by Thomas Sherman
The editor of this book, thinks it necessary to inform the reader, that he made considerable alterations in it, with a view to its improvement. Many antiquated expressions were obliterated; many grammatical errors corrected; and some of the poems placed at the end of the meditations, on account of their being not at all appropriate, were expunged from the work. Though these alterations have been madeóyet the spirit of the author has been invariably maintained.
William Nicholson, 1836
"Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You! My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26
Meditation and Prayer.
Meditation and Prayer resemble the spies that went to search the land of Canaan: the one views, and the other cuts down; and both bring home a taste of the fairest and sweetest fruits of heaven. Meditation, like the eyeóviews our mercies; and Prayerólike the hand, grasps those mercies! Or, Meditation is like a land agent, who goes abroad to purchase what we need; and Prayer, like a ship, goes forth and brings in what we desire. Lord, it is my misery, that I cannot be so perfect as not to be in need; but it magnifies your mercy that I cannot be so miserable as not to be supplied. Meditation cannot find out a real needóbut Prayer can obtain suitable comfort. Lord, if mercy is so free, I will labor to know my povertyóthat I may be enriched with your grace; and yet I will not rest, until you shall do more for me than I am able either to ask or think!
Prayer was appointed to convey,
The blessings God designs to give;
Long as they live should Christians pray,
For only while they pray they live.
Bernard sweetly compares Contemplation to the eagle; for as the eagle is still fixing her eye upon the radiant beams of the beautiful sun, so Contemplation is still viewing the glorious beams of the Sun of righteousness; it is still conversant with the high and profitable things of salvation. Or, I may compare meditation to those birds of which David speaks, which build their nests by the altar of God. Meditation is that celestial bird, that builds her nest around the throne of glory! Contemplation is that bee which flies into the sweetest gardensóand sucks honey from every flower of paradise!
By meditation I can . . .
converse with God,
solace myself on the bosom of my Beloved,
bathe myself in rivers of pleasures,
with delight tread the paths leading to my rest,
and anticipate the eternal mansions of glory!
Why do you loiter therefore, O my soul, in this valley of tears? Arise, ascend the mountóand view the land of promise! Why do you loiter in this wilderness of trouble? Arise, O my soul, be on the wing, and take your flight to heaven! Let your thoughts be where your happiness isóand your heart where your thoughts are! "My meditation of Him shall be sweet!" Psalm 104:34
What can satisfy you, O my immortal soul? Nothing but the immortal God, in whom all fullness dwells. He alone can fill the soulówho fills heaven and earth.
The insufficient creatureómay fill the soul with vexation;
none but the all-sufficient Godócan fill the soul with satisfaction.
O Lord, no creature of Yours will satisfy me, without Yourself! Therefore, O Lord, take my heartóand give me Yourself!
"Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You! My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26
Desires of the Soul.
What do you desire, O my soul? With what imaginable excellency would you clothe yourself! What desirable object would you pitch upon?
Is it beauty? The righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. So shall they be forever with the Lord.
Is it riches? Wealth and riches are the portion of all God's children; every one in His family shall have a rich, a glorious, an incorruptible, and eternal inheritance among the saints!
Is it honor? What honor can compare to thisóto be a friend and favorite of God, and a spouse of Christóto have a crown of righteousness, of life, and of glory! Nay more, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory set upon your head!
Is it pleasure? The just shall enter into their Master's joy, and there are rivers of pleasure at God's right hand for evermore!
In a word, what would you have, O my soul? A confluence of all the glorious things of eternity?
If heaven, and the holiness thereofóare what you seek;
then heaven and the excellencies thereofóyou shall find!
Lord, make me holyóthen I shall be happy!
"Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You! My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26
A Christian's End.
Wise agents always propound their endóbefore they commence their work: and then direct their actions to that end which they propounded. If a mariner sailsóit is that he may arrive at a certain harbor: therefore he sails by compass, that he may compass that for which he sails.
A Christian should always have one eye upon his endóand the other eye upon his way. That man lives a brutish lifeówho knows not what he lives for. And that man acts a fool's partówho aims at heaven, and lives at random. The end for which a wise Christian lives isóthat he may live without end; and therefore his way of living is, that he may live to spend his life continually in the ways of life. He is always walking in those paths in which he can see heaven before him.
O my soul, what do you aim at? Is it a full enjoyment of your God? Why then, while you are present in the bodyóbe always drawing near unto the Lord. Just so, when you shall be absent from the bodyóyou shall be always present with the Lord.
The Rich Worldling.
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen, and lived in luxury every day." Luke 16:19
How apt are many at the sight of a rich worldlingóto envy him for what he has. But, for my part, I rather pity him for what he lacks!
He has a talentóbut it lacks improvement;
he has a lampóbut it lacks oil;
he has a soulóbut it lacks grace;
he has the creatureóbut he lacks the Creator;
he has a mansionóbut he lacks heaven.
In his life, he floats upon a torrent of vanityówhich rolls along into an ocean of vexation!
And after death, it will be said of him, "Take this unprofitable servant, bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness! Consign his soul to the eternal lake of fire and brimstone!"
Where now is the object of your envy?
It is not his gold that can then rescue him,
nor his mansion that can then satisfy him,
nor his friends that can then comfort him.
Therefore, if he is worth the envyingóthen who can be worth the pitying?
If this is happinessóthen give me misery!
Lord, rather make me poor with a holy heartóthan rich with an evil heart of unbelief!
"Have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongueóbecause I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:24
"Then they will go away to eternal punishmentóbut the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46
The Christian's Choice.
I am frailóand the world is fleeting; but
my soul is immortalóand God is eternal.
If I choose earthly pleasuresóI shall reap nothing but vanity and dissatisfaction.
If I aim at mammon, the god of this worldóthen shall I resemble the rich fool, who, for earthly gain, sacrificed his immortal soul, and, in consequence, went to eternal perdition!
But if I choose God for my portion, then mercy and goodness shall follow me while I liveóand glory and eternal pleasure shall crown me when I die!
I will therefore now forsake that which I shall soon lose,
so that I may embrace that which I shall always enjoy!
The Difference Between the Righteous and the Wicked.
The wicked have their heaven hereóand their hell hereafter.
But the righteous have their hell hereóand their heaven hereafter.
Dives had his good things in this lifeóand Lazarus his evil things.
Now Lazarus is comfortedóand Dives is tormented!
I will not, therefore, envy the prosperity of the wicked,
nor be cast down at the afflictions of the righteous;
seeing the one is drawn in pomp to helló
while the other swims in tears to heaven!
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted hereóand you are in agony!'" Luke 16:19-25
Spiritual Joy and Sorrow.
As there is a sorrowful mirthóso there is a joyful mourning.
Look at the voluptuous man: however laughter may appear in his faceóyet sadness always rests in his heart! His carnal delights are not only vainóbut vexing!
While his banquet lastsóthe sensualist sings; but when God's reckoning comesóhis heart sinks!
But now look at the true penitent: as his tears are the joy of angels, so they are the joy of his soul.
The more briny his tearsóthe sweeter his comforts!
The deeper his sighsóthe fuller his joy!
The beams of consolationóalways shine into his house of mourning.
I may truly say, to mourn for sinóis to weep for joy! These pure and pleasant streams of consolation (which are the worldling's wonder) that flow in those crystal rivers of eternal pleasure at God's right handócome from a weeping spring.
Why then is the mouth of wickedness opened against the way of holinessóas if grace were the Calvary to entomb joys; and impiety the very womb to bring forth happiness!
But if experience may be heard, my soul has felt bothóI find such dissatisfaction in worldly pleasures, and such unspeakable delight in the depth of godly sorrowóthat I esteem one drop of such spiritual joyóbetter than an ocean of carnal mirth!
Happiness of the Christian.
"In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures!" Psalm 16:11
Christian, your happiness arises from that object on which your affections are placed. Where your treasure isóthere will your heart be also. If your affections are placed upon a poor empty creature; or, if like Judas, your heart is so depraved, that you desire only the money-bag; or, like Reuben, you are content, for worldly convenience, to continue on this side Jordanóthen remember you are bartering eternal life for a mere fantasy, and deceiving yourself into irretrievable and endless ruin!
If you will be content with . . .
a breath of honor,
a blaze of pleasure,
a snare of riches,
or a parcel of vanity,
then go, take your fill! But know assuredlyóthat the end of these things is death!
When you shall draw your last breath,
when honor will appear only as air,
when your deathless soul shall be forever ensnared
óthen you will greatly lament your past conduct,
and wish you had never been born!
But now, O true Christian, if you are risen with Christ from the dead, and are looking at unseen and eternal realitiesóthen for you is prepared a golden crown, a celestial harp, a glorious mansion, and eternal hallelujahs! You shall enjoy the presence of God and the Lamb forever and ever! You shall gaze on the incomparable brightness of God, and forever contemplate the wonders of redemption.
Lord, if this is my happiness, let others enjoy the things of this world! For my part, I am content to deny myself, and take up my cross and follow You!
Insatiable desires after temporal thingsómake a poor man in spiritual things. A true Christian is only rich in temporal thingsówhen he is content with that which he has. That man enjoys but little of pious pleasureówho does not hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Worldly desires always leave us empty; either we do not obtain that which we covetóor we are dissatisfied with that which we obtain! But he who thirsts after heavenly things, is always filledóand the more he receives, the more he desires. The richest mercies that God can giveómay be obtained by sincere and earnest desires, attended by fervent and importunate prayer. What unspeakable advantages might we obtain by our desiresóif we did but direct them towards heaven! How many excellent mercies are stored up for usóand only require our desires to go forth as a ship, to bring them into the harbor of our souls! Why then do I allow my desires to flow in a wrong direction? I make myself pooróby thirsting after the world and the creature! Whereas I might be rich, if I counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord!
Usually, when a wealthy worldling has died, many say, "O, he died richóhe has left a great estate!" Alas! the poor man has slept his sleep, lost his dreamóand now he awakes, and he finds nothing in his hand! Where is his golden heap? Gone! Only the rust of that heap is gone to witness against him! His mammon fails himóonly the unrighteousness of it follows himóothers have the use of it, only the abuse of it he carries to judgment with him!
He has made his friends, (as we say) but he has undone himself. Just so, that I may justly write this motto upon every one of his money-bags, "This is the price of blood!" Shall I then treasure up the price of blood! No! Christ has entrusted me as a steward; therefore, what I have and need not, Christ shall have in his needy members. So transitory creatures, when they shall slide awayóshall not carry me with them; but when I shall pass awayóI shall carry them with me.
