truthfully answer that he has never done so? Even the Psalmist, in a fit of dejection, asked, "Has the LORD forgotten to be gracious?" (77:9). What a woeful word to fall from the lips of a renewed person!
Even though divine mercy has preserved you from such a grievous utterance, has not the wicked idea been entertained in your mind? Oh, what vile creatures we are! God can no more cease to be gracious unto His children, than He can cease to be. It is because we give way to unbelief, and judge the Lord by sense — that such a concept is allowed a place in our hearts. He waits to be gracious (Isaiah 30:18) — till we are ready, till we come to the end of our resources. The vessel must be empty before He pours in His favors. His time is now; it is you who are not prepared for His blessing!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Submission In Trial

Submission in Trial

George Everard, 1868


"Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?" John 18:11
It is very instructive to compare these words of our Lord with those spoken by Him in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. There, bowed down beneath the weight of our transgressions, His soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. There He prayed fervently, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cupaway from Me — nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."
Twice again does He pray the same words — yet not altogether the same. There is a shade of difference, though still the human will of our Lord shrinks from that which lies before Him. Now it is, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, may Your will be done."
But now after the thrice-offered prayer, after the strength imparted by the angel, the victory is fully won. There is no more shrinking. The human will of the Son is lost in the Divine will of the Father.
Then come the crowd of soldiers and servants, with swords and staves, lanterns and torches. Jesus rebukes the rashness of Peter in drawing the sword, and declares His perfect willingness to suffer and to die: "Put up your sword into the sheath! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?"
O let us consider the CONTENTS of that cup of which Jesus drank.
Every bitter ingredient was there, none was lacking. What bodily suffering and extreme weariness through pain did He endure! No limb of His sacred body, but had a share in the agony He bore.
Beyond this, what soul grief did He endure in the base ingratitude of a people whose every need and sorrow He had been ready to relieve!
What desolation of heart did He experience through . . .
the treachery of Judas,
the denial of Peter,
the desertion of the rest of His disciples!
What pangs must have rent His spirit when upon the cross He heard the reproaches that were cast upon Him!
What darkness of soul did He pass through when He uttered the cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Who can express, who can fathom one of these depths of untold woe?
Let us consider also, the OBJECT of our Lord in drinking this cup.
The object of our Lord in drinking this cup, was that He might empty at one draught that cup of wrath, which His people must forever have been drinking — and yet never have exhausted!
O blessed Jesus, in Your wondrous love You have taken the poison — that You may give to me the cup of salvation. You have drained to the very dregs that cup in which was the curse due to my sin — that You may give to me the cup of blessing, of peace, of everlasting life.
To my lips, You now hold the cup which is full to the brim of everlasting consolation! You give me Your Word so rich in promise and in hope. You grant to me in overflowing abundance pardoning mercy which can cover all my iniquity. You hold out to me the assurance that my strength shall be equal to my day, and that Your Spirit shall prepare me for Your presence in glory. Oh, how can I thank You enough for all this love of Yours!
And now what is my cup of sorrow or suffering compared to Yours? You, the sinless one — for me did drink the cup which was all bitterness. I, the sinful one, have my cup of trial mingled with so many mercies, so many alleviations. If I have pain and weariness to bear — have I not seasons of rest? have I not the aid of medicine, and skillful advice to promote my recovery or to lessen my sufferings? Have I not those about me who love to minister to my needs? Have I not kind affection to be as a gleam of sunshine in the darkness? Or at least have I not His presence with me, who has promised that He will be my Eternal refuge, and underneath shall be His everlasting arms? And is it not a Father's hand that gives the cup? And may I not thus know that love has prepared it? "Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."
And surely I need it, as the draught of healing — to cure the deep-rooted maladies of my soul.
Is there no pride in me that needs to be subdued — that I may be as a little child, content to be led by a Father's hand?
Is there not too much readiness to hearken to the siren voice of man's praise, that needs to be cast out — that I may seek only the praise that comes from above?
Is there not too much carefulness as to this world's business and duties, that requires so to be brought under control, that I may realize continually that one thing is needful — to walk with God and to seek first His kingdom and righteousness?
Is there not too frequent forgetfulness of the Best Friend that must be so overcome that Jesus must be all my salvation and all my desire? And what will teach me these precious lessons — if it is not the days of adversity and trial? These cheerless and desolate days, these hours of bitter tears come not by chance — but are sent to us in divine faithfulness and love.