The Misery of a Wicked Man.
Lord, what a miserable creature is a wicked man! His very manna turns to worms; his very mercies make him miserable! Look at him in his wealthy condition, and you will find that he has not the privilege of enjoying it, only the trouble of keeping itówhich tends not to his comfort. Or, if he enjoys itóhe does so miserably abuse it, that he makes that which is but temporal in its use, to be for his eternal punishment! Alas! the pleasures of it are soon goneóbut the pain of it will continue with him forever! Lord, help me to improve your merciesóthat your mercies may not aggravate my miseries.
Let sinners boast how tall they rise,
I'll never envy them again;
There they may stand with haughty eyes,
Until they plunge deep in endless pain.
Their fancied joys, how fast they flee;
Just like a dream when man awakes:
Their songs of softest harmony,
Are but a preface to their plagues.
The book of conscience.
Would you know whether your name is written in the book of life? Then read what you have written in the book of conscience. You need not ask, "Who shall ascend up into heaven, to search the records of eternity?" Only descend into your own heart, and there read what you areóand what you shall be. Though God's book of remembrance is closed and kept above with Godóyet your book of conscience is open, and kept below in your bosom; and what you write there, you shall be sure to read hereafter!
If I write nothing in this book but the black lines of sinóI shall find nothing in God's book but the red lines of damnation! But if I write God's Word in my book of conscience, I may be sure God has written my name in His book of life. At the great day of judgment, when the books shall be opened, there I shall read the sweetestóor the sharpest lines. I will therefore so write hereóthat I may not be ashamed to read hereafter!
"The secret things belong to the LORD our God; but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29:29
Do not be anxious to understand the secrets of God. Do not pick the lock to which He has allowed no key. He who will be scanning every cloudómay be smitten with a thunderbolt; and he who will labor to pry into God's secretsómay be overwhelmed with his judgments!
Adam would presumptuously increase his knowledge; therefore Adam dreadfully lost his goodness! The Bethshemites would pry into the ark of God; therefore the hand of God slew more than fifty thousand of them!
For my part, I will carefully improve myself by things revealed, and not presumptuously inquire into, or after, what he has concealed.
"The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself: You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!'
But God said to him: You fool! You will die this very night! Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" Luke 12:16-20
Nothing is so certain as death! And nothing so uncertain as the time of my death! I may be too old to liveóbut I can never be too young to die. I will therefore live every houróas if I were to die the next.
"Prepare to meet your God!" Amos 4:12
State of Man at Death.
"It is appointed unto men once to dieóand after that to face judgment!" Hebrews 9:27
As the tree fallsóso it lies. And where death strikes us downóthere God awards either mercy or misery.
I may compare the state of man at death to the Israelites and Egyptians at the Red Sea: if I go into the sea as an Israelite, my landing shall be in glory, and my rejoicing in triumph; for I shall see all my enemies dead upon the shore! But if I go in as an Egyptianóif I am on this side the cloud, on this side the covenant, and yet go in hardened among the troops of Pharaohóthen justice shall return in its full strength, and inundation of judgment shall overflow my soul forever!
Or, I may compare it to the sleep of the ten bridesmaids, of whom it is said, "They slumbered and slept." Now, if I lie down with the wise bridesmaids, I shall go in with the bridegroom to the marriage feast. But if I sleep with the foolish bridesmaids, without oil in my lamp, without grace in my soulóthen I have closed the gates of mercy upon my soul forever!
Therefore I see that this life is the time in which I must do my workóand then I must be judged according to my worksóon that solemn day. I am not certain how soon I shall fall into this sleep; therefore, Lord, grant that I may live every day in Your sightóas I desire to appear the last day in Your presence!
Small Space Between Life and Death.
What is said of the mariner, with respect to his shipóthat he always sails within four inches of death; may be said of the soul, in relation to the bodyóthat it is always within four inches of eternity! If the ship wrecksóthen the sailor must sink; if our earthen vessels breaksóthe soul is gone, plunged forever into the bottomless sea, and bankless ocean of eternity!
This is the soul, therefore, that I desire to weep overóthe soul of a man who precipitately launches into the deepóbefore he knows whether he shall sink or swim!
Preparation for Death.
It was an anguished speech of a dying king, "I must now dieóbefore I begin to live!"
It is the wretched condition of many dying men, that their work has not begunówhen the hour of their departure is at hand! When the enemy is in their gateóthey have no weapons! When death is at their dooróthey have no saving grace! When the bridegroom has comeó they have no oil! The "avenger of blood" is upon themóthe city of refuge is not so much as thought of by them.
In a word, the seven years of plenty are wasted, and no provision made for the years of famine. Their time is all spentóand nothing is laid up for eternity!
I will therefore now finish every work I have to doóthat to die may be the last work I shall have to finish.
The Soul's Communion.
The nearer the moon draws to the sunóthe brighter it shines towards the earth, and the darker it appears to the heavens. Just so, the nearer the sincere soul draws into communion with the Lord Jesus Christóthe more lovely it is in the eye of the Savior, and the blacker it appears to the world. He who is a Christian to the Lordóis an obsolete Puritan to the world. He who appears amiable to a child of Godóis odious to an earthly spirit. But it is a sign that you are an Egyptian when that cloud, which is a light to an Israeliteóis darkness to you. It is a sign that you move in an earthly orbówhen you see no luster in such celestial lights. For my part, if I shine to God, I care not how I appear to the world.
The Worth of a Christian.
"We are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirsóheirs of God and co-heirs with Christ!" Romans 8:16-17
The world scarcely knows what we Christians areófor did they realize that we are . . .
the favorites of heaven,
the excellency of the creation,
and the beloved bride of Christ
óthey would not mock and persecute us as they do!
Or if we did only consider . . .
that we shall be glorified together with Christ;
that His happiness shall be our happiness;
that His joy shall be our joy,
and His glories shall be our gloriesótruly, we would not be so much dejected as we are!
"Dear friends, we are Godís children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appearsówe will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is!" 1 John 3:2
The Prosperity of the Wicked.
"But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits." Psalm 73:2-7
Why should I murmur at the prosperity of the wicked? Indeed when I viewed their wealth, and forgot their curseómy feet had almost slipped. But by entering the sanctuary of God, I perceived that all the blossoms of their glory must wither under the blastings of God's wrath! And all their external felicity only hastens the judgments of the Lord, and fills up the measure of their misery!
For what are their pleasuresóbut like the deceitful greeting of Joab to Amasa? (See 2 Samuel 20:9-10) What are their richesóbut like Jael's present in a majestic bowl? (See Judges 5:24-27) It only makes way for the fatal nail, for their dreadful account at the day of judgment. Their prosperity slays them!
Now, who reckons that ox happy, which has a goodly pasture to feed himselfóbut for the slaughter? Who envies that malefactor who has a sunny dayóto ride to execution on? And why is it that the workers of iniquity flourish? Is it not that they may be destroyed forever? And the larger their pastureóthe sooner they are fitted for their destruction.
Therefore, for my part, when I see a wicked man prosper in his wickedness, I will turn the flame of envyóinto a tear of pity!
A Christian's Heaven and Hell.
It is heaven to be forever with the Lordóand hell to be eternally without Him.
You who can see no beauty in Christ, nor any glory in heavenódo you likewise see no flames in hell, and no hell in the loss of God? You, therefore, who cannot relish His presenceóO tremble at His absence! And you who are not anxious to be with HimóO fear to be without Him!
For this is hell on earth: "Yet they say to God: Depart from us! We have no desire to know Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?" Job 21:14-15
And this is hell when we leave the earth, "Then He will say to those on His left: Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" Matthew 25:41
Lord, you are my heaven, and my happiness! "You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!" Psalm 16:11
The Use of Riches.
The benefits to be derived from wealth, depend upon its improvement as a talent from God. It resembles the woman's box of precious ointment; if it is not broken and poured out for the sweet refreshment of Jesus Christ in his distressed membersóit will lose its worth. Therefore the covetous man may truly write upon his corrupting heaps, "These are good for nothing!"
Chrysostom tells us, That he is not rich who lays up muchóbut he who lays out much; for it is all one, not to haveóas not to use.
I will therefore be the richer by a charitable laying outówhile the man of the world will be the poorer by his covetous hoarding up.
The Sinner's Idol.
Who will part with his God? I will part with my lifeórather than with my God!
No wonder, therefore, that the covetous man so idolizes his goldóit is his god! If you take that from him, he will cry with Micah, when he lost his idols, "You have taken away all my godsóand I have nothing left!" Judges 18:24. His heaven is gone, his happiness is gone, his all is goneóif his idols are gone!
I will not therefore wonder so much at the closeness of his handóas at the vanity of his heart!
We count it singular wisdom to keep that God we have chosen. But it is absolute folly, to choose that god which we cannot keep! "Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle!" Proverbs 23:5
The Soul's Happiness.
O my soul, you are spiritual in your essence, immense in your desires, and immortal in your nature; so that there must be proportion and perfection in that which you enjoy, with a perpetuity of bothóor you will have no real satisfaction.
Now, were the world turned into a pleasant Eden, and that Eden refreshed with the living springs of immortality, and you seated on a throne of its choicest excellencies, crowned with the diadem of its highest felicities, swaying the scepter of your glory over all sublunary creaturesónay, could you give guidance to the sun, did your territories border upon the highest heavens, and the revenues of your crown flow in from the farthest parts of the earth; yet what proportion does a material world bear to an immortal soul?
Will a lion feed upon grass? Or can the soul be satisfied with dust? You may as soon feed your body with woodóas your soul with the world. If the world did bear proportionóyet it lacks perfection.
Could the devil turn chemist, and extract the very vital essence and quintessence of the purest and most desirable excellencies under heavenóyet they would be of such an imperfect nature, that there would be more lees than liquor, more thorns than flowers, more smoke than fire, more poison than honey; so that a man will be filled with a whirlwind of vexation, who wished to be satisfied with an object of imperfection! For it is impossible that such a scanty excellency, should in any way fill such an enlarged capacity.
Yet again, were there perfection, there is not perpetuity in this poor world. It will fly away like a bird from the perchóor melt away like ice before the sunóand so leave the immortal soul to sink forever! So that the world will not only make you restlessóbut leave you miserable! I see then, that I shall never restóuntil I rest in God! He who is the Almighty Father, the fountain of bliss, the ancient of daysóis the only adequate object to suit my immortal soul. The rest of the creature is in its end; the end of the soul is its God. Therefore, Lord, seeing you have made me for Yourselfófill me fully with Yourself, or take me wholly to Yourself!
The Vanity of the World.
Does Satan tempt youóeither by pleasures, power or profits? O my soul, stand upon your guard, gird on your strength with such thoughts as these:
What can the world profit meóif its cares choke me?
How can pleasures comfort meóif their sting poisons me?
What advancement is thisóto be triumphing in honor before the face of men here, and to be trembling for shame before the throne of God hereafter?
What are the delights of the worldócompared to my peace of conscience, or the joy that is in the Holy Spirit?
What are the applauses of menócompared to the eternal crown of glory prepared by God?
What is the gain of the worldócompared to the loss of my soul?
The vanity of the world is far beneath the excellency of my soul. Therefore, Satan, I am determined to resist you, for you desire my eternal loss!
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the worldóthe cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and doesócomes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever!" 1 John 2:15-17
The Christian Traveler.
"These all confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Hebrews 11:13
A black cloud causes the traveler to quicken his pace, and hasten towards his home; whereas a sunny day, tempts him to idle away his time; and a pleasant way tends to steal away his affections while he surveys the country.
However others may think of itóyet I consider it a mercy, that occasionally some clouds interpose my sun, and often so that my troubles eclipse my comforts. For I perceive that if I should find too much friendship in my inn, or in my pilgrimageóthat I would soon forget my Father's house and my glorious eternal inheritance.
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." 1 Peter 2:11
The World's Hatred to Living Saints.
There is a generation of men, that will praise the saints who are gone to heavenóand yet mock and afflict the saints on earth; so that were all those saints alive again, whom they now so much honor, I dare affirm, they would persecute them. Like the Jews, they can garnish the sepulchers of the righteousóand yet they are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets!
Dissembling world! your tongue embalms a dead saintówhile your hand inflicts a wound on the living saints! You can praise God for those who are departed in the faithóand yet persecute God in those who will not depart from the faith. O foolish world, you must of necessity condemn yourselfófor your praise has left your practice without excuse!
The Best Treasures.
Alexander being asked where he would lay his treasure, answered very well, "Among my friends;" being confident, that there it would be kept with safety, and returned with interest. Why do you enlarge your barns? Don't you know where to store your abundance? Make the friends of Christ your treasury; let the hands of the widow, the affections of the pooróbe your storehouse; there no thief can steal it, no time can rust it, no change can lose it, and there it will be improved. A temporal gift will be there turned into an eternal reward! No ground is so fruitfulóas the bosom of the poor; this brings forth a hundred-fold.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earthówhere moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heavenówhere moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!" Matthew 6:19-21
The World's Worthlessness.
O my soulówhy do you grovel in the dust of this earth? Everything here is too base for your excellency; and too short for your eternity! You are capable of enjoying Godóand must exist when these poor creatures are reduced to nothing. The world therefore is too base a metalóto make a crown of glory for you! It is too corrupt a vessel toócarry you through eternity! O fill yourself with Godóand so you shall raise your dignity to glorious perpetuity!
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the worldóthe cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and doesócomes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass awayóbut the man who does the will of God lives forever!" 1 John 2:15-17
"I have set you an exampleóthat you should do as I have done for you." John 13:15
When anything presents itself, think: if He were alive and in my placeówould Jesus do it? Or if I were about to dieówould I still do it?
I must walkóas He has walked; and I must liveóas I intend to die. If the thing in question is not Christ's willóit is my sin. And if I die in that sinóit will be my ruin.
I will therefore in every action so conduct myselfóas if Christ were on the one handóand death on the other!
"Leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:2
Live with Respect to Eternity.
"What is your life? You are a vapor that appears for a little whileóand then vanishes!" James 4:14
Our life is only a moment of time; and yet in this moment of timeówe sow the seeds of eternity! In this transitory hour, I am preparing myself either for eternal felicityóor eternal woe! These words that I now speak, these works that I now perform, though they here seem to be forgottenóyet they shall spring up to all eternity!
As the poet answered one, upbraiding him for being three days in composing three verses; whereas the novice could compile a hundred verses in one day; "O!" said the poet, "Your verses are only for three days, as it wereóbut mine must continue forever; according to my composition nowómy name must either rise or fall forever!"
Just so may we answer this foolish worldówhich upbraids us for too much preciseness. O! have not we cause to be exact, when the works we are performing are not to be written in sandóbut in the records of eternity? The lines that we now drawómust run parallel with eternity; and according to our conduct in this fleeting moment of timeóour souls must either be glorifiedóor damned forever!
O Lord, help me so to improve the brevity of my lifeóby the integrity of my actions; that I may turn this moment of miseryóinto an eternity of unspeakable happiness!
"Then they will go away to eternal punishmentóbut the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46
The happy Lives of the Blessed.
The soul of man (says the philosopher) is the horizon of time and eternity. Now if the sun of righteousness has not risen in our horizon, we must expect nothing but a clouded time, and a stormy eternity; gross darkness hereafter forever! But as for those blessed saints, into whose souls the oriental splendor of the sun of righteousness is shed abroadóhow gloriously will be their eternity! What celestial excellencies! What reviving comforts!
And as for the triumphant saints in glory, in whose horizon Jesus Christ shines in the eternal meridian of his gloryóO what full beams of bliss and consolation, without the least shadow of bitterness and discontent, warm and delight their blessed souls to all eternity! Lord, lift up the light of your countenance in my horizon, so shall time be the morning of glory, and eternity the noon of gloryóin my soul.
The Sinner's Base Choice.
"Men of the worldówho have their portion in this life." Psalms 17:14
The world has many servants, because it gives present wages; whereas Christ has but few disciples, because their reward is in another life. Most live by sight, and therefore they will satisfy sense; they had rather be sent away like Ishmael, with a small giftóthan wait like Isaac, for the inheritance. They had rather take their portion in this lifeóthan wait for an inheritance reserved in heaven.
Their hearts cry with Esau, "What profit will this birth-right do us?" We must have pleasure, and we must have riches; and therefore, like King Lysimachus, they will sell their kingdom and themselvesófor a draught of water!
There are but few who have such elevated spirits as the disciples had, who could leave a present possession, to live upon a future promise. Very few have so heroic a spirit as Moses had, who could despise the treasures of this present world, out of respect to the recompense of a future reward. But many have such sordid spirits as Dives had, who would enjoy his good things here. But, Lord, let me not have my portion in this life, for I had rather live by faith.
The Rebellious Sinner.
What rebel under proclamation of mercy remains obstinate, when he knows he shall be subdued by the hand of justice? Yet how many refractory sinners (like those invited guests in the Gospel) deride the messengers of peace, until they are slain by the men of war!
Sinner, can your heart endure, or your hands be strongóin the day that God shall deal with you? Or can the gods whom you serveódeliver you out of the hands of Christ? Ah no! you must one day be brought under his regal power, either with his favoróor fury; either to the praise of his glory in your salvationóor to the magnifying of his justice in your damnation! If you hate his throneóyou shall be made his footstool. If you will not have him to be your headóyou shall be trodden under his feet! If he is not your Savioróhe will be your Judge!
In a word, if you will not touch the golden scepter of his mercyóyou shall be crushed with the rod of his justice! And, remember this, that this life is the only time for displaying the flag of mercy, and for the burning of the candle of peace. If the white flag is folded up, and the burning candle expiresóthen expect nothing but the dreadful brandishing of the black flag.
"But bring here these enemies of Mine, who did not want Me to rule over themóand slaughter them in My presence!" Luke 19:27. Therefore now sit down and see your weakness, and while the King is yet a great way off, send out the ambassadors of your prayers and tearsóand acquaint yourself now with God, and be at peace. For my part, I had rather come in as God's favoriteóthan be brought in a traitor!
The Benefit of Repentance.
Sin and sorrow are two inseparable companions; you can not indulge the oneóand be without the other. If your moments are spent in carnal mirthóyour eternity will be spent in ceaseless mourning. If you will not weep for sin, while you may have mercy to pardon youóyou will lament hereafter, and have no eye to pity you! A bottle of tears may now quench the fire of sinóbut a cloud of tears will never quench the flames of hell!
Therefore while the wicked continue laughingóI will continue to mourn. Through the Valley of Bochim (weeping)óI shall pass to the hill of Zion. But the paths of carnal mirth will bring me into a hell of weeping; for this is true, "He who swims in sinóshall sink in sorrow!" His laughter shall be turned into heaviness; but my tears shall be wiped away! I will therefore ever weepóthat I may not weep forever!
"Blessed are those who mournófor they will be comforted!" Matthew 5:4
As We Liveóso We Die.
That way which the tree leans, while it growsóthat way it falls when it is cut down; and there it lies, whether it be toward the North or South.
Just so, our life is an indication of what our death will be. As men live, so, in general, do they die; whether they lived for heaven or hell. Being once dead, there is no second chance. For as in waróan error is death; so in deathóan error is damnation! Therefore live as you intend to dieóand you will die as you have lived. O Lord! let my soul be always fixed on you, that I may fall into your arms, and forever rest in your gracious bosom!
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destructionóand many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to lifeóand only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14
Death the Wages of Sin.
Jordan, that famous river, no doubt runs through many a pleasant meadow, by many a shady grove and flowery bank; and yet at last empties itself into the Dead Sea.
So it is with a wicked man! Here he walks through meadows of worldly pleasures, and rests under the shades of earthly comforts, and sports and wallows among the flowers of worldly delightsóbut at last runs himself down into the Dead Sea of Hell. And not only soóbut . . .
his earthly delights will fade,
his beauty shall be turned into horror,
his honor shall be turned into shame,
his lusts shall be turned into devils, and
his pleasures shall be turned into bitterness!
Lord, let me be a pure stream, that may terminate in heaven! I care not what difficult channels I pass through here on earthóif in heaven I may exchange my weakness and corruption, for perfection and glory!
The Sinner's Folly.
What is a dayócompared to an age; and what is an ageócompared to eternity? We know that the shortest day is part of the longest timeóbut the longest time is no part of eternity; for where time ends, there eternity begins!
Why then are we so foolish as to heap up baubles for mortality; to lay up riches, which, at longest, are but for many hours; and yet never provide anything for eternity? And why are we so careful to humor and pamper a moldering piece of clayóa frail and mortal body, which cannot continue beyond a certain age, perhaps not more than a dayóand yet neglect our precious souls, which must endure forever? Do we all aim at a prosperous life? Why thenólet us labor for a glorious eternity!
"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!" Matthew 6:20-21
No Happiness Without Holiness.