They come to lay us lowly, and humbled in the dust,
All self-deception swept away, all creature-hope and trust;
Our helplessness, our vileness, our guiltiness to own,
And flee for hope and refuge to Christ, and Christ alone!
They come to draw us nearer to our Father and our Lord,
More earnestly to seek His face, to listen to His Word,
And to feel, if now around us a desert land we see,
Without the star of promise, what would its darkness be!
We might take a very homely illustration of God's purpose in chastening His people. In agricultural districts it is very common after harvest to hear the burring sound of the threshing machine, and in passing by the allotment or cottage garden, to see the corn spread out and the laborer beating out the grain.
Remember that affliction is God's flail — it is God's threshing season. The very word "tribulation" has this meaning. It is taken from a word signifying the wagon or roller with which the ancients beat out their corn.
But does the gardener hate his corn, or wish to destroy it — because he violently inflicts upon it blow after blow, or cast it into the machine where the beaters act upon it with like effect? Nothing of the kind. It is very precious in his eyes. It is that for which he has toiled many an hour. Then why does he thus act? It is to separate the precious from the vile; it is to cleanse the grain from all that encumbers it.
And is it not thus in God's dealings with His precious wheat? He will not by chastening inflict injury, but benefit. He does not hate His people because He chastises them — for they are very dear to Him. He declares that those whom He loves, He rebukes and chastens. And all the fruit of His work upon them is . . .
to take away their sin,
to purify them from all that is evil, and
to make them fit for the heavenly garner.
And it is well for us to bear in mind that in no way is God more glorified, and the souls of others benefitted — than by the patient endurance of His people in trial.
Perhaps you may be ready to repine at a period of apparent uselessness being allotted to you. Were you able actively to labor in the vineyard, you may imagine that you might do far more good than it is possible for you to do now. You may say to yourself, "The cup of suffering which Christ drank brought great blessings to the world — but what good to any one can come about through my affliction?" Now it is certain that we can judge very little indeed about a matter like this. God's ways are not our ways. By the most likely means, a very small amount of good may be effected — while by means we have never thought of, He may bring great glory to Himself and good to man.
An aged clergyman was accustomed for many years to visit a long confirmed invalid, who patiently bore up under great suffering. "I wonder why God keeps me here," she would say. "I can do no good to anyone."
"Yes, God has a work for you to do."
"Impossible! I never see any one."
"Yes, God uses the weakest instrument, and you may be able to teach me."
"Well, then," she replied, "I am willing to suffer as long as God pleases." And so it happened as her pastor had said. During the long illness which preceded his death, he remarked that he knew not how he could have borne the pain, had it not been for the remembrance of the meekness and submission which that Christian woman had displayed.
A similar example might be found in the account that has been given of the farewell counsels of an eminent French pastor. During his last illness he assembled a few Christian people in his chamber from Sunday to Sunday, and, in the midst of extreme weakness and suffering, gave them the fruits of his own ripened experience. Perhaps never during his whole ministry did his words make so deep an impression, and "The Farewells of Adolphe Monod" have likewise brought a message of consolation to many a one in our own land.
Besides, however, the way in which God often employs the weakness and suffering of His servants to effect a work for His name — it is to be remembered also that He often uses it as a preparation, that when the season of affliction has passed, His servant may be able the better to teach and comfort others.
Lessons practically learned for the first time in the day of sorrow may be intended for the benefit not only of the sufferer himself, but also for very many besides in future years. It is not too much to say that the ministry which has often been most richly blessed, has received its tone and character from trials which seemed at the time almost unbearable.
Hence, reader, in every trying hour strive in the strength of Jesus, in the might of His Spirit; meekly to bow beneath your Father's hand, yes, even to kiss the handthat presents the bitter cup.
Even if bending over the grave that contains the earthly tabernacle of the one dearest to you in the world,
even though mourning the loss of all that makes life pleasant or desirable to you,
even though passing through weeks or months of agonizing pain,
even though all your plans have failed, all your prospects blighted, all you once possessed lost beyond recovery— yet even then,
think of Calvary;
think of the merciful love of your Father;
think of the gracious purpose of these afflictions;
think of that pearl of great price, of which none can rob you;
think of that Home where an hour with your God will make up for it all.
Then try, try again and again, from your heart to utter the words, "May Your will be done!" The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?"
Whatever Your sovereign will denies,
I calmly would resign;
For You are good, and just, and wise:
O bend my will to Thine.
Whatever Your sacred will ordains,
O give me strength to bear;
Still let me know my Father reigns,
And trust a Father's care.