All men desire happiness for their endóbut few will have holiness for their way. All men desire the kingdom of heaven, and the glory thereofóbut few seek the kingdom of heaven, and the righteousness thereof.
A nobleman being asked whether he would rather be a godly Christianóor worldly pleasure seeker, answered, "I had rather live like the latteróand die like the former!" So most men had rather live like Balaamóbut "die the death of the righteous!" They wish to have the worldling's easeóbut the godly man's end. But this is certain, no man shall go to God in deathóunless he draws near to God in life. If the kingdom of God is not first in usówe shall never enter into the kingdom of God. None shall enter heaven hereafteróbut those that walk in heaven here on earth. None shall enter the gates of felicityóbut those who tread the narrow paths of piety. Lord! make me holyóas well as happy, that I may desire to glorify you, as well as to be glorified by you.
There are many tomorrow Christians who postpone their eternal interests. When they are at a certain ageóthey will repent, and not before; as if they had the control of time, and the monopoly of grace; whereas time and grace are only at God's disposal.
Ambrose says, "God has promised pardon to the penitentóbut he has not promised tomorrow to the negligent!" If I put God off todayóhe may put me off tomorrow. If I put off this hour of graceóI may never have another gracious hour. Today if I refuse his hands of mercy, tomorrow he may stretch out his hand of justice. It is true, while I have time, I may come in; but it is also true, when I would come in, I may not have time. This is certainówhen I repent, I shall have mercy; but this is as certainówhen I would have mercy, I may not find repentance. O Lord, you have given me this hour of grace to repent in, give me grace in this hour to enable me to repent.
Life, a Shadow.
What a shadow is the life of man! What a nothing it is!
The time pastóthat is nothing, like a bird fled from the hand of its owner, immediately out of sight.
Time presentóthat is a vanishing hour; nay, less, a flying minute, less than nothing!
The time to comeóthat is uncertain; the evening sun may see us dead! Lord, therefore in this hour make me sure of youófor in the next I am not sure of myself.
Time was, is pastóyou can not it recall;
Time is, you haveóemploy the portion small;
Time future is notóand may never be;
Time presentóis the only time for thee.
The Life of Faith.
He is a genuine Christian, who can part with all for Christ, and live by faith. But when we are called upon to lose what we possess, in hope of finding it again in heaven, the mere professor stops, and goes back sorrowful.
Socrates, the philosopher, threw his belongings into the sea to save himself, saying, "I had rather drown you, than that you should drown me;" for he thought that riches and virtue were incompatible. But how many professors are there, who throw away themselves and their soulsóto save their gold? Before they will cast their bread upon the water, they will throw themselves into the ocean. Many pretend to follow Christóyet by yielding to the allurements of this world, plainly declare that the world, and not Christ, is their Master. But he has no part in Christówho will not part with all for Christ.
A Christian's Treasure.
When I look into the treasures of a rich man, perhaps I see chests of silver, bags of gold, and cabinets of jewels; but this is the misery of it, that when he goes abroad, he cannot carry them without a burden, or leave them without a fear.
But it is the Christian's privilege, to carry his treasure always in him. His treasure is an abiding one; thieves cannot steal it; moth and rust cannot corrupt it. It was given him by Christ, who is firm, invincible, and unchangeable.
This refreshes the spirit of a Christian in all the troubles and afflictions which he has to encounter, that Christ, if he be steadfast in the faith, will never leave him nor forsake him. O, the excellency of a child of God! Though you might deprive him of all thingsóyet you cannot take from him the one thing needful.
A Christian, though you may impoverish him, banish him, and deprive him of allóyet he is able to say, "I carry all my treasure with me, I have my Christ, in whom all fullness dwells."
Lord, be my portion, then I shall have that which will make me supremely happy, though I may lack the treasures of the world.
The Day of Grace.
Legal times were like winter daysódark and cloudy, sharp and stormy; and yet how many of our fathers traveled to heaven in those days! But gospel times are like summer daysósweet and clear, full of light and beauty, so that we may truly say, God has not been as a cloud of darkness to us; for these are the days of grace which are full of the beams of mercy. Yet how slowly and reluctantly do many of us go to heaven! Nay worse, how foolishly do we waste these precious days, and neglect these golden opportunities! O what time shall that man find to repent inówho is hardened in these melting times! O on what day shall that man go to heavenówho idles away these gospel days! O what grace shall that man find to pardon his sinówho sins away the day of grace! O to whom shall that man appealówho renounces Jesus Christ! O woe unto that man forever, upon whom the shadows of death and of the evening are stretched outóand yet who never sets forth for heaven!
But in a more awful state is that man, to whom the dearer and sweeter dayóonly makes the blacker and sadder hell! O what blackness of darkness is reserved for that man, who will walk in darkness under the glorious dispensation of the Gospel! We are those that are not only lifted up to heavenóbut heaven is let down to us. O how long shall that man lie in hellówhom heaven presses down!
O you gospel-professor! you are now under the dispensation of light, the sweet invitations of mercy, and the wonderful manifestations of love. Consider this, you shall either go to heaven or to hellóupon the easiest or hardest terms.
A Six-fold Voice of Warning.
Methinks I hear six voices crying aloud, to the sons of men:
The first voice is of dying men;
The second is the voice of the damned;
The third is the voice of my precious soul;
The fourth is the voice of Jesus Christ;
The fifth is the voice of evil times;
The sixth is the voice of the day of judgment.
First, methinks, I hear a dying man breathing out these groans: "O lose not a moment of time; for your time is only a moment! O now make sure of heaven; for you know not how soon you must leave the earth!"
Secondly, methinks, I hear the damned man uttering these lamentations: "O come, and see the end of sinóin those who know no end of sorrow! O come, and learn the price of timeófrom those who must forever suffer for the loss of time!"
And thirdly, methinks, I hear my precious soul using these expostulations: "O my body! you are but for a moment of timeóbut I must endure forever; when you are moldering in the dustówhere shall I spend my eternity? I might now obtain heaven as my mansion, angels for my companions, God for my possession; and do you think that I will lose my eternal felicityóto satisfy your fleeting vanity? Is it not better that I should carry you to heavenóthan that you should carry me with you to hell?"
And fourthly, methinks I hear Jesus Christ giving these invitations: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, until my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. Here I stand weeping, knocking, begging, and waiting; O open to me! My tears begómy groans knockómy blood knocksómy death knocks! O open to me! my patience knocks, and waits! O open to me! Let not sin lodge in your heartóand Myself wait at the door; let not damnation rule withinóand salvation wait without."
Fifthly, Evil Times use their invitations: "O now be living Christiansófor these are dying days! Now be groaning Christiansófor these are backsliding times! Now make Jesus Christ your ownófor here you know not what is your own."
And sixthly, methinks, I hear the voice of the archangel summoning the dead to come to judgment. "Arise, you holy and blessed saints, take your places with God and his holy angels, to judge the world! But arise, you cursed naked souls, and stand in the presence of God, and of his blessed saints, to be judged as you lived in the world!" O Lord, let me hear with fear the first voicesóthat I may not fear to hear the last voice.
The Christian's Portion.
In every choice we cannot takeóunless we leave. That man who chooses eternal lifeómust deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Christ. This is the heavenly breathing of such a gracious spirit: "Lord, let vain men follow the fashions of this worldóbut clothe me with salvation, and the robe of righteousness. Let them be all glorious withoutóbut let me be all glorious within. Let the wicked go away with the world; let them have all the sweetness, beauties, glories, and excellencies of the earthóbut let Jesus Christ be my portion; for in comparison with himóthe world is nothing at all; for Christ is all. Therefore, be serious, O my soul! for Christ is not yoursóuntil you can truly say, "None but Christ!"
A threefold Awakening Consideration.
Three things, methinks, should make the heart of a Christian tremble:
First, the brevity of his life.
Secondly, the difficulty of his work.
Thirdly, the eternity of his end.
First, the brevity of his life. Our life is but a withering flower, a passing cloud, a vanishing shadow, a perishing breath! The body returns to the dustóand the soul to God who gave it. The night quickly comes when no man can work; but how much is to be done in this short space of time?
Secondly, the difficulty of his work. Great enemies are to be conquered, sons of Anak are to be killed, principalities and powers are to be overcome, dear lusts are to be subdued, right eyes are to be plucked out, right hands are to be cut off, strict rules are to be followed, a narrow path and a strait way to go through. We have a long race to runówith a short breath; we have a great way to be gone by a setting sun. But then, what are we to expect when life is done?
Thirdly, the eternity of his end. As we have sowedóso we must reap; either to be eternally crownedóor eternally damned. Now therefore, before the sun be set, or the shadows of the evening be stretched outó whatever your hand finds to doódo it with all your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave where you go.
O Lord, help me to be diligent in this moment of time, that I may rest with youówhen time shall be no more!
The Loveliness of Christ.
You have heard of the bloody siege of Troy, and yet it was said of Helen, that she was so beautiful, that she deserved ten more years of war. And what was Helenóbut a heap of clay?
You have heard of the hard labor of Jacobóyet Rachel was so amiable in his eyesóthat he thought her worthy of fourteen years' service.
If these deserved so muchóO what does Jesus Christ deserve, who is altogether lovely; before whose shining glory the beauty of the whole creation is but a confused chaos!
Therefore be not discouraged, O my soul, though your enemies are fierce, your assaults cruel, your resistance even unto blood; you fight for a precious Redeemer who deserves it! Neither be disheartened, though the way is narrow, duties hard, and your labors greatóyou serve an amiable Christ who will sufficiently reward you. Consider the astonishing beauties of your Christ, think upon the glorious day of your espousal, and these fourteen years service will be nothing to you.
I formerly thought that the spirit of a Christian was a melancholy spirit; and the ways of holiness are unpleasant paths, leading to a state of gloomy solitude. But now I see that they have hidden manna, which the world knows not of; and glorious joys, with which strangers do not meddle; and the more closely and exactly they walkóthe fuller and sweeter are their joys!
Formerly the thoughts of parting with my pleasures and delights, in order to embrace self-denying duties, were painful to me; but now, I bless God, I can say with Augustine, "O how sweet it isóto lack my former sweetness!" It is now my rejoicingóto be without my former joys; for now I see there is 'a heaven'óin the way to heaven; and that one look of faith, one smile of Christ, one glance of heaven, one grape of Canaan, one glimpse of my crown of gloryóyields more sweetness, comfort, and contentment than all the pleasures the world affords! The very gleanings of spiritual joyóis better than the vintage of carnal delights.
The World, not Satisfactory.
"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" Ecclesiastes 1:2
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man!" Ecclesiastes 12:13
Solomon tried many experiments to find happinessóbut adopted only the last: the Fear of God. O my soul! you may tire yourself with different objectsóbut none can satisfy you but GodóHe alone is the efficient and sufficient fullness! It was said of manna, that it was the delight of every palateójust so, Jesus Christ affords satisfaction to every soul. Taste therefore and see how sweet the Lord is!
Why do we wander after such a variety of objects? Because we cannot find sufficiency in one. Were one flower as pleasant as the collection, we would never trouble ourselves to gather many. Those golden rays of goodness which lie scattered imperfectly in the creatureóare to be found combined in God alone. These poor earthly ingredients, cannot make up the highest excellency, the greatest goodness, and the fullest perfectionówhich are to be found collectively in God alone. Is there anything profitable, or desirable in the world? You may see it in your Savior, Christ!
Are you a captive of the devil? Christ is your Redeemer.
Are you wounded? Christ is your good Samaritan.
Are you broken-hearted? Go unto Christ, and He will bind it up.
Are you sick? Christ is your physician.
Are you persecuted? Christ is your refuge.
Are you hungry or thirsty? Christ is the living bread and the flowing stream.
Are you weary? Christ is your rest.
Are you in poverty? Christ is an inexhaustible treasury.
Are you in disgrace? Christ is your honor.
Are you dull and heavy? Christ is a quickening spirit.
Do you lack grace? Christ is the fountain.
Do you desire heaven? Christ is the wayóHe shall guide you by his counsel, and afterwards receive you to glory.
Let that man's name be written in the dustówho forsakes the flowing fountain, to quench his thirst at a broken cistern. Why should I tire myself to gather drops of honey from so many dying flowersówhen I can satisfy myself with streams of sweetness in the living Christ!
Godly sorrow, like weeping Maryóseeks Christ.
Saving faith, like wrestling Jacobófinds and holds Christ.
Heavenly love, operating in the heart of a Christian, causes him to enjoy sweet communion with Christ. It brings him into his banqueting houseóand his banner over him is love. He esteems Christ as the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely One; and he would part with all his possessions, rather than with him who is the pearl of great price! Divine love constrains the believer, and he longs to see his Savior in the realms above; but at the same time it induces him to wait his will; and while in this world to love his cause, his people, and to seek his glory; and in shortóto spend and be spent for him.
The stream of sorrow, like water, ascends no higher than the spring from which it emanates.
Sin gives two bloody stabs:
the first is at the soul of man,
the second at the heart of Christ.
If the first stab grieves me, if I mourn for sin, as it has only wounded my soul, it is a sign that this stream flows from only my natural heart, because it ascends up to a natural height.
But if I weep for sin as it has wounded Christ, and shed his blood which would save meóas it has pierced that heart which would love meóthen the spring is in heaven, because it rises to a supernatural ascent. Lord, that my sorrow may be real; pierce my heart for sinóas it stabs my soul, and pierces Christ!
Christ preferable to all.
My life is sweetóbut Christ must be sweeter to me than my life! My soul is preciousóbut Christ must be dearer to me than my soul! My salvation is greatóbut Christ must be more to me than my salvation. Christ must be loved above all; for without him there would be . . .
no arms of mercy to receive me,
no heaven of bliss to entertain me,
no weight of glory to crown me.
As it is a sign of carnal love to follow Christ for loavesóso it is a sign of a mercenary love to seek Christ for a reward. It is but an adulterate affection that affects the present more than the person, loves the ring more than the beloved. That choice cannot be sincereówhich aims only at a portion; that love cannot be realówhich aims only at a benefit.
The Right Performance of Christian Duty.
I must not perform a duty, unless I bring God to it; nor rest satisfied, unless I carry God from it. Hear David's precept, "O seek the Lord, and his strength; seek his face for evermore." Be sure not to rise from duty, before the countenance of God shine, upon your soul. It must be Christ that must prepare you, and Christ that must meet you; or it will be no comfort to you. What is the chariotóif your beloved is not in it? Hear Bernard's practice, "Lord, I never come to you without you. I never go from youóbut with you."
O blessed soul that never prays, hears, or receivesóbut carries Christ to allóenjoys Christ in allóand brings Christ from all.
O my soul, you are always striving; and sin is always tempting. You doubt the truth of grace, because of the working of sin; but sin will always vex. You cannot come out of Egyptóbut Amalek will lay wait in the way; the flesh will be sure to trouble you, though it may not conquer you.
He therefore who sits down and rests in sinóis a captive of Satan, the strong man, because his kingdom is in peace. But where there is any work with Christóthere will always be war with sin. I know that while I liveósin will exist in my mortal body. The ivy continually twists about a house; there is no destroying it until the wall falls.
Sin was the womb of deathóand death must be the tomb of sin.
God would have my soul humbled, therefore though he has broken my prisonóyet he has left the chain upon my feet. God would have my faith exercised, therefore Goliath still appears in the field, that I may contend with him in the name of the Lord. I will unbuckle Saul's armor, think poorly of my own abilities, and go in the strength of Christ. So though I cannot prevent the rebelling power of sinóyet I shall always hinder its ruling power. As the existence of sin shall be my griefóso it shall be my care not to be under its dominion. Though sin may live in meóyet I will never live in sin!
I must not pray simply against temptationsóbut against the evil of temptation. For a Christian may be tempted and not overcome; a castle may be assaulted, and not taken. If Satan inject an evil motion, and I reject it, this is not mineóbut the devil's sin. This shall be a shining jewel in my crown of victory, and an aggravating item in Satan's day of judgment.
Why are you terrified at the roaring of a lion, as if he could not rageóbut he must devour? Or as if grace and temptation would not stand together? As if the same afflictions were not accomplished upon your brethren. This is an undoubted truth, that spiritual wickedness is to be found in the most heavenly places; and it is a good sign, when Satan beholds you treading upon his head, and when he is so violent as to bruise your heel. And this is a comfortable assurance, that if Jesus Christ is your captain to lead you into battleóhe will be your champion to bring you out; so that temptation shall be as a file to beautify your soul, and as a sword to wound your adversary. For my part, I know Satan will be always tempting, therefore I will be always watching; and what I cannot hinderóthat I will be sure to hate; so shall it be my joy to conquer temptation, and the devil's misery to fall into his own pit.
Support under Afflictions.
Caesar, when crossing an unknown part of the sea in a little bark, during a dreadful storm, said, when the courage of the pilot failed, "Fear not, for you carry Caesar!" How truly may a Christian say, in the midst of all afflictions and tribulations, "Fear nothing, O my soul, you carry Jesus Christ!"
What though the windows of heaven be opened for a storm, or the fountains of the deep broken up for a flood, desertions from abroad, afflictions from belowóyet God who sits in heaven will not cast away his Son. Christ who lives in meówill not let me sink; the swelling waves I knowóare but to waft me nearer heaven, and the swelling deepsóare to make me awake my Master. Prize your Christ; they shall not drown you, therefore they must not daunt you; for while I sail with ChristóI am sure to land with Christ.
The Decrease of Grace.
If Satan cannot prevent the birth of gracesóhe will labor to be the death of graces. It is very common to see a professing Christian lose his first love, and to fall from his first works. His love that was formerly an ascending flame, is now like a little spark almost suffocated with the earth. His godly sorrow, which was once a swelling torrent, like Jordon overflowing its banks, is now dried up like Job's summer brook. His proceedings against sin were once furious, like the march of Jehu against Ahab; but now, like Samsonóhe can sleep in Delilah's lap, while she steals away his strength! Before he would not give rest to his eyes, until God had given rest to his soul; but now he can lie down with sin in his bosom, and wounds in his conscience! At first, his zeal consumed himóbut now his declensions have eaten up his zeal.
How is your excellency, O Christian, departed from you! How is your crown fallen from your head! What a dangerous breach have you madeófor the entrance of sin and sorrow! Temptations wreck you and leave you wounded: your graces that were once like the worthies of David, who could break through an army of enemies to bring him water, are now like the soldiers that followed Saul, they are with you trembling. You have potent enemiesóbut impotent graces. You are often assaultedóbut easily conquered. As your glorious sun is settingóso are dismal clouds arising. You are decreasing in your graces, and God is declining in his favors. You leave off communing with saintsóand God leaves off communing with you. You offer your sacrifices without the fire of zealóand He answers your coldness with the fire of wrath.
In a word, your heart has no delight in Godóand God's soul has no delight in you. And as there is bad news from heavenóso there is awful news from conscience. What trembling of heart! What astonishment of soul! What disputes against mercy! What questionings of salvation will your wounded conscience and bleeding spirit adopt! What flashes of lightning! What claps of thunder will break out upon your soul, when the hot pangs of death shall follow the cold and chill scruples of salvation!
The Danger of Hypocrisy.
A hypocrite is the devil's servantóin God's uniform; and therefore detested both in heaven and on earth. Man sees his uniformóand therefore hates him; and God sees his heartóand therefore will not own him. Men see his outward sanctityóand therefore deride him; and God sees his inward hypocrisyóand therefore abhors him! So that he travels in the wilderness, and shall never rest in Canaan. When he sums up his laborsóhe will perceive that instead of that blessed sentence of approbation, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" he shall hear that awful sentence, "Who has required this at your hands?"
He who so cunningly deceived othersódoes as foolishly beguile himself. In a word, he is a man that steals his damnation, and sweats to go to hell. So that the openly profane, and cunningly hypocritical, meet there at last, with this difference; the one goes through the gate, and the other steals through the back gate!
Lord, while the hypocrite clothes himself with formality, clothe me with sincerity. Men may hate meóbut I care not, if God loves me; my duties may be very imperfectóbut they shall have a gracious acceptance; my way may be in troubleóbut my rest shall be in glory.
The Danger of Self-security.
As great serenity of weather is a presage of an earthquake and whirlwind; so great security of life, awfully portends the soul's earthquake, trembling and astonishment of spirit. He who is formal and self-secure, is raising his building upon a foundation of sand, which will meet with a dreadful overthrow. A man who is only brought out of open profaneness, into outward profession; who has taken down the frame of his gross iniquity, to exhibit a superficial form of piety; who has covered his face with the mask of religionóis sleeping the sleep of death! For while he thinks that he is well, he will not seek to be better; so that he slumbers away his time, until he hears the midnight cry, and then he awakes, and sees the bridge of mercy drawn up, and the gates of heaven closed!
See with what confidence these formalists in the gospel came to Christ under the relation of servants! "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name cast out devils, etc." They made no question of salvationóbut presented their works as if they would command wages. But hear Christ's answer, "Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you!" "What, Lord! never knew us? That is strange! Have we not heard your word, received your sacraments, and relieved your members? Have we not spoken for you, and prayed to you, and done many things in your nameóyet did you never know us?" "No!" says Christ, "I never knew youóbut with an utter and absolute rejection! I never approved of you in your specious ways, and glorious shows, in which you prided yourselves; because all was done in formalityóand nothing in sincerity; therefore depart from me!"
They little thought of such an awful expulsion, such a dreadful separation. The external Christian, because he has reformed in some things, and performs many duties; concludes, like Agag, that the bitterness of death is past. He arms himself with smooth imaginations, and deceitful apprehensions, until he is hewn asunder before the Lord. Lord, may I not only name your nameóbut depart from all iniquity.
The Evil of Sin.
Does sin present itself? Look upon it, as it must be, with tearsóor shall be in torments! If you live in sin, and die impenitent, your soul is lost. Or if you commit this sin, and do repentóyet what hidings of the face of God! What bitter pangs! What shadows of death! What terrors of hell may seize upon you before you can be at peace with God. Will you give way to sin, because it appears pleasant, or because it is pardonable? Who eats poisonóbecause it is sweet? Or, who drinks poisonóbecause he may have an antidote? I have a precious soulóshall I lose it for a lust? I have a gracious Godóshall I lose him for a sin? No, I will always reject that for which I am likely to lose my soul. Remember, sinners, that:
God from on high beholds your thoughts;
His book records your secret faults;
The works of darkness you have done
Must all appear before the sun!
The vengeance to your follies due,
Should strike your hearts with terror through:
How will you stand before his face,
Or answer for his injured grace?
Almighty God, turn off their eyes
From these alluring vanities:
And let the thunder of your word
Awake their souls to fear the Lord.
The Heavenly Traveler.
"They were strangers and pilgrims on the earth!" Hebrews 11:13
What heir, traveling to take possession of a rich inheritance, allows either a green meadow or pleasant garden to detain him; or a black cloud or a dirty road to dishearten him?
O my soul, you are traveling to take possession of a glorious eternal inheritance!
Will you turn asideóto pluck every flower?
Will you lingeróto listen to every melodious sound?
Will you leave your wayóto drink of every gliding stream of carnal pleasure?
What is this, but . . .
to view a meadowóand to lose a mansion!
to sacrifice an eternal crownófor a dying flower!
to lose immortal felicityófor a flying vanity!
to forsake the way of Zionóto gather the grapes of Sodom!
Though, my soul, your way is in tears, and your days in sorrow, all clouded; yet here is enough to comfort you: that a loving Father, an unending portion, a sweet rest, and an everlasting refreshmentówill make amends for all.
Therefore, this vain world does not allure meófor I will make no deviation, because my way lies to purer comforts, and surer glory! Vexing world, threaten not, I will not halt, because I am traveling to my heavenly Father's house!
"They were longing for a better countryóa heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them!" Hebrews 11:16
'Tis true, we are but strangers
And sojourners below;
And countless snares and dangers
Surround the path we go.
Though painful and distressing,
Yet there's a rest above;
And onward still we're pressing,
To reach that land of love!
Contentment is the Best Riches.
Riches are but ciphers; it is only the mind that makes the sum. How does a great estate better my condition, if I am not content with it? Desires of obtaining moreówill eat up all the pleasure of possessing. Therefore, Alexander who lacked contentment, was worse than Diogenes who was content with his poverty. Socrates, the moral philosopher, when walking through a market, and beholding varieties of good commodities, said, "How many things I do not need!" But a greater mind was displayed by Paul, when he acknowledged, "That as having nothingóyet he possessed all things."
The Righteous and the Wicked.
When I remember Job sitting on the ash-heap, John hungering in the wilderness, Peter hanging on the gibbetóthen I think how severely will God punish those reprobates whom he loathes, if he dealt so with his children. If he does so to his intimate friends in the time of graceówhat will he do to his enemies in the day of judgment! You therefore who deride the miseries of the saintsóturn your ridicule into fear, for hell sparkles upon earth!
When I consider Herod in his pomp, Haman in his honor, Ahasuerus at his feast, etc.; then I think, if God drops so much into a vessel of wrathówhat will he pour into a vessel of mercy! If God does so much for His enemies on earthówhat will he do for his children in heaven! Therefore, you holy ones who may be jealous at the flourishing of the wickedóforget your envy, and see your glory! As the adversity of the saints shall therefore give me a glimpse of hell, so the prosperity of the wicked shall give me a glance of heaven!
How blessed the righteous when he dies!
When sinks a weary soul to rest,
How mildly beam the closing eyes,
How gently heaves the expiring breast!
Life's duty done, as sinks the clay,
Light from its load the spirit flies;
While heaven and earth combine to say,
"How blessed the righteous when he dies!"
No peace the wicked never can know,
While hastening to their place below!
But trouble must with sin remain,
Sad earnest of eternal pain!
The Privileges of God's People.
God has made all things for his childrenóand his children for himself! All things are theirsóand they are Christ's! All grace, all wisdom, all strength, all the promises, and all heavenóbelongs to them! God is able to supply all their needs, out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. I will therefore serve my God in all thingsóand myself in nothing.
All Good derived from God.
The world has a goodness in itóIF we use it so as not to abuse it, and live in it in order to prepare for a better world. If you act contrary, you will cut the stream from the fountain, and will quickly lose its sweetness, and itself at length.
The comforts and enjoyments of the wicked, because they flow not from the spring of God's love, are like channels embittered with the wrath of God! They are fading brooks, which will make the soul ashamed; so that he who only enjoys the world in itselfóshall lose the world and himself.
The purest and the sweetest mercies only run in the rivulets which are fed by the celestial springs of mercy. Therefore, Lord! whatever I enjoy, let it stream from the fountain of your love, and flow to me in the blood of your Son.
Improvement of Spiritual Blessings.
As the rivers which flow from the seaórun back again into the sea; so those blessings which come from Godómust always be employed for God. What I have received from him in his mercy, must be returned in glorifying him; therefore, Lord, whatever I enjoyólet me find you in it, and serve you with it.
Gentle Jesus, lovely Lamb,
Yours, and only yours I am;
Take my body, spirit, soul,
Only you possess the whole.
You my one thing needful be,
Let me ever cleave to thee;
Let me choose the better part,
Let me give you all my heart!
God to Be Loved for Himself.
Love should always be the life of action. That man loves fervently, who is influenced by the love of Christ. That man's actions will be rightóif Christ is the object that he loves. A gracious man loves the Lord, not because He does good to himóbut because He is good in and of Himself. I will esteem that man's affection as savingówho loves God on account of his inherent goodness, for God is love. That man who loves Christ for Himself, though you take away all other alluring objectsóyet there is strength enough in that loveóto move and constrain the soul.
O blessed be that saint, Lord, who is so influenced with your love, that he can truly say, "Were there neither heaven nor hellóyet sin should be my hell, and holiness my heaven."
"Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You!" Psalms 73:25
Life is but a Lingering Death.
"What is your life? You are a vapor that appears for a little whileóand then vanishes!" James 4:14
To speak the truth, our life is but a lingering death!
The poet being asked what he did; answered insightfully, "I am dying, little by little!"
We do but begin to live indeedówhen we begin to live to God; our life before, is but a race to the sepulcher! But when we live to Godóthen we are on our way to eternity!
Our life contains a thousand springs,
And dies if one goes wrong!
Strange! that a harp of a thousand strings,
Should keep in tune so long!
"What is your life? You are a vapor that appears for a little whileóand then vanishes!" James 4:14
The Soul's Three-fold Estate.
O precious saint! Three questions call for your answer:
1. What were you?
2. What are you?
3. What shall you be?
1. What were you?
Dead in your transgressions and sins,
a rebel to your God,
a prodigal to your Father,
a slave to your lust,
the devil's captive,
on the highway to hell.
2. What are you?
Redeemed by Christ,
a royal child of God,
the spouse of Christ,
the temple of the Holy Spirit,
the heir of a priceless eternal inheritance!
3. What shall you be?
A glorious saint,
a companion of angels,
a triumphant victor,
a crowned king,
an attendant on the Lamb,
a participant in those soul-ravishing and ineffable excellencies that are in God! You shall behold the King of Glory face to face, and enjoy immediate communion with Jesus Christ!
Nay more, you are made one with Him:
clothed with His excellencies,
enthroned with His glories,
crowned with His eternity,
and filled with His felicity!
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard, and
no mind has imagined . . .
what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9
O stand amazed at His free graceóand render all the glory to God!
God to Be Seen in His Creatures.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge." Psalm 19:1-2
Man, by meditating upon the works of CREATION, is led to contemplate the heaven of heavens. When I see the stars, Lord, I think if one star is of such magnitude, what are the dimensions of those heavens in which so many are fixed? Nay, how infinite is that God, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain! When I see the sun, I think, if one sun makes such a glorious day, what a glorious heaven will that be wherein every saint shall be a sun, and every sun so far brighter than the material sunóas the material sun is brighter than our bodies! And yet all these suns are but a shadowóin comparison with the Sun of Righteousness.
Again, when I consider the rising sun, how, by the perfection of his beamsóit puts beauty, life, and joy upon the face of the whole creation, paints the flowers, gilds the grain, puts a flourish upon the plants, cheers and exhilarates the birds, and makes the valleys shout for joyóthen what shall be the shining beauty, and the ravishing delights of so that soul, upon which the brightness of Your glory shall fully rise and rest, and clearly shine to all eternity!
Lord, when I view your redeemed people, and see one excel in beauty, another in wisdom, another in love, and others in swiftnessóI think that these are but beams of your brightness, and streams of your fullness! As they had their being only from your handóso they have their perfection only in your essence; here on earth, they are mixedóbut there in heaven, they are pure. How happy then will so that soul be, who shall enjoy perfection in Godóand God infinitely above all!
Lord, I see stately buildings, shady groves, crystal brooks, and pleasant meadows; and yet, perhaps, a wicked man is the owner. Then I think, if Simeon goes away with such a large portionóthen what will Benjamin's portion be? If the children of the concubines have so large a giftóthen what shall be the inheritance of the son of promise?
Again, when I look upon myself in temporal things, Lord, I bless you that I have a sufficiency, and a goodly heritage; my tents are by the wells of Elim, my portion is from the hands of your wisdom. Lord, if you give me so much in the time of my vanityóthen what will you do for me in the day of my glory!
But, above all, that sweet communion I enjoy with God, those glorious rays which shine from the face of Christ, those ravishing joys that flow from the wells of salvationóset me upon the top of mount Nebo, and give me the greatest view of my happiness. For if the Lord gives me so choice a mercy for my pledgeóthen how rich a blessing shall I have for my inheritance! If this is the first fruitsóthen what will be the full harvest! If the Lord gives me such a glorious beam in my prisonóthen what a glorious sun shall shine in my palace! If there is such a joy in the expectation of what I shall beóthen what a happiness shall there be in the consummation of what I shall be! Lord, show me the path of life; for in your presence there is fullness of joy, and at your right hand are pleasures for evermore! There let me gaze on your glory, be astonished at your excellencies, and forever join in your praises!
Contemplation of Heaven.
Anaxagoras being asked what he thought he was born for; answered, "That I may meditate upon heaven." O my soul! what do you think you were born again for! Is it not that you may live in heaven? God has made you to enjoy communion with himself; you need not stay one hour on earth, but, with Enoch, spend your days with God, walk and converse with Jesus Christ in the galleries of his love; and with Moses, live on the mount of glory. Why then, my soul, are you one hour out of heaven? O live so strictly, and walk so closely with God, that you may say with David, "Whether I awake in the morning, or whether I walk abroad in the dayóI am ever with you!"
Union Between God and the Soul.
Lord, how near will you bring me to yourself! Let me abide in youóand may you abide in me. Let us be of one soul, and of one spirit. Is it true that I may continually repose myself in the bosom of your sweetest affections, that I should continually be ravished in the embraces of your choicest love, that I should be continually loaded with your tenderest mercies! But must I so dwell with you, and will you so dwell in me, as to make me an equal sharer in your bliss, a partner in your glory! What is manóthat you should so regard him? What am Ióthat You should so remember me? Lord, let your mercies so constrain me, that all my powers may be devoted to your service.
The Christian a Spiritual Temple.
"What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God." 2 Corinthians 6:16
Every real Christian is a spiritual temple of the living God. Worldly cares and desires, are the 'buyers' and 'sellers' that pollute this temple. Now, how inconsistent it is to make the house of Godóinto a den of thieves! What an idolatrous sin, to choose a lust instead of Christ!
Again, every member is a vessel of that temple. O what a debasing thing, to take these golden vessels, like that drunken king, and devote them to a sordid use! To fill the heart with lustówhich should be filled with God! Those ears, which should be always ready to hear what God shall speakóto open them to foolish jests! That tongue which should be proclaiming the praises of God, and which must sing triumphant hallelujahs foreveróto defile it now with vain talk, or lying words! What a sacrilegious thing is this, to drive out Godóand to devote those sacred vessels to sin and lust! O Lord, what is Yours, rule and use as Your own!
Right Performance of Duty.
"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts!" 2 Corinthians 3:3
It was said of Nepolitan, that by his continual Scripture reading, and daily meditation, he made his heart the very library of Christ. This is the praise of a Christian, when he so hears the Word preachedóthat the Word will abide in him; when he shall so read the Wordóas to make himself a living epistle, so that the world may in his life read againówhat he has read before in the Word; when he shall so bless Godóas to make himself his praise; when he shall so prayóas that every petition shall, as so many living veins, run through his practice; when his duties shall be the fireóand his life the incense; this is the only sweet acceptable sacrifice.
Until worship is distilled into practiceóit is but an empty cloud! Until duties are vitals in our walkingsóthey are but dead performances. Lord, let my duties receive life from your Spirit, and let my walkings receive life from those duties.
The Evil of the Heart.
"The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked! Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9
I read of Basil persuading himself, that if he were in the wilderness, free from the company of menóthat he would be happy, and serve God more devoutly. But when he came there he said, "I have forsaken all thingsóyet I retain my old heart! I have often sought the most private place for duty, and pressed to hear the best men, and to enjoy the best means, hoping to gain much advantage from the particular place, and ordinance; and yet I have obtained little good, because I carried with me a bad heart! I find it is not the one who treads the path of retirement, that grows in graceóbut he who walks first into the cloisters of his own heart, in the secret places and crooked turnings of his own spirit. It is not he who merely comes to the pure ordinances, who advances his communion with God; but it is he who brings a pure heart!"
O for a glance of heavenly day,
To take this stubborn stone away:
And thaw with beams of love divine
This heart, this frozen heart of mine!
The rocks can rend, the earth can quake,
The seas can roar, the mountains shake;
Of feeling, all things show some sign,
But this unfeeling heart of mine!
To hear the sorrows you have felt,
Dear Lord, an adamant would melt:
But I can read each moving line,
And nothing moves this heart of mine!
Eternal Spirit, mighty God!
I beg apply the Savior's blood!
'Tis his rich blood, and his alone,
Can move and melt this heart of stone!
The Christian's Daily Warfare.
Princes combat with flesh and blood; Christians wrestle with principalities and powers. Their wars give days of truce; ours not a minute of cessation. Conditions of peace there may cause retreat; nothing but death here can raise the siege. Kings, if overcome, may save themselves by flight; but Christians may as soon fly from themselves, as from their enemies.
Whatever makes a battle dangerous, appears in this spiritual battleówhether deceptiveness, potency, cruelty, or perpetuity. Not only the powers of earthóbut all the forces and stratagems of hell are opposed to your soul. So that a Christian is not in a garrison of restóbut in a field of conflict, and cannot let his hands fallóbut Amalek prevails. Not to be a conqueroróis to be a prisoner; not to win the fieldóis to lose the soul. Carnal-security will wound you; yielding kill you; nothing but victory can crown you!
Therefore, watch as for your life; fight as for your soul; the time will come, when the enemies you see today, you shall see no more forever; when you shall lay down your sword, and take up your palm, and signalize your victory in glory forever!
What though we read of the potency and policy of our enemies, and grievously experience itóyet how glorious we shall one day be, when, in the strength of Christ, we shall have overcome those enemies! Though my assaults be many, my enemies mightyóyet if God strengthens me, I have enough to comfort me; for the greater my enemyóthe more glorious my victory; and the more glorious my victoryóthe more triumphant my glory!
Godly and Worldly Sorrow.
I have seen some Christians, who on account of ordinary losses, have been inordinate in their mourning, as if not only the stream, but also the fountain, had been exhausted!
Whereas if the Christian did properly consider, he would reason thus, "Must the stream of my sorrow run altogether in this channel! Is there no mourning to be for sin? Shall I allow my heart to swim away in tears? Are there no duties to be performed for God? And do I not know that a sad heart cannot serve a good God? I have lost the creatureóbut I must keep my God! I have lost an outward comfortóbut I shall find it again with advantage in Christ! I have lost something, perhaps much, perhaps my allóyet enjoying Christ, I shall be the possessor of all things! Therefore the failing streamóshall lead me to the flowing fountain!"
If the Christian thus reasoned, the bitter waters would be sweetened, and his tears turned into joy. I will mourn for the loss of the creatureóbut it shall be in the cause of that loss, which is sin! So shall my sorrow be godlyóand not worldly. And I will never be satisfied, until I am reconciled to the absence of the creature, which shall be in the fountain, which is Christ; so shall it be a gainóand not a loss.
Benefit of Adversity.
It is observed in husbandry, as a point of wisdom, to set those plants together that have an antipathy in their nature, and draw several juices out of the earth; a rose set by garlic, is sweeter, because the more fetid juice of the earth goes into the garlic, and the more odorous into the rose.
This is true in spiritual thingsótherefore I wonder not why afflictions are the portion of the righteous, for prosperity is as a strong sucker exhausting the spiritual sap and celestial vigor of the soul, and debilitating the principles of spiritual life! Whereas adversity has a contrary extraction, it only draws out what may be malignantóand leaves behind it what may be nourishing; it takes the dregsóand leaves the spirits, by which the soul is elevated, and made fruitful in holy works!
Oh! blessed be the hand that gave;
Still blessed when it takes.
Blessed be He who smites to save,
Who heals the heart He breaks.
Perfect and true are all His ways,
Whom heaven adores, and death obeys.
Variety of a Christian's Condition.
When I look up to heaven, I perceive that the sun sometimes shinesóand sometimes is overcast. When I look into my soul, I find that my comforts sometimes riseóand sometimes fall. Eye yon ship which now seems to touch the cloudsóand you will see it in the deep momentarily, ready to he swallowed up by the waves. One time a Christian is upon mount Tabor, and has a glance of heaven; another time he is in the valley of Bochim, weeping because he has lost sight of his country.
God would quicken our affections; therefore now and then he gives us a glance of heavenóthat we might desire what we see; and then he draws a black veil over that bright visionóthat we might not loathe what we did love. He allows our happiness here to be imperfect, that we may be pressing on to that place where we shall be perfectly happy. Lord, under all such changes, let my soul be always panting and reaching after youóuntil I so enjoy you, that I may never lose you.
Where the King isóthere is the court; and where the presence of God isóthere is heaven. Are you in prison like Paul and Silas? If God is with youóyou will sing his praises. Are you at the stake with blessed martyrs; as the rays of the sun put out the fire, so the beams of God's countenance will put out the flames, and turn your troubles into comforts; so that it is only closing your eyesóand you are in heaven!
Therefore the man who enjoys the Lord, though he may not have the sun to shine in creature comforts, or worldly delights to solace himóyet he needs them not, for the glory of God enlightens his soul, and the Lamb is the light thereof! God irradiates it with the brightness of his beauty, and Christ fills it with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.
Thus God brings heaven with him; and the man who enjoys Godócarries heaven about him! You may cast him into a dungeon, place him in a furnace, or wherever you pleaseóyet he is still in heaven!
Therefore, Lord, give me yourself, and then do what you please with me.
Miserable End of Wicked Men.
Mark the wicked man; though his entrance into the world may be joyfulóyet his exit is always tragic. Belshazzar in his festive scene is reveling out his time in sin and pleasure, feasting and carousing with his concubines with the vessels of the Lord; but view him in the catastrophe, and you will see the hand-writing, and him trembling; Darius rending away his kingdom, and death snatching away his life!
Look at the entrance of a wicked man! his gates are riches, his seats honor, his paths pleasures; he fares sumptuously every day, and has more than heart can wish. But wait his departure, and you will see a sad conclusion; in a moment he goes down to hell. The man is cast out from God as an everlasting curse! Destruction closes her mouth upon him, and his place beholds him no more! His body is laid in the dust, his soul buried in the flames, and his name covered with darkness.
But now behold the godly man! you may see a few tragic scenes: the world hating, mocking, and persecuting him; but the end of that man is peace. Though he may come forth weepingóyet he goes off rejoicing. Though he came forth combatingóyet he goes out triumphing, so that the saints and angels clap their hands for joy. Therefore, when I judge of a happy manóI will wait for his end; I care not for his entrance.
Earthly riches, were they valuableóyet they are not ours. Or were they oursóyet they are not true, because they are unprofitable to the soul. Nay, for the most part, our golden heaps are but the miserable spoils of precious souls. And they are not ours, because we cannot carry them with us when we leave the world: "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
And then you shall quickly know whose your soul shall be, which you have by those things so sinfully abused; but you shall never know whose those things shall beówhich you have so miserably provided. When we awake at the last day, we shall find nothing of all those things in our hands. Those things that are of the world (says Ambrose) we shall leave behind in the worldóonly virtue is the companion of the dead. Worldly things will fail usóbut our good works will follow us, and abide with us forever. Would you be truly rich? be so in doing good. Raise virtues out of vanityóso shall you lay up treasure in heaven.
Sufficiency Better than Abundance.
I am not far from my eternal home; therefore I need not make much provision for the way; food and clothing will be sufficient for my journey; excess will only prove a burden. While Jacob had only his staffóhe journeyed pleasantly; but when he had his flocks and herdsóhe went but slowly. We see daily, that rich men either lose their paths, or travel but little ground; while poor men run the ways of God's commandments. I am happy enough, if I have but sufficient to carry me to heaven. I will therefore desire no more than that which will mend my pace, and serve me during my journey.
Serve God in the Use of Means.
We must not presume upon the means without Godónor upon God without the means. Not upon the means without God, because the pipe cannot convey water, unless the spring communicates; not upon God without the means, because the goings forth of Providence are always in the paths of diligence. Therefore in the assault of Amalek, while Moses prayed, Joshua went to fight. Just so, the operation of a Christian's faith should always be upon the mount, and industry in the valley: while the heart is lifted up in prayeróthe hand should be stretched out in the fight. He is sure to rest in Godówho is restless in the means. He who can devote himself to Godómay exercise his faith in God's providence.
I must sow my seedóand wait upon the clouds for rain. I must do my workóand leave the event to God. I must neither be idle in the meansónor make on idol of the means. I will therefore lay my hands to the means, as if they were all in all; and yet look above the meansóas if they were nothing at all.
The Excellency of a Christian.
Christian! You are a child of God's love, an heir of His glory, and reckoned among His favorites! O think upon your dignity, and consider:
Will an Emperor live like a beggar?
Is it befitting for those who are clothed in scarletóto wallow in the mire?
Am I born of Godóand shall I live like a beast?
Has God raised my soul to the purest excellenciesóand shall I stain my dignity with the world's filth?
May I feed upon Christóand shall I feed upon empty vanities?
Shall I who am to judge the worldóbe a drudge to the world?
Has Christ prepared for me a mansion in the heavensóand shall I be groveling in earthly mire?
Am I child of lightóand shall I commit the works of darkness?
No! I am born to greater and higher thingsóthan to be a slave to lust, and a drudge to the world!
Pure love influences a man to love the object of his affections most intensely, and to sacrifice anything in order to possess that object. Heavenly love centers no lower than heaven itself; it is only God whom it loves; and it is only in God that it lives. If love is a beam, it is only as it stands in reference to the sun; if it loves the creatureóit is only as it is a step to advance it nearer God.
Lord, I would not care for heaven, were it not for you; neither would I love myself, were not I in you.
The Soul's Resemblance of Christ.
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lordóare changed into the same image from glory to glory!" 2 Corinthians 3:18
The closer our association with Christóthe nearer shall we be assimilated to Christ. Moses did but talk with God, and his face shined with a beam from God! You may soon know a man who converses and is familiar with Jesus Christóthe glories of Christ will illumine his mind, and cause him to resemble his Savior. As wisdom causes the face to shineóso Christ causes the soul to shine; so that others will perceive that he has been with Jesus.
I perceive by the strong reflection of the beams of righteousness upon his countenance, that he has been long gazing at the Sun of Righteousness; the image of Christ is impressed upon him, the very beauties of Christ adorn him; he looks like Christ, speaks like Christ, walks like Christ, he lives like Christóhe is just like Christ!
That soul that is always beholding the glory of the Lord shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory. If the Christian who beholds God through a dark glass, and enjoys him at so great a distanceóhow glorious shall he be, when he shall see him face to face, and enjoy immediate communion with Jesus Christ! We shall then be like himófor we shall see him as he really is! Our bodies shall be like his; our souls shall be like his; our glory shall be like his; our eternity shall be like his; he is the God of beauty, excellency, sweetness, concord, happiness, and eternity.
O Lord, let me have such clear views and enjoyment of you, that I may not only be happy hereafter, as you are happyóbut likewise be as holy as you are holy.
The Life of Faith.
The life of faith is the noblest, richest, most contented, easiest, and truest life of all.
It is the noblest life; for it enables the Christian to put off the old man with his evil deeds, and to put on the new man. It makes the soul forget its former state, and espouses it to the King of Glory.
It is the most pleasant life, for it enjoys the most exalted pleasures, and often soars to the third heaven to contemplate the inexpressible glory; it walks in the paths of pleasantness; and under all the heats of troubles and afflictions, it shades itself in the harbor of Paradise.
It is the richest life, for if our desires are according to our needs, it is impossible we should lack what we desire. Every man has according to his faith. "Be it unto you according to your faith," says Christ.
It is the most contented life, for it induces the fading creature to rest upon Christ and to hold him fast under all the changes of lifeóand this brings contentment to the soul.
It is the easiest life. Faith does not look at the strictness or the difficulty of dutyóbut on the power and strength of Christ. Therefore, if it meets with a hard precept, it dissolves into a sweet promise. Each difficult duty leads a Christian to Christ, where, by the exercise of faith, he receives strength according to his day.
In short, it is the truest life, for he is dead in sin, who does not live by faith. To believe, is to truly live, and to live well indeed. Lord, live in meóthat I may die in you.
Faith adds new charms to earthly bliss,
And saves me from its snares;
Its aid in every duty brings,
And softens all my cares!
The wounded conscience knows its power
The healing balm to give;
That balm the saddest heart can cheer,
And make the dying live.
Wide it unveils celestial worlds,
Where deathless pleasures reign;
And bids me seek my portion there,
Nor bids me seek in vain!
Shows me the precious promise, sealed
With the Redeemer's blood;
And helps my feeble hope to rest
Upon a faithful God.
The Wise Choice.
If God is perfect in himself, and capable of imparting the highest good to the creatureóthen it is the greatest wisdom of the creature to choose him, and his imperative duty to live in observance of his commandments. If all men must appear before this great Majesty, and bow before himóthen I admire the wisdom of the godly, and am surprised at the folly of the wicked.
And seeing that this must certainly be the case, Lord let me be of the number of those that choose you hereóso that I may enjoy you forever; and not of the number of those who refuse you hereóand must forever be separated from you.
Christians Heirs of Heaven.
Godly people alone, shall enter heaven. They may be destitute of earthly honor and richesóbut they are rich in faith, and heirs to the kingdom of heaven! They may be despised by people distinguished by worldly possessionsóbut in the eternal world, they will infinitely surpass them in celestial riches and honor. While Christians shall eternally sing the praises of God and the Lambóthe wicked will be forever weeping and gnashing their teeth! What a contrast is this!
The mighty, the noble, the rich, in generalóare not qualified to enter the mansions of bliss; they are but beautiful abominations! Those covered with the most worldly grandeuróusually possess the most wicked hearts! The gates of heaven will be shut against them; for a special command has gone forth, that none but the holy shall reign with Jesus Christ. "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitfulóbut only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life!" Revelation 21:27
The Israelites were necessitated first to pass over the Jordan River, before they could enter Canaan. But no sooner had the feet of the priests, who bore the ark of the covenant, rested in the wateróbut the proud waves saw it and fled, and the swelling streams were driven back, and congealed in heaps to enable them to pass over with safety.
Every child of God resembles an Israelite in this respect; he is passing through the wilderness of this world, and traveling to the land of promise. DEATH is that Jordan which runs between this wilderness worldóand our heavenly Canaan. Death is that swelling stream that overflows the banks of every mortal creature. It is that last river which we all must pass over.
But this is the happiness which believers haveóthat Jesus Christ, our High Priest, who bears the everlasting covenant upon His shoulders, has already dipped His feet in the streams of this water, so that the streams of bitterness are diverted, the sting of death plucked out, the waters of the salt sea dried up; yes, the power of the curse cut off, so that death is but a sure step to glory!
Why then am I afraid to die? The channel is dry! I see the footsteps of my Savior at the bottomóand heaven and happiness on the other side! The waters cannot overwhelm my soul!
They may go over my sins,
they may go over my foes,
they may go over my miseries,
they may go over my troubles,
but my soul shall go over to its eternal rest!
Lord, therefore fit and sanctify me for deathóand then take down my earthly tent. I cannot be with You too soon!
"I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" Philippians 1:23
The happiness of Heaven.
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9
The vessel of our soul is too capacious to be filled with all the pleasures and delights the world put together. But hereafter, our pleasures and delights shall be too great for the most capacious vessel to hold! Our glory shall be so great, that power as well as goodness, shall be given by God Himself, to renew and enlarge these vessels, that they may be capable of receiving and retaining that glory. Strength and love shall go forth together, to prepare and elevate our dispositions, that they may be suitable for such a transcendent and exalted state!
At present, we are too weak to bear such a weight of glory; therefore God will immortalize usóthat we may be able to sustain it! And because our eternal joys cannot fully enter into us while in this worldówe shall fully enter into them in heaven.
What fool would place only a few drops of carnal pleasures into so large a vessel as the soulóand neglect the spring, or rather the ocean of unspeakable bliss, and everlasting glory!
O my soul, what a glorious day is coming, when the vessels of mercy shall be cast into the ocean of mercy, and be filled to the very brim with divine mercy! Then the soul that is love-sick for Jesusóshall lie in the bosom of divine love, and forever be satisfied with unfathomable love! Then the children of God shall have a full fruition of God, and be forever satisfied with the presence of God! The joy of His glorious presence, the fullness of His joy, the sweetness of this fullness, the eternity of this sweetnessóthe heart of man can never adequately comprehend.
Lord, let the glory which you have prepared for meóturn my soul from the vanities of earth!
"You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!" Psalm 16:11